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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Grand Illusion

A few years ago I had a flatmate whose name now eludes me. He was an Australian guy, travelling with a German girl (whose name was Lisi and may have actually been Austrian), and they rented a room in our Brooklyn (Wellington) flat in the summer of late 1999. Accordingly, in those heady days of pre-millennium angst, there was much talk between those flatting there at the time or visiting (I seem to recall tents on the lawn at New Years, and more people than I care to remember sharing one little bathroom) about what the fateful tick-over into the dreaded year 2000 would really mean. We worried not so much about whether the Student Loan Office computers would sieze up and lose all records of any money we might owe the Government (we were pretty sure they'd have that well covered), nor about whether the videos we had hired on December 30th might be 1000 years overdue on January 2nd, so much as whether or not the archaic missile systems of post-Cold War Europe would poop themselves and rain nuclear armageddon down on the rest of the world.

That, of course, never happened.

I remember talking to this flatmate, let's call him Oz, over a cold beer on a hot afternoon, and being awed by his world-weary wisdom. He mused that it would not be nuclear war that would bring an end to the granduer of the 20th Century, but that the demise of Western Civilisation, not just in the moral sense that the conservative right have been lamenting for sixty years now, would come about when the whole grand illusion of the world economy caved in on itself. America, he predicted, would bring about its own undoing when all the false realities of its financial system were laid bare, and everything would fall from there.

I'm sure that I don't need to summarise for anyone reading this just what has happened to the world markets in recent weeks and months. But here are a few things to consider, thinking about what Oz said to me that day 9 years ago:

  • Last week, Wall St crashed further than it did in 1987, despite an injection by the US Govt of about 1 trillion dollars, suggesting that, like most things that are fundamntally flawed, simply throwing more money at the problem will not fix it.
  • Iceland is bankrupt. This is a country we're talking about. An entire country. Bankrupt.
  • Inflation in Zimbabwe is running at 1,000,000% per day. When faced with numbers like that, how can money mean anything at all?
  • The Large Hadron Collider cost around 5 billion pounds over the past ten or so years, making it the most expensive science project ever. Yet the US Govt spends 1 billion dollars a day on its military activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. After 7 years of this, how many worthwhile science projects that might have helped avert the global climate and food crises we're facing now might have been funded instead?
My question is this: Why could our world leaders not anticipate what has happened, given the pain and suffering it is causing and going to cause to so many, when a bright young tourist, who worked odd-jobs to pay his way tiki-touring around the globe, saw it coming at least a decade ago?

I would hazard a guess that the answer is that they always knew, but because the illusion is so deeply entrenched in the financial practices and the psyches of pretty much everyone on the planet (apart from those lucky subsistence hunters of the deep Amazon or nomadic herders of Inner Mongolia or Patagonia), there really was nothing they could do but wait for the dream to shatter. To try to fix it would have been to perpetuate the very fallout that we are now witnessing, and no-one wants to be remembered for unleashing such a thing on the world.

As someone said, to believe in the American Dream, it's best if you're asleep.

For another very lucid opinion on what has transpired and what is yet to come, check out this interview with Charles Hugh Smith.

And to bring it back down to earth, for those of us who can never pull the great puppet strings that rule the world, it's just another reminder that every day we should be striving for self-reliance, instead of depending on the world out there to provide for us. If you were in Iceland right now, you'd be wishing you didn't have to wait for the next boat to come in bringing your winter food supplies, because that boat isn't coming. And that is a very harsh reality to be facing, when it is not your doing that has brought this about.

I'm constantly inspired by the people I see making inroads into self-sustainability. Apart from the obvious examples like the Dervaes and Gallimaufree, Patrice Farmer is a single mother who is managing to raise not only her daughter but also several chickens and a garden that puts mine to shame, all the while doing so with a crippling bone disorder (arthritis I think - correct me if I'm wrong, Patrice). As I read her blog, I'm reminded that I have no excuse not to do more to break away from the grand illusion before my family and I become victims of its collapse.


Jon Ball said...

Dude! I've found your blog!

Dan said...

Hey JB.

Welcome to FG.

(Can I get some more ABV in here?)

Also, it's come to my attention that not all the comments that have been posted here have made it as far as me. Please feel free to post again if you don't see your comment here - I haven't rejected anyone's comments!

Anonymous said...

And yet, the US gubment can still find ways to fund *top secret*..... projects, and wage wars, and mysteriously? fund the military's ongoing *needs*? for bigger, better, faster, awesome(r) toys than all the other girls and boys. Or at least try to keep up. With? The Joneses. Ha. Etc.