In circles

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“Never to speak about oneself is a very noble piece of hypocrisy.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Man and his Philosophy

If I depend on you, but you depend on her and she depends on me, we form what can be called a circle of dependency. Replace me, you, her with the variables x, y, z and you give mathematicians/programmers a splitting headache. Such a shuffle makes this a circular logic. They go on to call it a ‘vicious circle’.

The term seems to have appeared first in 1792. I am unsure of its etymology, but from what I gather, it has mathematical/logical, medical/medicinal, and to some the most obvious – societal and philosophical connotations.

Today it takes me back in my day.

I remember my time at R.K. Puram vaguely. I can sketch a broad-ish picture. Didn’t study much but somehow did well. Was never going national at sport but established a position wherever I tried. Never conceived myself an expert, but strived hard to be one. Perfection was an obsession. The resolve was strong, the approach unimaginative. My perception of what was perfect of course needed some perspective, but I salvaged what I could and went with what I thought was ‘right’ (not unlike most of us I presume). Safe to say I was big on morality. Also, the idea of being a ‘model’ anything was so beguiling. Somehow that’s what felt right at the time. Never got around to determining a model ‘what’, but ostensibly it drove me. I just wanted to have it all – equal part work equal part play, be both – bookish and popular (as if that were possible), and master it all. As is often the case under parallel circumstances, one has to make peace with just being Jack. It’s not an easy balancing act; model success in one – let’s say work, is usually concomitant with ignorance of and therefore mediocrity in the other – play.

The days are hazy, some tenets though still resonate.

The ambition I speak of above and curiosity, I remember vividly. Trying anything, knowing everything was always the agenda. Questions haunted me even then. First how, then why; how does the world work? Why does it work that way? How do people think and why not that way? I realise now, I was barking up the wrong trees. The world was never quite listening son; the answers were always lying within. If you don’t understand how you work, how do you expect any answers of the world?

Such cognizance has to be what spawned my existentialism and therefrom the inexorable accompanying crisis.

A model what is one question, a model ‘for whom’ completely another. Is it myself? How can I dismiss the foreign forces at play here? Haven’t I always been a people person? I’m pensive sure, a partial introvert maybe, but certainly not indifferent. While my ambition arises from how I want ‘people’ to perceive me (call me self-conscious), my curiosity has led me to question why I want to be that which I want to be (call me contemplative). So it follows; I want to be perceived as a model (something) by others, while I constantly examine the morality of such perception, and therefore my ambition.

Soon I recognise I’m not entirely comfortable with my perception of me or this ambition. Why be concerned with what others perceive of me? If I don’t do whatever I do only for myself, how do I expect to be a model anything? Does being such model even have meaning anymore? Is this the answer I really seek to find?

My tenets lead to dichotomous paths. I think I walked into my vicious circle.

I seek out some philosophy to find perspective. As philosophised by eminent European intellectuals such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus in mid-19th and 20th centuries, existentialism is heavily debated world over in philosophical echelons even today.

That philosophy begins with the human subject – the thinking, acting, feeling, and living human individual is one tenet of existentialism; that each individual is responsible for giving meaning to his/her own life is another7.

‘Meaning’ of course is tricky. Some find meaning in providence, religion or morality; nihilists believe there is no meaning while others find the whole concept of meaning absurd.

Kierkegaard postulated that individuals pass through three spheres of existence during the course of their lives: aesthetic, ethical and religious. In the aesthetic sphere of existence, individuals live only for short term pleasure. Eventually they have to choose between losing themselves in the crowd and committing to the next stage. At the next, ethical stage of existence individuals pledge allegiance to a code which could be religious – say Christian code or non-religious – say Doctor’s code. Commitment is internalised at this stage. The next stage, the religious stage of existence entails contentment and fulfilment by a full commitment to God. An individual may or may not move to this stage.1

So I am, in all likelihood, smack in the middle of Stage I and II.

Nietzsche’s body of work contains innumerable references to his concept of ‘Perspectivism’. In ‘Will to Power’ he states, “In so far as the word “knowledge” has any meaning, the world is knowable: but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings.” 2 In ‘Human, all too Human’ he goes on to say “this world has gradually become so marvelously [sic] variegated, frightful, meaningful, soulful, it has acquired color – but we have been the colorists.”3 His theory suggests what constitutes as ‘truth’ (or I can say meaning) is merely based on many possible human perspectives and that no way of seeing the world can be taken as definitively true.

There is no one true meaning of life. What do I make of mine?

According to Albert Camus “you will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life”4 rendering such ‘meaning’ sort of meaningless. What is the point of finding such meaning; especially if such search never allows one to live? The ‘Absurd’ refers exactly to this disharmony between the individual’s search for the meaning of life and meaninglessness of this, his universe. Camus goes on to state that “from the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all. But whether or not one can live with one’s passions …that is the whole question.”5 Camus embraced this Absurd and found his meaning (or what he calls passion) in the wholehearted experiencing of life. How people embrace life and its absurdity is the question his philosophy posits.

Life may or may not have meaning, what am I going to do about it?

There are some associated concepts that existentialism either breeds or abnegates.

‘Authenticity’ is a concept that entails finding one’s ‘self’ and living in accordance with this self. It is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures and influences. Essentially, how true are we to ourselves? Sartre wrote extensively on what he described as ‘bad faith’ or ‘inauthentic’.  He states, “As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become.” 6 Bad faith according to Sartre is the habit that people have of deceiving themselves into thinking that they do not have the freedom to make choices for fear of the potential consequences of making a choice6. His example of the waiter best explains this point. A waiter displays exaggerated behaviour (eagerness to please, quick and precise movements, etc.) in his act to be a waiter. However, in order to play-act at being a waiter, the waiter must at some level be aware that he is not in fact a waiter, but a conscious human being who is deceiving himself that he is a waiter6.

Do I want to be true to myself and my meaning or not?

What I find most intriguing and profound though is the concept of the ‘Other’ and the ‘Look’. Sartre’s example of a man peeping at someone through a keyhole (into a room) can help clarify this: at first, this man is entirely caught up in the situation he is in; he is in a pre-reflexive state where his entire consciousness is directed at what goes on in the room (as viewed by his act of peeping through the keyhole). Suddenly, he hears a creaking floorboard behind him, and he becomes aware of himself as seen by the Other. He is thus filled with shame for he perceives himself as he would perceive someone else doing what he was doing, as a Peeping Tom (so in a sense he judges himself). This perception is what can be termed the ‘Look’. Another characteristic feature of the Look is that no Other really needs to have been there: It is quite possible that the creaking floorboard was nothing but the movement of an old house. It is only one’s perception of the way another might perceive him7.

How do I perceive myself?

See what I mean by circles? Reducing such discourse to the term ‘vicious’ is doing it a favour, for it is ‘contiguously vicious’.

Whenever I’m trying to interpret such philosophical rhetoric in totality I am reminded of Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom. Tedious, arduous, unrelenting! The one thing I’ve learnt from whatever little I know of philosophy is that it allows a lot of room for interpretation due to its subjective nature. One philosopher constructs an increasingly intricate, mostly convoluted argument based on his or her perceptions of the ‘world’ or the ‘self’ or both, only to have it dissected, denounced and renounced by other eminent philosophers. Rarely it is accepted then adopted and even then it is subject to elaborate interpretations, commentaries and critique.

Coming a full circle.

What I’m trying to say is that these concepts, albeit complex and circular, make tremendous sense, for they have stood the test of time and their share of criticism. Take Perspectivism for instance; applying Nietzsche’s view to the validity of philosophical concepts implies I can make what I want of them, since truth is subjective and only a matter of perspective. Further, I can infer that the meaning of my life is subject to that very same concept and therefore life is what I make of it, meaning is what I see fit. Whether I needed to spend countless sleepless nights to come to this trite conclusion is now the only matter worth considering it seems. Ha!

So what can I really take from all this? There may or may not be any meaning to my existence but the beauty of life is that I can define and construct my own meaning. If I am true to this meaning, to myself, I am authentic. But I don’t have to be. I may even think the whole concept absurd and attach no value to meaning, and therefore its search, at all. A lot many don’t. With respect to my ambition of being a model for others, it is unclear to me whether this ‘Other’ is in fact other people or just my own perception of how others might perceive me, which is to say I don’t exactly know whether I want to be a ‘model’ for other people or for myself!? Just the fact that it could be either ‘Other’ is enough to drive me however. When I tire from trying for other people, I am impelled to try for myself. When I’m sick of living up to myself, I am compelled to try for the sake of others (people) – for it is the way I’ve embraced life’s absurdity, it is the meaning I have constructed for myself, it is how I fuel my passion. Self-fulfilling circular logic to the rescue! This cycle of motivation I think I can live with; my circle doesn’t appear so vicious.

Curiosity redefined ambition for me. I just managed a modus vivendi.

Before I forget, if I depend on you, you should depend on me, please forget her; I don’t like vicious circles. And why was ‘I’ the subject today? Well, I’m not a fan of hypocrisy.

Being Jack has held me in good stead, but now back to – a model ‘what’? FML

Sources

  1. http://www.angelfire.com/la/TEACH2/SKierkegaard.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard#Three_stages_of_life
  2. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Perspectivism
  3. http://www.theperspectivesofnietzsche.com/nietzsche/ntruth.html
  4. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Albert_Camus
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus
  6. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201203/jean-paul-sartre-bad-faith \
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism

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It bubbles

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Looming unscathed

Today’s global financial markets are comparable to the coasts of the United States and the Philippines right before the onslaught of Sandy and Bopha. Markets world over face a potentially crippling cyclone of their own which threatens to tear the world economy into pieces with its expansive public debt, some $50 Trillion1, now dancing toe to toe with the gross world product (GWP) sitting somewhere at $70 Trillion2. The immediate cause of this next inevitable overhanging financial crisis is called the ‘bond bubble’ and is said to be of catastrophic proportions, biblical for some. This new bubble dwarfs the real estate bubble not unlike the Earth that dwarfs the Moon. Bursting of such bubble will reverberate in most homes between the two poles, unfortunately not just as dinner table conversation.

Collusion

Governments meanwhile can be routinely seen kicking cans down the road, the fiscal cliff is a case in point3, and are too busy colluding with the media in what can be called the mother of all cover ups. US central bankers (or should I say banksters?) have become ever more aggressive (if that is even possible) wooing foreign governments/institutions into buying more of their debt in the form of government bonds thereby artificially increasing bond prices to record highs4, providing definite shape to the bubble. How US still maintains a credit rating of AA+ is truly beyond me. To recover from previous crises and set the economy back on the path of recovery banksters indulge in a cabalistic process known as ‘quantitative easing’ (QE). Essentially they print money out of thin air to provide liquidity to the economy (for more borrowing and consumption) by buying government and corporate bonds, further inflating bond prices. This has extensive negative fallout on pensions and exacerbates inflation5 (another widely debated topic in economic echelons worldwide). If we go by contemporary economics, US should be facing an escalating level of inflation by now because of the excessive money they’ve pumped into their financial system, however things seem eerily calm at the moment partly because they export their inflation to China and also because most banks are presently hoarding cash pumped in by the Fed21 (for a rainy day eh?).

The Governments that buy into US debt such as China do so because they sell a lot (of goods and services) to the west and re-invest the dollars they’ve earned in ‘safe’ US treasuries6. Of course, they don’t want the US economy to fail or the world economy to crash (as that would affect the value of their very own bond holdings or future earnings). This is why they deliberately keep the Yuan pegged to the US dollar, not letting the price of their exports rise naturally, therefore helping their own economy grow at the expense of their western counterparts, further swelling up the bond bubble, and potentially creating a much bigger mess than necessary. Bonds/debts carry interest liabilities which need to be paid periodically to creditors along with a date of maturity upon which the entire bond value is to be repatriated. Since none of the western economies are producing enough ‘goods’ or ‘services’ to manage this burden (which has primarily been fuelled by US’s consumption of foreign goods and services in the first place), they keep raising their debt-ceiling and allow printing of more money to pay previous debt obligations. Peter Schiff says “it is impossible to pay your bills by going into debt”; what the US is doing to avoid their debt resembles what I do by paying my VISA bill with my MasterCard, except the US uses the same credit card. It doesn’t take genius to see the cyclical counter-productive policies of the Federal Reserve Bank or the US Government and how it’s inescapably driving them and the rest of the world into the deep rut of recession.

What is interesting to note is how the government sells QE to its people along with low interest rates in the name of economic growth and recovery. Present day Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman will have us believe the real problem US tackles today is deflation (a fall in prices) which will result in sustained recession7. So, it follows that cheap credit (or low interest rates) have to be maintained to stimulate demand and economic growth. The fear of duplicating the great depression of the 1930s and 40s seems to have diverted US toward the path of a greater depression – a much bigger cliff. Growth based on QE and low interest rates is a deterrent to savers and pensioners and posits the threat of a partial wipe-out to their life savings8. The fact that real wages have steadily deteriorated over the past decade9 is proof that near zero interest rates and QE haven’t really done the job, haven’t trickled down in the least bit; even the diminutive recovery said to have been made by the US has been hollow. According to Peter Schiff though, recession is exactly what the US economy needs along with a rise in the interest rates. The US is afraid to let the interest rates rise because of its massive debt floating around the globe, which they find impossible to finance even at rock bottom interest rates, how do we expect them to repay such debt at higher interest rates? – we don’t!

Alarm bells

How banksters have conned entire countries into full blown sovereign debt crises and insolvency is also an intriguingly well kept secret; Jeff Nielson explains it quite brilliantly in his ‘Economic Rape of Europe Nearly Complete’10 articles. Each day new cases of banker fraud and complete inaction against them are unearthed; HSBC is deemed ‘too big to jail’ after its head honchos admit to money laundering for drug cartels and some of its clients are proven to have terrorist ties11. Barclays along with many other banks has been found guilty of fixing LIBOR, which is considered one of the most crucial interest rates in finance12. It will no doubt be fined a couple of billion dollars a fraction of what it would’ve wrongfully gained, but what of the real damages inflicted on ordinary people because of what Max Keiser calls ‘financial terrorism’? How will the people be repaid?  The first signs of pension defaults are beginning to show in the US, where San Bernardino, a city in California has failed to make pension payments for its employees to CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System)13 – I am guessing it won’t be the last.

Every financial expert who predicted the debilitating crisis of 2008 (Max Keiser, Peter Schiff, Gerard Celente to name a few) has thrown up his arms, for all such rhetoric falls on deaf governments, banks and people. Banks are too busy convincing the world of their socially responsible practices and ‘we are recovering’ platitudes, whilst still managing to pay themselves hefty bonuses14. Now we also know what happened to TARP15 (the bailout). The question is: are these doomsayers wrong when they question US’s ability to pay back its debt with its diminishing manufacturing and all its consumerist spending? I would think not. The day when the Fed can’t print more to repay its obligations is nearing which is why most countries are running around hoarding and holding all the gold they can possibly get their hands on16, contrary to what they did 40 years ago when gold was dumped onto the markets to crash its price. This is also probably why there are now talks of minting a trillion dollar coin!? dear lord! While Republican Ron Paul questions the very existence of US gold reserves in Fort Knox17 and forces the ‘Grand Old Party’ to mull returning to the gold standard, the Queen of England is witnessed visiting the vault of Bank of England to reassure herself of her bullion18.

Truth from what I gather

Why this sudden gold rush? They obviously know something we don’t and fear the worst form of market and currency crash, which may send the US economy in a hyper-inflationary spiral, devastating the global economy. How it will pan out according to the doomsayers is as follows – a sudden spike in the price of an essential commodity, like oil, will force the governments, banks, corporations, institutions holding US treasury bonds to sell these bonds in order to buy further into the spiked commodity and make a killing in the perceived bull run; the Fed will be forced to buy these treasuries in order to stabilize bond prices and not let them drastically fall. Since the bond-bubble rhetoric is already doing rounds, other holders of such bonds will want to cash out while the going is good and while the Fed is still buying. Those who are able to get out of the fire-sale early will seek to park their cash in ‘safer’ commodities such as precious metals, food, consumables, oil, thereby rapidly increasing the price of such commodities. This will trigger market panic and mass bond sell-out, the Fed will have to print trillions of more dollars it doesn’t have to buy bonds which will debase and destabilise the dollar further making goods expensive still. The fiat dollar will rapidly lose its intrinsic value and send the US economy into hyperinflation. Losses will be incurred across the board; the rest of the holders of US bonds, who aren’t able to exit like China and Japan, will receive their payment in worthless fiat dollars; their earnings will evaporate sending panic throughout global markets causing every single one of them to crash.

In the face of such an incapacitating predicament, where silver and gold may prove to be the only real refuge, the US has advised India to stop buying gold in order to reduce its current account deficit19 (I wonder why?). What’s worse is that India’s listening; RBI is planning to impose heavy import duties on gold in budget 2013-1420. I fail to comprehend why we always have to fetch.

The only country that has defied all odds, gone completely against the natural order of bail-outs and 100 cents on the dollar payments to bond holders, and put people before banksters has been Iceland. And where has that led them after being nearly wiped out in 2008? – To an impressive economic recovery22 only because they didn’t consider their banks ‘too big to fail’.

We should also remember how US is based on a fiat currency system and is also the reserve currency of the world (meaning it is perpetually in demand for trading goods and services in the global market by every globalised nation). Therefore, it can go on printing money into oblivion without having to worry about causing inflation as it will always have foreign buyers for its currency. But even this is only true till the time the world considers US credit-worthy and capable of repaying its debt. From where I stand, that trust is falling. The real worry will begin once the world realises that US doesn’t really intend to pay its debt with anything that’s worth any value. A currency is only as good as the amount of goods/services it can buy. Paper currency backed by air has zero intrinsic value. So, even though I have full faith in the ability of our leaders to delay the inevitable and avert crises, Chidambaram and co. don’t fool me; a crash is coming and you better fasten your seat-belts, we’re in for a rocky ride! It’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when.

Eagerly I wait for the day I can paint a brighter picture of the global financial-economic scenario.

Sources:

  1. http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock
  2. http://www.indexmundi.com/world/economy_profile.html
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2013/01/01/with-lame-fiscal-cliff-deal-congress-cant-even-kick-the-can-right/
  4. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-12/bond-danger-reaches-record-high-as-yields-lure-credit-markets.html
  5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/07/quantitative-easing-banks-pensions
  6. http://www.businessinsider.com/why-japan-and-china-buy-us-debt-2012-9
  7. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/why-is-deflation-bad/, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/06/05/deflation-and-inflation.html
  8. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-2232391/Is-QE-bond-bubble-wreck-pension.htmlhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/apr/18/compensate-pensioners-savings-qe
  9. http://www.bullionbullscanada.com/intl-commentary/25368-the-great-western-revenue-crisis-part-i
  10. http://www.bullionbullscanada.com/gold-commentary/21645-economic-rape-of-europe-nearly-complete-part-i, http://www.bullionbullscanada.com/gold-commentary/21645-economic-rape-of-europe-nearly-complete-part-ii, http://www.bullionbullscanada.com/intl-commentary/21699-economic-rape-of-europe-nearly-complete-part-iii, http://www.bullionbullscanada.com/intl-commentary/21703-economic-rape-of-europe-nearly-complete-part-iv
  11. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/outrageous-hsbc-settlement-proves-the-drug-war-is-a-joke-20121213, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/hsbc-money-laundering-colombian-drug-traffickers_n_2395167.html
  12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18671255
  13. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/20/us-sanbernardino-bankruptcy-plan-idUSBRE8AJ07Y20121120
  14. http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/2012-investment-banking-bonuses/
  15. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/sep/20/tarp-bailout-banks-wall-street
  16. http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-biggest-gold-reserves-2012-9?op=1
  17. http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/24/news/economy/ron_paul_gold_audit/index.htm?iid=HP_LN
  18. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2247578/Queen-gives-Bank-chiefs-ticking-orf-crash-visits-vaults.html
  19. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-11/india-must-tap-household-temple-gold-to-reduce-imports.html
  20. http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/rbi-may-seek-heavy-dutygold-imports/497475/
  21. http://www.commodityonline.com/news/why-us-is-not-facing-hyper-inflation-22696-3-22697.html
  22. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-26/is-remedy-for-next-crisis-buried-in-iceland-view-correct-.html

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