“At high tide fish eat ants; at low tide ants eat fish.” Thai Proverb
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” French Proverb
The punditry was stunned. Stunned by the overwhelming indictment of the Bush years and the fatigue of war and economic crisis.
When Bush 43 was elected in 2000 I had abandoned all hope. Not because he was conservative (I’m a Republican who felt his party had abandoned him) but because he was so clearly a cog in a machine that was too full of itself and its ideology, I feel quite the opposite this morning. Affirmed for my country and it’s ability to bounce back from the edge of potential catastrophe.
This shift is one of demography in the electorate. I’ll admit I was honestly indifferent about who won this election. I liked both candidates. McCain proved me right with his elegant concession speech–perhaps the most gracious I have ever heard. For me it was proof he was a worthy candidate and would have been every bit as good a president as Obama.
It’s 1932, 1960, and 1980 again in so many ways– and once again proof that the electorate is always way ahead of its leaders. We are on the precipice of an emergent new youth culture that is both multi-racial and in utter opposition to the Baby boomers that preceded it. In this emerging youth revolution, Information technology will alienate the older generation much in the same way recreational drugs alienated the parents of baby boomers.
Liberalism has changed too. It’s rather easy to see where this is going. The left must get practical fast– and while I suspect that Obama will lead from the center–much like Kennedy, he will face extreme pressure from a left that has waited a very long time to correct what it has seen as great injustice.
It is a New Day but with the same old problems. We are refreshed though, and the world will rally behind us for a short time. I believe it will be time enough. Markets, after all, are about trust. Americans have given the world a reason to trust us again. Things will still be tough–but like our president elect I am more optimistic than I’ve been in some time. A new generation has officially stepped forward– From Chapter 3 of my book:
Hackers and hippies shared the same historic and subversive pursuits as they railed against the prevailing technological or political apparatus. They defined themselves and formed their identity either in opposition to, or through the sheer dominance of, that structure. For flappers it was cultural mores that frowned on exuberant dance and drinking. For the Beats it was the banality of literary and societal conformity to a value system that seemed to celebrate consumerism and us-versus-them geopolitics. This repeats over generations: What changes is the sand in the oyster creating this black pearl of a personal identity. Raging against the flappers, the Beats, the hackers and up-against-the-wall hippies became the battle cries and formed the attitudes of those not in these tribes.
How does this relate to youth culture? In the struggle to learn who they are, adolescents identify their tribes and what currency those tribes value (i.e., what they have to offer). By 1979, divorce had become so commonplace over the prior 15 years that one out of two marriages ultimately failed. That left a lot of kids with fractured lives and sometimes missing one parental rudder to steer them through their growing pains. Figuring out what happened to split mom and dad up became a huge factor in their identity crises. Who were they in this broken family? Where should their loyalties lie? In the ′79 film Kramer vs. Kramer, Billy Kramer’s confusion about his parents’ breakup reflects this issue. He was played by a seven year old in the movie, yet adolescents and even adults often feel the ripple effects of their parents’ divorce many years later.
Kramer vs. Kramer was a harbinger that showed what was going to unfold as a central crisis point for the coming generation of youngsters in the ’80s, when the divorce rate continued to rise. In youth culture, one generation’s pioneering experience with a social (e.g., divorce) or artistic phenomenon is something that gets reinterpreted by its successor. Though the Beatniks were post-adolescents, teens really dug their nonconformist alienation, and that defined the young counterculture of the ′60s and early ′70s. The early Internet’s underground hacker culture presaged the new millennium’s multitasking, multi-channel youth pop culture.
Using nostalgia is a powerful way to connect with an audience.
From Chapter 3
So many factors converge to make youth culture dominant in determining cultural momentum. Nostalgia and irony have their sharpest spikes in adolescents, especially those on the cusp of adulthood. Or said another way, the multi-stage struggle for identity reaches its crescendo in the late teen years. The ruling Boomer generation in its heyday seemed to invent extended adolescence, and to the extent that science and technology can keep up, Boomers will continue on this path. But, though the Boomers have been dominant for decades, their time is rapidly fading. Generation Y—the Echo Boom—is evolving into that role.
Tribal formation and articulation, the yeast of cultural change, are most volatile and fertile in youth and youth-conscious populations, and the struggles for identity and regeneration are the most powerful forces driving this. For in those years lies the time of the greatest, most passionate conflicts, which yield the most entertaining experiences for the rest of the culture to share in vicariously.
Youth culture is an essential driver of all of pop culture. The intensity that youth brings and the time youth has for development make youth’s culture the most dynamic and vital piece of the puzzle for the whole of pop cultural forecasting. Compounding the difficulty of forecasting for this segment of the population are the unique symbols, language, and channels youth employ to communicate with one another as they seek to distinguish themselves from those who came before and those who have held sway over their development. With their new voice and empowered by their beauty and regenerative powers, youth still strain for credibility and authenticity even while borrowing from the scraps of the cultural dustbin that preceded them. These totems hide conspicuously. They are there to be translated. You can dig what they say. Just don’t betray yourself by trying to say it. It’s essential to speak through translators and stay true to the language of your tribes.
Rebellion is not an obvious given, but only one of the many means of distinction that youth have at their disposal. In new, more subtly subversive ways, youth have embraced many of the conventions of their parents and move to separate themselves not through opposition, but through achievement. Youth leverage their entitlement and achieve a greater sense of themselves through even more conscious, conspicuous, and discerning consumption.
Decoding these trends is easier for the forecaster who is willing to seek new channels of communication and new methods of using them. Youth employ these new channels not for sheer novelty alone, but out of a real need to explore the meaning of having a unique voice rather than silent complicity.
I am one of those who thought a McCain -Obama race would be good for the country. And, in fact, I think it has been. I hear policy discussions again. Yes, it will start to get ugly tomorrow as the 527’s launch their vitriol and that’s too bad– because I like Johnny Mac–but I think now he might lose. And God forgive me, I think Glenn Beck might be right. He blew his chances with the bailout bill.
There was his chance– right there– to stop the madness of the gaudy, bejeweled pork-fest. Now don’t get me wrong– the Government needed to step in to restore confidence in the credit markets. But John could have (actually he did) demanded a Kosher version of the bill. He could have further demanded Obama join him (Obama wouldn’t of course)–positioning Obama as a sell-out and not a leader. He could have looked liked the maverick he needs to be. Of course McCain’s failure to call for another bill will be spun as McCain doing the right thing for the country in a time of panic- but it really looks like a kind of capitulation to the Shock Doctrine of the last 8 years. Many Independent and undecided voters will feel it– even if they don’t necessarily understand it.
Now that the pork has been passed, the hue and cry will begin. Pragmatic financial conservatives are furious over the details (not the principal) of the plan. But now McCain has no other cards to play on the number one issue in the election: the economy. This had all the markings of a Bush bill and John fell in line. Obama’s hands are clean–something needed to be done and this was the only option to get those opportunistic Republicans over to the “big government” side of the fence. Now McCain looks no different than the rest of the big government Republicans–just an older part of a broken establishment. Is there any politician more easily demonized than a big government Republican?
I like political tension-I think checks and balances keep things from spiraling out of control. Both Obama and McCain are worthy candidates and honestly I’m proud of them both. Nevertheless for McCain the time came to take a stand and show leadership–not be be obstructionist– but to say “I’m going to be the next President and I demand better”. He must of thought that he couldn’t rally his own troops–they looked so utterly ridiculous when they claimed Pelosi’s speech was the reason they couldn’t vote for the bill as it was originally. Why didn’t he call them on it?
The election really may be over now. McCain is going to look all grumpy and frustrated in the debates– Obama will look calm. The strategy of tying McCain to Bush will have been successful as the economy drags the last few drops of approval Bush out of the Bush administration. If McCain tries pulling the “guilt by association” card on Obama, it will just be embarrassing. Of course less so when the 527’s do it– but it will all be marking time.
I was certain McCain would be the next President. Now, not so much. It just goes to show you. Nothing is certain. Hell, Obama could be caught with hookers and blow tomorrow–you never know. I wouldn’t bank on it though. Come to think of it, banking anything isn’t really a good idea these days.
Of course McCain’s flip-flopping and the trouble it caused him got me think about how to exploit these Treasury shenanigans for my book. The lesson: Don’t abandon the date that brought you to the dance without exhausting all options. From Chapter 2:
Of course, to understand how a tribe will change, you need to know a little bit about its culture. And to know its culture, you have to speak its language. This can be difficult because tribes are built around insular values, language, and symbols that are designed to distinguish them as unique and to manage potential members. From acronym-heavy business lingo to the secret rituals of fraternities, tribes create their own definitions and want to be spoken to on their own terms, in their own language. These rituals and lingos determine the deference and proximity of those who would be—or pretend to be—a part of the tribes. It is essentially human to define those not “with us” as “against us,” and language is a fundamental means to that end.
Let’s say you get lost on the way to the boardroom and accidentally find yourself in the warren of cubicles housing your company’s IT drones. As you listen to them discussing the finer points of the new complete cluster node with DDR-2 memory, multiple memory controllers, and a high-performance cluster interconnect, you might realize that you have no idea what this means. Well, you’re not supposed to—you’re not in the tribe.
Tribal language is a way to distinguish those in the know from the poseurs. But a sharp forecaster will find a way to decipher the code and determine what’s important to these culture-defining tribes.
Words aren’t the only things that differ from tribe to tribe. Tribes adopt their own value structure—that is, their own sense of right and wrong.
McCain got tangled in economic theory, lost his bearings, and the language of his base. I think he may have lost the election.
Yesterday I gave a pretty rosy, contrarian view of the markets. I’m not saying that everything will be all better on Thursday– but they will be better on Thursday. The Government will pass the bail-out– and it won’t be a Patriot Act of Constitutional mega-destruction but a much needed check of our financial systems. I don’t subscribe to the lefty media conspiracy theory propagated by the right (I prefer the media-wants-money theory).
I do think the ratings go up when people are really scared, so it pays to make things sound really scary.
All the sound and fury around the credit collapse brings on the idea of the herd mentality in the markets and yet another opportunity for hype (from Chapter 6–written way before the bear attack–btw):
Calling the stock market’s ups and downs sounds like it would be a fairly bloodless undertaking, as devoid of emotion as an IRS auditor. But market gadfly/guru Robert Prechter’s Wave Principle shows otherwise. In 1978, in his book, The Elliott Wave Principle: Key to Stock Market Behavior, Prechter interrupted the naysayers who were bummed out by rampant double-digit inflation with his assurance that a raging bull market would dominate the ’80s. Then, in 1995, contrarian that he was, Prechter warned the dotcommers that the market would tank big time very soon. Both times, he was essentially right, give or take a few years. (Who’s counting?)
Prechter based his conclusions on his appreciation of mass behavior. He identified investor psychology as the market’s driver and said it swings back and forth between optimism and pessimism in predictable and measurable pendulum movements. Unlike a pendulum, though, these swings aren’t identical in duration. The timing is linked to price shifts that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few centuries. The trick is determining the price patterns and where the market is in that spectrum. Having a nose for timing is everything in forecasting cycles.
So are we at the bottom? Lots of reasons to think so–but don’t look for them from the media (yes, that is a link from AP but did you see that info anywhere prior?). Spreading calm doesn’t pay so well and with the ad model under fire– well, you gotta do something to keep ‘em watching.
Douglas Adams wrote Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. A masterpiece of satire wrapped in some absurdist Science Fiction and, in my humble opinion very much a modern version of Voltaire’s classic “Candide“– on acid.
In Hitchhiker’s, the reader is given two critical pieces of advice. The first: always bring a towel. More important however is the second: Don’t panic
The summer of 9/11 the market was teetering on the brink. I had just finished Candide and was thinking about Voltaire’s assertion that optimists were kind of batty if not outright stupid. Rationality and optimism make strange bedfellows. Then the planes hit, and I felt like an idiot for arguing a week prior that the economy would be fine. Remarkably the markets recovered anyway–despite Bush’s Iraq shenanigans and my vain hurt feelings.
Well the markets are in a panic again. Why? Essentially because financiers bought bad insurance from people who had no money to cover losses. That’s fraud–and will be rooted out quickly. Those who think this downturn will last a long time would do well spend just a minute to understand the velocity of money and the real size of the economy. It’s unlikely that folks on the sideline paid much attention to the fall in oil prices and commodities. As long as this fiasco isn’t hyper-inflationary it’s not worth pulling out your 401K and stuffing it in the mattress. It’s too late for that– even if it was.
Settle down Beavis.
The market will likely capitulate tomorrow as investors discover there is a “pony in there somewhere“. That pony is the value of the American economy and the new engine of demand in China and India. Will the economy dip? Sure it will. It always does. Is it the end of the world? Probably not.
Ah the punditry. You can almost smell the pretense. The left and the right fall into place. When reviewing the scoring over the course of the debate (CNN had the live polling data) you could actually watch the confirmation bias falling into place.
The Debates reminded me of the Simpson’s season 8 From Tree House Of Horror VII Citizen Kang. Kodos or Kang: Who are you voting for? Somebody loaded the Episode up on Youtube, so have a look –before they pull it for copyright infringement–
“More and conflicting information threatens to rob us of our most precious resource: time. The information/documentation onslaught will be a stern test for how individuals and institutions manage their own confirmation bias. When confronted with tremendous and often overwhelming amounts of data, much of it conflicting, it is easier to see only that which confirms one’s opinion. So confirmation bias becomes a commonly used coping tool. Media outlets succeed where they can aggregate audience around common confirmation bias.” From Chapter 1