Monday, December 15, 2008

Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation and The Change You Won't Believe

Wowzers - Kunstler's is the most realistic take I've read yet on the new economy we're facing. I'm lifting the below quote right from Bruce Sterling's blog, because everything is better with Bruce's inserted quips. [Not to get on a tangent, but I'd like an algorithm-based handheld device that would provide one-line Bruce Sterling commentary on anything and everything you point it at: objects, food, ideas, etc. We'd all live with a better - or at least a more challenging - perspective on things.]

Surely the public would be shocked to grasp what's in store. Probably the worst thing we can do now would be to mount a campaign to stay where we are, lost in raptures of happy motoring and blue-light-special shopping.

The economy we're evolving into will be un-global, necessarily local and regional, and austere. It won't support even our current population. (((Let 'em eat fruitcake.))) This being the case, the political fallout is also liable to be severe. For one thing, we'll have to put aside our sentimental fantasies about immigration. (((Unless we're Americans emigrating somewhere else, in which case, hey, sentimental fantasies, who can't love 'em.))) This is almost impossible to imagine, since that narrative is especially potent among the Democratic Party members who are coming in to run things. A tough immigration policy is exactly the kind of difficult change we have to face. This is no longer the 19th century. The narrative has to change.

The new narrative has to be about a managed contraction -- and by "managed" I mean a way that does not produce civil violence, starvation, and public health disasters. One of the telltale signs to look for will be whether the Obama administration bandies around the word "growth." If you hear them use it, it will indicate that they don't understand the kind of change we face.

It is hugely ironic that the US automobile industry is collapsing at this very moment, and the ongoing debate about whether to "rescue" it or not is an obvious kabuki theater exercise because this industry is hopeless. It is headed into bankruptcy with one hundred percent certainty. The only thing in question is whether the news of its death will spoil the Christmas of those who draw a paycheck from it, or those whose hopes for an easy retirement are vested in it. But American political-economy being very Santa Claus oriented for recent generations, the gesture will be made. A single leaky little lifeboat will be lowered and the chiefs of the Big Three will be invited to go for a brief little row, and then they will sink, glug, glug, glug, while the rusty old Titanic of the car industry slides diagonally into the deep behind them, against a sickening greenish-orange sunset backdrop of the morbid economy.

A key concept of the economy to come is that size matters -- everything organized at the giant scale will suffer dysfunction and failure. Giant companies, giant governments, giant institutions will all get into trouble. This, unfortunately, doesn't bode so well for the Obama team and it is salient reason why they must not mount a campaign to keep things the way they are and support enterprises that have to be let go, including many of the government's own operations. The best thing Mr. Obama can do is act as a wise counselor companion-in-chief to a people who now have to leave a lot behind in order to move forward into a plausible future....

(((I wonder if there are any Obama cabinet members who actually read this guy. Do people talk about him in the Davos Forum?)))

We still think that "the path to success" is based on getting a college degree certifying people for a lifetime of sitting in an office cubicle. This is so far from the approaching reality that it will be eventually viewed as a sick joke -- like those old 1912 lithographs of mega-cities with Zeppelins plying the air between Everest-size skyscrapers...

[Okay, maybe just digest that image for a minute before you read on. No, seriously. I'm going to sound wildly optimistic in comparison.]

I've said before that our economy needs to shrink. By that, I mean Western Culture, and America in particular needs an intervention when it comes to consuming endless quantities of shiny new stuff with theoretical money. The mindset is partly to blame on easy five and six figure credit - which has really only been around for a couple decades. When I talk about the economy shrinking, I certainly don't mean lowering standards of living, but do mean reexamining what a good life really means.

I don't think it's hard [at least for the Richard Florida poster children who read and write this blog] to live with little or no credit if we reject a new car every couple years and a 4,000 square foot house being shoved down our throats as The American Dream. The real American Dream is capital F Freedom. Massive debt and mountains of expensive, useless crap anchoring us to a garage aren't the stuff of Freedom. That's entrapment. I'd go so far as to call it the indentured servitude of the middle class. [This is where I say Democrats and Republicans are just factions of the same party, rant about our distorted memory of the 1950s and blame Ronald Reagan for absolutely everything... but I'll skip the details for your sake.]

If the current crisis isn't an intervention, I don't know what is. If there's a second tap on the shoulder, it won't be so soft.

Read Jim Kunstler's whole article here.

1 comment:

stormy said...

That's some pretty heavy reading. I hope the guy is wrong given that I have just gone back to college to study computer technology.

Unfortunately, my gut tells me that this guy's blogging is probably more accurate then most media sources. The people who are in so-called "control" do not know what the fuck they are doing. Another thing that really strikes me is the idea that the suburban sprawl status quo being completely unsustainable. My bullshit detector has been pretty sensitive lately in light of the barrage of conspiracy theory tin foil hat things I have been seeing on the intartron.

The idea of the crash and burn of consumerist culture has been bugging me for a long time... like the last 15 years. It's that ugly feeling that things that seem normal and everyday can and do change suddenly... almost over night. People are caught off guard, and even people who do see it coming don't do anything to prepare.. like me. I have done nothing, except move out the country. The large garden that is going in on the 5 acres of property here next spring is however, no joke.