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The Master Meme

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Published : January 28th, 2013
770 words - Reading time : 1 - 3 minutes
( 34 votes, 4.6/5 ) , 5 commentaries
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Category : Editorials



     The gentlemen and ladies of the meme-o-sphere, where collective notions are birthed like sleet from clouds, have decided lately that the USA has entered a full-on broad-based bull market - a condition of general happiness and prosperity as far advanced beyond mere "recovery" as a wedge of triple-cream Saint-Andre cheese is advanced over a Cheez Doodle. It has become the master fantasy of the moment, following the birth of some junior memes such as... we have a hundred years of shale gas and the "housing sector" (i.e. the suburban sprawl-building industry) is "bouncing back." What a sad-sack nation of credulous twits we have become.


     You can be sure that when a nation is led by the reality-deficient, unhappy outcomes are a sure thing. They will systematically destroy trust in the way things actually work and beat a fast path to either tyranny (where reality doesn't matter) or anarchy (where reality cannot be managed at all). This is what happens when nations go mad. Even when they are led by people later-determined to be "evil" (Hitler, Lenin) this sad process is allowed to happen because it just seems like a good idea at the time - which is the central political tragedy of human history. To the beaten-down Russians, Bolshevism seemed like a good-idea at the time. To the bankrupt, hopeless Germans, Naziism seemed like a good idea.


     I'm not even sure what to call the current disposition of unreality in the USA, though it is clearly tinged with different colors of grandiosity ranging from the plain dopey idea of "American exceptionalism" to the wishful claim that we're about to become "energy independent," to the lame assertion so popular in presidential addresses that "together we can do anything." Speaking of the inaugural, in all the Second-Coming-of-Lincoln-Meets-MLK hoopla of the grand day, with the national mall lined by gigantic flat screen TVs (an Orwellian nightmare), and the heartwarming displays of ethnic diversity, and the stridently inoffensive songs and poem, there was the genial Mr. Obama at the epicenter of the huge ceremony delivering a bouquet of platitudes so stale and trite that it could have been composed in a first-year Harvard Law School ethics skull session at a back table of Wagamama. Despite all the blather about his graying hair, and the wisdom of age, and the supposed music of his rhetoric, I couldn't detect a single idea in Mr. Obama's inaugural address that wasn't either self-evident, or devised to flatter some "identity" bloc, or an imitation of old tropes out of the "Great Speeches" book.


     What's obvious to me is what I have been fearing about this country for some time now: that all the disorders of our time would prompt a campaign to defend the status quo at all costs and to sustain the unsustainable. That is really the master wish behind all the political hijinks of the day, especially the pervasive accounting fraud in all high-order money matters. We see the comforts and conveniences of modernity slipping away and we'll do anything to try to hang onto them, including lying to ourselves to such an immersive degree about what is really happening that we suppose we can manufacture a happy counter-reality. That's at the heart of zero interest rate policies, and Federal Reserve manipulation of markets, and statistical misreporting from all the national agencies charged with adding things up. So, the Fed pumps its $90 billion-a-month and the Standard & Poor's index inflates like an old tire while ten thousand more families get added to the food stamp rolls, and the banks sit on enough foreclosed property to fill the state of Indiana, and another 25-year-old college loan debt serf ODs on vodka and Xanax because he finally understands that even bankruptcy will not save him from perpetual penury.


     Apparently, there are moments in history when nations just get lost. I maintain that things would go a whole lot better for us if we acknowledge what is actually going on, namely: a major shift of direction into economic contraction after 200-plus thrilling years of expanding energy resources and easy-to-get material riches. It's in the nature of this world that things cycle and pulse, and we have entered a certain phase of the cycle that demands certain responses. We have to make the scale of human activities smaller, finer, simpler, and more rooted to the local particulars of place. We have to let go of WalMart and globalism and driving cars incessantly and attempting to manage the affairs of people half a world a way... and we just can't imagine engaging with this endeavor. That is true poverty of imagination.




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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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Latest comment posted for this article
I agree 100% with Mr. Kunstler on this article ...... nicely written James. Read more
timrichmond - 1/31/2013 at 5:15 PM GMT
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I agree 100% with Mr. Kunstler on this article ...... nicely written James.
Kunstler, who voted for Obama, says this about Obama: "Despite all the blather about his graying hair, and the wisdom of age, and the supposed music of his rhetoric, I couldn't detect a single idea in Mr. Obama's inaugural address that wasn't either self-evident, or devised to flatter some "identity" bloc, or an imitation of old tropes out of the "Great Speeches" book."

A shame Kunstler didn't have that opinion of Obama before he voted for him when all the evidence was there for such a negative judgement. But I have never accused Kunstler of having sense or making it. For instance this week he offers, as the solution to America's ills, this jewel: "We have to let go of WalMart and globalism and driving cars incessantly...."

Let go of WalMart and stop driving cars???? So walk -- not drive -- to some other merchant and purchase one's items at a higher cost? Thankfully, as long as the Kunstlers of the world are not in power, we still have the freedom to do otherwise.



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I suspect the reason he voted for Obama was simply because he was the lesser of two evils Jim.......................With Obama it will be a slow death for the USA but with the other Joker, you know the one you voted for, he would already be commencing WW3 I suspect!!

As for Walmart................I understand Hilarys family owns it which is as good a reason as any not to shop there.....................and as for non polluting free and limitless energy to power our cars with, Mr Kunstler needs to read up on Cold Fusion along with the rest of you, its coming much sooner than some would like.............but not soon enough for me.
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The Clintons have no connection to WALMART, though I can't say they don't own stock. Since WALMART is non-union I go there as often as I can.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walmart
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You despise people who have made mistakes like voting for Obama so you must be above reproach, never having made a mistake or bad choice yourself. Then you state "Since WALMART is non-union I go there as often as I can." One of thee worst organizations on the planet and you patronize them. Well done, nothing like making sure that those who bring down our standard of living with cheap Chinese and Indian crap make more money. You seem to have a soft spot for parking lots and plague carrying mobs but have no fear, technology in science will make it possible to treat those illnesses, and the trees that were removed to make room for the parking lots, well they weren't really needed were they. Keep on buying from the big guys, who needs small shops where the owners give great service or will let you carry balance till payday next week without charging interest. And guess what, these small shops weren’t unionized! Why should anyone support those that created the good ole USA through the sweat of their brow. Keep supporting those that want nothing more than to ultimately drag you into debt slavery. Make sure you keep going after and try to stop anyone that wants to go back to what made the USA the place that the rest of the world wanted to emigrate to.

You should hold Kunstler up as evidence that when some people make mistakes they can admit it and then try to ensure others don’t make the same mistake. You could crow about how if he would have listened to you he would have avoided at least one mistake but your pride, or ignorance, gets in the way.

Nice one Jim C, once again you've shown that you possess not even an inkling (it takes 144 inklings to make a clue) of common sense. Now go buy some more useless crap at Walmart.

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