Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Over the Cliff

I haven't written here for a while. Call it campaign season fatigue, maybe, or a desire to work on something else for a while. I seem to get burned out on writing about collapse from time to time, but even if we're not interested in collapse, it's still interested in us. Or, maybe I'm just like that little girl who was fatigued to the point of tears over "Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney."

I don't see a lot of point in commenting on the recent elections, so I'll just say this much -- this contest proved the sheer intellectual bankruptcy of pretty much anyone involved in the whole electoral and governing process of the Western world's largest and most powerful nation. This also includes the voters, who want to pretend that they can have a cornucopia of various kinds of benefits and spending as they see fit to vote for. This idea runs across most of the political spectrum, too -- spending is spending, no matter how you try to justify the "worthiness" of what you're spending on.

As sad an affair as the election was (this being the case no matter who won), the worst is yet to come. Consider now the economic literacy of the American public, who are the ultimate owners of this process. No one seems to really even understand the difference between debt and deficit, or much care. "Reducing the deficit" is a phrase which sounds nice, until you stop and put it in more sober terms -- the Titanic is taking on only 5000 gallons of water per minute, instead of 6000. Having a running surplus of $100 billion a year might actually do something to address the problem of debt, but it is a "pie-in-the-sky" type of fantasy to expect this to happen.

Not much is being done about the debt and deficit in Washington, which makes a sizeable portion of the population freak out on a regular basis, but even they are missing the context that this whole discussion is occurring in -- we have reached the point of "peak wealth," where the wealth of the world is not increasing, but is steadily diminishing as resources begin to get scarcer and more difficult to recover, energy supplies are not able to match the demand, and so on. People have the silly notion that we can "print out way out" of the fiscal mess, but printing money is independent of real wealth, which is not increasing, but decreasing as people use up resources, destroy parts of the environment, etc. Remember that money is just a reflection of wealth, and is not tied directly to it.

This makes the "fiscal cliff" discussion all the sillier. If taxes are raised to one hundred percent of income, all deductions were removed, and spending was slashed across the board, then there might be a chance to avoid the upcoming economic crash. However, that's not a political possibility, and would probably render the nation broken beyond any ability to recover. Likewise, if it's business as usual for the next few years, we're going to see the currency eventually collapse into nothingness. An alternative solution might be to try to figure out how to find a path through a future of receding growth would be most desirable, but is not going to happen in today's political climate.

So, at best, because the "fiscal cliff" is not recognized for what it is -- an obvious and clear symptom of our ongoing retraction of wealth -- then anyone proposing a solution to the problem is singing the wrong song. The immediate economic problems (real unemployment at least twenty percent, inflation, etc) are going to intensify as well, because the discussion does not match the reality. Worse, this is going to be a feedback cycle where the proposed solutions get increasingly more radical and draconian, even as the resulting problems intensify. At some point, the crisis will be indistinguishable from the solutions to the crisis, and we will have reached a state of full collapse (think of it as Kurzweil's Singularity, but in the inverse of outcome).

Okay, so I did lie a little bit -- I will talk a little more about the election. Part of the Leibowitz Society's mission is to preserve the practice of applying rational thought to the world. People can criticize rational thought in the abstract, but on a practical basis, it is all we as humans have to relate to and make sense of the world around us. Yet, for all of the progress made in the last couple of millenia, we sometimes slip back into "magical thinking," the idea that somehow our personal actions will affect an unrelated occurrence. Voting this time around seems to have been an excellent example of this -- people voting for Obama on one hand because of a perception that he would improve their lives, and people voting for Romney on the other hand, because of the perception that he would fix the economy. In neither case did anyone ever ask the most basic of questions -- is it within anyone's power anymore to stave off a complete collase of our economy and society? The secession petitions are a ludicrous, if logical, extension of this thinking, too.

I will end this post with that thought and suggest that this is a good time to evaluate where we stand in relation to the world. Are we looking at alternate means of making a living? Are we keeping a clear and attentive mind about where the world is headed? Are we collecting books and accumulating knowledge to pass on to future generations? Are we focusing our energies and resources on "dual use" things? (i.e. hobbies that will become a way of life after a collapse) Are we gently evangelizing our friends and neighbors that all is not well?

And, last, are we keeping a cheerful heart and focusing on the things in our lives which do matter?


I have received a number of emails from people asking about my absence and what the status of the blog was, and regret not answering them, because I understand that the postings here resonated with many people. However, I am going to resume posting on this blog every Monday. I had not intended to restart where I had left off, but I do not think that, realistically, it is responsible to stop doing so, especially in the face of the path our worldwide civilization is taking. In spite of myself, I have spent the last few months studying and reflecting on collapse anyway, and look forward to continuing to share those insights with all of you.