Monday, November 23, 2009

Pitchforks won't help, but it will make them feel better.

Two related articles caught my attention this afternoon. The first is a blogpost by Jim Kunstler, the second an article at Alternet.

Courting Convulsion
Jim Kunstler
Monday, November 23, 2009

...What's going on in the US economy is a slow-motion convulsion from which we will emerge as a very different nation with a different economy. The wild irresponsibility of the media in pretending otherwise is only going to make the convulsion worse, more painful, more socially and politically destructive. The convulsion can be described with precision as one of compressive contraction. Historic circumstances are requiring us to change our behavior, to make new arrangements for everyday life in all the major particulars: capital accumulation and deployment; food production; commerce; habitation; transport; education; and health care. These new arrangements must be organized at a smaller and finer scale, and on a much more local basis...

...We are seeing a comprehensive failure of leadership in every sector and every level of American life - in politics, business, banking, education, news media, medicine, and the clergy. All are determined to pretend that we can somehow continue the habits and behaviors of the pre peak oil era. They are all unwilling to face reality, and are all engaged in mutually supporting each other's dangerous fantasies.

If we don't attend to the transformation of American life by downscaling our activities and changing the way they are carried out, and re-localizing them, we will see our society disintegrate - and I use the word "dis-integrate" with purposeful precision. Everything will come apart - our political arrangements, our households, our health and well-being.

At the moment, banking is disintegrating...

Among the many elements of this is the fact that "globalism," in the Thomas Friedman sense of the word, is over. The urgent need to re-localize economies makes this self-evident. As a practical matter for us, this means committing to import replacement - making things we need in the US, probably much more regionally. "Globalism" now joins the many other fantasies that we can no longer indulge in.

At the moment, going into Thanksgiving 2009, America's leadership has dedicated itself to the worst action it could take under the circumstances: a campaign to sustain the unsustainable...


A report issued recently by a researcher at a local university claims that our state government (amoung many state governments, I'm sure) is planning on increasing, not decreasing, energy usage over the next decade, including increased automobile usage. This is, frankly, insane - and it shows once again that we are not going to be able to trust our local, state, or federal government to do anything intelligent to plan for relocalization or peak oil. No doubt every such effort will be met with cries of "protectionism" by the transnational financiers and CEOs, the very people who caused this mess in the first place by causing wage stagnation in the US with their "globalization" scam.

Other writers have also been concerned about the inability and/or unwillingness of our nation to get its priorities straight. Like Kunstler, Alternet believes the outcome will be a convulsive upheaval.

Alternet
15 Signs American Society Is Coming Apart at the Seams
By David DeGraw, Amped Status
Posted November 21, 2009

[I won't excerpt every point, just the relevant ones.]

...1) The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The U.S. already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis...

...3) The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth." As the looting is occurring at the top, the U.S. middle class is just beginning to collapse...

...6) 25 million people are unemployed or underemployed. This means we have 25 million people who urgently need to increase their income, and they’re quickly running out of options. The unemployment rate is expected to rise further and remain high for several years...Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking….” As this ratio continues to grow, it will lead to a further reduction in wages -- average worker wages have seen a sharp decline over the past year...The jobs just are not coming back.

...8) As bankruptcies surge across the board, 10 U.S. states are on the verge of bankruptcy, with several ready to declare a financial state of emergency...raising the likelihood of higher taxes, more government layoffs and deep cuts in services...

...10) Although the government’s official figure tries to low-ball the number, 47.4 million U.S. citizens live in poverty, and the U.S. poverty rate is the highest in the industrialized world. Predictably, homelessness is rising at an increased rate as well...The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children...

...13) Lack of health insurance has caused 45,000 preventable U.S. citizen deaths in the past year. The American Journal of Medicine recently released a study that stated, “Nearly two out of three bankruptcies stem from medical bills, and even people with health insurance face financial disaster if they experience a serious illness.” A Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study reported that 17,000 children have died due to lack of health care...it has become clear that, despite the media hype, the health care bill is going to fall far short of meaningful reform and continue to rig the game in favor of large insurance company profits at the expense of the U.S. population. With the highest cost healthcare in the world, current trends will continue and much needed change is not on the horizon.

Never before has the United States had so many citizens with so little means, little to no income and heavy debt. Debt and costs of living have now shackled U.S. citizens just as they have shackled people throughout the world. The economic hit men have now hit the United States as well and millions of American citizens are now effectively sentenced to a slow death.

Economic Imperial blowback has hit the mainland.

And the clock is ticking louder by the day…

And here’s two more facts for you:

14) ...The demand for guns and ammunition has hit a record high and the gun industry cannot produce enough bullets to keep up with orders. Americans are arming themselves to the teeth!

So let’s break down these numbers.

You have a population of 50 million people who are in desperate need of money, they most likely have no health insurance and can’t afford to get health care or help of any kind. Part of this population probably also has loved ones who can’t get life sustaining medical treatments, or loved ones who have already died due to lack of costly medical treatment. The clock is ticking loud for these people and they are running out of options fast, and time delayed is time closer to death.

While the richest 1 percent have never had it so good, a significant percentage of the U.S. population now has firsthand experience in this. Millions upon millions of Americans are poor, broke, struggling, starving, desperate… and armed.


I don't think I need to remind my readers that one scapegoat always emerges in such times - indeed has already arisen, based on many of the anti-semitic "Jews control the whole financial world" garbage being posted as comments on Kunstler's page (and Alternet has a nasty anti-semitic streak to start with on their writing staff, and their audience follows right along). While many may aim their pitchforks, molotov cocktails and ammunition at rich bankers and investment gurus, the vast majority of starving pissed off people don't live anywhere near Wall Street - they are going to be looking for targets closer to home, like, say, Jewish neighborhoods.

If we had taken peak oil and the economic crisis seriously, we could already be sharing the produce from our urban gardens with our neighbors, helping them with housing and transportation, and contributing to the community good so that they would be less inclined to decide a shooting rampage through a Jewish school would be a fun idea. But that's not what we've done. Instead, Jewish communities in many areas have continued to antagonize their neighbors with every sort of zoning and building code violations, building of illegal and unlicenses yeshivas, daycares, shuls and housing, disregard of parking regulations, and obnoxious cries of "anti-semitism" every time neighbors or local officials attempt to make Jews obey the same rules everybody else has to follow.

No - It isn't going to be pretty, class.

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