Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The "Real Economy" vs. the Financial Economy (And then I rembered Laputa)

The Greek Formula One idiocies of late -- see http://goo.gl/E64Tp for ample backgrouknd there -- have me asking myself, on what planet do these good souls and their ilk live? Or think  they live?  And then I remembered Laputa.

For those of us who may have forgotten or never had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the good Dean, Jonathan Swift, and who wish to understand perhaps better the relationships (or non-relationships) of the all too real economy to the remote, hyper-speed, fully detached, spaceless, impersonal  financial economy of this still-young century, it may be useful to have a look at one particularly illuminating story which appears in "Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver". The story recounts his Voyage to a detached place called Laputa. I quote a summary from Wikipedia (but this by no means should preent you from going to the maginficent orginal tale):

"After Gulliver's ship is attacked by pirates, he is marooned close to a desolate rocky island, near India. Fortunately he is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, a kingdom devoted to the arts of music and mathematics but unable to use them for practical ends. ("La puta" (WP explains for us)  is Spanish for "the whore". Swift was attacking reason and the deism movement in this book, the last one he wrote for the Travels.)

"Laputa's custom of throwing rocks down at rebellious cities on the ground seems the first time that aerial bombardment was conceived as a method of warfare. Gulliver tours Laputa as the guest of a low-ranking courtier and sees the ruin brought about by the blind pursuit of science without practical results, in a satire on bureaucracy and on the Royal Society and its experiments.

"At the Grand Academy of Lagado, great resources and manpower are employed on researching completely preposterous schemes such as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, softening marble for use in pillows, learning how to mix paint by smell, and uncovering political conspiracies by examining the excrement of suspicious persons."

Now I think I am starting to understand what is going on.

Thank you Dean.

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Epitaph in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin near his burial site.

Text extracted from the introduction to The Journal to Stella by George A. Aitken and from other sources)
Jonathan Swift wrote his own epitaph:

Hic depositum est Corpus
Hujus Ecclesiæ Cathedralis
Ubi sæva Indignatio
Cor lacerare nequit,
Abi Viator
Et imitare, si poteris,
Strenuum pro virili
Libertatis Vindicatorem.
biit 19º Die Mensis Octobris
A.D. 1745 Anno Ætatis 78º.
The literal translation of which is:
"Here is laid the Body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart. Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous (to the best of his ability) Champion of Liberty. He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October, A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age."

William Butler Yeats poetically translated it from the Latin as:
Swift has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-besotted traveller; he<
Served human liberty. 

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