- The Butterfly and the Sledge Hammer
“Do what you love.” It has rolled off my tongue more than once. It is the truism of the age of the “Creative Class”, another flippancy that has echoed in my own voice. While I was not born to the silver spoon, I was born into a comfortable existence in perhaps the most egalitarian and free society the world has ever produced, 1950s and 1960s California. I was encouraged to not only dream, but to dream large. And I did.
The world was an oyster for an entire generation and I thought, by extension, an entire country and world. I almost could not fail. The world has been kind and mainly gentle with me. I lived in the world of the Butterfly. Butterflies are one of nature’s beautiful and delicate creatures. That butterfly society has transformed our world. Movies, music, computers, and now the social media have brought us into close approximation to each other. But the butterfly has not floated through our existence alone. It has had a companion, the sledge hammer.
The sledge hammer is as cruel a task master as the world has ever seen. Grinding and unforgiving poverty has left much of humanity in such a precarious position that should the world “market” cease to function for even a short time their very lives would be in jeopardy.
There are those that believe and even argue that the Butterfly cannot exist without the Sledge Hammer as the enforcer, the police of the privileged enclosures necessary to the Butterfly. The Butterfly creates our modern world from a hot house that must be ruthlessly exclusive. The power of money backs this belief with an array of tools that have conquered the world and guard that conquest jealously with a brute force that brooks no dissent.
Money has replaced almost all other forms of human social arrangement. Liberty and democracy have succumbed to its insidious influence and power. How did this happen and is it irreversible?
The Butterfly and the Sledge hammer have been the twin pillars of support for a “summer camp” that had ambitions to be a “Science”. Economics fiddles while the world burns and it is little more than sport or a career. Money is the power behind the throne for both the Butterfly and the Sledge Hammer. The rich life of the Butterfly Economy permits the time and space to ponder itself. Such possibilities and potential. The Sledge Hammer Economy breads pathologies of all types, pitting the poor dregs to fight over scraps and plot the overthrow of the system even as they seek their own escape.
From tea at 4:00 p.m. on the veranda to mining garbage in Brazil all day long, it’s all the same world. The fickle world of the Butterfly and the Sledge Hammer can take you from one end to the other in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.