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Roger Altman channels Wotan

December 2, 2011

Wall Street baron Roger Altman, god-like, speaks to humanity today in his Financial Times article “We need not fret over omnipotent markets”.  He tells us that financial markets (i.e. concentrated wealth) are our rulers.  They are:

acting like a global supra-government.  They oust entrenched regimes where normal political processes could not do so. They force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes. Their influence dwarfs multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund…. forced austerity is now spreading across Europe, despite public opposition.  Indeed, leaving aside unusable nuclear weapons, they have become the most powerful force on earth….

We need to drop all the nonsense about democracy and equality, he implies, and revel in the permanence of oligarchy.  “Whether this power is healthy or not is beside the point.  It is permanent.”… “…there is no stopping the new policing role of the financial markets.”

Such god-like confidence in one’s class reminds me of the glorious finale of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the first of the four piece Ring cycle, when Wotan and his fellow gods (the oligarchs in my interpretation) prepare to enter their new castle Valhalla purchased with primordial gold stolen from the Rhine maidens (the life force, human protest, occupy?).  Those familiar with the Ring know that the whole class structure of the gods eventually collapses in the final work “Twilight of the Gods”.  I’ve included an audio/video excerpt of the closing eight minutes of Das Rheingold.  The dialogue below begins at 4:54.

The 3 rhine maidens (life):

Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Purest gold!

How clear and bright you once shone on us!

For your luster we now lament!

Give us the gold!

O give us its glory again!


What lamenting assails me here?

Rhine maidens:

Give us the gold!

Loge (advisor)

The children of the Rhine lament their looted gold.


Accursed nymphs!  Stop them annoying us!

Rhine maidens:

Give us its glory again!


You there in the water, why wail to us?

Hear what Wotan wills for you.

No more gleams the gold on you maidens:

Henceforth bask in bliss

In the gods’ new radiance!

Rhine maidens:

Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Purest gold!

If but your bright gleam still glittered in the deep!

Now only in the depths is there tenderness and truth:

False and faint-hearted are those who revel above!

(I should note that this particular performance doesn’t emphasize the cockiness of the gods as they enter Valhalla showing them instead as being very uncomfortable.  I think the orthodox version is better in which all the gods are supremely self confident as they head to their doom.)

From → Wealth & Poverty

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