Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are You There, Margaret? It's Me, Don
When I see that someone like Margaret Atwood has an op-ed in the NYTimes, it gives me a Chris Matthews-style chill down the leg in anticipation. She wrote A Handmaid's Tale! And she has something to say on current affairs!? Indeed, the piece reflects her view of the current financial crisis, specifically the idea of debt.

Alas, after reading it - and trying to ignore the fact that just 24 hours after being published, her first sentence is now entirely inaccurate - I just honestly don't have much of an idea of what she's trying to say. It seems to be something along these lines, which she kind of gets to eventually: Debt is the stuff of human drama and always has been. Until our structures of credit instill confidence in their fairness, we will never get along and our society will not prosper.

I read all the way to the end looking for the part where she gets to the point though, urges some action, identifies some specific unfairness, but to no avail. Where I thought she was going was to build on the idea that most of us in debt have the benefit (or curse) of being individual moral agents, whereas most of the holders of debt are some form of corporation that lacks moral concern. That lopsided relationship - the point might continue - is partially responsible for the mess we're in. But that starting point seems to be one I just imagined. Here's what we get instead:
As for what will happen to us next, I have no safe answers. If fair regulations are established and credibility is restored, people will stop walking around in a daze, roll up their sleeves and start picking up the pieces. Things unconnected with money will be valued more — friends, family, a walk in the woods. “I” will be spoken less, “we” will return, as people recognize that there is such a thing as the common good.

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