Quite a few blogs and alternative news outlets are starting to identify the recent slides in the US stockmarket and exchange rates as being harbingers of the global financial meltdown so many of us have been expecting
For some, it’s just like its 1929 all over again
And we all know what happened economically and politically in the ten years after 1929 don’t we?
Actually, to tell the truth, most people don’t, which is why it’s been so relatively easy to stage the rerun.
A frequent response ordinarily financially astute people who I have discussed this with have given to me when discussing impending recessions/ depressions goes something like this...
'Yeah, the bubble will burst eventually but the people who will get hit hard will be those who were stupid enough to over-extend themselves borrowing money to buy over valued houses or consumerist shit. It will serve them right'
Hmm, the problem with that line of thought is, of course, is that it's bollocks. Only the ultra-rich will benefit and will be able to hoover up assets at fire-sale prices. Everyone below that level will have to shoulder the costs of having several million of their fellow citizens wiped-out financially. They will pay through increased taxation, job insecurity, and exciting but not so new forms of government. Everyone will get it up the rear end
Still, it would be good news for people who like to dabble in documentary photography. Some photographers, like Martin Parr (more of him another time), have adapted to the times and have set about recording the horrors of faux prosperity and over-consumption but for most socially-aware photographers there’s nothing like a really good fucking depression and lots of people looking fucked up and wretched.
You can really display your humanity photographing people who are in the shit
Enter stage left, Dorothea Lang and the most iconic photograph of the 1930s Depression – Migrant Mother
I love that picture. I used to love it when I was younger because I thought, as I was told to, that it documented the despair of the excluded and was a powerful call for people to do the right thing. I now love the picture because I know that it was taken by a ‘champagne socialist’ under false pretences and totally misrepresents its subjects. In the words of the ‘Migrant Mother's grandson…
“…a shiny new car (it was only two years old) pulled into the entrance, stopped some twenty yards in front of Florence and a well-dressed woman got out with a large camera. She started taking Florence's picture. With each picture the woman would step closer. Florence thought to herself, "Pay her no mind. The woman thinks I'm quaint, and wants to take my picture." The woman took the last picture not four feet away then spoke to Florence: "Hello, I'm Dorthea Lange, I work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the plight of the migrant worker. The photos will never be published, I promise." Florence said, "Okay, if you think it will help." The woman turned, walked away, got in her car, and was gone. The next day the promise was broken: Florence's picture taken by the well-dressed lady was on the front page of all the newspapers…”
The moral of the story being, I think, that that the ruling class, be they industrialists or chattering liberals, always exploit the poor – they just go about it in slightly different ways.
And whilst on the subject of Depressions, the 1930s and people called Dorothy, somebody made a comment under one of those ‘It’s 1929 all over again’ articles that reminded me of a theory that has always amused me…
The comment claimed that The Wizard of Oz was a political and economic allegory of America in the late 1890s and the not entirely dissimilar economic and political situation of the 1930s
A few examples to illustrate the thesis...
- Oz is the abbreviation for Ounces, the traditional measure of Gold. The price of which was manipulated by financial ‘wizards’ such as JP Morgan
- The Yellow Brick Road leading to the Emerald City are allegories for the Gold Standard and Washington
- The Wicked Witch of the East (Coast) represents the money men from New York
- Dorothy herself represents the honest ‘everyman’ farmer from agricultural Kansas who eventually realises that she had the power to change the world for the better all along in the form of her silver slippers (a free currency/ the vote)
- The Tin Man represents the industrial proletariat held back by monopolies such as JD Rockefeller’s Standard Oil
…and so on and so on. There’s even a nod to the international drugs trade in the form of a field of sleep-inducing poppies that almost do our heroes in
There’s an entire article on the subject up on Wikipedia (so it must be true). Normally, I’m a tad sceptical about people reading things in books or lyrics without explicit acknowledgment from the author but the Oz thing seems solid to me … and very, very funny
It makes you kind of wonder what’s really going on in Teletubbies. It’s pretty clear that kids understand every word they’re saying but they won’t tell us grown ups
And finally, on the subject of people reading too much into books or lyrics, my favourite example is the undoubtedly excellent Wind Cries Mary by Jimi Hendrix. The opening line goes...
After all the jacks are in their boxes and the clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear happiness staggering on down the street
Footprints dressed in red and the wind whispers mary…
Now you could, as some Hendrix fans have done, try to decipher the complicated psychedelic allegories woven into these words…
Or, you can just believe, as I do, the story that Hendrix was piss drunk, late one night in front of a television and only had this to watch…