Monday, September 26, 2011


In spite of the best efforts to get Europe's economic crisis under control, it's looking more and more like we're approaching the latest act in Europe's long retreat from anything resembling prosperity, optimism, strength, purpose, progress, and order.  In other words, entropy can only be held at bay for so long, before it completely overtakes any given system.

The award for being most nakedly out of touch with reality has to go to Angela Merkel, who states that faith in the idea of European unity would be destroyed by a Greek default.  What faith do people have in the EU, anyway?  This is when you know a politician has to go, when they state things like this, which are about as accurate and relevant as production figures from the old Soviet "five year plans."  Even Baghdad Bob wouldn't have bothered with drivel like that.

The levers of power in Europe have always had the tinge of inbreeding and incest about them, from the heads of different royal families being related (World War One was indeed a very bloody squabble between cousins), to the confusing claims and counter-claims on the English and French crowns, going all the way back to Charlemagne splitting his empire between his three sons and giving historians no shortage of things to write about for a millenia.  The difference with the age of nobility and the modern age is that it's now the bankers who are in bed with each other, while not having enough legal degrees of separation.  The latest sign of this is the IMF requesting more money from member states to solve the European debt crsis.

If anything, this should be the largest red flag, the loudest siren, the biggest shot across the bow, for anyone who thinks that a united Europe still has a future -- or, indeed, that Europe has much of an future at all.  States which are bankrupt are having to give money to an organization which is also pretty much broke, to bail out other states which are bankrupt...this is the financial equivalent of stretching a rubber band to its limit, then trying again, but cutting it in half so that it goes twice as far. 

The increasingly shrill warnings coming out of the European leadership aren't without some merit, though, even if those warnings are coming far too late.  Europe has always been at odds with itself.  A unifying religion (Catholicism) kept it somewhat together until the Reformation did away with that model and the continent was wracked with centuries of war as the yoke of the church was thrown off and replaced with the yoke of ambition.  Unifying philosophies (the Enlightenment and Nationalism) kept Europe together for around a century until it bled itself white through the competition of nations in two World Wars.  Now, the idea of the Cornucopian welfare state is running up against the hard reality of the decline of resources, the end of European global economic dominance, the lack of a Soviet threat to keep people all looking over the same shoulder, and it's anyone's guess as to which way the dominos will start to topple.  The European leadership isn't so stupid as to not know that history readily wants to repeat itself, just blinded by their own ambitions.

It should be hard to say what the future holds for Europe when (not if) the EU breaks up and old ideas begin to reassert themselves, but it's really not.  How long is it going to be before radical heads of state (of both the right and the left) find themselves with newfound political vigor, supported by a base of people who will come to see that all the promises made by European politicians are as empty as the national treasury?  How long will it take for these new radicals to start looking for others outside of their borders (or within, for that matter) to blame?  How long will it be until one leader or another decides that the only path for national survival is to seize things that someone else has? 

Much has been made of the ominous possibilities that might follow an American collapse, but looking overseas probably demands as much attention.  In either case, the cause is still the same -- a population that assumes that the lights will never go off or the oil wells will run dry, led by people who realize that the person who speaks truth will be lucky to keep their head, much less their elected office.  When we think that somehow, even if our own nation and sphere of influence implodes, that there will still be pockets of learning and civilization elsewhere in the world, we should remember that when collapse comes, it is not going to be local and limited, but global and profound.


  1. It's amazing how complicated politics and finance can be swept away by the 2nd law of thermodynamics:
    "The second law of thermodynamics can be stated as saying that the entropy of an isolated system always increases, and processes which increase entropy can occur spontaneously." Wikipedia.
    National/financial groups have attempted to circumvent this law by increasing the size of "the isolated system" through globalization. As in many areas of life it worked...until it didn't.

  2. I think one problem clearly is that "sustainability" still is not really present in the collective mindset, as witnessed by the expectation of perpetual economic growth. While it's debatable whether or not human existence on earth is technically a closed system (extra-terrestrial inputs such as solar energy, comet strikes, etc, notwithstanding), for practical purposes, we have finite fossil fuels, finite water supply capacity, living space, etc, so the notion that the economy can continue to expand is a relic of 16th century thought that looked to conquer and exploit new markets. I mean, we look at the economy in terms of whether or not it's growing (read: people are figuring out new niches to exploit, like rats looking for a sack of grain in the basement), while ignoring questions like how stable are the systems we're building? And how long can an economy grow, anyway?

    The tragedy probably can best be summed up that the window of opportunity humanity had to move forward on a long-term basis was probably closed by short-sightedly squandering our global resources on wars and producing pointless consumer trinkets and massively inefficient production and transportation systems, etc.

    The reality is that we're not able to sustain the growth, that "growth" itself is now becoming a game of trying to crunch the numbers so that the restive public doesn't really see how we've reached the top of the hill and are starting back down the other side. Like everything, we're not going to really see this point for what it is until it's in the rearview, but it's definitely there.

  3. This point is elaborated in a well-researched and well-written form in Richard Heinberg's new book, "The End of Growth."
    I've bought several copies to give to otherwise thinking friends who seem to need a bit wider perspective.
    Chapters are available for download on his website:

  4. I should pick up a copy of his work. While it's probably not news to most people who study collapse, it seems like it would be a good loaner.

    I'm still surprised at how discussions about the oncoming reality still don't happen in anything but a very small scale. The "kook" label is thrown around readily, but if you took a person in 1325 who suggested that fleas would nearly taken down Europe, they would've probably been branded a lunatic as well.

    I guess it's not that the information is not available, but just that to even admit that there are going to be increasing problems is something of a heresy, such is the faith that we've put in systems which are relatively as old to humanity as humanity is to life on earth.