Monday, November 28, 2011

Smoking Fires

It seems like the news comes all at once, when it comes. Predictably, there is the usual anecedotes about people rioting over game consoles on Black Friday, much like dwellers in the slums of Paris drinking spilled wine from the filthy gutter in A Tale of Two Cities. I guess the new twist this year is that some enterprising person actually thought to bring a can of pepper spray and let loose with it, getting my vote for "best evolutionary adaptation to a hostile environment." If this isn't good enough, we also have another sports molestation scandal with plenty of "juice" brewing, Chevy Volts catching fire, Miley Cyrus calling herself a "stoner," pick something.

No, there is plenty of real consequence going on in the world over the weekend, with sobering long-term consequences for the failing world system. The first item is the open and official anger in Pakistan over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by a NATO helicopter, including a Major, something which has tossed gasoline onto the embers of an already-smoldering fire. The second big item on the radar is the resurgence of the Arab Spring, becoming the "Arab fall" as both nationalism and radicalism drive Arabic countries farther away from the sphere of the West. The Occupy Wall Street movement keeps hanging on, defying orders to clear their temporary living places. And, rounding up the hit parade is the continuing Eurozone crisis, where the latest big news was the failure of Germany's bond sale.

Each one of these alone would be a serious problem, but together, they are more signs that the high water mark of modern, global, industrial, civilization is now solidly in the rearview mirror. The chaos in the Arab world is likely to only increase as the true "clash of civilizations" begins -- the Western-backed military dictatorships on one hand versus the Islamist nationalists who have no real incentive to sell cheap oil to the West. What do we have to give them for it, anyway? Increasingly worthless currency? A non-stop flood of semi-pornographic pop culture broadcasting? Even if someone wanted to sell the oil, it would mean trying to get it out of the ground and then to a shipping terminal via vulnerable pipelines. Pakistan is obviously taking a different route, deliberately divorcing itself from NATO, the military expression of Western power.

Domestically, the fact that German bonds aren't finding buyers means that the question of the Western economy is no longer in doubt. There is no confidence in it. The only option is for Germany to begin to monetize its debt, which is when the economy and debt begins to eat itself. When this happened in the 1920s, Germany produced Hitler. Now that it's happening in 2011, we can probably expect Germany to shed the rest of Europe and start going its own way. The problem is, how can this happen once the price of oil doubles or even triples because of events elsewhere in the world? It seems more destined to collapse in on itself.

The Occupy Wall Street movement represents something else entirely. Domestic internal opposition to Western governments, especially in America, has in modern times largely been channeled through the political parties. The Tea Party largely was co-opted by the Republicans, but the OWS movement doesn't seem to have been scooped up by the Democrats in spite of their attempts to become "friendly" toward it. While it doen't really amount to much at the moment, it could very easily become a lightning rod if we see another crash, if the 15% unemployed begin to rally behind it, if gas spikes to seven or eight dollars a gallon (which would effectively collapse the U.S. economy overnight), or if the world market stops buying Treasury bonds, or half a dozen other scenarios. A movement which doesn't really have leaders and doesn't have anything much in common, except a jaundiced view of domestic politics, could grow very quickly and militantly, given the right circumstances.

In the coming weeks and months, I think we'll keep seeing more news items like these, but without much discussion of the significance behind them. The reality of the situation has been beyond the scope of the media, except in a few cases, and the willingness of governments to really tackle them. At a minimum, they are harbingers of a coming, drastic change of modern lifestyles, something that a world system which relies on keeping people comfortable and happy cannot come to grips with. At a maximum, they will in the end mean suffering and disorder on a scale that has not been seen before in human civilization.


  1. The weigh is to start being self-sufficient and ignoring the powers that usta be. Come visit existence and select the ideas that you like from the menu of life. < >

  2. Brother can you spare some, potato peel...hello Neo Feudalism !

  3. Potato peel--is that for making moonshine? Talk about self-sufficiency....

    I guess there is a reason why I am saving all these self-help books and alternative medicine/herbal guides. Not to mention learning food preservation. Geez, this is depressing.

  4. Well, it's not a happy idea, that civilization is running itself onto the rocks, but it's also not happening so quickly that we are going to be taken by surprise. People have been warning for nearly three decades that the overspending was going to sink the economy, Peak Oil has been a known issue for around fifty years now, etc.

    Whatever happens here, we're stuck dealing with it. We can either not prepare ourselves, materially and mentally, or we can understand that it's going to happen and see ourselves through it the best we can.

    The simple truth is that we're not expecting the end of the world here -- there's likely not going to be an asteroid dropping right on top of Topeka, KS. People survived and thrived for millenia before industrialization. The key is learning how to adjust.

  5. As regards the failure of German bonds some black humor:

    Plus the response to the crisis from the yuppie class: