Only the deranged bank/multinational/media loonies can stop the return to a tribalist model – and any attempt to do so would result in their self-destruction.
I suppose that most of us – if challenged specifically about it – would see the States of Germany and Italy as permanent features. But this view needs to be tempered with a beady eye on recent history. Remember that Germany has been reunified for just 22 years; and both Germany and Italy as we think of them today were a distant, confused dream in 1840. The United Kingdom is 311 years old, the USA 237 years old, and the French Republic 234 years old. The People’s Republic of China is a mere toddler at 67 years. The USSR lasted a grand total of 74 years before imploding.
Everything is in transition. But econo-political upheaval has a way of speeding up the process in a frightening fashion.
One of the charts of the decade for me – you can see it with much scrolling involved here – is the one showing how the German gdp is €2.7 trillion, and the DeutscheBank derivatives exposure is €55.6 trillion. OK fair enough, Deutsche Bank isn’t really deutsch any more, but it isn’t Afghani either. OK, some of those derivatives will be netted – but Lehman et al showed us just how much all that bollocks is worth on the day of judgement. Whichever way you cut this one, DB is to Germany as Monte del Peischi is to Italy: a Fukushima short only of the Tsunami that is obviously heading towards us all.
Germany’s banking strength is a matter of historical fact. But you know that the concept of permanence is being stretched way beyond its elasticity when you have to go back to 1861. This is what the latest Italian data force us to do, because the last few years have seen the biggest collapse in Italian GDP since Unification 152 years ago. When you consider that way back then, US President Abraham Lincoln had just declared slavery in the Confederate states unlawful, and the world’s first ocean-going iron-hulled armoured battleship HMS Warrior was nearing completion, you will get some kind of steer about just what a giant leap into the past global neoliberalism has been.
But the very puerile proclamations of Ted Levitt thirty five years ago about The Global Village (an even greater myth than Dan Hannan’s Anglosphere) have led quite unintentionally to the highlighting of what I’m sure is now an unstoppable trend: the return to regional as opposed to National and Supranational government. In short, the rise and rise of communal tribalism.
I’ve been banging on for years about the inevitability of globalism’s failure, but equally I have stressed the importance of a tribe-size to which human beings can relate. Sovereign insolvency is now acting as a powerful catalyst in this dual transmutation from planetary mercantilism to regional entities trading in surpluses….but by and large surviving happily on self sufficiency.
The Globalists are fond of equating self-sufficiency with tree-hugging, sandals-wearing, fart-recycling vegetarian monkeys, but this is just the pathetic playground insult to which all fat kids (whom nobody really wants on their team) must resort. The reality in a European context is that Spain’s banking meltdown is seen by the Catalans as an opportunity to become independent, the Czechs and Slovaks have been living happily apart for some years, Belgium – the supposed administrative powerhouse of the EU – is clinging on by its fingernails to a diluted form of national unity that cannot possibly survive, and the Scottish Nationalists within the United Kingdom have already achieved a large measure of independence.
Whether or not the Scots get what they want, it is equally clear in that country that Scottish nationalism isn’t really the issue: tribalism there is as strong as ever. Writing in the Herald Scotland, Ian Bell writes, ‘…whatever creates bitterness between two Glasgow football teams, it can’t be blamed on God’s places of worship….Scots are disposed to tribalism; this is a country divided in more ways than we care to recognise.’ A new book by Tom Gallagher – Divided Scotland – Ethnic Friction And Christian Crisis – suggests this is very much a reality: he tells the story of sectarianism to show, in his final words, “that its staying power does not stem from religious factors alone”.
One tribe can differ hugely in size from another, and indeed some will survive as national entities because the cultural factor glueing it together is coherent and thus cohesive. But certainly, the age of the Supra-national State now looks to be ending.
The Russian Federation is a fraction of the size of the old USSR, and the States that make up the European Union will increasingly go their own way once the Brussels gravy train has been shunted into a siding. The three main European rivals of recent history – Britain, Germany and France – are reverting at great speed to their traditional attitudes of isolation, neurosis and truculence respectively. Throughout Black Africa, the dominant trend is towards breakdown along tribal lines. Arab Africa and the IndoPak peninsulas are also retreating back behind culturo-religious lines.
Across the planet in fact, tribal aspirations render the ideas of Levitt ever-more idiotic. Localism is now a powerful trend in the UK, spearheaded by those who believe people can come together in strong, united communities with shared aspirations, values and experiences, promote a strong sense of mutual commitments and obligations, and encourage personal and social responsibility. A great deal of this is about fulfilling personal potential in a small enough context to allow for recognition of community needs. But importantly, it is also about getting Government back down to size, and ending the unaccountability of Westminster and Whitehall by simply dismantling it.
Just think about how fragile a construction the PRC constructed by Mao Tse Tung really is. China’s tremendous cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity – in particular the important cultural differences within the Han population – are a constant source of anxiety to the Beijing politburo. Events in recent years suggest that China may well be increasingly insecure regarding not only these nationalities, but also its own national integration. The unprecedented early departure of President Hu Jintao from the G8 meetings in 2009 to attend to the ethnic problems in Xinjiang was an indication of the seriousness with which China regards this issue. As the global outlook has steadily worsened, Beijing’s fears have become more marked – and may have contributed to the rise of military influence in the politburo.
Across the country, China is seeing a resurgence of local ethnicity and culture, most notably among southerners such as the Cantonese and Hakka, who are now classified as Han. For centuries, China has held together a vast multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation despite alternating periods of political centralisation and fragmentation. But cultural and linguistic cleavages could worsen in a China weakened by internal strife, an economic downturn, uneven growth, or a struggle over future political succession.
Chinese is a family of closely-related but – at the spoken level – mutually unintelligible languages. These languages are known variously as fāngyán (regional languages) and they are both plentiful and potentially schismatic. In Hong Kong and Macau, very few people speak Mandarin, so they tend to use English to communicate with people from other parts of China or Taiwan. Mandarin, Wu, Cantonese, Min nan, Jinyu, Hakka, Hoinan, Gan, Min Bay, Min Dong, Min Zhong, Dungan…..the list goes on and on. The best part of 30 different regions of the PRC strongly identify with their history of regional tribalism.
The same sense of cultural instability can also be applied to the United States of America – probably the first attempt to base an empire on continental unification and commerce. One of the clear symptoms of ‘national’ breakdown in the West over the last two decades has been the preponderance of ‘too close to call’ elections…..and a growing number of citizens who don’t vote at all. The US not only shows all the signs of this syndrome, it is about to go through the most divisive econo-fiscal crisis in its history. One which – given the States’ rights tradition and widespread dislike of ‘Washington’ – could very easily turn America back to the idea of main streets, wicker fences, and sound local governance.
Globalism, which itself originated largely from the US as an extension of unification, is just an even larger form of Supranationalism: both are based on warped multinational business-efficiency ideas, and (especially in the EU) driven by the politician’s infinite quest for power – not any realistic study of social anthropology. The more that these internally flawed concepts are tried, the more their failure merely shows how the smaller tribe works better.
This is not a new process in human history. The Roman Empire was based largely on military conquest and pillage, but that too failed to quell the desire of the conquered to be free. Once the expansion became too extensive to administer and too expensive to defend, it failed….and returned to localism for over a thousand years. The Spanish Empire prospered through an odd combination of silver mining and Catholic fanaticism. Very soon after silver lost its role as a reliable international metal of currency, the Spanish Empire spiralled into rapid decline. The British Empire died after 1945, following a ruinously expensive war to protect itself from supranationalist fascism. Based originally on technical advance alongside sea-power, its advances and power were aced by Asian products and the American military. Both the empire and its supranational enemies disappeared in short order.
The world then quaked for 45 years under the superpower confrontation. The USA and the USSR, it seemed, were eternal factors – and the need for nuclear co-existence would last forever. Last summer I had to sort out and cull my book collection – a process that inevitably led to reading some of it again. What fascinated me (in those texts dating from roughly 1970 to 1988) was the total absence of any expectation of the collapse of the Soviet Empire. But it happened within a matter of weeks, and was an accepted fact within three years.
The American empire is based on more factors than most of its predecessors, and has wisely chosen not to physically occupy vassal States. But analyse what it’s based on – military power, natural energy resources, technical leadership, globalised export marketing, democratic values, financial power in general, and the Dollar in particular – and one quickly sees that cracks in the edifice are very obvious.
The US lost any credible reputation it ever had for democracy in the real sense decades ago. It flexes its muscles diplomatically based on the irresistible fusion of technology and banking that it enjoys through having the most influential currency on the planet. But the demise of Detroit shows how technical and marketing leadership have been lost to the greed of bourses, and the ever-more myopic number-crunching of the short-termist accountant. Asian and Franco-German cars have carved out a huge slice of its global automotive business. The rise of low-wage China, foreign military adventures, the demands of the Pentagon, rising central Government costs….all these have given America an obscene level of National Debt that cannot possibly be serviced once borrowing rates return to some kind of normality.
This in turn has threatened the Dollar’s global hegemony. Indeed, as Autumn 2013 unfolds, many players in the financial markets (myself included) believe that the Dollar has been irreparably damaged by Washington’s inability to choose between neoliberal financial capitalist madness disorder and the one hand, and welfare/health largesse on the other. Under President Obama (a man who manages to make Reagan seem a paragon of philosophical substance by comparison) we have seen huge bailouts for banks alongside the gigantically costly launch of a national Medicare system. Good idea, medicare – shame about the timing.
Raped by the Fed’s bullying market masters and pummelled by the cost of administering an expansive superstate, the Dollar is now being sold long, not short: the movers are beginning to look for an alternative to it. No longer gambling on the Buck, investors are turning away from it. Once it becomes clear (it already is, but most observers haven’t cottoned on yet) that demand for US debt bonds and its currency are waning in concert, then the game is over for America. When yields spike, the Dollar’s value slumps, and the USA can no longer have its will prevail everywhere, then insolvency is the most likely result. When its natural resources are in doubt, bankruptcy is inevitable.
In just the nine months of 2013 so far, we have seen the US go frack-spin mad, QE hastily reinstated, US alleged ‘growth’ interrogated and found wanting, two debt ceilings under challenge in Congress, the US unable to secure a military adventure in Syria, and bond spikes alongside market wobbles that forced Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve to abandon his QE ‘taper’ for the second time.
With America’s fate now sealed, we observe the agents of security (and the White House) grappling to retain control by the use of surveillance. I doubt if the American people will put up with this for much longer. Once the size of the military budget, banking fiasco and Washington corruption are fully revealed, the US will turn its face inwards and start to examine more aggressively the relationship between the Federal government and the community.
There are myriad factors driving the demise of the State as we know it; mass migration, air travel, satellite technology, and mobile telecoms have each in their own way eroded any sense of it. But the sheer cost of running The Big State is more evident than ever….ironically, a reality made obvious by the failures of both Leftist welfare largesse and Rightist neoliberal economics in equal measure. Added to this, however, is a more fundamental human need to identify with its own herd. While the cultural diversity of China is blindingly obvious, we should not forget that relatively tiny constructs like Belgium and the UK are also struggling to find any cohesive element.
The final piece in the jigsaw of the future could nevertheless change the outlook posited here completely. Apart from supra(super)state failure on every level, three things above all in my view have rendered the State increasingly irrelevant: media explosion, multinational business, and global investment banking. The difference here is that the sociopaths in control at the top do not recognise the authority of any State: in fact, they don’t recognise the role of society, culture or civilisation in their lives, because none of that is important to them. Thus they represent a massive threat to both personal liberty, and the ability of Small to thrive. The alternative they offer is globally united power exercised via the use of monopolist business practices, draconian 24/7 surveillance, and the suppression of citizen opposition.
This isn’t some wild Leftist fantasy: Newscorp is incurably monopolist and dismissive of State laws. All the major banks have been defrauding SME businesses in recent years in order to help repair their balance sheets. All the major ISPs cooperate with the West’s security services in terms of monitoring every communication we make via pc, mobile, online social network or website blog. The major European banks deliberately manipulated the Libor rate in order to survive. Wall Street lied to Congress about why it urgently “needed” $768bn. Offshore tax evasion is rife among the rich. The European Central Bank (ECB) withheld any and all bad news during the German general elections of 2013.
I could go on all night adding to that list of mind-blowing examples of just how important these Masters of the Universe think they are – and how little respect they have for anything that balanced human beings want. But in conclusion, I’d like instead to use the Greek debt farce as an example of how the balance of ‘sovereign’ power has shifted in our grave new world.
Cyprus as a nation was effectively neutered (as Luxembourg will be too) because it represented a threat to the European banking system, and its bailers out, the EC and the ECB. At the second Greek bailout, Draghi’s ECB ignored international law about bondholder priority. As a capital City with a national tourism wholesale catering-supply infrastructure, Athens has been destroyed forever. That gap in its food supply chain will inevitably be replaced by multinational business. The second Troika deal damns the national State of Greece to eternal dependence on global banking’s munificence – or otherwise – because mathematically the debt can never be repaid. The professional and political élite of the Hellenic national State collaborated in the fashioning of this heinous millstone….and continues to do so. Greece per se could very easily collapse into a civil war once the reality of Bailout3 hits the Greeks some time in Spring 2014.
All the actors in this Passion for Mammon Play have one thing in common: personal wealth and power are infinitely more important to them than societal – tribal – culture. But ironically for these gargoyles, internecine tribal strife is exactly the aim they desire. By achieving such civil conflict on a global scale, the media/security surveillance axis has all the excuses it needs to keep order via 24/7 monitoring of terrorists; the bankers can get everything they need from politicians too terrified to walk about without armed escorts; and business can keep wages ever-lower as disorder increases unemployment. Perhaps – just perhaps – this is the Grand Plan that some conspiracy theorists think the Bilderbuggers have in store for us.
My perspective is more optimistic and (I hope) historically based. A media/security services/business/banking alliance would be a tricky thing to hold together (their interests and aims are not that congruent), and no business likes disorder on a grand scale. It might reduce wages, but if so then who do these cheap products get sold to if the chaos is global? Bankers and bourse leaders urging the ever-greater dilution of fiat currency value by politicians are bound to shoot themselves in the foot by doing so in the end: if nobody can discern value, then who needs banks and stock investments? And ISPs need the aggregation of online advertising and data output to give their ropey business models even the vaguest chance of success. A world consisting of compliant drones might sound very nice, but how do they afford the hardware to access the system, and where do they find the money to buy?
I have no doubt that quite a few corporate headcases out there think they can turn chaos to their advantage, but common sense suggests they’re wrong. More likely is that they’ll get caught up – perhaps strung up – once the rebellion against waste and conformity takes hold.
Historic events and their conversion into a future have never remotely resembled a straight line. The most likely outcome, once the dust settles on the globalist corpse, is a massive backlash towards greater community and personal control alongside a vastly reduced obsession with material junk. And I still maintain that the main drivers of this reversion will be cost reduction plus the human desire for greater fulfilment and less interference. Rather than quashing this, commerce will adapt to and then exploit it. We have seen this happen with everything from organic, ecological, fitness, feminist and even conservationist trends. Banking will become more mutualised and communal, because the demand for anything else will shrink dramatically.
But what I do think we are going to see is an end to sclerotic national politics and feather-bedded national bureaucracy, as well as an explosion in creativity and a revival in the philosophy of civics. That too will emerge once the dead hand of ideology has been removed from education – to be replaced by the thirst for knowledge.
Much as it may seem at times to be highly unlikely, supranationalism, centralism and globalism have no future. And it is their failure that will dictate such an outcome.