Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Silent Go-Karts

Sunday afternoons used to be so quiet. When I was a small boy growing up in rural England, I always knew it was a Sunday simply by stepping out of the back door. There was scarcely a sound from anywhere. There was hardly any traffic. No one really went anywhere, certainly not to work. The clincher, though, was the distant, monotonous droning of two-stroke engines emanating from a karting circuit in the next village (Figure 83.1). There would be crescendo followed by diminuendo, the sharp sound of gears changing, sudden deceleration into the hairpin bend and gradual acceleration after it. I could see the races with my ears.

Figure 83.1: The sound of Sunday many years ago

Copyright © 2015 Karting Magazine

That was forty-odd years ago. The kart meetings still take place. (I checked it out online.) The tranquillity which made me aware of them, though, is probably long gone. The ultimate reason is, by tortuous logic, usury (or high-interest lending). Allow me to make the connection.

Today, the whole world is hooked on debt. Whether it is government debt, commercial debt or personal/household debt, it can never be paid back. Debt expansion is the only way modern economies can grow, and it is entirely by design. Inevitably, the world has crossed the financial Rubicon, and the fallout from the eventual economic collapse will be severe. In the United Kingdom, for example, current debt interest exceeds the entire Defence budget. By extrapolation, in 2020, it will exceed the Education budget, and in 2025, that of the National Health Service. There is no averting it.

If this disastrous scenario could possibly be avoided, human productivity – with finite resources, remember – would need to increase sharply and continually. We would have to produce more and more in a given amount of time, until we reached the stage of running as fast as possible just to stand still, rather like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass.

This nightmarish eventuality is upon us. The working world now operates seven days a week as a matter of routine. The introduction of Sunday working, with shops staying open, has provided us with an extra dose of time which prior to a generation ago we did not utilize. Forty years ago, when I was a young schoolboy, my own circumstances were considered unusual because my mother worked full-time. Most mothers did not; and yet, households still functioned satisfactorily, and absolute poverty was rare. In 2015, people’s lives have changed, but because that change has occurred gradually, we have been less aware of it. In the majority of modern households, both parents now work, but not out of choice: it is a necessity in order to meet either a huge mortgage/rent or the perpetual servicing of personal debt. We have all but arrived at a point where it is humanly impossible to ‘run’ any faster. We cannot manufacture more time. Nor can we service any additional debt. Checkmate.

How does this affect humanity? A balance of work, rest and play is our natural state of existence. In today’s complex, fast-paced society, this equilibrium is being savagely disrupted, and the stresses it imposes are unprecedented. There is a stark conflict between our frenetic 24/7 existence and a basic physiological need to switch off and rest.

Of course, there are many more factors than I have been able to outline in 600 words. The ‘Red Queen’ phenomenon, when applied to the modern economic structure, is undeniably complex. My main fear, however, is this: in time, the world’s peoples will wake up to the ghastly reality that their increasing efforts will surely prove futile, and that the social and economic system has nothing to offer (most of) them. What will be the overriding reaction when the masses feel they have nothing to lose?

In quiet, solitary moments, I can still hear the go-karts – but my children, sadly, never will.

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

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