Saturday, August 13, 2011

A New World Order?

Today I finished the first draft of a new book that replaces one I’d finished a year before, because that one was scooped by subsequent world events in a way that made what I’d written appear derivative rather than original.  It also took a year for the fist to heal that I drove through the wall (thankfully between the studs) when I realized I must “stick it in a drawer” and start over. 

All of which is a long way of saying my mind has been elsewhere this week.  I am not from the outliners which means that in those final days at the end of a new novel, when all must come together and I have no idea how that precisely shall occur until the last word is written, I am lost in another in world.

And that brings me to today’s piece.  Another world.

Mykonos, where I live most of the year, is filled with interesting visitors these days.  They come from everywhere, good countries and bad.  As to which countries fall into which category, let’s just say it depends upon the perceiver’s particular frame of reference.

Yes, very few judgments seem absolute these days (beyond, for instance, I love my grandchildren unconditionally), which is why I’m amazed when educated, informed people from so many parts of the world seem to have come to the same conclusion independent of each other. 

Now, I’m not saying I agree, but I am saying many people I’ve met seem to think this way.  So, are you ready to launch into me as the messenger?  I can take it.  Like I said, I just finished a new book and feel invincible.  At least until tomorrow, when the rewriting starts.

Here is the point.  Really two.

The western world is utterly lacking in capable political leadership and that has allowed a dramatic shift of extraordinary power into the hands of a very small group having no interest in any political order beyond how to use it to expand their own wealth and power.  Yes, Virginia, we are back to talking about a conspiracy among the world’s bankers, but to be fair, this is not confined to its bankers, but applies to the financial system as a whole.

Over the last decade there has been such a dramatic consolidation of power in the financial world that today the decisions of perhaps a dozen human beings at the apex of those pyramids affect the lives of virtually every soul on the planet.  And if they act in concert, consciously or unconsciously, bond and commodities markets are raped, companies destroyed, countries fall.

An example I’ve been cited on more than one occasion by very different sources is this: Bad harvests made wheat prices vulnerable, wheat became the target of speculators, the price of flour multiplied, the poor could no longer afford their bread, a government did not intervene to help ease the suffering (for whatever reason you chose you believe), the people rioted, the government fell.  Can you name that country?  I won’t.

So, is it true?  Is the western world truly captive to the greed of financial manipulators because its putative political leadership is not capable?  Or is it something else.  Am I beginning to sound like a Greek, where a conspiracy is seen in the number of raisins in a cereal box? 

I think I shall go back to writing fiction … it’s so much more believable.



  1. Oh, Jeff, don't verbalize my fears. Let me continue to think I'm just paranoid.

  2. LOL, Donis. But remember, even paranoids have bankers.


  3. Agree with much of what you said and with the cartoon of Mr. Moneybags.

    I think the bankers and their kin have always been in control of the helm but behind the scenes. Now it's all out in front and visible, and they're more overtly aggressive.

    Certainly the big financial interests are telling European governments what to do, what to cut from programs people need. Unemployment is high and growing, people aren't getting services, more people are poor, desperate and angry. Many young people have no future and no hope...not good.

    True in the States where the income gap is larger than ever, where Wall Street representatives met with government officials over the federal budget. The bankers and bondholders want their debt and interest paid. Standard & Poor's pretty much told Congress to cut more from the big 3: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

    This struck panic, fear and anger into the hearts of all elderly, middle-class, working, poor people, disabled, etc., who worked for, paid taxes on and need these programs.

    I don't know what's going to happen. But suffering and anger will grow.

  4. I think you're right, Kathy. The anger fueling today's demonstrations and, indeed, revolutions is not altruistic- or ideology-based, it is economic. And when people sliding down the economic ladder, who know what it's like living up a few rungs, see their chances of moving back there diminishing every day, things can get downright nasty.

  5. The altruism that peeks out whenever there is a disaster, shows itself often enough for people, Americans, to continue to fuel the notion that the United States is the most generous nation in the world. But that generosity plays out against natural disasters, the kind of thing that can happen to everybody/anybody.

    The only two things that will not be forgiven in society today are overweight and poverty. That the first can be generational and caused by the second is overlooked. Walk through an American supermarket and look at the cost per pound of fresh fruit and vegetables. A pound of apples might be three pieces of fruit. Peel an orange and you may well discover that the actual fruit is the size of a golf ball. The pittance families receive for groceries has to be stretched to cover macaroni and cheese to fill hungry kids.

    We are a Puritanical society in terms of our view of the poor. Wealth is a sign of God's favor. Listen to the Bible-belt philosophy of the Tea Party. "Do unto others" isn't part of the platform. Is the country being destroyed by the greed of the banks or the selfishness of the electorate? Are the banks not able to justify their greed because the selfishness of the investors want increases in their balances rather than fair treatment of those who most need the help of the few at the top?
    If the Republicans in the House are left to carry out the measures that were passed a few weeks ago, democracy in the US is on a steady slide into oligarchy. Aristotle wrote that there cannot be democracy without a middle class to serve as a buffer between the poor and the rich. The middle class is disappearing. The refusal of the Republican party, held hostage to the Tea Party, to create new sources of revenue guarantees that we will be, like most countries in South America, a country of two classes, the very rich and the varying degrees of poor.

    We will send millions of dollars in relief aid as well as workers to the site of the next natural disaster as we should. We will not demand that the wealthiest people and corporations pay higher taxes so that the working class can earn a living wage and the ranks of the unemployed be whittled through job creation.

  6. Jeffrey, bulls-eye. The tradition "left" and "right" spectrum has become pretty much meaningless as the Eisenhower Warning comes to pass. Our last career military man to serve as president, he used his farewell address to the nation, fifty years ago, to say this:

    ". . . we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

    And, of course, when you get to business at this level, you're also talking about banks. It's interesting to me that as we become a corporatocracy, we get into more and more wars - not Save The World wars, but pissy little wars undertaken for ulterior motives: Vietnam, Central America, Grenada, Gulf War 1, Gulf War II, Afghanistan/ Waziristan, Libya, and so forth. Undertaken and prolonged by Democrats and Republicans alike.

    Trillions and trillions of dollars of taxpayer money even as our own national debt actually EXCEEDED our gross national product. And both parties talk about saving the world through cuts to "entitlement" programs while Americans continue to die -- expensively -- in places they don't belong.

    Exactly one candidate -- the eccentric former libertarian Ron Paul -- says, "Bring them home right now. Stop engaging in sanctions against Iran. Why aren't we friends with Cuba?" He also said, "Repeal the Patriot Act."

    Okay, this is interesting, because whatever I think of the rest of his occasionally horrifying agenda, he's the only candidate who's not a hand puppet, and that includes our extraordinarily disappointing president. If through some freak of fate he were elected, I'd begin immediately to wonder about assassination.

  7. Jeffery,
    Wow!! Now I wanna read your latest book when it's available!:)

  8. I seem to indulge in a lot of distractions because the news is so distressing. People are likening this to the Gilded Age where so people are poor and the rich are buying nine thousand dollar purses. Ironically, this led to the civil unrest which led to the formation of unions. Today, unions are distrusted, even tough they still stand for regular people. Strange world. I think I'll stick to my distractions.

  9. Hi Jeffery - I love conspiracies, sometimes because they are so ridiculous and sometimes because the are so on the spot. In the case of the world's finances I agree with you 100% - something somewhere is really fishy. Any system as complicated as the global finance system is just begging for abuse for self gain. And why is it that people become so obsessed with money and luxury that they own yacths that cost more to operate per hour than most families a year. What the hell is so great about this lifestyle and all that goes with it, something so wonderful that the people living it will stoop at nothing to keep the party going? I just don't get it.

    But I do feel for Greece that has been handed the short end of the stick.


  10. Oh dear me - I made so many spelling errors that it is pathetic. The worst one is "stoop at nothing" instead of "stop at nothing". My apologies for this goofiness.


  11. Just wondering, has there ever been a time when greed did not rule man?

  12. Beth, you ask questions for which I have no answers, although as a child raised in the fruit and vegetable business I suggest you shop elsewhere for your oranges. Hey, perhaps that's the answer to all your questions: shop elsewhere. But where?

    I'm hard pressed these days to believe what I hear from any political office seeker. And that applies to practically everyone of them, everywhere in the world. At home, I've been disappointed so many times that I'm grudgingly coming around to accepting the wisdom of my fruit-peddling Grandpa, "No matter what they say, they're all alike."

    Candidates say whatever their political bases want to hear, but if entrusted with office simply do whatever they "think best." Under the luckiest of circumstances what "best" means to them has a peripheral value to their country, state, or locality.

    "Throw the bums out" is a popular world wide slogan (again), but are those anxious to step in any better? In the US how can they be with the media mega-bucks required to get elected? Don't get me started on that one, because I'll begin ranting about the insidious lobbying that keeps elections so expensive that no decent candidate can afford to run without mortgaging him/herself to Mr. Moneypockets.

    Hmm, maybe you did get me started. I think I'll move on to Tim.

    Tim, See above.

    Your Eisenhower quote is one of my favorites. It's amazing what happens if you drop it into the middle of "certain" conversations and ask who said it. I'm shocked at how few ever heard the quote, let alone know the answer. But of all the answers my favorite by far is, "I don't know who said it, but whoever did obviously doesn't know much about what it takes to keep America strong."

    To be fair (in an "I come to bury Caesar not to praise him" sort of way) I think the final word the speaker meant to use was "rich [for some]".

    Arnie, I'm honored! I usually publish my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis novels in January, but as I had to scurry about rewriting my scooped new one, it's now slated to come out in June 2012--just in time to get your mind off what most certainly will be a lovely and civil election season.

    Lil, I always like your take on things. Interesting what you said about the purse and the poor. Hard working people, whether with or without a job, who see more spent on a meal than they are likely to earn in a month, or on a trinket costing more than a year's wages (and that happens far more often than you might imagine, especially in Greece during tourist season), can not help but be resentful. And when the person buying the meal or trinket is one of their elected officials, government or union, resentment is the least of the reactions the polity has to worry about.

  13. Yrsa,

    Perhaps "stoop" is the right word:). I regret to say there appear to be more and more people in this world driven solely by the acquisition of things for the sake of nothing more than that. I am not against capitalism, far from it, I admire the entrepreneurial spirit (even if I can't spell it), and believe Greece needs to encourage it strongly if it is to regain it's footing anytime soon. BUT, there is a decided lack of generosity of spirit in the western world these days. We made ours, now you make yours...though we'll do our damnedest to stop you from competing with us to do it of course.

    Why is that? I really wish I knew. As Michael suggests, greed has always ruled man, but compassion has often been there to whisper in its ear. Perhaps it's lost its voice?

    Let's hope not for long.

  14. I guess I am an optimist. The world has survived worst just in the last century. The world survived the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, the political chaos of Europe in 1934-45, two World Wars and the Atomic Bomb.

    Today charity and compassion is everywhere but on the nightly news.

    The World is far from perfect, but in our concerns over what is wrong with it we must never become so depressed that we forget to enjoy what is right about it.

  15. I agree wholeheartedly with you, Michael. Attempting to understand the world is no reason for becoming depressed at what you may find, only inspiration for trying to make it better. After all, those only lose who give up when they're down.

  16. PS. It was suggested to me "off line" that I note for those of you who have not already guessed that the photos of James Caan and Kathy Bates are from the movie "Misery" based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.

  17. Good stuff Jeff. While I share michael's optimism, I think of all the things wrong with our world, and there are several, our impotence in the face of corporate and financial muscle is the most troubling. Our elected leaders have shown to be powerless and prostrate in the face of big money. They come up with deals to deal with debt ceilings, but the market says it's not enough, and the panic continues. Who are they to pronounce on political decisions? That's the people's job. And, pardon my French, who the f*** are Standard and Poor and what right do they have? Oh yes, the firm that thought Enron were triple AAA until the day before they went bust.

    Something needs to be done but no one out there would dare. They'd be crucified. The greedy few with their stocks and shares and brokers and desire to get rich and damn the consequences wouldn't allow it on a small level, while the firms and banks that bankroll all our politicians would stop it higher up (lower down?) the chain.