Skip to main content

May 2, 1996: An entry from "A Colossal Wreck"

The following is a passage from the late Alexander Cockburn's last book, A Colossal Wreck. It is available here.

May 2
"A loan-at-interest is the only known thing in the entire universe that does not suffer entropy. It grows with time. All other things, ourselves included, fade and die." Those of you maxed out on your credit cards but still making those monthly payments at some outrageous rate know this as well as I (who have learned by dint of bitter experience not to have credit cards at all).

Those first three sentences came from an informative letter that Stan Lusby of Otago, New Zealand, sent to one of my favorite newspapers, Catholic Worker, a while back. Lusby commenced his discussion of capitalism with some personal disclosures. He had, Lusby confided, known all his life that lending money at interest was intrinsically wrong. "I came late in life to Christianity, and it was a great source of comfort to verify my intuition through scripture, although I am now deeply enmeshed in debt, having listened to my peers and not the word of God."

Lusby then supplied a succinct history of the origins of the very word "capitalism":

The word "capitalism" come from "caput tally" or head-count of the slaves. I followed the line of word discovery further, after reading the New English Bible, for it referred to Nebuchadnezzar "investing" Jerusalem with his troops. "Vestment" means clothing that one puts on, but "in-vestment" implies that one has been cloaked-in. It was the Roman word for a military operation for the taking of slaves. Clearly, such a military operation called for a minimum physical injury to a salable commodity and what we now call siege tactics were deployed.

The Military word "captain" refers to the one who counts the heads of slaves. It is used in both the land and marine branches of military. Out of starvation, the defenders "capitulated" (Latin, caput, head). On the long march back to Rome, the captain carved the daily head-count into a horizontal component of the scaffolding of the tent in which the captives were housed at night. Even today, such a piece of scaffolding is still known as a "ledger." To prevent the slaves breaking away, they were tied with a piece of leather called a "bond" to a lone pole termed a "bank." That word survives to this day in the expression "a bank of oars," coming, as it does, from the galleys which were powered by slaves. 

Lusby should have added that the word also survives as "the bank," to which we are held captive by the long thong of debt.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Putting North Dakota's Economy in Context...

"Revenge of the Squares"?

Brandishing the values of "yesteryears," some Mayberryish place that exists only in conservatives' minds, North Dakota is the nation's economic hot spot. Although it ironically has become hip to write little fluff pieces on how refreshing it is North Dakota, being so neglected by America's elite, has managed to stave off Capitalism's latest crisis, a few contextual points are in order.

First off, the oil. North Dakota has oil. Now this point is almost certainly mentioned by the glorymongerers, as it is in the above piece, but this key fact has little to do with culture and lots to do with luck and new technology that allows access to oil that was once unprofitable to be refined. A quick look through history tells us oil is, at most, a finite mixed blessing. Oil, unlike the infamous North Dakota weather, tends to keep the "riff-raff" in.

Next, we have the State bank. North Dakota is the only state in the…

Someone get the CDC a thesaurus!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.9280df07ab70

I feel like this may be one of those stories that is quietly walked back in a week or so. Government bureaucracies are nothing if not committed to absolutely staying the same, and they can get around a word ban with little change in intent. Trump is hilariously committed to breaking brains of the liberal pundit class and his half-wit base loves it. It’s really all he has, as he hasn’t been able to get much else done. (Please don’t remind me of the tax bill that is all but certain to become law.)

The Piss Test

I find some perverse solace in knowing someone has to handle my piss, right there in front of me, in order to tell if I've been a good clean boy, or whether I've been dirty and bad.

I hope there's at least a brief moment of " good god, what the fuck am I doing"

(now she's tipping the capped piss container on its side in order to write something I assume is highly technical medical jargon on it.)

Is it warm enough?

Like baby formula, you have to warm up fake piss in the microwave before you can pass it off as your own. (The microwave wattage is important. I don't think altitude matters though.)

I don't even know of any gods who care about piss temperature. 

I know it's not her fault. It's a job.

But holding piss, even if you label it a "specimen," is still a depressing way to sustenance. It's only slightly better than being a bill collector, a stock broker, or the President.

We do share a bond. An unspoken understanding that it&#…