Guest Post: Monsters and Metaphors

Much discussion this weekend that is relevant to the central aim of our blog seems to center around the legitimacy of this recent metals rally and whether or not “this time is different.” Our fine host Craig has warned us on Friday that this time may not be different. In fact, key signals that have traditionally preceded a metals smash are present.

Yet several others here over hte weekend argued that this time really may be different. Oil is struggling to remain above 30. … ZH article are mongering fear at an unprecedented rate. Global markets are falling. But in other news, it is business as usual The G20 is meeting on schedule. Banks are open. Hillary is ahead of Sanders. When we start having some bank holidays, and when metals bust higher in the face of the paper shorting, then we can all be certain. As of this AM, metals have been taken down in an all too familiar overnight pattern. And I have to take that as an indicator that the bankers are still in the driver’s seat. Trade accordingly and do not lose heart if we run flat today and continue to fall tonight. We seem to be sitting on support in gold and silver has formed a classic head & shoulder pattern and moved well below the neckline. The USD/JPY has been pushed up to 113.20—nearly a dollar higher (whatever a dollar means these days). So far, we are not looking so different. But my fingers are crossed.

Meanwhile, the S&P has rallied and is trying to break above resistance. Other markets are all moving higher on the good news… Uh… I’ll let you know when I see what that "good news" is though. Bloomberg seems a tad pessimistic this morning.

DUST is trading higher this morning and I am considering buying a bit after the morning profit-taking. And you should only follow my trading advice if you want to profit occasionally and enjoy licking your wounds the rest of the time. Edit: I bought a little just now (9:40am)

Well enough metals talk. Let's about other Keynesian things things, like monsters…

In 1818* Mary Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein. (sorry, Mel Brooks did not write the book, but I noticed this classic version is reading the WSJ) The idea came to her in a dream after making a wager with a friend about who could write the best horror novel. Well, you know the story, but as with all great literature, there is a deeper meaning that bears hearing. Monsters are scary. Perhaps the muses inspiring these stories needed to warn humanity about very real dangers? I think this deserves a closer look.

We can all agree that there is “evil” in this world--way too much evil. But it is not often that someone is able to define or put a face and explain it clearly to all of us. Perhaps Jesus and other religious leaders have tried to identify and warn us. But most of us are dense and think that evil is just an ambiguous term we use to define that which we do not like. Yet these captivating stories about monsters have sneaked into our modern culture—indeed all cultures in the world and in our past. Something is afoot. Our subconscious psyche is fascinated. We saw them under the bed as children, leaping in and out of bed so our feet did not get too close to that dark place at hte edge. But we still watch modern movies, cringe in horror, and feel the denouement as the film ends with another monster destroyed. But I am suggesting that these characters from literature are no accident—each of the classics represents a threat to our culture today.

Mary Shelley was married to a scientist. There is our first clue about Frankenstein. One can read her novel, understanding the monster as a metaphor for when science goes awry. In this case, a scientist was attempting a project involving the creation of life that he should not have been attempting. His project developed a life of its own and and he lost control of it, mildly speaking. Explain, predict, and control--that has traditionally been the goals of science. Frankenstein--science gone awry--and science that emanated from a need to be like god and create life. I call that an accurate description of any number of bad science projects in human history--nuclear weapons, genetic engineering... you get the picture. Zika, Monsanto, Round-Up ™

I am intrigued with this idea. I wonder what other “monsters” have to teach us?

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Godzilla is easily recognized as the metaphorical threat to Japanese society, fishermen (initially) and then the entire Japanese society courtesy of testing by the US and the subsequent direct assaults Japan by the American military at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A monster that attack and destroys entire cities, with Japanese military units vainly trying to kill it: “We’re gonna need bigger guns.” But alas, they had none. The fears of an entire culture found catharsis in seeing the military, science and the heroism of individuals overcoming the monster and driving it away—only to return in the sequel. Hard to get enough catharsis, you know.

One of the great literary theorists of our time, Kenneth Burke, taught that "magic" is just "primitive science" of people attempting to control the world around them.

Notable among “monsters” who use magic, who try to control those around them, are those known as witches, witch doctors, or warlocks--perhaps the occasional wizard (but not Craig, of course) . We can surely see the parallels with the corrupt priests & ministers of modern organized religion,. Religions provides the “thou shalt nots” that control the masses of citizens. Using their secret knowledge and expertise of theology, they create elaborate systems of rules to guide our behavior. (Hmmm… that is not how Jesus approached religion. He actually waged a war of ideas with these priests, ultimately being murdered by them. But I digress…) Witches try to control people as we all do at times, but invoke spiritual power in their attempts to influence. Beware of corrupted religion. And alas, but my own field of Rhetoric is accused, rightly so, of using words to influence people to make choices they would not otherwise make. I guess we have to beware of PR and Advertising industries also. [insert green Hillary pic here]

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Zombies have been revived in modern movies and without much argument speak to us of the factory workers, enslaved to a system that drains their lives, and steals their humanity. They have ceased to think and live only for the lust of eating. Moving slowly, but dangerous in numbers that can ultimately corner a “normal.” They kill and eat the brains of others, converting that poor soul to their ranks, destroying their ability to think freely and reason out answers and responses to the challenges of life. Here on this blog we too often call them “sheep,” obscuring the reality of the mindless obedience to the lust of hunger to which these people are doomed.

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Vampires are another monster that teaches us about a class of people--politicians and government ministers. The most famous was a "count"--the ruler of a county in the feudal system of monarchial government. He lived in a castle--or a palace, from where the surrounding countryside was ruled, only appearing at night. Sophisticated, charming, and dangerous if he sets his eye upon you, feeding upon the lifeblood of the people around him--living on the taxes. He must maintain a balance of gathering all the tax possible while leaving the economy alive. Take too much money from the local economy and it dies. Many victims are seduced into his world, living on the blood of the people, bureaucrats, agency directors and corrupted employees, abusing their office and power, living on those lifeblood taxes and contributing very little to the community except bondage.

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Finally, this brings us to werewolves -- interesting creatures. Human (and respectable) most of the time, but transforming into a ravenous, destructive animal when the moon is full--in other words, once a month (NO… not your wife). I am afraid that I am reminded of bankers as I ponder their characteristics. They can be your best friend when keeping your money or making loans, but, the interest they charge eats a person bite, by bite. And just miss that monthly payment and their monstrous side emerges. I find it instructive and revealing that they can only be killed by a silver bullet. I am reminded of a story I read (Roots) about a slave in New England who saved up the little silver he could earn in bottom of the cooking pot hanging over the fireplace. Year after year, he added coins until he had enough saved to buy his freedom. No inflation to eat him alive with that silver money--the bane of bankers.

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Now if we were to discuss Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I’d have to indict myself, and warn all of you to be aware of the dangers of giving to your own vices--fear or greed in my case.

The root of "monstrum" is "monere"—which does not only mean to warn, but also to instruct, and forms the basis of the modern English demonstrate. Thus, the monster is also a sign or instruction. Monsters are the stuff of our dreams—subconscious fears that we are dealing with in real life. They are the overpowering force that children are helpless to defend against. But we are all children (especially when trying to trade competing with algos and TBTF bankers) that have to negotiate life with these sociopathic entities seeking to consume us at every turn. The monsters are created when vice overcomes the natural talents of these specific individuals, when their hubris, greed, avarice, lust drag someone with talent to a dark place. Then they are transformed into a monster, eating our children, drinking our blood, tearing us to pieces when we miss a payment, and often when we do not. Only the community can fight a monster after a certain line is crossed.

The muses who inspire our literature and dreams are shouting at humanity with some basic principles. Our monsters are warnings--a coded taxonomy of those people and offices that we must keep in check. Only the people, bonding together, marching out with torches and pitchforks, can stand against their power. Once cornered, these monsters, their true nature is on display, are executed by the entire community, with not one citizen wondering if they did the right thing or not. Monsters have to be put to death. Prisons cannot hold them, they corrupt all those they can seduce, destroying a society. They are too powerful for a single individual to confront. Superheroes are just a myth, keeping the sheep satisfied with reading fiction about justice**, instead of experiencing real justice through community action against evil.

Each of these monsters has its legitimate corollary in our society when vice does not overcome their humanity-- as long as they cannot grow beyond their place, as long as they are not overtaken by various lusts. We need scientists and inventors to help us solve practical problems, to control our environment to make life more enriching. We need a helping hand from the community, in some form, to help us build projects that are too large for one person, projects that cost more than a person can bear. But rather than rich, greedy bankers, we have barn raisings, we help neighbors build homes, and they in turn help us. Religion has its proper place--holding the codes of our culture and society, teaching us the “Thou shalt nots" that if left unchecked will break down that community. We lift our eyes to our creator to honor him, and nurture the principles that he has imbued in us--justice, mercy & humility. And somebody has to lead a community of people, making the daily decisions, administering the justice of the state, but not to excess, keeping taxes as low as possible and doing only what is needed to keep communities safe and secure. Been a long time since we have seen such a leader and I am still waiting for the crowd to form.

Only as an honest collective of people, who have disagreements but bond together when our entire community is threatened, only as a community do we discover the power to overcome these monsters… monsters that are not as fictitious as our movie industry would have us think.

Until that grass roots movement appears to take down corruption, a person is brave buy perhaps wasting their time to fact it alone. For now, get to know your neighbors. Stand by them. Watch their back, come to their aid when need arises (and it will). Humans thrive when they work together and all move in the same direction, and when they keep stacking.

Frankly, the metaphors here are rather transparent.

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* For you numerologists out there, have fun with that year! 1=8=9 (2x) 9+9=18 and 1=8 =9, and the number nine signifies something significant, I'm sure.

** I am also guilty of taking pleasure in dramatized justice, my favorite crime series being NCIS, closely followed by Bones and X-files and Johnny English.

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Key Economic Events Week of 1/30

1/31 8:30 ET Employment Costs
1/31 9:00 ET Case-Shiller Home Prices
1/31 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
2/1 8:15 ET ADP jobs report
2/1 9:45 ET S&P Manu PMI
2/1 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI
2/1 10:00 ET JOLTS
2/1 2:00 ET FOMC Fedlines
2/1 2:30 ET Chief Goon Powell
2/2 8:15 ET ECB rate decision
2/2 8:30 ET Productivity & Labor Costs
2/2 10:00 ET Factory Orders
2/3 8:30 ET BLSBS
2/3 9:45 ET S&P Services PMI
2/3 10:00 ET ISM Services PMI

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