By Alan Caruba Does history repeat itself? Yes, but with different faces and names. We evolve technologically, but we remain emotionally the same people as those in ancient Rome and Egypt. We are not that different than them.
The relentless repetition of wars, the justice systems processing miscreants, the holidays we celebrate, it has a continuity to it that is echoed in diverse civilizations. The obsession for power and wealth seeps through the ages.
That is why the images of a giant dust storm slowly engulfing Phoenix, Arizona evoked images from the 1930s when such storms were common. They become a symbol of the Great Depression in which even farmland was devoid of sustenance.
On top of the financial conditions of the 1930s, there were conditions worldwide that would lead to the manmade devastation and loss of life that was World War Two. Imagine! Two major wars in just one century, the latter stretching across vast oceans and continents. It was a century filled as well with many lesser wars.
For me “the greatest generation” were the many young men I encountered as a child riding the train between my parent’s home in Newark, NJ and Long Branch where my grandparents lived. The trains were filled with newly-minted soldiers from Fort Dix.
I can recall “rationing” as my Mother and neighbors swapped coupons to purchase sugar and other items that were scarce. Halfway though the war, the family had moved to a suburb where milk was delivered in a horse-drawn wagon!
In the run-up to the war in Europe, Hitler had made no secret that Germany was rebuilding its military. Even our “ally” in WWII, the Soviet Union, had cut a secret deal with him to divide Poland. His intent, of course, was to control Europe. More accurately, it was to loot Europe because the Nazis were more like a huge Mafia operation than anything else.
Now we have Iran “testing” missiles that it says can hit Europe and planning others that can hit America. Instead of Deutschland Uber Alles, it is now Iran threatening not just Israel and the entire Middle East, but any potential military response from NATO and others. To no one’s surprise, Russia has been their ally.
Sadly, but presciently, the poor NATO performance in Libya and the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan will be correctly read by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as indications that their plans are right on schedule as they move ever closer to becoming a nuclear power exercising hegemony over the Middle East.
There are other indicators of unrest such as the riots in Greece and those that took place earlier in London when austerity measures were instituted to stem the financial bleeding occurring in the wake of the global crisis in late 2008 during the U.S. political campaigns. In retrospect it has the look of an “October surprise” designed to affect an outcome and the outcome was the present Obama administration.
It was preceded by a sudden electronic run on banks that was surely deliberate. Within hours the Federal Reserve stepped in to stop the massive withdrawals, but it has curiously never revealed the names of those parties or banks involved in what was quite simply an attack on the U.S. economy.
Indeed, the fact that billions, if not trillions, can be transferred at the speed of an electron represents a whole new structure of global finance than those who put the system together could have anticipated.
We are, in effect, using a financial system that dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries to deal with the exigencies of the 2lst century. Even the invention of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, put together in secret by a handful of Wall Street Bankers, seems unable to respond to the present crisis. Both the present and prior chairmen admit they do not understand why.
Meanwhile, eerily echoing the Great Depression from 1929 to 1941 when World War Two began, the nation today is deep into the same levels of unemployment, housing foreclosures, and business stagnation. The growth of the gross domestic product is practically invisible, the debt defies the imagination, and there is a lot of misery while the nation’s leaders in Congress and in the White House are at loggerheads.
The reason for this short history lesson is that, indeed, lessons canbe learned from history, but only if the nation is willing to act on them.