Very few of us realize with conviction the intensely
unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary
nature of the economic organization by which Western
Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume
some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late
advantages as natural, permanent and to be depended
on, and we lay our plans accordingly.
That was J M Keynes in 1919; but most of us in the 'West'
have continued to believe that our kind of economic
organization is something natural and organic, as God-
given to us as the sky and the grass—whereas in fact it is
at all times conditional and contextual. It suits us, too, to
subscribe to the myth that eventually all the less
fortunate peoples of the world can be brought up to our
standard of living by the continual application of more
layers of capitalism, like paint on a wall. What we may
have to accept, like it or not, is that sooner or later we
will be brought ‘down’ to their standard of living,
through an inexorable global process of equalization.
Because—and this is the hardest thing for us to accept—
we've only been able to live the way we do for the past
century or so because they have lived the way that they
do. Our relative prosperity, our relative security are
contingent on their relative poverty, their relative
insecurity. Even to speak of 'us' and 'them' is a kind of ,
doublethink, actually: everyone is 'us'. It's just that
some of us, through historical luck and circumstance,
are better fed and sheltered than the rest. That's no cause
for congratulating ourselves on our cleverness; we
should be asking, rather, who's picking up the tab for that
unreliable and temporary phenomenon called 'Western
civilization.' Or, to put it as Lenin did: 'Who whom?'