Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Harrowing

Anselm Kiefer, Nigredo, 1984
“What’s in the box?”

“Pain.” He felt increased tingling in his hand, pressed his lips tightly together.
How could this be a test? he wondered. The tingling became an itch.

The old woman said: “You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”

The itch became the faintest burning. “Why are you doing this?” he demanded.

“To determine if you’re human. Be silent.”

— Frank Herbert, Dune

According to Wikipedia,

Nigredo, or blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter.

In analytical psychology, the term became a metaphor “for the dark night of the soul, when an individual confronts the shadow within.”

Now is the winter of investment bankers’ discontent. The long foreshadowed harrowing of my industry, the great winnowing of its inhabitants, is underway. The huge, tottering edifice of proprietary trading, structured products, and bespoke derivatives, which suckled at the twin teats of Greenspan’s largesse and investors’ desperation for yield in the age of negative real rates, will suffer the greatest harm. But the rest of us—innocent or not of the worst offenses of our industry—will suffer the fallout, too. Pay will be slashed, jobs will be cut—never to return—and egos will be racked upon the callous indifference of executives and shareholders more concerned with their own personal trials and tribulations than the suffering of their bought-and-paid-for minions.

Our enemies will rejoice. Spiteful, envious souls will gnaw greedily on the bitter bones of schadenfreude in cramped and narrow defiles, sucking out the meager marrow to satisfy their self-righteous, operatic anger. Let them. Those humans among us who remain, who survive—and rest assured, Dear Friends, some of us will survive—will remember.

O yes, Dearly Beloved, we will remember. We will remember our friends and enemies. We shall never forget.

Enjoy the show.

© 2012 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.