This may seem like an odd line of reasoning to pursue given what everyone else seems to be saying. Some are thinking that 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with a few incremental changes (always a safe bet, but makes for boring reading) while others are warning of the potential for a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia (always a possibility, on par with an asteroid strike or a supernova in our galactic vicinity). But this is all more of the same. The interesting question to ask is, How has the ground shifted in 2014, if indeed it has?
To my mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. It is now very commonly and completely understood that:
1. The United States is an evil empire, attempting not so much to rule the world as to disrupt it to its short-term advantage.
2. The United States is failing, as an empire and as a country, and no amount of fraud, mayhem, torture and murder is going to save it.
3. The United States is still quite powerful and can cause massive damage on its way down. This damage must be contained, while plans are drawn up for an international arrangement that will arise upon its demise.
Looking back on 2013 and before, such sentiments were already being expressed, but on the fringes and quietly. The difference is that in 2014 they became commonplace knowledge, and their expressions thundered from presidential podiums. What's more, there just isn't that much of a counterargument being voiced. I don't hear a single voice out there arguing that the US is a benevolent force that is on the up-and-up, would never hurt a fly and is the permanent center of the universe. Yes, some people can still think that, but it's hard to see value in such “thought.”
There are still a few holdouts: the UK, Canada and Australia especially. But even there the true picture is being distorted because of their Murdockified national media. Judging from what I hear from the people there, they are almost uniformly nauseated by the subservient pro-US antics of their national leaders. As for the EU, the image of political uniformity presented by Brussels is largely a fiction. In the core countries of Western Europe, business leaders are almost uniformly in favor of close cooperation with Russia and against sanctions. Along the fringe, entire countries appear to be on the verge of switching sides. Hungary—never a friend of Russia—now seems more pro-Russian than ever. Bulgaria, which has had a love/hate attitude toward Russia for centuries now, seems to be edging back closer to love. Even the Poles are scratching their heads and wondering if close cooperation with the US is in their national interest.
Another major shift I have observed is that a significant percentage of the thinking people in the US no longer trusts their national media. There is a certain pattern to the kinds of messages that can go viral and spread wildly via tweets and social media. Fringe messages must, by definition, stay on the fringe. And yet last year something snapped: a few times I ran a story in an attempt to plug a gaping hole in the US mass media's coverage of events in the Ukraine, and the response was overwhelming, with hundreds of thousands of new readers showing up. What's more, a lot of them have kept coming back for more. I take this to mean that what I have to say, while by no means mainstream, is no longer on the fringe, and that bloggers have an increasingly important role in helping plug the giant holes in national media coverage.
Of course, the national media still has an important role to play. For instance, I have no idea how big Kim Kardashian's derrière is—but I hear it's big in the media. Can it sing? And so if you are looking for authoritative information on that important subject, then American national media is your friend. But for most non-ass-related things, it seems to me that the Americans who run the nation's political and media circuses broke a fundamental rule, which they apparently forgot, because it was first expressed by an American by the name of Abe Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” In case somebody out there in the media realm is tired of playing it safe and printing stuff that's only fit for wiping your Kardashian with, here are a some points for you to try to refute:
1. Economic inequality has to increase continuously, until the whole thing crashes, because that is the only way to continue propping the financial bubble while the real, physical, productive economy is actually shrinking. The rich can't possibly spend all of their money in the real economy. Instead, the poor things have to content themselves with investing in various luxury items, which they can't use all the same time, and so most of them sit and slowly decay. Or they put their money into paper wealth of various kinds—and that, of course, is very good for the financial bubble. In any event, if you have a financial bubble you need to prop up no matter what, in the face of serious physical limitations on land, energy, fresh water, high-grade ores and other essential industrial feedstocks, then your best bet is to do the reverse-Robin-Hood thing and go rob the poor and give to the rich.
2. Worldwide chaos must be driven up because that's the only way the US military can justify its existence. It is a very expensive military, but not a particularly effective one. (Just the new F-35 fighter cost over a trillion to develop—and yet it is a complete dud of a project and may never even go into production.) But in spite of this lavish spending the US military is incapable of scoring a decisive victory in just about any conflict, against any adversary, no matter how weak and impoverished, and their end result is always some sort of ongoing low-grade conflict that can flare up again at any time. Nevertheless, it can still threaten the weak and the poor, and use these threats to its financial advantage. But the only way to make these threats effective is to destroy some country on a semi-regular basis: “Nice country you got there! We'd hate to see it go the way of Libya.” A military confrontation with any of the real military powers—Russia, China, India, even Iran—is, of course, entirely out of the question, because a single humiliating military defeat for the US (which is inevitable given its track record against smaller, weaker adversaries) would be sufficient to undermine the entire program of US militarism.
3. As another American (Dwight Eisenhower) once put it: “If you can't solve a problem, enlarge it.” But it stands to reason that you do have to solve a problem once in a while; you can't just go on enlarging every problem you see ad infinitum. Now, what problems has the US solved lately? Anything good happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or Ukraine? No, worse than ever. How about financial reform in the wake of the narrowly averted collapse in 2008? No, and there is another big one coming up in the form of the fracas in the fracking patch due to low oil prices. Anything good to report on health care reform? No, it's more ridiculously bloated and expensive than ever. Student debt repayable now? No, not by a long shot. How about an effort to reduce carbon emissions, to postpone (no longer to avoid!) the eastern seaboard, where half of everything is, going underwater? No, not a glimmer of hope. Problems with runaway public debt or unfunded government liabilities solved? No, there have been no efforts in that direction at all. Is the country still on course for national bankruptcy and collapse? All systems check, go with throttle up!
Now, your mileage may vary, but I have discovered that a surprising number of people around the world (though not especially in the US) is now very much clued into these things. And that is something that makes me feel optimistic about 2015.