You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
l, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
— Bob Dylan, Gotta Serve Somebody (1979)
Guede is a powerful loa. He manifests himself by “mounting” a subject as a rider mounts a horse, then he speaks and acts through his mount. The person mounted does nothing of his own accord. He is the horse of the loa until the spirit departs. Under the whip and guidance of the spirit-rider, the “horse” does and says many things that he or she would never have uttered un-ridden.
— Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse (1938)
In voodoo, the loa are intermediaries between humans and gods, similar to saints or angels in Western theology. But here’s the big difference with Western theology. You don’t just pray to the loa to receive its help. Belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition. You must serve the loa.
Erzulie Freda requires her champagne and perfume. Baron Samedi his rum and cigars. Voodoo is an intensely transactional theology, which makes it the perfect religion for the Age of Trump.
The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.
— Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, and Cormac McCarthy are my indispensable authors. Why? Because they teach us how the human animal responds to The Storm.
Hurston was born in 1891 and grew up in Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black towns in the U.S. She moved to Baltimore when she was 26, working as a maid, pretending to be 16 so that she could go to high school. She went to Howard University, where she studied Greek and started the school newspaper, and from there went to Barnard College in 1925 for post-graduate studies in anthropology. She was the only black student at Barnard. In the 1930s, Hurston published three novels, two anthropology books, and dozens of articles and short stories. She wrote a Broadway musical. She won a Guggenheim fellowship.
20 years later, Hurston was working as a maid outside of Miami, having been fired as a librarian at Patrick Air Force Base for being “too well-educated”. She died alone and penniless in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home in 1960, buried in an unmarked grave.
What happened? Hurston was black. Hurston was a woman. Hurston was a libertarian. Strike three! Hurston rejected the notion that “black literature” should “uplift the Negro” (yes, this was a thing), making her anathema in mainstream white culture, not to mention unfit for librarian work in Brevard County, Florida. But Hurston faced as sharp a rejection in black counterculture, where her refusal to kowtow to black men of letters (and they were ALL men) and their vision of art (and women) in the service of socialist political dogma ultimately made her an outcast in every social circle she entered. Hurston was nobody’s fool, and she was nobody’s bitch. That’s a hard road to travel in any age.
1st-year Banker: Look. I wanna be rich. I admit it. I want the car, the house, the whole show. But the idea that some global financial whatever exists independent of public and political accountability seems … naïve at best. Public opinion matters. Government regulations matter.
Viktor Eresko: Young man … We finance culture. We buy entire nations.
— Jonathan Hickman, The Black Monday Murders (2017)
In his day job, Jonathan Hickman is responsible for orchestrating pretty much the entire Marvel Comics universe. Ever wonder how all those superhero movies tie in with each other? It’s Hickman’s story line. His best work, though, is found in indie comics far away from the Borg cube that is Disney.
Source: UBS Multi-Asset Sales, as of 06/07/17. For illustrative purposes only.
And in entirely unrelated news to the fictional notion of some global financial whatever that exists independently from public and political accountability, central bank assets recently topped the $14 trillion mark, growing at $2 trillion per year.
And speaking of endoparasitoids …
Wasps of the genus Glyptapanteles, also known as “voodoo wasps”, lay their eggs inside various caterpillar species. The eggs hatch and most of the wasp larvae eat their way out of the body of the caterpillar host and begin to pupate.
But some larvae stay behind and take over the caterpillar’s nervous system, effectively transforming the host into a zombie. The half-eaten-from-the-inside zombie caterpillar then proceeds to starve itself to death while protecting the baby wasp cocoons.
No, I’m not making this up.
Louis Cyphre: Alas … how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise, Johnny.
— Angel Heart (1987)
Tell me about it. Story of my life.
I’m having a hard time with this market, because I can see what a powerfully stable social equilibrium is being established around this transformation of capital markets into a political utility. I’m having a hard time with it because, like any powerfully stable social equilibrium, to be truly successful in that world you must give yourself over to that world. You must embrace that world in your heart of hearts. As Winston finally learned, to be happy you must love Big Brother. Or in our case, lever long, sell volatility, and love the Fed.
I can’t do it. I can’t embrace the machines and the vol selling and the ETF parade and the central bankers’ “communication policy”. So I’m NOT happy. I’m 20+ pounds overweight. I don’t sleep well. I DON’T trust the Fed, much less love them, and I never will.
I know, I know … boo hoo. First world problems and all that. No doubt Don Corleone would slap me around a bit for my Johnny Fontane-esque whining. You can act like a man! But here’s the thing. There are tens of thousands of people in this business who feel exactly like I do. Yeah, we’re privileged. So what? This is OUR existential crisis and we’re going to deal with it in the only way we can, by talking it through. Capisce?
So here’s my question. How do you survive, both physically and metaphysically, in a market you don’t trust but where you must act as if you do? How do you pass? How do you reconcile the actions and beliefs necessary to be successful in this market with the experiences and training of a lifetime that tell you NOT to act this way and believe in all this?
Here’s what most people do. Here’s the human answer. You make accommodations. You surrender little by little to the new religion and its transactional catechism. It starts off easy enough. At first it’s just staying quiet while others talk. Then it’s simple superstitious behavior that you can laugh off. Who does it hurt to pour a shot of