Sunday, November 02, 2014

What's Your Take on This Mess?

It's a curious old world, a festering global predicament you might say, that we find ourselves in today.

The rich get richer, the poor get screwed, those in the middle worry about joining those at the bottom.  Now even the rich are beginning to wonder if they're setting themselves up for a fall.  They're starting to see neoliberal capitalism running off the rails.

There is no end of reports from some pretty impressive sources warning that the mess we failed to fix, the global economic collapse of 2008, could return any day and even worse than before.

The environment, well, what can you say?  Greenhouse gas emissions keep going up long after they should have been going down rapidly.  Like a plague of locusts we're devouring the Earth's renewable resources - the very essence of life - far faster than the environment can replenish them.  We have broken the hydrological cycle.  Earth's systems can no longer keep up with our output of waste and pollution of all sorts.  In just forty years we have lost half the planet's wild life scarcely reflecting on how critical biodiversity is to our own hold on life.

We are losing faith in our governments.  This is beginning to manifest in unrest (the Occupy movement, etc.) and upheaval (the Arab Spring) and outright civil war (Syria, Sudan).  If you think the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring failed, bear in mind they're only the first wave.  There'll be more to come if only because those directly affected really have no other choice.

We increasingly see governments in service to private interests at the expense of the public interest.  Political capture is the game of choice of the emerging plutocracy movement, the ascendancy of the corporate state embodied in illiberal democracy, deep government secrecy and the rise of the surveillance state.  What is presented to an unwary public is so much kabuki theater.

As we lose faith in our governments, they in turn are becoming increasingly wary of other governments, particularly their regional neighbours.  In the West, we're all stocking up on stealth warplanes, by their nature inherently offensive weapons.  In Asia it's submarines, loads of them.  Even the city state of Singapore has four with more on order.  China has 50 including five nukes with more on the way.  India has deployed its first, made in India nuclear missile boat.

We're now hearing pleas that Thomas Jefferson would have recognized - the call for revolt to rescue our democracies, reform our economies and rebuild our societies.  Some, such as Naomi Klein, think that the chaos of climate change will provide the opportunity and stimulus for reformation in the form of a new, distributive capitalism to replace neoliberal, free market, anything goes capitalism.

At this point the question is what do you think?  How do you see this Maelstrom of forces playing out?  What do you see as our options?  What do you think we ought to do?  What's best for Canada?  What are the risks for Canada if we continue with the status quo?

I've done my share of writing here, now it's your turn.


Hugh said...

We seem to have the mindset of there being a need for continued economic growth. Governments appear to see GDP growth as a major way to deal with growing debt.

Except that we are coming to the earth's limits of energy and water, and its capacity to absorb pollution. I think a good first step would be to rethink this view.

Toby said...

We are heading into the perfect storm, Mound. There are other names for it but perfect storm will do. You and others have noted the risks. I won't predict what will trigger the storm; if history teaches anything it is that minor events can escalate out of control. Think of that butterfly in China which, by flapping its wings, triggers a typhoon a continent away.

I am not at all optimistic about it. We are going over the cliff, so to speak. We are all on that train you pictured yesterday, plunging to catastrophe. Mother Nature is going to make some severe corrections. Can we stop it? No, it's too late.

Humans will survive; some humans. My father used joke that the Forth World War would be fought with sticks and stones; he may have been right.

You have probably seen this video about compounding math but it's worth another look. For me, the critical lesson is that most people will not see impending crisis until the last minute.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Hugh. Yes, absolutely. A good place to start - for Canada and the post-industrial nations especially - is to come to grips with the significance of perpetual, exponential growth. We've been keeping that going with a variety of conjuring tricks since we began exceeding the Earth's resource carrying capacity back in the 70s. It's a measure of how successfully we've deluded ourselves that we've stayed this course so long even as wild life has declined by half.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Toby. Thanks for the link. I've seen and read other things of this sort but it's worthwhile to revisit to keep awareness refreshed.

Now, you haven't answered my questions. Give it another try, please.

Anonymous said...

I like Ms. Klein's writings, but I agree with Chris Hedges on this one.

Toby said...

"How do you see this Maelstrom of forces playing out?"

I told you, I see a perfect storm of catastrophes coming. At some point I expect there will be two billion refugees on the march. They will storm the barricades.

"What do you think we ought to do?"

Too late. A lot of people have been warning for a very long time but the vast majority, particularly religious and political leadership, treated those warning as heretics. Most people don't see catastrophe coming until it happens; that's why there are so many car crashes.

"What's best for Canada?"

Again, too late. We never should have let Brian Mulroney sign the Free Trade deal and Chretien NAFTA with all those anti-labour, anti environment provisions. We should never allowed Neo-Liberalism into Canada. We should never have allowed foreign oil companies into Canada. We should never have elected anything with Stephen Harper in it. Etc. What should we do? Cancel every trade bill that has investor rights provisions, nationalize the oil and gas industries and repeal every one of Harper's tax cuts. We need to get out of NATO and assign our military to defend all of our borders; remember, the Americans have already invaded Canada three times and won't hesitate to do so again if they choose.

"What are the risks for Canada if we continue with the status quo?"

Deflation will be coming soon; Harpernomics doesn't work for most of us.

Sorry, I'm a pessimist about this stuff. I was warning Californians about their water problems back in the 1960's, etc. Most people are still not paying attention. What's the big news story as I type this? Jian Ghomeshi, of course.

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand your pessimism, Toby. Much of it is shared. That said I also believe that it's not too late at least in the sense that there are things we must do to make the Canada our grandkids will inherit a bit less worse than it will be if we do nothing.

We absolutely have to purge neoliberalism from Parliament. It has become today's default political operating system and it's killing us.

We must dismantle the corporatist state which begins with restoring a truly free press by breaking up the corporate media cartel. That has to go. Politics has to be recaptured and harnessed to serve the public interest, not private interests.

The NDP need to reclaim the Left and the Libs need to be driven back from the Center-Right. Without that we can never hope to even Canada's political keel.

jump said...

Maelstrom, although packed with connotations, is appropriate to describe the current world. And let's not forget Ebola or some other pandemic in the mix. It will get messy, and I think very soon.
There will be another market meltdown and nobody will be spared. Add to that water wars, mass migrations and food shortages and there will be a lot of angry people.
What to do?
Localize your immediate economy as much as possible; connect producer and consumer directly. Do not expect an extravagant lifestyle, but work on a comfortable life, the basics. Produce what you can and barter with neighbours for goods and services. And take care of each other.
Cooperation, not competition is the value that needs to be stressed now. Respect all life. You can try to be self sufficient but you will burn out. Self sufficiency is more easily achieved as a community. Respect each other and nature.
We need to do some grass roots economic, environmental and social reforms (before corporations subvert them for profit).
I do not see affecting any change from within the existing system. I have no trust in what is left of institutions that are supposed to be part of the commons. It is all bought and paid for by taxpayers to the corporations. Good luck with that.
The status quo will implode through diminishing returns. It may go slowly or there may be events that help it along, hard to tell and foresee. It will be messy though so make your corner of the world as comfortable as possible.

The Mound of Sound said...

Excellent suggestions, Jump. Honesty compels me to admit that just a decade ago I would have scoffed at them. We live in interesting times.

Toby said...

Mound said, "The NDP need to reclaim the Left and the Libs need to be driven back from the Center-Right. Without that we can never hope to even Canada's political keel."

Agreed, but so far we haven't been able to convince the NDP and the Libs that their main job is to slay the dragon. Those two parties are determined to fight each other as much as, if not more than, defeat the Cons. They couldn't even manage a coalition when the opportunity arose. I won't be at all surprised to see Harper get another majority.

Carmichael said...

I've been in Regina for the past couple of months helping me old mum get out of hospital and into an assisted living joint.

Right smack dab in the middle of the stupid.

The Canada I used to know, believe in and love is gone.

Harper and his flying monkey brigades led the charge, Layton and then Mulcair with their platoons of deluded cynical idealists reinforced the wings and Trudeau and his squadrons of dazzled sycophants danced along with whoever appeared to have the melody in hand at any given moment.

With the political organizations we have at present, with the leadership and membership of those organizations and with the political system we have to work with - we're fucked.

There is one thing and one thing only available to the people who care enough.

I am not going to surrender my freedom for the sake of dithering, cowardly, distracted idiots by saying what that thing is.469

Hugh said...

I remember inflation in the 1970's, though I was about 12. What happened was that interest rates went way up, to about 18% by 1980. Did that 'cure' inflation?

There is no way govt will allow interest rates to go up. Look at the huge mortgages people have, and all the govt debt. Everyone would go bust.

The Mound of Sound said...

Propping up interest rates is a function of constant, exponential growth which itself is a threat to the survival of our society. There are some who argue we've already "gone bust" but have used conjuring tricks to forestall reality.