Your Money or Your Life?

October 11, 2014     U.S. Geological Survey - Public domain image

There’s an old joke (I remember it as part of Jack Benny’s comedy routine back in the 1950s) about the wealthy penny pincher who was confronted by an armed robber saying, “Your money or your life?”

The penny pincher thinks for a minute and the robber finally says, “Well?”

To which the penny pincher replies, with some anguish, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”

The joke was hilarious back then, because most ordinary people would have said, “Here,” handed over what little they had in their wallets and considered themselves lucky to escape with their lives.

In today’s intricately intertwined globalized economy, where everything seems to depend on everything else – not unlike a game of pick-up-sticks on steroids – the joke is not so funny. Especially if you see it as a metaphor for what’s going on in the large Western economies and the Empire; especially if you look at the globalized nature of the bullets in the robber’s gun. Global warming and climate change, ecosystem destruction, financial instability, waning resources, failing infrastructures and, now, the possibility of a global pandemic with a very ugly disease.

More and more, the West’s response to the robber seems to come down to preserving their wealth or preserving all our lives.

And the more the robber wave the gun in their faces and say, “Well?”, the more the government, the elite and those still completely dependent on the system seem to yell in frustration, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”

At this point, I’m not sure they can do otherwise. The pursuit of constant growth has become so pathological, the myth of constant progress so  firmly entrenched and the game of pick-up-sticks we’re all stuck in down to no good choices left, any one of the sticks that remain is able to bring down the whole pile.

At this point, the joke seems to be on all of us and we are each stuck with having to answer that metaphorical question for ourselves, fast.  Do we wait around for them while they’re “thinking”?  Or do we hand over the money and pray the bullets won’t kill us.

What’s it going to be? Our money or our lives?

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6 Responses to Your Money or Your Life?

  1. eugene says:

    Recently, I had the same vision of pick up sticks. As I remember the game, the movement of a single stick could bring the whole pile down which is exactly what was running through my mind. Rarely do I talk with anyone who has a clue as to how fragile our situation is nor to they want to hear any such talk. At 73, the race is on. Do I die before the pile collapses? Or in a few days, months, whatever, do I wake up to a chaotic world in which I am spinning like a stick in a tornado?
    Or is it just chaotic enough that my seizure/stroke meds are not obtainable? Personally, I keep such thoughts at bay fairly well but they are there.

  2. theozarker says:

    Hey Eugene, I know how you feel. I’ll be 74 next month and for us older folks, I’m not seeing too many good answers to those question and too many of the younger ones aren’t asking them. It’s why I keep writing the blog. 🙂

  3. graveday says:

    For a lot of people, they already lost their money, their home, and their future, basically taken from them. They didn’t hand it over willingly. Just be careful which side of the bars on the dollar sign you on. Those behind them are locked in by greed. Those of us in front, while not exactly free, are at least on the right side.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Grave, yeah, it’s not those who’ve already lost everything that I’m worried about so much as those still dependent on maintaining BAU myth – whether it’s the gov, corporations, or those dependent on believing them to keep what little they do have. They’re all so fixed on maintaining profits, that they are kidding themselves about the costs (including the horrific cost of self-deception) of maintaining the “we’ve got everything under control” illusion so as not to compromise profits and growth.

      I was watching Dr. Friedman’s face (from CDC) when he announced that the second nurse had Ebola – two days after a cross-country flight on a commercial airline. I’m pretty sure it was panic I saw. Not sure if it was panic that we aren’t as ready as they told us, or panic about the implications of that on the economy (he assured us that she could still have traveled – just not by public methods?) Wouldn’t want to crimp profits for airline companies, any more than we’d wanted to crimp profits on hospitals, by having actually made them spend the money ahead of time to genuinely get ready for a situation they all thought was so unlikely as to be near zero. Now, the near zero isn’t near zero anymore. It’s here and they’re not as prepared as they’ve been assuring us they were. (And more than a little scared about it.)

  4. graveday says:

    Could you post a link for the announcement you mentioned, please? I only can find this one.

    • theozarker says:

      Grave, I did try to find it again. It was part of a story on PBS Newshour right after the second nurse was diagnosed and they’d just found out she’d made that cross-country flight on a commercial airliner.
      I think that was an “Oh, shit” moment for Frieden. He looked scared and kind of disheveled and he stumbled over his words. I honestly think that flight had sort of put the fear of god into the guy.

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