Dr. Morgan's thesis is that you only get to use the energy that is left after you spend energy to get your energy. It is that "Surplus Energy" which drives the trucks, trains, factories and farms of industrial economy. As more energy is required to obtain a gallon of diesel fuel, there is less for the rest of the economy. People get paid less than what their bills are, even when they quit going out for food and entertainment.
The communications sector faces an even worse death spiral than those opening up elsewhere in the economy. This is because a large part of communications – along with the technologies that might require 5G – are entirely discretionary. I might need access to a phone for emergencies. And I am currently pissed with the government and the banks for insisting I have a phone to verify online transactions. But most of the other things we do with phones, like sharing photos or watching YouTube videos, are entirely discretionary. Nor do I particularly need a refrigerator that is capable of doing shopping on my behalf, or a washing machine that I can operate from the other side of the planet. And don’t get me started on the complete waste of time and energy that is the proposed “metaverse.”
Crucially, as is the case in all death spirals, the communications networks depend upon mass use in order to remain profitable. That is, it is only because enough of us use our phones to watch videos, record our exercise routines, and do our online banking, that the communications industry can keep prices affordable to a critical mass of consumers. But rising energy, food and resource costs is forcing a majority of the population of Europe to abandon discretionary spending of all kinds in favour of maintaining essentials. And so, while communications “can” – in a legal sense – pass on their rising costs, economically they cannot because they will drive consumption down and thus lose the critical mass required to remain profitable.
The advocates of the third disruption will no doubt claim that this is merely about the correct allocation of money. Whether through a socialist redistribution of wealth or a fascist programable basic income, so long as we put enough money in the hands of ordinary people, they will continue to consume. This though, is also a mirage. Money has no intrinsic value but is merely a claim on future energy and resources. Indeed, the only thing which gives money its value is our shared belief that those resources will be there in future – which is why, by the way, governments and central bankers are so scared of inflation. But the situation we now find ourselves in is precisely that the energy and resources our currency is based upon are not there anymore – at least, not in the quantities and at the price we depend upon.
Kayhan Barzegar of Islamic Azad University in Iran qualified the two major strategic developments affecting West Asia: a possible US retreat and a message to regional allies: “You cannot count on our security guarantees.”
Every vector – from rivalry in the South Caucasus to the Israeli normalization with the Persian Gulf – is subordinated to this logic, notes Barzegar, with quite a few Arab actors finally understanding that there now exists a margin of maneuver to choose between the western or the non-western bloc.
Barzegar does not identify Iran-Russia ties as a strategic alliance, but rather a geopolitical, economic bloc based on technology and regional supply chains – a “new algorithm in politics” – ranging from weapons deals to nuclear and energy cooperation, driven by Moscow’s revived southern and eastward orientations. And as far as Iran-western relations go, Barzegar still believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is not dead. A least not yet.
Egyptian Ramzy Ramzy, until 2019 the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, considers the reactivation of relations between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE with Syria as the most important realignment underway in the region. Not to mention prospects for a Damascus-Ankara reconciliation. “Why is this happening? Because of the regional security system’s dissatisfaction with the present,” Ramzy explains.
Yet even if the US may be drifting away, “neither Russia nor China are willing to take up a leadership role,” he says. At the same time, Syria “cannot be allowed to fall prey to outside interventions. The earthquake at least accelerated these rapprochements.”
Bouthaina Shaaban, a special advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is a remarkable woman, fiery and candid. Her presence at Valdai was nothing short of electric. She stressed how “since the US war in Vietnam, we lost what we witnessed as free media. The free press has died.” At the same time “the colonial west changed its methods,” subcontracting wars and relying on local fifth columnists.
Shaaban volunteered the best short definition anywhere of the “rules-based international order”: “Nobody knows what these rules are, and what this order is.”
She re-emphasized that in this post-globalization period that is ushering in regional blocs, the usual western meddlers prefer to use non-state actors – as in Syria and Iran – “mandating locals to do what the US would like to do.”
A crucial example is the US al-Tanf military base that occupies sovereign Syrian territory on two critical borders. Shaaban calls the establishment of this base as “strategic, for the US to prevent regional cooperation, at the Iraq, Jordan, and Syria crossroads.” Washington knows full well what it is doing: unhampered trade and transportation at the Syria-Iraq border is a major lifeline for the Syrian economy.