a brave new world?

What comes after the economic crash?

The movie trailer for the International got me thinking about this. This Clive Owen vehicle features a rogue spy untangling the machinations of a shady investment bank. The villains are not an out of control law firm, terrorists, drug dealers, or a spy agency that has lost sight of its larger mission. Its bankers. They are not bag men helping the real villains by laundering the money, they are the villains.

This suggests a new or rather the return to an earlier cultural sensibility. We may be moving away from a culture of excess and prosperity to a culture of scarcity. The literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton and Nella Larsen, literature produced in a moment of prosperity, seems markedly different from the writers–Eugene O’Neil, Muriel Rukeyser, Richard Wright–that would succeed them just 10-15 years later. Of course things move much more quickly these days.

I tend to favor the artifacts produced by the culture of scarcity over those from the culture of excess. The culture of scarcity produced underground Hip Hop and the do it yourself directors like Spielberg, De Palma, Scorsese working outside the studio system. The culture of excess gave us Puff Daddy and Brett Ratner.

Interestingly, watching Clive Owen shoot at faux bankers may be the only way that Americans might see any financial wizards held accountable for their actions. John Thain, the failed CEO of Merrill Lynch, handed out $3 billion in bonuses to his employees. This money came from the US bailout, and was apparently meant to reward his people for losing $15 billion in the last three months of 2008. So, in a world where John Thain gets to skate, I guess watching Clive get his is all we can hope for.


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