Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The end game

I think it's not a secret that I think something has gone way wrong with America, and that things are not going to turn around until utter national disaster has happened and there simply is no choice. Let's look at a few reasons why I think that:

  1. A broken media. But this is always been true. What is new today is the phenomenon of crapflooding -- flooding people with so much information from such a wide variety of sources that they are unable to pick out the grains of truth from the flow of utter crap flooding our airwaves and our media. Searching for truth in the babbling cacophony that is our modern-day media is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, it's there, but carefully hidden under piles of reeking money feces. Back in the days when there was one or two major newspapers in any given town and three networks, it was much easier to dig out those little shards of truth hidden in all the utter crap.
  2. Apathetic narcotized population. As long as they have a job (no matter how much they hate it), as long as they can come home and watch their narcotic television shows and play their narcotic video games, they're happy. They don't vote, they don't research the candidates when they do vote, they can't name who their Congressman or Senators are, hell, half of them probably would agree with you if you told them that President Reagan should resign because he's getting too old to be President.
  3. A broken political system. The political system has gone astray from any attachment to reality and devolved into a freak show of cowards and babbling lunatics, incapable of spending much attention on any real problem or accomplishing much beyond wasting space and air. Given the previous entry, it seems unlikely this will end anytime soon.
  4. A broken social infrastructure. Ironically, the evangelical Christians are probably the only group in America that still has a working social infrastructure, one where they know their neighbors, go to church every Sunday and greet the people on either side of them in the pew by name, help each other in time of need, and donate significant sums of money to charitable causes that they agree with. Most of the rest of America is no longer like that. Most of us don't know our neighbors, have no groups of people with common cause that we meet with on a monthly basis to share and have community with, have no sense of community. We are isolated in our homes, with only our televisions and our computers as our friend. This is no way to organize a society, this is a way to create a society of sociopaths -- which is what it's doing.
  5. A broken *physical* infrastructure. Conspiracies by auto makers from the 1920's onwards accompanied by racism in the late 50's to late 80's led to the explosion of suburbs, the collapse of cities, and the utter ruin of most fuel-efficient mass transit systems. Efficient electrically-driven light rail systems were the norm in most American cities prior to the 1940's, and even many small towns prior to the 1940's had heavy rail service connecting them to the rest of the nation. Today, for most of America, the only way to get from here to there is by automobile. The thing is, the automobile is not a sustainable system. It is not sustainable environmentally, it is not sustainable on a per-capita infrastructure basis (requiring acres upon acres of land for nothing but its physical housing in shopping areas and homes and a highway capable of carrying 100,000 automobiles per day takes up ten times more space and requires ten times more maintenance than a rail line capable of carrying 150,000 riders per day), and it is not sustainable spiritually, leading to sterile suburbs where nobody knows anybody and where you can't do anything because anything you could do -- shop, attend plays, whatever -- is somewhere else. Yet America's infrastructure today is built around the automobile, and the hurdles to re-urbanization are formidable. For most Americans, you will take their autos from their cold dead hands... a prediction that will, sadly, likely come true.
  6. A broken educational infrastructure. America's educational infrastructure has always been creaky. This has never been a nation that worshiped intellectuals or cared much for intellect. Americans prided themselves on being a nation of doers, not a nation of thinkers. But today's schools prepare students neither for thinking nor for doing. Unless, by "doing", you mean "bubble in pointless bubbles on endless Scan-Tron cards". And then these students hit the universities, which themselves are under attack, confronted with endless budget cuts because the lizard people need their tax cuts after all...
Thing is, all of these reinforce each other. The end result is going to be an America that every year is a little poorer, a little meaner, a little more vicious, until at the end we tear each other's throats out like a pack of rabid dogs goaded to violence while our lizard overlords smile on from their walled estates protected by armed guards, secure in the fact that they can jet out by helicopter and private plane to their estate in the south of France or in Panama if things get too hot here. I don't know what the nature of the end game is going to look like, but in the end there's going to be a tenth of the population, maybe, either huddled together for self-protection in the ruins of our cities like the ten thousand people who huddled in the ruins of Rome in 500 AD (a city which only 100 years prior had held over a million people), or out on the land working as subsistence farmers perhaps on the estates of our new lords, or what. But there's going to be a lot of dead people, and a society that comes out of it that is utterly unlike our current one, which is an evolutionary dead end that simply can't survive because, as with the dodo bird, it has gone down an evolutionary dead end that can't survive contact with outside reality. Maybe somehow the survivors will put together a better society, will re-urbanize, will re-build the infrastructure of community and nation, will create something afresh that is worthwhile. Or it could turn out to be a feudal nightmare. But our current existence will end.

So anyhow, that's my read of the future. I hope I'm wrong about the body count before things hit bottom. But I doubt it. I seriously doubt it. Winston Churchill once said that Americans always do everything wrong until there is no choice but the right one. Thing is, there's a *lot* of wrong choices that can be made between now and then... and most of them end up in complete and utter national disaster, with something better emerging only from the ruins at the end after a lot of dead bodies...

-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin


  1. Badtux, I agree completely, but wouuld say that all those systems, especially our political system, started going to the dogs in the aftermath of WWII, with the creation of the National Security State (including the CIA), which put us on a permanent war footing, meaning that the industries which were beating ploughshares into swords for the war effort never took up making ploughshares again, as happened after all previous wars. This permanent war industry and it's military alliances,is the "military-industrial complex" President Eisenhower warned about in his farewll address, and the thing that killed President Kennedy, Dr. King, and Robert Kennedy. And, I think, is still in control, all the way.

  2. Only a matter of time before the four horsemen ride. The trick is to hurry up and die of old age before they come.

    Boy, I never figured the four horsemen would come covered with corporate logos, like NASCAR drivers... but that's very likely.

    Some small number of "people" will benefit massively from the destruction and looting of America. But other countries would be ill-advised to accept them as gold-plated refugees: Once it becomes obvious that destroying a country for profit works, they will make a habit of it.

  3. I could not agree with your assessment more.

  4. ahhhh Tux - -
    Please stop being such an optimist. It will probably be even uglier than any of us can imagine.

  5. TUXXXXXXXX! You sound just like me on this one. Which is why I read you, for the confirmation bias. You didn't used to be so much this way, wouldn't you say? OTOH, I have become even grimmer during the past seven years too, and I had a bleak outlook on the future to start with. Pessimistic about the Big Picture while optimistic about my own life, of course.

    The most novel point you make, to me, is the observation about the Xtians. Right you are, sir! The basis of their belief system is delusional, but their social structure has some rational, survival-enhancing elements to it. One of the things that makes me feel better about living here is an organization called "Village Vancouver" which is trying to bring people in various neighbourhoods together who can share skills, tools, food and other resources in a post Peak Oil world. We're creating communities within the city like the Christer example you cite, only without the God BS.

    FWIW, the Sikhs here are doing what the Christians in the U.S. are. Ditto for the Muslims, I'm sure. You know who's going to be left out? The Chinese, especially the ones who are not religious (many Asian-focused Christian churches here, though) because they don't seem to have a unifying cultural hub the way many other ethnic groups do.

  6. Bukko, I was making posts on my early proto-blog during the *Clinton Administration* sounding the alarm about some of these things. What's new is that I think we passed the point of no return during the Bush Administration. We're past the point where the United States has the intellectual or physical capital to handle the transition to a post-oil society without a mass die-off. We're at the point during the death process where organs start failing, where even things that are clearly and obviously necessary for the health of the body, like schools, start turning off.

    Regarding making proto-communities, that's all idealistic and all, but doesn't resolve the larger problem that the entire physical infrastructure fights against community. We don't live in communities, we live in isolated houses in isolated neighborhoods where to do anything we jump into a car and drive somewhere else. This will always fight against any attempt at real community. Indeed, this is why the evangelicals have been so easily led... they are isolated from the greater community around them, so are easy prey for their pastors feeding them lies about the greater community around them. They've built a pseudo-community around going to church and participating in church groups and so forth, but that is not the same as living in a real community.

    Bear -- I've studied the collapse of the Roman empire. The City of Rome had 1,000,000 people in 400AD. It had 20,000 heavily armed survivors huddled in the ruins in 500AD. You do the math.

    Nans, unfortunately once vital organs start shutting down, death usually comes fairly quickly. Ask Bukko about that, since he's in healthcare. And that's what we're seeing right now in the United States -- vital organs starting to shut down. So I fear that we will see the collapse within our lifetimes. Certainly within yours. Sorry. All I can say is that I've been doing my bit for the past 20 years to try to stave off the collapse, and it wasn't enough, but given the underlying structural issues it would have taken someone who was FDR and Abraham Lincoln combined to be enough, and our political system is no longer functional enough for such people to rise to power. Just another one of those necessary organs in the process of collapse.

    Jerome, the National Security State in my opinion is a parallel development, a cancer which arose because the corpus was already weakened by the other factors I mentioned. The Great Depression and WW2 combined with the destruction of mass transit in favor of the individual auto laid the groundwork for the post-war turn that happened where suburbanization led to the collapse of a sense of community, which led to things like urban blight and gated "communities" (which aren't, they're prisons for people scared of life, who huddle behind their walls in terror of anybody who doesn't look like them and even in terror of their own neighbors, who they fear are lusting for children's virginity).

    So it goes. Will post more on this later today, maybe...

    - Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

  7. Your points 1,2, and 3 collectively represent the corrupting power of money. Hence, the media consolidation --> mis/uninformed narcocracy. Hence the broken (aka bought and paid for) political system.

    Welcome to the new feudalism, courtesy of our trans-national mega corporate overlords.

    There is no particular reason for a big population decline, though. Population increased quite nicely in first millenium, except for those inconvenient plagues. every century or so.

    Now, the biggest health threat (remember the AIDS scare of 20 yrs ago - LOL?) is lard accumulation.

    At least until sea level starts rising, half the country is gripped in endless drought and the other half is blown away by tornadoes.


  8. And what is worrying to the rest of the world is that your collapsing society is in possession of over 5000 nukes :-(

    PS:_ I've just posted some sarcasm based on your essay and linked to it :-)

  9. Thanks (I guess) for writing what I have been feeling for a very long time. Chilling yes, but there's an old sci-fi book i read years ago and its title seems appropriate. "Earth Abides".

    Yeah, I'm a lurker.


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