These are momentous times. By some measure, there is as much potential for change and upheaval now as at any time in the past 50 years.
Add in the prospect of war, and the time frame extends back 100 years or more…
The sweep of uncertainty and chaos is evident everywhere you look: America. The Middle East. China. Japan. Europe. Even Africa.
Major trends, both positive and negative, are clashing like titans in multiple “hot spots” all around the globe. And anyone who says smugly that “it’s all under control” is only fooling themselves.
Very little is under control right now — and the answer to “what’s next” is far from obvious.
If the 21st century had an animal mascot, it might well be a “black swan” — the rare bird popularized by Nassim Taleb as a symbol of unexpected fat-tail events.
Except, truth be told, most of the events unfolding now are actually “gray swans” — surprising in their power and ferocity, but not actually unexpected. Many of today’s developments were foreseen in rough shape, only the specific details and calendar timing left out.
These thoughts were brought to my mind by another “gray swan” revelation last week: The youth revolution is spreading to Europe.
In the Middle East it is known as the “Arab Spring.” This is appropriate, as the age demographics for the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region skew extremely young.
So what will they call it when the same thing happens in gray-headed Europe? The below image, gleefully posted anonymously to the Internet, captures the spirit of the latest uprising.
As the U.K.’s The Guardian reported on Friday:
A youth-led rebellion is spreading across southern Europe as a new generation of protesters takes possession of squares and parks in cities around Spain, united by a rejection of mainstream politicians and fury over spending cuts.
Protests are also planned in Italy, where the tag #italianrevolution is a trend on Twitter. Plans have been announced for a piazza occupation in Florenceon Thursday night, and for further protests in Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, on Friday.
In Madrid demonstrators have refused to budge from the central Puerta del Sol despite a police charge that dislodged them temporarily on Tuesday night.
Now they have occupied a quarter of the square, covering it with tarpaulins and tents, setting up kitchens, tapping at laptops and settling down to sleep on sofas and armchairs.
Similar scenes were being played out in Barcelona, where protesters held a midday Argentinian-style pan-bashing protest in the Plaza de Catalunya, and in numerous other cities where protesters raised the banner of what they call “the Spanish revolution”.
Notice the “Twitter tactics” — creating a tag called #italianrevolution — which was also very evident in the Middle East protests.
So-called “social media” is now being used as a tool to facilitate uprising. From “flash mobs” and “crowd sourcing” to serious gatherings in which citizens challenge governments, communication technology is changing the face of the planet.
Nor is the “revolution” the sole province of youth. They are just the ones who are most comfortable using mediums like Twitter and Facebook as highly efficient mobilization devices.
The adults of Europe — taxpayers, business owners, despairing workers — have just as much incentive to revolt as the youth do, if not more.
As we have described in these pages, the basic plan of Europe is to rescue the banks at the cost of screwing Europe’s taxpayers — signing up the citizens for decades of indentured servitude. And not just taxpayers, but all European citizens exposed to the burden of deeply unfavorable economic conditions.
The idea that Greece, Portugal or Ireland can move forward without restructuring their debts — a move the bankers so want to avoid — is dependent on the notion of forcing those countries to accept deep, deep recession, or even depression-like economic conditions, for years if not decades to come. And all to save reckless banks and bondholders in the same ilk as Goldman Sachs.
As far as the European sovereign debt crisis goes, Spain is the great white whale of Europe. Notice that Spain has not been in the news as of late — though that may be changing even as this note is written. It has been all “periphery” — Ireland, Portugal, Greece.
That silence is partly because Spain is just too big to wave off. If the contagion fears truly grip Spain — and there is every reason to think they will — then all of hades truly breaks loose.
Look, here’s the thing. The wonks at the Federal Reserve are masters of denial. Those who run the European Central Bank (ECB) are also masters of denial, as are Europe’s leading politicians.
But all that vigorous denial doesn’t solve a damn thing. It only postpones the desperate need to find a true solution to the problems at hand… and in so doing makes those problems worse.
For years now your editor has steadfastly maintained, and still maintains, that the eurozone is in a disaster situation, a giant train wreck waiting to happen. It has only been the human miracle of persistent denial and suspended disbelief that has kept that train wreck from happening.
None of this is to deny the problems of the U.S., which we have written about extensively. All the major currencies are bad houses in a bad neighborhood. It happens to be the euro in the major line of fire just now, as a false solution comes close to being outright rejected by angry youth all across Europe. And adults joining in too.
Look for more crisis, more drama, more catastrophe ahead. And deflation too. The dreaded “D” word will return in a big way. Possibly soon…
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