Approximately a month from now, around the time of March 20th, Greece is poised to default, triggering a CDS crisis that could spread like an economic contagion far greater than that which occurred in 2008. The signs of this have not been buried but written prominently in reliable news sources with daily regularity. I don’t claim to be an economist and I have my share of doubt of the whole profession (courtesy of N.N. Taleb’s critique), but with the macro-level problems that are clear to understand (infinite growth colliding with finite resources, the lack of legislation passed to correct the problems evident in 2008 economic crisis) added to what seems to be occurring in the continual downgrading of value of European assets, not least of all the PIIGS countries like Greece, there is, at the very least, grave concern over how well global economies will fare if this first domino drops.
I do not claim to know how this is going to play out, it is very possible that some last minute, unforeseen benefactor will bail out Greece, if only to keep their economy running a bit longer. I accept the unknown in the equation, though I choose not to live my life in utter faith of its panacea. I am not obsessed or dumbstruck with fear, in the interim period I have done what I could to shelter from the storm and try to be self-sufficient. My heart is not wholly in it, I still cling to the arts and the aristocratic pleasantries of the life I am accustom to. I monitor the situation and try to respond accordingly. This week I bought a propane stove-top burner one uses typically on a camping trip. I am still significantly lacking in alternative energy sources, an expense I have not yet felt motivated to pursue. The winter has been mild, and I have enjoyed time spent with friends and family.
Maybe it is the books I read, the movies I watch: I think about ethics a lot even if I am not, myself, virtuous. I have lived inside a bubble without much in the way of tangible threat of death. The survival instinct dulls from lack of attention and the body gets fat and the mind gets soft; ethics is moth-balled, a dusty idea not qualitatively understood. We have been told to care more about what other people think of us, and other people are mostly thinking about what a bought culture tells them to. But ethics will once again surely matter when the bubble pops, when the invisible barriers between people vanish, and we are forced to live together on less, with greater threat of death. History has no precedent for this experiment, cut away from survival and ethics and brought together, globally, into a world where all the prison cells unlock and the warden is dead. How will man fare when put to this test? Ideologies will flare up in the vacuum, the weak-minded need something to hold fast to, something bigger than themselves.
I do not have a favorable opinion of mankind. I have lived a fantasy that was foolishly squandered by the greed of a few. The reality is not pretty. It is a wilderness out there, a wilderness that can define you and make you a real person at last, but it is not pretty. If the wave crashes, all the pretty things will soon be gone. Life with the friction of death ignites ethics, that whisper I have had in my head all this time. We tell ourselves stories to remind us what happens when we are forced to live.
I have been living surreptitiously through stories, feeling hunger and dying and tragedy in a heightened but contained environment. I sense what may happen from these sojourns into the imagination (woven into my memory too, a story of my near-death). I am stirred awake. I have felt a thousand deaths. I have witnessed a thousand acts of heroism and a thousand acts of cowardice, and learned what it is to be alive and restless. I have had 9/11 and Lehman Brothers puncture my dreams and let the urgency of reality seep through.
Maybe I have seen too many movies. This is also possible. But I have seen firsthand the thinness of civility, the diet of decency, the plague of egoism. Old culture will cope, the culture that has lived through hard times, it is this new culture set adrift I worry about; the culture of entitlement, the deterioration of community, these jackals in the making. There is a guy who wrote a book about his firsthand experience in Argentina when it recently went through a full-blown economic collapse. It was Hobbesian chaos, the crime rates soared so high that the prisons reached capacity and it was anything goes on the streets. Who is to say what any of us would do if they barricaded ours banks and left us high and dry. I imagine the worst, but not without some justification; lest nature shows us what it is truly made of.