What if they gave an apocalypse and no-one noticed?

I was reading a rather depressing piece on the world economy, rather stating what I felt, that we’ve been steadily mortgaging more and more of tomorrow to fritter away today. Politicians and bankers contintinue to kick the can ahead, hoping for a miricle…

I’m not really a doom-n-gloom man, believing there is enough, believing we can via technology and just plain old common sense (rarer than technology) solve most things, if teh stupid is kicked out of play, which, to be fair doesn’t happen often. But I do think we may be in for a bumpy ride, and that things need to rebalance – quite a lot in some areas. I’d guess on Sir Terry Pratchett being right again (in Dark side of the Sun) and we’re going have to hit a full-circle where consumption – or at least conspicious consumption, and any display of wealth is the road to a lampost and a short rope.

There’s a belief that mankind always progresses… hmm. It’s not really up to robust examination. We accumlate knowledge and material, and that makes it easier to build up, even on the ruins of the empire before. But there are surely some deep troughs, and my own feeling is we’re nose-diving toward one now, even as our governments discuss the importance of vital matters like gay marriage (who cares? Not me. They want to marry, go for it. Stick by the same rules as everyone else and tiny minority (maybe 2% of the toal population) will be gay and married. So what?) I’m a lot more interested in stuff that affects 95%. I want to eat, have my family eat, be safe and have my family safe, have reasonable medical access, and reasonable liberty for them.) I would also put a very high likelihood on the rise of nationalism and the rise of various forms of racial and ethnic discrimination within those nations. The brightest buttons on the PC heirarchy of benefits for historical injustice (‘my grandma was a victim and you owe me’) should work out that now is the time to be calling for equalisation, rather than demanding even more payback and more special conditions, or as the wheel turns, it will be reversed again. It’s not something I want to see, but I see it building. I’d also put a fairly high set of odds that the standard bottom of the PC scapegoat pile is going finally get to saying ‘well, if I get treated like an oppressive, racist, chauvinist sexist no matter what I do… I might as well be one’. (I saw this with a number of historically generous, tolerant white South Africans, who had made huge efforts to be good to black South Africans during apartheid, a decade after the end of it… and being lumped on the basis of skin color as villians, become, slowly but steadily the inverse of what they had been – which is survivable when they’re a small, weak disarmed minority, even though it has cut 20% off SA’s growth and hurt everyone, IMO, but even less clever if you’re the small weak minority, and they’re bigger, stronger, and a large percentage). I support equality before the law and of opportunity, but there’s a sort of ‘kick a dog often enough and you either kill it or it will turn on you’ inevitiblity to this. Stupidity has to be evolution in action, or just gets worse, and we’ve been rewarding teh stupid in PC circles for a long time.

Personally I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to see the upper 1 percent pushing a sort of Shavian socialism — where they continue to be very comfortable and wealthy, and make decisions as to what the proles can do. For their own good, of course. It’s not really sustainable, as they run out of other people’s money, and no one is going to touch theirs. And it won’t work terribly well, because the doer’s who are less in number than the I-wanters will do their damndest to John Galt, and without them the 1% of lawyers and politicians and bankers and heads of corporations actually can’t make anything or grow food. It will head into little dictatorships, and uprisings against a bloody mess… And actually the mess will favor not the civilized but the people from nasty spots. I’d rather this wasn’t a future, but I’m a realist. I know that in that sort of war, the primitives win, because we are not Saxons conquering England.

The semi-best scenario is a sort of muddle on, confiscate savings (A la Cyprus) and the political elite-at-present will shift their faces around to become anti-emigrant, anti-this and anti-that, intolerant and rather miserable, but still in charge. The best – from my point of view – isn’t going to happen. The sort re-evaluation and everyone cuts their cloth a bit, and the international financiers settle for a holiday in Florida in a nice hotel instead of a private motor yacht on the Costa Smerelda, with GINI co-efficient getting a lot narrower as we re-align our consumption and society to fit what we’ve got and what we’re actually worth, is just too sensible, and won’t happen.

Still, the various folk commenting – it was an economics article and not particularly any political slant, were saying stuff like ‘a month’s worth of cans…’

And I was laughing to myself. That may help if everything stays very ordered and recovers fast (more so than in most natural disasters), but really it’s not effective. Space, distance from the cities, some dry goods and the skills to grow and catch your own, and good neighbours with skills and the ability to defend yourselves are all that could. History shows what to do, and those who don’t learn, repeat, or die trying to.

7 Comments

Filed under economics, philosophy, politics, science Fiction

7 responses to “What if they gave an apocalypse and no-one noticed?

  1. Ori Pomerantz

    I don’t think we’re mortgaging the future, but monetizing the trust gained in the past. When those future mortgages come due, the collection agents will have to figure the answer to the “you and what army” question.

    • That’s an interesting way of looking at it, my friend. I do think the trust in nations has not had a recent get stuffed incident, but it was historically quite common. It’s true enough an interpretation of foreign bond holders, but gets interesting when it’s your own banks – who have your politicians firmly in their pockets – expecting to collect out of tax revenues – which are shrinking. They will claim its your pension funds etc – a statement which has a modicum of truth among a lot other profiteering. My point is is it is good thing to borrow money, to earn more money. If you borrow to build a factory or port, or plant a forest, it makes sense. If you borrow and at the end all you have is spent money – my Scots and Yorkshire and Afrikaans calvinist ancestors would say you’re heading for trouble. Australia has spent vast amounts in the good times here… and we have gained very little to earn more out of it.

      • Ori Pomerantz

        This goes further than just sovereign debt. If most of the voters are in debt, debt relief becomes a valuable electoral strategy. It doesn’t have to be full Solon style debt forgiveness. Governments can also redefine the currency (through inflation), or rewrite contracts (by changing the way courts interpret them).

        Trade requires trust, so there will be pain, but as long as it lets David Demagogue get elected, who cares? Certainly not David.

  2. Kitteh-Dragon

    Excellent. I know you’re correct in your assessment about what is needed, and about what is inevitably coming (if not for us, for our children and our children’s children). We’re eating our seeds, right now, I think :-(

    • Yes, we are. And part of that seed eating is in not realising the seed is the children and their attitudes and education – which has multi-generational investment and payback time to it. Those of us – and I know you’re one of them and Ori another, forward-thinking, reading, planning people who don’t just put their hand out and wait for nanny-government to do the job ARE working on this. But if we’re carrying a lot of deadweight – their actions make sure our kids will have a bigger mess. Anyone who thinks magic gummint is going to look after the future and learning, hard work, and thought won’t be needed by our children… is in cloud cuckoo land.

      • Ori Pomerantz

        Any kids who grow up with this belief will have to either learn in the school of hard knocks, or not survive. The way the sins of the parents cost the children sucks, but that is the way it is.

  3. I fear for my daughter’s future (not so much mine, I’ll muddle through). I hope she can learn from our mistakes, but I have little confidence she’ll get much of a chance with the way things are going.

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