Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2015 - Pandora as a Dark "Thoroughly Modern Millie?"

Pandora's Chest: 2015 Version

"Hope Springing Eternal" or "Romantic Myth?" [painting]
A note from MeanMesa: We find it a short search indeed when we seek out some overly tedious listing of the troubles in the world. One presumes that dwelling on such negative impulses is merely an indulgence, a means to pass the time while doing no real harm and inflicting no sustained injury on one's otherwise more optimistic psyche. But even this flirtation with the contents of the Lady's chest becomes somewhat more grim and even dire when the facts and figures accompany less willingly flippant.

A few of those "first demons to take flight" may merit a more sober review. History seems to plod its way toward another "pivot." Matters which are not mysteries begin to appear as matters which must be obscured for comfort. Welcome to the humanities' "garden of good and evil." Here are five short matters which seem to have "returned to her chest."

1. Humans Are Showing No Signs Of Altering Unsustainable Population Growth.

A "Patchy" History of "Reproducing" Responsibly
Blind bumbling is okay if there a little luck available.
Responding to observation and information should be the last option.

Human primates have done "quite well" for themselves when it comes to populating their way to the top of the planetary food chain. Around 72,000 BCE the human population hit one of its most severe nadirs. In southeastern Africa where most human primates had lived for centuries, the climate gradually entered a remarkably long period of drought. The availability of water, traditional food crops and game became worse and worse until the total population of humans on the planet descended to around 2,000. [Read more  here - TELEGRAPH/UK]

Since those dark days so long ago in Africa the humans have, indeed, "stepped up to the plate." Perhaps everyone simply decided that making babies wasn't such an unfairly arduous, thankless task after all.

The date scale is logarithmic. [image source]
All this good work begun in 72,000 BCE seemed to be working splendidly. By the time Thomas Jefferson had been elected the planet could boast of a human population of one billion.

However, when we look at the time scale along the bottom of the chart [below] we see that performing this task, that is, "increasing the planetary population by another billion," was showing an astonishing development of both speed, reliability and efficiency.

The "population prognosticators" furnishing the estimates for future population growth have quietly slowed the rate of the arrival of additional billions of humans after the shortest span of 12 years in 1999. No need to worry. If the additions slow to 16 years -- or even 20, 30 or 50 -- the point of this post remains uncomfortably solid. The geopolitical, economic and cultural changes required to move this "rate of addition" from where it is currently to even 50 years would require a, frankly, unimaginable level of cooperation and resources.
Population growth by the billion. [source - WIKI]

While this post could continue for pages and pages about the relentlessly increasing planetary over population, we must depart from this "facts and figures" here to make room for a few "other issues." It was important to get this part completed right away, so we might concentrate our attention on these other, associated parts of this post's topic.

2. The Global Population's Consumption Cannot Afford 
The Demand Requiring Full Productivity.

What Are All These Humans Supposed To Be Doing?
For a few hundred centuries it all looked fairly balanced.

For most of the earlier period of human development there has been no shortage of work to be done by the planet's inhabitants at any particular moment. The nature of this work has always been a mixture of tasks based on the various needs of the day. Although abbreviated histories paint a picture of "food" and "fighting" as the primary occupations of our ancestors, we can be certain that a vast array of other tasks produced necessary "consumables" all along the way.

However, generally speaking, prior to the industrial revolution the quantity of "consumables" being produced remained curiously equivalent to the corresponding quantity being "consumed." History, for example, yields few references to ancient civilizations which had produced such a surplus of food, baskets, chariots, ships or anything else that the contemporary economy began suffering from such products experiencing catastrophic price collapses.

These matters were balanced, and they were not intentionally balanced by policy or any particular ambition to balance them, but instead, they were balanced by the "organic" level of need for them and the corresponding capacity for  the production of them. Still, the industrial revolution was, just as much, also a natural human development, even though it greatly changed this traditional balance -- more or less permanently.

Masked Plague Doctors [image]
At a number of times during the "civilized" period of human habitation certain conditions interrupted this "organic" balance between production and consumption, and, as a consequence, also the "normal" measure of value associated with labor and commodities. For example, after the Black Plague had decimated the European labor force, wages increased. Higher wages were necessary to compete in the depleted labor market, but in time those higher wages became discretionary income and catapulted the European economy from its musty feudal past into the beginning stages of a middle class phenomenon.

But now, in the 21st Century, this balance seems to be a concept rapidly fading into historical irrelevancy. In the seventy millennia since the "difficulties" in Africa there has always been "enough work" to continuously consume the full efforts of the entire labor force of the planet. Everyone needed "something," and all those "somethings" required a worker to "produce" them. If there were some state similar to "unemployment" in 20,000 BCE, the consequences would have been fairly immediate extinction.

The possibility for this sensible arrangement to continue faded rather quickly after the industrial revolution's extreme advances in productivity hit the old equation. The fundamentals shifted, and they shifted in a troubling, "willy nilly" fashion. While productivity increased, the consumption markets decreased. Vast market populations probably wanted what was being produced but could not afford to purchase it. At first this was not such a problem, but that was then. This is now.

Although the "consumption power" of global markets has increased, it has not increased sufficiently to consume what is being produced. More importantly, that "consumption power" is no longer great enough to drive markets to produce what can be afforded by those vast populations. As a consequence, there are huge numbers of humans existing in economies without a "consumption pressure" which can offer them an opportunity to work and produce.

We can go ahead and call this the economic "Third World" so long as we are not too picky with our definitions.

The crowd which so habitually uses the "global market place" term to justify all sorts of horribly exploitative plans would like for us to consider these populations as potential markets "in development." They aren't. At least, they won't be any time soon. Further, these "in development" markets are not all located in distant "Third World" economies, either. They are springing up in Western industrialized nations, too.

3. A Functional Global Economy Relies On Increased "Consumption Pressure" - More Opportunities To Work.

Is It Really "Unemployment
When There's Nothing To Do?
Is It "Economic Development" When Mostly Nothing Develops?

The newly industrialized world created by the industrial revolution blew it.

While a small percentage of the increases in productivity went to establish a middle class, most went into the founding of dynastic family fortunes. The "missing ingredient" is revealed by the fact that practically none of the "return" of this increased productivity was directed at developing consumption markets with economies capable of purchasing the increased production.

Don't start feeling guilty. We have no reason to consider this as some sort of unactualized, discretionary, liberal "altruism." Instead, if it were ever to be undertaken, history would regard it as an imminently realistic, frantic response to avoid the economic cataclysm approaching in an otherwise inevitable future. The global economy will never work with participation stringently limited to an economically active class amounting to 20% or 30% of the global population.

Almost all of the creation of this modern result had been very nicely "finished" centuries ago. Of course the geopolitical, economic wreckage -- along with the destructive impact of the crippling, dynastic family fortunes -- remains for those of us in this century to clean up and patch back together. At least this will be our task if we don't fancy having the whole thing crash into the rocks.

By "crash" we are describing something significantly more destructive, more global and more terrifying than a mere "market correction." Even this dismal forecast has not yet added the additional "economic aggravation" of the now unavoidable economic impact of massive climate change approaching.

The rest of this world has to go back to work. The efforts to "coax" this economic resurgence into existence during the last century have failed -- in a very, very big way. Today's world has a huge unemployment problem causing a huge shortage of the discretionary income which might potentially become a future "consumption market"-- along with, for various reasons, an incredible deficit of resources available to remedy this situation. We -- in the industrialized world -- also seem to be demonstrating a shocking lack of creativity -- not to mention such an obviously flimsy grip on the reality around us. If that were not enough to "rattle our cages," we can add to this list a shocking lack of foresight and an eerie absence of any particular impulse for our own planetary economic self-preservation.

This would be the reality we unthinkingly created for ourselves. Given its history of development, this was inevitable.

4. The Modern Model For A Functional World Economy 
Is Wrong.

No Wonder This Thing Isn't Improving
Trying even harder isn't going to help.

The mere suggestion that ISIL could be undercut by promoting jobs for the young Muslims who might, otherwise, become recruits was met -- at least met in the Republican media -- with "non-negotiable" derision. However, this partisan political maneuvering really only presents half of the story.

The idea's "unmentioned" corollary is not particularly obscured. The media scheme had "traction" because a majority of Americans are quite skeptical about the possibility that the US, with or without the country's "anti-ISIL" European allies, could successfully undertake job creation in the dismal wreckage of wither Syria or Iraq. "Nation building" was an idea which never quite recovered its shine after the thinly veiled failure and painfully visible largess of the Bush W. scams in Afghanistan and Iraq thrashed through tens -- or hundreds -- of billions without noticeable results.

MeanMesa has to join the ranks of the skeptics on this one. This country might be able to accomplish "nation building" at some future date, but for now our first priority must target "nation restoration" on the domestic front. No reasonably informed "Third World" citizen could be expected to welcome the arrival of U.S. "nation builders" after considering the perilous condition of the nation sending them.

Yet, considering this proposal in a larger picture, "nation building" probably represents the most effective strategy to which we might direct the national resources we are going to inevitably assign to solving the ISIL -- and other regional -- problems in the long run. [For example, Ukraine's problem could use a little "economy building" assistance. Instead, we will probably wind up "over arming" the parties to the conflict.]

"Nation building." If only we were a little better at it! Unhappily, "free market capitalism" creates profoundly inept idealists and patently unconvincing altruists. On the other hand, that same economic model does create feckless hedge fund managers, acting in complicity through their subservient Congressional "employees," anxious to extend Wall Street's global financial hegemony to anywhere at any cost.

The part of this process that infuriates its international victims around the world is the blase', phlegmatic nature of the "gentrified market parasites" whose think tanks and lobbyists propose one scheme after another with consistently hideous consequences. That "fury" becomes the precise cultural foundation of the problems we find ourselves unable to address. The irony would be classic if it weren't covered with so much blood, fear, hatred and suffering. Unhappily, there is every prospect for more of the same in the foreseeable future.

5. The Obsolete Existing Social Culture Is Patiently Slaughtering The Planet

Could 3,000 Years of Ambitious,
 Ancient Patriarchs Possibly Be Wrong?
This might be survivable if it were just the Taliban and ISIL.

3,000 Years, Tennis Shoes, Sawz-All and Fairy Tale[IRNA]

All around the world in 2,000 or 3,000 BCE tribal patriarchs were scaring the crap out of all the illiterates in their villages with mythological tales. Each fable had a very convenient "social reaffirmation" of the unquestioned authority of the old men repeating the nonsense.

Control was everything. These old chiefs, big men, warlords, prophets and priests knew that women were, well, "more useful" and "less trouble" if they were property. Controlling sex was handy because the teenage "cannon fodder" of the next decade's tribal wars had to come from somewhere.

Naturally, the authenticity of the mythology had to be maintained at all costs. Relating it to infants still suckling their mothers' teats was fairly effective -- even when the "story line" had long ago become whimsical and impossible.

The "durability" of these uniformly destructive fantasies, their perpetual reinterpretation and their annual embellishment to conveniently demonize the patriarchs' latest competitor is a modern anomaly. The grisly aftermath might be somewhat more comprehensible if the outrages were being conducted by well fed, successful, educated sorts who had simply been indoctrinated by the latest generation of "holy men," but evidence of the "prosperity" prophesied by the ancient promises has never materialized.

The modern result is almost always no more than another string of rotting corpses. It is this in Nigeria and Congo, in the ruined Yazidi villages, in wild regions of Western Pakistan, around the Chinese Uyghurs, in the wreckage of Somalia, between the battle lines of the Sunnis and Shiites, among the crowded populations of Palestinians, Jews and Persians and elsewhere. In the quieter world in the west birth control is attacked by the Catholics and the rich Dominionists -- even in the midst of a world which already has nearly twice as many souls as it can feed.

Okay. There really may be some sort of "narrative" that can be offered up to buffer the outrages of each of these disasters and the dozens of others, but those worn out, ancient "stories" had already grown far too expensive and destructive a century ago. The planet and the human species may have continued the mechanical march into oblivion, but the human minds -- all creativity and bravery addled by these fairy tales and priests -- have become lethally ossified.

The plan was that we would continue to develop.

Each time a glimmer of hope emerged from some bunch "moving on" beyond the ancient poison, the all consuming narcotic of modern ideology lurched into the breech to guarantee that no one anywhere would start thinking straight in the momentary interregnum.

This world can no longer survive this murderous, fairy tale driven mayhem, and it's high time that the excuses stopped. There is now -- officially -- no more time to fight these ancient, theoretical battles.

Yet, looking quickly around this bleeding globe, there is no champion is sight. As of yet no one has stood up boldly to offer an alternative to this so compelling that it will free the humans from this deadlocked self-immolation.

If any of us are pondering the qualities of our next "leader," perhaps we should consider the mandates implied by these few catastrophes which seem to be unavoidably awaiting us.

MeanMesa will be posting about leadership next. Watch this space, and thanks for visiting.

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