As you know, we here at FutureJacked regard the theory of Socionomics as a useful tool to assist in making sense of the swirl of "news" and emotion that entangles us all and drives the major trends in politics, economics, war and religion.Below are some major socionomic themes that, from my personal interpretation of socionomics, should dominate 2009:
A Continued Surge in Magical Thinking
Socionomics posits that during waves of positive social mood, "practical thinking" is dominant over "magical thinking," and a belief in science and reason dominates. During waves of negative social mood the magical thinking, with its distrust (if not hatred of) reason and science rises to a dominant position in the mass social "mind."
My personal interpretation of this is that magical thinking actually begins to manifest during the fifth wave of a postive mood surge - where faith and hope outstrips a reasoned evaluation of the economic "fundamentals" and continues into the waves of negative mood. Either way, we can expect a lot of anti-science and anti-rationality types of behavior to explode in politics and in university settings. Hopefully it won't go as negative as it did in Kampuchea, but we are dealing with a downturn of historic proportions, so keep in mind that herds of humans are capable of staying irrational for very, very long periods of time.
This article that was recently posted on MSNBC sums up a gentler aspect of this coming trend:
Business booming for psychics - The slumping economy has cost many people their jobs. But there appears to be at least one profession that's actually cashing in on the nation's economic woes. Skepticism often plagues the business of fortune telling, but in these tough economic times, many are putting apprehension aside in the hopes of seeing what's in the cards for their economic futures...
Amazing. People who have lost their jobs due to an irrational explosion of credit and insane optimism are now turning to a different breed of irrationality to help them out instead of facing up to facts and doing the hard work of rebuilding their balance sheets.
Expect this trend to reinforce others negative mood trends such as the coming explosions of violence, of anger, of the desire to break down instead of build up. This type of "thought" is the grease in the gears of the machine that will grind up the system of finance and governance we've become used to over the past few decades.
This is one trend that you absolutely must be aware of and, even if you are forced to pay lip service to it, you need to stay out of the trap and guide your own ship under the star of reason and hard work, even if that star becomes obscured by clouds of foolish and dangerous magical thinking.
Expect a Wave of Independence Movements
I thought this would be a more dominant theme during 2008 than it turned out to be, with only Kosovo shearing off from Serbia and, at the very end of the year, the Ruthenians declaring independence in Ukraine. As Abkhazia and Ossetia were already de facto independent from Georgia, I won't count them. I doubt 2009 will be as calm.
Socionomics holds that during times of negative mood factionialism increases and the various "tribes" that make up a country turn towards their subgroup and away from the idea of an inclusive and tolerant society. This is the stuff of independence movements, of civil wars, of hollow states and of a return to primary loyalties.
This tendency towards separation will also be aided by the innovations and growth in technologies that empower of small groups and non-state actors. Electronics, cheap communications, the internet and the coming surge in cheap biological engineering technologies should help take this trend to new heights of destructiveness. We may see a lot more applications to the UN in the coming years, not to mention thousands of sub-national and non-state groups that could care less about the trappings of sovereignty and governance.
My candidates for serious breakdown: Pakistan, Iran, Iraq (again, as the three regions duke it out to finalize their spheres of influence) and Bolivia. There should be a huge surge in non-state actors as well - groups or gangs that will carve out space for themselves, be that space only a few city blocks or chunks of the countryside. Good luck policing it.
I'm not quite as bearish on the U.S. as a political entity as Igor Panarin, who expects the U.S. to shatter into roughly 6 pieces by mid-2010, but if things get bad enough, if enough bad decisions continue to be made by The Powers That Be, if the negative mood gets bad enough, then all bets are off...
Anger, Violence and Oppression - Coming to a Town Near You
As mood becomes more and more negative, the news will reflect this more and more. I strongly expect this anger to manifest itself in a variety of ways:
- Random criminal violence will explode around us. This will take the form of both bizarre and more "common" acts of violence. Robbery, thuggery and murder will sweep through various communities like a virus. Expect local law enforcement, which will be hampered by local budget crises, to appear impotent at times and expect local groups to respond with vigilante actions.
- Attempts to crush dissent will proliferate. As violence and economic turmoil escalate, expect governments to clamp down on newspapers, cell phone texting, blogs, internet sites and other means of expression. No one wants to look stupid and as more and more stupid decisions are made by business "leaders," by government officials and by other socially relevant figures such as local clergy, efforts to whitewash the effects of their stupidity will proliferate. Enjoy the open internet now while you have it.
- President-Elect Obama is walking into a buzz-saw. The man, through no fault of his own, is in a no-win situation. His honeymoon will be short and the problems he faces immense. I wish him the best of luck, but my best guess is he will go down as a perceived failure.
- War will continue to erupt. Look to Iran, to Israel to Pakistan and India, to Mexico and to the continent of Africa as participants in or battlegrounds for war and civil war.
In times of negative mood, it will seem like we will be getting more than our fair share of natural disasters, epidemics, famine and social chaos. I personally think it that the collective ability to respond to such disasters will be degraded, making them worse than they should be, but that won't matter much.
Expect a series of "unexpected" natural disasters to cause out-sized problems. Look for the localized famines (caused by bad decisions, magical thinking, as well as environmental factors), for epidemics (and the follow-on effects of reduced ability to transport goods and the use of the crisis by the Man to increase controls over the People).
Frankly, I plan to view of 2009 as the Year of the Worst-Case Scenario. If it can go wrong, I think it will.
That said, I also think that the wave structure shows the potential for a huge rally. My guess is that the Obama inauguration will be used as an excuse for a major improvement in mood and a sharp spike upwards in stock prices. It won't last, but it will probably be a fun ride up for a few months.
Here are some memes I think will be important as 2009 rumbles along:
Peak Oil is Wrong! - As I and Charles Hugh Smith have both suggested, I think these low oil prices are the last great head fake - another example of 2009 being the Year of the Worst Case Scenario. Just when you need strong prices to support a major build-out in petroleum and natural gas infranstructure, you are going to get a huge glut and low prices. It will eviscerate the market and destroy the future supply chain, but for the coming year, most will say that Peak Oil was a fraud and that oil will always be massively abundant. Short term, they will appear to be correct.
Long term, I still view Peak Oil as the perfect socionomic meme for an era of negative mood - it is a catastrophic theory, it focuses on limitations to growth and on breaking down the complex structures of industrial society. It is Malthusian and apocalyptic in its "strongest" form and provides a coherent framework to help explain the collapse of a society and an economic system.
Return to the Land! - The same technology that allows for small groups to leverage violence and communications in service of their factional desires will also help small groups who will begin to "drop out" of society and make a go of returning to the land. Small farms run by families and co-ops will spring up in rural areas and urban areas will find vacant lots reclaimed (legally or otherwise) as people search for not just food, but a meaningful life not tied to a corporate, consumerist economy. Farming is freaking hard, though, so we'll see how it works out, but as a meme, I expect it to fluorish, especially as layoffs increase.
Bandos Unite! - All those empty homes. A huge wave of coming homeless. You do the math. I expect a mythology to grow up quickly around this theme. Families taking over vacant houses, just to survive. Cops and deputies sent in, maybe rent-a-cops as well. Expect a defining battle - probably a literal battle, some time this coming year that will serve as the movement's "Alamo."
Let the Show Trials Commence! - Expect to see a cottage industry erupt focusing on tearing down the lives and fortunes of the operators of Wall Street "Greed Machine." Finance execs, bankers, big defense contractors and corrupt politicians will be paraded before Congressional and State Investigators and it will all play out on TV. Wealthy families will probably be targeted as well, fueled by conspiracy theorists and by the anger of the many have-nots towards the few remaining "haves."
Music and Art in the Service of Destruction - I think Mr. Robert Prechter coined the term "hate rock" in his seminal work "At the Crest of the Tidal Wave" when postulating what the world of music might deteriorate to in an era of negative social mood. Be writing that horror movie script now, folks, it will probably find a buyer all too soon. Art, movies and music are about to get even more dark and discordant than they are now.
Shrug it. - Considering the costs of operating a small business formally (high rent, high taxes, crazy government fees, government red tape that can stymie a project at the whim of a bureaucrat, theft by employees and the thousand other headaches involved in running a business) will get too high, especially in the face of a crushed credit system and a population more bent on saving than consumerist excess and huge numbers of small businesses will fail. But the men and women who run these businesses are not quitters or failures. Look for them to enter the gray economy. These are the doers and the hard workers. They don't have to carry the rest of us along on their backs. They can make it on their own without the taxes and employees. They will soon have plenty of incentives to shrug off this huge burden - especially as local and state governments ratchet up taxes and fees to try and stay solvent. When they move into the informal economy and stop employing the locals then municipalities around the U.S. will begain to fail at a catastrophic rate.
Nothing new to suggest. None of us know exactly how this collapse will play out. Be flexible in mind, read about courageous men and women and how they handled hard times, be ready for economic disappointment. Be conservative with your assets. Pay down debt. Save.
Get ready to get local in a hurry. Grow a garden. Throw a potluck dinner for the neighborhood. Reconnect with family.
2009 will be tough. Be as prepared as you can.
Happy New Year!
I hope that your Christmas or other holidays you may be celebrating were enjoyable and I wish you all a safe and happy New Year. Best of luck to you all, keep your head about you and take what good that you can from a year that I believe will be incredibly challenging for the Republic and her citizens.