So a receding economic tide has exposed the naked bathers. Once upon a time, a rising economic tide supposedly lifted all boats. The tide will rise again. Won't it?
Well, the passing likeness of capitalism to one force of nature does not eliminate all the others. Throughout my lengthening lifetime capitalism has segued from one 'crisis' to the next, more like a cancerous growth. I can't, off-hand, think of a single day when a capitalist crisis of one sort or another was not seeking immediate attention. Though reports of the death of capitalism have often proved exaggerated, the tide receded most memorably just before the tsunami in 2004.
Capitalism, socialism, fundamentalism, nationalism, isms and ists of all kinds have apparently failed us, claiming by way of an excuse that perfection would come with the next rising tide. In one sense everyone has been bathing naked – and finally has that one thing, at least, in common. So we have little choice but to recognize ourselves for what we are and consider the remaining options afresh.
Some of them are remarkably attractive and are explored a little further in this magazine. At the same time, the New Internationalist has for once stepped out of the commentary box and actively joined the growing campaign for a just and sustainable future. One immediate focus is the mobilization (see pages i-xvi) around the 2 April meeting in London of the G20 – a self-appointed huddle of 'world leaders' that is part of the problem. In the years ahead, the real challenge will be to construct a more habitable and diverse economic, social and political 'architecture' from the bottom up, on much firmer foundations as a result.
This will doubtless include the people of North Korea. You'll also find in this magazine a rare insight into the daily lives of people once judged to inhabit an 'Axis of Evil'. North Koreans may not be naked, but they are recognizable all the same. The financial meltdown has given the Minority World just a taste of what it has been like to live in the Majority World for far too long already. If the chickens do not eventually come home to roost, then eggs will be off the menu for good.
David Ransom for the New Internationalist co-operative.