Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The fear

How are you coping with collapse-anxiety? (Cory Doctorow)

How do you keep your spirits up? I wrote before Christmas that this is the best time in history to have a worst time -- the time at which our capacity to do things in a way that's outside of traditional economics is at its highest. It's never been easier to come together to have fun, to make stuff, to change things.

I keep reminding myself of that, but it's not easy.

1 comment:

Intense said...

"How are you coping with collapse-anxiety?"

Cory Doctorow's post poses an interesting question, but unfortunately, his rather unsubstantiated assertions that "...this is the best time in history to have a worst time -- the time at which our capacity to do things in a way that's outside of traditional economics is at its highest. It's never been easier to come together to have fun, to make stuff, to change things" seems counter-intuitively upbeat and is contradicted by the actual reality of both our current economic situation and, more importantly, the ominous future prospects, given the facts of the financial fiasco only now just beginning to unfold.

The real question to be asked is how things will be a year or two from now, when I predict the general outlook will be considerably grimmer, based on what is likely to occur between now and then.

As Doctorow says, "My little family is probably OK -- we have a diverse set of income sources, from a variety of countries and industries -- but nothing's certain." Well, how very nice for him; much of his perspective can probably be attributed to having an income relatively higher than most people, which can skew one's perspective on the likely impact of the coming depression on the vast majority of people not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Interestingly, in the thread of almost 200 comments following Doctorow's post over on boingboing, most note how they're doing at the moment, and the vast majority of commentary is similarly semi-upbeat and optimistic. I suspect the greater silent majority has a considerably darker view of the future, but probably feels it pointless or too painful to make their countervailing views known.

However, I think a counter opinion is required and specific facts and obvious trends should be clearly explicated that belie the untoward optimism of those who figuratively are wearing rose-colored glasses while whistling past the graveyard about to erupt with ghastly consequences.

Being nearly 20 years older than Doctorow, and having lived through 3 or 4 prior recessionary periods in my adult life, I can tell you this one is very different, and of a scale that will be much deeper and longer than anyone can currently predict with accuracy, but based on my reading of the financial indicators, this period shares many signs of being as bad, if not worse, than the crash of 1929, which led to the great depression, and lasted 10 years.

Worse yet, the interdependency of capital and credit markets, and interconnected world-wide trade, combined with resource depletion, ecological damage, overpopulation, and the passing of peak oil (our energy mainstay), creates a double-whammy which may not allow recovery for a generation, if ever.

We have been living on borrowed money, and time, for decades now, mortgaging the future of our children, and have strip-mined the carrying capacity of our planet's resources while irreversibly polluting our ecosystem, and most still do not want to or cannot face these incontrovertible facts.

Our generic blindness to this reality for decades will be our undoing as a civilized species, as the current enfeebled bailout attempts and continued divisive Republican politics of obstruction and corporate compromise of effective action are unlikely to solve the essential problem, and may even accelerate and make the problem of financial viability and liquidity worse over time due to short-sighted and self-serving ideological reasons. I should also add I have no great faith in the Democratic party in being able to resolve the problems facing us, either, even though I try to maintain a liberal, but pragmatic, outlook. We face foundational and structural difficulties that challenge any current political solutions being offered.

This crisis originated in America, under an ideologically-driven administration and Congress negligently ignorant of economic constraints, willful destruction of proper financial regulation, a ruinous multi-trillion dollar war, denial of global warming while promoting insane energy policies of continuing oil dependence for the purpose of serving the neocons' multinational corporate masters for extraordinary profit at the expense of humanity and sustainability, and we have lost a nearly a decade of opportunities to make crucial decisions in the most critical timeframe that was available. That chance, and time, is now gone, and the new administration is faced with the ruin our last one has left it, and us, to deal with.

Only this time, the greatest capitalist financial power in the world has exposed itself as being a vast, wildly over-leveraged Ponzi scheme, based on rampant greed and deliberate avarice, and now rapidly approaching bankruptcy, and there are no timely or realistic means of extracting ourselves from the onrushing disaster, as only our production capacity and the last world war afforded us over 60 years ago.

There will rise increasing political tension, fascistic and ultra-nationalistic protectionist tendencies, and in a world with eight or more nuclear powers, diminishing energy, food, and water resources, and increasing population and inadequately managed complexity, within 5, 10, or 15 years at the outside, things will begin to break down and fall apart. Then things will really become horrifying. I could go on, but why bother--you get my drift--you realize the implications of these trends.

The "cusp of terminal dissolution" is now upon us. I fervently hope I'm wrong, but after serious consideration, research, and analysis, I don't think so. God help us. Oh, and since I'm agnostic, I doubt resolution is possible via that means, or any kind of deus ex machina, either. Prepare to dance the Apocalypto, or the danse macabre.

"Something wicked this way comes." --Ray Bradbury