History almost always shows us that before any seismic event there were in fact lots and lots of clues that it was about to happen. Check out Hitler invading the
Soviet Union on 22 June
1941. It really does seem that the whole thing caught Stalin completely by
surprise. Fair enough, Uncle Joe was barking mad in every sense, but being a
psychotic mass murderer didn’t stop him from being pretty shrewd. Imagine how
many clues there must have been pointing to the fact that Operation Barbarossa
was about to be unleashed. The Germans moved three million men up to the border
compete with tanks and planes and artillery pieces. For two months the shelves
in the grocery shops of every German city, town and village were running on
empty. So where had all the food gone? And why was it all but impossible to
fill your car up with fuel? And why were there no policemen on the beat any
more? And why were the trains running 24/7 out of the stations on the east side
whilst there was barely a departure from the western side of the city? Berlin
No doubt Uncle Joe was fed these snippets on a daily basis and no doubt his in-house experts read the tea leaves and came up with the answers. Three million guys need feeding. Enough vehicles to give three million guys a ride to
need a hell of a lot of fuel. Moscow
So how did he miss it? We have always put it down to the fact that he was a complete and utter nut job. And maybe that was it. But Uncle Joe was hardly alone in missing clues about something that in hindsight would seem impossible to miss. I mean, look at the recent financial crisis. Real wages fail to go up for twenty five years and yet property prices treble. How does that make any sense? It doesn’t and it didn’t. It is completely illogical in very respect. For years and years there was a successful rule of thumb that determined that you could get a mortgage worth three and half times your salary. So when average wages are £20,000 a year the price of an average house should be £70,000. So when the price of an average house went all the way up to £170,000 whilst wages never moved an inch, it should have given us all a pretty good clue that something wasn’t right.
Did we smell the coffee? Like hell we did. The Government rubbed its hands together and raked in record levels of Stamp Duty and Corporation Tax from banks who were breaking all profit records. Were the people any wiser? Of course we weren’t. We borrowed every penny the banks offered us and watched endless hours of TV where slick presenters went all gooey about how much we could all make by becoming property tycoons. Everyone was more than confident that the whole thing was going to last forever. Nobody much was suggesting that the whole thing was a completely artificial and unsustainable bubble. Well apart from Uncle Vince of course, but nobody was in the mood to take good old Uncle Vince all that seriously. Who was he when compared to all those super slick Masters of the Universe in the glittering square mile of the City?
Once upon a time a first class degree in Maths from a blue chip university meant a career in something hands on and scientific like designing trains or inventing new medicines or getting a man on the moon. That all stopped around the turn of the century. Now we needed our mathematicians to find ways of making the bubble last forever. We needed new equations and theorums. We needed guys with lots of letters after their names to persuade us that the good times would last for ever. There was an inconvenient fact that kept quietly nagging away at the back of everyone’s mind: if you keep blowing and blowing into a balloon, at some stage the balloon will pop. But the bankers were in no mood to stop blowing. The bonuses on the table were just too big for caution. And so when the time came when there was really nobody left to lend money to, they got their tame mathematicians to come up with a whole lot of fancy equations that proved that lending a load of cash to someone without any remote ability of paying it back was indeed a great idea. Good old Sub-Prime. One broke guy with a dodgy mortgage is bad. Four broke guys plus one guy with a job all bundled up together is good. And everyone actually bought into that absolute tosh for no other reason than it was expressed in maths formulae they couldn’t begin to understand. In the end the truth comes out. It always does. The empty shelves in
are empty for a good reason. Berlin
All of which has got me to wondering as to whether or not we are missing a whole lot more little clues that something genuinely huge is about to happen. I guess I am more tuned into this than the average Joe having written my book ‘Mere Anarchy’ a couple of years ago. For those who haven’t read it – which basically is the vast, vast majority of humankind! – the book takes a fictional view of
in 2016 when the money really HAS run out. In order to make the books balance a
25% cut in Government Spending is required and the solution is an immediate end
of all benefits. The idea of the book was to take a ‘What if?’ look at how such
a drastic scenario might play out. For the last twenty something months great
chunks of the storyline have been coming true with a somewhat alarming
regularity. It times I rather wish I hadn’t written the bloody thing. Britain
Despite the constant diet of doom and gloom on the nightly news, we all seem pretty well comfortable with the fact that life as we know it is still going to go on. We will simply be a bit harder up. We’ll pay more for petrol and electricity. We won’t go out as much. We might have to listen to the match on the radio rather than stumping up £45 aw month for Sky. We might have to holiday at home.
Is this sense of certainty a delusion? Are the shelves of the groceries of
beginning to look a bit thin? I tend to hoover up news from all kinds of places
these days. There is Twitter of course which gives snap shots of lots of little
things from lots of different places. Then there are Podcasts which occupy dog
walking time. Then there are the tales of quiet desperation that come in
through the front door of the First Base Agency five days a week. Berlin
Not joined up on the surface, but are they joined up under the surface? Is there a Titanic sinking iceberg ready and waiting to take us all down?
Here are a few.
Last week the Catholic Church in
announced they are now
feeding a million people a day. 2.5% of the total population. Four months ago
the Greek Orthodax church announced they were feeding 250,000 a day: again, 2.5% of
the population. This is something we at First Base need to take heed of. We
dish out fifty food parcels a week. Each parcel feeds on person for three days.
So 50 food parcels basically feed 25 people for a week. And fifty is a lot. It
is double what we were doing a couple of years ago. So what if we take the same
road as Spain Greece and .
Population of Spain Dumfries? 50,000. 2.5% of
50,000? 1250. How many food parcels to feed 1250 people? 2500 plus a few. As in
completely and totally impossible. So yeah, these are the kind of clues we need
to take some heed of. Are the local Council taking heed? I really don’t think
that they are.
Always the small things.
Oh the joys of democracy. Who would want the job of governing
They must yearn to do like Monsieur Holland and whack the rich with a 75% tax.
That would calm the demonstrators a tad. But there’s a problem. Spain hasn’t
got a lot at the moment in the way of feel good factor. But at least they have
the two stand out football teams on planet earth: Spain and Real Madrid. These Uber-clubs
attract the absolute greatest of great players and always have done. Why?
Because they are glamourous and they pay the biggest wages. And here is where
the problem lies. The going rate of pay for the Messis and Ronaldos of this
world is £200,000 a week AFTER tax. The club pays the tax on behalf of the
player. Top rate tax in Barcelona
has been running at 30% which means that Real Madrid cough up £15 million a
year to give Ronaldo his £10 million net. Put the top rate tax up to 75% and
all of a sudden Real Madrid have to pay £40 million a year to retain the
services of their pouting Portuguese diva. And they can’t afford forty million
a year. So what does the government do? Hit the rich and please the mob? But
hitting the rich to please the mob drains their iconic football teams of the
great players they have become so very accustomed to which will displease the
mob. Just another rock in another hard place. Another clue. Spain
And in the years of the distant future what might these missed clues tell us? Western Europe has ruled the roost for hundreds of years until
joined in and hijacked the party. Then we ruled the roost togther. And all of us
lucky enough to have been born and bred in the West have naturally assumed that
this established order of things will last for ever. We don’t work in
sweatshops for a dollar a day. Of course we don’t. That is done by the other
people. The ones we like to ignore. The other five billion who we have kept
firmly in their place for four hundred years and more. The ‘Third’ World. The
‘Developing’ World. Our subjects who we have dominated with our gunboats and rampaging free trade
But maybe all of these clues suggest that the cracks are widening. People are starting face starvation in
People in their millions are now wholly dependent on food aid for their next
meal in Western Europe. Governments are
printing money and losing control of their people in Western
Europe. Everything that has been tried and trusted for those four
hundred years doesn’t seem to work any more. Before we learnt to rule the
world, the people of Western Europe DID used to starve and freeze to death and
work for nothing and live under the rule of tyrants just like the so called
‘Third World’ has done under our watch. We assume that this can never happen
again because it hasn’t happened for a very, very long time. We assume that the
natural order of things is a permanent order of things.
Maybe the clues which come in thicker and faster by the day suggest otherwise. Maybe when we all look back we will see that these were the signs that our four hundred year bask in the sun was finally drawing to a close.