Forecast 2013: Wars in the Middle East, the rise of China and new political intrigue

Danny de Gracia interviews futurist and author D.M.J. Aurini for predictions on what’s next for the world in 2013. Photo: U.S. Navy File Photo

HONOLULU, January 4, 2013 ― Wondering what’s next for the new year? With the 113th Congress installed and many uncertainties and fears still lingering in the wake of the highly controversial fiscal cliff agreement, I sought out futurist and bestselling author D.M.J. Aurini for some predictions on what to look for in 2013. Never one to shy from controversy, Aurini warns Communities readers that wars in the Middle East, a growing Chinese influence and domestic political turmoil are among the many things to be expected this year. 

Danny de Gracia: Well it’s been a long road but 2012 is a memory now and here we at the end of the first week of 2013. The big question my readers have been asking me is whether or not I think that the Republicans have political or moral valence in a world where Obama has been re-elected. They want to know what the future of the Republican Party will be. I’ll pass that question to you because you’re the published novelist and futurist. What’s your take on this?

D.M.J. Aurini: We’re looking at a situation where demographics have become destiny. There was a figure bouncing around a while back claiming that only 53% of Americans pay a federal income tax. Now , I know this figure has been contested and it doesn’t include things like sales tax, but there’s an old economics joke about spreadsheets that they’re named after the skins that hunters used to drag behind them to cover their tracks.

Everyone has a slightly different number, and a slightly different method of calculating it, but at the end of the day you’re looking at a country where roughly half of the people are contributing nothing, while the other half endure punitive taxation. Who are these have-nots going to vote for?

I’ll tell you who they’re not going to vote for: anybody who’s trying to restore America to her glory days of hard work, civic virtue, and limited government.  We’ve hit the bread and circuses phase of “more handouts, now!”

DDG: What do you think we should expect or look for this year?

D.M.J. Aurini is the author of the post-apocalyptic novel “As I Walk These Broken Roads” and a popular YouTube commentator.

Aurini: I’d give a fifty-fifty chance of a major shake-up in Europe. The EU has been forcing self-destructive policies down the throats of their member nations, against the will of the citizens, and reactionary nationalist groups are beginning to form. 

The value of the American dollar will continue to degrade and we could see a new war with Iran or Syria while ignoring that blight upon human existence, North Korea, or the war machine growing in China.

We’ll probably sadly see more Sandy Hooks and James Holmes-types as our society alienates more and more individuals. Gun Control discussions and obsessing over mostly non-existent terrorism will begin to jump the shark, as more Americans see it for the nonsense that it is.

Cheap oil will begin to flow out of the Bakken formation, and the Paul Krugmans and financial experts of the mainstream media will claim it as proof that the economy is recovering, yet underneath the new paint job, the rust will continue to spread.

Overall I’m expecting more of the rising of tensions behind the scenes, with little evidence appearing on the surface. Eventually something’s going to snap, and when it does people will say there was no sign of it coming – the signs are everywhere, right now.  People just don’t want to see them.

DDG: America’s fiscal cliff skirmish. Oh boy. Where can we start on this? I’m a political scientist so I’m not big on conspiracy theories. What I do know is that rulemaking and agenda setting power is an elite process and so substantive reform is filtered out and the choice Congress is left to vote on is basically pablum versus, well, pablum. A Rand Paul-type guy basically never gets the chance to shine fully not because of a lack of idealism but rather because the institutional design is meant to shut it out.

So when Republicans say things like “How in the world did this happen?” my gut is to say “How in the world could this not happen?” You’ve got the bland leading the bland, to take license from an expression Nigel Farage uses.

Do you think the handling of the fiscal cliff is evidence that America’s system is broken and that reform now is impossible or do you think that we’ve just had a bad losing streak when it comes to the two parties and there’s a chance this can get cleaned up?

Aurini: I rolled my eyes when I first read about the so-called fiscal cliff. It was nothing but political theater. What it essentially boils down to is this: The government is spending beyond its means. They knew that their credit cards would be maxed out by the end of December, so the question was, would the government start living within its means?  Or would it get a new credit card? The answer was a foregone conclusion.

The Republicans might have dragged their feet, but this was just a perceptual narrative. Liberals get to see evil Republicans trying to make people starve, while conservatives get to see stupid Democrats spending money like a drunken sailor. The reality of the situation was that nobody was willing to come up with a feasible plan to actually cut government fat.

There’s a fiscal cliff coming, alright, but it’s going to happen the exact same way the housing bubble popped – suddenly, unexpectedly, and as a result of the free market, not some artificial spending cap the government imposes upon itself. This latest brouhaha is no different than the cap increases which occurred during Obama’s first term, but for some reason the media decided that this time it was newsworthy. It’s the stuff that isn’t reported on that you have to worry about.

DDG: Here in Hawaii the Republicans say things like “We need to have a two-party system to have effective representation.” And my first thought is “Says who?” That’s one of those cookie cutter, soundbyte election phrases that has the superficial appearance of wisdom but when you think about it really doesn’t hold water.

If I went to elected Democrats and Republicans alike and asked them to explain why the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is having trouble or to discuss the macroeconomic impacts of an employee tax cut versus an employer tax cut in a recession most of them are going to go “Uhhhh” on me. Yet those are two sample issues that are huge.

 You can’t tell me that’s effective representation to be highly opinionated and vote on those things in two different parties but have people there who don’t know what in the world the issues are about. What’s your take on this?

The shifting balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region is a concern to many political observers. Aurini believes that China will continue to rise as a growing military power. (Photo: U.S. Navy file photo)

Aurini:  With the American either/or system you wind up with a wonderful dialectical process: the illusion of choice, as each party drifts towards the center. Different rhetoric, but indistinguishable policies. Except they’re not just drifting towards the center, are they?Each year the Democrats move slightly further left, as the Republicans play a game of catch-up.

A 1990s Republican looks a lot like a 1970s Democrat; and a 1950s Democrat looks a lot like a 1970s Republican. As the welfare state grows, more and more government dependents want a party that will give them more free stuff, so to remain ‘competitive’ a political party has to give the people what they want. When the United States was founded the franchise was limited to those of proven moral character – those who built businesses, and didn’t have a criminal record. Back then the candidates would have known about military acquisitions because they needed to.

Nowadays we have this kind of universal franchise and an Edward Bernays-styled science of marketing. These marketers are experts at breaking us down into “lifestyle choices” and can usually reduce an election to one or two non-issues that will sway voters. 

Voting is not about good governance anymore, it’s about affirming one’s self-perception; an entitled, lazy populace isn’t going grill the politicians on anything that actually matters, so they’re better off sloganeering than actually governing.

Men such as yourself, Ron Paul, and Paul Ryan who actually put in the effort to research and understand what’s going on are a dying breed.

DDG: So how’s your writing coming along for the sequel to As I Walk These Broken Roads? Will we see the sequel this year?

Aurini: I don’t want to promise anything, but that’s my goal. It’s about half-written right now, I just need to complete the story and edit, edit, edit! While the first novel introduced the characters and the setting of degenerate technology, the grasping at old social-orders, and a budding reactionary rebuilding, this will be the book where the main plot of the series begins to be hinted at.

DDG: Any first thoughts for 2013 you want to leave our readers?

Aurini: A quote from a recent episode of Dexter: Trust those who are seeking the truth, not those who’ve claimed to have found it.

The solution to this mess is within each of us; follow those who seem to have a good idea and admit their imperfections, those who seek to empower their followers, not enslave them. Seek to understand the world, and build bottom-up solutions, instead of hoping for a city in the sky.

Our societies have been to hell-and-back before, and yet we’re still here. Dark times are coming, but this too shall pass.


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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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