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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Tsunamis


Big actions have big consequences. Sometimes it may take a while for them to percolate through the maze of causes and effects, but eventually they make it to the surface. Often with a vengeance.

Japanese know this firsthand. The historic earthquake that tossed their main island some 8 feet aside last month wasn't the only torment inflicted on the world's third largest economy. It had a sinister accomplice - a massive and equally devastating tsunami that followed in its wake. The law of mechanics dictates that such colossal tectonic rearrangement is bound to have severe secondary effects. You simply cannot toss a refrigerator into a pond from the roof of your house and expect it to sink quietly to the bottom without causing a single wave.

Human history is no exception to this law.

A few weeks ago I visited Newseum in downtown DC - a multi-floor tribute to the popular modern trade of news gathering. One room that especially caught my eye had a large collection of front pages of major dailies sorted by year - all neatly arranged into a fascinating cross section of the twentieth century. Sometimes you appreciate the true impact of events only when you see them condensed into a compact timeline. As we were walking alongside the parade of cover stories, I realized how truly cataclysmic the second World War was. The destruction and carnage set off in motion by Adolf Hitler had acquired epic proportions even when judged by the savage standards of the human race, one of the most self-violent races in the known Universe. It was an unprecedented social earthquake, which - much like its geological counterpart - had serious consequences. The period following the War, say late 40s and early 50s, was a tumultuous time filled with aftershocks and tsunamis: the China revolution, the fall of Eastern Europe into Stalin's hands, the creation of Israel, independence of India and Pakistan, national awakening in Africa, you name it. Hundreds of revolutions were finding their way to the surface through the shaken foundations of the Old World.

But there is a more recent example. In 2008, the world's financial institutions experienced a series of major tremors. Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch were all wobbling like a set of wine tumblers in a liquor cabinet of a storm ridden ship. The Wall Street's proverbial "debt drunkenness" sent the tectonic plates of the world's banking system into a bout of furious spasms that were felt around the whole globe - from New York to Shanghai and right back via the confounded stock exchanges in London. Interestingly, three years later, with economy slowly recuperating, it seems that contrary to predictions of doomsayers we managed to emerge from this shock relatively unscathed.

Or did we? Sometimes, I get this eerie feeling that just below the monetary horizon a major tsunami is forming - soon to hit our shores with a vengeance.


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