Friday, December 19, 2014

2015 as a 'Year of Chaos', Part 1: The Trends That Are the Prelude to a Wild Year

Disorder is inherent in stability. Civilized man doesn't understand stability. He's confused it with rigidity. Our political and economic and social leaders drool about stability constantly. It's their favorite word, next to 'power.'
'Gotta stabilize the political situation in Southeast Asia, gotta stabilize oil production and consumption, gotta stabilize student opposition to the government' and so forth.
Stabilization to them means order, uniformity, control. And that's a half-witted and potentially genocidal misconception. No matter how thoroughly they control a system, disorder invariably leaks into it. Then the managers panic, rush to plug the leak and endeavor to tighten the controls. Therefore, totalitarianism grows in viciousness and scope. And the blind pity is, rigidity isn't the same as stability at all.
True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.”  ― Tom Robbins

"Two dangers constantly threaten the world: order and disorder."  - Paul Valery

As much as part of me loathes to do so, I am going to make a general prediction for what we will likely see next year.  The quick summary of it goes something like this: 2015 will be a historical turning point that dwarfs the events of 2008-2009 or the late 1960's,  and just possibly on the same level as the events in 1914.

The two quotes above do a fair job of describing my reasoning for this expectation.  Simply put, the architects and the ‘managers’ of the economic and political systems that dominate the world have been working so hard at maintaining the status quo and inhibiting change that disorder is not only expected, but the severity of the disorder will be proportional to the magnitude of previous and current efforts made to prevent it.  I don’t expect every country in the world will experience the effects equally, but I do expect that taken as a whole it will make the ‘Arab Spring’ of several years ago look like a college keg party.  I am not saying that I WANT this level of highly disruptive change, I am only saying that it is what I EXPECT to happen.  It would be nice if changes could be introduced or occur on a more gradual basis so people and societies have more time to adjust, but the intense efforts made by the status quo to prevent any meaningful change have pretty much baked serious unrest and major disruption in to the cake.  Mass civil unrest, collapsing economies, multiple regional wars, revolutions.... these are the kinds of things we can expect in the years to come, and from the warning signs I see I expect next year will be when these things begin to rear their ugly heads.  Some such events may not reach their ultimate climax until some years later, but I believe that next year will be recognized as the start of this era of disruption.

A list of some of the warning signs we are seeing, in no particular order:

The funny thing is that these trends are hardly new and they're not exceptionally grave or apocalyptic in scope.  We've experienced these kinds of things many times before, and while they've been disruptive, most societies largely worked their way through them.  In the present day, however, we are in a different situation.  The true danger today lies not in these trends, but rather in that the economic, political, and social systems in much of the world (particularly the Western world) are now too fragile to handle any significant stress.  Much of the world has simply borrowed too much money, exposed themselves to too much financial risk, built too much dependency in their citizens, and depended way too much on top-down (i.e. political) solutions to their problems.  In an earlier era where our economic, political, and social systems were more resilient, these kinds of trends would be painful and problematic but ultimately the systems would bounce back.  Now, however, we have introduced so much fragility and dependency in our lives and societies that these trends pose a systemic risk, not just a period of pain.  And that fragility will shape our responses to the events to come, and those responses, whether they are economic, social, political, or military in nature, will be what makes the next year exceptionally chaotic.  Of course, it doesn’t help that we’re dealing with these troubling trends all at once rather than one or two or three at a time.  The late 1960's were way before my time, but my understanding of the trends, events, and social mood at that time is that everything seemed to be happening or going crazy all at once, quite similar to my expectations for next year and the years to follow.  Of course as flawed as some aspects of society were then, it was more resilient than what we have today.  So the people that think we'll get by this time with some small changes and adjustments like we did then are going to be in for a rude awakening.

Already we've seen heavy-handed and extreme responses made to inhibit change and maintain the status quo, with said responses ultimately increasing the fragility in our social and economic systems and in some cases feeding the very disorder it's meant to quell. We see it in the epic levels of money-printing/money-creation going on in the US, Japan, China, and elsewhere.... done in large part to prop up the financial status quo and in some cases to enrich powerful banking interests.  We see it in the increased aggressive nature in foreign policy and the increase in military actions and threats across the world (the US being a huge part of it but hardly the only party to blame).  We see it in the militarization of the police in America and the ballooning of surveillance targeting ALL US citizens, not just the so-called 'terrorists'.  And we see it in political systems and mainstream media outlets that focus public attention on issues that aim to divide us on racial, class, religious, and generational lines so we don't notice the thievery and corruption taking place at the highest levels.  Expect the responses from the status quo to only escalate from here.

Now of these trends, the most prominent of them (in terms of potential impact) I believe are the oil price collapse, the accelerating deterioration (and expanded money-printing) in Japan’s economy, and the growth in civil unrest and disorder.  All these trends are important, but I expect these will be the ones that hit us hardest next year.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this topic next week, where I discuss the types of events and responses stemming from these trends that I see as likely to emerge and shake things up.

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