Business is booming for the Prognosticators of Doom these days. All I am hearing from all sides is that the End is Near, speeches about the Demise of Consumerism abound, and that we are sliding into a time of feudal lords, manor houses, indentured servitude and mediaeval bartering.
At a gathering which I attended last night, I was able to hear heads of topics such as:
"Europe will fail before Serbia gets in."
"What will happen after the euro is gone?"
"2012 will be worst year ever in this Crisis."
The battle does not go well, it seems. People are disillusioned with the economic and political leadership around the world which has not been equal to the depth of the Crisis. An attitude of helplessness seems to have seeped into conversations and thought. Helplessness. Hopelessness. And, in some corners, despair.
And you can hardly blame people for this. There is ample evidence of gloom, both impending and present, anywhere we look. Big Business does not know what to do to affront this except for demanding growth. A company director here told me that they were being asked to show a large percentage of growth, on the one hand, while they were busily closing all of the possible means to growth, on the other, by cost cutting.
Grow more carrots, came the order - but we are converting your fields to parking lots.
What has happened? The system in which we have been operating since the industrial revolution has collapsed. The great "change" which handed Barak Obama the job of presiding over the decline of the US dollar, industrial base, and banking system is not the one he predicted.
At the bottom of this grim dog pile is the hapless consumer. The feeble shoulders of the consumer are being loaded with the pressure to buy, to spend, and to consume - but the poor guy cannot. He faces uncertainty in the workplace, lower wages, and hugely curtailed spending power from the same sources that want him to save the economy by going shopping more, by buying more new houses and cars.
Eventually his bones will break, and then where are we? Rather than paying for goods and services, he will offer his own goods and services in exchange. This is already happening on a small scale with smaller businesses and individuals.
This seeming regression into the mediaeval is, in fact, not such a bad thing. It demonstrates the undying hope to carry on. It is opening a door which has been long since closed, but one which could offer a solution. People need to eat and have shelter. They will do what they have to in order to get it. The problem is only that we are extremely resistant to change. Maybe going mediaeval is extreme, but when no other solutions are presented by people who have been assigned to bring the solutions, people will have to find their own. And that means change.
How many kilos of carrots will get me a new Maserati?