A culture of excess

Really, I should be worrying about dresses and shoes in order to introduce myself properly to the “machatunim” (my son’s in-laws, but the Yiddish term is much better) in a future trip to Canada, but I can’t get out of my head the world’s disputes between liberal and neoliberal policies — the latter, ironically, known today as “conservative,” or is this completely wrong?

The truth is, I owe my readers a painful confession: After years of self-training, developing a discrete ability to trust my own sagacity, bah, I stumbled upon the growing frustration of not understanding anything that relates to the ongoing social revolution.

Which, let’s face it, is reasonably normal. We used to believe that to understand a crucial change, one that recalibrates the main gears of society as we know it, we needed to study, research, reflect. And also to wait until the dust has settled, and new theories have gained recognition (and awards) in the form of books and proven theses.

It immediately comes to mind the old Adam Smith’s adagio of “free market capitalism,” led by the mysterious “invisible hand” we had briefly heard about, although it has been sitting on the best of intellectual bookshelves for over two centuries, already covered in dust. Or perhaps for that very reason.

Today all of that is out of fashion. That is to say, to wait, to sleep on it, not to mention that other proven theory better known as “every jack to his trade”: Nowadays, everyone wants to stick their own old wooden spoon into the bubbling cauldron of an endangered civilization, and woe to those who dare limiting access to all kinds of information — misguided, for the most part.

I’ve been talking a lot with Alan lately, taking his good advice like a nice subdued wife, and our daily debates have gone well beyond the mandatory speculation about the color of hair and eyes of our future grandchildren, because, after all, Alan doubts there will be some world left for these beloved future humans still lacking an embodying date. Even so, I can’t make any progress.

This week, imagine, I found out I had made a terrible, shameful mistake: With my usual weekly columnist’s self-assurance, I’ve been stating that I hated the leftist colors of Alexis Tsipras, the premier of Greece that does not leave the headlines, simply because I disliked the cut of his jib.

But, behold, I discovered by accident that the man I disliked was not Tsipras, but his ill-humored Minister of Finance. Who, by the way, stepped down after the great victory of the bailout referendum. Let me clarify: The victory I’m referring to is not of the “Yes” or the “No,” but that of the referendum itself, the mere fact that it even existed — a great Pyrrhic victory, I mean, a victory of the Greek people. Anyway, he stepped down, I suppose, in order to make way for a more palatable position, at least a more prepared one, wise enough to avoid being swallowed at Mutter Europe’s dinner table, if you know what I mean. Because, let’s face it, the previous minister’s behavior seemed quite extreme.

In this way, I accomplished the miracle of being right (the minister resigned), although in fact being completely wrong (it wasn’t Tsipras I didn’t like). The real Tsipras looks quite nice, actually, but as to his competency, I’m not so sure.

“Were I simply guided by common sense, provided I was also Greek, I would have voted ‘No’,” I declared on Facebook in a thoughtless move. To discover, after two “likes,” that in fact I would have voted “Yes” — yes to austerity, to responsibility, to the (hard) European Community rules, as the righteous fossil I have become; in other words, agreeing with those “new,” ouch, “neo liberals,” who in fact are not “liberals” at all, but “traditional conservatives.”

Judging by the rules of this so-called “common sense,” usually violated, it seems to me that deciding to rescue a country from a long, reiterated bankruptcy shouldn’t include the willingness to spend more money, or to borrow even more money, something like paying a late credit card bill with funds obtained from a brand new card — a “new beginning” to erase wrong endings. But that, as you know, applies solely to ordinary people like ourselves, “the mob, the crowd, the mass” who still believe that the best way to make money is to devote oneself to work — not a very liberating concept, by the way.

To be “liberal,” according to the experts, does not mean, as it might seem, to let it be, laissez-faire and wait for the outcome, in a widely “permissive” way. It its the complete opposite, that is, to force things to take a direction desired by the Government, ostensibly based on the “well-being of the people,” something that often results in the “well-being of the officials elected by the people,” the typical Trojan horse — not the computer virus as we know it, but the gift commonly mistaken for “democracy,” borne by the Greeks. Understand?

Neither do I. I’ve been feeling like such an outsider, lately, that it would be best to just let it all go, to relax, allowing the world to move on at its own pace, without desperately trying to fit myself into the apocalyptic performance of daily events. In other words, to quietly retire to my ignoramus privacy and stop rambling about every little thing. The world would be much better if we were not forced to listen to so many ideas and such a variety of opinions. I hope you agree.

Meanwhile, in my native Brazil things are not any better. The leftists keep instilling upon us their beliefs that the liberal disposition of our own Minister of Finance is to “bleed the goat,” oops, sorry, to bleed even more the already sacrificed victims of financial high crimes and misdemeanors — by “victims,” I mean the poor Brazilian people. But when it comes to Brazil, I believe I understand a thing or two, and that’s not what this is about (bleeding), but rather finding a good scapegoat to atone for the real guilty culprits, who can no longer hide. Which is pretty good, at least a good start, although principles are always more difficult than unconfessed purposes, not to mention the complete lack of merit of the in-between.

Once this is established, Brazil and Greece are not that different, at least in what refers to a “disastrous Government.” Or, to be more precise, to the popular election of a Government that in a short period of time would become a phenomenal disaster — a growing commonplace in the four corners of this chaotic institution we call Earth. And we urgently need to do something about it, but what? I have no idea.

It is the exact opposite of what we would have wished for; because, let’s face it, of his deepest evils man is always the cause. And I’m not talking about an environmental burden, or the residual effects of a heavy human hand that is hardly invisible (or not at all) — not only on markets, but on the life of the Planet as well.

Nevertheless, the evil that corrodes us is not the excess of pollution, as it might seem, but the excess of opinion, from which I don’t believe we can be freed on such short notice, and for this situation I’ve been cooperating actively, if you know what I mean.


About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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