This is not a feel-good post, and to set the tone, here is one of my favorite quotes from George Orwell:
The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
From “In Front of Your Nose”
Living in the United States during a Presidential election year is an exercise in surreality, with all the crazy horror that is going on in the world drowned out by the apparently overriding question of which candidate for the Presidency is crueler to dogs. Never mind that the same structure that brought about the financial collapse we still haven’t recovered from is still in place, and subsidized by more debt than ever. If you do recognize that inconvenient reality, then rest assured, Ron Paul will have puppies and kittens for everyone if you just clap hard enough. Look, it’s going to be the Gold Standard of video games (and probably just as unwieldy)!
Living in China during the once-a-decade leadership turnover has to be a surreal experience in a country that is every bit as surreal as the U.S., as the economy continues to slow, the provinces continue to report as high GDP figures as they possibly can (because to report less than that is to admit that civil unrest due to unemployment may be on the horizon). Meanwhile everything is just ducky in Chinese business, and fraud prosecutions are being pursued with a never-before seen zeal (never mind that the same zeal applies to the commission of fraud as well). Never mind that much of China’s economic leadership is due to loans that aren’t being paid back (and the household sector still hasn’t recovered from paying off the last China credit bubble), the future is bright! Except that it isn’t.
Living in the EU during its first (and possibly last) existential crisis has got to be jarring in its unreality. Politicians you’d have thought wouldn’t be elected to the equivalent of a Condo Association are getting elected and shaping major policy decisions (too many links to choose from), riots are happening everywhere as the rich get richer (and the poor get poorer), and there are provisions being put in place for the “temporary” suspension of the open-borders policy that has made the Eurozone a reality for so many. Never mind that Germany using the rest of the Eurozone as a captive market for its exports, and never mind that Ireland and Spain did exactly what the free-market gospel demanded as far as their economies. More austerity for everyone!
Living in India right now must be a terrifying experience once you scratch the surface of Bollywood’s formidable successes (even to importing fair-skinned actresses), and the growth of the industries being outsourced to India. Sadly, there are problems with that. With rapid growth, comes corner-cutting, and with corner-cutting comes corruption – both inside India and out. Never mind that it’s an unsustainable growth model that comes with serious repercussions, protect it at any costs! Just don’t think about those nukes up north. Or do think about them, and aspire to having bigger and better ones for ourselves!
I could go on. Russia, Brazil, much of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world are all ruled by people who want their position to remain the same, while the rest of the world shifts to accommodate that desire. Of all the countries in the world that are out there, I think the nations of Palestine, Tibet, Mexico, and Kashmir are the regions whose biggest problems are completely immune to any possible domestic fix. Not even Iraq and Afghanistan are as hopelessly screwed as these three (not in the sense that their suffering is absolute, but in the sense that absolutely nothing these people do will have any ameliorating impact on what ails them). Northern Ireland might be on that list again someday.
Anyhow, the main point is that we live in a world that runs on delusions, and that those delusions are reaching the point where it is no longer possible for them to exist in harmony with each other. The United States can’t be the consumer of last resort, China is not the U.S.’ problem, it’s the other way around, just as the rest of the EU is Germany’s problem (because surplus countries always lose trade wars). Russia can put all the strangleholds it wants on petroleum and LNG prices, the big battles are going to be over water. I could go on and on, but I have to have the emotional will to get out of this chair and take care of my needs as a human being, and depression sucks – so I won’t go there.
We as a fractious “community” of nations, however, are most certainly heading for a dramatic collision with reality, and it’s going to be messy. The good news is that for a decade or so after the collision, those countries who manage to evade nationalist demagoguery will perhaps have a chance to shape their societies to conform with reality instead of to fantasies of free and never-ending wealth for the wealthy.
We’ll see how it goes.