A World on the Razors Edge of Regress of Progress, Biting
Everywhere Ive been lately, from the cafe to the office to the
library to the mall, a certain crankiness has lingered in the air,
deafening yet unspoken. Its understandable. Uncertainty makes us
anxious, last year was full of it, and so the question on everyones
mind is: what kind of year is this going to be? Better, maybe, than
the last one?
What we are really asking is whether we are allowed to hope, at
lastwhich is a perfectly reasonable question. Hope is a dangerous
thing, because it can cause not just grief, hurt, and pain, but
guilt, regret, and shame.
So let us think together about this most human of questions can
we hope? How much, and how far, and for what? by discussing four
forces shaping the globe. Even if the answer is one we dont
particularly want to hear, at least in ascertaining the boundaries
of hope, as we wage our difficult daily struggles, there is a
certain peace to be found.
The first force is of course the economy. You will hear over and
over again this year, until you are sick of hearing itparticular
from American pundits and intellectuals the global economys
roaring!! Everythings just fine!! LOLof course, thats precisely the
mistake they made with their own country, saying everything was
just fine, while the middle class imploded, life expectancy went
into reverse, and hey presto, Trump. An economy isnt just GDPits
how well peoples lives are lived, or not. And the unfortunate truth
is that inequality is skyrocketing, incomes are stagnant or
falling, and people cannot save much for their children or their
futures: times are hard.
This megatrend, stagnation, the most fundamental, shows no signs
of abating, precisely because the global economy remains just as
broken as it was when the banks melted downperhaps even more so.
Capital is not flowing to the average person, but in reverse,
upwards, pocketed for example into offshore accounts, stockpiled by
those at the very top, hidden there, stuck. The gears of capitalism
are grinding to a halt in this wayjust as they did in the 1930s.
The result is an impoverishment of people and societies, of
possibility itself, as a lack of investment coupled with the folly
of austerity produces a vicious circle of declining living
standards, which cannot rise, until all the above is reimagined and
rebuilt, for something better than Americas shattered neoliberal
dream, exported to every corner of an aching world, while even the
average American never benefited from it.
Then there is psychology. What is the net effect of stagnation,
on the average persons state of mind? Well, it is frustration,
fury, and despair, not just singly, but triply. Watching your