Ever wondered if the POTUS and his family were rorting the system?
Do you think he might be? Yep, I think we all have our suspicions. I’m not talking about the ability to leverage notoriety to go on lecture tours or sell autobiographies. We allow that sort of thing as a small ‘thank you for your service’ along with the secrete service costs of keeping him and his family safe
A small aside here is that former Australian prime minister John Howard is often seen strolling around the CBD of Sydney en route to his office in the MLC building. No police, no bodyguard, just his unmistakable self. I have seen him half a dozen times.
Anyway back to the current POTUS.
Maybe he is just getting ready to use his notoriety to go a step or two further than a book tour to plunder the relationships his position affords for a slice of oil pipelines, hotels, golf resorts, towers and whatever else might make a bob or two, in parts of the world where such things are still twee.
Yes, I think so too.
Not a good look at best and worse, an abuse of his position. That is before we get into the back end deals that might be going down as we speak.
Obviously he doesn’t care a jot about our puny thoughts. Our indignation at his abuse of power. Here is some evidence of just how little he cares.
The number of family trips taken during his tenure is through the roof compared to his predecessor, like an order of magnitude larger.
Admittedly he has a huge extended family in the white house, all jumping around in unelected positions, but really, an order of magnitude more trips with the secret service in attendance.
Only this number, 16 thousand billion, is so large as to be beyond comprehension
Put a dollar sign in front of it and you get the United States national debt.
As of December 31, 2018, debt held by the public was $16.1 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $5.87 trillion, for a total of $21.97 trillion.
Don’t you just love credit?
The ‘buy now pay later’ attitude that generates a number so large that there is no end to it other than for the invention of another economic system so it can be written off under a giant bankruptcy proceeding, is classic ostrich behaviour.
Here is the history of that debt as a proportion of GDP noting of course that during this timeline GDP has grown to over 40x its 1960 value.
100% of GDP in 2019 was 40 times bigger in dollars than 100% of GDP in 1960.
And another slightly different presentation of the same data that shows this absolute dollar increase more clearly, the debt adjusted for inflation divided by the number of housholds
Just for comparison the national entry-level average house price in the US for the last quarter of 2019 was $200,000 meaning a huge chunk of US households were up to their eyeballs in their own debt as well as copping an equivalent amount borrowed by Uncle Sam.
The pattern of when debt increased and fell is interesting too.
After both world wars debt was paid down, rapidly in the case of WWII on the back of a newly minted industrial base. Reagan and Bush spent a few dollars that Clinton tried to pay down only for Bush Jr and his successors to take on a couple more expensive wars.
Obama spent big and, not to be outdone, so has Trump.
Alright, so without getting all political about it, the curve is going up… exponentially.
To operate in this manner of spending more than it earns, the U.S. Treasury Department has to issue Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. These Treasury products finance the deficit by borrowing from the investors—both domestic and foreign. These Treasury securities also sell to corporations, financial institutions, and other governments around the world.
By issuing these types of securities, the federal government can acquire the cash that it needs to provide governmental services. The national debt is simply the net accumulation of the federal government’s annual budget deficits. It is the total amount of money that the U.S. federal government owes to its creditors.
So in simple terms, the government borrowed the money.
It is said that really this is printing money and that would be the case if in the future the government foreclosed. It reneged on its obligation to pay bond interests and the house of cards fell over. But for now, it is claimed to be a debt system and not a printing system where there is some notion of future returns and recovery of the principle.
The investors do not seem to mind.
They buy and trade government bonds making a clip in the process so they have no qualms about how big the debt is or the risk of default. They will be on their yachts when it all goes belly up.
And so the debt number that just gets bigger each day is owed to creditors.
Governments who are in control of the central bank could just print the money instead of borrowing it, but history tells everyone that this risks a crazy level of inflation that can cripple economies. Ask the Zimbabweans about that one.
Hyperinflation has two main causes
an increase in the money supply
When a government has a spending bill and decides to print money it increases the money on the economy. When there is more money around people have it to spend and goods and services can raise prices without losing custom generating regular inflation. A little of this is seen as a good thing because most people feel like they are growing financially.
Demand-pull inflation is when demand for goods and services outstrips supply so scarcity pushes prices higher. This can happen as a result of increased consumer spending due to a growing economy, a sudden rise in exports, or more government spending.
If inflation gets going through an increase in the money supply but the government continues to print money it generates more of cause one and prices can rise very rapidly. When consumers start to realise that continued inflation is likely they buy more now to avoid paying a higher price later. This increase in demand further aggravates the inflation through cause two.
A nasty spiral results.
Is national debt a bad thing?
Well, I am a ‘money in the bank’ kind of guy.
I struggle to have credit card debt without freaking out so much that I burry the bills in the cupboard.
Economists are not such wimps; it’s other people’s money after all. Only they don’t seem to agree on the issue of debt.
They do agree that governments that run fiscal deficits have to make up the difference by borrowing money. This they know eats up a fair chunk of capital investment in private markets. They also agree that debt securities issued by governments to service their debts affect interest rates, although this can, until recently be manipulated to some extent through monetary policy tools.
After this, it gets a bit ‘cake and eat it’
The Keynesians believe that it can be beneficial to run a current account deficit
in order to boost aggregate demand in the economy.
However, the neo-Keynesians tend to support government deficit spending only after the monetary policy has proven ineffective and nominal interest rates have hit zero.
On the other hand macroeconomists from the Chicago and Austrian school argue that
government deficits and debt hurt private investment, manipulate interest rates and the capital structure, suppress exports, and unfairly harm future generations either through higher taxes or inflation.
Some economists on the fringes are still ok with central banks printing fiat money, despite the historical evidence for inflation.
The fear of inflation appears to keep policymakers from monetizing debt entirely. Instead, overspending governments either have to continue to borrow, sell assets, raise taxes, renegotiate terms, or default to resolve debt issues.
As the federal debt number in the US reaches the outer reaches of our solar system there has to be a limit to what can be fiddled to soak it up with selling down and borrowing. The most likely end result is to default.
Oh, terribly sorry, but we can’t make those repayments.
So is all this debt good or bad?
Inject money into an economy and it will prosper so long as that money of made from something. Print it and it sends values into a spin.
Currently, the world is compromised in the middle, through the third option. Spend but pay for it with debt. Under the current rules, sooner or later that debt is either paid back or not.
I had a problem with this political slogan from the beginning.
The assumption, of course, is that America was at one time great. In the minds of its citizens perhaps, but, in reality, when America dominated the world it was a bully with extraordinary economic power thanks mainly to the industrial makeover after WW II.
The problem, even if you concede that industrial and economic might is indeed a great thing, is that in order to make America great again, the orange man has turned to an isolation approach based on an ‘us and them’ kindergarten psychology where the ‘them’ are bad and ‘we’ are good. It is innately racist.
Chasing the slogan has worked, at least for his support base. He spent government money, no matter that there was none to spend and a $26 trillion debt on the books, and for a time pumped a certain amount of confidence in the economy. Things were indeed moving towards his definition of great.
Only now a threat has arrived that he can’t control, a pandemic, where being economically great simply doesn’t work to protect anyone against its consequences — just ask Boris how he felt in the ICU.
It might be smart to reconsider the concept of being great under such circumstances. The global world of lockdown has given us any number of creative definitions from the humorous to the smart.
The US is in an election year and obviously Trump is moving to make sure he is reelected. I say obviously because we didn’t think he would make it to the office or survive five minutes, so we perhaps shouldn’t assume he would automatically want another four years of being the biggest cheese… only joking. Of course, he wants it.
Re-election in a pandemic would be a challenge for anyone. The US economy has tanked, unemployment is through the roof, and many people have no idea when or if there will be a return to normal.
In the meantime, under the encouragement of the president, people are taking their guns and demanding that state governors lift the lockdown measures. At over a million cases and counting that seems reckless at best.
Professor Robert Reich, a former US Secretary of Labour and Professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley has recently come up with what he believes is Donald Trump’s four-step plan for reelection
Step 1 is to remove income support so people have no choice but to return to work
Step 2 hide the facts
Step 3 pretend it’s about freedom
Step 4 shield business’ against lawsuits for spreading the infection
This, of course, is a Democrat talking about a Republican president but the points he makes in those four steps are troubling.
Removing income support at a time when people are worried about their employment status is cruel in the extreme.
We know that the Trump administration hides the facts as a matter of course and when facts appear that they don’t like, they play them as fake news.
The problem with COVID is that the facts deal with death.
When Trump first put his hand up to become president, pretty much everyone laughed. I for one failed to realise how far the denial of facts and the lambasting of the media as fake could take you all the way to the White House. No surprise then that this tactic of hiding the facts will apply in the case of the virus.
Pretending it’s about freedom so that gun-toting individuals can rock up at government offices to demand their rights and for that behaviour to be seen as ok is crazy. As Robert Reich points out, making this about freedom is absurd. Freedom is meaningless for people who have no choice but to accept a job that risks that health.
And the fourth step to get business back on track and the economy in the direction that will get me reelected, is to protect them from lawsuits that might occur if they remain open and their staff contract the virus
I don’t know if it’s possible to imagine how any of this is great.
There have been millions of words written about the craziness of this situation that the US finds itself in with leadership that really has no concern for the people or just a small proportion of those people who are there to support the ego of an individual.
I suspect that we’re actually witnessing the ongoing decline of a once-powerful nation. The British Empire has gone and the American one looks like it will follow suit. This will take time because you can’t just turn off the influence of 350 million people and the world’s largest economy but the passions and the motivations that got them into that position of greatness have been corrupted beyond recognition.
America will not be great again at least not on this path.
Now there is another disruption. The next chapter in a terrible saga of racism that has blighted the so-called greatness for the countries entire history. There is hope this time around, there always is when the righteousness in people is roused by tragedy.
As I write this post there is no toilet paper in the supermarket and not much in the way of pasta, rice or tinned veggies. The frozen foods section is cleaned out and eggs are down to the last couple of dozen. The long-life milk is restricted to two per customer but on the upside, remarkably, the fresh food is as abundant in variety and quality as ever. The deli counter looks like it always has and there is every cut of meat you could wish for waiting for a culinary touch.
I am wiping down the trolly handle with anti-bacteria surface cleaner and I have no idea if it is dumb or not. I scratch my nose. Idiot, can’t even get the basics right.
I leave the store with a trolley load of provisions nearly identical to the loads carried home before this virus changed everything. I say thank you to the ether with gratitude for my good fortune. Then I say it again.
I try desperately not to give in to the mischievous imp on my shoulder telling me it will not last, make the most of it.
Is he right, that little fear-mongering bugger? Can supply chains keep going with everyone locked down?
I have no idea. Not the foggiest.
This is the new world we have entered. The place of lockdown and isolation, witty memes and singing on balconies. A place where nobody knows if they can protect themselves from the virus and where some seem not to care at all if they do, for themselves or others.
Nobody knows if it will last weeks or months or if the fallout will take years for the world to recover. The economists are delighted for they are in fashion again even though they have absolutely no idea why the neo-liberals resumed the rampant printing of money for the biggest social programs in history.
And in Belarus, they are still singing on the terraces at soccer games.
Unable to fathom any of this I took to thinking what it might look like after the virus.
We could have got so used to working from home that we actually quite like it and persuade companies that this should be the norm and flex days are the ones we go into an office rented just for the purpose.
Only the mothers with young children decide that this home schooling thing is too much and can’t wait to send their kids back to the organised daycare of the education system so they can enjoy the working from home.
We actually got used to fortnightly grocery trips and online orders so much that the shopping malls were converted into community centres for recreation and social persuits. The old folks in the day and the yongsters at night.
So as not to get too worried about the money situation we voted in governments that introduced a liveable universal income with incentives for working two to three days a week on jobs that get us out of the house, away from our partners and keep the place clean and tidy.
They also agreed that they would underwrite the supply chains so that we didn’t have to accumulate personal wealth for a rainy day.
We enjoyed the cleaner air and the lower emissions so much that we agreed staying at home was actually preferable to burning fossil fuels and we would only take trips in electric vehicles from now on. There was a global competition with grand prizes for the invention of fast train and air travel without all the mess.
The mental fallout from the virus was so great that psychology became the most sought after training in colleges and universities and along with the guaranteed income was universal access to mental health care.
The governments realised that QE was actually not going to send inflation up in a rocket and that the concept of money, lending and borrowing against yourself did not actually bring the house of cards down. What they came to realise was that the resource base was what mattered all along. So they invested heavily in understanding how much we needed to look after land, water and the natural world for all its services. They even figured out that soil was the most important resource of all.
Along with this back to nature came a surge in technological advances that made everything and everyone more efficient. Robots with AI blockers built in made all the mudane work routine freeing everyone to work only as they wanted and on service tasks, the necessarily touchy feely work that make us all human for thanks to some very smart researchers a universal viral vaccine was invented that kept us safe from COVID-26.
All up the world became a much better place. There were rouges and the mentally disturbed and the accidents and the unwanted deaths from neglect or stupidity but, all in all, the world was cleaner, smarter and a lot safer place to live.
This is what step changes can do.
They can make us all smile.
Please share or add your ideas for the nice changes we could make happen.
It was my number one priority, the imperative. I hated the embarrassment of getting anything wrong so I tried not to with every fibre of my being.
Who wants to admit they don’t know who scored Tottenham’s second goal at the Lane on the weekend or wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to watch the screamer from Glen Hoddle.
Who could not know the latest track by the Sex Pistols, even if it was banned by the BBC and there was no way for the average closeted Joe to hear it?
Who wants to admit they hadn’t heard who the class bicycle was supposed to be shagging. Yes, it was all horribly misogynistic in those bygone years.
I developed a few handy tactics to avoid putting my foot in it.
I thought before I spoke.
I listened and made sure I was in the know about everything there was to know.
I acted like everyone else as best I could.
The last thing I did was blurt out errors of fact or judgement for all to hear. Nobody, least of all me, wanted to be a dumbass.
It seems that today there is no embarrassment at being wrong at all.
Any sports, social or knowledge item is a click away on Google. Any visuals missed are on Youtube. If I don’t know the track its cool to Shazam it.
This suggests I can be in the business of getting it right all the time with a little help from my handheld device. Only that is not how it goes down.
These days I am just as likely to be suckered by fake news and errors of knowledge and feel no problem at all in blurting them out to whoever is nearby.
I can be stupid with impunity and absolutely nothing at all happens to me.
What happened to make stupidity a skill worthy of the highest prizes?
Here are three possibilities:
We all live in our own bubbles and nothing gets in. The view is opaque and soundproof. Others can see our posts but not us, hence we can never be stupid because we are invisible and safe in the bubble. It offers extraordinary protection and zero kickback.
The hyper ego
Similar to the bubble, but where everyone can see and hear you. It doesn’t matter though because your ego is so powerful that you are always right even when you are not. The ego is all-powerful and can’t ever let you feel pain or let down in any way.
Who gives a f__k?
It doesn’t matter if you are stupid or not because there is no personal responsibility for anything. If I am wrong so what, it’s my life. I don’t care what others think. If I believe I’m right then I am, sod them.
What happens next?
The reasons for getting things right back in the day were the wrong ones.
I was wanting to be accepted, in with the in-crowd, to be liked. Naturally, this is the ego talking, the kind of thing that besets youth whatever the generation.
What it did though, this protection by the ego, was to instil a useful caution. I was more thoughtful than I would otherwise be, perhaps even learnt to be a little streetwise. This was very important when later in life you find yourself on your own in the wrong neighbourhood of Johannesburg or confronted by the military man at the roadblock, his AK47 pointed into your truck.
What happens to the modern youth who can’t be arsed whether he is right or wrong on anything. So long as the chicks think he is cool, who cares?
Presumably, his streetwise instincts must come from somewhere else. Not learned from smarts.
Presumably the truth, the facts and knowledge lose whatever currency they once had. All the work needed to gather and store them is time wasted. Should the unlikely happen and a fact is needed, it is there in your palm.
In other words, there is no stupidity filter anymore.
It is quite ok to be dumb. Nobody seems to mind anymore. They even expect it.
There is no embarrassment, no loss of face.
This will create problems later on. When we actually need that filter to function it will not be there. We will not know how to tell the nonsense from the truth.
And we get Trump and Boris and Scomo all over again.
I have been doing what I do for a very long time. Some of my colleagues even think I’m quite good at it.
I managed teams, run businesses, write and, in the day job, provide scientific advice.
Not everyone understands science.
Alloporus has talked about this before, that many people don’t even think numerically even though they might be as trained in the technical aspects of the work that they do. Thinking numerically is an art. Thinking logically is an art. Few people are comfortable with so much ‘nude on a chair’ and not everybody does the whole art criticism thing that well either.
So my skillset of numerical logic and deep understanding of the scientific method should be really useful and, for the most part, it has been. However, it is not the easiest of career choices as people find it very hard to accept what is being said when they don’t understand where it comes from.
I meet with resistance, uncertainty, insecurity, and all the usual patterns of behaviour that flow with those negative vibes. This happens every day in one form or another.
I need to be resilient to the negative emotions shunted in my direction. It is rarely personal but it does happen often enough for it to drain my energy at an alarming rate.
So I need plenty of coping mechanisms. Here are a few of them
I play golf
I just bought myself an electronic drum kit
I enjoy a beer and a drama on Netflix
I have read any number of books on Self Development and the spiritual self
I love the Toltec four agreements and try to implement them
I even lie on a Shakti mat pretty much every day
Currently, my day job involves working for a large organisation that has taken upon itself the task of educating its management staff in pretty much all of the above — well actually the kindergarten version of the above.
What should I do?
I already do all of what they’re suggesting and then some. Ironically it’s really annoying to be told how to do it all over again from the beginning.
Should I just smile — also a key tactic for resilience — or switch off.
Should the workplace impose itself on my personal life?
This is actually a much bigger question. And at this time in our history when our leaders are useless and morally bankrupt and we are faced with real crises of the material and monetary kind, it is a vital one to answer.
I don’t believe it should.
I don’t think the workplace and the organisation behind it have the moral right to my spirituality even if they claim it will enhance their bottom line.
In fact, I think this leakage across people’s lives makes it very hard for them to understand boundaries.
And most of the time it is the breakdown of the boundaries that causes stress for individuals and inefficiency for the organisations. If people kept their uncertainties and insecurities in check, I would be less stressed when I’m trying to explain to them the intricacies of science.
So my contention is that the workplace should just butt out. Keep the spiritual personal development stuff personal.
Just a thought.
Post comments to the contrary or in support, curious to know if it’s just a me thing.
The economic model that has made the west wealthy claims a design that promotes investment with the greatest certainty of returns and least risk.
It is easy to find advocates of this ‘mobilise capital to grow it’ paradigm. A few might even admit that it is acceptable to externalise as much of the cost as possible and minimise the rest with the cheapest labour and materials you can find. All good so long as you are a shareholder and, after all, most of us in the west are thanks to our superannuation or our government’s investments.
Investment options that promote the long, dare we say sustainable, game resolve the full risk profile but often at a cost. They need to discount current profit to ensure that profit accrues for longer. This is the essence of resilient and sustainable systems and is exactly how nature does it.
Try telling that to a banker or a fund manager.
They want to achieve a capitalist outcome. They want to use capital, ideally someone else’s, to generate profit. That’s all. Well, almost all. They also want to do it as fast as possible and they would like to squeeze as much profit as can be squeezed because the sooner the profit accrues the sooner it can be churned back into the system as capital, after taking the clip for the new Ferrari.
Capital is being lazy if it waits around for the profit to accrue. Laziness is judged on the rate of return that itself is set by the market through interest rates and the opportunities for the specific use of funds in each sector and market segment.
This is the dry explanation.
When it comes to the bankers and financiers themselves, well, they are people, individuals with desires and dreams. They want to be successful and competitive so they will be hard-arsed to find and squeeze the best balls of steel deals that they can. It will help them reach their dreams and make them feel good as they do it.
The banker will drive the bargain when an opportunity presents and will walk away in an instant if the numbers or the risk smell of anything below the going rate. For them, efficiency in opportunity is the currency that will bring success.
You should be able to see that this is not how nature does it.
Despite the ‘tooth and claw’ rhetoric that does play out as organisms compete directly with each other for resources, the consequence of competition in nature is to balance resource use and make it efficient. This happens because there are organisms designed to benefit from both the long and the short game – the tree that persists through drought and flood or the weed that exploits in an instant and then dies. Together the variability in nature’s market is absorbed and used efficiently by diversity.
Ecological theory suggests that this is why nature persists, there is always an organism that can exploit and another that can wait until later. It also tells us that diversity is important. Not so with finance.
Bankers are short players. They have always been so. They exhibit diversity but only to shorten the game.
It is time we invented a new breed of financier, one that instead of picking off the best short-game opportunity can look long, very long. What about a financier who invests for returns that accrue to his grandchildren?
It can be done. Indeed, it must be done or there will be no Ferrari.
Agriculture needs long-game players
The place to begin is in food production. The global numbers have demand increasing steadily over the next 30 years by at least 60% for both grains and meat. That suggests a strong market but one that is short of the 7-10% returns expected in most capital markets. A three-year investment yielding 5% will always outcompete a 2% per year, even if the growth continues steadily for a generation.
The temptation is to invest in intensification. A centre-pivot irrigation system that improves yield by 10% with a non-linear 20% gross margin return sounds attractive. Only now the monoculture under the pivot-arm is mining the soil nutrients much faster than before and in a decade the cost of inputs negates that gross margin benefit.
In agriculture at least, high returns often kick ultimate risk further down the road. No problem if the Ferrari is already in the garage but an opportunity missed if the demand keeps growing.
Much better for the farmer and his backer is a longer play that looks to intercropping the cash crop with a legume that replenishes the soil nutrients and carbon. The average yield is lower but is consistent even in dry years. Economic returns are more modest but they are stable and costs go down over time so that profitability increases.
Is there a banker out there willing to play this longer, lower risk game?
/ˈstɔːri noun 1. an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. “an adventure story” synonyms: tale, narrative, account, recital;
2. a report of an item of news in a newspaper, magazine, or broadcast. “stories in the local papers” synonyms: news item, news report, article, feature, piece
Stories are accounts about the wonders of real or imaginary people told to entertain. We like them so much that every day we listen to them constantly as we gossip amongst ourselves or settle in for a night of Netflix.
We also call items of news stories and that is rather odd.
Evidence, on the other hand, is less popular. It is dry, factual and objective, unlikely to fire the imagination or to entertain, unless, of course, it is dramatised into a story.
Enter the public relations team for a government department. Any department really, but let’s say it’s the Department of the Environment.
The PR team face a conundrum. They have some scientific evidence to communicate only it is dry information that would struggle to cut through butter. Stories though are entertainment and, in the times of personal screens and feeds, are indispensable.
“Do you have a story?”, the PR lead says without any idea of what he is asking.
Well, as it turns out I do. I even wrote a book of them called Stories for a Change. There was also my first book, Awkward News for Greenies, that radically and without success had both stories and evidence in the same volume. It just confused the hell out of the handful of people who read it. They couldn’t tell when the fiction became fact.
Even though Netflix shows about sitting presidents get closer and closer to reality, we know them to be dramas made for television. This means that they are not true. Part of our brain can hold onto this even as we fall headlong into the illusion.
Similarly, modern period pieces are so well made that it feels like what actually happened is right there on the screen. The deception would be complete if they figured out how to relay the stench of Mr Darcy. He was most likely on the nose, given the frequency of bathing in the early 1800s. Into these dramas, we can fall without any controls because no matter how realistic they look they are obviously not real.
No doubt our affection for reality TV is that we can kid ourselves into turning off this safety completely. We can see that the people are real even as their stories are clumsily manipulated by eager producers.
In all of these entertainments, there is part of our brain that knows the truth. The story is not a reality. The thing is that we all must know how to separate the truth from fiction otherwise we go mad.
Our lady from the Ministry asks ‘what’s the story’ on a reflex. She knows that unless the evidence is made into entertainment it will not cut through to the desired audience. She also knows that evidence is more likely to be painful than dramatic, stranger than fiction but impenetrable and dull.
Who would know what to say about the average area of illegal land clearing being consistently greater than the modal area? It means that a few large clearing events skew the average upwards and tells you that the majority of instances are smaller than the average. It also tells you that if the total area of clearing is the worry, develop a policy to reduce the instance of large events, through heavy penalties for example.
So why do the people who should use evidence baulk at it in favour of the story, the fabrication that entertains? It is not just a matter of cutting through for people do want to know the truth and are engaged with it whenever it becomes accessible. A more likely reason is that stories are easier.
Telling the truth requires more than courage, it’s about making it easy for people to grasp when the truth can so often be painful.
I am currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer, a tome that chronicles the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945, some 1,200+ pages of sobering reality.
A chronicler that lived through the historical events he recounts has a unique perspective that is close but not necessarily intimate with them. He can be criticised on fact, sequence and detail. There will also be problems when opinion and, in this chronicle, horror at the events inevitably creep in. However, it is a history and one that we should all read for its own sake and because it is highly relevant to our present times.
Halfway through the book, the point at which Hitler has ordered the invasion of Poland, the fateful decision that forced the British and the French to declare war on Germany, there is a matter of fact note of the panzer divisions and the Luftwaffe securing a swift victory over the Polish defences.
There is much to be remembered about that fateful period in September 1939 but there is a footnote in Shirer’s account that resonated deeply when I read it.
He notes that the official records of German casualties were 10,572 killed, 30,322 wounded and 3,400 missing.
Pause for a moment to take in those numbers.
Then recall that this is the army that won in a highly successful and soon to be repeated blitzkrieg. Yet still, tens of thousands of German mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers were devastated with grief, over 50,000 families irrevocably scarred, and this was just the first skirmish.
Unimaginable horrors were inflicted on the Polish people in those first few days of the war and many ever more evil acts followed. It is unimaginable what life became when there were bombs whistling down from the sky and tanks rumbling past your front door.
Do not kid yourself that such fear will never be felt again.
Do not think that we are safe from tyranny and evil.
We are not safe.
We must be vigilant for those German families did not see it coming and neither do we.
Steadily the safeguards that humanity put in place are being eroded. We have politicians that are both gutless and a law unto themselves.
We have media that operate as powerful influencers with lies and deceit.
We face resource shortfalls that will test food and water security for billions of people and we have little idea of how to resolve them.
If I get into a fight in a pub at best I’ll be thrown out, maybe banned or if the police arrive, arrested and given a legal clip around the ear.
If I fight a family member and someone finds out the law should prosecute me for that too, although not enough of such actions are punished.
Suppose I am a wimp and decide I need someone else to fight for me. I can hire a more robust type and for a fee they would achieve the biffings I need done.
It could be a bigger fight that requires the services where the taxpayer pays the fee for so-called legitimate fights knowns as wars, and that is fine. War is the worst kind of fight hurting everyone involved for a long time. People die and those that survive are scarred forever.
None of these typical uses of the term fight are pretty. Indeed most fights are not either worth it or the best way to resolve matters.
So why does my local politician have a campaign slogan ‘fighting for you’?
Well obviously she wants to be on my side. Perhaps be the hired biff to do my dirty work for me so I can be at arm’s length from the law.
Maybe she sees me as a wimp.
Obviously she wants me to think that there is something worth fighting for, that the services and legal systems that parliaments legislate are actually a fight for one against another. If you fail to fight you fail to get your share.
I don’t want that at all.
Biffing the other guy because he wants a different policy to me is not what I want.
I’d like robust and intelligent discussion that uses of all available evidence and then a set of solutions chosen to maximise the collective best interest for today, tomorrow and generations to come. I’d like this to be a constructive process, one that builds relationships and supports as much diversity of views and ideals as is possible with the common ground of health, wealth and happiness supported for everyone.
Surprising as this may sound, I don’t think that wanting this outcome makes me a wimp.
Pragmatic resolutions require considerable courage and fortitude, not to mention patience and tenacity.
Fighting is the last resort not the first and certainly not a slogan I can vote for.