Is there about to be another financial crash leading to major social unrest or possibly a war in Europe? A depressing potential scenario stemming from recent international events and conversations developed during the Waste.Agency intervention (Oct 2014 – Feb 2015).
Nothing adds up, inflation may be at a ‘historic’ low[i] but vegetable prices in the market yesterday and in Sainsbury’s on Saturday show sharp increases [inserted 5th April 2015, example of the affects of climate on global food prices]:. The boost in consumer spending is not because of confidence as the CBI claim[ii], it is because £17billion (17,000x£1m) has been paid out on PPI claims[iii], much of which can be assumed to have been spent on new sofas, garden furniture and the like, paid for by the UK taxpayer with money printed during the madness of QE[iv].
The Gulf War that begun in 1990 to subsidise US & UK debt and prop up military spending has now drawn Egypt into Libya[v], meaning the war that never ended has now reached Europe’s doorstep.
Estimates of 600,000 refugees[vi] wait on North African quaysides risking death[vii] to reach Italy, a country also considering a military offensive towards Libya[viii]. Malta’s prime minister tries to calm his population’s growing fears of potential violent spill over from Libya to their small island[ix].
The chance of a continental war beckons just as the European project looks failure in the mirror and the governments of it major economies, UK, France and Italy flounder with weak mandates and distrustful electorates.
In amongst this, Apple, Google and others post ‘record’ jaw-dropping profits[x] and property prices continue on a stratospheric conjecture[xi]. Historically, such exuberance in capitalism indicates a crash is imminent as the money people begin exiting by bringing profits forward, quietly unloading costs and closing positions. Uncontrolled greed sees companies like Apple sucking out the liquidity that QE was meant to provide by borrowing $6.5billon of cheap money while squirreling away its profits[xii] with no intention of returning any of the wealth to assist the societies that Apple relies on to purchase its products.
What makes this doom-laden scenario more doom-laden? Social media.
Tunisia is a precept to the power of social media. What began as a seemingly innocuous local issue in December 2010, corrupt brutal police/officials demanding bribes, escalated beyond all imagination after a young fruit seller set himself on fire[xiii]. Through Twitter, Facebook and other online mediums news spread and sparked protests and outbreaks of violence. State methods, tried and tested for over 100 years, using mass media to divide and confuse the situation in favour of the government failed completely. Like trying to douse a forest fire during drought, sparks and flames sprung up everywhere, virtually impossible to predict and without heavy rain, the best that could be done was to maintain the spread. It was impossible to have predicted in 2012 the devastation that would be wrought on Syria, Iraq and Libya by 2014 and that these fires would be breaking out across virtually all Middle-East states, including Israel.
And it is this unpredictable spread that is the risk to the Western society that we in Europe presently exist within.
If there is another major financial crash, the banks will collapse, as they are, despite all the rhetoric, basically bankrupt. The question is how will society act on social media? Will it bind or fragment? Opportunists will see potential, whether criminal, ideological or peacemaking. What the Middle East is showing at a macro level is that the strong and violent take control, but scratch at the micro level and love and hope exists. Whether looking at Iraq, Syria, Yemen or Ukraine warzones there are many beautiful stories of people helping each other.
Social media could bring the demise of present societal structures or could possibly reshape it into a more caring, malleable system bringing a new form of wealth not reliant on money, as we presently understand it. It is the violent that need to be managed somehow, and it is difficult to know whether social media has that much influence.
[i] UK inflation rate falls to record low of 0.3% in January (17 January 2015), BBC News Website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31501805
[ii] UK growth to pick up as cheaper oil cheers consumers, CBI says, (16 January 2015), The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/16/uk-growth-oil-cbi-business-business-falling-costs
[iii] Time may run out for PPI claims as City watchdog considers deadline on flood of compensation that’s cost banks £17B, (30 January 2015), This Is Money.co.uk, http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2932993/FCA-considers-deadline-PPI-claims-following-pressure-UK-s-banks.html
[iv] Quantitative easing, (17 February 2015), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing
[v] Egypt seeks UN mandate for Libya Islamic State intervention, (17 February 2015), BBC News Website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31500382
[vi] The deaths of 300 migrants this week should shake us to our core, (13 February 2015), Catholic Herald, http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2015/02/13/the-deaths-of-300-migrants-this-week-should-shake-us-to-our-core/
[vii] European Union needs robust search-and-rescue operation at sea – UN refugee agency, (12 February 2015), UN News Centre, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50070#.VOMx0VPQKmF
[viii] Italy to Weigh Military Action in Libya if Diplomacy Fails (16 February 2015), New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/02/16/world/europe/ap-eu-italy-libya.html?_r=0
[ix] Muscat says Libya crisis poses no security threat to Malta, (17 February 2015), Malta Today, http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/49636/muscat_says_libya_crisis_poses_no_threat_to_malta#.VOMyI1PQKmE
[x] Google profits up but revenue misses expectations, (29 January 2015), BBC News Website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31047843
[xi] Global house prices: Location, location, location, (29 August 2014), The Economist, http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/global-house-prices
[xii] Apple to borrow ‘$6.5bn’ despite record profits, (17 February 2015), The Daily Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/11384597/Apple-to-borrow-5bn-despite-record-profits.html
[xiii] Timeline: Tunisia’s uprising, (23 January 2011), Aljazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/tunisia/2011/01/201114142223827361.html