The World, As Seen In Two Dimensions
A Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story by Greg Swann
The first time I saw One Eye he had Energy on his mind. "Energy," he
said. "Oil. Thermal. Solar. Energy. Energy. Energy."
That was in 1973, back when the Arabs were proving that possession is nine tenths of the law. Or was it that a tank beats a briefcase any day of the week? Anyway, One Eye was on the scene, providing his usual insightful, incisive commentary: "Energy. Energy. Energy."
One Eye, the mysterious man behind the news: he's quite famous in his way. The most quoted man in the papers; the most-often 'unnamed source' on the video casts; at least half of every conversation in the lunchrooms, bowling alleys, and laundromats of the body politic. In a sense, One Eye is the body politic. He goes under many different names, so you may not have heard of him. But he's so famous that one of the TV networks adopted his most distinctive characteristic as their trademark.
"Energy," said One Eye. "Energy. Energy."
"Do you really think energy is a problem?," I asked. "I mean, granted things are tight right now... But don't you think the market will self-correct if given a chance?"
"Energy!," One Eye insisted. "Energy! Energy!"
"You do know that we have seven oceans full of energy, don't you? We can't draw upon it now, but we're very close, perhaps within twenty years of abundant, cheap energy..."
"Energy," One Eye replied. "Energy, energy, energy!"
There was more, but that's enough to show the astounding power of One Eye's intellect. I got tied up in some things, and I didn't catch up to him again until 1978...
"Inflation," he said then. "Price hikes. Wage hikes. Shrinking dollar."
"Don't you mean currency expansion?"
"Inflation, inflation, inflation!"
"Okay," I said, "call it what you want. But it's caused by government credit expansion."
"Inflation!," he asserted. "Inflation!!"
"Government inflation of currency relative to goods, right?"
"Inflation!," he sputtered. "Inflation, inflation inflation!!!"
What clarity of vision! I was unsurprised that he was able to match this effort the following year:
"Iran!," he shouted. "Hostages. Emasculation. Frustration."
"You could say we asked for it, couldn't you? By not defending ourselves in the past?"
"Iran!," he seethed. "Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran!!"
"A terrible thing, when a man lets himself get flabby..."
"Iran!," One Eye assured me. "Iran!! Iran!!!"
Obviously the intellectual oracle of our age. But he surpassed himself in 1981:
"Recession!," he flamed. "Unemployment. Interest rates. Deflation."
"Deflation? Weren't you complaining about inflation?"
"Recession!," One Eye declared. "Recession. Recession."
"But a recession was to be expected... A contraction always follows the cessation of unwarranted credit expansion. This has been shown both in theory and in practice. If you stop inflation, you incur a contraction..."
"Recession! Recession, recession, recession!!"
"...?," I said. "Do you want to start debasing the currency again?"
"Recession!," he posited. "Recession!! Recession!!!"
How does he do it?
I ran into One Eye again in 1983...
"Deficit," he announced. "Debt service. Eroding tax base. Underground economy. Deficit. Deficit! Deficit!!"
Deep breath. "One Eye, old friend... I think you're caught in your own trap. Maybe if you tried thinking about more than one thing at once...?"
"Deficit," he responded. "Deficit, deficit, deficit!"
Sigh... "The government spends more than it steals. To make up the difference, it has to borrow. It's that simple."
"Deficit! Deficit! Deficit!"
I said: "You could inflate the deficit away..."
"...or raise taxes..."
"Or cut spending."
That got a reaction: he put his hand over his heart and said reverently, "Social Security!"
"...?," I asked. "How secure will your socials be after their pyramid has collapsed...?"
"Deficit!!," he answered, appealing to my rationality. "Deficit, deficit, deficit!!!"
How's that for mental agility?
My most recent encounter with this amazing fount of wisdom was just a couple of weeks ago:
"South Africa!," he ranted. "Racism. Beatings. Tyranny."
"...tyranny?," I asked, confused. "Compared to what?"
"South Africa," he said, gesticulating wildly. "South Africa, South Africa, South Africa!"
"I'm really sorry, but a thing can't be compared to itself..."
"South Africa," he reassured. "South Africa!! South Africa!!!"
Deep breath. "What I mean is, given that South Africa has its problems, it's hardly a tyranny compared to, say, the Soviet Union..."
"South Africa!!," he said belligerently. "South Africa!!!"
"You do know that the traffic at the border is one way inbound...?"
"South Africa! South Africa!! South Africa!!!"
"...and that authoritarian Rhodesia became totalitarian Zimbabwe the last time you stuck your nose into Africa...?"
"South Africa!!!," he bellowed, raising a fist as if to strike me. "South Africa, South Africa, South Africa!!!"
What precision! What deductive elegance! "What's next, One Eye?," I asked.
"What's the next big issue? What can I expect to hear you talking about in the coming months?"
"Oh," I said, "I get it. They haven't told you yet..."
"...!," he replied. "..., ..., ...!!"
"Looks like you've invested a greater than normal effort to understand it, anyway. You're an inspiration to me!"
"...!!," he affirmed, at last possessed of an issue worthy of his abilities. "...! ...!! ...!!!"
Seductive logic scintillatingly delivered!
A petite young woman in a white nurses uniform came up and tugged at One Eye's elbow. Gently, she began to lead him away.
"So long," I called. "And thanks for all you've taught me!"
"...!!," One Eye called over his shoulder. "...!!!"
That's him: my friend One Eye. It's a shame more Americans can't match his intellectual achievements...