I realize “simulacra” is an esoteric word, but I have yet to find a better one that captures what I think is its importance in this modern world. It is a replica of something. Philip Dick and the movie “Bladerunner” uses the term replicant to describe near human robots.
The presence of simulacra in our modern world is so prevalent that you must understand its subtleties and apply them all around you. In my previous blog I spoke of the disconnect between word and object. That is the first step in the creation of a simulacrum.
These are particularly present in our financial world, and interestingly in that vein, they also have a second reality of their own. The daily reports of our financial activity, i.e., the “stock market”, the Federal Reserve and its interest rate policies, the Eurozone and its fiscal policies as of late, corporate quarterly and annual reports are all simulacra. They are simulacra in that they propose to reflect the financial and mathematical reality of the financial condition of the country or of the European Union or a large corporation….but they don’t. They primarily represent themselves. When something that is created and it is said to accurately represent the reality it describes, and it doesn’t, then it is a simulacrum, a representation that is a false copy and does not in fact represent what it says it does.
The stock market is a simulacrum. It is the vast collection of all the simulacra that the above processes produce. It has been on a non-stop run up for 6 years (and in recent days seems to have come to an end). Yet in that time very few of the citizens of this country have reaped in their own reality the gains that the Fed and Wall Street says the country has produced. There is a disconnect between the Fed reports and Wall Street and the living reality of the people themselves. WS and the Fed say the economy is doing fine, but few who are living it would agree.
The Eurozone, particularly Greece, have been having real problems for years now. But as soon as the Greek bonds go from 40 cents on the dollar to 60 cents the EUB says things are getting better. Ask the Greek people. I don’t think they see it or live it. That is a huge disconnect. Studying the Eurozone through sovereign bond prices and bank balance sheets is a simulacrum.
Most simulacra in their falsity are dangerous and useless. Not so the ones described above. They have their own reality. An unusual duality. Most financial instruments created by Wall Street are simulacra. They claim to represent housing, or price movements or valuations. They seldom are accurate, but that doesn’t matter if people are willing to believe in them, buy them, sell them or trade them. Their structure is supposed to reflect underlying value. Based on that belief, they are traded, bought and sold. Money is made or lost in this process. That is the life blood of WS. WS believes that the simulacra represent reality until it doesn’t. In 2008, The whole financial world of home mortgages, subprime and the securitization of same, and the CDO’s and CDS’s that were supposed to represent reality suddenly didn’t….and everyone cried, “Oops!” at the same time and we had the Great Recession of 08 and 09 and beyond.
Those instruments never were real. They were all simulacra. The only difference was that banks all over the world believed they were real and invested in them. They had their own reality for some years, and many people made a lot of money by trading within that simulacrum. That’s the secondary reality I mentioned. For some years bankers and investors made real money from these false idols. Much of it was paper profit, i.e., ever ascending mark-ups of investment vehicles that then could be used as inflated collateral for yet other deals. You remember, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Bank of America, Lehman, Bear Stearns, all flush with success until they weren’t. What changed? The belief. The simulacra had no clothes! All these instruments were supposed to represent the housing market, except they didn’t. All these instruments were simulacra. ONCE NO ONE BELIEVED THEM, THEIR WORTHLESSNESS BECAME APPARENT.
The pity here is, that there are many many more simulacra in this world that threaten us because sufficient numbers believe in them to give them a temporary reality and seeming connection to real things. But as simulacra, we know they don’t represent the real thing, they are replicas and not real. In the previous post, I mentioned the Iran Nuke deal as a probable simulacrum that will never have an incumbent reality. Ad infinitum entitlement programs are simulacra that go un-confronted. There is a good chance the whole global warming premise is a gigantic simulacrum. Communism was a giant simulacrum that “worked” for 70 years, till it didn’t. Once the belief was gone it collapsed overnight just as Lehman Brothers did.
The world is rife with simulacra. Simulacra that pass themselves off as reality. There is a vast amount of money invested in these various simulacra. Those investors and those sellers are deeply committed to the illusions. They will not let you give them up easily. It is your job to test the simulacra for reality. Pinch it, prick it, question it, scratch it and question it again. The spin merchants, the internet sites, the statisticians, the advertisers, all are deeply invested in selling you their illusions. Spotting the simulacrum is your body armor. You are surrounded by people trying to enlist you in their simulacra. If you want to maintain your own authenticity, and protect your own reality, you must be able to spot the dreaded simulacra and deny it, splay it open and show its emptiness.
In an earlier blog I wrote that many simulacra are seductively pleasant to engage and “live in”. What’s more fun than investing in a “bull market”? Until it isn’t. A simulacrum is often a sweet Siren. Odysseus strapped himself to the mast. He knew the strength of the call. We are surrounded by the calls of sweet simulacra. You would do well to imitate Odysseus. Hold fast and resist!