Monday, June 25, 2007

Mere Anarchy

Bill Gross is at it again.

The Chief Poobah and Prognosticator at PIMCO has just released his July Investment Outlook, and it's a doozy. Paris Hilton, "six-inch hooker heels," and Heidi Fleiss, and those are just the G-rated comments. He saves his most scathing remarks for that seething cesspool of economic turpitude, residential real estate. Yikes!

Although this bond guru is in dire need of an editor—the first reference to a Petri dish was spot on and apropos, the second simply a distraction—his message is unmistakable. In vilifying the great unwashed of the credit markets, and their supposed guardians the credit ratings agencies, he sounds like nothing less that a town elder bewailing the loose morals and bad behavior of the young.

For an interesting echo in the kultursphere, we could turn to a piece in The New York Times today about Girls (and Boys) Gone Wild in Romantic Rome:
“It is unbelievable,” said Flaminia Borghese, president of a homeowners’ group in the historic center that is demanding greater noise control measures and police patrols. “There is a total lack of control.”

Ms. Borghese seems uniquely suited to lead the charge for decorum: she is a descendant of the House of Borghese, a family of noble and papal background. She faults the city for issuing far too many restaurant and bar permits and the police for failing to enforce noise control ordinances. “The foreigners come here because they know that they can do whatever they want,” she said. “Nobody says anything.”

Now, being myself already on the rapidly accelerating downslope of life into crusty curmudgeonhood, I can sympathize with both Mr. Gross and Ms. Borghese about the careless disrespect and boorish irresponsibility of the Youth of Today, whether in the bars of Sunny Rome or the leafy enclaves of Hedgefield, Connecticut. But I am not so far removed from my youthful peak that I cannot appreciate the casual vigor and energy of youth, either, and the sense of invincibility and novelty which drives the young to assume risks and take liberties which their elders would not contemplate. From such energy and thoughtless confidence comes the promise of the future, albeit with the occasional hangover or busted hedge fund to show for it.

So today I will remain firmly ensconced on both sides of the fence, and will not give voice to either the worries of wisdom or the enthusiams of optimistic youth. Who has contributed more to humankind: Sober Experience or Youthful Vitality? I cannot say.

What I will say, however, is that in my experience the curmudgeons have been pretty good at predicting the hangovers.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of
Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"

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