James Howard Kunstler writes: Now that everybody in the USA, from the janitors in their man-caves to the president addressing congress, has declared the “recession” over, is exactly the moment when what’s left of the so-called economy is most likely to implode. …we’re not going to have an advanced economy without a coherent banking system, and by advanced economy I mean one in which the lights stay on. By coherent I mean a system that is able to deploy accumulated wealth for productive purposes, in the service of continuing civilization.
I would hasten to cut through the fog of despair to reassert—for the thousandth time—that a true American perestroika is possible, if the public could overcome the plague of cognitive dissonance sweeping the land and form a consensus for action that comports with reality’s agenda. But that is looking less and less likely. Instead, what we see is a rush into delusion, seasoned with grievance and gall. …
Let me explain this American perestroika more clearly. The Russian word roughly translates to “restructuring.” They flubbed it in 1989 because their system was too ossified and too far gone—though history and circumstance eventually did it for them. A similar outcome is possible here, too, in which things just have to completely fall apart before emergent reorganization occurs. But you can be sure that if we allow this to happen, an awful lot of things will get smashed along the way, including lives, careers, families, property, and cherished institutions.
This monster we call the economy is not just an endless series of charts and graphs—it’s how we live, and that has to change, whether we like it or not. Now, it is obviously a huge problem that a majority of Americans don’t like the idea. If they were true patriots, instead of overfed cowards and sado-masochists, they’d be inspired by the prospect. But something terrible has happened to our national character since the triumphal glow of World War Two wore off. I just hope that the Palinites and the myrmidons of Glen Beck don’t destroy what’s left of this country in a WWF-style “revolution.” In the best societies, such idiots are marginalized by a kinder and sturdier consensus about justice. In America today, the center is not holding because there is no center.
American perestroika really boils down to this: we have to rescale the activities of daily life to a level consistent with the mandates of the future, especially the ones having to do with available energy and capital. We have to dismantle things that have no future and rebuild things that will allow daily life to function. We have to say goodbye to big box shopping and rebuild Main Street. More people will be needed to work in farming and fewer in tourism, public relations, gambling, and party planning. We have to make some basic useful products in this country again. We have to systematically decommission suburbia and reactivate our small towns and small cities. We have to prepare for the contraction of our large cities. We have to let the sun set on Happy Motoring and rebuild our trains, transit systems, harbors, and inland waterways. We have to reorganize schooling at a much more modest level. We have to close down most of the overseas military bases we’re operating and conclude our wars in Asia. Mostly, we have to recover a national sense of common purpose and common decency. There is obviously a lot of work to do in the list above, which could translate into paychecks and careers—but not if we direct all our resources into propping up the failing structures of yesterday.