Friday, August 29, 2008


I've been as busy as the bees captured above; hence the dearth of posting. It's not just the usual vagaries of life, diapers and baths, and paying bills, and all of that, I have been immersed in other studies (besides real estate) as well.

I'm a political junkie, and have been for many years (thanks, Grandma!). I have belonged to no party, and never will, and can swing either way, though as I get older, I tend to "dress to the left" more and more. I guess that I just am becoming mellow with age. Anyhow, there is an interesting situation coming to a head in our own Canadian politics, and I have been plunged into that (from a reading/time perspective).

I have been unsettled for quite some time (years), but now, am more so. I'm not going to turn this into a political blog (just yet), but it is the big picture that I look at, and it seems more tenuous daily. I feel that real estate is going to be one of our biggest problems, while at the same time, the least of our worries in the next few years. I fear that it is going to get much more basic than stainless steel and granite, and flippers and pre-sales.

My fascination with politics tends more to our own, but I also keep an eye towards global politics. I've had much less of an understanding of global affairs (generally hindsight), but feel that it is important to keep an eye on them. The US situation will always affect us here - and no wonder, it affects the whole world - but it is truly fascinating these days. I don't root for anyone, so much as revile the worst of two evils, but this coming election in the US in November is one of those cross roads of history, I believe, and not because Obama is a "black man", though that aspect is pivotal on the long run. I don't delve too deep, but I see little difference between the policies of the two front runners. What would thrill me, is if the likes of Ron Paul or Ralph Nader won. In the state that the US is in (serendipitous pun welcomed), either would be better for the country, and the world. I worry about what mischief Bush will get up too before January 2009.

I started reading Linda McQuaig's book The Cult of Impotence, and, whoa. It makes Dark Age Ahead look like The Sound of Music. I have not got that far into it yet, but it rather starkly confirms a lot of my weary (and wearying) rants about serfdom, etc. This excerpt greeted me in the first few pages :
AN EXPERT...on CBC Radio's "Sunday Morning"...Dr. Ian Angell, the London School of Economics, is explaining how most of the working population will soon be redundant.

"Isn't there an economic cost to writing off the world's workers?" asks host Ian Brown.

The question suggests that Brown has bought the basic parameters of the debate: that we discuss only economic cost. Brown is asking:

How does the unemployment of most of the world's population fit society's basic business plan? No one mentions human cost. Still, the question doesn't suit Dr. Angell. Impatience is detectable in his voice. "This requires a total rethinking of the institutions of the industrial age. You must throw them away;' says Dr. Angell..."All your thinking has to be different'

As the interview progresses, Brown becomes increasingly sceptical... His questions reveal that he's struggling to see how all this unemployment helps ordinary people.

Answer: it doesn't,

But that's not the issue...

An emboldened Ian Brown asks something about how people are to survive. Dr. Angell is getting a touch irritated with these repetitive questions about human needs. Brown just doesn't seem to get it, The point is that we're in a brand-new age, the information age. Technology and globalisation have made all these questions about human needs irrelevant. That's part of yesterday's menu. Today, simply watch as the technological juggernaut rolls on, squashing our needs.

"Is this a world you look forward to?" asks Brown, trying to make some sense of it all.

"That's neither here nor there;' responds Dr. Angell.

"Is there some way we can stop this?" Brown asks anxiously. Is there nothing we can do to avoid this dark future?"

That's when Dr. Angell snaps. "That question reflects the thinking of the machine age" he says curtly.

Hold it. Let's play that again slowly. This line is more subversive than it first appears. It is perhaps as subversive a thought as it is possible to have. Dr. Angell is saying it's just that we can't change things, but we can't even think about the possibility of changing things; to do so is to engage in old-style thinking.

So, it's not just that we're powerless to stop being pushed over the edge of the cliff in the new global world order. But to even try to prevent ourselves from being pushed over the cliff is a sign of regressive thinking.

The new way of thinking, as outlined by Dr. Angell, requires acceptance of powerlessness, resignation to a world without solutions - a world of inaction and helplessness. That democratic impulse to assert one's rights must be contained, thwarted, rendered mute and inoperative. Never mind the democratic impulse. It's actually the human impulse that's at stake here. The human impulse to act, to build, to create, to improve, to shape our lives, to use our brains to do better. It's called being alive.

It's just got to go.
There is much more, I have just started reading, but pulling back, and applying these words to our life today, it makes one see how we got to where we are, with the mindlessness of people chasing clouds and faeries today (the book was first published in 1998). All the power of the media has been focused on people's abnegation of common sense and personal determination. "We must buy a POS before we are priced out forever", etc.

There are 117 banks in danger of collapsing in the US at present, with more to come. Trillions in debt needing servicing, and the money is becoming ever scarcer. This is what McQuaig's book is really about (as far as I can discern so far), the power of money, and the powerlessness of governments to make sure their citizens lead a decent life, let alone on an individual level.

It has been a tough week, and I have been doing some tough reading, thus my somewhat dejected outlook right now. I'm finding it hard to be passionate, or even interested in RE these days. Hopefully, the weekend will refresh me.


Anonymous said...

hang in their solipsist! i share your tendency toward the dire but is it not always darkest before the dawn? clearly we are in need of a radical change, something to rattle the complacent and i can't imagine anything less that catastrophe will do. a sad state of affairs to be sure. i would much prefer the human race to wake up next tuesday and collectively decide to do things differently but i just can't see it happening. while waiting for the apocalypse i am going to make sure i stop to smell the sweet peas and stand in awe at the beauty that is all around us every chance i get. in my miniscule sphere of influence i will do what i can to make the world a little better a place.


miracle said...

Hey Solipsist
Don't let the futurists get to you!
Lots of thinkers claiming "a new age" is upon us since the eighties, and to a certain extent they are right. Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, Third Wave), Jeremy Rifkin (Age of Access), etc. But what these guys all seem to miss is that there is no clean break between the past and the present. It's a continuum.

All of the trends of "collapse" were predicted early on in the industrial age. We've merely entered into a more fragmentary version of modernity. Booms and busts have been happening since money was invented, because they are rooted in the structure of our system. It's faster now, and the stakes are higher. More people are more heavily invested in the system, emotionally and financially. But we'll get through it.
Anybody who says something is inevitable needs to brush up on their history.

Strataman said...

miracle "Anybody who says something is inevitable needs to brush up on their history." I don't know about you but how many people in your circle of acquaintances both business and personal actually read any history? Although I am selective in those I relate to only a hand full IE "5" have ever read any history on anything be it real estate, politics, business or whatever! It's sad but so true!

Anonymous said...

You are ridiculously like me. Changing baby diapers, Forgotten Rebels, real estate and a geopolitical junky. Could we be the same age, or close? I'm 43.

Oh, and I am currently RE bearish and waiting for my entry point.


solipsist said...

Thanks mk-kids. I smell the flowers so much that I have been classified as a pollinator. The Missus gets annoyed with the bees that always follow me around. She knows that she is the queen bee though.

Speaking of the Missus, she told me that a lot of people are edgy these days. Could be the weather. Or all of the gloom with falling house prices, falling temperatures, political posturing, fuel prices, food prices, what have you. Could be. Maybe I just don't get enough sleep, either. Yeah, that must be it.

miracle - I would tend to sympathise with what you are saying. You have it right with the continuum.

It is the age-old prejudice of seeing the world getting worse, I suppose. But now, it's not about duck tails and rebels, nor the hippies, nor the punk rockers, Goths, blah, blah, it has become about the very structure of society. We might not think of the guy next door being expendable, but the ones with the real control see us all as expendable. The views of Dr. Angell in the quoted interview, are the views of those making decisions to bomb Clusterfark in the Panjawai prefect, or insure 0%/40 mortgages, or to buy frozen ABCP with our money, etc. What gets me is that people seem to be getting dopier and dopier en masse, and don't care, as long as they have a 56" flat panel in their half million dollar tear-down.

Maybe I'm just becoming misanthropic in my aging.

strataman - it's not just history people are lacking, it is education of any meaningful kind. It is sad, and I find it to be a lonely world sometimes. I find cocktail chatter, sports statistics, and reality tv unbearable. The only thing different about "this time" is the magnitude of it, and the potential consequences.

I think I need a valium and a bottle of wine.

pbell - I am indeed ridiculously like you. No, wait! You are ridiculously like me!

I've always been a trend-setter...

I look younger than I am, but I'm more tired than I used to be. I found out that I am not as smart as I used to be either.

Anonymous said...

Jeese that's a long post.

Fear not my babies, we are winning. George B. is at 29% and feels the shame of it all. A black man is nominated for P by one of the big 2. An old man for P for the other number 2. How bad can it be?

I salute you for paying attention to the Canadian political environment as I lost my passion for it after PT left the building.

I keep hoping that we get our shit together in Canada and put up some smart MF of PT's status. Why not? How much trouble can we get into. while I am proud of our 9 consecutive years of balanced budgets of what value it is unless we buy something nice for the missis. Like peace, or a meal or justice.

It's time Canada. If not us who, if not now when.

miracle said...

solipsist:"it has become about the very structure of society."

To a large extent you're right: When society is structured on dollar power to the exclusion of all other measures of value, you get a dysfunctional society.

The way I see it, people are constantly creating meaning and value. It's one of the things we do as humans. Right now, it's heavily lopsided towards dollars of course, but in our daily lives we all know taht some things are more important than money. Problem is the systm right now doesn't allow to many outlets for those other forms of value.

I agree that there may be some changes coming at some point, maybe soon. It certainly feels to me like a change is coming, but it could take another generation, or more. In any case, money is not going to disappear as a form of value. But maybe we can hope for a liberal democracy (capitalism plus an informed voting class), and not a fascist state (capitalism plus militarism). I guess you can count me among the optimists.

Anonymous said...

Actually I am glad to read your post because I feel the same way (and I am 43 too...but female). It is our ages? My high paying job bores me, my beautiful 100 year old "dream house" bores me, I bore me. I was happier for the 10 years I was the starving student, getting drunk on cheap beer and having the most amazing discussions about world events, meaning of life etc. with math, english, history graduates, whoever walked by. Now that my kid is out of diapers and heading to day 1 of high school tomorrow, I've started thinking more, analyzing our actions, the actions of our world leaders, etc and what do i get from friends? Blank stares and comments like, "You think too much"...or "why does there have to be some kind of meaning behind everything???" Yes, the Plasma and the Beamer seems to stop people from being engaged...

Anonymous said...

Really nice commentary - I think the voice of a significant segment of our generation. Your posts (and the comments here) resonate with me and, obviously, with others here. That I (and others) relate to your post and comments below so closely is... I guess its unusual because it is so honest. What you said is what I have sensed and heard from many of my friends who can pause.

Maybe this sentiment arises in a generation who were idealists in their youths and still seek to engage and influence society in a positive way. Many in my generation (and yours presumably) are currently occupied by trying to gain a solid footing in society for ones family (woman or man) and/or ones self.

I think the growing negativism in our generation comes from the ghost in the machine. Frustration (even anger) at doing what was considered "right" and succeeding very well indeed but not as feeling secure or engaged as we think we should be. It is natural in people who are given to thinking.

Yes, there is clearly a super elite that steer the wheels of government powerful multinational and lobby groups but... the growing sense of despair is the natural outgrowth of increasing social unrest and the movement toward a rebalancing of priorities. We here will not change things on our own, only by perturbing the wider public will things change and that process has started. People are increasingly pissed off at the status quo and what they have unwittingly come to live with.

As miracle says, people are people and we have not changed over time. The pendulum is nearing its apogee and although it will be painful, it will also be for the better when it starts to swing the other way.

Thank you for the post; it is a good feeling to know there are more people who feel similarly. Excuse me if I have put words into anyones mouth.

solipsist said...

Thanks for all of your thoughtful commentary. I wish that I had time to address more of it.

I hope to expound on all of it further here, I just need to find an angle that includes real estate. That is not too hard though...

solipsist said...

oh, and pbell - sorry to tease you so, I am just a wet-behind-the-ears few years older than you at 46.

Anonymous said...

You do know that Linda McQuaig is one of those ridiculous buffoons who swoons over Hugo Chavez, right?

And as for the world getting worse -- similar to the Dark Ages! -- I hate to say it, but only a pampered, slacker Canadian can think like this.

Do some traveling, learn some history, and then try reading McQuaig with a straight face.

solipsist said...

Do some traveling, learn some history, and then...

Thanks for the advice. I have been around the world a couple of times, lived in Central America extensively, speak 3 + .5 + .5 languages + a little bit of Arabic, and am an avid student of history. Maybe that is why I can read quotes such as I have reproduced, and actually get a little discomfited.

And Hugo Chavez? I think that he is a bitch, but I would rather him (or Fidel) over Harper or Bush any day.

Perhaps it is you who needs to study history. Judging by your writings... oh, never mind. Carry on.