A Pandemic of Economic Violence
By Tomgram: Michael Klare
February 24, 2009 Tomgram" -- - Islands, it's well known, are more vulnerable to species extinctions than continents. Could the same be true with economic extinctions? After all, as Rebecca Solnit wrote at this site, the small North Atlantic island of Iceland (pop. 320,000) went bust first in this ongoing, roiling economic crisis. Its economy had been riding high on speculative funny money for years when, in little more than a week in October, all three of its major banks cratered and the country's currency essentially ceased to have value. Not long after, Icelanders hit the streets of their capital, Reykjavik, launching protests, which have yet to end. Soon after, the government fell.
Just this Saturday, Ireland, another suddenly shaky island, whose economy had been riding high on funny money, saw mass protest in the streets of its capital. As the British Times described the scene: "For two hours yesterday Dublin's O'Connell Street was a swollen river of anger as 100,000 people marched in protest at the government's handling of the financial crisis." At least one protestor carried a sign warning of "a lesson learnt from Iceland." And in this climate of unrest that threatens to flood islands with "swollen rivers of anger," the British police are now bracing for the worst -- a possible "'summer of rage' with mass protests over the economic crisis that could mar Prime Minister Gordon Brown's G20 summit in London in April." We're talking here about a formerly prosperous isle that is now inspiring headlines like "Is The U.K. Another Iceland?" and whose capital has been dubbed by some "Reykjavik on the Thames."
But mainlands, as Michael Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, tells us in his latest TomDispatch post, haven't exactly been immune from rage either. As the planet seems to melt down, day by day, week by week, no place may be. Everywhere, it seems, authorities are bracing themselves for the worst. Just yesterday, for instance, the New York Times reported that, in China, which has lost 20 million jobs in the last few months, "more than 3,000 public security directors from across the country are gathering in the capital to learn how to neutralize rallies and strikes before they blossom into so-called mass incidents."
Good luck, as they say. Let Klare -- who, back in the 1990s, may have been the first person to seriously consider the kinds of violence, conflict, and even "resource wars" that might arise out of scarcity and tough times -- survey the global landscape and offer you a sense of what may lie ahead. Tom
Copyright 2009 Michael T. Klare