Market Overview

Worldwide Economic Malaise: Global Disappointment in a Weary World


The Associated Press had an interesting article published on May 12, 2012 discussing global disappointment in Barack Obama's presidency. From the article: "In a world weary of war and economic crises, and concerned about global climate change, the consensus is that Obama has not lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded his 2008 election and Nobel Peace Prize a year later."

The article stated that Pres. Obama "still enjoys broad international support" owing to "unfavorable memories of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush." Whereas many in Europe looked forward to hope and change with the Obama presidency, "[t]hose high European expectations have turned into disappointment, largely because of the continued US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and Obama's failure to close Guantanamo Bay in the face of vehement congressional opposition."

According to foreign policy expert Josef Braml discussing the grave disappointment in Europe, "There's a lack of understanding both of how the system of checks and balances works -- or doesn't work any longer -- and a lack of understanding of how big the socio-economic problems in the United States are, which cause the gridlock." The Associated Press article went forward to cite Obama's comments that the financial crisis in Europe is "scaring the world". Whereas "the Obama administration describes the eurozone crisis as a European problem that needs a European solution", Braml said, "I think people see through [Obama's] game to put the blame on Europeans -- I think Germans and Europeans still know where the economic crisis had its beginning."

Global disappointment in the Obama presidency comes at a time when the world finds itself at a formidable crossroads on social and economic levels. Reuters reported on May 12, 2012 that "[t]housands of Spaniards fed up with economic misery and waving banners against bankers marched on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the grassroots 'Idignados' movement that has sparked similar protests around the world." Meanwhile in the UK, "Up to 600 denouncing the Bank of England rallied in London ... a Reuters witness said scuffles broke out between some demonstrators and police, with at least 12 arrests." Per Reuters, "Protesters erected 11 tents nearby and flew banners that read 'Bank of England, the St. Paul's of money,' in reference to St. Paul's Cathedral, from which a long-running Occupy tent encampment was evicted in February." This brings to mind Coldplay's poetic verse, "Was a long and dark December when the banks became cathedrals and a fox became God." And again, Coldplay's verse in another song, "Through the dark streets they go searching to see God in their own way."

A Zero Hedge article from Wolf Richter on May 12, 2012 portended an endgame regarding financial woes in Greece. Per the thoughts of blogger Panos Sialakas, "People feel angry and disappointed with the mainstream parties and their failing policies... And the worst? Greeks feel hopeless." Even further, Greeks are "also angry with the EU, Germany in particular, for the tough austerity program."

The aforementioned stories illustrate that there is a serious global crisis occurring in this time period. And in some ways, this global crisis of disappointment, anger, and frustration goes beyond the economic sphere. As I previously mentioned, the amount of worldwide faith and trust is declining. Whereas precise causes of the global financial crisis may seem esoteric and surreal, the relationship between this social crisis and the economic crisis portends very serious global problems going forward. Even so, one could argue that the global financial crisis merely exists on the surface of much deeper issues with the global human consciousness. What we are perceiving is a global financial crisis with enormous, mind-boggling debt problems, and yet perhaps there are deeper issues in humanity giving rise to such problems. For example, with socio-economic issues in Britain, recently discussed binge drinking in the UK as being an "epidemic indicative of a deeper social problem" related to cultural shortcomings, the decline of the family, and the loss of hope.

Apparently, the economic sphere is most readily recognizable -- it is something we can perceive in clear numbers -- as opposed to intangible, spiritual spheres. That being said, as I previously suggested, perhaps we need to address deeper global problems in order to solve the superficial economic problems. In terms of global economics, one could use the analogy of contemporary capitalism as being a car with a broken engine. Yes, you can try to keep on putting gasoline in the tank, but that's not going to fix the broken engine -- if the engine's broken, then you have to fix the engine for the car to run. (If oil is like the blood of a car, then perhaps gasoline and oil could be seen as reflecting money itself as being the fuel and lifeblood of the global capitalist economy. If the engine is broken or the battery is dead, more gasoline and oil will not fix the situation.) And in some ways, one could argue that this is effectively what we are seeing in terms of global finance. We cannot hope to fix the tangible, perceivable economic problems on the surface until the deeper, intangible social and spiritual problems are addressed and resolved.

Even in terms of global disappointment, it is clear that the world is looking for leaders. The world continues to look for hope and change; the world is seeking out global reform in trying to come to terms with a contemporary quagmire. But even then, with "quality" global leadership, if there are deeper issues in question for the globe, then what good would a change in leadership do? As in the case of protests in the US, the UK, and Spain, there is this perception that someone or something must be to blame for contemporary problems. As per the article from the Associated Press, some are getting tired of the blame game.

I would contend that a good first step in fixing the global economy would be to forgo blaming others. Karl Marx discussed capitalism as fostering a sense of alienation in a society. In this light, we see this focus on the "other" -- a focus on differences. In some ways, we can perceive this alienation in the perpetual global blame-game whereas the "other" is constantly to blame for perceived problems; this gives way to the dehumanizing objectification of individuals that we can perceive. Of course, sometimes other individuals, firms, or governments are actually to blame for various problems. That being said, I think a healthy step toward global economic growth would be to forgo the blame game: Humanity needs to grow up. Far from pointing fingers, perhaps we need further introspection and realistic reconciliation.

In terms of the deeper problems that are feeding into global malaise and disappointment, some may see the issue as a question of economics, but I think the issue is a question of consciousness. I see this time period as being akin to an adolescent time period for the human species. Adolescence can be a very painful, stressful, and tumultuous time, but eventually it passes. As with our contemporary global financial crisis, this too shall pass. And at some point, life will go on. The question that then remains is whether humanity will learn from the experience. And in that context, issues with global economics shift from firms and institutions to the individual: Will we as individuals learn from this experience? Will you learn from this experience? Will I learn from this experience?

In this sense, I think there is hope that humanity will transcend our current socio-economic malaise. It's not a question of whether we have hope and desire change, but rather whether we have hope and desire change in the proper directions. Using the analogy of a child growing up, do we hope for and want more candy, more toys, and more time to play video games...or do we hope and want to grow, develop, and mature to realize our fullest potential -- as individuals and as a species -- on both economic and social levels? This is the question of hope and change that humanity needs to confront.

It's a question of consciousness and realization. And I think therein rests a potential, viable solution to global malaise and disappointment. Thus, if you are looking for a solution to socio-economic malaise, yes, even worldwide malaise, you may have to look no further than a clean mirror. Maybe the hope and change that we are looking for will not begin with a new leader or a new institution or new oversight. Maybe hope and change can begin today -- with you and me.

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