Monday, February 18, 2013


I didn't bother to watch the State of the Disunion address the other day. In an age increasingly detached from reality, to the point of wondering if most of the people live in some sort of virtual-reality matrix, most official announcements basically turn out to be meaningless. They become the equivalent of "duck and cover" drills from the 50s, with the intent of keeping people safe from a Soviet H-bomb dropped in the middle of town. If nothing else, I'm reminded of the scene from Fight Club where Brad Pitt is pointing out the logical flaws with airline safety pamphlets -- "Assume the position, calm as Hindu cows, and hit the water at 600 miles per hour." We're throwing trillions of dollars at a problem which can't be solved, an equation which can't be balanced, that being the dead economic model of overconsumption that we're living under.

Our society and culture as a whole need to start figuring out the transition. I don't know if it's that somehow we conflate changing the way we live with suggesting there's an end to our future. Do we believe that if we convert our worthless lawns to well-maintained small-scale gardens, that we hate America or something? Do we think that if we go back to how our ancestors did things, and live within walking distance of work or shopping, that we're the committing the socio-economic equivalent of "ultraviolence?" This sort of model was actually the norm before WW2, but the meme of "each person has their own suburban estate, well away from the horrible, horrible city" was carefully beaten into the collective consciousness of GIs returning home, and encouraged by a cabal of companies that had been engaged in defense work and wanted to keep things in the black.

Those of us who understand the issue keep looking for a sign that there is a "waking up" on the part of those who run things on a macro-level. Fantasies about new spending, or unproven technologies, or trying to maintain a broken model, are no more than a waste of time. These fantasies are coming at a time when the underlying linchpin, the price and availability of oil, is beginning to move into the "red zone" again. It's already been forgotten how much people freaked out when gas hit $3 a gallon -- any business that depended on moving things, which is to say every business, collectively freaked out at that point. when it hit $4 a gallon, things started to fail. The housing crisis got a lot of the blame, but no one seems to remember that 2008 was a year for record gas and oil prices, too.

Now, we're seeing an economy which really has not been moving forward, in spite of the official pronouncements on the subject. Gas prices are starting to rise again, and of course, "no one knows exactly why." In a day and age when we can communicate instantly, when we can send probes to distant planets, when we can store the Library of Congress on a single hard one knows why gas prices are rising? Could it just be that no one wants to admit the obvious, that the supply is starting to run out and nothing is taking its place? In the short term, it's like people in a town recovering from a hurricane getting the news that a new hurricane is on the way, and hoping that all of the trees and buildings which were likely to blow over have already fallen down. Unfortunately, it really doesn't work that way -- a better metaphor would be a sinkhole opening under a town, swallowing half of it, and everyone hoping that their house doesn't fall into it next.

I don't like to get into predictions, because complex systems play havoc with such things, but as a ballpark guess, I'd guess we're going to be seeing $5 a gallon average for gas for the first time in history this coming summer. What has been an already stumbling economy is going to trip and fall, big-time. And we will see another round or two of "stimulus spending" in an emergency effort to prop things up yet again. Each time this round happens, we seem to reset to a lower level of functioning, which makes sense. The key for us is to realize that, at some point, if we're not already there, we are going to be on the "wrong" side of that equation. Maybe this is the real tragedy for the "structurally unemployed," that they can't realize that their world has already changed permanently. And, if there's no hope for the individual, what hope is there for society as a whole to understand that the model built two generations ago is broken beyond repair?


  1. Very interesting observations. I generally agree with you here. Most people have no idea what we are in for in the near future.
    Incidentally, I followed your link from Kunstler's place. I'll be reading more of your work. Thanks.


  2. So, basically, the "survivalists" have the right instincts, even if the vision they respond to is just as media driven as any, with the promise of a bright new future just on the other side of the rather unpleasant zombie apocalypse. Their vision is of abrupt failure rather than the death of a thousand cuts. The center of this duality is not pleasant. 500 cuts and half a zombie. The world is not as it was and will never be again, unless the aliens rescue us by pointing out that the center of the earth is full of oil and they are here to save us by providing a technological fix allowing us to suck the center of the planet dry. Sign here, here and here. Thank you.

    1. Oh, buddy, I like you. If you're a single male geek, 50+, sign here, here and here. Thank-you. (Female geek, 50+)