Desperado Days by Zbignew Zingh

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14 Nov 2004
View all related to Climate Change | Conflict | Corporatism | Oil | Politics

Occasionally, we need to step back from the facile criticism of the Bush Administration and think deeper about why it does what it does. It is fun to merely label it insane and delusional and idiotic, for Mr. Bush, in particular, deserves most of those labels.

However, many of us believe that Mr. Bush is just the figurehead for a larger Design and Policy, and he, himself, has acknowledged as much. The “others” responsible for the administration's actions could, too, be idiotic and delusional, but they may not be insane.

We must acknowledge that it is very dangerous not to understand what drives our adversary.

Apart from pure avarice and ego, the actions of the Bush Administration have the appearance of incredible desperateness. It is that desperateness – their desperado-like, passionate, furious recklessness – which must cause us to ask, does the Bush Administration know something that we do not know? What do they know that makes them act like desperadoes?

Perhaps the better question is, do we know anything that the Bush Administration does not know?

Separating, for the moment, “knowledge” from the will or reason to act on that knowledge, we must assume that everything that is known to those of us outside the corridors of power is equally known to them inside the corridors of power. Logically, we should also assume (based on their access to money, sources and data that we cannot ever have) that those who walk the corridors of power have available to them more information than we can ever hope to have.

If, as Shakespeare wrote, the world is a stage, then we sit in a darkened theater watching a dimly lit performance where, at best, we see the silhouettes of the actors brushing against the curtain. Those in the Administration, however, act on the other side of the curtain. They can clearly see the unfolding drama that we can only guess at.

So what do we know about our world and the Administration's way of dealing with it?

We know about global warming. The world's climate is changing. It seems as though everyone everywhere knows that except for the Bush Administration. Remember our basic hypothesis, however: anything we know must be known to them, too. They may not act on that knowledge, but it must be known to them.

Thus, when the Bush Administration refuses to abide by the Kyoto Protocol regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases, it is not because it does not know about the problem, it is because it will not engage in a cooperative solution to the problem.

In fact, the Pentagon has already recognized the dire consequences of the inevitable global climate changes that we mostly recognize as “real”. The Pentagon's own analysis predicts successions of world-wide dust-bowls, crop failures, killer heat waves, dessication of fertile lands, powerful and destructive storms, and huge population migrations like in centuries ago. You need only remember news stories of recent vintage to recognize that all this is already underway.

Does the Bush Administration not understand this? Why does it consistently tell the American people and the world that global climate change is a fiction?

Chances are, George Bush may not understand, but the designers and implementers of his Administration certainly do. They may not want to participate in a cooperative effort to ameliorate global warming either because they believe the effort is futile or, more likely, because they want to go it alone and garner unto themselves all the resources they can before the collapse occurs.

They may not want to tell the truth to the American people. What would we do if the government did tell us the truth about global warming and its consequences? We might conserve more and we might strive to avert the dagger by turning to alternative energy sources. Or, we might acknowledge that nothing can now be done and society may dissolve into a Hobbesian state of disorder. Neither scenario would be good for certain powerful interests.

What else do we know that the Administration seems not to understand? Peak oil.

Peak oil does not mean that we are running out of oil, but that a peak in world oil production will occur. Once we pass the peak, there will be less oil produced every year. In addition, it will take increasing amounts of energy we have already extracted to get at the oil that remains in the ground. Eventually, we will arrive at the point when it will take more energy to extract the oil than what we will get from the oil itself. Even at that point, there will still be plenty of oil in the ground, but it will no longer be worth our while to pump it out. By most predictions, we are either “there” already or that we will “peak” very soon. The major dissenters, curiously, are the United States Geological Service and the Administration's spokesmen like Alan Greenspan. In the face of current manifestations of lack of spare capacity, they maintain the cheeriest of outlooks about future oil production.

We are indubitably a hydrocarbon dependent civilization. Everything requires cheap oil or natural gas: pesticides, fertilizers, cars, trucks, buses, trains, heat, light, medicine, refrigeration, air travel, manufacturing, schools, social services, computers, construction ...and destruction. The military lives or dies by the availability of cheap oil. Its planes and ships and tanks and trucks cannot function without it.

The price of oil is high today. It might drop tomorrow. Regardless how its price fluctuates, its range is substantially higher than it was only a year ago. “Cheap” petroleum is gone. The proof lies not in what the Saudis say about their intention to pump out more oil in the future; the proof lies in the energy futures traders' disbelief in what the Saudis say. What the Saudis seem to be pumping more of is the dregs of their oil fields, the heavy, high-sulfur stuff that is too expensive to refine and useless for most commercial purposes.

The proof of the problem lies not only in the high price of oil, but in its price volatility. A gas pipeline sabotaged here, a hurricane there, a strike in Nigeria, an election in Venezuela, a cold snap in New England, a Russian tax claim on an energy company. All of these things, and more to come, cause the price of oil to gyrate wildly, and those gyrations give the economy vertigo.

Does the Bush Administration know this? Of course it does.

All wars, in one sense or another, have been resource wars. The current Fourth World War is one fought for control of the world's diminishing resources. Whereas in the past, more “liberal” American administrations sought to control those scarce resources through “diplomacy” (i.e., bribery, economic coercion, political or religious proselytism, culture control and “allied” military “police actions”), the current Administration is acting more desperately because these are desperate days.

Thus, as the world's climate warms and radically changes, as our cheap energy becomes scarce and dear, the Administration that truly does know all this has skipped the niceties of silk-gloved diplomacy and just grabbed what it needs to survive while it still has the military might to do so. Thus, Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon Iran and Venezuela. Thus, this Administration will continue to act like desperadoes.

Lest we be naïve, other ruling classes in other societies in Europe and in Asia recognize the same desperate situation as does the Bush Administration. Equally desperate, aggressive and apparently insane behavior by Israel, Britain and Italy seems also to be motivated by the same knowledge that we, and the Bush Administration, share. Times are bad and they are getting worse: damn the public opinion polls, it's every elite for itself.

And if some nations appear to act more diplomatically than militarily, it may be because they lack the weapons and the soldiers to do otherwise. Regardless whether they voted to oppose the Iraq War, for example, countries around the world now line up like carrion vultures to pick the carcass clean. They may disapprove of the United States and its gang of desperadoes, but they are not beneath eating the table scraps we leave behind. They, too, probably know what the Bush Administration knows, only they are less able to act on their desperation.

What else do we know?

We know that the American economy is shaky. The dollar has lost 30% of its value in the last 2 years, despite massive intervention on the part of the Japanese central banks. Although the economic spinmeisters declare that a weaker dollar is good because it will increase exports, the reality is that America manufactures little that other nations need or would want to buy, except for sophisticated weapons. This country's wealth has become “financial” – we make 'digits' which we give to other nations in return for their oil, gas and manufactured goods. Our profligate ways have been paid for with deficits funded by foreign private and central bank investment in American treasury debt, to the tune of about $2 Billion per day. But foreign investors, banks and governments may not want to continue investing in the dollar if its value keeps falling like a rock. But they are already invested up to their eyeballs in it. The collapse of the world's reserve currency will wipe out their investment, and will surely plunge the whole world into depression. It's a game of chicken.

Remember that money has no inherent value. Gold's persistent value in the past was derived from convention and its relative scarcity and durability. If it was neither scarce nor durable, and if the convention changed, then gold would be no more desirable than other commodities.

When the dollar was unmoored from gold with the abolition of the gold standard, its value was de facto measured relative to petroleum. After the oil embargo of 1973, the United States and OPEC entered into a long-standing agreement that mandates that the world trade for oil with dollars. The gold-backed dollar became the petroleum backed dollar, or the Petrodollar.

As world oil production passes its peak and begins a descent, along with increasing demand, its value must be recognized to be increasing relative to other resources and commodities. In other words, it would take more dollars to buy a barrel of the stuff. Just like it would cost more Gold Dollars to buy an ounce of gold when gold becomes scarcer, or the demand for gold increases. The United States is unique among nations as the sole issuer of the computer digits denominated as Dollars. By a click of the keyboard or mouse, it can create whatever it takes to purchase what it wants, the petroleum. Eventually, this fiat money shows up as inflation in the prices of everyday life, such as food, gasoline, medicine, housing, stocks. You start to feel the hurt because you cannot bring these magical digits to life just by the stroke of your keyboard or mouse. You have to eat, drive, be healthy, warm, and invest for your future. Your wages, i.e., the price of your labor, will be the last to rise – because the system has been so designed.

The Dollar depends on the price of oil. The economy depends on the the Dollar, and everything is upheld by the military.

What else do we know?

The food chain is contaminated. Man-made carcinogens are found everywhere, in the soil, in mother's milk, in our fish. We pretend that Mad Cow Disease does not exist in America because we try our hardest not to detect it or diagnose it. We treat the symptoms of the cancer epidemic without trying to understand why there is so much cancer.

The soil has been exhausted and sterilized by decades of industrial agricultural. Our water is polluted; clean water is in increasingly short supply.

In short, to add to the proximate crisis in energy, the collapse of the Dollar and global climate change, the basic elements of sustenance – food and water – are in jeopardy. Add to that the likelihood that Man's decades of mucking around with nature will likely produce pandemics of heretofore unknown virulence, and you have a confluence of crises that makes those in the know act like they are acting right now.

What else do we know?

The so-called War on Terrorism is a sham. To the extent there was organized terrorism in the world, its reach was minimal and its effect negligible. The War on Terror will create the Terror Enemy that the Administration wants to create. To the extent that the 9-11 attack was an unforeseen, rather than a cultivated or intentionally permitted, act of terrorism, it was an isolated, predictable and wholly preventable event. We must understand that the Bush Administration understands at least as much as we do about what really did and did not happen on September 11, 2001; and we submit, consistent with our hypothesis, that it knows much more than it will ever permit us to know.

In the wake of 9-11, however, the Bush Administration, with the complicity of the elites of both dominant American parties (and in concert with other legislative bodies around the world), enacted draconian social control mechanisms.

Soon, they will also move to throttle your email and your Web, because you present a threat to 'security' and 'moral values'.

They appear not to care about constitutionality, civil rights or democracy. That is the appearance because that is the reality. They are now concerned with survival. You see this in all the elitist governments of the major countries around the world.

When the confluence of events described in this article occurs, it will be very difficult to maintain order and control in our society and the world. Once the stun of reality wears off, the bonds of social order will be loosened. Authority and power, as they are today, will be at risk. For those who hold power and authority, these will be turbulent, dangerous times that our rulers believe will require strong laws and the use of strong police power. For the many of us who have neither power nor authority, this will be a time when our own community and ingenuity and will to survive will be tested. We will be tested as much by the times to come as by the control mechanisms that will be imposed upon us in response to them.

George Bush himself may or may not believe that he will be raptured up into Heaven at the time of a preordained Apocalypse. George Bush, however, does not set the policies or designs of his administration. Those who do, most probably do not believe in an apocalyptic end of time. Rather, they see time continuing. Only they see a meaner time that lies ahead, without plentiful, cheap energy to fuel endlessly-expanding capitalism; a feudal, medieval world of harsher climates and hungry, thirsty people, and desperation and disease. And they intend to have, by hook or by crook, what they need to survive those times.

The intention of this article was not to depress people, though it certainly will not cheer you up. One purpose was to understand what is happening, for in knowledge lies strength and the path to action. Another purpose was to try to develop a coherent theory, an explanation for why the Bush Administration seems to be acting like there is no tomorrow. Could it be because they believe they have no tomorrow?

There is truly nothing hypothesized in this article that you, the reader, did not already know. A third purpose of this article was to stitch it altogether as a theory that makes sense of an otherwise senseless pattern of world events. If one accepts the theory, then we cannot bow our heads in despair. Rather, we must acknowledge the critical need for renewed community, the need for greater local and transnational connectivity, the need for more vigorous organization, more thorough education and wiser sustainability; for our time to get our acts together is as limited as the Administration perceives is its own time to act.

These are desperado days.

Originally published at Alternative Press Review