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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

On the Edge of an Abyss?

A brief blog on – not to be too apocalyptic about things – peering into the abyss. Perhaps I'm being alarmist, but am I alone in feeling a bit lemming-like as the days go on and the implosion of the world's financial regimes edges closer?

Is the battle that is being played out between Obama and the Republicans over America’ s debt ceiling just another wearisome round of political bargaining and macho posturing? Or is it for real this time? (It's easy to get jaded with the constant talk of financial insecurity and switch off). But with the Republicans refusing to allow Obama to reduce the budget deficit by a combination of raising taxes on a wealthy minority plus spending cuts – the Republicans want the axe to fall only on spending – the risk is that, in effect, the US will run out of money. I simplify, but (unfortunately) not a lot.

How do we know when what we read signifies something that really will impact on us – and when it is speculation, media-talk, or hyperbole? After the 2007 crash everyone was suddenly an expert, having known all long that the bubble would burst, that it was "inevitable". Yet although leading up to it there had been a few straws in the wind, very few understood that we were building palaces on a swamp.

But doesn’t it feel – or is it only me, maybe projecting some inner state of mind onto the outer world? – that a perfect storm is brewing?

We know the euro is in crisis, with a Greek debt default on the cards. I detect a degree of UK smugness here as we watch other European countries’ finances in perilous straits, as if our banks and national debt is somehow insulated from these transnational forces and the plucky British pound will ride out the storm. And if we add to that the suicidal intransigence of the Republican/Tea Party/Fox News triad, we face the prospect of the US defaulting on its debts – which will mean the collapse of the dollar and a global slump. This is the 'perfect storm' scenario in which we will all be swept up.

Too alarmist? I hope so. Though I fear not. Yet we can never know till later whether our intimations are pure fantasy, unconscious projections of split-off parts of the psyche – or whether our intuitions are grounded in another mode of knowing where thinking and feeling and a modicum of historical knowledge link up within us and offer up their semi-opaque understanding.

While we here in the UK remain transfixed by the criminality and obfuscations of Murdoch and Son, and the investigations into the knotted relations between police, press, NewsCorp and senior politicians, the bigger drama being played out in the financial world is just flickering at the edge of our vision. Yet who wants to look into an abyss when an old man’s dynasty is crumbling, Lear-like, and we can enjoy the Schadenfreude of the drama being played out live on our screens?

“How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!” (2 Samuel 1.25) - this week it is Murdoch et al. And some of us may rejoice – not only that corporate ruthlessness sometimes gets its comeuppance, but also glad that it’s not us being examined, probed, called to account. Yesterday was Murdoch's false-humble Day of Atonement. But the news from the God-intoxicated delusionists in the US, and the news from our reigning gods, the all-powerful, omnipresent financial markets, suggests that, sooner than we expect, it might be our turn to lament, like King David of old: “How are the mighty fallen!”

1 comment:

  1. David Goldstein20 July 2011 at 22:02

    A few years ago I went to a quasi-spiritual workshop on personal relationships to money, run by two people one of whom was an American accountant, and he made the comment that there was an unprecedented, and unsustainable, amount of personal debt now in existence, and it was unclear what would happen when this began to unravel.

    I does appear that what we are seeing is that unravelling, and it has a long way to go.

    As a Rabbi, though, should you not be making some comment about God's wisdom in instructing us not to lend money on interest?