Carlo Parcelli


“No, it was capitalism — biting off more of Ezra Pound's mammon than it could chew — that destroyed capitalism. The most sublime tragedy is tinged with irony.”—Norman Ball

Oh, no! Ezra Pound, crackpot economist, traitor, nut case and ant-Semite held monetary principles more sound than those emanating from Wall Street, Harvard, Wharton and the University of Chicago combined!? Not only that but the old fuck, by way of Confucius and Dante, understood human nature better than the legions of free market stooges that infest our political, economic and educational institutions and the media. Pound simply understood, as opposed to everyone with a 401K, that the world of finance attracts more greedy fucks than a pile of moose dung attracts flies in June.

Pound knew that the Invisible Hand is a crock of shit. Nothing so intimately involved with the maintenance of the body as the market is invisible. Leave that to the mystics, the Taozers. So it follows naturally that an ‘unregulated’ system would lead to that Hand, quite materially and in perfect alignment with certain men’s nature, invariably ripping off the till and if left unchecked exhausting the public weal. In such instances, incentives for moral and ethical behavior are required like cutting off the hand found in the till.

With the recent collapse of the U.S. and world financial markets Ezra Pound’s poetry and economics and especially his Canto 45 have experienced a noted blip in notoriety. The so-called usury Canto has been cited in major newspapers like the New York Times, quoted at public hearings and appeared as a new found masthead on a thousand blogs. Among the mainstream media that caters to the Great American Bald Lemming, only Oliver Stone’s film “Wall Street” has gone through such a miraculous rehabilitation and received such heartfelt pardons. Canto 45 is now held up as a paragon, a counterpart to the evils of the imaginary, pixilated wealth generated by the mathematical modeling instruments of Wall Street and then, once methane-impacted impossibly to ten times the GDP of the entire globe, stolen. Through usury mathematics has been exposed as just another shine.

Out of this, there was some increased discussion of what Pound actually said about economics and social credit and there was the usual distraction or blanket condemnation of any and everything Pound because of his anti-Semitism and fascist sympathies. Pound also re-emerged as a poster child for anti-Semitic and world conspiracy quacks.

But something vital was ignored in all the stir about Pound’s sound economics compared to Wall Street’s Ayn Rand Magic Morality fantasies and Charles Ponzi-like swindles. At the core of Pound’s Usura Canto and his theory of Social credit, the engine of Pound’s utopia is always ART. In Canto 45 Pound was warning of an artless world accelerated by consumption. The direct references to works of art or the making of art drive the Canto as aptly illustrated by Brendon Keresey's Canto XLV : A Hypertext Translation of Ezra Pound's Poem.

That Wall Street actions and economies of scale are artless has now been stripped of even its most tenuous metaphors, like everything else stolen and so dubbed lost and in this case stolen from the Muse. Wall Street is not painting some grand world for all of us to dwell in. It is clearly the cess the poet, along with his confrere Dante Alighieri, claims it is.

And so too is that other antagonist of art—the mathematical sciences. Mathematics has for centuries spewed its perfectly hewn, flashless dye, creating a minor aesthetic of denuded proportion and de-organic symmetry that in western art’s more honest moments has always been perceived as contra naturam to the gorgeous imperfections of Nature. It was certainly no surprise to me, one who has made this distinction a major theme of his own poems, to find many financial instruments, so-called derivatives, were concocted from the same advanced calculus that is used at once to parrot and control the physical world.

In its duel role as art form and servant to technology, mathematics has also claimed an immunity from prosecution when things go wrong. But not this time. Intent aside, this is a failure of mathematical modeling so grotesque in its dimensions that its shortcomings will be difficult to ignore in the future.

What will this mean for art? After all most of the recent citations of Canto 45 look right past the poem's commentary on art to its ‘more relevant’ condemnation of usury. It has at least reminded the current progenitors of ‘art’ that art and usury until very recently were at odds before record sales of paintings muddied the waters.

It has even prompted limited discussion of the role money itself should play in art, how money pollutes art, a discussion long lost in futility. The ubiquity of a credit economy made such purity nearly impossible to sustain. Joe Brennan and Wendell Berry are two exemplars that spring to mind both with their own radical systems of survival — both sustainable, one ascetic and the other organic.

If anything, with this monumental failure of virtue and system, it was Pound’s mere poem that was found shining below the pestilent and rotting adipose of the modern credit consumer culture. The way we live is seen as rotten as never before. As rotten as poets like Pound and Ginsberg have claimed it was. Maybe worse.

We now have three eschatologies. The First Eschatology, the religious or Christian eschatology, for all of its hermeneutic fumings, missed the agent of planetary dissolution though it was reputed to be its main adversary for 500 years.

That agent, the Second Eschatology, of the sciences and technology, have brought the planet to its knees in a mere five hundred year conflation of imperialism and mathematical and epistemological shortsightedness.

Now we have the collapse of the abstraction of the material expression of our culture — money. Because of their infantile willfulness and self-indulgence, the agents of our economic systems in collapse will act as an accelerant, speeding along environmental collapse, our one true field of eschatology.

Pound was right, or at least not as wrong as the carneys and the hucksters. And through Pound, art experiences a refreshed efficacy.

Other installments of "Deconstructing the Demiurge"

"Crimes of Passion"
"Work in Regress"
"Onionrings: Adding machines_Crisco"
"Collateral Damage, or The Death of Classics in America"
"How Dead Industrialists Dance, or Swing Time"
"Tale of the Tribe"
"Millennium Mathematics: The Centos"
Eschatology of Reason: The South Tower
Eschatology of Reason: The North Tower
Eschatology of Reason: De Rerum Natura
Eschatology of Reason: The South Tower (revised
De Rerum Natura: Hearing Voices
Eschatology of Reason: Shaping the Noise


Without Usura
a selection from:
Eschatology of Reason: ‘The Gilded Index of Far-Reaching Ruin.’

The poet's comments on his growing poem:
"Is Everyday Language Sufficient to Embody Everyday Experience?"