Marriage of Unequals

Gay Marriage is getting churchy folk worked up again. The Church of England, which seldom seems to have any views about anything is in a homophobic lather about gay couples getting hitched.
When people of the same gender want to get married it causes a lot of bad feeling all around the English – speaking world world (except for Jamaica where there are no gay people apparently) In Britain we have seen born again Christians occupying churches and disrupting the proceedings, in Australia all marriages between same gender couples have been declared void and in the U.S.A. the problem is considered so great that it was an important election issue. But why do people get emotional over marriage; is it simply a case of self righteous eagerness to misquote the Bible without having read it properly or is there some deeper negative there? After all the whole basis of the Christian faith is tolerance and forgiveness.
The traditional view of marriage supported by most religionists is that it is a legal union of one man and one woman sanctified by God. That is fine with me so long as it suits both the individuals involved. It gets sticky however when certain groups start citing ancient scriptures in support of attempts to impose their moral prejudices on the rest of the community.
Traditional one man – one woman marriages have little to do with God at least not in the Abrahamic religions. Too often the interpretations placed upon the Aramaic scriptures that form most of the Biblical tradition are subjective in the extreme. The model for marriage in western European civilisation with all the rights and responsibilities that go with the legal status never had any currency in the Middle East. Marriage as we know it seems to have originated in northern Europe in neolithic times. The pairing of a man and a woman established a family unit that could provide stability and security within the extended family group. Extended families formed into communities within which the old, disabled, orphaned children, widows and the sick were cared for by the group.
The writer Jean M. Auel in her excellent fiction series Earth’s Children provides some well researched speculation on the nature of ancient communities from which our civilisation grew. There are no stone age communities surviving in Europe of course, but we can learn a lot from the cultures of Native Americans, the Inuit and the nomadic peoples of central Asia. Attitudes to fidelity vary from group to group but the principle of pairing aims to formalise responsibilities within a social structure. Without pressure from the group young men would have run around spawning sprogs wherever they could (much as a lot of young men in our inner city communities do today.)
This pairing system worked so well that in the Celtic and Saxon eras it was extended to confer hereditary rights to property and status. This did not necessarily follow paternity, many cultures chose to confer on the female line the right of inheritance. Of course in pagan Europe women were honoured and respected as one would expect in a culture that worshipped a Goddess. The objectification of women as mere possessions to be used and traded is a promotion of the Abrahamic cultures of the eastern world.
Abrahamic religions, or perhaps we should call them misogyny cults because they are all based on fear and loathing of female sexuality, were bad news for women because marriage under the old eastern religion of Baal (actually Hinduism but the people who wrote the scriptures were either too ignorant or too bigoted to recognise it) women had the right to own property, do business and marry whom they chose. Suddenly though, women were vilified, denounced as being defiled and in a state of sin due to the natural functioning of their bodies. Not only that, they were not allowed any control over their own lives and were reduced to being the property of a man. Christian, Muslim or Jewish marriage is a bum deal for the girls.
I get really angry when fundamentalists of any persuasion start waving their Holy Book around as if these documents gave any respectability to doctrines of hatred. So can we take a look at what the Bible actually says about marriage “the sacred union of one man and one woman in the eyes of God” (Let’s be honest here, The Koran does not bother with the eyewash, it sets out its position clearly, virtually saying “OK boys, you can have as many women as you can afford and you can do as you like with them.) It is not unfair to restrict this analysis to the Bible though, because the problems surrounding gay marriage only seem to exist in places where Christianity is the main religion.
Are you ready? If you are a Bible literalist it would perhaps be best if you sit down now, you might soon start to feel faint.
A marriage, according to the Bible, may be between one man and several women. Genesis 29, v 17 – 28: 2 Samuel 3, v 2 – 5 (that David was a really busy boy)
Nor does the Biblical view of marriage impede us boys having a bit on the side. 2 Samuel 5, v 13 (David again – didn’t I see this guy on the Jerry Springer show?): 1 Kings 11 v 3: 2 Chronicles 11 v 18 – 21:
So us guys are at liberty to put ourselves about a bit, none of us will have any complaints there but what about the girls. Well ladies, even if you behave yourselves you are not in the clear (Deuteronomy 22, v 13 – 21) makes a number of points including: “A marriage will only be considered valid if the wife is a virgin, if she is not a virgin she will be executed.” But surely all a girl has to do is follow that silver ring thing stuff and she will be an honoured and respected wife. You think so? The same verses in Deuteronomy
state quite clearly “if a man takes a wife and goes into her and detests her and charges her with shameful conduct and says “I took this woman and found she was not a virginÂ…..” it then falls to the girls parents to prove she was a virgin. The legal flaw here of course is that if the man does not penetrate the woman what is in fact calling into question whether sex took place can be taken as proof of the woman’s crime, (“Your honour I did not screw her because I didn’t fancy her and decided she was not a virgin,”) and just cause for her to be stoned to death simply because she has small boobs or bad breath or something.
Fundamentalists like to tell us that divorce is against their faith (why spend money on divorce lawyers when its so easy to have an unfaithful wife stoned to death?) but actually it is only women who cannot divorce their husbands. But not only can a man divorce his wife but (Deuteronomy again, 24 v 1;) he can even refuse to show her any humanity if her life falls apart. It seems that when a man divorces a woman because “he detests her” then to take her back is an abomination before God. Now there is a passage in Mark that contradicts this by stating that once married people can never be divorced but the problem there is that if the Bible is to be taken literally then it must ALL be taken literally, contradictions included. The Bible itself tells us that we humans cannot understand God, and so for some preacher to say “ah but you see what God really meantÂ…..” We do not have a clue what God really meant and I suspect he had little idea himself as he has never had to deal with the pressures of modern society.
Fortunately we do not take the advice of the Bible quite so seriously now as they did in nineteenth century Britain (and I guess it was the same around the rest of the Christian world.) Until about 1870 a woman could not divorce her husband on any grounds, nor was she permitted to own property independently or make any decision without hubby’s consent. Men could not commit adultery against their wives, the offence was against the husband of a married lover; they were permitted to beat their wives to a pulp, play away from home, be tightfisted with money, pick their noses, read aloud bad poetry and fart in bed and the wife had no redress; it truly was a man’s world yet all such unreasonable behaviour is condoned in the Bible. And President Bush and his advisors in the White House want to go back to these Biblical strictures.
Now people might think that having previously been quite honest about the fact that during my thirty year marriage I have strayed from some of the vows more than once I would be glad to have my behaviour exonerated or even to find my marriage is invalid (I always knew that, I had my fingers crossed at the altar) But I do love my wife and would be most reluctant to have her stoned to death for non – virginity. So on this question as on most others I do think the ancient pagan tribes had it right. Love each other, tolerate and forgive the failings of others and once two people make a personal commitment they should work out their own rules that both can live by. Get religion out of the picture and there will be more successful relationships. No rules, no expectations except those the individuals are prepared to commit to. And because the enlightened secular humanists of prehistory were so humane and civilised we can follow their example and have a system of marriage contract in which both partners legally accept certain responsibilities. All human beings are capable of accepting responsibility but when did you ever know God to accept responsibility for anything?
In the face of these arguments it is clear that secular marriage contracts need not be specifically heterosexual, in fact the Christian model of heterosexual marriage looks to be totally discredited. For that reason I cannot help but wonder why so many gays want to get married. All a good relationship needs is a personal commitment, mutual trust and understanding and a will to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of another person. With those qualities, enough in common to permit meaningful conversation and the grace to still like each other after a bad row people have the basis for a long lasting relationship. Anything else is just superstitious mumbo – jumbo and commercial exploitation. But if a couple want a religious ceremony and can find a church willing to co-operate then it is nothing to do with anybody else. The legal side of it should present no obstacle; people who have shared a home and held a joint bank account can surely organise the division of property between partner and family. So the problem all seems to rest on the fact that so many churches claim to be the one true church of God, the only one qualified to speak on his behalf. This alone should be enough to prove the case for getting religion out of the marriage contracts altogether.
Perhaps the gay community need a wake up call, we used to look to them for a lead in iconoclasm, non – conformity and rebelling against the status quo, why do so many now want to pick up much of the baggage that goes with being straight? After all, if gay rights campaigns only seek to make gays more like heterosexuals then what is the point?

LITTLE NICKY MACHIAVELLI TELLS IT LIKE IT IS.

Power To The People #1 – Winds of Change

Most people in the world are now aware that something is going on. Changing weather patterns, greater extremes of hot and cold, increasingly more violent storms, unpredictable patterns of rainfall. The only surprise is that it has taken so long for certain influential bodies to sit up and take notice. The scientific consensus is that although some of what is happening may be attributable to the normal cycles of Earth’s climate there has over the last two hundred years been another factor at work. Since the industrial revolution we have been pumping into the atmosphere carbon – heavy residue from the burning of fossil fuels.
We have come a long way since Thomas Newcomen’s steam pump first started to pump water from a Cornish Tin Mine in 1712, power generated by coal, oil and gas has become the most essential commodity in the economic system supporting our way of life. We are gluttons for energy, whether it is to drive our over- large cars, to put the picture on our TV screens, enliven our computers or provide nice hot water to our power showers. And yet the more energy we use the faster we erode the eco – system that supports us. Power from oil and coal is essential to our way of life but not to life itself. What do we need most, TV or food? An SUV or breathable air? Power showers or clean water to drink? Get down to the most basic human needs and abundant electricity does not figure. Still it would be tough to go back to living in wattle and daub huts and painting ourselves blue to while away the long winter evenings.
Like all addictions our addiction to energy is potentially destructive. Unless we find a way to feed our habit that does not have the harmful side effects of carbon fuels, we are in deep poo. And so there is a scramble to find alternative, sustainable, non – polluting sources of energy. This has to be a job for governments, especially since most governments have sold off the electricity franchises to irresponsible profiteers who cannot see beyond the next quarter’s profit and loss account. Are government’s up to the job though?
Enter an insincere grin with no head or body attached.
Mr. Blair has a target. No, it is not the one painted on his back by followers of Osama Bin Laden. Mr. Blair has a vision of how we can start to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions by 2010. It’s the wind, so stop taking indigestion tablets now.
Of all the alternative methods of generating power available the government had decided that covering the country with wind turbines is the only viable option, in other words the only one that gives the power generators a huge return on a very tiny investment. The most obvious flaw in the argument for wind power (apart from the fact that it is supported by the government’s scientific advisors and therefore must be crap,) is that wind is not a reliable sustainable source. Wind often does not blow. Think back to the very cold spell in February of this year; how still it was for nearly two weeks, how the frost clung to the trees and the air started to smell smoky because the fumes from our cars and heating systems were not being carried away. Wind sometimes does not blow for many days at the time we need energy most.
On top of that, wind turbines are not at all environmentally friendly. Take a look at the picture (oops, it isn’t working yet) the wind farm at Cliviger in Lancashire. The turbines make a not unpleasant addition to a rather bleak landscape. Trouble is those turbines would struggle to provide power for a little village like Cliviger. To replace one of the big coal fired power stations along the M6 corridor a few miles to the south would need ten thousand, that’s right TEN THOUSAND wind turbines. Take into account the five power stations along that 120 mile stretch of road and that is most of the high level open ground in this part of the world covered. Look at the picture again. Do you know where it is? If you were to walk a few miles beyond the horizon in the direction the camera is looking you would come to Withins Moor, Wuthering Heights in Bronte fiction, a popular destination for visitors. I mention that in passing, the real point is that these bleak uplands are a vital ecological asset. They are breeding grounds to the insects and birds that pollinate the plants in our countryside, they may look like an unprofitable waste of space to the unschooled eye of a corporate accountant but they benefit us all. Not just the kind of nuts who like to put on Gortex jackets and hike the moorland tracks in rain and snow, but each one of us. If the heathlands suffer, the farmlands suffer. If the farmlands suffer, first our pockets, then our stomachs, then our quality of life suffers.
Think back to those numbers. Fifty thousand wind turbines up there and you would still be nowhere near generating enough power for Lancashire and Yorkshire. Failure at what cost? Each turbine stands on a raft of concrete. Fifty thousand of those, as many acres of heather and peat torn up, natural water features like bogs drained (bogs are very important and not just for our colleague Jenny Greenteeth over at Boggart Blog) streams culverted and redirected and the ability of these vital upland areas to retain vast amounts of water impaired so that instead of draining slowly rainfall will run off into the streams and rivers and become flash floods as its course through the flood plain is blocked by indiscriminate development of housing and commercial property.
Promoting Wind Power as a genuine alternative is probably not the worst idea they government’s tame consultants have come up with, but it is not far off.

If any wind power scheme is proposed in your area please support the environmental groups who oppose it. Whatever they tell you in justification is lies, wind power is just not viable and will do as much harm to the environment as any hydrocarbon based power source.

LITTLE NICKY MACHIAVELLI TELLS IT LIKE IT IS.

Wind Power – objections
Selling out to big business – Greenpeace
FOE – Fools on Ecstacy? Friends of the Earth
George Monbiot – informed opinion

Nature Does Not Negotiate

When President Bush in refuting the Kyoto treaty supported by all the other leading industrial nations declared “the American lifestyle is not up for negotiation” he was telling his public what they wanted to hear. It would be wrong to blame him for that, after all it is what politicians do. But really somebody should take the American nation to one side and explain that nature does not negotiate. The Kyoto signatories were not ganging up to force the will of namby – pamby European liberals on the gun – totin’ Humvee drivin’ burger chompin’, god fearin’ folks who seem to congregate between the Appalachians and the Rockies, (OK, I know its not really quite like that but that is the impression given to the world by most of America’s media) they were trying to work out a way to save the planet for all of us and all our grandchildren. In order to do this we must set an example to the rapidly industrialising population giants of the third world in the hope that they do not make cars and air conditioning easily available to their vast numbers of citizens.
The reason for concern among the economic leaders is that climate change, which tame scientists in the pay of the polluting corporations still insist is not happening or at worst is the very gradual result of a natural cycle, is in fact happening at a much faster rate than even the worst pessimists predicted.
The religious right and the corporate community, two groups that seem increasingly indistinguishable, have their academic hirelings to claim that the dire consequences predicted for climate change are just examples of liberal scaremongering. I wonder if any of these ivory tower idiots have been down to Florida and asked around to see how the locals feel about global warming after being hit by four major hurricanes in less than a month last year as they brace themselves for a repeat performance?
Global warming is a misleading phrase of course and it is easy for the pseudo – scientists of the “opinions for sale” mob to dismiss the very genuine concerns of real environmentalists by conjuring up theories that suggest Alaska, Newfoundland and Scandinavia will bask in a climate similar to South California or southern Spain. That is very cosy and attractive of course but utterly wrong. Global warming does not mean we will all get a deep suntan sitting in the back yard in January as everywhere becomes warmer and more pleasant. The ecology is a finely balanced system. A sudden change of only one or two degrees in the yearly average can be catastrophic for food crops and animal life. For example, the mild winter of 2003/4 adversely affected the Blueberry crop in New England to such an extent that many small farmers in New Egland are faced serious financial problems this year. Blueberies are a luxury crop of course (unless your family income depends on the harvest) but the things we depend on for our staple diet will be affected too.
Continental weather systems are very sensitive to variations in climate. If the weather patterns of 2004 became embedded the great plains of the U.S.A. and Canada will start to experience a dustbowl effect like that which devastated the global economy in the nineteen – thirties. A similar situation will be created in central Europe, the wheatfields of Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Poland will not supply the domestic market, there will be no surplus to sell to the world. Crop failures throughout Asia and Africa will make previous famines look like times of plenty. So that is a lot of hungry and displaced people to swell the number of the world’s poor and a lot less food to go around.
As the interior of each continental landmass becomes more arid coastal areas will simultaneously become wetter and experience greater extremes of weather. 200 mph hurricane storms will become run of the mill in Florida and the Caribbean while cities such as New York and Seattle will alternately swelter and freeze as seasonal changes become more intense. New Yorkers might not suffer bad weather though, the city is low lying and the rise in sea levels caused by the melting of polar icecaps will lead to the inundation of the Big Apple along with New Orleans, London, Amsterdam, Calcutta and the historical jewel Venice. Most of the islands in the Gulf of Mexico will go as will the Maldives and a number of Pacific archipelagos. This will not happen in a Biblical flood but over several decades (it has been happening throughout the twentieth century.
“No Worries,” New Yorkers may think, “we can all move to California where the hills rise up sharply from the coast”. Around thirty million Californians think “great, our properties will rocket in value.” Unfortunately it is not that easy. Global warming is not just about parching summers and polar winters, desert creep and rising seas. There is the ice – cap bounce to think of.
If you are not familiar with this term take a child’s rubber ball and compress the top and bottom. As the poles are pushed in see how it bulges somewhere else to compensate. Now take off the pressure and the ball returns to its spherical shape. This is exactly what happens to our planet in an ice age.
We do not really know the extent of the southern ice cap twenty thousand years ago but we do know the in northern hemisphere the glacier was hundreds, in places thousands of feet thick and extended as far south as Minnesota in North America, covered the Alpine mountains reaching almost to the Mediterranean Sea in Europe and extended into northern India. That is a lot of ice pushing the north pole downwards. To complete the pictire, sea levels were nearly 500 feet lower then. That is a lot less water pressing on the equator to help it hold its shape. Planetary crust is not as springy as rubber ball stuff and so the rebound takes thousands of years. Some, but not all, earthquakes we experience today are due to that action. The faster the remaining ice melts the more frequent and violent those quakes will become and areas that are geologically unstable will be most vulnerable. So perhaps California is not a good location on which to base long term plans.
As if all that bad news is not enough to spend a lifetime worrying about there is the effect of warming on the oceans. Remember El Nino a few years ago. As the Pacific Ocean warms that phenomenon will become an annual weather feature while in the Atlantic Ocean the flow of the Gulf Stream that is so important to climatic stability in Europe and North America will slow allowing the Gulf and the Caribbean to get warmer while the North Atlantic cools. These conditions will devastate fish stocks in many nations that depend heavily of fish for food. Most of North America will become what geographers describe as “an area inhospitable to humans.”
The timescale for all this is not centuries as the complacent advocates of free market economics insist, but decades, we have perhaps only one or two decades, five at the most before we reach the tipping point beyond which we will not be able to do anything to arrest the trends towards rapid climate change.
Of course the money men and the God – squad dismiss all of this as liberal scaremongering. If we all say our prayers, concentrate on the serious business of getting rich and put our faith in God and our corporate and political masters everything will be just fine.
Of course everything I have written is informed speculation based on study of trends over fifty years, I can’t actually promise it will all happen but do you seriously want me to be able to promise these things will happen? Bizarrely though, as if some external agency is trying to back up my warnings, in between my starting to draft this article and completing it a report has been released confirming (again) that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising far more quickly than was thought. If anybody still thinks it is safe to ignore the scientific evidence let me give you an analogy to illustrate our predicament.
You have all been to a convention and are in a bus on the way home and I am your driver, we are on a narrow and winding mountain road. Visibility is terrible, the driving rain is turning to snow, high winds batter our vehicle and the road surface is getting slippery. “Don’t worry,” I tell you, “I know the road well, there is some risk but so long as we go very slowly and carefully and allow for the conditions we should all have a good chance of getting home safely if somewhat late.”
“That’s outrageous,” a businessman yells, “time is money and every minute we waste is income lost. We are your customers and have a contract with you to get us home on time, road conditions are not our problem so hit it mister because if we are one minute late I’m going to sue.”
“Quite right” a politician chips in, “why should these people be inconvenienced. By buying a ticket they voted for you Mr. Driver and you have a duty to deliver their expectations. If you could not guarantee a safe and speedy journey then you should not be in business.”
Then a Padre stands, holds up a Bible and pointing at me yells in a voice like cola bottles being crushed “Oh thou of little faith, if it is God’s will that we get home then he will clear the road and guide our bus but if He has decreed it is Our Time then you blaspheme by trying to change destiny.
At that point I seriously think of jumping out of the moving bus, but that would not be fair to the sane majority so I turn to you and ask “what do you want me to do, drive as safely as I can and have a very good chance of getting us all home or drive like an idiot and hope that maybe, if we are lucky, a few of us will survive the inevitable crash?”
Hypothetical maybe, but sooner or later we have to stop and ask ourselves “what is more important, lifestyle options or our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lives?

END

How Saddam May Yet Win The War

When Saddam Hussein is not in a courtroom he is safely locked up in prison somewhere in Iraq and like all right minded people I hope he stays there once his trial is ended. Unfortunately that hope may be in vain for even from a prison cell the old tyrant may yet disrupt our lives. When the neo – cons in the White House were whipping up the American people and Tony Blair to support the case for invading Iraq and overthrowing the regime, they failed to see the big picture. Economic tunnel vision seems to run in the Bush family but I suspect some of the others did realise what was going on in the world economy but chose to exploit short term economic opportunities and let the ordinary people of America suffer later.
It is about four years now since Saddam made his most astute move ever although it was probably done in a fit of petulance rather than with foresight. Maybe however some Iraqi economists did know the true state of the American economy when they advised their president to demand payment in Euros for Iraq’s oil. The U.S.A. far more than any other nation except perhaps Switzerland depends on the strength and stability of its currency. Exports are weak, the national debt is out of control and trade deficits are insupportable. If the dollar was not the currency the world trades, the U.S.A would be, if not quite a basket case of African levels then certainly in no better economic shape than “walking wounded” like Brazil and Mexico.
The American economy is both beneficiary and victim of the fact that the dollar is the world’s reserve currency. Whatever nations buy from across national borders they must pay for in dollars and whatever they bring to the world market to trade they want to be paid in dollars for. So it does not really matter how big the US deficit on oil, steel, foodcrops and coffee because what Uncle Sam is really selling in the world market is the dollar. This means the Federal Reserve Bank can print dollars to buy whatever the consumers demand.
The situation had persisted since the British economy crashed and burned in the early nineteen – sixties. The pound is still a trading currency but mostly within the British Commonwealth. In the world market a wodge of British wonga no longer begs the question “how much of our stuff would you like, sir?” but “how many dollars will that monopoly money buy, schmuck?” No matter, we own enough of America to ensure we have a ready supply of dollars flowing in through our holdings in the Caymans, Bermuda, The Isle of Man etc. World trade is truly wonderful.
The happy situation of dollar supremacy would have continued but for the push towards European integration. After the fall of the Soviet Union certain economists and political philosophers (mostly in France and Germany) decided that to have only one superpower would be bad for the world community. Another trading bloc was needed and the European Union could easily be adapted to fill the void.
It is easy to follow the reasoning, around 70% of the world’s currency reserves are held in dollars which of course means that essential commodities, particularly oil, are valued in dollars. While the U.S.A. controls the money supply in effect it gets imports for free. As a bonus most of the dollars that other nations have worked hard to earn have to be invested back in the U.S. economy. It is so smart we should be surprised the Mafia did not think of it first.
In spite of its recent enlargement the European Union’s economy suffers from none of the systemic weaknesses of the American economy. This being so, the Euro is the only serious competitor to the Dollar as a world currency. There we have one of the true, but unmentionable, reasons why The White House was so anxious to bring about regime change in Iraq. Now American interests control Iraq’s oil it is once more priced in dollars.
The lesson has not been lost on people who are not friends of America however.
The nations of the Middle East do more trade and have better political relationships with Europe, the EU imports more oil and the European economies are cashflow based rather than debt based and so are more sustainable in adverse trading conditions. There have already been rumblings from within OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) that a switch from dollars to euros for pricing oil could be a serious option. Should Europe’s two main oil producers, Britain and Norway adopt the euro it could well be the tipping point at which a switch by OPEC becomes not possible but inevitable. On top of that there is another risk. Western News Media portray Al Qaeda as an organisation intent upon destroying western civilisation but this is a dangerous over estimation of terrorist ambitions. There are surely terrorist cells around the world who meet in gloomy basements and mutter darkly through beards of mass destruction about the downfall of the decadent west and the triumph of Islam but Osama bin Laden is certainly neither mad nor stupid. He knows well the American collective psychology, the siege mentality that sees enemies (and Satan) lurking behind every rock and tree along the borders. The destruction of the World Trade Centre was a perfect tactical move and in his response George W. Bush played right into the terrorists hands. Now with the threat is inflated beyond all feasibility in the American psyche and the death toll in Iraq creeping past a thousand, isolationism is starting to look like a good option to American voters. A shift to a more inward looking stance on foreign policy could well open the way for a Bin Laden inspired coup in Saudi Arabia, overthrowing the House of Saud and replacing it with an Islamic fundamentalist regime. And with the fundamentalists pulling the strings in the world’s main oil producing area you can bet the exodus from the dollar would be rapid and total.
The American currency is already weak in world markets, the past twelve months have seen first a decline against other major currencies and now a resurgence. The situation is so far out of America’s control that with either a weak or a strong dollar they are the losers. The weak dollar mean imports, particularly oil, get more expensive and Americans regard the right to cheap gasoline alongside the right to free speech and the right to have bed dress sense. A strong dollar means America’s exports get dearer and a country already up to its neck in debt cannot afford a drop in its income from exports. Finally the American domestic economy is consumer led. A few hikes in the price of gasoline will cause panic to set in and people will stop spending. And then the trouble starts.
Central banks have started to shift reserves into more stable currencies and create a snowball effect. With demand for its main trading commodity diminishing the US economy faces possible collapse and America’s position as the world’s strongest nation looks precarious.
Europe may constitute a significant threat to America’s domination in trade but whereas the Soviet Union was a military superpower but an economic island, Europe and the U.S.A. are allies militarily but economic competitors that, under the unwritten rules of free market economics, would have go head to head in a trade war like two bull elephants. Free market economics compels all participants to compete for a bigger share of the cake at a time when America is more vulnerable than it has been in well over a century.
The problem in predicting how this poker game will be played out is that there is a third power and nobody truly know what kind of hand they hold. The Chinese are a military power, not so well armed in high – tech weaponry but with strength of numbers and a more compliant population. The risk of upsetting China, and the possible consequences of that may thwart America’s political ambitions but all the while the vast dollar reserves China holds can be used to influence the world economy in ways that suit the Chinese government.
The only way to avert a series of economic crises in the coming is for the other nations of the industrialised world to persuade America to adopt a more responsible and internationalist attitude to the obligations that go with its role as the world’s most powerful nation. Before we can begin to do that though, the American people must play their part by making sure the political establishment understands that being the biggest and the richest does not absolve a nation from its moral duty to the world community as a whole.
Before plunging into a war in Iraq, a war that Saddam Hussein knew he could not win on the battlefield, the U.S. Government and that of Britain should have consulted with experienced diplomats of other nations. In the west we are ruled by short – termism. The troops were in Baghdad within a month, a great triumph was proclaimed. It should have been all over but anyone experienced in Middle Eastern affairs would have advised that the Arab mindset is different and well suited to playing a long game.
So far the war has gone the way Saddam would have predicted. He knew his army could not withstand the assault, even if the British had not been involved the Iraqis would have been overwhelmed. But America has been sucked into a prolonged and costly occupation that has done inestimable damage to its standing in the world.
The consequences of a collapse of the global economy could result in global cultural war and plunge the world into a new dark age. The message that G8 has failed to send to the White House is that the world needs a strong and confident and outward looking America but America needs a supportive world community in order to regain its confidence and its sense of moral duty. If that message is not heeded soon then Saddam will truly have won the war.

Ian slams the madness of free market economics in
Holy City, a savage indictment of the attitudes that let to the global economic meltdown.