"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
-- From "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats (1919)
When Yeats wrote those chilling words, he had the endgame of World War I and the fall of European aristocracy on his mind. "The Second Coming" will reportedly be featured in tonight's season premiere of NBC's Heroes, foreshadowing the way the series' villains will rise in power and prominence this season.
But Yeats might as well have penned this poem in response to last week's events on Wall Street -- with an eye to the future.
From my Foolish point of view, the heroes of the investing world are individual investors like you and me, along with people and agencies who have our interests at heart. That includes the Securities and Exchange Commission (on a good day), bountiful information sources like Yahoo!
Most of these guys can be forgiven for a lack of conviction in today's market. Way back in 2003, Buffett warned that derivatives and other complex, poorly understood financial instruments would be "weapons of mass destruction" -- especially if paired with massive debt leverage. Lynch told Boston Globe last week that we shouldn't panic. America will come back from this meltdown like it always does, even if your portfolio hurts in the meantime.
The CAPS crowd is hardly sitting on their hands, but their message is deeply skeptical. Over 230 players rated Citigroup
... and the worst
Meanwhile, the SEC put on its not-too-friendly face and turned its back while the Federal Reserve bailed out a couple of the most overleveraged risk-takers out there. The bill to be footed by American tax payers is running into the hundreds of billions. To put that huge number in context, consider that a $700 billion bailout package means over $2,000 from every American man, woman, and child.
Turnover on the stock exchanges took a flying leap. Over the past year, $173 billion's worth of all NYSE stocks changed hands every day. It was $296 billion last week (and NYSE Euronext
When the new, revised beast that is the post-banking-meltdown American stock market "slouches toward Bethlehem to be born," you'll be ready to tame it with the help of a few Fools.
Bank of America is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, and the Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. He sold his Bank of America stock back in February, saving big bucks on antacid pills and sleeping aids alone. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure wouldn't touch 30-to-1 leverage with a ten-foot dried herring.