All I have heard on the streets over the last few days are words about the financial crisis. Everyone all of a sudden is concerned about their mortgage, their savings, their retirement, their stocks or more importantly, their jobs. Dismal economic data keeps popping up on every major newspaper and news channel and talk shows are packed with voices talking about the dire straits of this economic Armageddon. Yet, I can’t help but ask myself if we are all simply asleep or we are too scared to face the truth.
Almost everyone who over the last decade of economic arrogance preached about the power of the western world and its economic might has all of a sudden turned around and become a spokesperson for panic. Yet for the layperson, it doesn’t seem to matter. If it did, grassroots movements would be picking up traction and the global elites would be held accountable for their crimes. Too early for that, though—society is still not ready to come to terms with the fact that leaders are a reflection of the people they lead. I am inclined to believe that it will take a lot more pain, many more lies, and much larger panic before citizens stand up and react to this catastrophic social tsunami.
Yes, it is true that those at the top are enjoying the ride—or we should say were enjoying the ride. Yet the very fact that they haven’t been held accountable by the rest of us is a reflection of collective guilt, and all who cry today are doing so because of our past general indifference.
So what can one do?
Perhaps the first thing we must all do is acknowledge that the financial panic we are facing is a lot deeper than what is presented through the media, and understand that the problem is systemic. The sooner we come to terms with this, the sooner we will be able to find real solutions. Developed countries are living way over their means, and no matter how we try to prop it up, sooner or later the deck of cards is going to collapse. In my humble opinion, the sooner that happens the better, because with every day that passes, the eventual landing will be much more painful.
The second point we are going to have to grapple with is the fact that the great majority of society has been too laissez-faire to predict what was heading our way and is today an apparent reality; the fact that our casino culture of gambling the world away was always a finite proposition which politicians and economists perpetuated to eternal existence, while the thirsty masses accepted it without question.
Thirdly, it will be incredibly important for those members of society who see themselves as belonging to the middle class and who have acquired that perceived status through debt, to accept their rank in the working class and unite again with their peers. This point is of particular importance because it has been the sole illusion of an imaginary middle class which has kept the bubble rising and when it bursts, millions of hypnotized believers will fall hard and will need to be picked up by the very group they left behind when they abandoned the class struggle.
Fourthly, we are all going to have to get used to the situation we have collectively generated; we are hostages to our own creation. The governments are there because we elected them and the banks are there because we trusted them without asking questions.
Despite all this, it remains crucial that we have a collective wake-up and begin to understand that as we strategize about our own personal situations, those who laid the foundations for this ugly mess we are faced with are still the global elite, and they still hold the reins of power. So, as we do our own accounting and plan for our own personal security, it will do us no harm, and possibly a lot of good, to start looking at the world from a political economy perspective. We must understand that politics, economy and war are all intertwined variables of our current state of affairs. We must understand that geopolitical events are all in some way linked to these three variables. I say this, because although we are no longer able to stop the deterioration of our financial systems and economies, we might be able, through joint and organized collective action, to avoid worse events from unraveling.
The warning signs of economic deterioration began a long time ago. The majority chose to ignore them, and because of that we are all here today. Now the alarm bells of increased military confrontation are sounding loud and clear, and I only hope we are all able to hear them and that our words speak louder than guns. One thing is certain, as President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia said recently, the U.S. crisis shows that "the times when one economy and one country dominated are gone for good," as he concluded that the world no longer needs a "megaregulator." Although I believe this statement to be true, I fear that the U.S. elites, together with the elites of allied countries, will not let go of their perceived upper hand, and might be warming up to more war.
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador in Kabul, already believes the war in Afghanistan is as good as lost, and the war in Iraq seems to be on the same destructive path. Yet, as Russia prepares to fly its supersonic Tu-160 nuclear bombers as part of its largest air force exercises since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the whole concept of war that westerners are used to could be escalating towards a more vivid reality. I hope the citizens of the west can understand this, and that for once, before it is too late, we can unplug our brains from the corporate propaganda system, which our elites have so carefully instituted, and do something about it.
As for the Russians, Afghans, Iraqis, North Koreans, Chinese and others, let them stand up to their own governments, and once we are all doing that, let us neutralize their actions by holding hands and shouting: "Stop!"
Pablo Ouziel is a sociologist and freelance writer.
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This story was published on October 13, 2008.