In that order. The scary people
have already started coming out of the woodwork. The times lately have been
mostly uncertain, but soon they'll turn scary, too, as it becomes clearer
that the people running things in the USA have no idea what's going on or
what they're going to do about it -- and what's going on is an involuntary
permanent re-set of the terms of everyday life, from a wet-dream robotic
"consumer" techtopia to something more
like the first chapter of Tobacco Road, with a family of half-wits
reduced by hard times to fighting over a sack of turnips in a roadside ditch.
That's the story-arc anyway, and lots of people won't like it. But the theme
of dwindling resources is not a pretty one.
The most striking feature of the current scene is the absence of a coherent
vision of our multiple related predicaments and how they add up to a valid
picture of reality. To be precise, I mean our predicaments of 1.) energy resources, 2.) vanishing
capital, and 3.) ecocide. This inability to decode
the clear and present dangers to civilized life is a failure of leadership
and authority without precedent in the American story.
the eve of the only other comparable national convulsion -- the lead-up to
the Civil War - a strenuous public debate was able to focus on the salient
question of the day, namely whether human slavery would continue in this
country. Lincoln and Douglas parried for hours in the hot sun, arguing
unscripted in complete sentences without the aid of teleprompters or offstage
spin doctors. Yet no one above age of nine failed to understand what
was at issue.
Note the diminishing returns of technology at work in our time, making it
impossible for us to think straight, despite the proliferation of snazzy
devices, programs, networks, blog-clouds, and the pervasive, non-stop spewage of so-called information all intended to enhance
communication. What did Lincoln have to work with? A pencil.
Today, no one present in the political arena appears to have a clue and,
lacking clues, any ability to articulate the terms of what we face. Both
major parties are hostage to a peculiar nostalgia, a wish to return to the
time when America could dream up any kind of machine or breakfast cereal or techtronic brassiere, and sell the manufactured surplus
from our own happily oversold markets to the rest of the clamoring world -
even lending them the cash (at interest) to buy the stuff. America makes and
the world takes, was the theme song then. That earnest, upward-striving
society of Eisenhower simplicity, of well-paid factory workers dreaming of a
little summer place at the lake, and the Main Streets bustling in the
cheerful early twilight of Christmas Eve, and the Beach Boys crooning about
"fun, fun, fun," and purloined German physicists stashed in
comfortably aire-kooled rooms, turning a few
tossed-off equations into moon-shots, and Bob Hope cracking wise before a
nationwide audience of car-dealers and self-satisfied Rotarians - well that
America has imploded like a weevil-infested hubbard
squash in a back pantry. And all the prayers to Moloch by the Jesus boomers
in and out of congress won't make it whole again.
There is no theme song for contraction - at least not one with a hummable
tune. The current background music sounds like Stockhausen run through
scrap-metal shredder. No wonder everybody's so nervous.
few hours ago I drove up the immaculately conceived highways north out of
Detroit to the drear industrial outlands of Happy Motoring history, north
past Flint and Saginaw where an exhausted American Dream is being hunted down
by the angry ghosts of the Wyandots. The heartland
these days looks like it's preparing for a return trip to the 9th century
A.D. Nobody knows what's ailing it, but they're whispering of "last
stands" out here around the all-you-can-eat buffet at the year 'round
And the Tea Party aims to fix all this, to make things right again. I listen
to their blather about "freedom" and all I can imagine is the sound
of boots outside the door, and men in badly-fitted camo
uniforms and buzzcut hair commanding me to accept
John Boehner as my personal savior. Pardon me, but I don't see how this will
really improve anybody's lot in life.
You can just feel the heat of emotion rising, even as the northern hemisphere
cools down. We can't speak clearly anymore; we can only beat drums. All
across the land self-appointed saviors are stepping up to heroically rescue
the squandered entitlements of the bygone day: Rand Paul, the Kentucky
physician who (like his dad) subscribes to the idea that the earth is only
about 4000 years old; Dan Maes, the Colorado Tea
Party candidate for governor who believes that bicycling is a "gateway
drug" to communism; Sharron Angle, the Nevada polymoron
running John Birch Society scripts to the psychologically-spavined blackjack
dealers crowding the unemployment lines. ("The Trilateral Commission and
the Bilderburgers did this to you!"); and lonely
Joe Miller, the hermit-attorney of Fairbanks, stalking out of his survivalist
cave to drive a silver lance through the flaming heart of the ravening
They can flap their gums with this nonsense as much as they like, bit it's not likely to clarify things. Maybe this is what
death is like: a descent into the dark maw of simply unknowing. No wonder people fear it.
James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler’s
new novel of the post-oil future, World Made By Hand, is
available at all booksellers.
James Kunstler has worked
as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a
staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books
on a full-time basis.
His latest nonfiction book, "The Long
Emergency," describes the changes that American society faces in the
21st century. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic
crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation
of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest,
and, amid a world at war over oil, military invasions of the West Coast; when
the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat
locally grown food.
You can purchase your own copy here
: The Long
You can get more from James Howard Kunstler -
including his artwork, information about his other novels, and his blog - at
his Web site : http://www.kunstler.com/