Umberto Eco some years ago wrote “Chronicles of a Liquid Society.”
“Once this all-seeing Witness has gone, has been taken away, what remains? All that’s left is the eye of society, the eye of the Other, before whom you must reveal yourself so as not to disappear into the black hole of anonymity, into the vortex of oblivion, even at the cost of choosing the role of village idiot who strips down to his underpants and dances on the pub table.”
In the view of Eco a ‘liquid society’ was one stripped of any anchors to anything outside of it self. There is no permanent, no eternal, no future and no past, no concepts of reality outside of the zeitgeist of society.
Village idiots dancing on the table is very likely to be what this era will be known for in future history books.
Ben Boychuk recently wrote in the Sacramento Bee that California has become the definition of a ‘liquid society’ – but it is not just California.
As a society this country is rarely anchored to reality. Some examples from just the debt venue:
The debt obligations of the United States total up to about $2.1 million per household over the next 30 years. People argue, “Yeah but that is over thirty years!” So let us work that out – it is $70,000 a year per household for thirty years. Do you have an extra $70K a year for your household to make these debts whole?
Just one program in Colorado, PERA (the government pension program) is short by $42,000 per household. Have an extra $42K hanging around? Check between the couch cushions. I didn’t think so – but what is more the gap must be made whole by taxing citizens who will have no chance of retiring at all in order to pay government retirement benefits for the privileged few. How well do you think that is going to go over?
In Chicago each taxpayer is on the hook for $41,700 just in city debt! Think the taxpayers of Chicago have that kind of cash on hand to make the city whole? Think they cannot just vote with their feet? Of course they can and will.
As a whole this country is caught in a debt trap – no one even attempts to make a rational argument that we are not caught in a debt trap – they simply ignore that we are in a debt trap while continuing to argue over should we or should we not make using a particular personal pronoun a criminal act. Yes we have become that silly and removed from reality.
By the way that debt trap extends to the corporate, business and personal world as well. The Federal Reserve has hinted that in the next recession it will go to negative interest rates. 5000 years of interest rate history on planet earth and there is no hint in all of that time of negative interest rates until the last handful of years. That illustrates how absurd and distorted and removed from reality our policies have become.
We are a society unanchored from anything in reality. We just make up what we wish to be true – inevitably justifying our own fantasies by doubling and tripling down on the absurd – and then advocate for the belief that we can go down that road endlessly with out any painful consequences. Many of the same people arguing in favor of Roy Moore would be calling for guillotines and calling him a pedophile if Moore were a Democrat. Just truth. People who are excusing Al Franken and saying ‘It was just a joke’ would be wearing pussy hats and holding a million women march if Franken were a Republican. You know it is true.
We have become an absurd people because we have become unanchored from anything real. History used to be used in order to provide context for the present and prevent a society from being swept away in the zeitgeist. Historical knowledge was a limiting factor in how much damage the zeitgeist could do. Currently history is used to justify the absurd by being highly selective in what we consume and regurgitate and often just flat out making it up.
Not only do people no longer have a useful means of applying math and history they no longer have even the most rudimentary understanding of how government works. Ask someone, anyone, what is the monetary policy of the United States? Do you think 1% can answer that? 2%? 5%? Certainly not ten percent of the population understand what the monetary policy of the United States is – but they are just chockfull of opinions on what the government should be doing and how, without the least understanding of any of the mechanics of how that would happen, let alone a useful understanding of who would benefit and who would be devastated by those policies. They are in love with campaign propaganda with no clue about reality. None. Ask them about the Taylor Rule – I dare you. Then ask them how it might effect their daily life.
We have spent decades telling people how smart and educated they are when in reality they are simply well indoctrinated with propaganda and have little to no knowledge of reality – and no desire to acquire that knowledge.
Fortunately we still have people who know history, can apply math and have moral and intellectual standards not tied to popular media. These people still have context around what is happening – and as such are refusing to be swept away by the zeitgeist.
Anyone who knows history, can apply math and understands how the government currently functions also understands there is a social, political and economic reckoning in the foreseeable future. For those indulging in the zeitgeist it will be a shock.
It need not be – but sometimes societies just collectively go insane.
On the domestic front, At Trump’s direction, cabinet heads are overseeing a historic slowdown and rollback of intrusive regulations. Business confidence and consumer confidence are surging as a result. A Democrat administration would never take this direction. It’s doubtful whether any of the other Republican candidates from 2016 would have, either.
The days of regulation through litigation are over. We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress. Additionally, gone are the days of routinely paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to these groups with which we swiftly settle.
“The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.” ― Carson McCullers
Some smart people have drawn parallels between our current global society and culture and the culture and society the world knew in the years leading up to World War I. On the surface those comparisons appear preposterous – but if one looks a little deeper then perhaps the critical traits are very similar. The primary trait that we appear to have in common with 105 years ago is the belief that the world dynamic and organization is static. Now – again – on the surface that assertion appears preposterous. Look a little deeper and it is perhaps not preposterous at all.
One can easily argue that the Trump people and the Sanders people are interested in burning it all down. However if one was to listen to what they actually proclaim then they are less interested in burning it down than they are in cherry-picking events, policies and social dynamics from the past. Furthermore they are predicating this wish list of cherry picked items on a perpetual continuation of the current system.
The differences in Trump and Sanders culture are really not about changing the fundamental system but more about which cherry picked items from the past get included on this wish list. Beyond even that the cherry picked items are often derived from a fictional past created to conform to an ideological and political imperative. The wish list has little to do with what really happened in the past and nothing at all to do with cultural, economic and political context around these supposed events. Both the Trump and Sanders people to a large degree believe that sheer government power can create a fictional past that they wish to reside in today.
Sometimes societies just collectively go insane. However it is a strain of insanity that we have known before.
In a very real way the Trump and Sanders people are fighting against change. Perhaps more specifically they are fighting against the unknown that is an inherent component of change.
Socialist in 1912 Europe were ostensibly fighting for change – but were they really? Socialism was derived as a response, and successor, to a specific government-economic-cultural model. Once that specific government-economic-cultural model ceased to exist the socialist argument also ceased to exist. In order to perpetuate the socialist argument the socialist have had to create fictional straw men to argue against – because the pro-socialist argument simply ceases to exist when the target of its’ argument also ceases to exist. Socialist always become fully invested in a static system – having to create new fictions and new straw men in order to adapt to change and make your ideas appear appealing is strenuous work. When the pre-existing system utterly melted down from 1917 to 1919 the only socialist capable of taking advantage of that meltdown were Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin and Trotsky succeeded due to their willingness to kill anyone with an alternate idea and by creating fiction on the level that Orwell wrote so eloquently of in ‘Animal Farm.’
Socialism is predicated on opposing a specific system – and if that system does not exist then a fictional opposition system must be created in order that socialism not appear as absurd as it actually is. For the socialist, Franz-Josef must always be on the throne and if he is not then his straw man must be created.
To summarize, change is the lethal enemy of socialism.
The Trump people often seem to be equally as wedded to cherry picking the past. The newsflash here is that Trump is not Reagan and this is not the 1980’s – but quite a few people seem to have predicated their view of the world on Trump being Reagan and this still being the 1980’s.
The world is changing and that change is quite possibly going to be on a similar scale as 1914-1919. Demographics, debt and the human yearning for power and wealth drives the change. These three things are intertwined with each other. To a large degree we in the United States are oblivious to the change and how these things are connected.
These three things are not secrets but the popular culture in the United States has relegated them to the category of not important – mostly because they do not fit the narrative that popular culture desires to be true. Four articles from just this weekend’s news:
“Reid’s basic contention is this: The dominance of the fiat currency system since Richard Nixon decoupled gold from the dollar in 1971 “is inherently unstable and prone to high inflation,” and an offsetting disinflationary shock that kept it afloat since 1980 is now slowly reversing.
If that’s the case, Reid says the fiat currency system — a term which describes any currency whose value is backed by the government that issued it, rather than by a commodity like gold or silver — could be “seriously tested” over the next decade.”
“Despite the massive injection of liquidity, he knows that he can not disguise political risks such as the secessionist coup in Catalonia. The Ibex reflects this, making it clear that the European Central Bank does not print prosperity, it only puts a floor to valuations.”
“However, one problem of particular importance – at least in places like Europe and the Americas – is a rapidly aging population. As the population shifts grayer, potential consequences include higher dependency ratios, rising healthcare costs, and shifting economies and cities.”
From “What Now?” by James Kunstler:
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been a giant gasoline bomb waiting to explode for decades. It occupies one of the geographically least hospitable corners of the earth. Its existence as a modern (cough cough) state relies strictly on the reserves of oil discovered as recently as the late 1930s, that is, within the lifetime of people still reading this blog. The oil supply is in steep decline, and so, of course, is the stability of the kingdom.
Politically, it’s a super-medieval operation, an absolute monarchy tied to a severe religious order with the law floating precariously between the two, and old-fashioned customs such as the public beheading of criminals (for misdeeds such as “adultery,” “atheism,” and “sorcery”). The Saud clan has controlled the throne all these years, and its grip on power is slipping as the country itself slips into the prospective next era of its history, minus the endless gusher of oil that has made its existence possible — hence, a true existential crisis without the usual pseudo-intellectual bullshit.”
Of course on top of all of this is the global debt. Global debt now approached 360% of global GDP (see attached chart) – debt accumulated by the same constituencies that also have aging demographics. Let that sink in. Paying that debt back or defaulting on that debt is a requirement – a requirement that does not fit the narrative of either the Trump or the Sanders people. The demographics-debt conundrum is driving the change that both the Trump and Sanders people violently oppose. Just a note – debt and demographics are infinitely more powerful than any political system or fantasies that our popular culture embraces. Our collective insanity is the compulsion to embrace and predicate our lives on the ephemeral when that ephemeral has a limited shelf life with the expiration date in clear sight.
The world has elected to adopt an unsustainable monetary policy that has created unprecedented debt – and elected to do that at a time when the demographics for the people who have consumed that debt are such that repaying that debt would be most damaging and unpopular. Change is barreling down the highway at us and we have decided to have a picnic in the middle of the road.
Beyond even that – the linchpin in the global monetary system is the political stability of the Gulf States and most importantly of Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia were to turn away from the petrodollar it is then entirely likely that the whole house of cards as we have known it will come down.
Everything we know in terms of government services is likely to change. By change, I mean to go away. The welfare state is dying due to debt-demographics and having predicated its’ continued financialization on the House of Saud. No matter how many North Africans that Europe imports or Central Americans that the United States imports it will not be enough to change the fundamental demographics – but it does change the fundamental culture. China and Japan are not even trying to import younger people in order to salvage their welfare states – unlike Europe and the United States, Asia appears simply willing to take the pain. Global monetary policy has created a debt trap in order that the shelf life of our fantasy narratives may be extended – a debt trap dependent on the Saudi’s to boot. The debt trap will eventually spark a liquidity crisis that will lead to a general economic crisis. As I said above, it is a strain of insanity that we have known before. When interest rates rise, as must inevitably happen someday, the fantasy narratives will come to an end for all but the most deluded.
Those of us who recognize this demographics-debt-monetary policy-Saudi situation is driving the change that will come, we have more interest in determining what comes next than arguing violently over what are ephemeral issues, excepting circumstances where the ephemeral issues will determine what comes next. In short – the more freedom and liberty then the more fluidly and adeptly we will be able to adapt to the coming change. This is why enhanced government control – such as socialism – will cause more pain as the changes occur. In fact, government control can only extend the pain. The last thing we will need is government trying to ‘fix this’ or make it ‘fair.’ That is an invitation to experience the next Lenin and Trotsky.
I began this article with a quote from Carson McCullers, “The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.” A coalescing is beginning to occur among those who acquiesce to the reality of the coming change. While it may sometimes appear that we stand alone, every day more and more people from across the political spectrums who have maintained that ability to recognize fictional narratives for what they are point out the reality to come.