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Signs Of Distress

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher No Comments Comments
    August 19, 2017

    The world is edging closer to the final moments after which everything will be forever changed. Grand delusions, perpetuated over decades, will finally hit the limits of reality and collapse in on themselves.

    We’re over-budget and have eaten deeply into the principal balances of all of our main trust accounts. We are ecologically overdrawn, financially insolvent, monetarily out past the Twilight Zone, consuming fossil fuels (as in literally eating them), and adding 80,000,000 net souls to the planet’s surface — each year! — without regard to the consequences.

    Someday there will be hell to pay financially, economically, and ecologically as there simply isn’t any way to maintain these overdrafts forever. Reality does not renegotiate. Its deal terms aren’t compromisable.

    For those who have the neural plasticity to actually see what’s happening around us, the changes are already here, blatant and frightening. Younger folks, with their fresher eyes and fewer ties to the past, can see them a lot easier than their elders.

    The prosperity enjoyed by the past few generations — especially the Baby Boomers — was stolen from future generations. All the while, they pretended as if their borrowing-heavy standards of living were the result of sheer genius and intelligence; like trust fund babies who mistake being born on third base for hitting a triple.

    Young people have sussed this out; and are now pulling back from many of the principal occupations of their forebears — like marriage, babies and buying homes and cars. This perplexes older folks, who are beginning to find themselves increasingly at odds with the generations following after them.

    Humans can be very very smart, but the flip-side of our ingenuity is our capacity for self-delusion. We’ve very consistently preferred to look past our faults. That can work for a while, but eventually an incomplete view will lead to a complete disaster. For example: depleting our topsoils today to grow more eventually leads to a collapse of our food system tomorrow. Similarly, increasing societal complexity ultimately drains the resources out of an empire, until it withers and fails. Such is what we can learn from history. Each of these examples is rooted in the self-delusion that today’s actions don’t have real consequences.

    Monetary printing experiments like those currently being run by the world’s central banks are the ultimate form of self-delusion. Money is the most potent form of social communication, underlying all contracts and agreements. Violate those and literally everything falls apart, as we are seeing happen in real-time in Venezuela right now.

    Money printing and its other historical debasement equivalents, serve to cover up (barely) critical signals. Derelict ideas that should die a quick death, instead, persist. Mis-priced money leads mal-investment (e.g., Italian junk debt selling with the same yield as ten year US Treasury debt!!). Extremely unfair redistributions of wealth from the bottom to the top result. Every. Single. Time. This time is no different.

    If you cannot see this madness in the chart below, I strongly suggest you keep staring at it until you can. It shows the exploding balance sheet of the central bank of ‘the floating retirement colony’ known as Japan:

    The Japanese money printers have gone hog-wild over the past decade. And they’ve had company. The other major central banks of the wold have been printing $trillions and $trillions, too, over the same time period. What will the repercussions be? The world is about to find out.

    But it’s actually far worse than that. For those who can bear to look, the signs of illness are as startlingly obvious as gangrene on a necrotic limb. Species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate. Glaciers are fast disappearing. Frogs and insect populations are mysteriously collapsing. Massive destruction of the landscape as we chase the last low-EROEI fuels remaining (tar sands, and shale wells). Miles-deep mining efforts. Enormous human migrations away from economically and ecologically ruined areas (see: the MENA region).

    But the average citizen remains largely blind and/or numb to these. Again, much of this has to do with self-delusion that broken signals enable. People worry less as long as the stock markets are showing higher values, which is precisely why we don’t trust them anymore – they have become the most important signaling devices for The Powers That Be. They are far too important to leave to the vagaries of investors, and must be rescued/controlled/manipulated so that the “right” outcomes can be achieved.

    If we’re lucky when these financial delusions finally break, we’ll hopefully avoid a global war. That’s the usual route by which the politicians and bankers seek to avoid having to be held accountable for the colossal mistakes they made in the past. They drag everyone to in a manufactured confrontation, whooping up the populace into a fever pitch by inventing hobgoblins — exactly as has recently happened in the US with the recent rash of Russia-phobia; a case study in how easily public perception can be manipulated (as well as proof-positive that critical thinking skills are no longer requirements for today’s journalists).

    But if we’re unlucky, war may destroy much of what we take for granted and hold dear. Living standards will drop. The veil covering today’s massive financial deception will be yanked off, revealing the shriveled, cold promises of past decades as being wholly incapable of meeting their obligation to fund millions of promised retirements.

    And if we’re really unlucky, that war could involve some horrendous new weapons that could cripple our nation’s electrical grid (e.g., EMP, cyber attack). In which case, all of our individual attention and effort in the northern hemisphere will focus down to one simple task: surviving the first winter.

    Signs Of Distress

    In ways conscious and subconscious, we’re becoming aware of the signs of growing instability around us. Like a flock of sheep catching the scent of an unseen predator, right now we’re collectively becoming increasingly nervous and stressed. People’s tempers are short with each other, criticisms fly easily, and stances are becoming hardened to ludicrous levels.

    Many don’t know why they’re unhappy. And because they’re unable to identify the source, they blame themselves. Instead of acting out, they act in.

    Heavy drinking is on the rise:

    More U.S. adults are drinking, and more heavily

    Aug 9, 2017

    The United States has a serious drinking problem. Since 2001, heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder have risen dramatically, according to a new study that surveyed tens of thousands of adults.The numbers reveal “a public health crisis,”the authors say.

    The increases were especially large among those 65 years and older, minorities and women, researchers report online August 9 in JAMA Psychiatry. Alcohol is a risk factor for many potentially life-threatening injuries and health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and liver cirrhosis.

    In 2012‒2013, an estimated 29.6 million American adults reported high-risk drinking, up from 20.2 million in 2001‒2002.

    (Source)

    Alcohol is not enough for some people. Their need to numb themselves to the bleak existence of their lives leads them to opioids, both legal and illegal:

    Opioid Crisis: The Awful Arithmetic of America’s Overdoses May Have Gotten Worse

    Aug 7, 2017

    The deadly drug overdose epidemic that has been ravaging the nation may be even worse than we realize.

    A new University of Virginia study says the numbers of deaths due to heroin and opioid overdoses have actually been severely underreported.

    Dr. Christopher Ruhm revisited thousands of death certificates from 2008 through 2014 and concluded the mortality rates were 24 percent higher for opioids and 22 percent higher for heroin than had been previously reported.

    Ruhm’s awful arithmetic emerged just days after the presidential opioid commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, urged President Donald Trump to “declare a national emergency” to deal with the crisis.

    Nearly 35,000 people across America have died of heroin or opioid overdoses in 2015, according to theNational Institute on Drug Abuse.

    (Source)

    Records are being broken:

    Opioid deaths in US break new record

    Aug 8, 2017

    The first nine months of 2016 saw a sharp increase in opioid drug overdoses in the US compared to the prior year, according to new data by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The government is struggling to respond to the crisis.

    Deaths due to drug overdose peaked in the third quarter of last year – 19.7 cases for every 100,000 people, compared to 16.7 in the same period the year before,according to newly released numbers from the NCHS, which is part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    (Source)

    That is a startling rate of increase. 3/16.7 = 18% An 18% increase in one year is profound. What’s going on? We won’t go into the really dark side of this story which is that certain pharmaceutical companies make a ton of money off of addicted people, and those same companies donate a lot of money to the US political system. Suffice it to say that the worship of money and power is so profound that some activities of late cannot really be distinguished from those of a death cult.

    For those who are not into opioids other avenues towards relieving the pain exist,

    One in 6 Americans Take Antidepressants, Other Psychiatric Drugs

    One in six Americans take some kind of psychiatric drugs — mostly antidepressants, researchers reported Monday.

    They also found that twice as many white people take those drugs as do African-Americans or other minorities, and fewer than 5 percent of Asian-Americans do. And most people who take them are taking them long-term, Thomas Moore of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Alexandria, Virginia and colleagues found.

    “Overall, 16.7 percent of 242 million U.S. adults reported filling one or more prescriptions for psychiatric drugs in 2013,” they wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine.

    (Source)

    If one in six Americans is being medicated for depression and/or anxiety, and another significant chunk are checking out via opioid numbing, perhaps we need to consider an alternative explanation for these facts: There’s something wrong with the world these people are inhabiting — not with the people themselves.

    Charles Eisenstein really caught my mind’s attention with a piece he wrote long ago entitled The Mutiny of the Soul. In it he argues that perhaps those most in need of medicinal help are actually those who are most attuned to the actual state of the world. He explains the rise in depression and anxiety like this:

    The answer is staring us in the face. When our soul-body is saying No to life, through fatigue or depression, the first thing to ask is, “Is life as I am living it the right life for me right now?” When the soul-body is saying No to participation in the world, the first thing to ask is, “Does the world as it is presented me merit my full participation?”

    What if there is something so fundamentally wrong with the world, the lives, and the way of being offered us, that withdrawal is the only sane response?

    I have met countless people of great compassion and sensitivity, people who would describe themselves as “conscious” or “spiritual”, who have battled with CFS, depression, thyroid deficiency, and so on. These are people who have come to a transition point in their lives where they become physically incapable of living the old life in the old world.

    That is because, in fact, the world presented to us as normal and acceptable is anything but. It is a monstrosity. Ours is a planet in pain. If you need me to convince you of that, if you are unaware of the destruction of forests, oceans, wetlands, cultures, soil, health, beauty, dignity, and spirit that underlies the System we live in, then I have nothing to say to you. I only am speaking to you if you do believe that there is something deeply wrong with the way we are living on this planet.

    So if you suffer from anxiety, maybe you don’t have a “disorder” at all — maybe the house is on fire. Anxiety is simply the emotion corresponding to “Something is dangerously wrong and I don’t know what it is.” That is only a disorder if there is in fact nothing dangerously wrong. “Nothing is wrong, just you” is the message that any therapy gives when it tries to fix you.

    I disagree with that message. The problem is not with you. You have very good reason to be anxious. Anxiety keeps part of your attention away from your tasks of polishing the silverware as the house burns down, of playing the violin as the Titanic sinks.

    Unfortunately, the wrongness you are tapping into might be beyond the cognizance of the psychiatrists who treat you, who then conclude that the problem must be your brain.

    (Source)

    Does that all ring a bell of truth for you as it does for me?

    Perhaps the sanest response to being in a world that does not merit your full participation is to check out. Drinking, drugs, video games and Netflix binges (while not advised or endorsed) are much more understandable when viewed through this lens.

    (Full disclosure, these past few years have not been easy on me, either. I prefer action and constructive motion, so the past few years have been like one of those dreams where you’re desperate to move but your body remains frozen in place. I’ve wanted things to finally come to a head so we can at least begin the process of acknowledging our predicaments and facing them head on. Beneath it all is my dread at the prospect that all these years of delaying and denying will amount to a larger and more painful correction when it comes.)

    It really begs the question: What if there’s nothing wrong with the people who are anxious or depressed, but the exact opposite is true; those who are cheerful and chipper are missing the plot?

    If you were an astronaut and your one-and-only spaceship was leaking oxygen into the infinite void of Space, would you medicate those expressing concern while rewarding those with positive attitudes and power drills who continue to punch more holes in the hull? Of course not. Why should we think any differently in the case of spaceship Earth?

    The truth is that the lifestyle we’re living today is vastly distant from the one humans evolved to value. Sebastian Junger explained to us in a podcast that returning veterans commit suicide at the rate of 22 per day largely because they experience such ’emptiness’ upon reintegrating into civilian life. Unit cohesion in the military was so much more fulfilling and enriching that the prospect of a permanent return to what we call “US culture” leads many of them to conclude that suicide is the better option. If there’s a more damning indictment of the current culture in the US, I don’t know of it.

    The data is clear: in the US, people are as unhappy, overmedicated and overweight than ever before.

    Our society’s current plan is just not working. So why not square up to that reality, take charge and fix things while we still can? Why would we agree to persist in this dangerously broken state of affairs?

    We, each of us and all of us, have the power to pursue a different path. A better path. We can and we should change everything that needs changing. We must rebel against this state of affairs, and withdraw our consent from a toxic system rather than let that system break us down.

    The time for a quiet revolution has arrived. One that begins with, and within, you.

    In Part 2: Joining The Quiet Revolution, we explain how the signs of distress detailed above can be used to add urgency in making investments in your life that will make you happier, healthier, more engaged, and prosperous — both today and tomorrow. The data is telling us that from here, the extreme changes the world is experiencing will only accelerate.

    Those who can see this and adapt will fare far better than those who cannot, will not, or won’t.

    Some will thrive, some will survive, many will do neither.

    Click here to read the report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About the Author  

    Executive summary: Father of three young children; author; obsessive financial observer; trained as a scientist; experienced in business; has made profound changes in his lifestyle because of what he sees coming.

    First of all, I am not an economist. I am trained as a scientist, having completed both a PhD and a post-doctoral program at Duke University, where I specialized in neurotoxicology. I tell you this because my extensive training as a scientist informs and guides how I think. I gather data, I develop hypotheses, and I continually seek to accept or reject my hypotheses based on the evidence at hand. I let the data tell me the story.

    It is also important for you to know that I entered the profession of science with the intention of teaching at the college level. I love teaching, and I especially enjoy the challenge of explaining difficult or complicated subjects to people with limited or no background in those subjects. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

    Once I figured out that most of the (so-called) better colleges place “effective teacher” pretty much near the bottom of their list of characteristics that factor into tenure review, I switched gears, obtained an MBA from Cornell (in Finance), and spent the next ten years working my way through positions in both corporate finance and strategic consulting. From these experiences I gather my comfort with numbers and finance.

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