Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lots of parallel events

Sharon Astyk has a disturbing post on the use of credit cards in the US: "McDonalds is now the second-largest merchant vendor on credit cards - that is, people are now buying their Big Macs on plastic - in part because they don’t have the cash. Credit card balances have risen enormously in the last few weeks, as people attempt to keep going through the holidays".

And this: Commodity Online: The man who predicted the 1987 stock market crash and the fall of the Soviet Union is now forecasting revolution in America, food riots and tax rebellions - all within four years, while cautioning that putting food on the table will be a more pressing concern than buying Christmas gifts by 2012.

Gerald Celente, the CEO of Trends Research Institute, is renowned for his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events, which will send a chill down your spine considering what he told Fox News this week.

Celente says that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.

"We're going to see the end of the retail Christmas....we're going to see a fundamental shift take place....putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree," said Celente, adding that the situation would be "worse than the great depression". Read the rest of the article.

What is going on? Could any of this happen here, and how could it happen so quickly anyway? Consider the many parallel events which point to the unraveling of the world we have so laboriously built up over the past six decades. Piracy: critical points of the world's shipping routes are vulnerable and this is pushing up the price of shipping and slowing it down. Oil production will fall next year and is unlikely to rise in response to future demand for intractable technical and financial reasons. Terrorism: the Mumbai attacks are unfortunately the shape of things to come in crowded world with huge numbers of alienated young men and women, whose lack of connectedness and community makes them easy prey for movements which promise immediate power and significance through violence. And it only requires a tiny, statistically insignificant number with cheap and easily available weapons and well-known tactics to bring a city to its knees.

Couple this with the financial crisis and you have a perfect storm of events which are to say the very least, adverse to any further extension of our current system. How much energy we waste on trying to save the irrevocably doomed depends mainly on us: our ability to face the facts and let go of those unproductive activities and turn our focus to those which will better suit the new situations which are rapidly coming up over the horizon.

It also depends on the quality of our leadership. A lot of hope is being invested in Obama, and while he is to a huge extent hemmed in by the legacies of the system of which he will soon be President, his demeanor as leader will matter at least as much as his acts. As for our own Prime Minister, the most generous assessment I can make of him is that he means well. But to me, most of his actions smack of folly: trying to stimulate spending when overspending has been the cause of the current crisis, clinging to the absurd notion that we along with the armed forces of other nations can impose a political system on the Afghans, when that country has been the graveyard of countless imperial dreams. Rudds Blairite/Bushite dream of "Western" liberal democracy being exported to the rest of the world at the point of a gun died in Iraq but he doesn't seen to have noticed. In any case, the money to run these schemes to "improve" the lives of those with browner skins and different shaped noses will soon no longer be available.

His mistake is thinking he can act as the Chief Executive Officer of the country when what we need is a leader with the vision of a Churchill or Roosevelt, someone with a sense of the great tragedy which is unfolding around us.

Well, there's not much we can do about that now. Best to get on with doing what we can and need to do.

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