The signs of civil unrest are becoming evident, in pockets, throughout the United States and civil unrest in many parts of the world has turned into wars and significant conflicts. From ISIS tearing apart Iraq and Syria to the war between Gaza and Israel, the world feels like a scary place at the moment. Sure, the world has been chaotic before and the fear-mongerers inevitably blow things out of proportion. But something feels different right now. People everywhere seem to be on edge. But why?
The world economy has not rebounded as many have expected. In fact, Europe has been in a long-term recession and even economic data coming out of Germany is looking ugly. Japan's GDP just shrunk by an astounding 7%. The US economy has not improved for the middle class Americans and the labor force participation rate has hovered at historic lows. The rich have been getting much richer and the poor have been getting much poorer. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has reached its highest on record. U.S. wages are down an astounding 23% since the recession began in 2008. That is $93 billion of lost wages for Americans.
Even Wal-Mart's CEO has made public statements about the poor condition of the American middle class. Does this make sense given that stocks are at all time highs and the job market seems to be picking up? Hey, at least bank profits are at historic margins... Could the squeeze being put on the American middle class be creating some unrest amongst the nation? Some experts think these very conditions helped lead to the rioting and protests occurring in Ferguson, MO. Locals claim that unrest has been brewing for quite some time and the death of Mike Brown sent the community over the edge.
Recent data released by the PewResearch Center indicates the United States has never been more polarized, politically. Just read a few articles about the conditions of congress and you will quickly find out how divided we really are. The PewResearch data also found that members of the opposite political parties actually view each other as "threats to the nation's well-being.". This type of attitude clearly does not create the conditions necessary for effective collaboration. Maybe we have a historically dysfunctional congress because we have a historically dysfunctional society?
What conditions lead to massive civil unrest? Social Psychologists have researched this phenomenon for decades and have found some interesting data. Interestingly, the Department of Defense has recently spent MILLIONS on funding such research to determine what conditions lead to civil unrest. Cornell University was awarded a research project led by US Air Force Office of Scientific Research to determine the critical mass (tipping point) of social contagions. The University is reportedly studying the 2011 Egyptian revolution and the Gazi park protests in Turkey, amongst other worldwide social contagion phenomenon, to delineate factors which lead to such social contagions. Are we close to a "tipping point?" We have only seen pockets of such issues in the United States. Is the perfect storm coming America's way? The wealth gap is incredible. Millions of Americans are struggling to get by. The nation has never been so divided, politically. Americans are war-weary and tired of being engaged in conflicts throughout the world. Recent college graduates are strapped with incredible debt and are either unemployed or underemployed. What conditions, historically speaking, have led to massive civil breakdowns?
Glenn Beck recently claimed that "we have missed all exits and World War III is at the end of the highway." Beck cites the following reasons that will inevitably lead to a world war: collapse of the world economy, significant terrorism and inevitable conflicts, the rise of the Islamic "caliphate," racism/anti-Semitism, and the movement by the major countries (Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa) to create their own banking standard to avoid trading through the American dollar. The world is clearly trying to de-centralize the dollar. Russia and China have signed historic deals to trade directly through their currencies (hurting the American dollar). Does he have a point? Or are we all worrying about events we should not be seriously concerned about?