Monday, January 18, 2016

Socionomic Trendspotting for 2016


2016 is already shaping up to be quite a show. Let's pick out some of the major themes which have been developing and see what socionomics has to tell us about them.

Nuclear Testing


Socionomics has long looked to nuclear weapons tests as a marker for social mood. It is my opinion that they are even more important as a mood marker now than in the past, as the major proof-of-principle and development tests have been completed for a variety of weapons systems by the major nuclear powers. Any full-blown nuclear tests by an established nuclear power would be part of a larger geopolitical struggle or messaging than a strictly technical test.

Other powers seeking nuclear weapons might be expected to continue limited testing. What's quite interesting is that North Korea led the year off with the detonation of what they claimed was a hydrogen bomb at their test facility at Punggye-ri (sometimes referred to as P'unggye-yok).
First, a quick detour. Their claims that they set off a hydrogen bomb have largely been derided. It is almost certain they did detonate a nuclear weapon of some sort. I find it highly unlikely they have been able to construct a classic hydrogen bomb due to issues of complexity as well as the need for specialty items and substances required to make such a device work.

That said, it is plausible that North Korea did test a device that utilized fusion as part of a primarily fission weapon. This is known as a "boosted weapon" and in short, it means a nuclear warhead based on fission (much like the weapons detonated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki), but laced with materials which, when subjected to the intense energy of a nuclear explosion, also fuse, adding even more power to the blast.

Details aside, what I wish to draw your attention to is the use of nuclear tests as socionomic markers. I propose you keep the following list of what I regard as ranking potential nuclear tests in mind as we navigate 2016:

Baby Bear

North Korean nuclear tests do correlate with other negative mood indicators, but in my opinion should not be solely relied upon. North Korea has other factors it is dealing with - including a still relatively new leader as well as tensions with not only the US and South Korea, but China, Russia, and Japan. A one-off nuclear test of North Korea should be noted, but such an event does not necessarily correlate with intense levels of negative mood outside of the region.

Momma Bear

The next level up in concern would be any test or tests by Pakistan or India. These are regional rivals who have fought a number of wars since the middle of the last century. A weapons test by one, the other, or both, should be noted with alarm and taken in the context of any other geopolitical situations. These would be, in my opinion, markers of not only regional negative mood, but potentially a negative mood marker for the larger world system.

Poppa Bear

The last time Russia tested a nuclear weapon was 1990, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. The last US test was in 1992. The last UK test was 1991, and China and France conducted their last tests in 1996.

Were one or more of the Big 5 to test a nuclear weapon I would regard this as an intensely negative mood marker. As stated earlier, while there are plenty of engineers and physicists in these countries' weapons programs who want to test to confirm the weapons would still behave as expected, political considerations to refrain from testing overwhelm this desire - currently.

Should a country such as Russia conduct an underground test, consider it not only a "message" to the West, but as a flashing negative socionomic indicator.

Charts to Watch

SASEIDX - Bloomberg
Check the Saudi index every week. I cannot stress this enough. Should the House of Saud go the way of the Bourbons, then the conflict we see in Syria will be little more than a warm-up for the slaughter to come. 

Polarization

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to burn hotly on socionomic fuel. The Donald’s popularity looks to me far more akin to that of a rock star than a traditional political candidate.
What he does have on his side is a large wave of anger and revulsion for the political process as it has metastasized to date. Bernie Sanders has a similar wave of disillusionment and anger pushing his campaign from the Democratic side.

How will it play out? Trump himself could act as a primary marker of social mood over the course of the year. If we see a further deepening of negative sentiment, he might actually attain the White House. Should the waves have another run towards the positive, then he should flicker and die out, another negative mood structure shown to have foundations build on sand when the positive tide moves in.

I want to especially emphasize the first point above. For all the vaporing over Trump, should he actually be elected, what could he possibly accomplish? He has no party (the Republican Party elders would be reluctant in the extreme to allow anything constructive to happen under his watch – just to show the little people the folly of not voting for a proper Establishment figure if nothing else). He has no theory or mechanism to inspire, past his celebrity. For all those comparing Trump to Hitler, recall the National Socialists had a deep and disciplined party structure built over a decade. They built up an ideology that German universities accepted, like shooting an infectious disease into their veins. There was a deep base from which Hitler could draw. Not so much for Trump. Treat him as a marker. Granted, should he actually be elected and survive to take office, we could see a level of dysfunction that would make the 1850’s look like a time of blessed harmony.

Another issue that bears watching is the Bundy militia occupation of a federal wildlife refuge. Right now it is mostly being played for laughs or indignation by the main information channels in the U.S. Again, social mood will dictate whether this is an incident around which a lot of anger out West over federal ownership and authority over vast areas of those states turns into a movement, or whether it fades away. And before you dismiss it as another Clown Shown to distract everyone, let’s recall another armed action against a federal facility, taken in an era of intense political polarization, and meant to ignite a conflict – John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry. It “worked” in the sense that not long after, the U.S. entered into a period of bloodshed so vast that it took a World War to exceed its death toll.

And a final issue you might see thrust back into the limelight with the coming of spring – and a downdraft in mood – could be another wave of unrest on various college campuses. I have a lot of opinions here, having been at ground zero for one of the more well-publicized events this past fall. We’ll see how things work out. One thing I will point out regarding the campus protests you saw – they are in some ways an example of what a strong set of theories and an entrenched “machine” made up of like-minded people can do. Note that you have seen men and women in positions of authority calling for the evisceration of the First Amendment – and not one of them has suffered a single penalty, while their targets have been forced into silence or to resign.

Secession


This is a theme I am quite intrigued by and expect to see gain tremendous traction this year. In a way, it is unfolding in a manner that rhymes with the clashes of the 1930’s between fascism and communism across Europe.

As in the 1930’s watch Spain. If you are someone pushing for independence for a region or a peoples – whether it be Scotland or Texas, Wallonia or Biafra, I expect you already have your plane tickets booked for Catalonia.


Where this goes will be interesting to say the least. Should negative mood rip the last shreds of legitimacy from the old powers that be in 2016, we all need to keep our heads and see where the waves are rushing – either to move safely with the tide, or attempt to move to safety in order to avoid being engulfed…

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