Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘middle class

Rise of Default Man And its fall

White blob, middle-class, heterosexual, middle-aged Silent Majority man

Note: Re-edit of “The rise and fall of Default Man. November 2, 2014″

Paddle your canoe up the River Thames and you will come round the bend and see a forest of huge totems jutting into the sky.

Great shiny monoliths in various phallic shapes, they are the wondrous cultural artifacts of a remarkable tribe.

We all know someone from this powerful tribe but we very rarely, if ever, ascribe their power to the fact that they have a particular tribal identity.

Grayson Perry in The rise and fall of Default Man, October 8, 2014

How did the straight, white, middle-class Default Man take control of our society?

And how can he be dethroned?

I think this tribe, a small minority of our native population, needs closer examination.

In the UK, its members probably make up about 10% of the population (see infographic below); globally, probably less than 1%.

Attack of the clones: Default Man is so entrenched in society that he is “like a Death Star hiding behind the moon”. Artwork by Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry’s guest-edited issue of the New Statesman is on sale on Thursday 9 October. Visit newstatesman.com/subscribe to get a copy

They dominate the upper echelons of our society, imposing, unconsciously or otherwise, their values and preferences on the rest of the population.

With their colourful textile phallus hanging round their necks, they make up an overwhelming majority in government, in boardrooms and also in the media.

They are, of course, white, middle-class, heterosexual men, usually middle-aged.

And every component of that description has historically played a part in making this tribe a group that punches far, far above its weight.

I have struggled to find a name for this identity that will trip off the tongue, or that doesn’t clutter the page with unpronounceable acronyms such as WMCMAHM.

“The White Blob” was a strong contender but in the end I opted to call him Default Man.

I like the word “default”, for not only does it mean “the result of not making an active choice”, but two of its synonyms are “failure to pay” and “evasion”, which seems incredibly appropriate, considering the group I wish to talk about.

Today, in politically correct 21st-century Britain, you might think things would have changed but somehow the Great White Male has thrived and continues to colonise the high-status, high-earning, high-power roles

(93% of executive directors in the UK are white men; 77% of parliament is male).

The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”, as I like to call it) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power.

Of course, the main reason he has those qualities in the first place is what he is, not what he has achieved.

John Scalzi, in his blog Whatever, thought that being a straight white male was like playing the computer game called Life with the difficulty setting on “Easy”.

If you are a Default Man you look like power.

I must confess that I qualify in many ways to be a Default Man myself but I feel that by coming from a working-class background and being an artist and a transvestite, I have enough cultural distance from the towers of power. I have space to turn round and get a fairly good look at the edifice.

In the course of making my documentary series about identity, Who Are You?, for Channel 4, the identity I found hardest to talk about, the most elusive, was Default Man’s.

Somehow, his world-view, his take on society, now so overlaps with the dominant narrative that it is like a Death Star hiding behind the moon.

We cannot unpick his thoughts and feelings from the “proper, right-thinking” attitudes of our society. It is like in the past, when people who spoke in cut-glass, RP, BBC tones would insist they did not have an accent, only northerners and poor people had one of those.

We live and breathe in a Default Male world: no wonder he succeeds, for much of our society operates on his terms.

Chris Huhne (60, Westminster, PPE Mag­dalen, self-destructively heterosexual), the Default Man we chose to interview for our series, pooh-poohed any suggestion when asked if he benefited from membership or if he represented this group.

Lone Default Man will never admit to, or be fully aware of, the tribal advantages of his identity. They are, naturally, full subscribers to that glorious capitalist project, they are individuals!

This adherence to being individuals is the nub of the matter. Being “individual” means that if they achieve something good, it is down to their own efforts.

They got the job because they are brilliant, not because they are a Default Man, and they are also presumed more competent by other Default Men.

If they do something bad it is also down to the individual and not to do with their gender, race or class.

If a Default Man commits a crime it is not because fraud or sexual harassment, say, are endemic in his tribe (coughs), it is because he is a wrong ’un.

If a Default Man gets emotional it is because he is a “passionate” individual, whereas if he were a woman it would often be blamed on her sex.

When we talk of identity, we often think of groups such as black Muslim lesbians in wheelchairs. This is because identity only seems to become an issue when it is challenged or under threat.

Our classic Default Man is rarely under existential threat; consequently, his identity remains unexamined. It ambles along blithely, never having to stand up for its rights or to defend its homeland.

When talking about identity groups, the word “community” often crops up. The working class, gay people, black people or Muslims are always represented by a “community leader”.

We rarely, if ever, hear of the white middle-class community. “Communities” are defined in the eye of Default Man.

Community seems to be a euphemism for the vulnerable lower orders. Community is “other”.

Communities usually seem to be embattled, separate from society.

“Society” is what Default Man belongs to.

In news stories such as the alleged “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham schools and the recent child-abuse scandal in Rotherham, the central involvement of an ethnic or faith “community” skews the attitudes of police, social services and the media.

The Muslim or Pakistani heritage of those accused becomes the focus.

I’m not saying that faith and ethnic groups don’t have their particular problems but the recipe for such trouble is made up of more than one spicy, foreign ingredient.

I would say it involves more than a few handfuls of common-or-garden education/class issues, poor mental health and, of course, the essential ingredient in nearly all nasty or violent problems, men.

Yeah, men – bit like them Default Men but without suits on.

In her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, published in 1975, Laura Mulvey coined the term “the male gaze”. She was writing about how the gaze of the movie camera reflected the heterosexual male viewpoint of the directors (a viewpoint very much still with us, considering that only 9% of the top 250 Hollywood films in 2012 were directed by women and only 2% of the cinematographers were female).

The Default Male gaze does not just dominate cinema, it looks down on society like the eye on Sauron’s tower in The Lord of the Rings.

Every other identity group is “othered” by it. It is the gaze of the expensively nondescript corporate leader watching consumers adorn themselves with his company’s products the better to get his attention.

Default Man feels he is the reference point from which all other values and cultures are judged. Default Man is the zero longitude of identities.

He has forged a society very much in his own image, to the point where now much of what other groups think and feel is the same. They take on the attitudes of Default Man because they are the attitudes of our elders, our education, our government, our media.

If Default Men approve of something it must be good, and if they disapprove it must be bad, so people end up hating themselves, because their internalised Default Man is berating them for being female, gay, black, silly or wild.

I often hear women approvingly describe themselves or other women as feisty.

Feisty, I feel, has sexist implications, as if standing up for yourself was exceptional in a woman. It sounds like a word that a raffish Lothario would use about a difficult conquest.

I once gave a talk on kinky sex and during the questions afterwards a gay woman floated an interesting thought: “Is the legalising of gay marriage an attempt to neutralise the otherness of homosexuals?” she asked. Was the subversive alternative being neutered by allowing gays to marry and ape a hetero lifestyle?

Many gay people might have enjoyed their dangerous outsider status. Had Default Man implanted a desire to be just like him?

Is the fact that we think like Default Man the reason why a black female Doctor Who has not happened, that it might seem “wrong” or clunky? In my experience, when I go to the doctor I am more likely to see a non-white woman than a Default Man.

It is difficult to tweezer out the effect of Default Man on our culture, so ingrained is it after centuries of their rules.

A friend was once on a flight from Egypt. As it came in to land at Heathrow he looked down at the rows of mock-Tudor stockbroker-belt houses in west London. Pointing them out, he said to the Egyptian man sitting next to him: “Oh well, back to boring old England.” The Egyptian replied, “Ah, but to me this is very exotic.” And he was right.

To much of the world the Default Englishman is a funny foreign folk icon, with his bowler hat, his Savile Row suit and Hugh Grant accent, living like Reggie Perrin in one of those polite suburban semis.

All the same, his tribal costume and rituals have probably clothed and informed the global power elite more than any other culture. Leaders wear his clothes, talk his language and subscribe to some version of his model of how society “should be”.

When I was at art college in the late Seventies/early Eighties, one of the slogans the feminists used was: “Objectivity is Male Subjectivity.”

This brilliantly encapsulates how male power nestles in our very language, exerting influence at the most fundamental level. Men, especially Default Men, have put forward their biased, highly emotional views as somehow “rational”, more considered, more “calm down, dear”.

Women and “exotic” minorities are framed as “passionate” or “emotional” as if they, the Default Men, had this unique ability to somehow look round the side of that most interior lens, the lens that is always distorted by our feelings.

Default Man somehow had a dispassionate, empirical, objective vision of the world as a birthright, and everyone else was at the mercy of turbulent, uncontrolled feelings. That explained why the “others” often held views that were at such odds with their supposedly cool, analytic vision of the world.

Recently, footage of the UN spokesman Chris Gunness breaking down in tears as he spoke of the horrors occurring in Gaza went viral.

It was newsworthy because reporters and such spokespeople are supposed to be dispassionate and impartial. To show such feelings was to be “unprofessional”. And lo! The inherited mental health issues of Default Man are cast as a necessity for serious employment.

I think Default Man should be made aware of the costs and increasing obsolescence of this trait, celebrated as “a stiff upper lip”.

This habit of denying, recasting or suppressing emotion may give him the veneer of “professionalism” but, as David Hume put it: “Reason is a slave of the passions.”

To be unaware of or unwilling to examine feelings means those feelings have free rein to influence behaviour unconsciously. Unchecked, they can motivate Default Man covertly, unacknowledged, often wreaking havoc.

Even if rooted in long-past events in the deep unconscious, these emotions still fester, churning in the dark at the bottom of the well. Who knows what unconscious, screwed-up “personal journeys” are being played out on the nation by emotionally illiterate Default Men?

Being male and middle class and being from a generation that still valued the stiff upper lip means our Default Man is an ideal candidate for low emotional awareness. He sits in a gender/ class/age nexus marked “Unexploded Emotional Time Bomb”.

These people have been in charge of our world for a long time.

Things may be changing.

Women are often stereotyped as the emotional ones, and men as rational. But, after the 2008 crash, the picture looked different, as Hanna Rosin wrote in an article in the Atlantic titled “The End of Men”:

Researchers have started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, and wondering if groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other to make reckless decisions.

The picture emerging is a mirror image of the traditional gender map: men and markets on the side of the irrational and overemotional, and women on the side of the cool and level-headed.

Over the centuries, empirical, clear thinking has become branded with the image of Default Men. They were the ones granted the opportunity, the education, the leisure, the power to put their thoughts out into the world. In people’s minds, what do professors look like?

What do judges should look like? What do leaders look like?

The very aesthetic of seriousness has been monopolised by Default Man. Practically every person on the globe who wants to be taken seriously in politics, business and the media dresses up in some way like a Default Man, in a grey, western, two-piece business suit.

Not for nothing is it referred to as “power dressing”.

We’ve all seen those photo ops of world leaders: colour and pattern shriek out as anachronistic. Consequently, many women have adopted this armour of the unremarkable.

Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, wears a predictable unfussy, feminised version of the male look. Hillary Clinton has adopted a similar style. Some businesswomen describe this need to tone down their feminine appearance as “taking on the third gender”.

Peter Jones on Dragons’ Den was once referred to as “eccentric” for wearing brightly coloured stripy socks. So rigid is the Default Man look that men’s suit fashions pivot on tiny changes of detail at a glacial pace. US politicians wear such a narrow version of the Default Man look that you rarely see one wearing a tie that is not plain or striped.

Suits you, sir: Grayson Perry as Default Man.
Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra/New Statesman

One tactic that men use to disguise their subjectively restricted clothing choices is the justification of spurious function.

As if they need a watch that splits lap times and works 300 feet underwater, or a Himalayan mountaineer’s jacket for a walk in the park. The rufty-tufty army/hunter camouflage pattern is now to boys as pink is to girls. Curiously, I think the real function of the sober business suit is not to look smart but as camouflage.

A person in a grey suit is invisible, in the way burglars often wear hi-vis jackets to pass as unremarkable “workmen”.

The business suit is the uniform of those who do the looking, the appraising.

It rebuffs comment by its sheer ubiquity. Many office workers loathe dress-down Fridays because they can no longer hide behind a suit. They might have to expose something of their messy selves through their “casual” clothes.

Modern, over-professionalised politicians, having spent too long in the besuited tribal compound, find casual dress very difficult to get right convincingly.

David Cameron, while ruining Converse basketball shoes for the rest of us, never seemed to me as if he belonged in a pair.

When I am out and about in an eye-catching frock, men often remark to me, “Oh, I wish I could dress like you and did not have to wear a boring suit.” Have to!

The male role is heavily policed from birth, by parents, peers and bosses. Politicians in particular are harshly kept in line by a media that seems to uphold more bizarrely rigid standards of conformity than those held by any citizen.

Each component of the Default Male role – his gender, his class, his age and his sexuality – confines him to an ever narrower set of behaviours, until riding a bicycle or growing a beard, having messy hair or enjoying a pint are seen as ker-azy eccentricity.

The fashionable members’ club Shoreditch House, the kind of place where “creatives” with two iPhones and three bicycles hang out, has a “No Suits” rule. How much of this is a pseudo-rebellious pose and how much is in recognition of the pernicious effect of the overgrown schoolboy’s uniform, I do not know.

I dwell on the suit because I feel it exemplifies how the upholders of Default Male values hide in plain sight. Imagine if, by democratic decree, the business suit was banned, like certain items of Islamic dress have been banned in some countries. Default Men would flounder and complain that they were not being treated with “respect”.

The most pervasive aspect of the Default Man identity is that it masquerades very efficiently as “normal” – and “normal”, along with “natural”, is a dangerous word, often at the root of hateful prejudice.

As Sherrie Bourg Carter, author of High-Octane Women, writes:

Women in today’s workforce . . . are experiencing a much more camouflaged foe – second-generation gender biases . . . “work cultures and practices that appear neutral and natural on their face”, yet they reflect masculine values and life situations of men.

Personally, working in the arts, I do not often encounter Default Man en masse, but when I do it is a shock. I occasionally get invited to formal dinners in the City of London and on arrival, I am met, in my lurid cocktail dress, with a sea of dinner jackets; my expectations of a satisfying conversation drop.

I feel rude mentioning the black-clad elephant in the room. I sense that I am the anthropologist allowed in to the tribal ritual.

This weird minority, these curiously dominant white males, are anything but normal. “Normal,” as Carl Jung said, “is the ideal aim for the unsuccessful.” They like to keep their abnormal power low-key: the higher the power, the duller the suit and tie, a Mercedes rather than a Rolls, just another old man chatting casually to prime ministers at the wedding of a tabloid editor.

Revolution is happening. I am loath to use the R word because bearded young men usually characterise it as sudden and violent. But that is just another unhelpful cliché.

I feel real revolutions happen thoughtfully in peacetime. A move away from the dominance of Default Man is happening, but way too slowly.

Such changes in society seem to happen at a pace set by incremental shifts in the animal spirits of the population. I have heard many of the “rational” (ie, male) arguments against quotas and positive discrimination but I feel it is a necessary fudge to enable just change to happen in the foreseeable future. At the present rate of change it will take more than a hundred years before the UK parliament is 50% female.

The outcry against positive discrimination is the wail of someone who is having their privilege taken away. For talented black, female and working-class people to take their just place in the limited seats of power, some of those Default Men are going to have to give up their seats.

Perhaps Default Man needs to step down from some of his most celebrated roles. I’d happily watch a gay black James Bond and an all-female Top GearQI or Have I Got News for You.

Jeremy Paxman should have been replaced by a woman on Newsnight. More importantly, we need a quota of MPs who (shock) have not been to university but have worked on the shop floor of key industries; have had life experiences that reflect their constituents’; who actually represent the country rather than just a narrow idea of what a politician looks like.

The ridiculousness of objections to quotas would become clear if you were to suggest that, instead of calling it affirmative action, we adopted “Proportionate Default Man Quotas” for government and business. We are wasting talent. Women make up a majority of graduates in such relevant fields as law.

Default Man seems to be the embodiment of George Bernard Shaw unreasonable man: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to make the world adapt to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Default Man’s days may be numbered; a lot of his habits are seen at best as old-fashioned or quaint and at worst as redundant, dangerous or criminal. He carries a raft of unhelpful habits and attitudes gifted to him from history – adrenaline addiction, a need for certainty, snobbery, emotional constipation and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement – which have often proved disastrous for society and can also stop poor Default Man from leading a fulfilling life.

Earlier this year, at the Being A Man festival at the Southbank Centre in London, I gave a talk on masculinity called: “Men, Sit Down for your Rights!”. A jokey title, yes, but one making a serious point: that perhaps, if men were to loosen their grip on power, there might be some benefits for them.

The straitjacket of the Default Man identity is not necessarily one happily donned by all members of the tribe: many struggle with the bad fit of being leader, provider, status hunter, sexual predator, respectable and dignified symbol of straight achievement.

Maybe the “invisible weightless backpack” that the US feminist Peggy McIntosh uses to describe white privilege, full of “special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks”, does weight rather a lot after all.

In a phrase used more often in association with Operation Yewtree, they are among us and hide in plain sight.

Another endangered species? The Middle Class?

Is that Piketty’s prophecy comes true?

According to a new report, the richest 1% have got their mitts on almost half the world’s assets.

Think that’s the end of the story? Think again. This is only the beginning.

Thursday, Oct 23, 2014

New research reveals the superrich have grabbed half the world’s resources — and their wealth is only growing

The “Global Annual Wealth Report,” freshly released by investment giant Credit Suisse, analyzes the shocking trend of growing wealth inequality around the world.

What the researchers find is that global wealth has increased every year since 2008, and that personal wealth seems to be rising at the fastest rate ever recorded, much of it driven by strong equity markets.

But the benefits of this growth have largely been channeled to those who are already affluent.

While the restaurant workers in America struggled to achieve wages of $10 an hour for their labor, those invested in equities saw their wealth soar without lifting a finger. So it goes around the world.

The bottom half of the world’s people now own less than 1 percent of total wealth, and they’re struggling to hold onto even that minuscule portion.

On the other hand, the wealthiest 10 percent have accumulated a staggering 87 percent of global assets.

The top percentile has 48.2 percent of the world wealth. For now.

One of the scary things about the wealth of the super-rich is what French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in his best-selling book, Capital in the 21st Century.

Once they’ve got a big chunk of wealth, their share will get bigger even if they sit by and do absolutely nothing.

Piketty sums up this economic reality in a simple and horrifying formula: r > g.

Basically, this means that when rate of return on wealth is greater than the overall rate of growth of the economy, as it has nearly always been throughout history, the rich will grow inevitably richer and the poor poorer unless there is some kind of intervention, like higher taxes on wealth, for example.

If r is less than g, the assets of the super-wealthy will erode, but if r is greater than g, you eventually get the explosion of gigantic inherited fortunes and dynasties.

This is happening now: If you look at the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people in America, you see a lot more inherited fortunes in the upper ranks than you did a couple of decades ago, when the policies that held inequality at bay began to get dismantled.

In today’s top 10, there are more scions of the Walton family than entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. These people have essentially done nothing of value for society, and yet their undue influence shapes our political landscape with the wave of a wad of cash.

There have been moments in history when things were not so lopsided.

During the post-war period, inequality was contained because governments made sure their rich didn’t accumulate at such alarming rates by doing things like taxing their estates at a high rate. At the same time, they created policies to lift the incomes of the less well-off and allow them to have some basic security.

But that’s an exception in history. Most of the time, this kind of intervention did not happen, and so the rich kept gobbling more and accumulating more power to keep it that way until one of two things happened — a revolution or some kind of catastrophe or disruptive event, like a war, shook things up.

As the Credit Suisse report states:

“[Wealth inequality] has been the case throughout most of human history, with wealth ownership often equating with land holdings, and wealth more often acquired via inheritance or conquest rather than talent or hard work.

However, a combination of factors caused wealth inequality to trend downwards in high income countries during much of the 20th century, suggesting that a new era had emerged.

That downward trend now appears to have stalled, and possibly gone into reverse.”

That’s right. We’re on a turbo-charged ride back to the days of Downton Abbey.

Piketty warns that we’re in the early stages of reverting right back to periods of massive inequality, like 19th-century Britain or 18th-century France, where great dynastic fortunes ruled and everybody else fought for scraps.

(The new power of Germany, which didn’t accumulate capitalist wealth, was a handicapped for the capitalist nations of England and France that ignited the WWI in order to stop the increased trade exchange of Germany in world market)

What the statistics and formulas don’t show is the kind of human suffering that results from this kind of extreme inequality.

While the global elite zip around the world in private jets and watch their stock portfolios expand on computer screens from within their gated mansions, the bottom half stays awake at night trying to think of how to pay for medicine for a sick child.

The things that give life dignity and meaning, like a quality education, a decent job, and the security of knowing you have a roof over your head and a doctor to care for you when you are ill grow further and further out of reach.

Anxiety never leaves because one unforeseen mishap can push you down into poverty, and if you’re already there, you spend much of your time searching, often fruitlessly, for a way out.

But there’s a little bit of anxiety percolating at the top, too.

On the June cover of the conservative magazine American Spectator, a cartoon shows an incensed mob looking on as a monocled fatcat is led to a bloody guillotine — a scene evoking the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. The caption reads, “The New Class Warfare: Thomas Piketty’s intellectual cover for confiscation.”

In the story that accompanies the image, James Pierson warns of revolution and a growing class of suffering people who want to punish the rich and take away their toys.

That would be one way to address things. Another would be the recognition that inequality is extremely destabilizing and dangerous, and that non-violent interventions are possible, as we saw in America with the New Deal.

Things like robust tax reform, unions, regulation, changes in corporate governance and CEO pay, affordable education, jobs programs, expansion of Social Security and universal healthcare.

Or we could just do things the old-fashioned way and wait for a disaster even bigger than the meltdown of 2007-’08. In that case, fasten your seatbelts. This ride could get very rough.

How large of a mankind you Prefer? Your pick: 11 or 4.5 billion? Just decide and act…

Looks like you have two choices for the long-term:

1. If you insist on consuming meat on a daily basis, and don’t mind that the highest authority (UN?) declare that every individual has the natural right to eat meat daily, you have to side with the policies of reducing birth rate to the bare minimum. Earth cannot support more than 4.5 billion who are “carne inclined communities“…

2. If you can be satisfied to live with cereals, vegetables, fruits, and eating meat just once per week, earth can support up to 11 billion of our spieces…

A bit too crowded to your liking? Wants to revert to carne-type?

Meat-eater societies (societies where 45% of its population eat meat-kind of food daily), are increasing world-wide. We had the USA (every citizen eats about 145 kilos of meat per year), most western Europe, Australia, Brazil, Argentina…

And now we have Turkey, Iran, China, most central Asian countries…

A group visited Tehran for a week, and they were served meat (mainly mutton and chicken…) and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Vegetable food were rare and tasteless. The group could not recall being served any kinds of beans (carbanza bean, green bean, … and even fava bean)

Mind you that the middle class on earth tripled in the last two decades: The growing middle class in China India, Indonesia…want to emulate the life-style of the western nations…Why? They can afford it, and emulating the standard western life-style is the normal reaction…cars, energy consumption, vacation, fashion, waste, and eating meat every day…

All the deforestation of virgin forests around the world will not be enough to feed meat every day for people who can afford it… and the decline in water resources and climate sustainability will go wild… 

Do you know that mankind currently consume 50 billion slaughtered animals? (Not sure if fish is included).

Maybe less than one billion can afford to eat meat daily, including fish, and another billion rely solely on fish for daily consumption…and the remaining 5 billion? How do you think they are surviving while the prices of cereals and rice are skyrocketing?

Fish is quickly being depleted and people on the shore lines making fish their daily stipend are having hard time surviving: the fishermen have to navigate far in the seas to catch any fish…

Cows consume more water than agriculture, in localities where they are intensively raised, and they pollute the water sources and the climate more than any other factors……

Herve Le Bras published this French book “Life and Death of world population“. Herve claims that agricultural lands on earth didn’t increase in the last 15 years, including all the deforestation activities…

If every person insist on his right to consume meat daily, earth cannot support more than 4.5 billion.  Either cereals are fed to cows and sheep…or they are meant for mankind consumption.

Earth can feed 11 billion people if land production is intended for people: There is enough land for cows and sheep raised to be slaughtered to graze on.

Currently, earth is inhabited by 7 billion as of October 2012, and will inevitably reach 9 billion by 2050. The evolution of rate of birth has decreased from 2.1 child per family in 1960 to barely 1 child.  And yet, famine and malnutrition are widespread.

During Jesus Christ period, mankind was 35 times less than now, and it was half the number as Armstrong landed on the moon.

People are alarmed and shouting:

“The Titanic is overcrowded. There is no more room for people to jump aboard…”

“If you love your kids, no need to bring to life more of them in this over polluted earth…”

“Earth is a huge vast waste bin…”

“The ecological cost of a new born in Europe is equivalent to 620 flying trips from Paris to New York…”

“When I was a kid, the city was 35 miles away. About 25 years later, the city is within 8 miles reach…”

“Mankind will disappear? Good riddance…” Yves Paccalet, a member of Cousteau team

Partisans of demographic decrease movements are organized in almost every country. They are called “Optimum Population Trust” in England, “Club of 10 million” in the Netherlands, “Rientrodolce” in Italy, “One Baby” in Belgium, “Glinks” in the USA, Green Inclinations, No Kids…

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), about 3,000 fans, are provoking readers on Facebook…

Childfree movement are voluntarily being sterilized, and women are demanding that health insurance cover temporary obstruction of the vaginal spouts.

Note: Post inspired from an article by Cecile Deffontaines in the French weekly Le Nouvel Obserateur number 2492 “Crusaders for minimal birth rate

Soothing chimerical resolve: tackling our global problems; (August 10, 2009)

 

Note:  I posted the original essay on June 23, 2009 and I needed to re-edit it.  This post will focus on the global problems. The follow up post will consider viable global resolutions.

 

Fact one:  Climate and environment are quickly deteriorating.

Fact two:  Birth control is not efficient in the mostly under-developed States

Fact three:  Potable water and water for irrigation are dwindling fast.

Fact four:  The middle classes in China and India are expanding alarmingly.

Fact five:  The world economy is experiencing serious deflationary period.

Fact six:  The world is going through deep financial crisis and recession.

Fact seven:  Effective military spending should decrease but it didn’t.

Fact eight:  The identity crisis around the world is destabilizing order and security.

 

Fact One:  Climate and environment are quickly deteriorating.  The ten signs of alert are proven in the following evidences.

 

            Oceans are turning more acid.  At 8 kilometers of the Californian coasts shells and corals are being dissolved. In the Pacific Ocean, 30% of mussel has disappeared.  Planktons, the basic food chain for fishes, small and large, are no longer abundant; 30% has depleted since the industrial age.

 

            The Arctic is changing drastically. Ice field has melted by 27% in the last two decades. Temperature increased by 3 degrees in the last 5 years.  Thus, the more ice melt the larger the surface is exposed to direct sun rays and consequently the more the rate of ice melting increases. The level of oceans is increasing and covering more dry lands.

 

            The Amazon and tropical forests regions are drying up and liberating higher quantities of carbon dioxide.  This equatorial forest is liberating more CO2 than absorbing; absorbing CO2 was their primary function.  More trees are dying and thus liberating more CO2 by decomposition. The higher the concentration of CO2 the lesser trees “perspire” and the more reduced are rains in quantity and frequency.

 

            The climate in Antarctica, the main source of future potable water, is milder; temperature has increased by one degree since the fifties. Salinity of sea water in the southern globe is decreasing.  The Antarctic must be melting faster than observed.

 

            Seasons are in advance of schedule and migratory birds are suffering.  Spring is one week earlier in Europe: 75% of birds studied in Europe have declined in number and migrating further north and seek higher altitudes.

 

            Dry seasons are extending. Monsoons are rarefied; precipitations are decreasing and the desert in North Africa is expanding southward western Africa.  Deforestation might still be the main culprit but the warming up of the environment is catching up fast as the main factor.

 

            Methane gas, present as methane hydrate in maritime sediment, is escaping from oceans. The under layer of pergolas (pergelisol) used to act as a lid but more abundant hot water is being ejected in the Arctic seas; the concentration along the Russian coast is 200 times superior to normal.  Methane gas is far worse than CO2 (20 times more powerful in retaining heat) for the warming up of the environment.   

            Glaciers such as the Himalaya and the Quelccaya (Peru) are losing 0.85 meters in their thickness every year. Around 40 frozen lakes in Nepal and Bhutan are breaking up.

            Sea levels are climbing 3 mm every year on average; the levels in the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea are reaching the alarming climb of 20 mm a year.

 

            The warming up of the climate is accelerating dangerously. Temperature increased 0.6 degrees just in the last 30 years while it took a century to increase 0.2 degrees before then.  The concentration in CO2 has increased to about 400 molecules per million; it was just 270 before the industrial age.

 

            The liberation of methane gas and the drought of tropical forests are the two major factors that show evidence in the acceleration of environmental degradation.  The fast degradation has overtaken current research data that are no longer suitable for predicting the approaching calamity.

 

Fact Two:  Birth control is not efficient in the mostly under-developed States.

 

            China and India are supposed to have gotten birth rate under control but it is not because of higher educational level and better standards of living.  There are evidence of massive euthanasia practices on females and minorities camouflaged within laws interpreted very loosely and selectively. In the under-developed States political instability, poor security for law and order, unsustainable social institutions, and lack of financial and technical supports are exacerbating an already dangerous trend.  The UN is short on money and manpower in its specialized sections to counter this scourge. Over 50% of the population in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, and Iran for example are under 15 years of age. (Global viable and alternative resolutions will be developed in a follow up article)

            In Japan and many European States the trend is reversed; over 30% of the population is elderly (above 65 years) and draining the health budgets.

             

Fact Three:  Potable water and water for irrigation are dwindling fast.

 

            Climatic changes, heavy river pollution, accelerated urban centers, high rate of birth, and the early melting of mountain tops are depleting potable resources faster than expected.  Many States rich in rivers, especially those witnessing drought seven months per year, have not be aided in erecting dams for emergency seasons.  More States conflicts are centering on equitable potable water sharing.  The criticality of water supply is one of the main problems facing people in the coming decade.

 

Fact Four:  The middle classes in China and India are at least three times larger than the combined numbers in the USA and Europe and growing quickly.

            China and India are experience much better increases in their GNP than the USA and Europe during this downturn.  Consequently, China and India will focus on their internal markets to grow their economies in the same manner as the USA has been benefiting for over three centuries.  Middle classes demand to have consumer goods available since they have the money to purchase them.  They certainly have this right.  The problem is that purchasing cars is the first priority for middle class citizens with investment in infrastructures and facilities to abuse of these vehicles.  China has already surpassed the USA in the number of purchased car this year. India is making available inexpensive cars marketed at $2,000 in India. The kinds of energy sources that will drive these cars will have great consequences.  Consumerism can drive economies but depletion of natural resources requires a cultural change to accommodate a sustainable earth.

 

Fact Five:  The world economy is experiencing serious deflationary period.

            The world economy is struggling and the downturn is expected to last for at least 5 years.  This might be the best excellent news for a sustainable world production and a strategy for an economy of sobriety in consumption. There is the need for drastic diminishing of redundant and irrelevant consumer goods that can be substituted easily for human survival. Globalization created economic blocks with objective of exercising political pressures on the established developed nations.  The economic or trade blocks such as South-East Asian States, the Southern Latin American States, the Gulf Arab/Iranian States, and soon a few African States are struggling to stay above water and keep up with the fast moving globalization trend.

            The International Monetary Fund extended three quarter of its resources on the already industrialized states since its inception in 1944.  The G20 decided to triple the IMF fund to $750 billions.  The G20 will extended 44% of the funds, the other developed State a third and the over 55 poorer States will cover 17%.  It was hoped the restrictions and conditions for funding projects will be reduced from 17 conditions to 5 but nothing has been materializing so far.

 

Fact Six:  The world is going through deep financial crisis.

            Millions of workers and employees lost their jobs in a few months and that trend is increasing faster than expected.  The infusion of trillions of dollars into banks in order to facilitate the flow of trade transactions did not save banks from declaring bankruptcy.  The meeting of the biggest 20 financial markets that produce over 85% of the world economical transactions has not reached any consensus as to the financial basket reference for money fluctuation or the control of paper money issuing rights of individual power States. Consequently, the financial crisis is opened to dangerous more frequent reversals on a downward trend.  The USA is heavily relying on China for covering its increasing debt by purchasing US Treasury Bills.  China will be facing enormous capital investment inside because of the consequences of rapid economical strategies.  The rivers in China are over polluted, drought seasons are more frequent, and over 30 millions working in urban centers have been forced to relocate to rural areas where no job opportunities are available.  The moment China decides to cut down on financing US debt the dollars will be devalued (for printing more paper money than the economy can support) and another financial crisis will loom on the horizon.

 

Fact Seven:  Effective military spending at the increase.

 

            People expected a rational decision by States in this economic and financial troubled times; people were hopeful that military budgets should decrease to balance other more needy budgets such as health, the environment, creating productive jobs, and education.  The reverse happened:  every major State that exported military hardware increased its military budget and it skyrocketed. The USA expenditure is more than double China and Russia combined and the fields of military operations expanding around the world. Societies are far more unstable and experiencing high unemployment rates and lower quality jobs for the qualified graduates. 

 

Fact Eight:  The identity crisis around the world is destabilizing order and security.

 

            After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Europe had to face up to the identity and ethnic crisis in East Europe such as ethnic and religious “cleansing” and the drive for independence of tiny States within the disintegrating Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. The European Union (EU) is the best representative for projects of unification among States with identity crisis.  The EU is clearly the most advanced union in matter of forging ahead with ethical issues. 

            Gorbachev has declared recently that Europe squandered 20 years of potential opportunities for stabilizing the European continent after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the defeat of communist Soviet Union.  If we revisit the problems that Europe had to deal with in priority then Europe had plenty of excuses.  First, West Germany had to absorb the cost of the re-unification of the crumbling economy of East Germany; then the EU had to battle the consequences of the disaster of 9/11 of 2001 and the frantic pressures of the Bush Jr. Administration to rally Europe to the invasion of Iraq; then the pronouncement of the Christian Conservatives alliance of the US administration of the binary dicta “either you are with us or against us”; then the declaration of an old senile Defense Minister Rumsfeld lambasting “old and senile Europe” and getting hold of the European oil investments in Iraq.  The EU has now to come with a plan for the increased illegal immigration as the ideal destination location.  It must be that Europe was in a rejuvenation phase to have forged ahead in short time to a successful unification program.

 

            Global problems to whom?  These problems affect us all but the “G20 something” think that they are the only one concerned.  Solution for the G20 is lending money to more mega polluting mega projects.  So far, the UN did not propose a program to deal with global problems.  Not a single President of the G5 went public to remind us that there is such a program.  Life is going on leisurely as if dirt is swept under the carpet and that is worrisome; citizens of earth are not asked to contribute and share in the responsibilities. A follow up article will attempt to offer viable global resolution and will tackle the troubles with religious extremism and state ideologies.  All that I am asking is to be offered soothing chimerical resolves of the international community that it is aware of the global problems and that it promises me at least a few plans and directions.

Economy of Sobriety (August 1, 2009)

 

            There is a growing political economics trend for substituting the traditional steady growth and productivity policies into an economy of sobriety.  The Slow Food and Slow Cities movements along with many European communities exercising self autonomy in the economic policies of their districts are practicing on a smaller scale the concept of “living better for less”.

            The latest economic downturn is re-confirming that the previous policies are hindrance to global resolutions for global problems.  The middle class has increased three folds within les than two decades.  China and India have added over 300 millions to the 200 millions in the USA, Europe and Japan.  This quickly increasing middle class is demanding equal standards of living as in the USA simply because they can afford to purchase the same consumer goods for their comfort and are doing it.  World resources in minerals, oil, and wood are depleting and no longer accessible to sustain the current rate of consumption.

            Regular people are not interested in the concept of “faster is better” or “more performing is better”; they would rather fly safely at more affordable fees; they would rather that customs and airport regulations quicken the pace and alleviate faster the hassle. The regular people would rather have moderately performing equipment that last longer and that are more robust under less than standard conditions in the developed nations. Regular people cannot afford to re-invest for products considered obsolete within a couple of years.  Regular people would rather not to have to repaint or maintain their plumbing and electrical lines frequently.

            Regular people would rather have potable water running on schedule; power utilities providing electricity less irregularly and increased rate for the luxury families of high consumption.  Regular people want public transportation arriving on schedule, accessible, and available in cities and in rural areas.  Regular people are not that interested in caviar and luxury items; they need flour, rice, sugar, and seasonal vegetables and fruits marketed locally and not exported overseas.

            Regular people need a wider network of public libraries and public schools.  Regular people want the teachers to be paid right to be retained and compete with private expensive private schools. Regular people need preventive health institutions.

            The industrial nations have got to support sustainable economies in Africa, Latin America, and in the Middle East and desist from mass exploitation of natural resources and human miseries.  Kuwait, Qatar, and Libya are already investing billions in agricultural businesses in Africa; they are renting lands for 99 years and hiring thousands of Africans in jobs they are proficient in and within their own States.

            There is definitely an anthropological crisis; the traditional growth policies are uneconomical, anti-social, and anti-ecological.  Decentralized economies serving restricted regions are more sustainable and are solicited by citizens. Institutions have to be revamped in that direction and up-down laws are no longer cherished. In fact, less restrictive local laws are the best recourse to taming the monster of global totalitarianism in the making.

            Catastrophic crisis are not teaching anything in behavioral change: they simply increase the level of fear, anxiety, and apathy. Continuing in the same trend is tantamount of letting this monster of totalitarianism starting sniffing around for another round of human calamities.

            Most probably totalitarian regimes, established in order to control outbursts and uneasiness, will mushroom in industrialized States because 1) they can afford these kinds of institutions, 2) they have already the sophisticated and all encompassing control institutions, and 3) they have practiced it several times in many nations within the last decades.  Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union experienced it efficiently.  France applied it to spread its public secular system of education in order to unify its nation. The USA applied it during the two Administrations of George W. Bush.

            Currently, China is the most effective totalitarian regime.  Millions of workers are transferred and displaced by a simple order of the politburo; millions succumb to eugenic practices on simple obscure laws; millions die in mining accidents and famine; gigantic dams are disturbing millions of people without recourse or participation by the citizens.

            The third world states will always enshrine dictators, state political parties, and oligarchies but they will never afford totalitarian regimes for lack of sustainable institutions.  The best you might expect of third world states is organized chaos and periodic clamping down on dissidents.  There will be time when the “industrialized citizens” will opt to immigrate to Third World States and live in sobriety just to recapture the taste of freedom and liberty.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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