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The fake horsemen of the apocalypse

Those who argue that the entire world is being manipulated by a secret satanist elite cabal (I believe the truth is far worse) may see some significance in the order of events which have dramatically accelerated the collapse of western civilisation.  Covid-19 (pestilence) followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine (war) and the looming threat of food shortages (famine) have appeared in exactly the order that the horsemen of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation arrive to inflict pain and suffering upon us… the fourth horsemen being death itself.

This is likely coincidental.  Although we shouldn’t rule out conspiracy entirely – people regularly conspire, and wealthy elites, whose number has shrunk even as their wealth has exploded, are better able to successfully conspire than we ordinary folk.  Nor should we buy into the hackneyed myth that conspiracies involving large numbers of people could not be kept secret – tell that to the people involved in cryptology at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, whose activities only began to come to light in the mid-1980s (causing much of the history of the war to have to be revised).  More likely than a grand conspiracy though, is that we are witnessing various power and wealth-grabs by different interest groups within the western technocracy – Big pharma, for example, getting its nose in the pandemic trough, even as states use the emergency to extend their control over the people, and now the arms industry making a killing (in both senses of the word) out of the conflict in Ukraine.

Apocalyptic, however, our latest versions of pestilence, war and famine are certainly not.  For sure, a lot of people died from the Covid.  And at an individual and family level, every death is a tragedy.  But at a national, international and civilisational level, the truth is that many of those who succumbed to the Covid would have died within the next twelve months anyway.  Deaths as a percentage of the population make Covid one of the least deadly pandemics we have ever experienced.  Six to seven million (those who died “of” rather than “with” Covid) out of a population of nearly eight billion pales compared to the Spanish flu’s 40-50 million out of a population of less than two billion.  The Spanish flu, in turn, was a mere echo of the fourteenth century Black Death which wiped out some two-thirds of the European population – and likely as many in Africa and Asia too, although the records are less definitive.

War is always a three-sided affair, with two elites vying with each other – usually over resources – and the people caught in the middle and bearing the cost.  However, assuming that even the western elite is not so deranged as to trigger a nuclear war, then the casualty figures so far make the current incursion into Ukraine relatively mild.  According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights there had been a verified total of 3,838 civilian deaths as of May 19, 2022.  Military death figures are harder to obtain because of the propagandists’ claims on both sides, but somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 soldiers appear to have died so far.  Tragic as these deaths are, however, they come nowhere close to the 377,000 who have died in Yemen – which, remarkably, nobody stood against or change their profile pictures for on social media.  Nor does it compare to the USA’s “shock and awe” attack on Iraq in 2003, which resulted in at least 500,000 deaths.  Even these death tolls are a tiny fraction of those incurred when the world’s leaders decide to embark on total war.  Between 1861 and 1865, the warring factions in the USA managed to pile up some 800,000 corpses in what turned out to be the world’s prototype for industrialised war.  But when the Europeans took this form of warfare to new extremes between 1914 and 1918, they generated a body count of more than 13,500,000.  Even this slaughter though, was but a pale reflection of the carnage made possible in the oil age.  By the time it ended – with the first, and hopefully last, nuclear attacks ever made – the Second World War had cut short some 85,000,000 lives.  Of Russian males born in 1923, just five percent were still alive in 1945.  And it has been calculated that if all of the Eastern Front dead between 1941 and 1945 were to each have a headstone placed along the road between Berlin and Moscow, each headstone would be less than half an inch wide.  In short, what we are witnessing is a relatively small incursion to back one of the parties within a civil war.  It is not the existential threat to the west that the establishment media initially presented it as.

What of the projected famine?  Once again, the shortages – resulting from disrupted supply chains, gas shortages and the fertiliser shortage which stemmed from them, and most likely the failure to plant much of this year’s crop in the contested regions of Ukraine – are likely to result in some level of deaths as well as considerable hardship across the world.  But for those of us fortunate enough to live in western states where there is food waste and obesity on a gargantuan scale, using terms like “apocalypse” is surely hyperbole.  As with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, by far the bigger danger comes from the over-reaction and draconian response of the western technocratic elites rather than the potential threat itself.

It is not so much – as some conspiracy theorists have suggested – that the horsemen themselves are fake – the virus, the invasion and the coming food shortage are real – but rather that the economy-wrecking responses to them are out of all proportion to the level of threat posed.  The single biggest threat from the Covid, for example, came from woefully and unforgivably ill-prepared hospital and care home settings.  The relatively small number of highly vulnerable people might just as easily have been shielded while the majority – who mostly risked little more than the equivalent of a bad dose of flu at worst – went about their business without having to bring the economies of the world to a complete standstill.  At the time, it was possible for those on the fake left to claim that lockdowns were the only alternative to mass slaughter and, crucially, that they would be cost-free.  Only a handful of us cautioned about the danger of disrupting global just-in-time supply chains and shutting down oil and gas production.  But – as is always the way with the economy – it takes time for unwise policy to bear its sour fruit.  Only now, as supply chains continue to unravel and the stagflationary crash gathers pace, do we reap the consequences of actions taken years ago.  And, by the way, what we are witnessing today is not – as the establishment media and the politicians would have you believe – the consequence of Russia invading Ukraine… those hardships are yet to come and will likely make today’s stagflationary economy seem like a golden age in retrospect.

The western states’ sanctions salad against Russia has not only failed in its objective of crushing the Russian economy – the Rouble is stronger today than it was before the invasion in February – but is generating some serious blowback.  While Russia has continued to trade with the west, for example, a growing list of commodities which the western economies depend upon and for which there is no substitute, are likely to come within the terms of the current “gas for roubles” system once the existing contracts are due for renewal.  And since the sanctions forbid western importers from paying in roubles, we – or at least our elites – are sanctioning ourselves… and likely bringing an early demise to the global dollar currency system which has been in place in one form or another since the end of the Second World War.

One can only guess as to how the western technocracies will over-react to food shortages.  But if the recent past is anything of a predictor of the near future, it won’t be pretty.  The biggest fear is that neoliberal states which long ago lost any ability to administer anything competently will try their hands at some form of digital food rationing (with perhaps a smattering of authoritarian public health-based forced dieting)… “We’re sorry Mrs Jones, you consumed your monthly chocolate biscuit allocation last Monday.”  Consider though that even the 1930s British state – which did far more administration and far less legislative virtue signalling in those days – had been planning a rationing system throughout the interwar years following lessons learned during the First World War.  Moreover, there were a third fewer people on these islands in those days, and the diet we ate was mostly from seasonal raw ingredients.  And even then, a third of the food we consumed even in the dark days of 1941, had to be imported from the Americas.

Attempting to exercise some kind of digital control over the global food supply chains is unlikely to end well.  Nor, if it is attempted, will a digital rationing system fare well in an economy whose supplies of energy are about to become far more intermittent as we eschew Kazak coal and Russian gas.  Those – mostly elderly – folk who have managed to get to this point without using a smartphone understand all too well how difficult modern life can be without one.  But even the most technophile among us will discover the limits of even the most leading-edge digital technologies when there is no electricity to power or recharge them.

Even if governments manage not to recreate the kind of fiasco at the beginning of the pandemic, when they were out of PPE and when they forced the most vulnerable people into care homes which lacked both the equipment and knowledge to keep them alive, our lifestyles will have to change considerably if we are obliged to spend more on raw ingredients and far less on processed food.  That way of life requires planning, cooking skills, and time to dedicate to preparation and cooking.

The true horsemen of the current “apocalypse” then, are the western elites and technocrats, safe in their gated communities, whose inability to act appropriately and whose self-centred propensity to act against the public interest, threatens real hardship for large numbers of people.  And with this in mind, perhaps, it is worth considering that once the various ideological narratives have been wiped away, the one common factor that can be found in every revolution ever, was the presence of large numbers of rumbling bellies in the days and months before.

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