"Hunky Dory" by James Howard Kunstler

 ...get local, get finer, downscale, and get going on it right away...

 

August 3rd, 2009 from http://kunstler.com/blog/2009/08/hunky-dory.html
Saratoga Springs, New York

Whenever the herd mentality lines up along a compass point leading to
"permanent prosperity," or a yellow brick road lined with green shoots,
or something like that, I tend to see the edge of a cliff up ahead. We
are now completely in the grips of the deadly diminishing returns of
information technology. The more information comes to us about How
Things Are, especially from TV, the more confused or wrong the
conventional view gets it.

A broad consensus has formed in the news media and among government
mouthpieces and even some "bearish" investors on the street that "the
worst is behind us" in this tortured economy. This view is completely
crazy. It will only lead to massive disappointment a few weeks or months
from now, and that disappointment might easily transmute to political
trouble. One even might call the situation tragic, except a closer look
at the sordid spectacle of what American culture has become - a non-stop
circus of the seven deadly sins - suggests that we deserve to be
punished by history.

The reason behind this mass delusion is not hard to find: it's based on
wishing, especially the wish to retain all the comforts, conveniences,
luxuries, and leisure that had become normal in American life. These are
now ebbing away in big gobs for most of the population - while a tiny
fraction of the well-connected pile on ever-larger heaps of swag,
enjoying ever more privilege. Those in the broad bottom 95% were content
as long as there was a chance that they, too, could become members of
the top 5% - by dint of car-dealing, or house-building, or
mortgage-selling, or some other venture enabled by easy credit and a
smile. Those days and those ways are now gone. The bottom 95% are now
left with de-laminating houses they can't make payments on, no prospects
for gainful work, repo men hiding in the bushes to snatch the PT
Cruiser, cut-off cable service, Kraft mac-and-cheese (if they're lucky),
and Larry Summers telling them their troubles are over. (If I were
Larry, I'd start thinking about a move to some place like the Canary
Islands.)

Too many disastrous things are lined up in the months ahead to insure
that we're entering a new phase of history: The Long Emergency.

# Government at every level is worse than broke.
# Our currency, the US dollar, is hemorrhaging legitimacy.
# Inability to service old debt at all levels or incur new debt.
# Bad (toxic) debt lurking off balance sheets everywhere.
# The housing bubble fiasco is far from over.
# Commercial real estate fiasco just getting started.
# Unemployment rising implacably.
# So-called "consumers" unable to consume consumables.
# Crucial energy import supply lines fragile.
# Food supply subject to energy problems and climate abnormalities.
# A world full of other societies who would enjoy watching us fail and
suffer.

When The Long Emergency was published in 2005, I said then that the
greatest danger this society faced would be its inclination to gear up a
campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs - rather than face
the need to make new arrangements for daily life. That appears to be
exactly what has happened, and it didn't happen under the rule of some
backward-facing, right-wing, Jesus-haunted crypto-fascist, but rather a
"progressive" party led by a dynamically affable young man unburdened by
deep cultural allegiance to Wall Street. Barack Obama has been sucked in
and suckered. "Change you can believe in" has morphed into "a status quo
you will bend heaven and earth to hold onto."

"We’re prisoners of our wishes, living in a strange dream-time,
oblivious to the forces gathering at the margins of our vision, lost in
a wilderness of our own making."

Whatever else you might think or feel about Mr. Obama's performance so
far, this strategy on the broader question of where we go as a nation
pulses with tragedy. What's remarkable to me, to go a step further, is
the absence of comprehensive vision - not just in the president, but in
all the supposedly able and intelligent people around him, and even
those leaders not in government but in business and education and
science and the professions.

History is clearly presenting us with a new set of mandates: get local,
get finer, downscale, and get going on it right away. Prepare for it now
or nature will whack you upside the head with it not too long from now.
Attempting to maintain anything on the gigantic scale will turn out to
be a losing proposition, whether it is military control of people in
Central Asia, or colossal bureaucracies run in the USA, or huge factory
farms, or national chain store retail, or hypertrophied state
universities, or global energy supply networks.

These imperatives are so outside-the-box of ordinary experience right
now, that to drag them into the arena of politics can only evoke blank
stares or nervous giggling. But whether we like it or not, these are the
things that will really matter in the years ahead - not whether General
Motors can ever make a profit again, or what Target Store's sales
figures are next quarter, or whether the latest high-rise condo-
and-gambling complex in Las Vegas will be successfully marketed.

Here, in the dog days of summer, it seems to me that the situation in
the USA is so fundamentally bad, so unpromising, so booby-trapped for
failure, that I wonder if there has ever been a society so badly deluded
as ours. We're prisoners of our wishes, living in a strange dream-time,
oblivious to the forces gathering at the margins of our vision, lost in
a wilderness of our own making.

Anything can happen now. I certainly wouldn't rule out international
mischief as we arc around into fall. The air is so full of black swans
that the white swan now seems like the exceptional thing. Whatever else
happens, it sure will be interesting to see the public's reaction to
Wall Street's announcement of Christmas bonuses. The folks at
Rockefeller Center better be thinking about getting a fireproof tree.

Regards,

James Howard Kunstler

 

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