Let’s see, worldwide financial markets have sold off enough during this past week, due to the extreme volatility taking place in the Chinese markets, that some observers are saying we are now, officially, in a bear—that is declining—market. The Casey Research newsletter says that since Monday the world’s stock markets have lost US$2.5 trillion of their investors’ money! The newsletter quoted George Soros comment about what this first week in 2016 means:
“I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”
Of course, it’s not just the stock markets that have been falling. Commodity prices have also been plunging for a while. According to Stephen Poloz, Canada’s central bank governor:
“Since mid-2014—when oil prices started to free-fall—Poloz said the country has lost more than $50 billion in national income or about $1,500 per Canadian.” Times-Colonist, Victoria, B.C., Jan. 8, 2016.
Since Canada is a major commodity producer its currency, the Canadian dollar, has also been under strong downward pressure on currency exchange markets, dropping from parity with the U.S.dollar in 2013 to being worth less the 0.71 U.S. cents today. This is why I’m paying $3 per pound for California broccoli when its on sale. Otherwise, it costs $5 per pound! Of course, the rising price of all food is not just due to unfavourable exchange rates.
I went to my local health food store the other day to replenish my supply of organic soft white wheat, which is great for making pancakes, dumplings, biscuits, or pie crusts. A forty-pound sack cost me CDN$69.00. Back in the 1980s I remember paying maybe $25 per sack for the same wheat. Oh yes, we know there’s inflation. But when I asked the store manager, whom I’ve know for a long time, whether $69 was a good price, or should I wait until a new supply comes in, he said that it’s not just a question of how much, but whether it’s even available in the first place. He said his wholesalers have been shorting him on what they’ll actually deliver on his orders. The wholesale suppliers are informally rationing what they’ll actually deliver to their retail store customers giving them only half of what they’ve ordered or none at all for some items. I purchased the last sack at the store that day. In short, the weather has not be favourable as it was previously and there is not the supply. Climate change?
And what about what’s going on in the Middle East? The United States under the leadership of one of its worst presidents ever is continuing to betray its allies and appease its enemies. The Pax Americana that kept the lid on much of this world’s proclivity to violence since the Second World War is obviously breaking down. America’s enemies don’t take much of what Barak Obama says seriously, because they now know he’s just a paper tiger.
And then there’s the massive wave of 1.1 million Islamic migrants last year into Europe, especially Germany, that has unnerved a whole continent. The New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and rapes of women by “Arabic and North African-looking” men in German public places before hundreds or even thousands of witnesses have provided some facts to fuel European anti-immigrant sentiment. According to Jürgen Falter, a political scientist at the University of Mainz.
“The fears and prejudices of people have thus been completely fulfilled, and much faster than expected. Those who have been skeptical feel themselves vindicated and those who have said ‘We can do it!’ [quoting Angela Merkel’s pro-immigrant sentiment] feel unnerved.”
And, of course, in France, Islamic terrorism keeps popping up as a North African immigrant shouting “Allah Akbar” tried to attack the guards in front of police station on the one-year anniversary of the jihadist massacres at Charlie Hebdo.
All these problems are out of the control and beyond the influence of the likes of you or me and they merely add more stress to whatever our personal circumstances have already thrown on our shoulders. What is the solution to our stress? How can you and I remain productive and positive in 2016? I’d like to quote from R.T. Brooks about the secret of how to not only cope but thrive in a time like ours.
“The New Testament is clear that a stress-free life is no part of the Christian promise. What is offered is a way of bearing stress—a way that makes the experience creative without its ceasing to be painful. Physical suffering, family tension, and social insecurity were all part of what the disciples were told to expect. But they were also told that in those experiences they would discover the power of God’s Spirit. The yoke is a natural image of stress and strain, and yet, Jesus offers his yoke [of loving God with all your heart and of loving neighbour as oneself] to the heavy laden, saying, ‘My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’”
The solution to this world’s problems are spiritual. Be part of the solution not part of the problem. Let’s all resolve to dig into the Bible to find not only a relief from stress, but also a plan of action for a dangerous time.