C.H. Rosenberg’s story “Indicative of Future Results” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 6 May 2022.
This story originates with my realization that the modern-day and increasingly digital personal finance community—and especially the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement—is one worthy of intensive anthropological study. After all, doesn’t it have all the elements of a modern-day cult? It has its own prophets and evangelists, its peculiar vernacular, its sacred and beloved texts, an undeniable emphasis on self-help and personal growth, all of it resting on those irrepressible American values: Grit! Determination! Self-reliance! At the same time this swelling movement delivers benefits in the form of sound financial guidance, this advice rarely makes it to the eyes and ears of those outside the already privileged strata of society. Woven through all the podcasts, videos, blogs, and plethora of digital content is a thread of toxicity, where social safety nets are scorned and the poor blatantly blamed for their poverty. With this in mind, I watched with the rest of the world as first the Great Recession and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a spiderweb of fractures in our existing financial and economic system. Both are fascinating case studies into how many will find opportunities in any situation, whether for ill—such as grifters and demagogues—or for good—such as through entrepreneurial and charitable endeavors. I wondered what a true outside observer—an extraterrestrial anthropologist, as it were—would think of all this. Shocked? Horrified? Impressed? Would that observer see the humor in the situation? Would that observer have another point view and—more importantly—be willing to share it? I’ve always loved First Contact stories for this reason: they represent an opportunity to reassess humanity from a new perspective at the same time they represent a fresh start.
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