Iceland has riot police? Who knew.
Well, riots in Iceland this past week. Granted the rioters threw eggs, yogurt, and snowballs, but still…Iceland is not known for its rioting. There’s been rioting in Latvia as well, and in Greece the worst rioting since 1974 has been going on for weeks. All of these riots are fuelled by the same thing…wide spread dismay at the state of the economy. (OK, the Greek riots were triggered by a police shooting, but widespread youth unemployment is a big factor.)
Now long time reader ET has been postulating that as people realize just how badly they have been robbed by the ruling class, they will take to the streets. It’s an interesting argument, especially since it seems clear that whatever the cause, the world’s economy is in a tailspin. So it’s not a stretch to think that civil unrest may spread as the situation continues to deteriorate.
More curiously, I had an interesting thought. Try to follow, I’m going somewhere with this. Looking at history, most things pretty much stay the same. The trappings change but the politics and human nature don’t. The actual changes in history are few and far between. The invention of the stirrup. Gunpowder. Smokeless gunpowder. Monotheism. About once a century something comes along that does significantly change the equation.
And one of those changes was…propaganda. The 20th century was the century of propaganda. Starting more or less in WW1, the power and effectiveness of propaganda grew steadily. Technology and science contributed to this trend. The modern media made it possible to spread the message to the population in a coordinated way never before possible in history. And the science applied to advertising and propaganda made the message more effective than ever.
So what happens when the people in charge have the ability to fool more and more people? One can speculate all sorts of things of course, but I argue that at least two things in general are going on. The first as that the ability of the ruling elite to mould public opinion grew, the more shenanigans they got away with. Most people will naturally take advantage of a good thing, and the rich are not known to have higher ethical standards than the rest of us.
And take advantage of it they have, the wealth of the planet has gotten more concentrated than any time in history. The gap between the rich and poor is almost mind numbing now, and if anything it’s getting worse. And even if one doesn’t want to go that far, it’s still safe to say that a few hundred, maybe even a few dozen, families control a vast amount of the world’s wealth directly and indirectly.
And hand in hand with the ability to put spin on their actions and get away with stuff, the powers that be have fooled themselves that they have far more control that they do. It’s hard to learn from your mistakes if you can weasel out of the consequences. And the problem with not really being in control is that at some point the gap between the spin and the reality gets so great that it becomes obvious to everyone that things are out of control.
The point I am trying to get t is that we may be at the tipping point. I mean, the rich have been robbing us for years but now they’ve basically stolen everything and left us all with an enormous pile of debt. That’s pretty much the current economic crisis in a nutshell. And even if they wanted to fix the mess they’ve made, the ruling elite doesn’t know how since their money and legions of spin doctors has isolated them from reality in a way most people can’t comprehend.
The King and his family used to sleep with the rest of us in the keep, they just got the beds nearest the fire. Now they live a life so insulated from reality that they are utterly clueless about the state of the world. It follows then that no matter how sincere Obama is about fixing things, his chances of actually doing what needs to be done are slim to none.
So will we see rioting spread as people start to realize that all the western governments have been doing for decades is borrowing and spending, passing the debt onto each and every one of us? ET thinks so, I don’t know what to think. I do know that the scale of the current economic crisis has yet to fully reveal itself, and I fear we have built our whole civilization on shifting sands.
And I still think we’ll know a lot more by this summer. Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial see of the image. Credit: Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images. In an interesting coincidence, when I walked out of the train station last night there were a dozen or more riot police guarding the station. A ruly mob of protesters was marching toward us screaming “Down with killer cops.” I decided not to hang around for the fun, click on the picture to see what transpired in Iceland.)