Those lucky enough to die of old age often fall into a very peaceful state – not dissimilar to the deep relaxation sought after by meditation practitioners – from which they simply slip away. Since 1958, though, one of the ways in which modern civilisation has sought to cheat death has been to install pacemakers into the chests of people who develop irregular heartbeats. That was great while these people were in middle age, and might otherwise have had a premature death. But as the baby boomers enter their twilight years, more and more people will find themselves experiencing a phenomenon described by Nina Adamowicz some years ago:
“Adamowicz, then 71, described how she would lose consciousness, often at night, and would hear the click of her pacemaker snapping into action when she came to. She said she was ‘lucky’, and ‘forever grateful’ for her life, but that she was also prepared to die.
“’I feel that [there is] life, and death is other side of the same coin,’ she said. ‘I’d like to know what is there. It’s not about I want to die, I’m dying’.
“So she asked for the pacemaker to be turned off.”
She became the first British pacemaker recipient to successfully campaign to have the device switched off. But in a civilisation that all too often denies the inevitability of death, and which is defaulted to extend life irrespective of individual wishes, Adamowicz had to battle to allow nature to take its course:
“Adamowicz went into her local hospice with her family and lay chatting while her doctor turned the pacemaker off, a procedure that took 20 minutes. She soon said she felt different, family members say. She described her body as feeling heavy and she felt a little nauseous, but said she felt at peace. She slept through the night, returned home in the morning and died later that night.”
The current iteration of the global economy – created by the collective unconscious decisions of baby boomers like Adamowicz – faces a similar moral decision. The economy’s pacemaker is central bank currency printing. And every time the economy slumps into that deep state from which death would ordinarily follow, the automatic central bank response is to use another massive influx of currency stimulation to kick the system back into life.
The first cardiac arrest came in 1973 with the first oil shock; which spelled the moment that the economy had to cease growing exponentially because the energy source that fuelled that growth had itself ceased growing exponentially. Sure, there was (and still is) more oil beneath the ground and sea bed than we have extracted and burned to date. But as the cost and complexity of oil extraction has grown, so the growth in the amount of energy available to power the economy has slowed.
Financialisation – the massive deregulation begun by Thatcher and Reagan and extended by Clinton and Blair – acted as the pacemaker; inflating a debt-based boom based on the fiction that there would be sufficient wealth in the future to pay off the debt with interest. Planet Earth, though, does not work that way. To have what humans call wealth, you have to have resources and you have to have the means to extract, transport and utilise these resources in order to create the goods and services that are bought and sold in the global marketplace. But before you can do any of that, you have to have energy. And while the new currency being borrowed into existence in the financialised economy was a claim on energy, it was not energy itself.
When conventional oil growth ceased entirely in 2005, it set in (slow) motion the chain of events which resulted in the 2008 financial crash…
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A brown new deal | Damn the Matrix