3.1. Financialization and total corruption of the elites
3.2. Globalization and supranational institutions
3.3. The great convergence 3.3.1. Population explosion 3.3.2. The trap of debt and economic corruption 3.3.3. Peak energy and resources 3.3.4. Side-effects of Modernity 3.3.5. Societal atomization & loss of societal cohesion
3.4. A collapsing Modernity
3.5. A painful transition
3.5.1. Facing a new economic reality 220.127.116.11. The population time bomb 18.104.22.168. Making do with the available (peak resources) 22.214.171.124. Integrating the cost to fight climate change 126.96.36.199. Integrating the cost of land, water, and air poisoning 188.8.131.52. Humanity in necessity of healthier food
3.5.2. Adapting the political decision making process to the new reality 184.108.40.206. Faced with the urgency for answers democracy takes 2nd stage 220.127.116.11. Impossible solutions to the intractable problems inherited from modernity
3.5.3. A cultural shift 18.104.22.168. The urge for societal cohesion grows exponentially 22.214.171.124. Societal fragmentation and atomization 126.96.36.199. Individuals search for sense and the comfort of belonging 188.8.131.52. Competition between worldviews for eyeballs 184.108.40.206. Visual art in search of meaning and societal sense
3.5.4. A painful transition 220.127.116.11. Rebalancing of economic might in the new “economy-world” 18.104.22.168. Radical reshaping of the economic working of societies 22.214.171.124. World population peaks then dwindles and stabilizes 126.96.36.199. Emergence of the building blocks of the future worldview 188.8.131.52. Elimination of societies that can't adapt to the coming changes 184.108.40.206. Out of decadence are popping sprouts of an Artistic Renewal
To limit the size of my postings the total content of this section about Late-Modernity is given in 4 or 5 installments. The table of content relating to the present post is given in purple. ___________
220.127.116.11. Making do with the available (peak resources)
Western industrialization has benefited from its early adoption in the form of 'first come first served' very cheap oil that has powered its build-up and also very cheap raw-materials. Prices were very cheap for the good reason that:
the easiest to extract oil and materials were taken first. This implies that after having exploited 'the low laying fruits' the cost of further extraction grew higher. The oil that was ready to burst out of the ground has mostly been pumped out at nearly no cost. The next step was to drill deeper and when that did not provide any longer with sufficient discoveries of new reserves searches began in the sea where the same process from shallow waters to very deep wells is observed with increasing risks of extreme catastrophes as was demonstrated, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico. And when extraction from sea wells was thought to be insufficient to cover the increasing demand oil companies recoursed to unconventional sources such as tar-sands, fracking and so on that impose not only very high extraction costs but also a high price in the form of environmental degradation.
until very recently the number of competitors for resources was quite limited and those competitors were furthermore extracting the resources they needed under the bind of colonial or post-colonial duress which supplied them with the right economic conditions to minimize their costs.
In sum because the exhaustion of 'low laying fruits' and the multiplication of competitors the extraction of energy and other raw materials is on a trajectory of perpetually increasing costs that impacts the final prices of commodities which in turn puts the brakes on consumption which in turn puts the economy in the bind of recession. This mechanism is bringing a growing number of economists to believe that when the prices of energy and other raw materials reach a certain threshold they provoke economic indigestion in the form of recession.
The reading of the two graphs here above clearly show that the World Energy Footprint till 2000 was due almost exclusively to the activity of the Northern countries that have been serving themselves with the lowest laying fruits and the cheap prices coming with such. Now that the rest of the world is entering the industrial race it has to pay dearly for more difficult to reach energy and material resources. Nobody is asking the west to compensate the rest of the world for having plucked the 'low laying fruits' for its exclusive benefit but it is assumed that the worldwide re-adjustments, needed because of reaching this energetic and materials bottleneck, have to be initiated by the Northern countries while the South is allowed to develop further.
What this means is that Northern countries should be reducing their input of energetic and material resources while the South is allowed to increase its own input. But I'm afraid that this assumption will be turned upside down in further discourses and actions and that the market will be the decider of last instance thus again eventually favoring the North. When individuals are confronted with this reality their response generally falls in one of the following patterns:
the first group largely composed of those who informed the world about the problem think that the only viable response is for humanity: - first to adopt a lower footprint life-style that is requiring less resources - secondly to share the benefits of available resources more or less equally among all nations which implies a large reduction of their use in the North while the South is allowed to climb the ladder of development by using more of them.
the second group is mostly composed of believers in the infallibility of science. The nature of their belief is identical to a religious belief. Science is their new religion or what is otherwise called scientism. This second group started by denigrating the problem the first group initially warned about and in later stages when the reality of the problem appeared undeniable they recoursed to religious belief to magically make disappear a reality that frightens them. But that reality does not disappear and the longer we wait to answer the problem the deeper the problem becomes for the good reason that we'll have so much less time to find alternatives of a scientific nature and of a lifestyle nature.
Scientism is assuredly no solution. The problem does not not disappear as per religious magic. The scarcity of resources is real and starting to dent the potential for growth and even projecting the real possibility of future economic collapse. We are indeed confronted with a double bind:
the peaking of energy resources means that the discoveries of new oil reserves is not compensating for the increase in the world's energy use and a maximum amount of extraction is thus being reached while the world's consumption continues to grow because of globalization.
because we are ever reaching for farther away fruits (oil in this case) we need to pay a constantly higher energetic input to extract one unit of energy. This is called the EROI or “Energy Return on Energy Invested”. Comes a time when the energy invested becomes greater than the energy extracted. But because the energy invested is realized through the entire economic structure it fails to add-up in our consciousness at the moment it passes that threshold. This means that at the level of the world economy we end up extracting a smaller quantity of oil than what we have to input for its extraction. The day our consciousness awakens to the fact, that we invest more energy than we collect, the process collapses simply because nobody wants consciously to toil for a negative outcome. In the meantime we'll have squandered a lot of energy maintaining a level of material life that was simply not sustainable. But we'll only understand this after having squandered our resources for too long.
However the angle at which we observe the availability of resources one fact unmistakably jumps to the fore. The world will be consuming shrinking quantities of resources in the future for a growing population. That means that on a per capita basis the retreat will be very significant which also implies that the shrinking of Western per capita consumption will be even more significant. This is not going to go down without much stress.
The thousand dollar question is how are nations going to handle such rarity of resources. Are they going to fight over resources? An astute observer would answer that this is what they are already doing today. Irak, Libya anyone? But till where and when the conflict escalates before international bargaining takes over is anyone's guess.
18.104.22.168. Integrating the cost to fight climate change
US insurance companies are the first to feel the pinch of climate change. They observe that the annual number of extraordinary weather events is increasing very fast provoking a big increase in the compensations these companies have to finance annually. This is assuredly a drag on their accountancies taking place in the present. They forecast further annual increases in the years to come that they account for by increasing the premium their customers have to disburse annually. Now the question arising here is that with over 90% of the population suffering a net reduction of their incomes how far can insurance companies go in increasing their premium before their customers start to cancel their insurance policies and take the risk of not being insured at all. Insurance companies understand that they are on a financial collision course caused by climate change. But some on the right of the political spectrum are rejecting the idea that climate change even happens. Others, the less ideologically inclined, recognize that climate change happens but deny that it is man made.
When ideology and politics start to trump science we are in deep trouble! As John Huntsman, republican candidate in the 2012 primaries of his party, recognizes 99% of all climatologists agree that we are in a period of climate change that is primarily caused by human activities. Now that 1% of those scientists are expressing doubts is not significant by any means and can, at least partially, be understood as the result of 'scientific sponsoring' by the industries that stand to be penalized by future political initiatives to counter the emission of CO2 in the atmosphere. What scientists tell us, in their near unanimity, is that without immediate drastic measures to curb the world emissions of CO2 our planet is going to enter in an accelerating cycle of climate convulsions:
increase of the average world temperatures
accelerating weather instability causing those extreme weather events that insurance companies fear.
prolonged droughts in some areas that are going to impact agricultural production and cause mass migrations
melting of glaciers and the ice caps at the poles that is going to increase the levels of sea water and submerge low areas where a big chunk of the world population is living this potentially includes metropolises like Shanghai, Tianjin, New York, Miami and so on.
Scientists inform us of a catastrophe in the making. How should we react? First let's observe that the only ones who should have a voice in analyzing and prognosticating what this field has in store should be the scientists. Nobody else has the necessary technical knowledge to express a valid opinion so the infantile discussions should end. Now seen that 99% of the world community of climatologists agrees that climate change is a man made phenomenon that is going to cause huge climate disruptions we should take a pause and think about what should be done to curb the consequences of those coming changes. It's not only our generation of individuals that will suffer the consequences here. Its the human species as a whole that is going to suffer and principally the generations coming after us. It is an irrational gesture of pure irresponsibility to refuse action immediately.
Climate change is assuredly going to impact dramatically the transition to what comes after modernity with huge costs that are not yet accounted for:
migrations towards the richer areas which will need more financial means to absorb the costs of living of those displaced populations and all this happening in a time of budgetary contraction. The policies intended to stop the entry of immigrants are never going to be successful. At best such policies will limit their entrance but this will generate slums at the borders that soon transform in spaces without any control that will serve as the platform for all kind of illegal activities over the border in the countries deciding to close themselves. Cynic Europe is letting them drown in the Mediterranean but the cost of shaping such an image of itself is imposing a radical rethinking.
volatility in agricultural prices with huge increases in food products that will decrease the levels of societal cohesion. All that is going to increase the risks of popular anger and social instability. The Arab season of popular anger augurs of what is in store for the rest of the world and the Occupy movement that is waiting in the whole North to explode on the street gives us an initial taste of what is in store...
the increase of extreme weather conditions is going to impact not only insurance companies but also the states that will feel obliged to take over the compensation responsibility of insurance companies in sectors that become too risky for the private sector. But the resistance of states to take over such responsibility will also cause, by necessity, their citizens to adapt their ways by, for example, abandoning beach houses and low laying areas and moving to safer higher grounds.
observing its accrued economic costs the opposition to the idea of climate change will slowly wither away and the world will come to its senses which means two kind of policies will gradually be implemented: voluntary and fiscally encouraged behavioral changes by the individuals and the corporate world as well as research & development of new ways of doing things (energy, transportation, heating, agriculture, industry).
increasing instability caused by climate change is motivating always larger segments of the population to voluntarily adopt a more frugal life style and a more locally centered way of living that is going to impact negatively the demand for commodities and equipments produced by the large multinational companies while eventually fostering new local activities. We can thus assume that large Multinationals will resist this move by all means.
22.214.171.124. Integrating the cost of land, water, and air poisoning
The health deterioration caused by a combination of chemical pollution of water, air, and the products of the industrial-agriculture complex are inflicting upon late modern societies an inflation of health care costs that is simply unsustainable. Heath care systems are already on the verge of collapsing and the solutions envisaged until today are not going to ameliorate the heath conditions of the citizens of late modern societies. What is needed is a radical rethinking of health care from treating symptoms to attacking the causes of illness. A case in point is obesity and diabetes. A combination of air pollution and unhealthy industrial foods is known to be the cause of those chronic illnesses. So the solution is not to inject insulin for the rest of the patients lives but to attack the problem at its root by supplying healthy food and eliminating the sources of air pollution. Existing patients should then be taken away from insulin supplied by the pharmaceutical industry and put through a controlled and rigorous dieting or fasting (2). Again big capital will do everything to deride the available non-market solutions.
Pollution is caused by citizens and by corporations. The answer for citizens lays in changing their lifestyle. For the corporations the answer is to change their production and transportation systems. In both cases a voluntary approach is insufficient. Most often corporations will resist change because of the necessary investments they would have to consent. So it is necessary for societies to impulse programs combining education, information by the media, fiscal incentive policies and regulation that will encourage and complement a voluntary approach.
126.96.36.199. Humanity in necessity of healthier food
A good health is the first and necessary condition to ensure the individual atoms of societies are creative, competitive, strong and enthusiastic stakeholders in their society. Industrialization has undoubtedly succeeded to expand drastically the life expectancy of the citizens of those countries that passed successfully through its process. This was mainly realized through simple policies procuring clean drinkable water through public distribution via pipes to people's homes. The introduction of in-house water plumbing and bathrooms expanded on that initial gain. But a negative trend emerged in later modern Northern countries with expanding chronic conditions: obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and heart conditions, stress, sleep disorders and psychic troubles. The US seems to be the most affected by this late modern trend that is observable in all Northern countries and even already in emerging countries like China.
The differentiation in the degree countries are affected by this trend is largely related to state policies. Take, for example, the US. The country started to heavily subsidizing corn producers which consequently distorted the market price mechanism and the market price for corn prices stay thus aberrantly low till today. This in turn attracted different industrial sectors to use corn as their raw material and corn can be found in the production process of an incredible number of products. Today 40% of all corn in the US is used to produce bio-ethanol which is directly responsible for increasing agricultural prices. The food industry is one of those sectors that recoursed to the transformation of corn to process multiple products and corn has become so prevalent in this industry that it is difficult today to find an industrial food product manufactured in the US that does not contain one or multiple corn extracts. One of the most hilarious corn stories relates to sweets. Sugar was first presented as the cause of multiple health related conditions and more particularly as the primary cause of obesity. This created a market for sugar derivatives that were processed from corn and people who were searching to fight weight became docile customers. But recent comparative studies between the effects of sugar and those synthetic derivatives from corn indicate that those derivatives are in reality the big culprits of the epidemic of weight gain responsible for obesity and not sugar as was touted.
One should imagine that learning about those scientific conclusions people would abandon saccharose, fructose, and other corn sweet derivatives, as well as any industrial food containing such derivatives. But no this is not what happens. The corn agro-industry is powerful. It countered those scientific studies by redoubling its PR campaigns with media advertisements in favor of corn sweet derivatives and, oh miracle, the media ignored relaying the conclusions of those scientific studies to the public. This story is reminiscent of the fight between scientists and the tobacco industry in the past. It took decades to bring the tobacco industry down and when it lost in US courts it compensated for that loss by redoubling its sales efforts in the emerging economies with the help of the US Foreign Relations apparatus. So there is hope that the unhealthy corn sweet derivatives will disappear from people's diet but it will take a lot more studies confirming the conclusions of these first studies and much money to convince the population and the courts of their unhealthiness.
With the push for extreme market massification immediately after the second world war companies concentrated through takeovers and self growth. The resulting big companies offered industrially produced food products that till then had been produced locally by the people themselves or by small local companies. US households who in general till then had a sufficient income with only one breadwinner to ensure that the family had a decent life-style came under economic stress when citizens were bombarded with advertisements for ever newer commodities.
Many households now needed the income of two breadwinners. Constrained by time, tired after a days' work, families switched from organically produced vegetables and meat that they processed themselves into food to a fast way of eating industrialized offerings at home and in restaurants. It did not take long to see the effects of this transition to industrial food products. The last statistic I came upon shows that in 2010 a full 25% of all US kids are victim of chromic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, asthma and other (3). Industrial food products are undoubtedly one of the biggest culprits of that sad state of affairs. They are not the only ones. Air pollution is another one. Perhaps 10 or 20 years later we will learn that cell phone and wave radiation are responsible for another ailment that we perhaps know nothing about today but the story about the bees' disappearance around the world due to such radiation should make us think preemptively about the possible damage that could be soon unanimously confirmed by scientists. In the meantime we should give absolutely no credence to those scientists who are on the pay-check of big corporations and deny the result of studies the large majority of scientists agrees upon as for example those who deny the existence of climate change.
Late modernity offers a caricature like image of societies whose atoms are rushing madly after material possessions till they drop and who in the process contract obesity and chronic sicknesses. It is not difficult to divine how this is going to be visually represented after modernity? A caricature indeed!
3.5.2. Adapting the political decision making process to the new reality
The urgent need for answers to the rebalancing of economic might that is operating on a global scale is particularly evident in Northern countries where we are witnessing political paralysis and the mounting anger of the street. But to the consternation of all it is as if the political elites refuse to recognize the reality of the new level playing field that is shaping in late modernity as a result of the convergence of:
the deep indebtedness of Northern countries that have nowhere to go but in a decade or two of financial deleveraging.
the emergence under globalization of third world countries as the world's locomotives of economic growth.
the peaking of energy and other raw material resources that brings price volatility and increasingly biting costs.
global warming is entering humanity in a new geological era that climatologists call the anthropocene when the global scale climate warming unleashed produces ripple effects on sea levels, weather, agriculture, health and so on.
the accelerating disappearance of living species that scientists call the 6th mass extinction that our earth ever witnessed is reducing the sustainability of life systems.
the 'ballooning health caricature' of modernity is ending in the obesity and chronic sickness of its individual atoms.
the fragmentation of modern societies into islands of beliefs that disintegrate in atomization causing a re-tribalization of the individual atoms.
As I already wrote there is no escaping this great convergence of world-changing factors. The political drama of late modernity is the abject failure of imagination in the minds of Northern political elites. They are stuck in the past and can't seemingly think about anything else than the solutions and practices that they applied along the last two centuries. But the reality is that times have changed. We are in another economic area. The problem, I believe, is that for two centuries unending economic growth seemed to be the rule. So people internalized that belief and time passing it became as hard as a rock and thus muted into an insidious ideology that is very difficult to get away from. There is indeed that hope thing which always projects a newer illusion that is difficult to discard for what it really is. Obama's change mantra was such an illusion powered by hope but his first term's actions deflated the illusion freeing the crude reality of an empty man driven by vanity. Western political elites visibly don't understand that the economic growth, that appeared in GDP figures during the last thirty years in their countries, was obtained exclusively at the price of credit.
In reality there was no economic growth at all. The growth appearing in economic statistics these last thirty years only measured the size, in percentage of GDP, of future wealth extraction that the generation of that time imposed on its children and grand-children for the satisfaction of its own egotistic grabbing of always more insignificant stuff. One can evidently argue that the great majority of the people were not conscientious about what was going on and that in reality it was imposed on them by a bunch of greedy financiers and politicians but the fact remains that we are all voluntary participants in stealing our children and grand-children's means of subsistence.
The absence of 'the men of societal knowledge' who had been lost in an earlier phase of modernity is what defacto permitted such an aberration to take place. But whatever the 'why things are what they are' the citizens of Northern countries have now to come back to their senses. There are those who are responsible for creating the present mess while enriching themselves like pigs. Those should be prosecuted and the wrath of societal justice should prevail. Not prosecuting is akin to encourage this debauchery to expand further.
The financial industry incrementally increased its capture of GDP. See note 4
From a societal perspective this capture of ever larger chunks of the benefits of a nation's activity by financial services is inadmissible and has to be stopped once and for all now in order to allow sprouting grains of creativity to emerge. Societies need responsible acting adults who will take in charge the necessary repairs to the societal train and its pulling back on its rails. The pigs will resist this with all the power of their often illegally amassed wealth but in the end the anger of the street is going to prevail and real statesmen will then emerge who will direct the repairing and hauling of the societal train back on its rails and then steer it on a life sustainable path.
This is the optimist in me who speaks here. But hey if we don't dream it we surely never will live it. Repairing the train implies first and foremost bringing it back to economic health. This can't possibly be realized according to past tricks and recipes. We have to admit and consider the implications of the fact that Northern late modern societies are not going to rush again on a path of economic growth. This is indeed totally out of the question because it is simply not a life sustainable proposition and the sooner we come to recognize this the better we'll be able to cure our present societal sickness.
That being said we have to recognize that in the absence of financial shenanigans and the looting of our children's economic future the only possible path to a life sustainable economy resides in the production of real goods that have a societally positive impact while also satisfying the real needs of the individual atoms. Keynesian policies will not help us any longer reach such a target. The money is not available any longer and in any case Keynesian policies were not meant to do this. Their objective is to bring back a country on the road of economic growth but as we saw this is out of the question in the future of late modern societies so such policies should be recognized for what they are and abandoned. The same can be said of any of the economic theories of the past. They all were devised to encourage economic growth without any consideration for their negative societal impacts and they should thus all be abandoned.
In other words we have to abandon past economic certainties and come back to common sense solutions adapted to changing times. New economic theories shall again find the space to flourish in the future after late modern economies are firmly set on a path of life sustainability. In the meantime we have to be pragmatic and feel the stones with our toes while bare feet we pass the river towards its life sustainable bank. As I see it a future life sustainable economic policy should be based on ideas loosely adapted from the following principles(5):
the elimination of past debts that were contracted to finance an economically unsustainable life path. Such a complete deleveraging can take multiple forms (pay-back or forgiveness and all the paths in between). This idea of completely eliminating past debts will be contested by many who will argue that it is akin to throwing away the baby with the bathwater and it is indeed such. But we should add that the baby is already dead so we have to come to terms with that fact and dispose of its corpse, with due respect for sure, but as fast as we can. I would only point out the necessity to operate this in the shortest of time-frames in order to pass as fast as can be to the economic re-construction phase that follows which must be based on (6):
the transformation of our industrial-agriculture into more of a gardening type activity that employs a lot more hands seconded by instruments powered with renewable energy - a lot less fossil fuel based energy, fertilizers, pesticides - and is based on the natural organic growth of plants and animals supplemented with organic and locally produced supplements such as compost, grass and surplus cereals. The productions of such a kind of agriculture should be sold locally to avoid transportation costs, energy inputs, and guarantee the supply of fresh health enhancing products. Only what can't be produced locally should be procured from afar. The market structure that best corresponds to such an ecological agriculture could be inspired by the early city stage model of development of the late Middle-ages in Europe (7) : local market (diameter 20-30 km), larger district market (diameter 40-100 km) and regional fairs. This also will be contested as being an intellectual fantasy. But I insist that our future will be whatever but not what is our present. And I believe that continuing to handle the production of the future according to the rules of the past and the present only guarantees an impossible future that means a future that is non-sustainable for life. What I offer here has to be understood as merely an illustration of one of the many possible futures. I just try to envisage a realist projection of something that I believe is attainable.
a market along the lines of the early city stage model of development would ideally be served by many of the new technologies that emerged in recent years. The World Wide Web lets us exchange ideas, processes, and recipes of any kind. In this context it should be of the utmost societal help that we recognized the importance of the Open Model (open source software, open scientific research, open conception and development) that could multiply the power of those exchanges and empower local collectivities to fabricate products incorporating the most advanced technologies thus satisfying a real societal necessity. An example that comes to mind that illustrates the helpfulness of the Open Model could combine:
'open conception' powered by open-source software that gets expanded functions with the help of open-source 'extensions' giving access to blueprints of all kinds of practical applications like an Open Electric vehicle or whatever machine for agricultural use or for housing or a 3D printer and so on
'open manufacturing' could be partly realized using 3D printers applying layer after layer of a powder material to form any component according to the blueprints offered through the Open-Conception Model. The Open Model can be expanded to all aspects relating to life including health. In this model the knowledge that sits in the minds of individuals, instead of being exchanged against a monthly salary paid by big corporations, could be compensated in multiple forms on the 'local area market'. One example of such a remuneration could be the payment of a given amount through a 'local area currency' that could then or be exchanged for another currency of its beneficiary's choice, or directly used to purchase a product fabricated in the 'local area market'.
the 'early city stage market model' plus the application of the 'Open Conception and Manufacturing Model' plus exchanges using 'local area currency' could balance harmoniously withing 'district' areas. But the long haul exchanges would have to be balanced financially between large 'federations of districts' representing natural geographic entities like for example the EU, North America, South America, Africa, North East Asia, South Asia and so on. Large federations of districts would have their own monetary unit, 'federation area currency', as resulting from the market balancing of “local area currencies” within their territory. So the value of exchanges could be market balanced at each level of the 'early city stage market model'.
The transition to after-modernity will be fraught with much uncertainty:
the ever increasing weight of the great convergence upon the production of our daily lives.
an absence of understanding by Northern political elites of what the great convergence really entails and their utter lack of imagination in devising valid paths forward
the political class is increasingly being perceived as being illegitimate in the eyes of the street which implies that the street is bound to dislodge it one day from its perch in power.
democracy being bought by the pigs the team that was dislodged by the street will be succeeded by another one paid that will be paid to be elected. After a few rounds of changing chairs the democratic system itself will be perceived as illegitimate. I think we are not that far today from such a moment.
all those factors motivate growing numbers of individuals to turn their backs to the system of their countries in order to start building the conditions of their possible survival. These are largely individual initiatives that soon appear to their promoters as if something was lacking and thus the need for connection with similar individuals and essays at building initial societal building blocks. Some of those initiatives are more advanced than others. The Transition movement, to my knowledge, is the most internationalized. Starting in Devon England it now has branches in many Western countries.
I personally think that this transition period is going to be very chaotic. Social actions that start peacefully, given the cold shoulder by the political elite, soon feel they need to be acting more like insurrection movements. Outcomes will vary from country to country. The population of Island, for one, choose to refuse paying its state's debts arguing that those were contracted illegally. Its judicial system put the responsible parties it could put its hands on in jail where they belong. How are the populations of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Belgium and other going to be acting? Let's just say that they find themselves on a path that gets more slippery each passing day due to the inability from the political elite at the helm of Europe to come up with valid and workable solutions.
The Euro-Zone had a total cumulated debt representing 76% of its cumulated GDP in 2011. Such a level of debt is manifestly not the end of the world and could easily be managed if the center took over all debts of the nations composing the Euro-Zone as well as their fiscal powers or at least part of it. But the absence of true statesmen has aggravated the populations of the Euro-Zone countries that are now becoming increasingly averse to the Euro project itself. It seems that the Euro-Zone political elites have trapped themselves in a position from where any decisions they take will now provoke a disaster. So we have to expect popular reactions from the street among the member states that could go in various directions. In the US the anger against the political elites and the financial world is inevitably going to conclude with the de-legitimization of democracy and the increasing risk of take over by the 'institutions of power' (police, defense).
It looks like the de-legitimization of the institutions of democracy is directly followed by the abandonment of the existing political system altogether. The citizens are indeed turning their backs to the system and trying to find new ways towards a possible economic re-construction phase leading to a future life sustainable economy. Here above I gave my five cents contribution to such a possible economic construction. Curing the present economic sickness of our societal train is one of the two legs that will move us forward. The second leg has to address the sickness of fragmentation and atomization that is affecting Northern societies' societal cohesion and their future ability to reproduce. In practice this has to be undertaken simultaneously with the cure of the economic sickness. It's only for reasons of writing clarity that I had to start with the one or the other of those actions.
Societal reproduction is paramount because, as I wrote earlier, "for whatever reason a society fails to reproduce itself the individual atoms soon can't sustain their own reproduction". Societal cohesion is what ensures that all atoms are willingly and enthusiastically working in unison towards the goal of their society's reproduction. A society can face economic difficulties but if it is societally cohesive it will overcome those difficulties. If the societal cohesion of that same society were to be week it would experience difficulties to reproduce under economic hardship and if its societal cohesion were nonexistent or quasi nonexistent as is the case in most Northern countries in late modernity it would experience the biggest of difficulties to ensure its reproduction. This, I'm afraid, is what most Northern countries are going to experience in the coming years.
By now our societies did only take the first turns on the road zigzagging from the peak of prosperity to the valley of hardship. The question that arises is how is the street going to take the accumulation of hardships to come in the years ahead? The political world has already completely lost any semblance of legitimacy and is totally distrusted it could act in the societal good and in the good of the majority of the citizens. Are the hardships to come, at a given threshold, not going to boil the anger to the point of societal explosion or revolution?
The answers to those questions largely depend on the response Northern countries are going to give to the lack of societal cohesion caused by their atomization. it is indeed imperative for Northern countries to rebuild the necessary societal cohesion that will help them sail through the present difficulties in order to attain the banks of a life sustainable future. Failing to do so, I'm afraid, will lead the street to break up the institutions of those Northern societies that will then fall in a state of anarchy from where they would not be able to extricate themselves for a very long time to come if at all. It is thus imperative to think how to achieve such a titanesque task.
At this point let's refresh our thoughts. Societal cohesion is resulting from the sharing by the great majority of citizens of a common worldview. A worldview is a narrative elaborated by the men of knowledge of the time spread through visual signs realized by the artists for all to share. That narrative, or foundational story, is about "what is reality" and "how does the individual fit in that story". Western countries had at a time a strong Christian worldview that was shared by the great majority under the fear of being burned alive for any deviation. Individualism, private property, and the future rationalization by the academy of the reason of capital into the philosophy of rationalism never succeeded to gain worldview acceptance.
To gain worldview functionality the narrative has to be closed and projecting certainty. The projection of certainty is indeed what lets belief operate. Uncertainty evokes fear of the unknown or places where one is not sure one wants to venture but belief if it can eventually be motivated by fear, as under Christianity, will never put its faith in fear. Science and rationality tell us an open story that expects certainty far down in the future. So the rational project is in no position to command the adherence of belief. Because of this very reason Christianity was never swept to the dustbin and continued to exert its influence over the next centuries albeit at a decreasing rate of efficiency.
The societies of Europe and its geographic extensions in the US, Canada, Australia are stuck in a nomansland of a dilluted Christian worldview and a non existent modern worldview. This is a nomansland in the sense that it is societally non sustainable and the moment of truth is unfortunately at our doorsteps when the street's anger boils over tomorrow and in its furry it breaks down the institutions of modernity.
So here we are. Having no shared worldview any longer we have lost our most valuable societal tool at building societal cohesion and confronted with mounting economic and social hardships Western societies are on the verge of falling apart. To counter this trend power is:
solidifying control through systematically spying on all its citizens and controling the message of the media in order to manipulate citizens' perceptions.
militarizing its police forces to quell any popular reaction by force
expanding its infrastructures of societal isolation: prisons and camps.
So how can we build a societal worldview that offers a path towards a sustainable societal future that we could all share together? Let's remember that a worldview is the narrative given by the men of knowledge at a given time. But who are the men of knowledge in late modernity? We are indeed all left to fend for ourselves on the level playing field of the market for ideas where money to finance advertisement and Public Relation is the nerve of success. But money is in the hands of finance and big corporations that hate to see their privileges evaporate so they chose to bank on the status quo. The survival of society is not really on the books of finance and corporations so we are in need of another strategy than the competition for eyeballs on the marketplace for ideas.
The only viable strategy I'm aware of is the exchange of ideas among people thirsty for understanding our present condition. Such an exchange first helps to clarify our own ideas and secondly it enriches us with the input of others. All the participants at such exchanges come out of their experience enriched and thus better able to convince others in their own entourage. This has the perfect potential of a snowball let lose on a snowy slope. Our snowball is made of our exchanges with others thirsty for knowledge or understanding of our present condition and our snowy slope is the great convergence. But if the snowy slope is steep indeed our snowball is perhaps not heavy enough yet to start rolling... __________
1. Living Planet Report 2002. Published in June 2002 by WWF–World Wide Fund For Nature. “A country’s energy footprint represents biomass. These two calculations result in the area required to sustain its energy approximately the same area requirement per consumption. It encompasses four types of unit of energy consumed. energy: fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural Nuclear power is included in the energy gas), biomass (fuel wood and charcoal), footprint, and counted as being equivalent to nuclear, and hydro. fossil fuel per unit of energy, even though The footprint of fossil fuel combustion nuclear power stations do not produce CO2. is calculated as the area of forest that would Excluding nuclear power would reduce the be required to absorb the resulting carbon world energy footprint by less than 4 per dioxide (CO2) emissions, excluding the cent. The footprint of hydro power is the proportion that is absorbed by the oceans. area occupied by hydroelectric dams and The footprint of biomass fuel is calculated reservoirs. as the area of forest needed to grow the National and regional energy footprints are adjusted for the energy embodied in traded goods. This means that the energy used to make a product manufactured in one country but consumed in another is subtracted from the footprint of the producer-country and added to that of the consumer-country.”
2. Research at Newcastle University led by Professor Roy Taylor suggested type 2 diabetes can be reversed through an appropriate diet: "... type 2 diabetes is not inevitably progressive and life-long. We have demonstrated that in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 4 years or less, major weight loss returns insulin secretion to normal. It has been possible to work out the basic mechanisms which lead to type 2 diabetes. Too much fat within liver and pancreas prevents normal insulin action and prevents normal insulin secretion. Both defects are reversible by substantial weight loss. A crucial point is that individuals have different levels of tolerance of fat within liver and pancreas. Only when a person has more fat than they can cope with does type 2 diabetes develop. In other words, once a person crosses their personal fat threshold, type 2 diabetes develops. Once they successfully lose weight and go below their personal fat threshold, diabetes will disappear. " Check here for more information about this cure.
5. What I'm writing here is not a political manifesto so I don't pretend to give a complete package of solutions. I'll satisfy myself if this helps others think a little further and, for sure, I'm available for further exchanges of ideas...
6. This will be contested as being an intellectual fantasy. But I insist that our future will be whatever but not what is our present. And I believe that continuing to handle the production of the future according to the rules of the past and the present only guarantees a future that is non-sustainable for life. What I offer here has to be understood as merely an illustration of one path among other toward a possible future. I just tried to give a realist projection of something that I believe is attainable.