December 30, 2011

Is This The Year?

As 2011 ends, a thoughtful blogger can't help but wonder what may come in the next year. Will 2012 be the year human civilization is changed in some dramatic or fundamental manner? And I'm not just referring to the much-mentioned '21-12-12' date that has stirred up so much controversy (and given the opportunists another pretext for making money). No; this new year presents an unusually high number of potential hazards, both human and natural in origin, that threaten the entire planet. In my own lifetime as a post-war baby-boomer, I have never anticipated a new year with the same degree of unease.

For those blissful readers who haven't yet awakened and still can't 'smell the coffee,' allow me to bring you up to speed on the critical issues that confront humanity at this time in our history.

Perhaps the most obvious or immediate threat to our status quo comes from the financial world. After prolonged months of talk about a crisis in Greece, and giant problems in the 'Euro zone,' Greece finally defaulted late in 2011, followed quickly by Italy. However, no pundit expects that those countries will be the last to have upheaval. The real action is yet to come; and given all the delay, the next defaults will be bigger and have wider impact. What that impact will be is the subject of much speculation, ranging from more of the market uncertainties we've already seen, to the collapse of the Euro currency-- and hence, probably of the EU, too. The latter scenario is often also seen as a trigger that could result in severe pressure on the US dollar... and associated chaos in the USA.

Frankly, the breakup of the EU would be welcomed by the majority of citizens of the member states, if polls are reliable indicators, altho there will be financial consequences for those citizens. The bigger problems begin in the event of a meltdown of the US currency. Things are already bad for almost half the US population, who are considered as living below the poverty level, according to recent analysis. If that proportion should suddenly balloon to some much larger figure, say 75%, you would have the makings of nation-wide, civil unrest. More and more of the once-great middle class of Americans are being sucked under the poverty line as, first, blue-collar, then white-collar jobs are lost to 'off-shoring' and other 'necessities' of the glorious, capitalist system. Americans used to the basic luxuries of life (as seen by the rest of the world) will be driven to extremes in their anger and frustration with a golden goose that now seems to eject nothing but crap on them.

Apparently, the US government fully anticipates exactly such an outcome, since they have been making elaborate preparations for widespread civil disruption. One can easily check the Net for stories, even video, of the now-famous FEMA camps, scattered in various, remote locations around the country. More ominous are the countless stacks of plastic coffins, stored in outdoor compounds, for some unknown contingency-- but one that must entail vast numbers of casualties. Is this the year that makes it clear that the American Dream is d-e-a-d?

Which brings us back to the 'natural catastrophe' possibilities. Some pundits claim that the FEMA camps and the coffins are secret preparations for 'the big one'-- i.e. a huge earthquake, but not the long-expected California quake; rather, a shaking of the 'New Madrid' fault line. Such a tremor occurred in the 19th century, reckoned at about 8 or higher on the Richter scale. It caused relatively little damage simply because the population was very low and scattered at that time. If the same level of shaking occurred today, the rates of death and injury would be overwhelming, even to a nation with the resources of the USA. Making things much worse is the fact that there are many nuclear power generating stations in this region; and as the Japan quake demonstrated, any power plant can fail catastrophically in a major tremor. Many believe that the New Madrid is due for a major quake, and that recent 'fracking' activity by petroleum companies is exacerbating the risk. Is this the year the USA experiences a calamity that exceeds the disastrous Gulf oil eruption?

Those faithful followers of the mainstream news media must be aware that the drums have been beating ever-louder for another war, or pardon me, shall we say 'intervention' in the Middle East. The Anglo-American media machine has been obediently repeating every lie that issues forth from the respective governments regarding the 'dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.' No matter that they already used that lie to propel themselves into the Iraq debacle... if it worked once, well, heck, why not try it again?

Okay, you've been hearing about Iran for a couple of years, and nothing has happened. Well, there's now Syria to pique the interest of our dear leaders. Syria is a bit of a hard sell to Brits and Americans on the street. But, if they could 'sell' a NATO 'humanitarian intervention' in Libya, well, why not the same thing in Syria? Think of all those poor 'freedom fighters' getting killed by that evil dictator in Syria. Wouldn't you support sending in NATO jets to bomb those nasty forces, and liberate the Syrian people? You hardly noticed a thing when they did it in Libya, remember.

The trouble is, dear reader, both Iran and Syria are of strategic value to a couple of other major players on the world stage-- Russia and China. Without going into details, both of these countries have important interests in keeping Syria and Iran out of American control. Both have already indicated that an attack on these sovereign nations by 'Western' (aka NATO and/or Israeli) forces will be regarded as an act of war against them, too. If the prospect of regional war is not enough to disturb you, there's reasoned speculation that any war against Iran will, inevitably, involve nuclear weapons. Iran's nuclear research has been conducted in underground facilities. To destroy their capacities, it is likely that nuclear bombs would be used.

If nuclear weapons are deployed in an attack on Iran, and if Russia and/or China decide that the invisible line has been crossed and they must respond in kind... then God alone knows how that scenario could end. You may reason that given the global consequences of nuclear warfare, it would never be used. Well, that was the logic that prevailed during the 'Cold War' of the 20th century. Today, it seems that a new, bizarre logic prevails; one that believes in the concept of 'limited nuclear war' that, somehow, can be contained in its effects. Worse than that, there are many people who believe that the world's population is too big and must be drastically reduced. These individuals almost relish the prospect of a new, deadly influenza pandemic... or even, nuclear World War Three. It sounds unbelievable, because most people are still more or less sane, and can't fathom that the persons who run this world are insane criminals. Is this the year the sane ones will have to change their minds about the governors?

Let's see now-- in 2012 we are faced with potential global disaster from economic collapse resulting from financial meltdown; or a huge earthquake in mid-America, that may, in turn, trigger quakes elsewhere; or another military misadventure in the Middle East that could be the flash point for WW3. And I haven't even invoked the scary bogeymen conjectured by the acolytes for a '2012 Apocalypse'. These speculated disasters include close encounters of the worst kind with wayward asteroids, immense coronal mass ejections from our sun, gamma-ray outbursts from the center of our galaxy, an invasion of hostile aliens from another world, and for a cogent few-- the close passage of 'Planet X,' a mysterious member of our solar system. Is this the year of the big turning point in human history?

So, I rest my case: never has a new year commenced with so much apparent potential for the greatest crisis the world has faced since the Great Deluge. Are you prepared for the end of the world as you know it? Oh, you don't have to be squirrelling away food and guns; you just have to open your world-view, such as it is, to possibilities that have until now, remained comfortably confined to the realm of Hollywood's summer block-busters. Can you at least handle that?