More scurrilous talk of recession

Pray for Borders. Their remainder shop on Willis St has closed, and their large Dymocks-killing shop on Lambton Quay has halved its stock. This has been disguised by removing some shelves and spacing out the remaining books. I’m sensing that consumers have tired of paying five dollars more than anywhere else for already-overpriced books and DVDs. Or, for a more specific example, being charged full price for six-year old books on software which is three versions out of date. No-one is going to miss this boneheaded store, not in the way we’d miss Unity, which has its own problems with street access – at the moment you have to walk through a construction site with a sticky floor.

The general air of malaise and despondency in retail has seen a return to the shabbiness I remember in New Zealand in the 1980s, and I wonder if we were fooling ourselves all along.  It wasn’t until the early ’90s that I remember seeing absurdly expensive European cars parked in the street, and meeting people who were massively conceited and entitled, not because they belonged to an old farming family or because they’d ever achieved anything, but because their parents were very, very rich. We’ve spent the past thirty years living beyond our means and mistaking it for progress, and maybe this new genteel poverty (with isolated concentrations of extreme wealth and destitution) is just our natural state.

As a side-note, and not wishing to cause offence, the new strategy of appealing to the patriotism of expats to pay off their student loans in order to help rebuild Christchurch may be misguided. It doesn’t matter how much you emphasise the “heroism” of meeting your debt obligations to a country who subsidised the advanced education which enabled you to have a career, and whose tax base you no longer contribute to. The fact remains that a significant percentage of our 600,00 expats are overseas because Christchurch is, well, Christchurch.


9 Responses to “More scurrilous talk of recession”

  1. Rhinocrates Says:

    I’m reminded of Dmitri Orlov’s attempts to draw lessons from the fall of the Soviet Union:

    He noted that societies often collapsed not in Wagnerian blaze of glory (much to Hitler’s disappointment), but by an increasing “crumminess”. See Detroit for an example, or Philip K Dick on the rising tide of kipple.

    It may not be happening just this time, but look out for the five horsemen of War, Pestilence, Famine, Death and Things Being Generally Crap.

  2. Rhinocrates Says:

    (We usually refer only to the four because the fifth was so useless that he never showed up on time or got anything worthwhile done because he couldn’t be arsed, or – so he said – someone had let him down somewhere)

  3. The Detroit of the South Seas – that’s something to look forward to! Seriously, I think things would only get that bad if the streets were flooded with crack. Or could we smoke kipple? Do we own enough raw materials to generate it?

  4. Rhinocrates Says:

    … and come to think of it, there’s the Zeroth Horseman, the Horseman of Photo-opportunities. He’s always second on the scene. Never first, but certainly always second, and the one who gets the attention. He’s the one who says that he cares very much about what’s happening, but had nothing to do with it and won’t actually do anything about it. He smiles a lot and might be called John.

    Hmmm, this could be turning into the Cavalry of the Apocalypse.

  5. Rhinocrates Says:

    I visualise the Horseman of Things Being Generally Crap as being this thin, grizzled fellow dragging on roll-your-owns and being several days past a good shave. He points out that whatever it is, it’s going to cost you, but then he has some bloody great plans, mate.

  6. I think the concept that scares people about the current recession, and something that’s been on peoples’ minds since 2001, is that there is no apocalypse, no convenient reset button, no comfort in that we won’t have to face these problems tomorrow.

    Instead we just continue on, and have to make the best of things as old norms and expectations shudder and crash around us like melting ice floes.

    New horsemen: Entropy, Venality, Future Theft and Indifference.

  7. Rhinocrates Says:

    The fact is, there are some real apocalypses lining up and those horsemen are strategies of denial, so I nominate Denial as the herald for the real four. Sorry, getting rather serious and morbid here… listening to Joy Division right now, so that’s my excuse (do I need one?).

    Still, it could be a good exercise to think of the Four as understood by modern science. Certainly starting with the Horseman of the Second law of Thermodynamics, AKA Entropy, so eloquently alluded to by Michael Moorcock in his Jerry Cornelius novels.

  8. Oh, I meant “apocalypse” in the Biblical sense, the attitude that there’s no sense making long-term plans or worrying about the future or conservation or injustice because the Rapture will sort that all out. 2012 is going to be jolly…

    Which ones are you anticipating?

  9. Rhinocrates Says:

    I think that most people’s “long term” is still my “short term” Mere centuries? Bah!

    As for the rapture bullshit, that’s just cognitive dissonance.

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