Shrugging off the markets

Are you ready for another week of lunacy with those wacky Wall Street brokers? I am! Normally I couldn’t give a toss about the financial markets, but now it’s become a real cliffhanger. What’s going to happen next? Where’s the bottom? Will the incentives work? Is there going to be a depression? Has America gone socialist? Will Britain have to buy Iceland? Who knows?

Well, I freely admit that I know next to nothing about the stock market. It’s not my thing. But what really freaks me out about this whole story is that nobody else seems to know what the hell’s going on either. Every banker, broker and TV newsreader in the world must have sore shoulders from shrugging ‘I don’t know’ to each other.

Luckily, I can afford to be glib. Thanks to my inherent distrust for the stock market, I have very little money tied up in the mess. Well, to be honest, I have very little money period. But that’s not the point. The point is that you reap what you sow. If you reward obscene profits with laissez-faire regulations then you get greedy corporate pigs with no concern for consequences or casualties. It’s obvious.

So now we’re going through a ‘correction’. Several trillion dollars have been wiped off the face of the fiscus, billion dollar bailouts are a dime a dozen, panic has routed the bulls and the grisly bears are running rampant. All we can say for sure is that we all facing several years of hardship, full steam ahead. I suppose that’s what happens when you base an economy on sentiment.

But it’s at times like this that the words of the late, great Douglas Adams come to mind: ‘Don’t Panic’. Yes, the financial graphs currently look like a chart of Bush’s approval ratings, but this is all part of a cyclical boom and crash process that seems to happen every 10 years or so. It’s hardly unexpected. I’ve always said the stock market is like a really sophisticated casino and, as all good gamblers know, every winning streak comes to an end sooner or later. The trick is knowing when to walk away from the table.

Thankfully, for some reason, South Africa seems to be escaping relatively unscathed by the crisis. I say ‘relatively’ because the JSE has lost a bunch of points and the rand is at five-year lows against the dollar. But our banks are apparently standing firm, there have been no large-scale bankruptcies and our exposure is said to be limited. So we seem to be doing OK, all things considered.

But here’s the kicker. I don’t really care about the financial crisis. Truth be told, I don’t care about anything at the moment. I don’t care about Lekota’s ‘divorce papers’ to the ANC. I don’t care that America’s next vice-president might be a moose-hunting anti-abortionist dimwit from Alaska. I don’t care about the fact that a quarter of all mammal species on Earth are facing extinction, or whatever. I don’t even care that Jamie Lynn Spears has out-trashed Britney with two teen pregnancies in one year (although that is quite funny).

I guess I’m just in a bad place, creatively speaking, and that has pushed me into a cocoon of self-indulgent introspection. I haven’t been able to write this blog for ages, I owe my publishers two books that were due several months ago, and I can’t even think about my Masters thesis (which is now two years late). In short, I am struggling with a personal crash of my own and, to be honest, the collapse of the stock market pales in comparison to my increasing solipsism.

Now, I’ve been blocked before and I’ve always pushed through, but what really worries me is that this time I’m can’t seem to snap out of my paralysing numbness. In fact, I only wrote this piece because a friend, Errol, asked me to blog more often and I’m a shameless sucker for flattery.

But why am I telling you about all this? The world has got bigger problems than a whiney writer who can’t get his shit together. Well, I think that a blog should be a reflection of the blogger’s life – so here it is, suckers! More importantly, if you can’t vent in a public forum, what’s the point in venting? IMHO.

[Originally posted 13/09/2008]

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