The decay of western civilization

One of my correspondents, Irish financial advisor Christopher Quigley, recently sent me a link to his article, Civilizations Die by Suicide Not by Murder. In that article, he mentions famed historian Arnold Toynbee’s monumental work, A Study of History which describes the rise and fall of 23 civilizations throughout human history. Toynbee concluded from his study that, “civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fiber and the cultural elite turns parasitic.” That certainly rings true for our present world—the banking and corporate elite and their political minions have clearly turned parasitic, putting power and profit above all else.

Then by some strange coincidence I happened to notice a few days ago a book on display at my public library.  The book is, The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas J. Preston, which tells the story of the search for a legendary city that was supposed to have existed several hundred years ago in the eastern part of Honduras in Central America. It is a true adventure story that reads like fiction. Preston was part of a team that went looking for, and by using some highly advanced technology, ultimately found, not only a city, but extensive remnants of a lost civilization, one that appears to be distinct from the Mayan and others of the region that are well known.

In one chapter, Preston speaks more generally about the civilizations that existed in that region and tells of the decline around AD 650 of the Mayan city of Copan. He says,

“This happened even as the ruling classes apparently swelled in size over succeeding generations…in what archaeologists call the ‘increasingly parasitic role of the elite.’  (We see the same process today in the gross expansion of the Saudi royal family into no fewer than fifteen thousand princes and princesses.) This proliferation may have triggered the vicious internecine warfare and killing among the elite.”

He goes on to say, “The commoners were willing to support the privileged class as long as they kept up their end of the bargain with effective rituals.”

What does that suggest for western civilization today? Who are those that comprise our privileged class, and what is the nature of the bargain between them and the “commoners?” I leave it to the reader to ponder those questions, but I would suggest that the bargain must at least include assurances of social justice, basic human rights, and access to a fair share of our natural and cultural heritage. But however one might define that bargain, political developments around the world in recent years seem to indicate that increasing numbers of people are feeling let down by their leaders.

Are we then doomed? Will western civilization continue to  decay and collapse to be followed by another dark age?

I think it is not “we” who are doomed, it is the global interest-based debt-money regime that sits at the pinnacle of the power pyramid, and the American imperial hegemony that are doomed. How long the collapse will take, how much pain and suffering will it cause, how can the present dysfunctional systems be displaced? These are all open questions. The optimist in me sees the peaceful emergence of a multi-polar political order and a sustainable and equitable global economy based on the devolution of power and new exchange and financing mechanisms that are interest-free, cooperative, and grounded in a spirit of compassion and mutual aid. –t.h.g.

Edit: This article from the BBC provides an excellent elaboration on the topic of this post: How Western Civilization Could Collapse.

Advertisements

What in the world is going on? — Part 4

In this interview below Paul Craig Roberts describes the neo-conservative ideology that has driven geopolitics since the end of World War II, and discusses the elite agenda, the prospects for the Trump presidency, and the US economy.

He comes closer than in his earlier statements to highlighting the key control mechanism of domination—the global money system, but still falls a bit short, as indicated by his statement that if there is a severe economic crisis in the US, the Federal Reserve “will have to abandon the banks and save the dollar.”

On that I disagree. Roberts seem not to realize that the FED, as well as virtually all of the other central banks of the various countries around the world, is controlled by the big transnational banks, and that they work together to, as Prof. Carroll Quigley said, create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.

The banking elite thereby control not only the dollar, but all of the other major world currencies. If the inflation rates or unemployment rates become too high in one country, the central banks can spread the misery around by monetizing various securities and manipulating interest rates and currency exchange rates.

For the past several decades the US dollar has been their primary monetary tool, but the dollar is not the be all and end all in their schemes. You can be sure that the banking elite always have a plan. At some time in the not too distant future when the dollar has outlived its usefulness, it will be replaced by a single global currency that will give the elite even tighter control over financial, economic, and political affairs around the globe.

The flies in the ointment of their plan are (1) a few governments that are bent on steering an independent monetary and financial course, and (2) the emergence of independent, non-governmental and decentralized exchange mechanisms and currencies. In the first case, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Libya under Gaddafi were easily disposed of (but at tremendous costs). Russia and China pose a much bigger problem for the elite, hence the stalemate in Syria and the drum beat of propaganda against Putin and the fear mongering against the Chinese. With regard to alternative exchange mechanisms, the proliferation of virtual commodities like Bitcoin and others suggests that elite control may be vulnerable to innovative and disruptive technologies. But these virtual commodities mark only the beginning of the new paradigm in money and finance. Ultimately, ways will be found to create an “internet of credit” based on decentralized, personalized, local control and backed by real goods and services.

CBS Sunday Morning report-Creating new wealth on Sardinia, without cash

This recent report on the popular TV show, CBS Sunday Morning, highlights the effectiveness of direct credit clearing among buyers and sellers of goods and services–a way of doing commerce without the need for money or banks.

See also my own report from my 2015 visit to Sardex.

Human self-domestication or human extinction?

The final segment in today’s episode of Radio Lab (New Normal?) on NPR Radio was a fascinating report on domestication of wild animals, specifically foxes. By selective breeding of the few foxes who did not exhibit avoidance behavior (fear) when approached by humans, a Russian scientist was able, in ten generations, to produce docile domesticated foxes.

This naturally raises the question about the possibility of domesticating human to be less aggressive and more empathetic. In fact, the anthropological evidence suggests that since we began living in settled groups, the human species has long been undergoing a process of self-domestication, this perhaps as a necessary adaptation for living together in harmony. That idea, together with Steven Pinker’s argument that humans are becoming less violent (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined), gives me cause for hope that humanity will not extinguish itself from planet Earth.

On the other hand, the fact that power is today so concentrated in the hands of a global elite who, by their threatening behavior and objectives of domination, seem not to have sufficiently evolved in that way, is cause for worry. That raises other questions: how can they be prevented from acting irrationally or how can the levers of power that they control be disabled or overridden?–t.h.g.

What can history teach us about the present?

Is there a science of history? Are there patterns in human affairs that tend to repeat themselves? Can we understand what is happening in our time by studying the past? These are questions that have intrigued me for a long time. Based on my study of systems, networks, political economy, and human behavior, my conclusions tends toward the affirmative in each case.

Based on his book, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Prof. Eric Cline, in this fascinating lecture, looks back more than 3,200 years to describe the collapse of an earlier “global” civilization.  He presents evidence of an elaborate trading network around the Mediterranean which was composed of what he calls “the G8 of the ancient world.”

Here is a portion of the description from the YouTube channel:
“From about 1500 BC to 1200 BC, the Mediterranean region played host to a complex cosmopolitan and globalized world-system. It may have been this very internationalism that contributed to the apocalyptic disaster that ended the Bronze Age. When the end came, the civilized and international world of the Mediterranean regions came to a dramatic halt in a vast area stretching from Greece and Italy in the west to Egypt, Canaan, and Mesopotamia in the east. Large empires and small kingdoms collapsed rapidly. With their end came the world’s first recorded Dark Ages. It was not until centuries later that a new cultural renaissance emerged in Greece and the other affected areas, setting the stage for the evolution of Western society as we know it today. Professor Eric H. Cline of The George Washington University will explore why the Bronze Age came to an end and whether the collapse of those ancient civilizations might hold some warnings for our current society.”

On the same general topic, Ian Morris, Professor of History at Stanford University, in his lecture Why the West Rules — For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, points to the same primary factors that lead to the collapse of civilizations.

Mass migration
Epidemic diseases
State failure
Famine
Climate change

Historically, each collapse had been followed by a “dark age.” Is that what’s in store for us in our time? View the full lecture at https://youtu.be/wnqS7G3LmMo.

What in the world is going on? — Part 3

George Friedman, professional geopolitical analyst, founder of STRATFOR and author of The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century seems quite knowledgeable about history and the current status of military and economic power around the world.  In the following presentation he talks about U.S. strategy over the past 100 years and “the real interests of the United States.” He argues that the powers that control U.S. foreign policy have one overriding fear, which is “a united Eurasia”–“Our primary interest is to make sure that Russia and Germany do not form an entente,” neither by conquest nor agreement.

He observes that “Eurasia is now in complete chaos,” Russia and China are both weakening, and that Japan, Turkey, Poland are on the rise. He admits that “We staged the coup in Ukraine.” Regarding the Middle-East, he says “it will come down to Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to work it out.”

He believes (or claims to) that the U.S. intervention in Libya was ethically motivated, but I find that hard to believe. The evidence of the past century of U.S. interventions around the world shows quite clearly that ethical and humanitarian motivations provide mere cover for quite different  objectives. In the case of Libya, I believe that the attacks by the U.S. and NATO forces, and the murder of Muammar Gaddafi, had more to do with keeping Libya within the global debt money regime than with rescuing the Libyan people from the clutches of a “brutal dictator.”–t.h.g.

Aaron Schwartz, revolutionary genius

I could not help but be moved by watching this documentary about the life and death of Aaron Schwartz. Aaron fought for justice and for open access to the information commons. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude.