The power of roti prata to change Singapore and beyond?

April 11, 2011

(To increase the size of the font – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Consider this! Why is the global recovery so crumbly? Why does unemployment continue to remain stubbornly high? Why are the banks, newly stocked with cash by that swift government action, terminally ambivalent when it comes to extending loans for new enterprises? Why is the series of sovereign debt crises in the US and Europe echoed throughout the world? And here comes the real kicker: against this bleak backdrop- Why do politicians call relentlessly for austerity even while the economy remains unable to satisfy the basic needs rising food prices, stratospheric housing, helium filled health care cost and pricey education? 

Its conceivable (for me at least as I write this deep in the jungle) -the putative science of economics that has once served mankind so well is beginning to unravel .This rot is already demonstrated by the failure of “experts” to prescribe a cure to the world current economic malaise and underlines their apparent inability either to explain what is happening at present or to reach consensus on what should be done to alleviate the problems faced by the world.

And this begs the question: why is the world so fucked up? And what should be done to get us out from the shit pot?

A remarkable feature of the commentary on today’s economic woes what I consider the misplaced reference of drawing parallels between what we are witnessing these days with once transpired during the Great Depression of the 1930s. There has been scant mention of the fact that the world may have reached a tipping point where it may no longer be able to feed itself in an economically sustainable way – many reasons account for this phenomenon, population growth, transmigration and most importantly resource scarcity.

All these constraints, be it the advent of peak oil (real or imagined) and the inability of farmers to produce enough wheat for Ali Baba in Cairo is stressing traditional methods of juggling supply and demand of resources which was once a no brainer to most regimes. To exacerbate matters, economic theory is in a death grip when it comes to keeping pace with these new emerging challenges by insisting the ONLY way out of the shit pot is by keeping to the tried and tested rule of the self-equilibrating system and the Keynesian conception of the economy as controllable by government manipulation. The inadequacy of both views have been torn apart in the wake of the Jasmine revolution, that has scissored through the middle east and the African continent.

The simple truth is simply this: the old calculus of command and control may no longer be effective as a means of instilling market discipline – as for a self equilibrating system, that might as well be a forlorn fairytale.

What is required is a reinvestigation of many of the tenets that once governed the laws of market demand and supply. Its even conceivable, we may need to revisit Karl Marx’s theory of the profit rate as a possible solution to harmonize the boom and bust cycle that seems to afflict capitalism with increasing regularity and severity – regrettably the word, socialism has these days been evacuated of all meaning – and this misplaced prejudice has even colored the outlook of mainstream economic theory to the extent of permeating even statecraft, to such an extent that the very idea that “capitalism may not be the best way” is anathema. Hence even today the very idea of fusing socialism with capitalism is largely ignored by students of finance and economics. 

What remains an indictment to me is economic history suggests the accuracy of Karl Marx theory of a command economy where the government takes a proactive role in job creation and contouring a landscape where prosperity can take root conditions may not be such a cracked brained idea after all!

I am convinced (after considerable reflection and calculations – since there is very little to do in the evenings in the jungle) left to its own devices, capitalism promises  ever diminishing returns for decades to come, with similar decreases on the earning power of those who are still fortunate enough to hold down a job around the world  (except perhaps ministers in Singapore who are the only one’s bucking the trend). Hence what we are likely to see in the foreseeable future is may still be the exponential growth rates that we have been unaccustomed too only it comes at the terrible cost where wages may lag behind – instead waves of bankruptcies, lay offs and firms packing up like traveling circus to chase ever cheaper cost locales will all increasingly trigger serious conflicts among economic entities and even nations over simple questions that we have never bothered to ask before – such as do we have enough oil, wheat, corn and other such necessities to feed the masses? – granted the rich will never have to worry about such basic resource scarcity – but what cannot be denied is this will have a debilitating effect on the submerged classes who are already have to contend with a hand to mouth existence – hence while the economist and financial technocrats preoccupy themselves with pie in the sky Soduku puzzles like which automobile companies, in which countries, will survive, which semi conductor firm will take over X,Y or Z assets and markets? Which financial institutions will be inundated by bad debts?

Serious though such considerations are, they pale in comparison to two paradoxically related factors that promise further dire effects for the future of capitalism as we know it : the coming age, when the world simply doesn’t have the capacity to feed itself in an economically sustainable way any longer to support the idea of capitalism coherently. Even if continuing food resource scarcity becomes a fact of life the damage has already been done as both economist and financiers have ignored the pressing issue of food security for too long – along with all other extremely serious problems such as the rolling parade of natural disasters that has thrown a question mark on the serious question of, how will the world continue to feed so many people in an age of acute resource scarcity and unexpected calamities.

Unless governments, technocrats and academia refocus their vantage to address these and other pressing questions such as food security and other serious questions and move away from banks and financial institutions as the ONLY means of ensuring social and economic stability – it’s unlikely a return to true prosperity will pan out, all we will be chasing is a chimera.

Darkness 2011

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“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that in the not so distant future the capacity to produce, transport and store food will be the new economy – one day, the ability to drive a tractor will be cooler than running around in a Ferrari – now you know why, stock brokers have moved their invested portfolio from the Citibanks, General Motors and Boeing Aeroplane group to the Archer Daniels Midlands and United Foods et al – a shift has occurred. This is no accident. That is why I have decided to go into agriculture. Food security will eventually move from the back waters to the very important quadrant because I for see it playing a preponderant role in moderating social stresses in a declining economy, where wages will remain stagnant while basic necessities continues to escalate.

We are living in a topsy turvy age. 

This is the age of strife where cyclically inflected food prices will simply be the lead-in to a crisis of the social system, because for years no one has bothered with food security, now for the very first time, since the French revolution, we are beginning to see food concerns transcending strictly economic issues. Food scarcity these days can even provoke major transformation regime changes more efficiently than tomahawks guided missiles or stealth bombers – 10 years ago, this was unimaginable. This idea may seem unreal today to those who have not ventured into the deep interior of the jungle – against this new reality, we are not alone. We have come across 3 to 4 mainland Chinese expeditions during our travails – why do you think they are prancing around in the jungle? They are looking for land to plant oil palm.

I will be honest with you. We are no match. They have better equipment. Their men are hardier and most importantly, they seem to realize that failure is not an option. As for the Brotherhood, even our hardiest are finding it tough in the jungle. I do not blame them as even I find it very difficult – half of them have either dysentery or imaginary ailments  – the other half is either pretending or spending their time trying to cook up believable excuses to get their asses back to comfy Singapore- I understand as this is hard country, it is tough here – but that is why we must persevere and see through this matter to its logical end. It is clear to me the guilds consider this a crazy project, but when I go to Munich, I will present a paper to the Confederation and my hope is wisdom will prevail. 

What we badly need is a new breed of technocrats who know how to farm and function effectively in the this type of hostile environment. This is why I consider it a great mistake when Philip Yeo once proclaimed to the whole world, “Singapore has no agriculture!” And he proceeded to dismantle all the set pieces that once made up the cornerstone of agronomy. He was wrong! And the people who signed off on his cracked brained idea were a bunch of idiots. Antwerp may not have any diamond mines but that is where they are tabled! The Swiss do not have a single sprig of cocoa plant, but they produce the tastiest chocolates. There are no cows in Milan but they have  best tanneries for leathers – so when you say there is no agriculture in Singapore, you have effectively wiped out our strategic capability to ensure food security regionally – no one studies agronomy, no one wants to go into the jungle, no one wants the sun on their back – now I hear maids are carrying the backpack of soldiers, next thing that will happen is they will also be carrying their armalites.

This demonstrates only imagination’s weakness, not the unreality of the challenges in store for us, as the biggest unknown in contemplating the future of capitalism is the tolerance of the world’s population for the havoc that food shortages will inflict on their lives. For the moment, many in power are still under the delusion the vast majority of humans are able to react constructively in the face of rising food prices, little do they realize, something as benign as scarcity of food may even lead to a breakdown of normal patterns of social life. Neither should we take cold comfort by placing our hope in mankind’s sagacity i.e his ability at improvising solutions to immediate problems of physical and emotional survival, it is aptly clear to me 21st-century man has lost the skill to confront the economics of lack – only yesterday even my men were fighting over a bar of chocolates and they have become so petty that everyone seems to hide food to save his own hide – this explains why youths are throwing Molotov cocktails in Athens, striking civil servants in Johannesburg, and most spectacularly the Egyptian and Libyan uprising demonstrate clearly people these days will not put up with rising food prices any longer, to better their conditions of life in the concrete ways they have no qualms whatsoever in voting with their slippers and taking their grievances to the public square.

While at present there may still be stupid people awaiting the promised return of prosperity via zombie banks – we should now break the rules of an economic system that was once based on the old calculus, that itself implies a radically new mode of generating wealth. This is why we have to learn how to plant. If we have this technology, it will not be so different from how the brotherhood has been able to consolidate it’s power in the Imperium and Confederation despite our numerical inferiority and the lack of the hinterland through out remarkable ability to fold space – no tribe, except ours have mastered this black art. And so we control the politics of space. Without the power to transverse the infinity of space, a community might as well be marooned in an island like Robinson Crusoe. Similarly if we can learn to plant and cultivate crops in a scientific manner here, instead of relying on their mumbo jumbo hit and miss techniques – we can also transplant our knowledge to Africa, South America and beyond. This remains my fervent hope, as I write to all of you in this God forsaken place.”

Transcript of a broadcast from the FC boys (the renegade force of Darkness) / intercepted by the mineral cruiser KDD Xanadu @ Primus time: 09274011

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