Tuesday 27 July 2010

After the Apocalypse - or instead of it

In the comments section of my previous piece, "Arthurian" picks up on a remark I made regarding the mindset of some it's-all-going-to-end-ers. I respond:

What I'm thinking re the bit you quoted is that there is a self-aggrandizing tendency to think that the end of the world is nigh, which kind of ties in with one's own mortality and somehow makes the latter more meaningful, e.g. when I was a teenager we'd write poems about the threat of nuclear war.

Take James Kunstler: very sparkly prose style, but through it you sense a relish in contemplating the end of the corrupt old order, which will be replaced by an energy-efficient, sunny, bike-riding, low-food-miles happyocratic New World. In its way it's the sort of fantasy promoted by Communists to justify the awful things we must regrettably do before we get there, only here it's simply inevitable and we don't have to do anything to make it happen, so no guilt.

Fact is, when the money system broke down in Germany in 1923 and Hungary in 1946, the history books don't conclude their accounts with the sentence "As a result, everybody starved to death". The worst things that happened in Germany were what people decided to do about the collapse, in particular to look for a strong leader - ah yes, what we all need.

So ignoring the Doomsdayists and the Bright New Worlders, we should look at the social and political ramifications of what is undoubtedly major financial change. Growing inequality, increasing unemployment, and a State more determined to keep tabs on the populace. Money meltdown has been prevented, but civil liberties and the democratic system are definitely threatened. We've all (or most of us) been a lot poorer materially before now, but our birthright (even in the UK) is the expectation of liberty and the rights and intrinsic, inalienable worth of the individual.

The US has an advantage in that this eighteenth-century vision of man and society was preserved, crystallised, installed in the Constitution, and there'll be a hell of a ripping sound if someone tries to tear it out. The UK's constitution is much more liable to change and so while the biggest noise comes from America, the biggest loss may be ours - if we don't fight for the Rights of Man.

As a financial adviser (while there is much of a financial system left), I try to defend the little wealth of my clients - property rights are part of the R of M - but as I say, at the end it's not really about money. Once a basic minimum has been achieved, the material aspects of life are less important than the social.

What good would all the money in the world be, if you were the last human being on earth? That's a question I'd like to ask the 1% who own 40% of everything. I suspect many of them are gripped by a kind of madness.

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