“ K A H A N E ”
The magazine of the authentic Jewish Idea
March – April 1987 Adar – Nissan 5747
MASQUERADE OF FEAR
See them walking about in their expensively cut suits and expensively cut hair and very expensive masks of aristocratic self-confidence. They are the bankers of the West and the masks of unconcern are a masquerade for the deep fear they feel concerning a banking system slowly but surely collapsing and taking with it a western economy and social stability. The decision by Brazil to suspend interest payments on a staggering $68 billion of commercial bank debt (its total foreign debt is even more stupendous, more than $108 billion) means that the world debt crisis which threatens a world depression that would dwarf the one of the ‘30s, has entered a new and more dangerous stage.
A long list of so-called Third World countries, hopelessly in debt, exists – with no conceivable possibility of the States every paying off the principal. Banks and bankers in the west who greedily – like some financial drug pusher – urged every underdeveloped (and developing country for that matter) to borrow, borrow and borrow (very much like their rapacious policy of credit card brainwashing in their own lands), are now faced with paying the Piper. The horrible thought that borrowing states will simply cancel the debts they owe is so frightening, that the banks have quietly allowed a score of such states to simply at least pay the interest regularly.
But even that proved to be excruciatingly difficult for under-developed and developing states who borrowed so often on the delusion that their economic prosperity of a decade ago would forever blossom. Of course, the dream has turned into a nightmare as world oil and commodity prices have tumbled crazily, leaving not only prosperity behind, but something far more dangerous, punctured expectations.
Few countries were wishfully thought to have the nerve to simply tell the bankers, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that they simply could not meet any debt payments, principal or interest, and that, furthermore, they were not prepared to risk social upheaval, not to mention political defeat at the polls. Each debtor state was, indeed, anxious for one of the others to be the first to do so, for there are many candidates for the second, third and other places. Now Brazil has done it, and beneath the masks of complacency, the bankers are asking: Can others be far behind?
Surely not. Mexico, a country with a list of ills that would stage an economic social physician, itself has a nearly $100 billion foreign debt – as well as one of the fastest growing populations in the world. There are not enough jobs; there is not enough hope. It is only the most likely candidate of half-a-dozen Latin American states to be the next to jolt the banking world. Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia, as well as a host of Asian and African states (the Philippines, for example, with an impossible debt of $28 billion) are all preparing to shake the banks with suspension of payments.
The world banking system is on the verge of collapse and all the masquerade and charade of calming statements will help no one. The world is rushing towards economic holocaust and the social fabric will explode in a deafening explosion of violence and extremism, the direct result of a four-decade era of prosperity and rising, ever-rising, unlimited expectations. The poor are rarely disappointed. It is those who once tasted the sweetness of economic progress who will never agree to quietly return to their misery.
Of course, this is all part of the inexorable Divine process of measure for measure, the material destruction of a world that left G-d for materialism. The arrogance and absolute certainty of men as they prospered and advanced through their own prowess and intellect. The crowning of Man, the King, as sovereign of the universe. The plunge into the unbridled sea of Pleasure and unharnesed desire with not a thought for Divine purpose and raison d’etre. These are the ingredients of a universe that buried G-d as a meaningful factor in the world – and personal – affairs.
“He that sitteth in Heaven laugheth, the L-rd hath them in derision…” (Psalms 2)
The carnival has started in Rio. The song of the economic Samba can be heard. But it is a carnival of economic destruction and a dance of social explosion and the masquerade and masks of laughter and unconcern, mask only the fearful reality of terrible days before the final days.
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