Yesterday the Dow Jones index moved upwards to record levels 0n the strength of ‘growing confidence’ about the US economy. It was partly a further triumph of optimism over experience; but chiefly, it was the victory of fearful, blind Dark Ages faith over the evidence.
It is part of the human condition that going to the cinema and watching Happy Endings agitates more pleasure centres in the brain than cold charts and analyses showing that the overdraft is getting bigger. A valued Greek friend reminded me the other day that few writers in history have understood this more than Dickens. But then, Dickens had a wayward father who constantly wound up in debtors’ prison….along with his young son Charles for company.
Above all, the next two decades are going to be about social and individual self awareness.
Just as large banks, politicians, unthinking bureaucrats, multinational CEOs and unworldly academic economists refuse to understand the basics of household management and personal responsibility, so too do individual citizens. They have not – or at least, not many of them – been turfed out of their homes and then forced to bid with other petit-bourgeois prisoners for their midday meal. Having in many cases been set an appalling example by policemen, priests, bosses, parents, bankers, celebs and public ‘leaders’, they increasingly opt for fancy over fact, for the easy over the effective.
Simple example: a supposedly knowledgeable English businesswoman said to me last year that she thought David Cameron to be “the sort of man to see us through this”. David Cameron couldn’t see us through a brand new plate-glass window. Ten years ago a young man (toyboy of an older woman) casually remarked to me, “I like Tony Blair, he’s a safe pair of hands”. I replied that if by that he meant we’d normally find Tony’s hands in the safe, then he was probably right. It is lazy thinking brought on by lazy education, bland media content, and foolish distractions.
It all comes down – yet again – to Denial in the Lion’s Den. ‘These aren’t real lions’ people think, ‘They’re circus lions. They’re tame. They won’t eat me’. Trust me lady, they will devour every part of you that’s edible….and then use your bone-shards as toothpicks.
There is no reason at all to be confident about everything remaining normal. Normal was 1955-1985. 1985-2008 was gentle Western decline disguised by the bollocks of Thatcherite Reaganomics and the insane banking creation of shadow wealth. 2009 and thereafter is a Threatening New World in which bravery and self-reliance are going to be table stakes. This week, China became a larger importer of oil than the US. In that context – and given the steady decline of Western middle incomes since 1990 – the Dow reaching all time highs today is the equivalent of a Pompeii salesman successfully peddling property futures with the sound of Vesuvius rumbling ominously in the background.
This isn’t going to be any kind of environment for weekend survivalists, fluffy climate-change anecdotalists, and good-time ladies professing a commitment to organic foods while living behind gated communities. This is going to be the era of adaptation, swift footwork, ingenuity, embrace of the unexpected, a rejection of robotic political correctness, and above all focus.
And yet – thankfully – it isn’t going to be a time for control-freak psychos either. People so entirely up themselves that they lack awareness of their own shortcomings will perish. The medium-term future belongs to those who will listen, rather than dictate: those who want to collaborate and cooperate – not the information transmitters who ignore the responses. And the reason for this is very simple: without a response, the controller lacks data. And without information about the recipient, the controller has no power. Ultimately, the People will decide they’re all caked out, and start looking for guillotines and knitting needles.
When that happens, of course, it simply won’t be good enough to call the rioting “completely unforeseen”, and get your mates in the media to condemn it. The pols will do that, and it’s at this point (I suspect) that the immediate winners will take over: the GCHQ snoopers, the data c0llectors, the internet switchgear owners, and so on: an unholy alliance working with the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson….or, if they’re asked, Tony Blair, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Peter Mandelson, Michael Fallon and (I increasingly suspect) Michael Gove.
As I posted in Smoke Signals yesterday, there are already PIIGs in the EU who have decided maybe they don’t want to be driven to market at all. Meanwhile, VIX and futures readings have become so nonsensical and detached from reality and fundamentals, they are barely worth monitoring any more, save to wonder about why they’re being manipulated – and by whom. Disobedience and economic collapse will quickly make the immediate winners wonder if they really want to win any more. Currency and shooting wars after that could ensure that nobody wins.
My advice to people in this context is as follows: take off the blindfold, read more, and don’t give any reading glasses to strangers running ‘social network’ sites.