In Memorium: Reality

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Published : October 11th, 2019
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The Golden Golem of Greatness shifted into mad bull overdrive for last night’s Minneapolis fan rally, cussing and bellowing at the picadors of the Left who have been sticking lances in his neck for three years. Decorum is not Mr. Trump’s strong suit, but then the bull is not sent into the ring to negotiate politely for his life. The narrative of the bullring is certain death. The bull must do what he can within his nature to dispute it.

It’s in Mr. Trump’s nature to act the part of a reality TV star, and, of course, it is the nature of reality TV shows to be unreal. That is perhaps the ruling paradox of life in the USA these days. Saturated in unreality, the spectators (also called “voters”) flounder through a relentless barrage of narratives aimed at confounding them, with the unreal expectation that they can make sense of unreal things. In a place like Minneapolis of an October evening, you can go see the Joker movie or take in the President’s rally — and come away with the same sense of hyper-unreality. We’e no longer the nation we pretend to be and we don’t know it. Jokers are wild and the joke’s on us.

So it goes in these dangerous autumn days of The Fourth Turning. Something’s got to give, and all indications are it will happen where few are looking at the moment: the sideshow of money and banking. When things start slips-sliding away over in that alternative universe, Mr. Trump will be propelled into the role he was cast for in 2016: bag-holder for economic collapse. The global slowdown of productive activity and commerce is undermining a vast network of dubious financial obligations ruled by an overgrowth of loans that will never be paid back. Unlike New York real estate moguls, the whole world can’t just go into bankruptcy court and apply for a fresh start. The “workout” is brutal and produces epoch-defining trauma.

The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic, racking up $814 billion just since August. Math majors may see that’s close to a trillion dollars, or 4 percent of the total $22,837 trillion, just in a few months. Zowie! (Hat tip Steve St. Angelo.) Parabolic trends don’t end well. In the meantime, the Federal Reserve, as usual, attempts to “fix” the problems caused by excessive bad faith borrowing with additional excessive bad faith lending in its overnight repo operations and revamped non-QE QE. That’s telling you something about where the dollar is headed: history’s graveyard of dead currencies. The upshot is looking like an inflationary depression for the ages.

That event would kill the shale oil industry, and with it the prospects for continuing the mode of living that Americans consider normal. The shale oil producers will not be able to borrow more money from a crippled banking system to produce a type of oil that that is basically unprofitable to lift out of the ground. That’s when America starts to go medieval lifestyle-wise. The curious feature of this big picture is how the anxiety generated by these looming economic and financial tensions express themselves in politics as a sort of early warning system. The craziness of the Trump era — which is distributed pretty equally between both factions — represents the failure of all involved to cope with the mandates of reality, which really exists despite the illusions of our realty television zeitgeist.

The current impeachment frenzy is heading into a collision with these forces, along with the so-far secretive activities of Attorney General Barr and his deputy Mr. Durham. When that happens, Mr. Trump will not be the only mad bull in the national ring, and the nation will be notably short of toreadors. The whole bullring is liable to get busted up with quite a few fans gored in the ensuing mayhem. As I’ve averred before, don’t be surprised if the 2020 election doesn’t even happen. The institutional damage may be too deep.

History doesn’t like vacuums anymore than nature does, and what we’re facing is a vacuum of authority that the USA has never experienced before. That’s the final consequence of a society in which anything goes and nothing matters. Better check what you believe and who you believe in the days ahead, and recalibrate accordingly. This ain’t no foolin’ around.

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James Howard 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 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.
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