The globalization of poverty

Political and economic leaders in the West must acknowledge the full extent of the current crisis, and seek to solve it long term.

The globalization of wealth is in its demise and has made way for a new globalization of poverty.
In every corner of the affluent world the scope of the crisis of the middle classes is becoming apparent, and as the symptoms that this is not a local phenomenon multiply, the dangers become clearer.
After an unprecedented period of economic growth (punctuated by short breaks) the bourgeoisie faces an existential crisis: unemployment among young people, a continually expanding stratum of impoverished pensioners and a loss of hope whether the situation will improve. The last situation is the worst of all.
The middle class, which is the foundation of democracy, is slowly edging toward the abyss of desperation, and when the bourgeoisie reaches such a precipice it tends to opt for alternatives offered by murderous ideologies: nationalism and war.
Young people out of work direct their hormonal energy to destructive avenues, and the elderly support regimes that promise a minimally honorable existence within any framework that guarantees them protection.This is how Nazism and Fascism were born out of the Great Crisis of the last century: without the bourgeoisie’s wind in their sails it is doubtful whether these ideologies would succeed in cementing their rule.
THERE ARE several reasons for this crisis, of which, it now seems, we see only the iceberg’s tip. These include the unrestrained rise in the measure of the wealth of a few, both tycoons and oligarchs, accompanied by the impoverishment of many. This rise was fortified by a media that championed the rich as heroes of culture or society.
This, in turn, was translated into real political power.The link between financial and political capital is characteristic of all Western societies; it is a new phase of liberal democracy.
The gluttony of the rich gave birth to the hunger of the middle classes, and the public advertising of this gluttony turned that hunger into intolerable frustration.
The ceaseless downgrading of governmental regulation gave birth to a form of anarchy, since 21st century capitalism is very far from what Adam Smith envisioned when he coined the principle of the invisible hand.
One does not need to be a socialist in order to realize that a certain degree of interference in the market is essential. A capitalist market that was once the size of a graceful frigate is now an aircraft carrier, a global behemoth that cannot run itself without the intervention of a government, or even a cooperation of several governments.
The collapse of one economy will lead to the collapse of others, and no bank can go bankrupt without damaging its immediate environment as well as sending dangerous ripples farther away.Globalization, born as an apotheosis of capitalism, forces upon us a new type of socialism. This is just another of history’s many ironies.
A third reason, equally important, is to be found in the destructive materialism of Western society: Since the great crisis of faith in the 18th century and the attempt to adopt progress as a new (albeit short-lived) ideal, the West did not find a system of values that would somehow counterbalance the yearning for material wealth.
Like society at the twilight of the Roman Empire, Western society is today in a dangerous limbo, when the old religion and its values are dead, but there is still no satisfactory substitute. This is why the challenge of fundamentalist Islam is so great: Islamism champions a system of spiritual values (in its view), which the West does not know how to counter.
The economic strife of the middle class becomes more poignant in this vacuum. Out of this void some unwanted solution may suddenly seem more palatable.
Political and economic leaders in the West must acknowledge the full extent of the current crisis, and seek to solve it not only in the short term but realize its possible ramifications in the long term as well.
The writer is a poet and historian.
His seventeenth book, Fleece of Dew, was published this year.