Oscillations of Truth
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Friday, June 25th, 2021
Dear Mustafa,

Following our weekly discussions, I was reminded of the famous quote by Arthur Schopenhauer - ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’

In relation to the origins of Covid, we are in the midst of the second and third stages. Naturally occurring viruses, as they mutate, become less virulent and troubling to society. This corona virus is becoming more dangerous as the variants scale the Greek alphabet. It is becoming increasingly logical to conclude that this virus has been created up by human hand.

The design of the virus is rather clever; it treads a fine balance between lethality and virulence. It is not fatal in high enough numbers but it is broad enough to debilitate in high numbers. And in this way we can, I am afraid, expect to enter a ‘new normal’. My guess is that we will live in a world of oscillation; periods of relative normality will sit between times of new variants and renewed lockdowns. In this way the virus will not just debilitate us physically but also mentally as it becomes impossible for society to plan for anything beyond a relatively short time horizon. This simpler and much more local system, will swallow the older, complex and global one.

There is a depressing historical precursor - the Justinian Plague of 542 AD (emanating from China) - that marked the mid-point of Justinian the Great’s rule of the Roman Empire. The outbreak of plague destroyed the Empire from a population of 30m to 15m, with Constantinople losing 250,000 souls; the social order was at a standstill, there was no market, no one wanted money, everyone had to wear a tag to leave their home, but strangely wages rose. The Army lost 75% of its size, only fielding 15,000 troops at a time; Rome’s population fell to 10,000. Justinian himself caught the plague and, although he did not die he never really recovered.

The ultimate result of this plague was the decline of the complex network of Empire and the rise of the ‘walled town’, within which populations were controlled, as were the movement of goods and the use of money and trade. Interestingly, it was Pope Gregory, born during the plague, that, during this time, led the Church to become the one true global institution, breaching all town walls. The Church focused on our sin of ‘Greed’; the plague being a reminder to loosen our mortal grip on material things and to venerate the divine.

The key shift in moving from a complex system to a simple one is the loss of human energy; the longer it continues the more the atrophy settles in. This will be the main challenge for us as economies now live on government and central bank credit; sadly Covid has made this reliance a semi-permanent affair. The working population will see opportunities shrink as their world condenses to a more local one. Some places will manage better than others, especially geographically big countries that can allow for local solutions, while still operating on a larger scale.

Given Schopenhauer’s 3 stages of Truth - I shall wait patiently for the ridicule to begin, but if I am fortunate, this will pass swiftly into the 2nd and 3rd stage.

See you next week - Chris   

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