By COURTENAY BARNETT
“T’was a strange time when, Men were boys – and – boys were women; The professed strong were weak, And the weak were increasingly hopelessly weak.”
Charles Dodgson was a mathematician, an author and a writer of nonsense verses. He wrote a world famous book. His nom de plume was Lewis Carroll. He was the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
I surmise that if he were asked to pen a few words in some sort of verse about the most striking features of the twenty-first century, if he were alive, he would do far better than I ever could and would produce something both amusing and profound – to be read and discerned on different levels of understanding.
Strange time indeed. For what we are told is not reality. It is some sort of distorted presentation of the world, as if we were, like Alice, ambulating through a make-believe world of pretensions in wonderland bolstered by fantastic fiction. A few broad brush examples from our world might suffice.
America? I start there. Why?
America, in the first quarter of the twenty-first century, is the world’s wealthiest and militarily most powerful country in the world. Additionally, America controls and pulls the strings of the global financial system. Thus, all of us on planet Earth, whether directly or indirectly, are impacted in our daily lives by the decision-making processes made by the United States of America which holds and controls the world’s reserve currency.
T’was a strange time...
Well two Presidents spring to mind as being manly, so they proclaimed – strong, decisive and patriotically all American.
The first is George Bush Jr. Manly?
It seems to me strikingly paradoxical that a man who draft dodged finds himself professing his full support to fabricate reasons for a war he simply was too cowardly to face in his time when he could have gone to battle. The result? Over one million Iraqis dead for reason of lies told and an unnecessary war based on that falsehood? But who will ever answer or be brought to justice for Bush’s illegal war?
So now we have Donald Trump. Sorry, we have the Great President Donald Trump who has vowed to make America great again. Later on we will examine some of his great expectations and the reality he faces.
There – rather here, we have another draft dodger, who adores the military which he had wimped away from ever enlisting in – and perish the thought of actually fighting like a man. But, give him his due, he seems not to want to start any new wars ( at least so he says) and he wants to be isolationist and bring the troops home ( so he says).
Well, for one clear example of the conundrum who is Donald Trump – one must ask a question. So the Iranian, General Solemani, is assassinated and the Iranians retaliate against US bases in Iraq. And Trump – well – he wants peace – but it seems a rather odd way to seek it by unilaterally withdrawing from the US/Iranian nuclear deal then killing one of Iran’s top Generals. So with such aggression – what does Trump really want? I suspect he likes ( loves?) power and would sooner remain transactional until his first term ends. He is not in the least transformative as his rhetoric on the economy, foreign policy, unilateralism and his self-centered impulsive conduct might otherwise convince us of.
Like Humpty Dumpty, Donald Trump is a master at giving special meaning to his words and deeds, for as was said by Humpty:-“When I use a word“, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
And one would actually have to go “Through the looking glass” before at all coming any where close to understanding what Donald Trump actually means when he speaks; and quickly so too before he does yet another volte face. Such is the world – dominated by the US – within which we live.
The strong being weak
One could write both an economic and political treatise on how the US under Donald Trump is acting in the world. A few examples will suffice.
A simple question. The economic history of the modern world reminds of what factors led to the Great Depression. In two thousand the US experienced the dot com crash. In two thousand and eight there was the stock market crash. In the latter instance it must by now be obvious that by relying on fiat imaginaries marketed for sale – then at some stage the fake derivatives and zero mortgage bubble had to collapse.
But, as the famous song asks, “When will they ever learn.” So to the question – is it possible to keep buoying up a consumer based economy by printing US dollars in the trillions while simultaneously increasing the national debt in the trillions? Simple question – simple answer – the model is unworkable and shall collapse.
To my mind the question is not whether or not it will – it is merely a question of when.
Add to the US economic problem as stated above – the fact of America’s professed love for and global promotion of “democracy” around the world.
Hard and complex question. When the US has the Congress bought and paid for by the lobbyists, the military-industrial complex, the defence contractors, the pharmaceutical companies and the disproportionate influence of Israel upon US domestic politics – can one seriously term the US a representative and fully functioning democracy, of the people, by the people and for the people?
A serious question posed to a contradictory two-party system.
The Democrats do not question foreign interventions and willingly embrace the military-industrial complex – just like the Republicans. In the 2020 State of the Union speech there was ostensibly and quite dramatically noticeable friction between Pelosi and Trump when he refused to shake her hand and she tore up his speech for the US and the world to see. However, when it came on to America’s appointed Venezuelan President in the personage of Juan Guido, both parties gave a standing ovation. So, I guess that while the US taps phone lines, accesses internet communications, manipulates other countries’ domestic politics, and much worse, all the way to extra-judicial killings and torture in such a place as Guantanamo etc. etc. etc, it really is a case of – do as we say – not as we do.
But, just like Alice, one has to question:-“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” Indeed, when I read about global events and listen to the official statements emanating from the US – I do seriously and honestly ponder whether or not the US President is not within a fairy tale and right smack in the middle of it when:-
- Changing the party in power does not and never has fundamentally changed policies; especially US foreign policy. It is a bit of a fairy tale to think that by the US electorate voting for Tweedle Dum over Tweedle Dee that fundamental change is on the horizon.
- How does a country not cut spending or raise taxes while running a multi-trillion dollar deficit and hope in any realistic way, outside of living in a fairy tale world, not realise that the economic system in such a scenario is destined to crash far more significantly than in 2000 or 2008? AND – when future recipients of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security are going to need somewhere in the order of US$88 trillion to keep the programmes adequately funded – how is this to be accomplished and what viable economic model does the Trump Presidency propose?
- When preemptive wars and ‘regime change’ ( e.g. the devastation inflicted on Iraq; the destruction of Libya; and the lost war in Syria) become the order of the day – then – does not international law go out the window and the rule of the jungle for the mightiest not replace the rule of law?
- When the US Constitution is shelved and Executive authority takes precedence and there is no Congressional accountability and/or effective oversight – then what democracy?
- When domestic inflation is impacting the purchasing power of the US dollar and billionaires are given tax breaks and are also seeking, such as the Democrat multi- billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, to be the next US President after billionaire Trump – where are the people’s representatives?
- When President Trump gives orders to deploy mini-nukes – is this not an invitation to Russia and China to do the same and then start all over again another arms race?
Call the foregoing – the harsh half-dozen truths to be grappled with here and now – if not in the immediate future.
As Trump himself professed, ” Our country is being run by incompetent people” – and indeed since Lewis Carroll penned ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – no truer words have been so ironically spoken.
Indeed, a financialised economy is not a viable economy – for one cannot put something on nothing and expect it to be sustained – it will collapse.
That is the truth – the reality- and this is all – no fairy tale, for we all are in the middle of it.
POSTSCRIPT: Courtenay had shared his article with his girlfriend, who happens to be an American. She had asked him about solutions for the problems he had outlined in his article. We share below, his answer to his girlfriend ( and to us):-
America is overspending and increasing the deficit to totally unsustainable levels. That is the central problem – so that needs to be addressed:
If It is the leadership which governs and directs policy; so change the leadership and by extension change the policy of printing more and more money which increases the deficit; yet how?
A. The attempt by the US to ensure global hegemony for herself, is at the heart of the matter. Some 800 military bases around the world is unnecessary in this era of nuclear weapons. All the bases in the world cannot repel the impact of nuclear weapons. Bring troops home and close bases which will improve the deficit position.
B. Return to the START treaty of 1972 and related agreements for non-proliferation and that will deescalate the mounting expansion afoot. Also, beside protecting the peace – such a move will permit budget expenditures to be redeployed in far more productive ways for the benefit of the American people.
C. Seriously face the reality of the declining US dollar and devise a strategy for its viability going forward which may mean:-
i) Restructuring the IMF for a move to a basket of currencies so that China and Russia become greater participants in a world where roles are shared and so too the strengthening of the world’s reserve currency; failing which it will continue to decline and then ultimately be replaced.
ii) Avoid more trade wars – return to the WTO – and seek negotiated agreements for countries’ mutual benefit; a win-win formula versus a choice of the Trump doctrine of win-lose.
iii) Address not the illusion of a strong US economy, but the facts of:
– the permanent loss of manufacturing jobs in some areas.
– the need for reduced military expenditure and increased investments in domestic infrastructure, R & D, retraining for the jobs market, and overall implement a sort of comprehensive modern-day FDR-type ‘New Deal’.
iv) Comprehend at the highest economic levels, amongst the industrialised nations the US has a highly regressive taxation system; big corporations have to be made to pay a fair and reasonable rate of taxation into the public US coffers. Fundamental services, a quality education for all, retraining and retooling cannot otherwise be funded except by printing more money which will lose value over time for that the currency cannot be backed only by thin air ( no gold backing and reduced global market shares while widening the deficit – a recipe for disaster).
But who am I to speak – a foolish dreamer?
* COURTENAY BARNETT is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over thirty years, has been arrested for defending his views, has been subjected to death threats, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. He lives and works in the Caribbean.