Friday, July 23, 2021

An Unhappy Place

Today's meditation involves two seemingly unrelated things, leading to An Unhappy Place.

Item The First: Formerly Famous

One of the great things that I think must be very difficult - and which 99% of us are spared from - is the pain of being Formerly Famous.

I would bet that at some point in many people's lives, there is a wish - even if brief - that they were famous.  It might be for different reasons - the money, the recognition, the sense of power, the sense of privilege - but there must be a flicker for most, at some point, "What would it be like if....?"

The reality, of course, is that fame for even that 1% can be fleeting.

I have often wondered after the life of those who hit their peak early in life  - the TV child stars, the bands in their early teens and twenties, the movie stars that break out early - and then fade over time.  Most of us are not built to handle the growth of popularity and then its gradual or sudden decline:  Two or five or ten years of relevance, then fade to black.

You read about them of course:  the former athlete now up on criminal charges, the music star of twenty years ago waiting tables, the former movie star on the late night advertising or being a celebrity judge on a ridiculous TV show.  Or you read about them in other ways, as they try increasingly desperate measures to call attention to themselves or, somewhat sadly, end poorly.

One wonders what it must be like to wake up and realize the fans are gone, the money has fled, the former folks that would answer the phone as you called have suddenly lost your number - that your life, once seemingly "extraordinary", is now just a life like any other.  

Some adapt, others do not.

Item The Second:  The National Debt Clock

One of the things I wish that was more visible and paid attention to a great deal more is the US National Debt Clock.  There are many different versions of them (as I found out); the link is a very simplified version.

If you have never seen one (I am assuming my readership has; Canadian friends and UK friends, I bet you have your own version), it lists the current US National Debt, The National Debt per person and per household, the Unfunded Liability National Debt, and The Unfunded Liability Debt.  It is all in real time so you can see the numbers rolling up second by second.

By "debt", of course, we mean something borrowed that has to be paid back.

Would that this was the background on every news cast, every government meeting, every presidential speech, a background to put all discussions of spending and borrowing and rewards and punishments and gifts and "money we give to everyone else" into context.

Item The Third:  An Unhappy Place

And how, pray tell, do these two run together?

The rule is that debts must eventually be paid - if not for the sheer moral correctness of repaying the debt, from the very real perception that those that do not pay their debts are not reliable.  "Full Faith and Credit" means exactly that - but faith (and credit) are intangibles.  And intangibles are as much based on perception as they are in demonstrable fact.

The simple reality is that now - today - we cannot repay our national debt.  We do not have the will and we darn well do not have the actual money.

Who does this impact? Not the old.  Those 70 and older will never see the end game play out unless they are one of the few that lives another 30 years.

Those in the 50's and 60's?  Possibly - but this is a voting class who will fight bitterly for the benefits that they have spent 30 to 40 years paying for.  And there is no better way to motivate a bloc to vote than threaten to take away what they have earned.

No, the blow will fall on the young.

Rather than be the most strident in crying out for not only a complete culling of additional spending but a huge and national effort to reduce the national debt, they often seem to cry out the loudest for more and more spending.  They seem to believe that there will be no financial impact; after all, no-one ever calls in debts anymore and the dollar will be the currency of choice forever.

But of course there will be financial impacts.  We are seeing them now and will continue see them going forward:  the more dollars made, the less value they have.  The less value they have, the more expensive everything becomes.  They see the rise in gas prices, the rise in utilities, the rise in groceries and dining - and seem to make no connections.

Where it will be seen - and painfully so - is in their lives and their impact.

Theirs will be the generation that suddenly comes to the realization that they have become, in a way, the Formerly Famous.

They will find their opinion matters less - in the world, in their communities, in organizations. Living in a country that is more and more deeply indebted, they will find their time more involved in making a living - and making less of that living.   The world "out there", who once cried out for their opinions and involvement, will be less interested in their opinion - after all, financially they have nothing to offer and increasingly nothing to sell - and their involvement -. because those who have no money and are struggling to survive view the getting of money as the most important thing in any relationship or conversation.   Theirs will be the first generation in 100 + years that will not be a trendsetter for the world, but rather a follower of the trends set by others.  Growing up as the center of their worlds and their society, they will find that they have been moved to cold outer fringes, as others appear on the world stage.  

Perhaps I am wrong, that indeed this is this is precisely the way things should be and after all, this "debt" thing I am writing about matters not at all and even it if does, the world would not let us go broke.  After all, we are the bright and shining beacon.

I would submit that the Formerly Famous, if asked, would often submit it was better to never have been famous in the first place.


  1. Correct. I suspect a lot of us are in for a double whammy. I was told all my life to save and make sacrifices and invest rather than spend. Now the rules are off, my money is being used by politicians I hate to buy the votes of people I hate. Hiding my assets will become very difficult if this talk of a cashless society and centrally managed digital currency comes about. In the past year, my prime minister spent more money than all the previous prime ministers put together. Not a peep of it in the mass media. They think he walks on water and saved the nation. He’s a crooked moron with a no limit credit card.

    Also, the kids aren’t dumb. They know they are on the hook for all the free stuff that boomers voted for themselves, and they are livid. They are talking openly about boomer hate, and make rude jokes about smothering them with a pillow. I get that, many is the time my parents bragged that they deserved all their good fortune because they worked hard for it and paid for all the bennies they have. I would have everything they do too if I weren’t so stupid and lazy. I don’t condone the idea of murdering our parents… but I understand it! 😂👍

    I suppose we’ll smother our parents with a pillow and high five each other when they’re dead… and be shocked and horrified when our kids do the same to us.

    1. Glen - It does feel like the carpet was pulled out from under us, no? I heard the same thing as you - it is what my parents did, and their parents before them, and even their parents before them. And yes, with any sort of digital currency, resources which are in The Matrix (can we start using that term finally) are at risk (tangibles, of course, are much more difficult for electronic systems to digest). And Your Political Betters sound about as drunk with financial power as Our Political Betters.

      I would perhaps agree that "the kids" are not dumb - but they are not smart either. I am as familiar as you with the snide Boomer remarks (although I am not technically a Boomer) and the perception of having voted all the wealth to themselves. At the same time - as evidenced by our governments - they continue to vote for this stuff as well. I would be challenged, at least here in Baja Canada, to think of a politician who is not against more spending not because it is the "Other Folks" in power, but because it is the wrong thing to do. Maybe Rand Paul. But that is a minority of one. If indeed they were so concerned, I would think that both of our countries would have had a huge majority of fiscal conservatives (no matter their other policies). The fact that we did not speaks volumes.

      The problem of course, is that we have now created the situation where effectively every generation sees the next generation as depriving it of its deserved rights - which, as you suggest, means they are an obstacle to be moved aside. What is not realized is it the younger generation also becomes a threat.

      In the end, we will all be horrified what we do to each other.

  2. The two worst things that happened to France were Napoleon and when their top scientists collectively decided to study radioactive materials.

    Napoleon imbued the French military with hubris for the next 160 years.

    Not understanding the risks of radioactive materials, the cream of French science died very early deaths and other European nations surpassed them in advancing technology.

    It is going to hurt as South Korean, Chinese, East Indian technical and medical people decide there is more opportunity, more glory and less repression in their home countries than moving to the fading, 'ho that was the United States.

    That brain-drain was a huge subsidy to our economics and our prestige.

    1. ERJ - I had never heard it described in that fashion, but I really think you are right about that (although when I first read it, I say "When Napoleon had his top scientists collectively decide to study radioactive materials", I had to stop and refocus. Although Marshall Ney with a battery of anti-matter disruptors sounds delightful...).

      You are indeed correct that currently we are the beneficiary of the brains of other states, who are attracted here by opportunity, freedom, and financial reward. Remove any one of those - and Our Political Betters seem to be intent on removing all three - and we effectively become somewhere that we do not want to be. Less opportunity, less glory and a lot more taxes, and a lot more repression will do wonders for reverse migration.

      We have effectively lost our manufacturing base. When we lose our technical, scientific, and creative base, we will be nothing more than a consuming shell, Rome's masses dependent on the daily dole of bread and oil.

  3. Very good points to ponder. What can't continue, won't.

    1. STxAR, that is a wonderfully concise staying. All the more wonderful because it is true.

      All objects in motion eventually come to rest. It is just the way of it. And woe betide those who are caught on the item when that happens.

  4. I once touched the very lowest echelons of fame many years back when a show made our states PBS that featured me in an indirect way. For several years I was recognized and it was kind of nice to the ego. But it quickly faded away and it never really impacted me since the vast majority of the people I walked through during those brief years never watched PBS or didn't watch that one particular show.

    I have long believed that our future will be something similar to what befell Greece and having to go through "austerity" for awhile to climb back out of it. I have pondered if the Greeks who went through that time period are more frugal with legislative spending now or if they just returned to their former habits. I don't know the answer but if I had to guess, it was the latter and not the former. Human nature always trumps.

    1. Ed - That is awesome! Sounds like maybe just the right amount: some recognition, but not too much.

      The fate of Greece could indeed be ours, with some sort of austerity plan to get us back on our feet. That said, I think our debt far outstrips anything Greece had (it is just a guess; I cannot find the data). It turns out that Greece went through 14 austerity packages from 2010 to 2017. I have no idea how they are doing, but am willing to bet any progress that was made was doused with The Plague and the complete collapse of the tourist industry.

      The only data point I have is a purchase I made of some incense and charcoal disks on Etsy. I had a short e-mail conversation with the seller. "It is still bad here" he said. An N of one to be sure, but a data point none the less.

      Honestly, I do not think an austerity measure could get passed. I think we would just repudiate the debt and collapse instead.

  5. I would not want to be famous; but I wouldn't mind a hundred thousand dollars, haha.

    You all have a blessed weekend, TB.

    1. Linda, if only we could all figure out how to come into that kind of money while being "The Presently Unremarkable"...


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