Feeling Disoriented By the Election, Pandemic and Everything Else? It’s Called ‘Zozobra’ — And Mexican Philosophers Have Some Advice

Lambert: Sounds a bit like angst, but more appropriate for our current epistemological crises. I’m not sure our political class is big on creating a feeling of shared suffering, though.

By Francisco Gallegos, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Wake Forest University and Carlos Alberto Sánchez, Professor of Philosophy, San José State University. Cross-posted from Alternet.

Ever had the feeling that you can’t make sense of what’s happening? One moment everything seems normal, then suddenly the frame shifts to reveal a world on fire, struggling with pandemic, recession, climate change and political upheaval.

That’s “zozobra,” the peculiar form of anxiety that comes from being unable to settle into a single point of view, leaving you with questions like: Is it a lovely autumn day, or an alarming moment of converging historical catastrophes?

On the eve of a general election in which the outcome – and aftermath – is unknown, it is a condition that many Americans may be experiencing.

As scholars of this phenomenon, we have noted how zozobra has spread in U.S. society in recent years, and we believe the insight of Mexican philosophers can be helpful to Americans during these tumultuous times.

Ever since the conquest and colonization of the valley of Mexico by Hernán Cortés, Mexicans have had to cope with wave after wave of profound social and spiritual disruption – wars, rebellions, revolution, corruption, dictatorship and now the threat of becoming a narco-state. Mexican philosophers have had more than 500 years of uncertainty to reflect on, and they have important lessons to share.

Zozobra and the Wobbling of the World

The word “zozobra” is an ordinary Spanish term for “anxiety” but with connotations that call to mind the wobbling of a ship about to capsize. The term emerged as a key concept among Mexican intellectuals in the early 20th century to describe the sense of having no stable ground and feeling out of place in the world.

This feeling of zozobra is commonly experienced by people who visit or immigrate to a foreign country: the rhythms of life, the way people interact, everything just seems “off” – unfamiliar, disorienting and vaguely alienating.

According to the philosopher Emilio Uranga (1921-1988), the telltale sign of zozobra is wobbling and toggling between perspectives, being unable to relax into a single framework to make sense of things. As Uranga describes it in his 1952 book “Analysis of Mexican Being“:

“Zozobra refers to a mode of being that incessantly oscillates between two possibilities, between two affects, without knowing which one of those to depend on … indiscriminately dismissing one extreme in favor of the other. In this to and fro the soul suffers, it feels torn and wounded.”

What makes zozobra so difficult to address is that its source is intangible. It is a soul-sickness not caused by any personal failing, nor by any of the particular events that we can point to.

Instead, it comes from cracks in the frameworks of meaning that we rely on to make sense of our world – the shared understanding of what is real and who is trustworthy, what risks we face and how to meet them, what basic decency requires of us and what ideals our nation aspires to.

In the past, many people in the U.S. took these frameworks for granted – but no longer.

The gnawing sense of distress and disorientation many Americans are feeling is a sign that at some level, they now recognize just how necessary and fragile these structures are.

The Need for Community

Another Mexican philosopher, Jorge Portilla (1918-1963), reminds us that these frameworks of meaning that hold our world together cannot be maintained by individuals alone. While each of us may find our own meaning in life, we do so against the backdrop of what Portilla described as a “horizon of understanding” that is maintained by our community. In everything we do, from making small talk to making big life choices, we depend on others to share a basic set of assumptions about the world. It’s a fact that becomes painfully obvious when we suddenly find ourselves among people with very different assumptions.

In our book on the contemporary relevance of Portilla’s philosophy, we point out that in the U.S., people increasingly have the sense that their neighbors and countrymen inhabit a different world. As social circles become smaller and more restricted, zozobra deepens.

In his 1949 essay, “Community, Greatness, and Misery in Mexican Life,” Portilla identifies four signs that indicate when the feedback loop between zozobra and social disintegration has reached critical levels.

First, people in a disintegrating society become prone to self-doubt and reluctance to take action, despite how urgently action may be needed. Second, they become prone to cynicism and even corruption – not because they are immoral but because they genuinely do not experience a common good for which to sacrifice their personal interests. Third, they become prone to nostalgia, fantasizing about returning to a time when things made sense. In the case of America, this applies not only to those given to wearing MAGA caps; everyone can fall into this sense of longing for a previous age.

And finally, people become prone to a sense of profound vulnerability that gives rise to apocalyptic thinking. Portilla puts it this way:

“We live always simultaneously entrenched in a human world and in a natural world, and if the human world denies us its accommodations to any extent, the natural world emerges with a force equal to the level of insecurity that textures our human connections.”

In other words, when a society is disintegrating, fires, floods and tornadoes seem like harbingers of apocalypse.

Coping with the Crisis

Naming the present crisis is a first step toward dealing with it. But then what is to be done?

Portilla suggests that national leaders can exacerbate or alleviate zozobra. When there is a coherent horizon of understanding at the national level – that is to say, when there is a shared sense of what is real and what matters – individuals have a stronger feeling of connection to the people around them and a sense that their society is in a better position to deal with the most pressing issues. With this solace, it is easier to return attention to one’s own small circle of influence.

Uranga, for his part, suggests that zozobra actually unifies people in a common human condition. Many prefer to hide their suffering behind a happy facade or channel it into anger and blame. But Uranga insists that honest conversation about shared suffering is an opportunity to come together. Talking about zozobra provides something to commune over, something on which to base a love for one another, or at least sympathy.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Ignacio

    National leaders around the world seem mostly engaged on exacerbating angst or zozobra, division, hate etc. as well as most of the media so these are not good to check for social disintegration. Watching the immediate surroundings, neighbours, friends, family and crossing by people is what can be telling. Yet, IMO, pandemic-derived angst can be considered a normal these days, not necessarily a sign of disintegration.

    1. The Historian

      I think what is a sign of disintegration is our lack of the willingness to do the common sense things to handle the pandemic, like a common willingness to wear masks or socially distance ourselves. We as a community cannot come together on these basic things even though there is ample evidence that they work.

      1. hunkerdown

        Consider the structure of the term “common sense”, which is just shared opinion. If there is no common sense, there will be no common action.

        The problem with coming together is that the ruling class divides and rules us as a normal procedure of creating a class system. Nobody in the ruling class has a problem with this. Their purpose in life is to reproduce the system of mass slavery and adapt it to present conditions and they, being among the elect, are fine with this.

      2. jeff

        Because we do not agree on your definition of common sense, or that these “solutions” work. Social distancing and masks is not a medical treatment, its just fear. You are weakening your immune system and losing valuable human contact. Sweden did neither of those things and is in way better position than the US, and european countries are increasingly moving toward this model. Shutdowns and distancing has caused untold economic, social, and mental damage from suicide to drug use to depression to loneliness. The “cure” cannot be worse than the disease, as our president has said. Right now, it is wayyyyy worse by any objective measure.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The “cure” cannot be worse than the disease, as our president has said. Right now, it is wayyyyy worse by any objective measure.

          Do give consideration to the idea of actually providing those objective measures.

        2. pat D

          Sweden seems to be changing course. NYT today:

          Sweden will reduce the limit on public gatherings to eight people from 300, as part of a new approach that runs counter to the country’s previously lax virus restrictions. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said during a news conference on Monday that the tighter restrictions would last for at least four weeks and were the “new norm” for the country. “Don’t go to the gym. Don’t go to the library. Don’t have dinners. Don’t have parties. Cancel,” he said.

      3. GlassHammer

        It’s not a lack of common sense spreading the pandemic.

        It’s fatalism (i.e. the negative outcome is set in stone so if you get it then it was your fate to get it) combined with an anti-science/anti-expertise culture and some really effective propaganda.

        “Common sense” as you describe it just addresses the propaganda. The anti-science/anti-expertise culture is historically grounded in the United States (a concept going all the way back to a interpretation of freedom which states that we the people are subordinate to no one in any way including those who know more than we do) which makes it extremely difficult to work around. And the fatalism is a result of decades of miserable lived experience in which so many people could not improve their condition.

        1. GlassHammer

          I don’t wish to be too much of a drag but the United States was always going to have an extremely negative outcome during a pandemic. (with only marginal improvements based on government intervention)

          For example, having Healthcare contingent on employment was always going to screw us in a pandemic. Having an elite that view the pandemic as “more cheap real-estate” and “more cheap companies to acquire” was always going to screw us in a pandemic. Having a service based economy with no substantial safety net was always going to screw us in a pandemic.

      4. drumlin woodchuckles

        “We”, the Historian? Who is “we”, White man?

        There is “us” and there is “them”. There is no “we”.

        “Us” are already doing the mask-wearing common-sense things you call for. “Them” are committed to refusing to do any of those common-sense things because ” Freedom!” You can’t reach “them”. Nobody can. The only way to reach “them” is for “them” to see several million of their fellow “thems” dying in intubated agony from covid. And even that might not convince “them” to do the common sense things which “us” are already doing.

  2. Thuto

    It used to be that “it took a village to raise a child”, and where I’m from at least this was meant in a very literal sense: it took not only parents but other elders in the community to impart the accumulated wisdom that instills pro-social, community-building values into children, ensuring that it wasn’t the sins, but rather the virtues of the elders that were visited upon the children, even unto the seventh generation. The “village” has now largely replaced parents and community elders with a dizzying, eclectic mix of social media influencers, tv personalities, pseudo-thought leaders and an education system that’s been captured by our elites to instill their own preferred version of values into our children.

    The analogue with the “horizon of understanding” is that for most individuals, defining what it represents has been outsourced to a dizzying mix of experts who are tasked with creating and maintaining a national value system. In a world paralyzed by partisanship, each side of the ideological divide has its own (bought and paid for) triangulated opinion of experts to shape what people on each side come to believe is real. As the chances of creating a harmonious, pro-social horizon of understanding are sacrificed at the altar of partisanship and polarization, the disorientation and discomfort felt by most people as we navigate the unfolding crises of our times is only going to increase.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks, you express this very eloquently.

      It seems these days that we are simultaneously bombarded with information and opinions, while also being herded into our ideological corners by unseen algorithms. I honestly don’t know what the long term consequences of this will be, but its hard to see good outcomes.

      1. Thuto

        Going forward, I suspect the unseen algorithms are going to be the most malign influence in widening the divide, a sort of social herding at scale. On the subject of opinions, most people, for better or worse, still defer to the opinions of experts on important matters, so you can imagine what happens when expert opinion is drawn not from “mere” PMC hired guns but from the upper, upper crust of the oligarchy, even the most independent thinkers are bound to subject their deeply held perceptions/beliefs to a review, if for nothing else but to get in early on a nascent bull market and profit from it.

        To take an example, the early adopter set for bitcoin was for a long time made up of hackers, criminals and other fringe players who dabbled out of curiosity. The professional money management industry on the other hand took a dim view of the whole crypto thing, disparaging it at every opportunity and making sure portfolio allocations to it were extremely scarce at the best of times to non-existent every other time. Then came covid, and along with that activist central banks printing unprecedented amounts of money to shore up collapsing economies. With fiat currencies being devalued as a result, the previously skeptical titans of fund management started talking up bitcoin as a store of value comparable to gold, first Paul Tudor Jones, then Stan Druckenmiller, followed most recently by Bill Miller. Granted there are still holdouts like Ray Dalio and Peter Schiff who haven’t hopped on to the bitcoin bandwagon but, along with the guys at Microstrategy also becoming fervent evangelists, I suspect the pronouncements of these titans alone are enough to take bitcoin mainstream as an asset class, volatility be damned. I’m not a crypto bull by any stretch but the power of expert opinion raining down from the very top of the class hierarchy to move the herd further down will remain undiminished for a while still, and if said opinion is programmed into an algorithm, heaven help us all.

      2. Eustachedesaintpierre


        Reminds me of the old proverb ” If it ain’t broke don’t fix it ” while I believe that at some point in time someone decided to come up with a money making child rearing manual which started a flood of variations on that theme resulting in constant tinkering, which in my job would be the equivalent of overworking clay.

        Only part of the story of course.

  3. Carla

    “And finally, people become prone to a sense of profound vulnerability that gives rise to apocalyptic thinking…”

    I first experienced this during the aftermath of 2008… I did not personally experience trauma or material losses at the time, but people all around me did, and that was enough.

    Thank you for posting this terrific article, Lambert.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Your comment focuses on an idea in this post that I believe skews from the situation Humankind faces. People may become prone to apocalyptic thinking faced with a world of contradictions and shifting ground as described by this post — but I believe Humankind truly is facing an apocalyptic future. I don’t believe my thinking this is a matter of the zozobra described in this post.

      The Earth’s climate is shifting to a climate less kindly to Humankind and there is little or nothing that will change that. There is some chance ‘We’ might through present and future actions lessen that climate shift. There is every indication that ‘We’ are doing everything ‘We’ can to make things worse. Our Society is based on consuming prodigious amounts of concentrated energy in the form of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not an infinite resource and there are clear signs we have already burned the better half of that resource. There is at present no similarly plentiful replacement source of concentrated energy and no indications any will soon or ever be found. The efforts at inventing a Society that can cope with these two pending threats are heartening but too limited in imagination and scope to offer promise for escaping long dark ages after the collapse Humankind faces in the too soon future.

      The election, the Corona pandemic, the crumbling US economy and Society, the loss of Empire … these are disturbing but small things relative to the scale of future calamities.

    1. Jeff

      We could stop anytime. Every tv has a power button. Every phone can uninstall social media apps. But like cocaine and sugar, it’s easy to get hooked on anger and despair.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Glenn Greenwald
    ‘This is endlessly amazing: Brazil, a huge country, has nationwide municipal elections today. Voting is mandatory. *All* votes will be counted & released by tonight.’

    Ah, I see the problem here. The difference is that Brazil is a Third World nation that is kept that way by morons such as Bolsanaro. America, on the other hand, is being turned into a Third World nation because the elite is seeing a profit in doing so.

  5. GlassHammer

    “Is it a lovely autumn day, or an alarming moment of converging historical catastrophes?”

    It’s always both scenarios at the same time.

    The human condition is a life inside of contradictions and your interpretation of them is both right and wrong at the same time.

    This is because we are unable to make the most correct interpretation of the events unfolding because our ability to process them is limited.

    We can get closer to the most correct interpretation of events but never fully there.

    So if you are feeling a sense of creeping dread then give yourself some grace, misreading events is human.

    1. geovock

      “Give yourself some grace because your interpretation of events is limited,” is sage advice – to which I would add as a matter or practicality, but don’t stop seeking as accurate interpretations as you are able.

      1. GlassHammer

        Yes, seek the most accurate interpretation (or simply that which allows you to survive) and forgive/accept your mistakes.

  6. Pat

    Cognitive dissonance is a daily occurrence for anyone paying attention. And our struggling “leaders” are largely struggling over territory while ignoring the state of the nation.

    True national emergencies are ignored as they are inconvenient, or more honestly buried under the rug, because they might mean our sociopaths at the top of the food chain would have to pony up some of their Ill gotten gains to the social good AND lose some of their leverage over modern serfs. And unlike “war” and “military intervention” which have been monetized to the nth degree, pandemic response has been bungled not only because the social systems have been shredded but because factions are fighting over response in order to find a way to strip as much public money from it as possible.

    We make black jokes here about brunch, but the election of Biden is NOT about him, it is a probably a vain attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. The sad thing is that instead of pretending to be the adults in the room, the usual suspects kept up their four year long tantrum, instead of letting the process play out and talking about how our system works, it was all “he isn’t giving up, he is being mean.” All because it slightly delayed them reestablishing their rice bowls. And so ends the “bring us together” meme with nary a whimper.

    I wish there was a chance our national leaders would get their heads out of the pockets of their donors long enough to notice that the foundation THEY depend on for their corrupt lifestyles had been destroyed. I wish our foundations had not been so corrupted that even one part remains strong.

    I am not entirely pessimistic. The kids are largely alright. I just hope we can hold it together long enough to give them a chance.

  7. Harvey Chess

    Immediate thought on completing this piece. Those of us in the community sharing recovery from alcohol and other addicting substances in effect discuss zozobra every time we get together, albeit digitally more often than not these days, and always to our mutual benefit.

  8. The Rev Kev

    I sometimes envy those of a phlegmatic disposition who will look at everything going on around them, knock back a drink, and then say ‘Nahhhhh. It’ll be fine!’

    But having a good sense of humour and an eye for the absurd also helps.

  9. Oso_in_Oakland

    Lambert, thank you. in my estimation Ocatvio Paz draws upon the historical roots affecting our inner conflicts in Labyrinth of Solitude, many concepts merge quite nicely with this article.

  10. Tom Moody

    Every year in Santa Fe NM they publicly burn a giant effigy called Zozobra. During the year people write down their unpleasant thoughts and drop the written notes into nearby drop boxes. The notes are collected and placed inside the effigy. A huge crowd attends to watch the burning of Zozobra — loud music plays and fireworks go off during the ritual. This predates the California burning man by decades; the tradition was started by local artists. I attended my first Zozobra burning last year, having never heard of it before, and I found it …. somewhat strange. It’s a real civic event and local politicians address the crowd before the immolation.

    1. Sue inSoCal

      Tom, that’s a really a wonderful ritual in Santa Fe. Who knew? (Not me!) Btw, I’m pretty sure Burning Man is in Nevada.

      1. hunkerdown

        The Man itself started on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986 and merged with a dissident art project on the playa a few years later.

      2. Tom Moody

        Burning Man started in San Francisco and is attended every year by the Silicon Valley elite (according to Wikipedia) which is why I said “the California burning man.” Yes, everyone drives (or flies) to Nevada for the festivities.

    2. Jutes

      This 96-year-old Santa fe tradition is the major fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe and raises funds that are donated to area nonprofits that make a better life for the children of Santa Fe.

  11. David

    Two slightly different things here, perhaps.
    I think it’s generally accepted that all societies need a common frame of reference against which you can have discussions and arguments, make and critique policy and try to interpret the world. This doesn’t mean that everybody agrees, or still less that everybody is obliged to, but rather that everybody agrees about what the issues are and about the ground over which they may disagree. Back in the days of the Cold War, for example, there were furious debates about politics, not to mention wars, atrocities and dictatorships, but pretty much everybody agreed what the issues were, even if they were on different sides of them. Historically, this was very much the norm: the religious wars of Europe, or the wars of the French Revolution were between people with very different views, but who agreed on the underlying context. What we have now, is what the philosopher Alasdair McIntyre called “incommensurability”: a jaw-breaking term which means, essentially, that people don’t even begin from the same assumptions, and so are condemned to talk past each other. This accounts for a lot of the cognitive dissonance. In the case of Brexit, for example, much of the bitterness and confusion arose from the fact that Leavers and Remainers were simply talking about different things, and starting from different assumptions, but didn’t realise it. The same applies, obviously to the whole TDS story. As a result, Joe Public is now faced with the need to choose between competing and mutually exclusive interpretations of events, or even whether events have actually occurred. It’s hardly surprising there’s so much confusion and stress.

    It’s made worse by the kind of thing Thuto mentions. One of the least helpful ideas to emerge from the 1960s was that children should be “left to find their own way”, rather than being taught things. But children mature by testing their ideas against the norms and structures of society, and indeed their parents, and coming to some sort of personal vision of the world. A lot of modern politics (and practically all of IdiotPol) is the result of middle-class educated people who were never contradicted as children, and are still looking to shock and provoke twenty or thirty years later. Once you understand that much of the political and media system is made of people who are basically adolescents (“why does it have to make sense? Tell me why it has to make sense!) the chaos and stress become easier to understand.

  12. EMtz

    When I left the US to move to México, it was because of this sense of discontinuity in the US – and this is before Trump was ever elected. I didn’t realize at the time why I was pulled here, but as time went on I saw how all the wrenching difficulties they have gone through since the arrival of the conquistadors had given Méxicans a collectively greater maturity and flexibility, an ability to reach deep into their rich history and find balance and even humor in the turbulence.

    This was particularly noticeable last year when cartel murders and violence skyrocketed in the estado where I live. Expats were acting out chicken little. Méxicans were shaking their heads and mourning the dead, but their attitude was one of equanimity.

    In the course of all this, I realized that I had to make a choice to avoid disequalibrium. I had to definitively decide where home is, because I could not keep a foot in two countries with such divergent world views. I chose México and have immersed myself in its viewpoint and way of living. Since doing this, things have made much more sense, and I feel settled and content.

  13. Sound of the Suburbs

    This is what we should expect.
    Western liberalism’s descent into chaos.
    1920s/2000s – neoclassical economics, high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase
    1929/2008 – Wall Street crash
    1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, trade wars, austerity, rising nationalism and extremism
    1940s – World war.

    Right wing populist leaders are what we should expect at this stage in the descent into chaos.

    Why is Western liberalism always such a disaster?
    They did try and learn from past mistakes to create a new liberalism (neoliberalism), but the Mont Pelerin Society went round in a circle and got back to pretty much where they started.

    It equates making money with creating wealth and people try and make money in the easiest way possible, which doesn’t actually create any wealth.
    In 1984, for the first time in American history, “unearned” income exceeded “earned” income.
    The American have lost sight of what real wealth creation is, and are just focussed on making money.
    You might as well do that in the easiest way possible.
    It looks like a parasitic rentier capitalism because that is what it is.

    Bankers make the most money when they are driving your economy into a financial crisis.
    What they are doing is really an illusion; they are just pulling future spending power into today.
    The 1920s roared at the expense of an impoverished 1930s.
    Japan roared on the money creation of real estate lending in the 1980s, they spent the next 30 years repaying the debt they had built up in the 1980s and the economy flat-lined.

    Bankers use bank credit to pump up asset prices, which doesn’t actually create any wealth.
    The money creation of bank credit flows into the economy making it boom, but you are heading towards a financial crisis and claims on future prosperity are building up in the financial system.
    Early success comes at the expense of an impoverished future.

    Things haven’t been the same since 2008.
    Early success came at the expense of an impoverished future.
    At 18 mins.
    The money creation of bank credit flowed into the economy before 2008 making it boom, but they were heading towards a financial crisis and claims on future prosperity were building up in the financial system.
    It’s repayment time.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      Let’s get the basics sorted.
      When no one knows what real wealth creation is, you are in trouble.

      We want economic success
      Step one – Identify where wealth creation occurs in the economy.
      Houston, we have a problem.

      Economists do identify where real wealth creation in the economy occurs, but this is a most inconvenient truth as it reveals many at the top don’t actually create any wealth.
      This is the problem.
      Much of their money comes from wealth extraction rather than wealth creation, and they need to get everyone thoroughly confused so we don’t realise what they are really up to.

      The Classical Economists had a quick look around and noticed the aristocracy were maintained in luxury and leisure by the hard work of everyone else.
      They haven’t done anything economically productive for centuries, they couldn’t miss it.
      The Classical economist, Adam Smith:
      “The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money.”
      There was no benefits system in those days, and if those at the bottom didn’t work they died.
      They had to earn money to live.

      Ricardo was an expert on the small state, unregulated capitalism he observed in the world around him. He was part of the new capitalist class, and the old landowning class were a huge problem with their rents that had to be paid both directly and through wages.
      “The interest of the landlords is always opposed to the interest of every other class in the community” Ricardo 1815 / Classical Economist.
      They soon identified the constructive “earned” income and the parasitic “unearned” income.
      This disappeared in neoclassical economics.

      GDP was invented after they used neoclassical economics last time.
      In the 1920s, the economy roared, the stock market soared and nearly everyone had been making lots of money.
      In the 1930s, they were wondering what the hell had just happened as everything had appeared to be going so well in the 1920s and then it all just fell apart.
      They needed a better measure to see what was really going on in the economy and came up with GDP.
      In the 1930s, they pondered over where all that wealth had gone to in 1929 and realised inflating asset prices doesn’t create real wealth, they came up with the GDP measure to track real wealth creation in the economy.
      The transfer of existing assets, like stocks and real estate, doesn’t create real wealth and therefore does not add to GDP. The real wealth creation in the economy is measured by GDP.
      Real wealth creation involves real work producing new goods and services in the economy.

      So all that transferring existing financial assets around doesn’t create wealth?
      No it doesn’t, and now you are ready to start thinking about what is really going on there.

      1. GlassHammer

        “Much of their money comes from wealth extraction rather than wealth creation, and they need to get everyone thoroughly confused so we don’t realise what they are really up to.”

        And this is why the quintessential business model in the U.S (at least since the 1970s) has been the multi-level marketing scheme.

  14. lyle

    Interestingly Zozobara in New Mexico has a somewhat different meaning: https://burnzozobra.com/all-about-zozobra/ This is an annual event in Santa Fe where a large figure (up to 50 feet high) is burnt the friday before labor day,. established in 1924. “Zozobra is the enemy of all that is good, and Santa Fe knows only too well the spell of darkness and despair that Zozobra casts annually over the City….This doom and gloom specter is a monster who is created and is reborn annually because of our own nefarious and woeful deeds throughout the year. In order to lure Zozobra out of hiding, the city leaders invite him to a party he believes is being held in his honor. With his enormous ego urging him on, Zozobra accepts this invitation, recognizing it as his best opportunity to invade the heart of town, destroy all hope and happiness, and rob the city of its most precious possession, its hope.” So that in New Mexico they have combined zozobara is burnt by the fire spirit. In new mexico zozobaras nickname is old man gloom. Note that the fire spirt is a part of Hopi and Pueblo heritage. So that the unique environment in new Mexico where spanish/mexican and Hopi/Pueblo/Navajo culture have mixed.

    1. Jutes

      Thanks for sharing the back story and a link to learn more. Important to know the mythology of this 96-year-old historic Santa Fe tradition.

  15. thoughtful person


    Current flavor in US:
    Anxiety plus precarity, cognitive dissonance, primarily in isolation
    hunger for order, appeal of “strong man” clear

  16. greensachs

    Hmm, now that the FED’s, along with other CBers and technocrat’s hands are handcuffed to the steering wheel, it just doesn’t feel like much of anything is shared, let alone suffering.
    At least we’ve identified a “single-payer insurance” for a privileged strata.
    …more private, state and corporate induced paper is surely the way forward (FIRE). Until it isn’t.
    Green-screen-new-deal and long live the rentier!

  17. paul westerberg

    evangelicals are ready to die. the rapture is a glorious thing. pandemics might lead to the rapture. total fatalism.

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