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From Daniel Pinchbeck: The Almighty Amero

October 28, 2007

Author, Daniel PinchbeckFrom the October 2007 Prophet Motive Column:

These days I feel lost in the immense suffering and madness of our world. Something has snapped in the spirit of the time; events have gone beyond human capacity to control, predict or even conceptualize. Those who insist they know what is happening are merely pretending, or dissembling. When novelty arises, when old structures disintegrate before new patterns reveal themselves, there are no experts.

Perhaps the best oracles we can consult are systems analysts like Ervin László. László studies chaos theory and believes global civilization is a few years away from what he calls “the chaos point.” According to László, we are at a “crucial decision-window” of instability. “When we reach the point of chaos,” László tells us, “the stable ‘point’ and ‘periodic’ attractors of our systems will be joined by ‘chaotic’ or ‘strange’ attractors.” These “strange attractors” will propel us, like booster rockets, to evolutionary development or entropic debauch. In other words, we should prepare ourselves for the unknown and inexplicable.

The current economic crisis provides an intriguing case in point. For those of us with an interest in spirituality and a background in the arts, the conceptual concoctions of modern finance — derivatives, futures, quants, margin calls and whatnot — can seem as occult as sorcerers’ spells. All of these entities are inextricably intertwined in the subprime mortgage market fiasco, which continues to unfold.

Apparently, after stocks dropped in the wake of 9/11, the government stimulated the sluggish U.S. economy by pumping up the housing market. In earlier and more reticent eras, banks and mortgage brokers required collateral before making loans. After 2001, these restrictions were relaxed, bringing the “American Dream” of home ownership — or mortgage debt refinancing — to a wider populace. Loans that began at low interest (only to balloon to high interest later), got handed out to all and sundry. Based on Pollyanna-ish projections that these high-interest loans disconnected from any tangible assets would be paid back, the sub-prime mortgages were packaged into “securities” and traded up the financial markets. Several million holders of sub-prime mortgages are now defaulting on their payments, with more to follow.

Stepping back for a moment, we might see larger historical dynamics at work. Over the last decades, much of U.S. industry was relocated and outsourced to the developing world, leaving a large populace that had little to produce but was still committed to a credit-based, cushy and consumptive lifestyle. Our financial sector — following the old adage, “if you got lemons, make lemonade” — cunningly repackaged the increasing burden of U.S. personal debt, turning it into a shiny product for the financial markets. Over the last years, these questionable loans, bundled into securities, became one of our major exports to the world. With nothing tangible left to sell, the U.S. turned individual debt into its chief export.

It seems inconceivable that the financial institutions and speculators didn’t anticipate large-scale defaults. Perhaps they were counting on the Federal Reserve to bail them out. During the last months, in fact, the Fed, along with its European counterpart, has poured hundreds of billions of newly invented dollars into the financial markets, temporarily stabilizing the system and rewarding the speculators while doing nothing for the masses of people facing eviction from their homes and creating the prospect of hyperinflation.

The Fed, a private institution, “injects liquidity,” quips the New York Times, without needle or syringe. As a Lehman Brothers economist notes, “All they do is write down a number and credit that amount of cash to the bank. It’s a bookkeeping entry.” The Fed’s miraculous capacity to create instant cash brings up deeper questions about the nature of money today — what is it? De-linked from the gold standard, money is based on little more than our collective belief in it.

In Third World countries, currency crises — often brought about by predatory speculation — frequently lead to frozen bank accounts and long breadlines, followed by a change of currency that creates immense profit for the banks and the government. Of course, many believe that such a thing could never happen here. Recently, there have been rumors of a plan to form an American version of the European Federation, uniting Mexico, the U.S. and Canada under a new currency, the “Amero,” and a new constitution, devised by the bankers.

In his essay in the new anthology, The Mystery of 2012 (Sounds True Press), Peter Russell notes that transformations of human culture are built upon each other, with each new revolution requiring exponentially less time to manifest. The Agricultural Age developed over thousands of years, the Industrial Age required a few hundred years, and the Information Age — built upon the manufacturing technologies developed by industrialization — only took twenty years. Russell suggests that the next revolution would be from the Information Age to what he calls “the Wisdom Age.” In just a few years, we could shift from a system based on data analysis rewarding corporate and individual greed to one that utilized human knowledge and foresight to institute a compassionate and equitable planetary culture. The overt irrationality revealed by the current financial crisis might act as a necessary awakening, leading to a large-scale shift in values.

Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (Broadway Books, 2002) and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006). His features have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Wired and many other publications.

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