Arab Spring + European Summer = World Winter of Discontent
The biggest news this past week was not the rape accusation scandal embroiling International Monetary Fund chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It was not President Barack Obama’s much ballyhooed Middle East speech, nor was it the historic floods devastating the Mississippi flood plain.
But these were the stories that preoccupied the US press. Whereas all were certainly newsworthy – and a cut above the usual obsession with the purely titillating and violent – the most trend-significant story of all got scant, or no coverage from the mainstream media.
While the downfall of Strauss-Kahn shattered his hopes to run for the French Presidency, the repercussions would be mainly confined to France. His resignation from the IMF, however, would have limited consequences. A new chief will quickly be found to replace him, and regardless of the Strauss-Kahn rape verdict, the IMF will continue raping countries that are forced into accepting their “aid.”
As for Obama’s speech, it was essentially meaningless; many empty words and more vague, unfulfillable promises that will lead to no action of consequence.
Undoubtedly, the devastation wrought by the violent weather patterns will be felt severely by all those directly affected. The physical and emotional toll on the tens of thousands whose homes, businesses and livelihoods were destroyed is incalculable. Nevertheless, the consequences will impact mostly those directly affected while the spillover implications will only temporarily affect the national, and to a lesser extent, the global economy.
Trend Forecast: Should current weather patterns become more a norm than an anomaly, the socioeconomic consequences will prove long-term, far-reaching and disastrous. Farming, shipping, seafood, food supplies and petroleum refining will be among the foreseeable casualties, accompanied by massive population displacement. But the ensuing chain reaction (inflation, shortages, unemployment, etc.) will claim many other victims, which, at this time, are unquantifiable.
The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Press Room
Strauss-Kahn, Obama’s speech, tornadoes and floods notwithstanding, the biggest news with the greatest implications was the story with the least coverage. If you watched the Sunday night network news (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.) you wouldn’t have seen it. If you read the front page of The New York Times, America’s self-described “Paper of Record,” it wasn’t there either.
The most prominently placed story with the biggest photo, that was obviously intended to catch the reader’s eye of the flagship Sunday edition, also bore testimony to what the Times considered the news most “fit to print”:
The Gossip Machine, Churning Out Cash Appetite for Dirt
Fuels a Growing, Round-the-Clock Industry
To satisfy the Times’s own insatiable “Appetite for Dirt” it devoted some 4000 words to an imbecilic, inconsequential, lowest common denominator, supermarket tabloid, junk news story on the growth industry of celebrity gossip. Spread across three pages and emphasized by eleven meaningless and superfluous color photos, the Times did what all the mainstream media characteristically do: hawked sleaze and justified it with the reasoning, “This is what the people want.”
Perhaps it was this lust for lust that accounted for the inability of the “Paper of Record” to recognize a megatrend-in-the-making that was already reshaping the global geopolitical landscape. To their credit, however, unlike the networks that ignored the story, the Times at least covered it. According it less than 500 words and relegating it to the Page 12 boondocks, its innocuous headline read: “Despite Ban, Protests Continue Before Spanish Vote.”
Anti-austerity/anti-big bank bailout protests had been sporadically erupting throughout Europe for over a year. But these Spanish demonstrations signaled a major turning point. It was the unrest and discontent in Europe that led us to forecast our “Off With Their Heads” trend that would lead to revolts and topple governments (Trends Journal, Autumn 2010).
But European unrest was overshadowed by the far more violent and widespread Middle East and North Africa uprisings of late 2010 and early 2011. Unlike the Europeans who still believed in the power of their vote, Arabs, with only autocrats, dictators and monarchs in control, had no ballot boxes to divert them. They knew that unless the system changed, nothing would change.
As I had forecast in the Trends Journal and repeated in media worldwide, it would only be a matter of time before Europeans would wake up to the same realization: the system had to change. What distinguished this latest round of Spanish protests from earlier ones in Europe was that very realization; no matter how many votes were dropped into the ballot box, the result would be essentially the same. All the shouting, demands, marches and strikes would accomplish nothing without a responsive government to address them – and this could not be achieved through the current system in which, despite the rhetoric, there was little difference between the major parties.
Trend Forecast: The massive bailouts of Greece and Ireland are already proven failures, and the Portuguese bailout will follow the same path: more debt, higher unemployment, draconian austerity measures imposed upon the people, and a wholesale sell-off of valuable public resources.
Spain, the UK and Italy are next in line to suffer the long-term consequences of the economic “Panic of ‘08” … that has been only temporarily assuaged by the trillions pumped in by the central banks to keep the financial system afloat.
Economic conditions will continue to deteriorate for most European nations. The worse they get, the louder and more heated the protests will become. Entrenched political parties, unwilling to make adequate concessions or yield power, will intensify their crackdown efforts.
The youth-inspired Spanish demonstrations, sit-ins and camp-outs will serve as a template for the equally disenfranchised youth of other countries. In the absence of an economic miracle, divine intervention … or a fulfilled Doomsday Prophesy (in which case all forecasts are off), expect protests to mount throughout the summer of 2011 and continue into 2012 and beyond.
One wild card that might derail the demonstrations, quiet the discontent and unite the people, would be one or several terror strikes in European cities. Considering NATO’s military actions against Libya, revenge attacks are a distinct possibility.
[Editor’s Note: The above Trend Alert is available as part of a subscription to The Trends Journal, which is published by Gerald Celente. The Trends Journal distills the ongoing research of The Trends Research Institute into a concise, readily accessible form. Click here to learn more about and subscribe to The Trends Journal.]