Put That Credit Default Swap Right Here On This Table

July 10, 2012

We walk inside the high church of the big bank. Oh, it is JP Morgan Chase, and buried somewhere deep in the headquarters is the beautiful Ms. Blythe Masters, creator of the credit default swap (CDS), and head at the world commodities desk.  We stand at the teller’s window and demand that a credit default swap be brought to us. By Blythe Masters personally. Put it here. Right here. This is personal. Put it here on this table. And then, explain what it is.

A CDS isn’t a thing, or an object, or even money. It’s a sort of promissory note made of pixels.  Well, no-one really knows what it is, and that is the point. We must hire an elite priesthood to handle them for us, to steady and bring on the thing which hovers over the community like a damaged adolescent: the “economy”. So put that credit default swap right here, Ms. Masters.

Passing a note to a teller demanding a CDS. We in the Church of Stop Shopping will attempt this in the next few days. Is this attempted robbery? Probably. Even though it’s impossible?  Demystifying our present danger – trying to bring the universal threat into our own hands, to hold onto a physical CDS – is illegal.

Yet it is true that we find ourselves in a life and death emergency, that we have years or possibly just seconds in which to put our affairs in order. Some geeky environmentalists have found a causal link between the default market and this fire and flood and freak wind storm trouble. The sea seems to be rising. The animals and plants going extinct. Yes, you see – JP Morgan Chase is the top financier in the world of industrial projects that emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Yes, put that swap right on the counter. What does it look like?

The fact that our death-dealer constantly disappears matters less than the fact that the bank is still standing there before us, with its pillars. And as for the brilliant Ms. Masters, we’ve seen her on the business news, with her blonde hair and high accent. She seems to be scolding us for misusing her mysterious invention. She seems to scold the entire economy for its recession.  She seems let down by the world. Blythe, would you like a talk with the pastor? If a fire or flood is overwhelming us, we try to counter forces coming toward us with safety barriers or higher ground. And we are often trying to communicate in a heightened shout. If the attack is personal, we will try to protect our bodies by raising an arm over our heads, or by turning and running hard. But all we’re asking for at present is that you bring that credit default swap out here in the lobby of the bank, put it on a flat well-lit surface and tame it, or make it walk on its hind-legs, or something. Explain it to us.

Or do we start running with our children and belongings toward the horizon? The sun is still shining and our neighbours are stalwarts, marching with briefcases toward… somewhere. This sickly meta life around us, finally succumbing to the drilling, scraping, burning – it can kill us but we can’t put our finger on it.  We only throw hapless swear words and our catty blog at these mathematical monsters. How do we arrange to understand the deadly fix we’re in?  It might take the form of depression, of cancer or an impolite losing of the mind. The wound that we suffer seems to come from some unlocatable source.

Is it absolutely necessary that our children be guaranteed an atmosphere? Yes it is. Our present emergency resembles the worst ones that we’ve seen on TV or read about. There is the same, sudden localising and personalising of something that had been only a vague, distant idea. Take the end time phenomenon of flooding. There are many floods around the world these days. We have read about a flood somewhere in the world every day for years. Then, suddenly, we are on our own rooftop waving at rescue helicopters.

My point, children, is simply this: Our life and death emergency must now be re-imagined. In order to get an accurate picture, we must pass over a bridge that looks like science fiction. For instance, a banking system led by an elite subculture whose language no-one understands must be brought into the room, and examined in all its ugliness. And so our idea that we walk into the bank together and demand that a CDS be brought physically to us – is this really fanciful? No, it is the natural request from our present danger.

As I type this essay, there are hundreds of people on the rooftops of banks in Barcelona. Flamenco dancers are circling in the lobbies of Seville. Few in the USA know anything about it. The stories that might endanger the banks are now silenced. So we ourselves must be the human media. Can we self-induce our imagination and see the unseeable? Put that credit default swap on the table. Does it bite?


By Reverend Billy (@revbillytalen)