Responding to the collapse (Ireland)

2008-10-03

Richard Moore

Greetings,
FYI, here is my next article for the Southeast Voice, a regional free paper here in Ireland.
rkm
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The smirking foxes who guard the hen house

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Responding to the collapse
Richard K. Moore
Momentous events continue apace. Since my last article, EU governments proclaimed cockily that the financial crisis was an Anglo-American problem, and then the next day we find out that European banks are more highly leveraged than US banks! Ireland’s own bailout is the most radical of all, 400 billion Euro to underwrite its leading banks. When there isn’t enough money to run our schools or health service, tax receipts are below expectations, and the dole queues are growing, where in the world is that 400 billion supposed to come from? How can the Irish treasury afford to assume liability for all that dubious debt? What happened to all those EU rules about debt limitations?
All over the world governments are scrambling to patch up a crumbling system, to somehow keep the building from tumbling down. They’re breaking all their own rules in these desperate attempts to avert the inevitable. They all complain about the collapsing bubble, but they don’t acknowledge that if it weren’t for that bubble, the global financial system would have collapsed long ago. 
The bubble was invented by Alan Greenspan, then head of the Federal Reserve, as a means reviving a dying corpse. He pumped a new wonder drug into the corpse’s veins, derivative instruments. As if injected with a cocktail of cocaine and adrenalin, the financial system arose from its deathbed, got up and partied. And how it’s hit the wall, big time, for the last time. The bubble isn’t just the housing market, it’s all the phony derivatives, trillions of dollars traded daily with no relationship to the real world economy. The housing bubble was the straw on the camel’s overloaded back.  It was all a Ponzi scheme from the beginning, and everyone was more than happy to get a piece of it.
So what are we left with? The financial system is as dead as it was before the wonder drug, and now everyone is up to their ears in debt as well. What we are seeing is an example of ‘managed collapse’. If the system is collapsing anyway, then those who run it – the usual suspects in the world of finance – have no intention of letting that happen haphazardly. Like the owner of a condemned building, they arrange for an orderly demolition. Only in this case, the tenants don’t get to leave the building before it comes down. As far as economics goes – and that pretty much determines what happens to you and your family – we’re all trapped in the Twin Towers, with smoke billowing around us, and the charges about to be set off. We’ve already heard the first few explosions, as structural pillars failed in Wall Street, London, Frankfurt, et al.
The purpose of the Ponzi project was not to save the financial system, rather it was to ensure that the banking elite would end up owning all the pieces when the building finally fell down. If Ireland owes 400 billion to the banks, and the Irish economy collapses, then in essence Ireland goes into receivership, with the banks managing the liquidation of the assets (that’s your house, his farm or business, and her new car). That’s what’s happening in America, with their bailout bill, which essentially turns control over the US economy to Henry Paulson (see photo). He’s Secretary of the Treasury at the moment, but before that he was at Goldman Sachs, and was one of the architects of the Ponzi scheme. First he sets the incendiaries, then he manages the insurance pay outs, Larry Silverstein style. The whole game is rather transparent really; you’ve got to be as blind as a TV journalist to miss it.
This is the era of managed collapses. 9/11 was about managing the collapse of American hegemony, enabling last-ditch resource-grabbing adventures abroad, and enabling civil chaos at home to be managed via marital law and arbitrary detention. Artificially high (via managed speculation) fuel and food prices are a way of managing the collapse of the resource base upon which capitalism feeds. Economic genocide – Irish famine style, but on a global scale – is aimed at reducing the number of ‘useless feeders’ (Kissinger’s phrase), so their land and resources can be used for other, more profitable, purposes. A way of killing off the Redskins without fielding a cavalry.
In fact it is industrial civilization, coupled with the capitalist growth paradigm, that is the real bubble, a bubble that always had to burst. It is civilization itself that is collapsing, at least that monetized, exploitive, mechanized civilization that we’ve come to know over the past two centuries. It deserves to collapse; it is destroying the Earth. But it is not in our interest that the collapse be managed in the way it is being managed. In Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia, we can see sensible approaches to adjusting to global changes, led by those who are in political power, members of a very rare breed – top political leaders who are genuinely ‘with the people’, and who have both courage and vision. Unfortunately that breed is extinct in our part of the world.
In the the US and the EU it’s the banking elites that pull the strings of power, with governments embedded in a financial web they have little control over, or at least that’s how they behave. The governments behave that way, unwilling to use the Constitutional power at their disposal, because the politicians who run the governments are caught in another web – a web of corruption that they have little control over. Their professional skills have little to do with courage or vision, and everything to do with how to walk the tightrope of the insider web, how to spin cover stories to the public, and how to collect their bonus points when they ‘do good’ for their patrons. The same financial spiders weave the big webs and the little webs. Society is the patient and the financial system is the disease. The aim of the predator banking elite is to preserve the disease at the expense of the patient. In that way they are like the pharmaceutical industry.
In my previous article, I suggested that a sensible path for Ireland, as a nation, would be disengagement from the machine, the financial web that is strangling everyone everywhere. In the face of a sinking Titanic, I’m recommending that we take refuge on a life raft, little Ireland on its own, a life raft that happens to be provisioned with a renewable and adequate supply of food and water. It’s a desperate recommendation to be sure, which is why I’ve tried to outline the scope and nature of the impending collapse. The life raft would be on rough seas, but better off than being pulled under by the debt-suction of the ‘unsinkable’ global economy.
There is of course no chance that any such project of national liberation would ever be undertaken by any foreseeable Irish government. It would be unthinkable for any of the dominant political parties or their leaders. If there is to be any kind of sensible response to the collapse, it will need to somehow emerge from civil society, from the Irish people themselves. In this transitional period, while the machine continues to function more or less as normal, it may seem surrealistic to imagine any kind of grassroots mobilization. But better to explore the escape routes now, than waiting until the building collapses around us. 
Ireland is blessed with a number of unique advantages, as regards the nature of its civil society and its cultural traditions, and as regards the balance between its resources and its population. The island is physically capable of supporting a prosperous and sustainable local economy for its people, although prosperity needs to be measured in terms of real human needs, not in terms of our current gadgets and consumerist addictions. The relatively small population density, the largely rural infrastructure, and the prevalence of relatively small-scale agricultural operations, are all distinct advantages, if we are required to fall back on our own resources for our survival. 
These favorable physical / economic conditions are a prerequisite for national self-sufficiency to be achieved, but they aren’t enough by themselves to get us through to the other side, particularly when the government isn’t aligned with the project. Only a coherent grassroots mobilization, a fraternal economic ‘rising’ if you will, can succeed in creating new exchange channels that operate outside of the official money economy, and enable productive economic activity to carry on in the shadow of the collapsing global system. And this is where the special character of Irish civil society, and its cultural traditions, come into play.
Irish society is interwoven with all kinds of formal and informal networks, everything from family ties, to GAA connections, to the countless ‘Associations’ with autonomous local chapters, and those are just a few examples. These networks, and the relatively small population of Ireland, make us one of the most ‘in touch with one another’ cultures in Europe. The potential is there, when the common need is felt, for social cohesion to emerge and for mutual-aid networks to be activated. 
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References

I’ve been collecting informative reports and analyses of the latest financial (and other) developments on my newslog blog: 
The DVD, How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, is very timely and worth watching. We hear people tell their stories, of how they got through the “Special Period, and emerged with a transformed social infrastructure and a sustainable agricultural regime. An inspiring success story of an island life raft, cast adrift a few miles from hostile shores. The DVD is available here: 
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