Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There Will Come Soft Rains

August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains, by Ray Bradbury:
In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty. The clock ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!
In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.
"Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake. . .

Ten o'clock. The sun came out from behind the rain. The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.
Bradbury was, as we know, thinking about the aftermath of a future nuclear war, a threat that remains all too real. However, at this particular historic juncture, these lines remind me of what is actually happening now, in the aftermath of the great Ponzi scheme once known as "free market capitalism." The monstrous system we've been living with for so many years that it's become a part of our mental and emotional environment has already self-destructed, and with it literally hundreds of trillions of dollars in so-called "wealth." Nevertheless, the empty mechanisms behind the system continue as before, symbolic of our own denial of the horrible truth.

Wall Street continues to churn out daily indices for the various markets, Dow-Jones, S&P 500, Nasdaq, etc., despite the fact that these indices no longer reflect the actual value of any of the businesses whose stocks they chart. (See Reading the Entrails parts one and two, below). Giant financial houses that once ruled a mighty fiscal empire are effectively bankrupt, but continue to function nevertheless, going through the motions of making loans, placing bets (so-called "investments"), even handing out hundreds of millions in bonuses to failed traders, thanks to old, irrelevant, contracts that must still be honored, as the mechanism of outrageously unfair and corrupt compensation cranks on nevertheless. The heart and soul of our old economy has perished, but the corrupt, manipulative, self-destructive automaton drones on pointlessly and hopelessly, simply because it's there -- and we don't know how to turn off the switch and start over.

Here's how Bradbury's story ends, with just a teensy little tweak by me, in the final sentence:
The fire burst the house and let it slam flat down, puffing out skirts of spark and smoke. In the kitchen, an instant before the rain of fire and timber, the stove could be seen making breakfasts at a psychopathic rate, ten dozen eggs, six loaves of toast, twenty dozen bacon strips, which, eaten by fire, started the stove working again, hysterically hissing! The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into
sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.
Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke.
Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:
"The Dow-Jones average gained 100 points today, as favorable news of yet another federal bailout bouyed investor confidence . . . investor confidence . . . investor confidence . . ."

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