quinn esq's picture

    At Night, The Ice Weasels Come.

    Friedrich Nietzsche: "The economy is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."

    Ok, Matt Groening only said Nietzsche said that, so we can't be 100% sure, even if Matt was a big fan of Walter Kaufman. But I'll take his word for it. And so what if I did change "love" to "the economy?" That was Nietzsche's inner meaning. If he had said it.

    As some of you know, I hang with the Ice Weasels. Have for years. I'm neither proud, nor ashamed, of it. The Ice Weasels get smeared a lot, but I've found they're not much different than us regular weasels. Just, with white fur. And taller. Four foot, maybe. And I know all about their reputation for violence, but I think that's mostly a knee-jerk reaction to their teeth. Well, not so much teeth as... rotating, titanium-clad, scythes.

    And yes, the papers are correct that they're smart, but they're NOT robots, or from the future, or any of that. It's a simple case of having evolved an opposable forebrain. It had to happen sometime, and if Dear Ole Gramma Nature threw it at the Ice Weasel & not us, well, who are we to whine?

    The ecology of the Ice Weasel. For starters, yes, they eat economies. But calm down friends - it's an urban myth that they eat the people. They think of people the way you'd think of pack horses. We're the creatures who bring them supplies every Winter. They'd no more hurt you than a cowboy'd shoot a horse.

    Once you understand their ecology, it's also quite clear that they eat economies not out of malice, but because it's their job. They're fulfilling their God-given role in the circle of life. As you've probably seen on the Science Channel, they spend their Springs in writhing sexual frolic. It can get confusing, even for them, being quadrasexual and all, but let's just say it gives the ole gene pool one hell of a mix. In Summertime, well, the living is easy. Fish and chips mostly. Bush planes fly in the chips, which is how I came to meet them in the first place. After a while, I guess I felt pretty much at home. (Especially in Spring.) But when Fall comes, they snap to attention & start planning. Because it takes time to prep for the Big Event, a migration whose magnificence soars above the Serengeti or the Okavango like Air Jordan over a fat kid from the 8th grade.

    I speak, of course, of the American Economy, and its annual circumpolar trek - an incredible sight for those fortunate enough to witness it. The tundra, white with snow, leaping into color as the Economy arrives. Herds of pine-scented Winnebago, drivers leaning on their horns, challenging all those in their path... The three car garage, ranch-style, luxury homes, striding post & beam... The shining upturned faces of the 48" Panasonic plasmas... The endless stream of white goods (including my personal favorite, the floor-to-ceiling refrigerator, with sandwiches)... The electronic games, Gameboy & Playstation, trailing children, tethered close for safety... The trail of little blue, and red, and then lots more blue pharmaceuticals, dropped by their drooling - but surprisingly erect - owners... It's almost too much to take in, and certainly not in one viewing. This American Economic herd burns through $13 trillion on its journey, every year, and I can tell you, it's a kick ass parade.

    The Ice Weasels play a very simple ecological role in relation to the Migration of the Economy. It's their job to slip past the guards, reach the laggards of the herd, and then... drag away the broken & the busted, the obsolete & outmoded, the dreary & despairing, the highly inefficient & the not too damned productive.

    And most years, it has to be said, they do a damn fine job of it. Given a few months, they can pretty much hack, consume, process and, ummm... "recycle" their way through anything. I can understand how people would be frightened, seeing the wires torn viciously out of an old TV, Cathode Ray Tube imploding, its last sound that ghastly "thoomp," and then the whirring, white metal teeth of the Ice Weasel slicing through that tasteful wood veneer cabinetry.

    The older Ice Weasels tell me things have changed since back in the day, when the usual meal was some trapper flipping his sled. Back then, the clean-up was pretty simple. You allow the dogs off after payment of a small ransom (a code that held fast, 'til the beginning of the Shitsu Era), tuck in your bib, and go at 'er. And after a 24 hour scour, you're good to go. About the worst problem you might face is having to pass a gold tooth later, or maybe the lads would get liquored up on 'MacEwan The Unshaven's' home brew & wanna go a few rounds. But all in all, pretty tidy work.

    The old hands also say that while you used to be able to break down the economic failures with a minimum of effort, nowadays it takes planning. You need analytical chemistry capabilities, full sets of Spec Sheets, and a forecasting branch to go over the National Income & Product Accounts tables, just to get an idea of exactly how much shit you've gotta eat.

    The problem seems to have been that, over time, the Economy became... transformed. What the Weasels used to happily greet - as meat - became a bit more of a chore. As one elderly Ice Weasel so eloquently put it, "$13 trillion buys you a lotta phthalate-impregnated 'Dalai Mountain Spring, Water Of The Ommm' bottles. Or take a product like the 'Lumonic-Hypertext Twyn Hys & Hers Tivo Sets' - that'll give the old forebrain a full flex-out. And let me tell you, to take down a 'Texan-Clad, New England-Style, Oaken Oasis, Luxury Wiffle-Built Home' on your own, well... you're gonna need that 5th ball to tackle one of those puppies."

    And (contra Krugman), the Ice Weasels can be a surprisingly melancholy lot. While we tend to ignore their theatre, their film-making, and (grossly overlooked), their music, I believe this documentary short gives us an idea of just how deeply they mourn the passing of the Old Economy. By a pair of their Ice Artists known as "The Kills," I suggest you look past the (rather nonsensical) "human" costumes they've created, and listen, just listen, to the tenderness expressed in the lyrics:

    What easy used to be
    What love used to be
    What drugs used to be
    What TV used to be
    What music used to be
    What you used to be
    What New York used to be


    Difficulties to one side, the Ice Weasels remain committed to their task, their Mission. I know that in the future, and particularly after the carnage to come this Winter, they'll likely be regarded as Barbarous. Animalistic. In their defence, I only wish to say that from a long-term perspective, I believe the Ice Weasel contributes as much, if not more, to the health of our environment, and the growth of our economy, than any other species.

    Environmentally, the tundra simply wouldn't be the tundra if it wasn't kept pristine & white. You can't have hundreds of billions of dollars worth of junk strewn around for the Caribou to trip over. Because believe me - and I don't wish to seem harsh here - but Caribou are dumb as posts. You ought to see 'em on a windy night, trying to start a fire with those old Bics they use. They're the Larry, Curly and Moo of the North, I swear.

    But the Ice Weasel's annual clean-up is also essential if our economy is to prosper & grow. Their actions help it shed dead weight, leaving young muscle & tendon. The herd grows more efficient, 'til it's almost leaping up the value chain. Hmmmm, health metaphor... health metaphor. Ah! Think of it as an econo-colonic irrigation. A cleansing. Truthfully, you wouldn't really want to hang onto all that gunk, now would you?

    These past 20 odd years, the rising tide of Crap-N-Crome has made the job of the Ice Weasel tougher. But this year, something new entirely appears to have occurred. Something which, while initially bringing joy to the Weasels, has ultimately produced in them a feeling of... dread.

    Which is why I led this post with the words of the incomparable, the Prophet, he whom we will not mistake for someone else... Nietzsche. "The economy is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come." Again & as always, Right Said Fred has whacked the mole, when it popped outta its hole, eh?

    You see, the Ice Weasel scouts have reported back that this year's migration is showing some unusual features. For instance, that the economy's traditional "guards" all appear to have... gone. In decades past, these guards were a formidable lot, arrayed under divisional flags & banners, formally-attired, beady eyes fixed on the horizon, red & black pens sharpened and at the ready, enunciating verse after verse of the "Perfectly Competitive General Equilibrium," with Los Chicago Boys Choir pumping up the volume during the chorus.

    But this year? Well, after the initial celebration, the Ice Weasels have begun to... lament. They feel there is no honor in taking down the undefended, the indefensible. For the guards... are gone. Yes, certainly, in recent years they'd noticed that the attention of the banking & the brokerage brigades had begun to wander, the ranks of the regulators & the ratings agencies grown thin. But the front-line soldiers, the boots on the ground, continued to march at the Economy's side. The graveyard-dead eye, the automatonic twitch, the metronomic, side-to-side shaking of the lipless heads of the Accountancy profession told the marauding Ice Weasels all they needed to know. "You shall not pass." These stout defenders, the Accountants, drawn perhaps - as the myth stated - from the depths of Carpathia, or - and this, more greatly feared - spontaneously generated from the dank pits of Indiana. If an Ice Weasel managed to outwit this foe, then they'd earned their badge of Honor, deserved their share of Glory.

    This year, nothing. Or almost nothing. Except for a disoriented rabble, running to and fro, shouting alarm, making vast claims, demanding tribute, dubbed by Lux the Ice Elder as... the TARPetbaggers. A mob which, on closer analysis, we came to believe were no threat to us. Indeed, they appear more as competitors, eerie, carnivorous - perhaps members of the once-powerful Guard, but now clearly gone cannibal.

    Our scouts' careful fact-finding & intelligence-gathering built to an incontrovertible conclusion. That the bewildered herd, its protective bubble now punctured & vanished, its million bare flanks naked to the cold North wind, was... near collapse. I've read the original message which was Telezack7'ed back to BaseMind11ty, and can confirm that it consisted of one brief sentence. A sentence which could well, when history is written, stand as the epitaph of this Once Mightiest Economy, capturing as it does the initial Joy of the Ice Weasels, as they surveyed the soon to be devoured herd - "Surf & Turf, kids."

    Harsh? Perhaps. A touch cruel even. But with such succulence spread on their own cold, white tablecloth, well, who's to say you yourself wouldn't have participated in an evening or two of Parimutuel Ice Pleasure upon its sighting? Not I. But joy was quickly followed by questions. Which grew into concerns. Which rose up into a great, looming, mountain of dread. The initial question itself had been simple. "Can we consume so much?" This led to a deeper debate, over whether the meal was a simple but filling 1% of the $13 trillion, or... more. And if so, how many more courses? 3%? 5%? 10%? More?! Until finally, alarm, then dread, as the scale of the task began to resolve itself.

    Unbelievably, there were 3 million homes already downed, abandoned by their inhabitants, boarded in - a last, forlorn, hope against unflagging fate. And then, multiple sightings confirmed, of another 3 million coming, just over the horizon, their owners staggering under the weight. And all, requiring... processing. 

    The horror went on. Autos. 6 million lost already. By November. Aging, gigantic SUVees, paneled doors hanging open, empty, bleeding heavily from their tails. Food, clothing, travel on personal business - gone. College educations, jewelry, old games that'd have to do & the Wii be damned. Health care, meals formerly eaten outside the home, and the trip to Gramma's house - postponed. Insurance agents & online stockbrokers, billions worth. In fact, the entire personal business services sector. And the realtors... my God, the stench.

    The math of an Economic Apocalypse is simple. It's just that ourselves, and the Ice Weasels, sit on opposite sides of the equation.

    It's a Hard Sun. Run.

    Latest Comments