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Worst case scenario? What will keep us together if everything fails?

Sim

Registered Member
Now I may be too pessimistic here, but I am worrying about our societies in general. Not just Germany, but the West in general, Europe as much as the US.

Maybe this rope is not as small as it may look sometimes these days, but I'm afraid we are going a tightrope walk in our Western societies these days, and I am afraid we may fall.

We have been building our societies on the tin god of material wealth and a good, well running economy in the past decades. Since the Bretton Woods system failed and Reagan, Thatcher and the likes privatized the state and deregulated the economy, politics more or less completely sold out their independency to the markets and private actors, and on their fate, the fate of our political system depends now. People are as materialistic as never before, God is dead (maybe indeed dead in Europe, and almost dead in America), most people only care for their success and material wealth, no strong belief system (no matter how bad the side effects of such a system may be and have been) is still intact to make sure we still stand together if everything fails. There are subcultures and subgroups of people with very different values and worldviews.

So what happens if we really get into chaos? What will keep us together?

What, for example, if the last economic crash was just a first warning, and the next will be much bigger -- including a total economic collaps?

In Europe, things may get really ugly. We have people already who go on the streets to protest against the slightest cuts of welfare handouts or pensions. France is on strike already, the cars are regularly burning in the suburbs. Governments are running high risks when they make necessary cuts that have the image of "unsocial policies". France and to a lesser degree Italy and Germany are known for their strong prevalence of ideas like "social justice" and "social fairness", stemming from traditionally strong labor movements. What if one day, a government has to make really painful decisions -- not just the harmless little cuts we see today, which already cause some people to almost suffocate the country under protests?

We also have many immigrants in Europe, especially from Muslim countries. Islamophobic scapegoating is en vogue already, xenophobic hatred and according parties win up to 20% of the votes in several European countries. What if one day, we don't have any wealth left to share, but to manage the distribution of genuine loss? How will the xenophobes react, how the native people filled with leftist ideas about fairness? It's not a new revelation that many people, when things get really bad and their wealth is taken from them, blame the neighbor who is different. I don't think the way is too far to pogromes and maybe even civil war.

And America is not in a much better shape. The Tea Party shows that already: The Democrats obviously have no answer for the current crisis, but the response from the right is a shrill radicalism to cover their own ineptness and lack of ideas, after the Bush government drove the car against the wall. Intellectual political discourse has reached a new low with the likes of Glenn Beck, who gets an extraordinary traction, whereever you see you see shrill demagoguery, rampant conspiracy theories, anti-intellectual populism and a wild brew of anti-government sentiment -- which never gets coherent, just kept together by blind hatred against Obama and the Democrats. Some Tea Party people even talk about violent overthrow of the government, should the Republicans lose the next election. Patriotism neither can make sure to cover this rift through the country, not since some people believe they are the only ones in full understanding of patriotic values, while the other half of the country are all "traitors", "hating America" and simply "the enemy".

What if things get worse and the economy *really* crashes? How many will take up their weapons and shoot the next guy on the street, just because he is the best possible target? What if sparse resources and loss will have to be distributed, following such a final crash? Here too, I don't think the way to civil war is very long.

So what is it? Most of us are still doing relatively well, materially, despite all crisis and whatnot. What if this changes soon? What will keep us together if everything fails, and the tin God of wealth can no longer produce miracles, those miracles that kept us worshipping him for the past decades?

Are these societal rifts I see exaggerated? Are things not as bad as they look these days? Are the current trends -- social uprisings and xenophobia in Europe, the rise of insane radicalism in America -- not precursors of very bad things to come, but just hickups that may soon vanish again? What will keep people from blaming all kinds of scapegoats, be that immigrants, capitalists, the government or Muslims and using this as a justification to violently take "what is their's"?

I like to hope so, but I am not sure. Please let me know what you think.
 
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ExpectantlyIronic

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I think whenever you see an economic slump you get a rise in apparent radicalism, simply because people are upset. Naturally, if the economy were to sink into a depression, such things would further increase, and I doubt it would be pretty. Though, in the long term, I see no reason to suspect economic collapse. The latest slump seems to owe to over-investment in real estate creating an artificial demand that spurned further investment, until prices were at stupid levels and actual demand for real estate never materialized to a sufficient degree to pay off investors. So you got a crash there, and due to everyone apparently thinking real estate was a rock solid investment, the banks were over-invested in it as well. So the banks were screwed, and the promise of easily available financial capital disappeared, causing businesses to tighten their waistbands.

Meanwhile, production capacity is still there. Right now, corporations (in America at least) are swimming in cash reserves. At some point they're going to have to use that money to grow their company. Shareholders tend to demand that a company use excess reserves to grow, or else that it be paid out in dividends. So unless something severely spooks everyone, I see further economic growth on the horizon. I say further, because both America and Europe are currently showing GDP growth, and it appears to be on the rise.

If we were to hit a depression, though, I suspect we'd pull our way out of it.
 
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JaneSmith

Registered Member
I hear ya, Sim!
Yes, let's examine the "what ifs".
Zombie Apocalypse scenerios are my fav.
Of course it's not like the typical movie where zombies are everywhere, it's more like people turn to canabalism because they are really hungry.
Take for instance the recent Stuxnet computer virus. That was specifically aimed at shutting down power grids. This loss of electricity wouldn't be for a day, a week, it would be a month or more. And yes, that would turn chaotic.
There have been instances in the US where this has been proven, Hurricane Andrew and Katrina are prime examples. Hurricane Andrew hit a city that was fairly spread out with excellent city government and although it took years to recover the contrast in Katrina is a real model of how poverty makes a bif difference. Currently Haiti is still reeling from an earthquake that has long past.

With the in mind I'd say that the recovery from our current economic situation has consolidated population. Any time there is a migration of population another blow will trigger chaos. Resource depletion could be that final straw.

So we have inner cities in dire financial shape. And throw in a 3 month power outage, what happens? Yes, hungry zombies! All the supermarkets are out of food, no fresh food is available because of lack of refridgeration. It's winter possibly and people are cold. All the National Guard are stressed and hungry too. And now disease outbreaks are common from breakdown in infrastructure.

Is that what you had in mind? How long would you last without electricity for 3 months? Do you have an emergency plan in place? Would you be dependent on the government?
 

Sim

Registered Member
Is that what you had in mind? How long would you last without electricity for 3 months? Do you have an emergency plan in place? Would you be dependent on the government?
Yes, pretty much. I like the zombie analogy.

And I'm afraid it doesn't really need to go so far that there is a natural disaster or fatal malfunction that causes chaos. Maybe even more likely is "just" a collapse of world economy. Of course that could be triggered by a lot of things, like a really devastating natural disaster, or maybe even by a giant terrorist attack (say, a nuke goes off in NY, for example), if the system is just fragile enough.

I frankly admit that I don't even remotely understand the chaotic interactions of thousands of variables that make the economy work. But from what I've read, even experts on the economy do not really understand that. Sure, limited predictions about a general direction are possible, but since there are so many variables, just think of chaos theory to fathom what could happen in the worst case. And just think how unreliable and vague, aiming at short term only, even expert predictions are.

And then think of the effects of such an economic crash. The moment power is no longer based on money, because money's value is gone, there is a thorough "new deal" of the cards: Former masters who had based their power on money become slaves and victims, and those who have force and capacity to exert violence become the new masters. Both inside society and on international scale: What if the West's economic power is gone from one week to the next? Many other powers would be relatively more powerful from one moment to the next; those who hardly ever had economic power, but considerable military power.

And since the international system is a fragile balance of power, extreme turbulences are to be expected when this balance is shaken and there is a "new deal" of power and influence. The result could be giant wars.

I guess my main idea is that we're often not aware how fragile the systems we take as granted actually are. Or I am too anxious, and thus I overestimate that fragility. But I'm afraid that at the moment, things are more fragile than they used to be before, and a little tip may cause the card house to collapse.
 

Mihael_langley

Formerly "Maikeru"
Last week i saw talking to my parents in a joking tone, that perhaps the best option would be to adopt a lifestyle that goes as far apart as possible from the conventional life style from modern societies, and go to the field, go back in time, plant or own food and live quietly in a small village or plains.

Maybe that wouldn't be a bad idea in such scenario. To not depend so much on current money.
 

MenInTights

not a plastic bag
Yes, pretty much. I like the zombie analogy.

And I'm afraid it doesn't really need to go so far that there is a natural disaster or fatal malfunction that causes chaos. Maybe even more likely is "just" a collapse of world economy. Of course that could be triggered by a lot of things, like a really devastating natural disaster, or maybe even by a giant terrorist attack (say, a nuke goes off in NY, for example), if the system is just fragile enough.

I frankly admit that I don't even remotely understand the chaotic interactions of thousands of variables that make the economy work. But from what I've read, even experts on the economy do not really understand that. Sure, limited predictions about a general direction are possible, but since there are so many variables, just think of chaos theory to fathom what could happen in the worst case. And just think how unreliable and vague, aiming at short term only, even expert predictions are.

And then think of the effects of such an economic crash. The moment power is no longer based on money, because money's value is gone, there is a thorough "new deal" of the cards: Former masters who had based their power on money become slaves and victims, and those who have force and capacity to exert violence become the new masters. Both inside society and on international scale: What if the West's economic power is gone from one week to the next? Many other powers would be relatively more powerful from one moment to the next; those who hardly ever had economic power, but considerable military power.

And since the international system is a fragile balance of power, extreme turbulences are to be expected when this balance is shaken and there is a "new deal" of power and influence. The result could be giant wars.

I guess my main idea is that we're often not aware how fragile the systems we take as granted actually are. Or I am too anxious, and thus I overestimate that fragility. But I'm afraid that at the moment, things are more fragile than they used to be before, and a little tip may cause the card house to collapse.
I agree with everything you say Sim. Like you, I read economics and I don't claim to have any real clue about where things are going to go. You talk about being built on a fragile system. The bedrock of it all is confidence. For us; "The full faith and credit of the United States". There are dozens of ways to lose that: terrorist, debt, loss of government trust, war... I've seen in my life, specifically over the last 12 years a quick erosion of confidence on many fronts.

Regardless of how rich or poor you are, there are things that you've got to do in today's world: Get out of debt, store food, connect with people that have similar worries, hope and pray for the best. I think most importantly is to think through things. If all hell broke lose this afternoon, lets say major cities were nukes, do you know what you would immediately do? What would you get at the store? Is your place safe or should you go to a parent or friend's house?

Its not something that I spend much time on, but yeah I've got a plan. If I never have to use it and I live to 120, great. That would be wonderful.
 

CaptainObvious

Son of Liberty
V.I.P.
Now I may be too pessimistic here, but I am worrying about our societies in general. Not just Germany, but the West in general, Europe as much as the US.

Maybe this rope is not as small as it may look sometimes these days, but I'm afraid we are going a tightrope walk in our Western societies these days, and I am afraid we may fall.

We have been building our societies on the tin god of material wealth and a good, well running economy in the past decades. Since the Bretton Woods system failed and Reagan, Thatcher and the likes privatized the state and deregulated the economy, politics more or less completely sold out their independency to the markets and private actors, and on their fate, the fate of our political system depends now. People are as materialistic as never before, God is dead (maybe indeed dead in Europe, and almost dead in America), most people only care for their success and material wealth, no strong belief system (no matter how bad the side effects of such a system may be and have been) is still intact to make sure we still stand together if everything fails. There are subcultures and subgroups of people with very different values and worldviews.
I disagree with you in how this started to collapse. I don't blame privitazation so much as I blame liberal policies that call for more and more government spending. This has led to more and more of an entitlement mentality. Governments on the edge of collapse and unable to continue these entitlement programs are what you see happening here:

In Europe, things may get really ugly. We have people already who go on the streets to protest against the slightest cuts of welfare handouts or pensions. France is on strike already, the cars are regularly burning in the suburbs. Governments are running high risks when they make necessary cuts that have the image of "unsocial policies". France and to a lesser degree Italy and Germany are known for their strong prevalence of ideas like "social justice" and "social fairness", stemming from traditionally strong labor movements. What if one day, a government has to make really painful decisions -- not just the harmless little cuts we see today, which already cause some people to almost suffocate the country under protests?


And America is not in a much better shape. The Tea Party shows that already: The Democrats obviously have no answer for the current crisis, but the response from the right is a shrill radicalism to cover their own ineptness and lack of ideas, after the Bush government drove the car against the wall. Intellectual political discourse has reached a new low with the likes of Glenn Beck, who gets an extraordinary traction, whereever you see you see shrill demagoguery, rampant conspiracy theories, anti-intellectual populism and a wild brew of anti-government sentiment -- which never gets coherent, just kept together by blind hatred against Obama and the Democrats. Some Tea Party people even talk about violent overthrow of the government, should the Republicans lose the next election. Patriotism neither can make sure to cover this rift through the country, not since some people believe they are the only ones in full understanding of patriotic values, while the other half of the country are all "traitors", "hating America" and simply "the enemy".
With all due respect Sim this smacks of anti-intellectualism. It's fairly obvious you don't watch or listen to Glenn Beck. I don't agree with him very much but to catagorize him the way you do shows a lot of ignorace of not just him, but the Tea Party as well.

The dislike of Obama isn't blind hatred, it's an understanding he is leading this country into the mess you describe Europe as being in.

What if things get worse and the economy *really* crashes? How many will take up their weapons and shoot the next guy on the street, just because he is the best possible target? What if sparse resources and loss will have to be distributed, following such a final crash? Here too, I don't think the way to civil war is very long.
I thought it was just the right that was guilty of fear-mongering.


So what is it? Most of us are still doing relatively well, materially, despite all crisis and whatnot. What if this changes soon? What will keep us together if everything fails, and the tin God of wealth can no longer produce miracles, those miracles that kept us worshipping him for the past decades?
I don't know, maybe a change in mentality that we need to take responsibility for ourselves instead of relying on the government to care for us will keep us together.

Are these societal rifts I see exaggerated? Are things not as bad as they look these days? Are the current trends -- social uprisings and xenophobia in Europe, the rise of insane radicalism in America -- not precursors of very bad things to come, but just hickups that may soon vanish again? What will keep people from blaming all kinds of scapegoats, be that immigrants, capitalists, the government or Muslims and using this as a justification to violently take "what is their's"?

I like to hope so, but I am not sure. Please let me know what you think.
I just have to say, I find it curious you complain about Islamophobia yet always resort to "conservaphobia" (if there is a word).
 
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Sim

Registered Member
I disagree with you in how this started to collapse. I don't blame privitazation so much as I blame liberal policies that call for more and more government spending. This has led to more and more of an entitlement mentality. Governments on the edge of collapse and unable to continue these entitlement programs are what you see happening here:
Well let's not bicker here, as I see it, the reason for collapse was a combination of the market being filled with greed that did no longer feel obliged to the ideal standards of a free market (since when do bank officials get payment independent of their actual work?), and a government that even put incentives in favor of such a failure (even bowing down to the free market when it failed to respect its own strong sides).

Maybe the problem is that neither the free market seemed to respect its own benefits again, but was corrupted with greed and individuals buying their own benefits, and a government that was neither capable of seeing its own limits, nor restraining from being bought by private actors.


With all due respect Sim this smacks of anti-intellectualism. It's fairly obvious you don't watch or listen to Glenn Beck. I don't agree with him very much but to catagorize him the way you do shows a lot of ignorace of not just him, but the Tea Party as well.
I've seen enough of Glenn Beck to know what he's like. The last thing I've seen about him is when he ripped one of Obama's statements about "compassion" out of context to conflate him with Nazism: "Even the Nazis justified their policy of euthanizing people to death with compassion. Compassion is a bad yardstick to justify policies", and he compared Obama's policies to those of Nazi Germany forming the SS.

If you don't see how this guy is fucked up beyond all reason, how his statements are wrong on a hundres of levels and that he is evil incarnate, there is no much reason to continue the discussion about him with you.

The dislike of Obama isn't blind hatred, it's an understanding he is leading this country into the mess you describe Europe as being in.
I don't think Europe is anymore in danger than the US is. You have irrationalism and rabid hatred that dominates the US right at the moment. In fact, Europe even looks better after the financial crisis than the US, at the moment: Germany's unemployment rate is the lowest in 18 years, and growth is better than hardly ever before.

The problem I describe is more fundamental: How will people behave once the illusion of material growth and wealth is taken from them? And in these regards, I don't see the US in a better shape than Europe.

I thought it was just the right that was guilty of fear-mongering.
Maybe I said that in a thread when discussing with SS before, but I do think the US has a rabid right. Europe, on the other hand, has a rabid left. Both are equally crazy and irrational.

I don't know, maybe a change in mentality that we need to take responsibility for ourselves instead of relying on the government to care for us will keep us together.
The moment the government does not have to distribute anything anymore, this may easily become the leading slogan for anarchy and civil war.

I just have to say, I find it curious you complain about Islamophobia yet always resort to "conservaphobia" (if there is a word).
I hope I made clear that I don't blame conservatism in general for anything. But as I see it, the conservative side in America has really become crazy and extremist, much like the extreme left in Europe has been for a while already. I hope neither will come to power anytime soon.
 

CaptainObvious

Son of Liberty
V.I.P.
Well let's not bicker here, as I see it, the reason for collapse was a combination of the market being filled with greed that did no longer feel obliged to the ideal standards of a free market (since when do bank officials get payment independent of their actual work?), and a government that even put incentives in favor of such a failure (even bowing down to the free market when it failed to respect its own strong sides).

Maybe the problem is that neither the free market seemed to respect its own benefits again, but was corrupted with greed and individuals buying their own benefits, and a government that was neither capable of seeing its own limits, nor restraining from being bought by private actors.
I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree. The biggest culprit was the government creating artificial demands especially in the housing market.

I've seen enough of Glenn Beck to know what he's like. The last thing I've seen about him is when he ripped one of Obama's statements about "compassion" out of context to conflate him with Nazism: "Even the Nazis justified their policy of euthanizing people to death with compassion. Compassion is a bad yardstick to justify policies", and he compared Obama's policies to those of Nazi Germany forming the SS.

If you don't see how this guy is fucked up beyond all reason, how his statements are wrong on a hundres of levels and that he is evil incarnate, there is no much reason to continue the discussion about him with you.
Evil incarnate? There are people in the world like Osama Bin Laden and Fred Phelps, there are rapists, child molesters, murders, evil dictators around the world and a guy who dislikes Obama's policies is evil incarnate?!?!?!!?!? Ok:rolleyes:

I don't think Europe is anymore in danger than the US is. You have irrationalism and rabid hatred that dominates the US right at the moment. In fact, Europe even looks better after the financial crisis than the US, at the moment: Germany's unemployment rate is the lowest in 18 years, and growth is better than hardly ever before.
Do you really believe you are being objective here or will you admit you just can't stand anyone disagreeing with Obama on substance?

The problem I describe is more fundamental: How will people behave once the illusion of material growth and wealth is taken from them? And in these regards, I don't see the US in a better shape than Europe.
Maybe the same way they did during the Great Depression, or maybe not.

Maybe I said that in a thread when discussing with SS before, but I do think the US has a rabid right. Europe, on the other hand, has a rabid left. Both are equally crazy and irrational.
Yeah, that wanting to reduce taxes and let consumers spend is just so crazy and irrational!!!

The moment the government does not have to distribute anything anymore, this may easily become the leading slogan for anarchy and civil war.
Who said anything about not distributing anything anymore?

I hope I made clear that I don't blame conservatism in general for anything. But as I see it, the conservative side in America has really become crazy and extremist, much like the extreme left in Europe has been for a while already. I hope neither will come to power anytime soon.
Nope, you've made quite the opposite very clear actually.
 
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