Monday, February 22, 2010

Reflecting on the Dark Side

I just spent some time looking over previous posts while thinking about the articles I have been reading over the past few days. If there is a recurring theme it is this; change, actual deep change, is beginning to occur.

Several folks have written that change is a process, and I agree. From their view deep, profound, likely to be transformational, change is underway and has been for a few years. Our ability to cope with change is being challenged like never before. The Tea Partiers don't like it. The progressives don't either. We have gridlock on Capitol Hill as the political elite try to manage the change to their own advantage.

Why is everyone having so much difficulty? Because Business As Usual (BAU) is slowly unwinding in front of our very eyes. A country built on the notion of the supremacy of the individual is trying to find its balance in a globalized world that is interconnected on many levels. We have to find a way to ensure that the minority are not at the mercy of the tyranny of the majority, yet to do so will have implications our Founding Fathers never imagined.

China owns a lot of our debt and controls many rare earth elements that make the technology of today, and tomorrow, possible. How they choose to manage those elements affects us. Our financial markets are still dealing in unregulated products that may yet sink our economy, with global fallout. Our economy seems inclined to recover, provided oil's price doesn't rise too high, and with the tacit understanding that an increase in jobs is a long way off. Deficit spending and government borrowing are rising as a proportion of our GDP. I have seen 60% quoted, with warnings that 80% is likely achievable, at which point we are, for all practical purposes, insolvent. How then do we finance defense, healthcare, welfare, Social Security, and all the other social programs we have deemed important? Not to mention the salaries of the bureaucrats and military who run the programs and defend our shores? If the Greatest Consumer Society on Earth fails to rebound, what happens to everyone else? Will they notice, let alone care?

The European Union is facing its own financial quagmire courtesy of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain), aided and abetted by the questionable actions of Goldman Sachs in the case of Greece. The Euro is dropping, the dollar is rising, and the price of oil is increasing again. Iran is pushing Israel's buttons by rattling the nuclear saber with predictable results. America is trying to unhook itself from Iraq, while pounding Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan. Despite the noise generated by "Climate-gate" the fundamental science underpinning global climate change remains unchallenged, and the solutions are yet to be developed because no one wants to blink first.

Through it all, everyone is grasping onto the familiar, safe and comfortable because instinctively they know the party is coming to an end. The future is in a haze that they can't see through so it scares the bejesus out of them, and me. There is so much that needs to be done to ensure a stable society in the future and so little time and precious few resources. We can get through this together if we remember that we all share this space, but right now it feels like many are running for the exits or at least to the nearest available pundit with a snarky comment to make. I don't think snarkiness is going to help. Neither will flying planes into government office buildings, yet at the moment there seems to be little else that people see as options. Are they wrong?

Tomorrow I'll consider the options.

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