Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Free Love and Subprime Mortgages

Portrait of August Strindberg by Edvard Munch
Free love was a little like subprime mortgages. It was a creation of the sixties counterculture and it’s selling point was the idea that there could be no strings attached sex between individuals. Subprime mortgages were a creation of the first decade of the twentieth century and proposed the idea that big time money could be made (by borrowers and lenders) through easily obtainable loans. It was free love financing. What the two ideas have in common is that there is no price to be paid for the pursuit of pleasure, whether it be sexual or material, even when easy money or easy sex leads to overindulgence. Lest we equate this idea with puritanical concepts of sin, here is a quote from a very non puritanical thinker, the playwright, August Strindberg who believed in determinism and would probably have found the advent of double entry bookkeeping to be tantamount in importance to if not even more important than the advent of romantic love. For Strindberg, no love was free. There was always a price to be paid. Here’s an exchange from A Dream Play, which epitomizes his attitude towards both love and real estate.

“Daughter: You are a prisoner in your own room. I have come to set you free.
  Officer: I have been       
  waiting for this, but I wasn’t sure you would want to.
  Daughter: The castle is strong—it has seven walls—but it shall be done. Do you want to be set free-  
  --or not?   
  Officer: To tell the truth, I don’t know. Either way I’ll suffer. Every joy has to be paid for twice over        with sorrow. It’s wretched here, but I’d have to endure three time the agony for the joys of freedom...”

1 comment:

  1. The only free lunch I've ever found was in Lynchburg, Tennessee, at Miss-somebody's boarding house, offered to selected visitors on the morning Jack Daniels tours.
    Your comparison of free love and subprime mortgages is delicious.
    Transactions always have a cost, whether they are sexual or financial or familial.
    Let me point out that clean water is free--it falls from the sky; clean air is free--it just shows up. Unless we humans muck it up. I'm not sure what this means but I find it reassuring that, outside of the toxic pay-now-or-later human sphere, there is a larger world based on a gifting economy that works as long as no-one takes more than they need.


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