(Chris Martenson) Here in the brief period between Christmas and New year’s, as a writer I am obligated to say happy, wishful things. I have to confess, I’m just not feeling it this year, so I’ll just do the minimum here and return to being a curmudgeon, because that’s what the times call for.
So, happy new year. I hope everything works out well for you in 2019.
There, with that behind us we can now return our attention to the true state of the world, which is deteriorating and getting worse.
For most people things will be decidedly worse, not better, as things progress along their current trajectories. The only planet we’ve got to live on is being killed by human activity and gross inattention, while economically the greatest and most ill-advised credit bubble in all of human history flirts with the sort of sudden disaster that follows shortly after the failure of one’s reserve parachute.
As I’ve often repeated, I truly wish this weren’t the case. I don’t have a “bummer gene” that relishes bad news nor do I enjoy being “that guy” who says what no one wants to hear.
Many of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. You, too, had to keep your lips zipped over the holidays lest the strained family small talk and opening of cheaply-made forgettable gifts be ruined by any talk of ‘reality’. Sure, everyone can inwardly wince at uncle Jack’s sixth bourbon and tolerate the buffoonery and social awkwardness sure to follow because “it’s only once a year.”
But collapsing insect populations, species loss, shrinking aquifers, and the utter betrayal of the younger generations by the “olders” running the fiscal and monetary policies of the world are not as easily dismissed. There’s no relief at the end of the day when the problem drives itself home.
Instead, these many predicaments lurk and fester, as stubbornly as a rotted beam in the basement. An adult with a problem beam in the basement deals with it. But the immature person pretends the problem doesn’t exist, and then scolds and shames anyone who brings it up.
Well, for those of us in the mature reality-based camp, we can point out not one but many dozens of rotten beams in the basement, and the walls, and the roof. So, holidays are quite often more a burden to us than a comfort. “Why, yes, Aunt Karen, that is a nice set of coasters you gave to John” as you think to yourself “I wonder if those are made from pressed microplastics or virgin rainforest?”
To be completely clear, I deplore the decisions that got us to this point in history. But here we are.
I wish the Federal Reserve, the ECB and the rest of the world’s major central banks had not printed up $16 trillion of thin-air money and caused the greatest collection of asset price bubbles in all of history. I wish that the US had heeded Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s and developed a workable long-term energy strategy that made sense. I wish that disappearing insect population were not relegated to the back pages of major newspapers, and instead were front and center each and every day until responsible actions were undertaken. I wish that savers, pensioners and the young hadn’t been sacrificed upon the altar of bank profits so that the obscenely wealthy could become even more so.
But, that’s not how things turned out. So now we’ve just got to make the best of it individually, whatever may come.
Back in November of 2018, I participated in a superb evening event put on by modern Poet-Historian Stephen Jenkinson where he posed the following to the audience, which mostly consisted of people with grey hair. He said that every older person needs to be ready for the day when a younger person walks up to them and asks them two questions:
- When did you know, and
- What did you do about it?
When did you know about the many problems and predicaments facing our world today? When did you find out about species loss, and peak oil, the generationally destructive policies of your peers, and the unsustainability of our entire economic model?
And what did you do about any of it? Did you make any changes at all to your behavior, or did you close your eyes and slip into a strategy of false hope? Hope that ‘somebody’ would do ‘something’? Did you fight at all for the things in which you once believed?
These aren’t easy questions to face, because they cut right to the heart of the matter. They put our integrity into question and threaten to expose whether we have any at all.
Not easy stuff, to be sure.
So, by way of preparation for what’s coming, let me act as a stand-in for that future young person and be the one to ask you:
When did you know?
And what did you do about it?
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
In the US, the older generation, the Baby Boomers, have a lot to answer for. I’m among them, so I’m pointing my accusing fingers right back at myself, too. It’s incumbent on every group to be its own best critic (a credo the FBI, many police departments, large corporations, and political parties seem to be woefully ignorant of).
Instead of being appropriately self-critical, 2018 was the year the entire mainstream establishment decided to engage in a mass act of psychological projection instead. With Millennials as the hapless targets.
In the US, after spending $trillions on unnecessary wars and neglecting to invest for the future (adequately funding pensions, maintaining vital infrastructure, etc), the establishment decided 2018 would be a good year to wag its collective finger at the Millennial generation, going so far as to blame its low home ownership rate on eating too much avocado toast:
But it didn’t stop there. The establishment went on an absolute tear of a blaming spree. It accused Millennials of so many vices that long lists had to be created. As those lists became exhaustively long, Millennials were branded “mass murderers”:
The reason that so many Millennials are turning away from the blindly-consumptive patterns of their parents is because they got locked out of that game long enough to peer back in. As they did, many decided that their parents’ material pursuits and life choices weren’t worth repeating.
A lifetime of paying off mortgage and other debts to bankers or… spending their money instead on valued experiences while still young and vigorous? Hmmmm. Not exactly a tough choice, is it?
The Boomers and their journalistic lackeys decry Millennials’ opting-out as “killing” valued institutions like for-profit colleges and the housing market, but the reality is if you give people a bit of breathing room to assess their options, few will willingly choose a lifetime of debt servitude. Most prefer financial freedom and a life well-lived.
I know that my own children (all young adults now) have opted not go into debt. Or overspend on college. Or purchase cars until absolutely forced to (and even then they bought beaters).
I like to think that they got some of that frugality from me but, truthfully, after about the age of 13 parents’ influence on their children hovers between 0 and -3. From the age of 13 on their peers shape their outlook. And many of my children’s peers are making similar purchasing and life decisions, so that sets the direction of their age cohort.
For the journalists making a show out of struggling to understand why the Millennials are making different choices than the Boomers did, I offer up this quote:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
~ Upton Sinclair
It’s important to note that the mainstream press has a couple of important jobs: keeping everyone firmly seated in the consumer mind-rut, and deflecting any criticism away from the wealthy and their corporate masters (should any distinction between those groups exist).
If I sound harsh on the mainstream press, that’s because far too many in that profession have settled into being little more than scribes for the powerful; doing little more than repeating scripted talking points, inaccurate “facts,” and overt corporate and political propaganda.
In other words: the criticism is entirely deserved. Especially when one asks, “When did you know? And what did you do about it?”
2019: The Beginning Of The End
2018 has been the year that things began to unravel, as the accumulated mistakes of the prior decades finally settled in.
2019 will see the repercussions of that unraveling. It’s going to be a very hard year as reality starts to settle in.
As far as the financial markets go, which are the preferred self-enrichment and public signaling devices of the powers that be, our operating model is contained in the phrase: Until and unless.
Until and unless the world’s central banks reverse course and once again undertake more Quantitative Easing, or “QE,” financial asset prices will continue to fall throughout 2019. Stocks, bonds, real estate. You name it.
For all the investors out there now habituated to ever-rising asset prices, this will be a very unpleasant and painful period.
But beyond just our portfolios, the imbalances facing us are extraordinary and they’re spread all across the world’s stage — economically, politically, ecologically, demographically — and there simply are not sufficient resources to ever again return to the reliable and fast pace of economic growth experienced in the 20th century.
It’s time for each of us to focus on preparing financially, emotionally, and physically. Things are changing, quickly, and pretending that they aren’t isn’t a winning strategy.
Few are ready to hear these messages. More will be ready over the coming year, but still the numbers will be surprisingly small.
This makes it even more important that we stick together and offer each other support and encouragement as we navigate increasingly difficult waters over the coming months and years.
Look, I wish I could join the untold millions in looking past all of these predicaments and cheerily wish everyone a Happy New Year and leave it at that. But I cannot. We don’t pick the times in which we live, But we can control how we respond, as well as how we decide to meet the challenges we face.