April 28, 2014
We have often suggested that, if we wish to know what is coming politically, socially, and economically in jurisdictions such as the EU and US, we might have a look at countries like Argentina and Venezuela, as they are in a similar state of near-collapse (for the very same reasons as the EU and US) but are a bit further along in the historical pattern.
Such a bellwether was seen in Argentina recently. Although the event in question is a very minor one, it is an illustration of the social tipping point—the manner in which a government loses control over its people.
Briefly, the events were as follows: Two men on a motorbike cruised a posh neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, seeking opportunities for purse-snatching. The pillion rider dismounted and snatched a purse from a woman. Bystanders saw the act, ran down the thief before he could re-mount the motorbike, and knocked him to the ground. Other onlookers (very possibly fed up with street crime caused by economic hardships) joined in. In a fury, they beat the thief senseless.
A policewoman managed to calm the group and handcuff the thief. Twenty minutes later, police assistance and an ambulance arrived.
Furious neighbours complained bitterly that the police had protected the thief but are generally doing little to protect law-abiding citizens.
Similar occurrences are on the increase in Argentina, and they have reached the point that the public have begun lynching thieves, as they increasingly believe that the police no longer serve to protect the people.
The pattern that is playing out can be described as a six-part process, and in Argentina, part five has been reached. Essentially, the process is this:
1. People Seek Ever-Increasing Government Largesse
This occurs over a period of decades. It begins with politicians seeking to either gain or retain office, advising the public that they should have a “right” to receive largesse from their government. Over time, the public, liking the idea of receiving something that they have not earned, warm to it and come to believe in its validity. Increasingly, the government takes money from the pockets of one group of citizens and “redistributes” it to others to whom it has made the promises.
2. Government Runs Out of Money
As elections occur every four or five years in most countries, the frequency of elections means a regular ramping-up in the level of promises to the electorate. Over time, the source group (those whose earnings are being appropriated) becomes tapped–out. (As British PM Maggie Thatcher said, “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
At this point, the government can no longer deliver on its promises of largesse. But, the recipients have come to believe that they truly are entitled to the largesse, that it is their money and either the government or the greedy rich are withholding their money.
3. Citizens Become Increasingly Desperate
The citizens, who have become less productive and more dependant as a result of the largesse, now find themselves unable to afford even basic needs. Some begin to do desperate things in order to survive. Crime increases. Whilst police may address such crimes after the fact, they cannot anticipate them.
4. Vigilantism Arises
As crime increases unabated, citizens, in their frustration, come to blame not only the criminals, but also the police. At some point, acts of violence against criminals begin to occur, as citizens begin to take matters into their own hands. This trend expands, sometimes to the point that vigilante groups form.
5. Government Attempts to Maintain Order at All Costs
Governments at this point tend not to remain cool and crack down more on criminals. Instead, they tend to make the mistake of lashing out at those who defend themselves against the criminals. (In the example above, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner made a statement to the public that, “Some people want us to return to barbarism; some people want us to react violently.” She urged officials and the public to be “rational and civilized,” and affirmed “education and social inclusion are the ultimate ways of solving these problems.”)
6. Government Becomes the Enemy
Once such a pronouncement is made by a political leader, the social tipping point has been reached. The public, having first been angered by the criminals, turn their anger toward the police and, finally, toward their political leader. When the public realise that the formerly seemingly benevolent leader holds their welfare in no more regard than she holds the criminals who prey on them, she becomes a pariah.
So, why on earth, do political leaders, throughout history, make the same mistake over and over? Why do they reveal the truth—that they actually have no concern for their minions?
At first, when the crimes begin, the leader is personally unaffected and has little concern. As crime increases, it is not the crime that the leader finds objectionable, but the grumblings of the people. It does not occur to the leader that to say, essentially, “Too bad for ya—suck it up,” is the absolute worst approach to take.
What then, drives leaders to almost invariably take the wrong public stance in such instances? To answer this, we need only to look at leadership myopically, as does the leader. Leaders tend to care little, if at all, for the welfare of the electorate, who only exist to ensure reinstatement every few years. Otherwise, they are of no consequence. They are tolerated and pandered to, but they must never dare to supplant the authority of the leader. When the public develop the moral spine that is required to make themselves judge and jury, they are assuming an authority that belongs to the leader alone, and they are, therefore, a greater threat to the government than the criminals.
The leader’s sole true concern is that the government hold the exclusive right of control. Above all, she dictates the maintenance of order.
And the leader has good cause for this concern in such an instance. Once such vigilantism becomes “necessary” in the eyes of the public, they have unconsciously taken back the authority of who is in charge. When this happens, this jig is up, as the population twigs onto the concept that they not only need to take charge of their lives, but they can. Of such realizations are revolutions made.
The beating of a thief is, in itself, a minor event, but these events often become social tipping points. (Witness the self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia in 2011.)
If there is a lesson to be learned from events such as this one in Argentina, it is that the EU and US are not far behind in their socio-economic/political deterioration. Perhaps the reason that the dominant powers in the world today are ramping up their internal defence systems so dramatically is that they see the writing on the wall.
The reader is then left with two questions: 1) Will his country soon be facing dramatic inner turmoil that may be a threat to his well-being? And, 2) Would he be better served if he were to prepare an alternate location in which to be, if the fur begins to fly?