July 1, 2008

Big plans stay while the little ones fade


Michael Smith /Alan Herman, Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter/Snack Bar, 1983

* Clusterfuck Nation: Not Your Grandma's Depression. excerpt:

"This isn't so funny anymore. Intimations of a July banking collapse rumbled though the Internet this weekend while mainstream news orgs like The New York Times and CNN pulled their puds over swift boats and Amy Winehouse's performance technique. Something is happening, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones...? to quote the master.

"What's happening is that American society is sliding into a greater depression than the one Grandma lived through. On the technical side, there has been unending controversy as to whether we're gripped by inflation or deflation. It's certainly deceptive. Food and gasoline prices are rising faster than the rivers of Iowa. But the prices of assets, like houses, stocks, jet-skis, GMC Yukons and pre-owned Hummel figurines are cratering as America turns into Yard Sale Nation.

"We're a very different country than we were in 1932. In that earlier crisis of capital, few people had any money but our society still possessed fantastic resources. We had plenty of everything that our land could provide: a treasure trove of mineral ores and the equipment to refine it all, a wealth of oil and gas still in the ground, and all the rigs needed to get at it, manpower galore (and of a highly disciplined, regimented kind), with fine-tuned factories waiting for orders. We had a railroad system that was the envy of the world and millions of family farms (even despite the dust bowl) owned by people who retained age-old skills not yet degraded by agribusiness. We had fully-functional cities with operating waterfronts and ten thousand small towns with local economies, local newspapers, and local culture."
...
"Complicating matters is a global oil predicament that is really not hard to understand, but which the organs of news and opinion have obdurately failed to explicate for an anxious public. Call it Peak Oil. There are only a few elements of it you need to know. 1.) that demand has now permanently outstripped supply; 2.) that new discoveries are too meager to offset consumption; 3.) That under under the circumstances, the systems we rely on for daily life are crumbling. I've called this situation The Long Emergency.

"Our chances of mitigating this, and of continuing our current way-of-life is about zero. I've tried to promote the idea that rather than waste remaining resources in the futile attempt to sustain the unsustainable (i.e. come up with "solutions" to keep suburbia running), that we should begin immediately making other arrangements for daily life -- mainly by downscaling and re-scaling everything from farming to commerce to the way we inhabit the landscape -- but my suggestions have proven unpopular even among the 'environmental' elites, who are too busy being entranced by new-and-groovy ways to keep all the cars running.

"So where we are at now is the equivalent of standing in the slop by the ocean shore under a gathering hundred-foot-high wave that is about to come crashing down on our heads. Since I sure don't know everything, I can't say how this will all play out in the months ahead, especially with the presidential election coming at the exact moment that voters will be turning on their furnaces for the cold and dark winter beyond. I would venture to say that so far our society as a whole has done a piss-poor job of comprehending the situation. But there is still the possibility, with four months of politicking left, that the nature of our predicament can be articulated in a way that few can fail to understand, the way Mr, Lincoln articulated the terms of the Civil War on the eve of its fateful outbreak."

* Literary Tattoos.

* "A lot of times I wish there were rock critics like there are book critics or art critics. Because I feel like I do a lot of work in the writing and there's no one on the other side that's willing - or maybe they're not looking because it's not there in other people's music - but they're not willing to do the work back." -- David Berman

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