No. 1 Punchbowl

Punchbowl, if by chance you may not know it, is a suburb ten miles south west of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

It is also, according to Einstein’s thesis on ‘the observer’, and given the fact that the rest of the universe is moving away equally in all directions, the centre of the universe.

This makes it a splendid spot from which to comment on the various matters and goings-on that concern mankind.

We need a baseline. We should begin by summarising where we are now.
A Bit of History
The great empires of the last few hundred years, the Spanish and Portuguese and later the French and British, have passed into distant memory.

Their scars are fewer than before and their taste while still occasionally thickening the tongue, has become less bitter.

The American Empire has, with a massive explosion of creativity, innovation, energy and self-righteousness, shattered the old world and raped the new.

Whatever one’s point of view, such an empire could not burn so fast and so very hot, without at last succumbing to the collapsing vortex of its own expenditure and consumption.

America has gone broke, its power is waning and the old-new powers of the Pacific and Indian Oceans are edging out of the wings.

A Bit of Geopolitics
China and India are growing in confidence and vision.

This year, the Year of the Dragon, China for the first time, and in an unambiguous, if subtle, statement of intent, published a series of postage stamps bearing the Imperial Chinese Dragon, rampant, facing outward at the rest of the world, claws raised to strike, fangs snarling – at us.

The ferocious image caused a stir in China, but passed all but un-noticed in the West; too subtle perhaps. (See http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-dragon-stamp-breathes-criticism-fear-100045118.html)

The stamp’s designer, Chen Shaohua, is quoted as saying the image is symbolic of China’s mounting confidence.

Yahoo quotes his blog saying “As a large country which has major influence in the world, China is ushering in the restoration of national confidence.”

“From sternness and divinity, to a representation of China’s self-confidence, a dragon which is tough, powerful, stern and confident is an appropriate choice”.

Powerful, stern, confident and tough – please take note.

India, a step or two behind China and a little smaller geographically and in terms of population, is also beginning to flex its geopolitical muscles.

A recent spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia sparked a strong and confident response from the Indian government.

India is now less concerned about Europe, American or even tiny Australia, and instead is fixing its eye on its local rival, China.

China provides India with a camouflaged umbrella under which it can hide, for the time being.

While all eyes are on an increasingly strident China, India is putting its house in order and growing politically, militarily and economically.

This is the broad, highly simplified context in which various hanger-on states (Australia and Israel come to mind) are hurriedly repositioning themselves in an attempt to chart a safe course between Atlantic and Indo-Pacific rivals.

For Australia it means attempting to utilise its new found observer status on the UN Security Council without annoying America or China too much. One might wonder why they wanted the Security Council observer seat in the first place.

For Israel, in the aftermath of its failed attempt to re-occupy Gaza after the Palestinian state was given UN Observer status, it means gauging how long they can depend upon America to protect them in the face of growing Arab and particularly Hamas political and military confidence.

Some pundits have suggested that building in the zone known as E1 would effectively preclude a two-nation settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as it closes the potential Arab corridor to Jerusalem.

If that is so, and Israel does build in E1, the dice may have been cast and ultimately only Palestine or Israel will survive.

A Bit of Economics
Economically the world has suffered a terrible catastrophe in the form of the Global Financial Crisis and is only now beginning to come to terms with the sovereign debt crisis that Keynesian economic stimulus engendered.

America, as appears to have become its habit, is prancing theatrically towards its very own fiscal cliff.

Some economists and banking types have begun to suggest that the sovereign debt crisis might be settling down and Greece, followed by the rest of the Mediterranean countries, would not have to default on its debt and leave the Euro zone, precipitating the world once more into economic and financial chaos.

A Bit of Science
The climate too is misbehaving. More and more evidence is accumulating that climate change is real and that the effects will be significant and unpredictable.

There appears to be no evidence at all that change, when it comes, will happen in a polite, linear manner, i.e. that an ‘x’ per cent increase in global temperature will lead to a ‘y’ per cent increase in sea levels, or anything else.

There is plenty of incontrovertible evidence that temperatures and sea level have in the past been both very much higher and very much lower.

On the lower side, sits the fact that several cities lie approximately 200 feet under water off the coast of India.

This became known when fishermen complained of catching their nets in roof tiles and other submerged structures.

If one accepts the assumption that these cities were not built underwater in the first place, then either the land level has gone down or sea level has gone up two hundred feet since they were built. I am assuming the latter.

At the same time, it is known that the 200 feet tall cliffs of the Great Australian Bite were once under water.

So taken together it seems that sea level has a range of at least 400 feet or approximately 120 metres.

A Little Bit of Medicine
In terms of global health it appears that smallpox, polio and malaria either have been or will probably soon be wiped out and at the same time we have bred several penicillin resistant diseases (what the newspapers call ‘super bugs’) most notable of which is probably tuberculosis, that we may no longer be able to cure.

So What?
So where does that leave us? It is my belief that we are on the cusp of major change. Everyone I speak to about it has this feeling that something major is about to change, and to change fundamentally.

This blog, which I hope to update at least monthly, will examine some of the major (and some of the minor) political, economic, social and techno-scientific issues and developments of our times.

This is all my opinion, and you are welcome to comment.

This is post No.1, December 2012.

See you in January 2001, Poppy.

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