When I was musing once about how I would never have imagined my life would turn out as it had, a friend of mine remarked: “You can only join the dots when you look back.”
In other words, it's not easy to see the whole picture when you're living through it.
Only with the benefit of hindsight can we spot patterns and signs that weren't obvious at the time.
I used to ask my older relations: “Why didn't you protest about what was happening to the Jews in the Second World War?” “Oh but we didn't know about it,” they'd say.
Afterwards it seemed unthinkable that such a holocaust could have happened. But at the time, in ordinary people's lives, it wasn't ‘The Holocaust’.
We give things names afterwards, once the shape and size of them is clear. Or clearer.
So perhaps we can all be forgiven for not realising that the period we're living through now is momentous. What will we call this, when we look back from the future? The European Collapse? The New World Order? The Fall of the West?
Something's changing that's for sure. When China owns the West's debts, something's changed.
I had a whimsical thought the other day, as I cut a care label out of a new T-shirt. “Made in Sri Lanka” it said. Will there come a time when our clothes say “Made in the UK” and that won't be considered a badge of national pride but rather a by-word for “cheap”, just as Made In China is now?
Such reversals of fortune are so unpalatable that it's easier to stick our heads in the Sauvignon Blanc, sorry, the sand, and hope that somebody, somewhere will come in and sort it all out.
Somebody is sorting it all out. Trouble is, they're not one of “us”.
While we still insist on our children learning to speak French at school, the Chinese and Indian economies sprint ahead of the rest of the world, buying up natural resources as if they were on a BOGOF offer at Tesco.
It's not so much that the party is over, more that it's moved a few houses down the street and we're not invited anymore. And if we do manage to sneak in, it'd be no fun anyway because we don't even speak the language.
Jaguar/Land Rover have just announced a thousand new jobs in Solihull to keep up with demand for luxury cars. The demand's coming from China, India and Russia. The world's not falling apart, just our part of it.
History shows clearly that the victors, the rulers, the empire-builders ultimately lose their position at the top. Is this cyclical rise and fall inevitable? Is it just natural progression that no one and no country remains top of the leader board forever? Is it like a modern day Pass the Parcel where everyone has to win something sometime?
Or is there, as in Shakespeare's tragic heroes, a fatal flaw in us that runs us into the wall of our own destruction? Might we, with a little less smugness and more concern for the have-nots, have been alert to the arrival of the clear and present danger we're in now?