Loo roll apparently! Which nearly became the new national currency this spring. It put me in mind of Paddy Ashdown’s story of being reprimanded early in his army career by his Sergeant, he used four squares of loo paper in one visit. “You’re in the army now Ashdown, and everything is accounted for! Three squares is plenty! One up, one down and one to polish! Understood!” Maybe we should take a leaf out of the Sergeant’s book… if you understand my meaning.
The general point of this piece on Crisis is ultimately one of positivity, not negativity. Confronted by a crisis we have to first face the reality of one’s condition, the ‘give it to me straight doctor’ line, before we understand which direction to move forward towards remedy. Mr Trump’s ostentatious optimism may play well in some quarters but is a little reminiscent of ‘Comical Ali’, the Iraqi Information Minister, who was equally optimistic of his position in 2003. They say arrogance brings a blindness; but the truth just ‘is’ – it doesn’t go away if it’s ignored. Truth doesn’t belong to any of us, but should be sought, by all of us. To accept the truth sometimes is hard, to avoid it today may be an option to you if it is not palatable – though tomorrow the taste maybe all the more bitter. Hope could be said to be a positive thing, but on its own, it is not enough. Sometimes we have to do our bit too. Not always just to shelter from a crises but to ask ‘Why?’ it’s happening. We so often overlook the universal premise of Cause and Effect.
None of us really know exactly how widespread and deadly this year’s respiratory infection COVID-19 will finally be. It may be a small ripple in the global timeline of history and retire to a footnote in its pages. It may be more, time will tell us that of course.
However, one impact it has certainly made is to show us just how fragile the fundamental structure of society we have created for ourselves in the modern day actually is. On the surface we have fabricated a great civilisation of superstructures of engineering, scientific prowess, apparent complex designs of law and order and sophisticated monetary markets. It is the latter however that is the current foundation stone for the previous three examples. It is worthy of note then how apparent it was that the stock markets were rocked just by the threat of the economic hit that may occur even before the initial effect of the virus was fully known. Imagine for a moment, if not this time, maybe the next, the virus is the ‘large scale outbreak’ as epidemiologists predict historically we are due at some point. What would be the consequence to present day systems of ‘just in time’ deliveries to our supermarkets if panic buying was accelerated further than it was back in March. The realisation of the Brexit vote now just weeks away, still no trade deal agreed at the time of writing. Will we be in a position to keep the shelves filled as we are accustomed after January 1st? After years in the conception and creation, those that are delivering this brave new world of isolationism find themselves unable to deliver the promises made in the lead up to the 2016 vote. Too much water has passed under the bridge since then to revisit that particular ‘Vietnam’. The E.U. may well need to evolve, subsidies to farmers based on amount of land owned is just one issue that could be managed better. The UK government is in the process of changing that to a UK subsidy system to one based on whether land is used to promote and protect the environment, that is an excellent change. In the round however, I feel nations, like individuals, flourish more readily when they accept and explore their natural interdependence on each other. Especially in the uncertain times ahead, we all would benefit from working together rather than splitting up into nationalistic groups. The most important issues we face are global: disease, global warming and climate change, food sustainability, pollution of our air, seas and land, antibiotic resistance, terrorism and with the worst economic outlook for 300 years; complete financial instability.
There are those of course who may feel they are financially insulated from the last issue; that depends on just how the story unfolds in the coming years, but they are not insulated from the preceding issues. Rich world public debt is 125% of GDP but markets don’t bat an eye. They are rising up above pre-Covid levels after the spring crash. However, with so much of the markets confidence based on ‘forever rising’ property values, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) figures, mortgages advances are 14.7% down in Q3 of 2020 than they were in Q3 of 2019. A house used to be somewhere to live. They have become something to gamble your life savings on. In a free market, any commodity is supposed to find its natural value; where people are prepared to pay that price. If something becomes too expensive, people stop buying it, sellers want to sell so the price comes down to its intrinsic value.
Housing is different, everyone HAS to have somewhere to live and the whole market is intoxicated with the thought of making quick money or the fear of missing out. The two drivers for the money markets worldwide, the bulls and the bears, greed and fear. Reason and responsibility just don’t have the sharp elbows to be in the game. Landlords are hovering up properties ‘off plan’ in cities they’ve maybe never even been to. That isn’t to call out all landlords or course; there are good and bad landlords as indeed there are good and bad tenants. It was just the systemic purchasing of sometimes overseas property magnets that unbalance the system so. Those selling in the industry see only their next sale where they work on percentage, politicians don’t want to see property prices falling on their watch – everyone is working to keep the property prices rising; except those who would like somewhere to live. Anything that doesn’t feel right instinctively, or look right to neutral eyes (the King wears no clothes), usually isn’t right.
When one tulip bulb was selling in the Dutch republic in the 17th Century for between 10 to 12 times an annual salary of a skilled craftsman. The bubble burst in February 1637 and a lot of the tulip merchants were wiped out financially. Every bubble does burst, however hard those invested in it work to re-inflate it. This time though, the world economy has never been more inter-connected. When one domino falls, others usually follow.
With inflation at historically low rates over the last decade even in the shadow of several rounds of Quantitative Easing (central banks printing money, though the game is played purely digitally these days, and buying government bonds and assets to try and keep the national fiscal balloon inflated), what happens if prices start to rise with new post Brexit tariffs being applied and availability of goods not so free flowing? How robust actually are the ‘all powerful’ money markets to a collapse in confidence in them in realisation they are not, all powerful. Our memories are kind to us sometimes; pain is softened by the distance of time, but we would do well not to forget our fingers being burnt by the banking crisis of 2008. The house of cards which is the current day financial system almost toppled. It was obviously closer than we were told by relevant authorities. Governments spent billions of pounds of tax payer’s money shoring up the house so it wouldn’t collapse completely. The same foundation stones remain in place however. The whole concept of banking and currencies are built on a premise of trust. The world’s stock markets fluctuate on the ebb and flow of this very commodity. Can there ever be real trust though without truth; maybe the most undervalued commodity in the world today. If truth has been replaced within our monetary systems with deception, slight of hand and illusion, then truth being the daughter of time…we can only wonder which wind that comes along will be the one to lift away the veil that is drawn across these corrupt workings.
Gerald Massey 1828 – 1907, was an English poet, a chartist (a movement for the rights of the working classes in the 19th Century), a writer on subjects as diverse as theology, Shakespeare’s sonnets and Ancient Egypt. Massey was a student of ‘spiritual evolution’; his position was that Darwin’s theory of evolution was ultimately incomplete without spirituality. One maxim accredited to him that has always stayed with me is as follows – “They must find it difficult… those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”
In uneventful times people sometimes are content to drift through their lives without giving too much thought to what realities are presented to them by the authorities who preside over them. If a crisis is inserted into the equation, those authorities will be busy trying to overt the worst outcomes in whatever way they see fit. Even withholding or manipulating truth for the purposes as they see, to avoid panic. No one would wish to see chaos among the populous. However, have we grown a little complacent? Would it be helpful if people did reflect on what they are seeing when witnessing the old status quo starting to stretch at the seams a little. I wonder if people are calmly asking themselves; ‘What would I do in the event of more serious crises?’ What does it reveal to us about current structures of governance and organised societal structures. How would the great metropolises of the world and their millions of inhabitants who live so far from the land they depend on for food, cope with a breakdown in the modern reliance on supermarkets being full and buoyant money markets to pay for what is desired. The stores are taking deliveries at the rear daily and the shelves kept full by the hour. Lenin said, “Every society is three meals away from chaos.” One does not wish for this of course, but I can’t help but wonder how full our lives are with meaningless distractions today, have we lost touch a little with what is it we actually need to live and thrive. Everything happens for a reason we are told quite rightly. Is there a voice somewhere, within nature, within ourselves, trying to wake us from our slumber before we destroy the house we live in beyond repair?
A friend said to me once…. “When the rug is pulled, and everything is taken away, Humankind has nothing left to look at only themselves.”
Therein lies the real source of hope. What is fantasy and what is reality within our world? Falsehood is a fantasy and truth is reality. Within ourselves we know the difference. We cannot legislate ourselves to a better world, but we can start with re-evaluating the importance of truth – and use that as a torch to find our way out of any crises.