Some years ago, an old friend of mine and I were shooting the breeze, discussing some global issues and what might be coming, when he abruptly declared "Actually, we’re wasting our time trying to speculate on what might happen, the outcome has already been determined."
Now I have always trusted this friend’s judgment, but in this instance I quickly fired back an amused "And how do you know that?" To which he replied, "because professional wrestling is real and the rest of the world is rigged."
As time passed by, I began to notice some anecdotes that actually gave rise to this statement. The credible conspiracy theories of the U.S. Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, the Enron scandal, the conviction of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, and now the recent Zimbabwean election. Somewhere out there, a man (usually) in a more powerful position dictates our lives, while we mere machines go through the motions. Blue pill, anyone?
While this may seem like a radical and mostly nonsensical viewpoint, I can’t help but be mesmerized by how we’ll steer through the uncertain times ahead of us. With record high fossil fuel prices, a coffer-draining war that is going nowhere and an unprecedented lack of liquidity in the credit markets, we are in uncharted waters. Since the sun rises every morning, I have no doubt that these conditions are temporary, but what will life be like on the other side? Is the outcome predetermined?
In a way, I would say that yes, we already know what will happen once the carnage has dissipated. For starters, the United States won’t carry the same clout that it once did, as developing countries such as China are quickly gaining ground. Secondly, there will be an array of new rules and regulations designed to prevent this situation from happening again. Such reactive policymaking has defined the U.S. government in the past (see New Deal, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc.) and I can only imagine that it will continue to do so.
Indeed, the U.S. will be entering a new era defined by a new administration in power. While our next administration faces an extremely tall order of restoring America back to long-term health, the real challenge now will be how to transform America so that its citizens can choose their own paths.
Currently, the oil barons and the politicians are the only groups that are escaping this crisis unscathed. Incidentally, they are also the ones who have carried the most power, both historically and presently. Those who have the most power can also be the greediest, and it is no coincidence that power and greed have always gone together. In looking forward, one thing that is not already determined is if this trend will continue in our transformed America, especially given our credible intentions of relying less on black gold.
While many critics of professional wrestling write the sport off as "fake," as the winner of each match is already predetermined, what the wrestlers have to endure in the interim is not fake. The acrobatic, high-risk maneuvers, severe injuries, constant traveling, and ultimately, a shorter life span is the price that professionals pay in order to practice their craft, regardless of whether the outcome is rigged or not. The primary difference here is that professional wrestling provides entertainment to its viewers, while greed and corruption do not.
So what do we have to look forward to? More greed and corruption? Or a new era of opportunity? I’ll meet you on the other side and we’ll decide then.
Disclosure and Confessions: I liquidated my country/region-specific index fund positions late last year in order to preserve my capital. I have kept a close eye on foreign stock indexes such as the DAX and Hang Seng and am trying to decide on my re-entry point. I was a big wrestling fan when I was a kid and then again during my mid-20s as it had become more entertaining and "edgy," but I haven’t seen a match in several years.