The great accelerator

We found the Big Bang where we didn’t expect to. All eyes were on the Large Hadron Collider in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) tunnel, near Geneva, expecting to see a recreation of the first moments of the universe. But the collider broke down. Those fearing a black hole that would swallow up the planet can relax until the system restarts in April. On September 19, however, when the CERN experiment was halted, the global economy had begun to spin out of control. That was the week in which 158-year-old Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, banks stopped lending to each other and investors – from filthy rich hedge funds to small-timers – withdrew their funds from banks and stock markets and bought treasury bonds. Stock markets panicked. The US government hastily proposed a $700 billion package to prevent a general collapse, with Fed chief Ben Bernanke warning that unless Congress adopted the proposal, «we may not have an economy on Monday.» The lack of confidence was a black hole sucking in money, hopes and rational thinking. Bernanke and other economists who study the Wall Street Crash of 1929, have come up with a phrase, «the financial accelerator» which describes how market conditions can spin out of control, The New York Times reported. The scientists at CERN, through the collision of subatomic particles, hope to understand how the universe was created. The rest of us are witnesses and participants in another big bang, the one resulting from the collision between the global economy (with its excesses) and harsh reality. We are seeing the collapse of giant companies and of entire sectors of the economy. Neoliberalism and capitalism have vaporized in the face of state intervention and public fear. Nothing is as it was a few weeks ago. In this thick soup we try to make out the ingredients and relationships that will determine our new economic, ideological, political and social universe. And no one knows what it will look like a year from now.