Monday, July 29, 2013
by James Howard Kunstler
The idea that techno-industrial society is headed toward a collapse has become very unpopular the last couple of years. Thoughts (and fears) about it have been replaced by a kind of grand redemption fantasy that bears the same relation to economics that masturbation has to pornography. One way to sum up the current psychological state of the nation is that an awful lot of people who ought to know better don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground anymore. We’re witnessing the implosion of the American hive mind.
This is what comes of divorcing truth from reality, and that process is exactly what you get in the effort to replace authentic economic activity with accounting fraud and propaganda. For five years, the Federal Reserve has been trying to offset a permanent and necessary contraction of techno-industrialism by lobbing mortar rounds of so-called “money” into its crony “primary dealer” banks in order to fuel interest rate carry trades that produce an echo in the stock markets. An echo, let us be clear, is the ghost of something, not the thing itself — in this case: value.
The permanent contraction of techno-industrialism is necessary because the main fuel for running it has become scarcer and rather expensive, too expensive really to run the infrastructure of the United States. That infrastructure cannot be replaced now without a great deal of capital sacrifice. Paul Krugman — whom other observers unironically call Dr. Paul Krugman, conferring shamanic powers on him — wrote a supremely stupid op-ed in The New York Times today (“Stranded by Sprawl”), as though he had only noticed over the past week that the favored development pattern of our country has had adverse economic consequences. Gosh, ya think?
Meanwhile, the public has been sold a story by nervous and wishful upholders of the status quo that we have no problem with our primary resource due to the shale oil and shale gas bonanzas that would make us “energy independent” and “the world’s leading oil exporter — Saudi America!” A related story along these lines is the imminent “American industrial renaissance.” What they leave out is that, if actually true, it would be a renaissance of robots, leaving the former (and long ago) well-paid American working class to stew in its patrimony of methadrine, incest, and tattoo “art.”
To put it as simply as possible, the main task before this society is to change the way we live. The necessary changes are so severe and represent so much loss of previous investment that we can’t bring ourselves to think about it. For instance, both the suburbs and the big cities are toast. The destiny of the suburbs is to become slums, salvage yards, and ruins. The destiny of the big cities is to become Detroit — though most of America’s big cities (Atlanta, Houston) are hybrid monstrosities of suburbs and cities, and they will suffer the most. It is not recognized by economic poobahs such as Dr. Krugman and Thomas Friedman that the principal economic activity of Dixieland the past half century was the manufacture of suburban sprawl and now that the endeavor is over, the result can be seen in the millions of unemployed Ford F-110 owners drinking themselves into an incipient political fury.
Then where will the people live? They will live in smaller cities and cities that succeed in downsizing sharply and in America’s currently neglected and desolate small towns and upon a landscape drastically refitted for a post-techo-industrial life that is as far removed from a Ray Kurzweil “Singularity” fantasy as the idea of civic virtue is removed from Lawrence Summers. The people will live in places with a meaningful relationship to food production.
Many of those aforementioned swindled, misled, and debauched lumpen folk (having finally sold off their Ford-F110s) will eventually see their prospects migrate back into the realm of agriculture, or at least their surviving progeny will, as the sugar-tit of federal benefits melts away to zero, and by then the population will be much lower. These days, surely, the idea of physical labor in the sorghum rows is abhorrent to a 325-pound food-stamp recipient lounging in an air-conditioned trailer engrossed in the televised adventures of Kim Kardashian and her celebrated vagina while feasting on a KFC 10-piece bundle and a 32 oz Mountain Dew. But the hypothetical grand-kids might have to adopt a different view after the last air-conditioner sputters to extinction, and fire-ants have eaten through the particle-board floor of the trailer, and all the magical KFC products recede into the misty past where Jenny Lind rubs elbows with the Knights of the Round Table . Perhaps I wax a little hyperbolic, but you get the idea: subsistence is the real deal-to-come, and it will be literally a harder row to hoe than the current conception of “poverty.”
Somewhere beyond this mannerist picture of the current cultural depravity is the glimmer of an idea of people behaving better and spending their waking lives at things worth doing (and worthy of their human-ness), but that re-enchantment of daily life awaits a rather harsh work-out of the reigning deformations. I will go so far to predict that the recent national mood of wishful fantasy is running out of gas and that a more fatalistic view of our manifold predicaments will take its place in a few months. It would at least signal a rapprochment of truth with reality.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
"If You Believe" is originally from the 1991 album Leap of Faith. This version is from the 1993 live album Outside from the Redwoods.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Friday, July 26, 2013
Orlov's blog maintains that communalism (a.k.a. small-c communism) is more efficient than market-based or central-government societies.
At NancyNall.com, they're gnashing their teeth at the possible sale of artworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
And The Oil Drum website will stop publishing after eight years.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
It is emotionally/psychologically easier for most to be fascist: http://t.co/lIj6hFShlh— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) July 24, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
Requiem for Detroit.
It’s fitting that Detroit is the first great American city to officially bite the dust, because it produced the means of America’s suicidal destruction: the automobile. Of course you could argue that the motorcar was an inevitable product of the industrial era — and I would not bother to enlist a mob of post-doc philosophy professors to debate that — but the choices we made about what to do with the automobile is another matter. What we chose was to let our great cities go to hell and move outside them in a car-dependent utopia tricked out as a simulacrum of “country living.” The entire experiment of suburbia can, of course, be construed as historically inevitable, too, but is also destined to be abandoned — and sooner than most Americans realize.
Finally, what we’ll be left with is a tremendous continental-sized vista of waste and desolation, the end product of this technological thrill ride called Modernity. It’s hard to find redemption in this story, unless it’s a world made by hand, with all its implications for a return to human-ness.
What happened to Detroit will come to all the other great American metroplexes in time, but perhaps not in the same way. So-called urban experts like Ed Glaeser at Harvard (The Triumph of the City), and other exalted idiots just don’t get it. These cities attained a scale of operation that just can’t be sustained beyond the twilight of cheap fossil fuels. They will all contract massively — some of them, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas will disappear altogether. The lucky ones will reconstitute themselves at much smaller scale around their old harbors or riverfronts. The ones burdened with too many grandiose mega-structures (New York, Chicago) will choke to death on the liabilities they represent. The reason for this can be found in the basic equations around the cost and supply of energy resources and the consequent impairments of capital formation. In short, neither the affordable energy nor the money will be there to run things as we’re used to running them. The voodoo economists of the [I]vy League, the White House, the Federal Reserve, and The New York Times are utterly clueless about how this works.
26 July update: Kunstler's walking tour of Detroit in 2009, supplemented by Google Street View.
28 July update: Oakland County (MI) executive director L. Brooks Patterson, recently featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, loves sprawl.
Previously announced release dates:
11 June 2013
9 April 2013
Sunday, July 21, 2013
--Medical Apartheid (2007 Natl. Book Critics Circle Awd.)
Morgan State U.
"Drugs are tools."
--Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama
Tufts U. hist. prof.
--The Bk Power Movement
--Co-ed. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement
Ctr. for the Study of Law and Culture and law prof. at Columbia U. Law Sch.
context--"the word can mean everything and nothing"
recognition vs. indifference
progress vs. retrenchment---> Obama asking for conv. on race but refuses to lead it.
--Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics [in] World War II
prof. Eng. and Comp. Lit. + AA Stud. Columbia U.
problem she has w/ personal anecdotes "becomes the end all and be all"
-->gets lost: Pres. Govt. no role for them to do anything about it.
Personal anecdote not good when it trumps what has to be done
-->absurdity of judge's allowing use of "profiling" but not "racial profiling"
The new racism:
--only 1.6% [of African Americans] make more than $200K.
--28% below fed. poverty level.
Substantive policy change
no urban agenda
no confrontation of new Jim Crow
Trayvon Martin: posthumous portrayal as a criminal
841,000 black males in jail
-->The further we deny racism exists the worse it gets
-->Harlem Bklyn gentrified
"We need to confront it and force [the President's] hand."
Kendall Thomas: "privatization of race"
the idea of racism and its "private resolution"
The heart of racism is "economic injustice"
Obama "is himself a commodity" One of the deepest challenges we face is the bankruptcy of a political system controlled by financial elites.
KT calls Reagan the "Architect of liberalism." [I.e., neoliberalism]
KT, cont. "Identity is being mobilized" to discredit claims for justice.
Following KT's comments on neoliberalism:
TINA CAMPT: "The offloading" of the conversation of race into pvt. sphere
-->What wd effective ldrship be?
Peniel: "That's happening already" at grassroots
The Age of Trayvon
People who've abdicated their role of activists for access.
>Those who give Obama a pass.
Ray Kelly: "The nation's biggest racial profiler."
MLK traded access to LBJ's Wh. House for moral clarity
Poor People's March
"can't do the colorblind racism game"
KT discusses "From Protest to Poliics" [by Bayard] Rustin
Griffin: the old-fashioned idea of charismatic leadership
Electoral politics is only one avenue
--Ida B. Wells
--Fannie Lou Hamer
a model of ldrship
NYT art. about frmr gang ldrs org against violence
FARAH: Stand Yr Grd Laws not explicitly racist but applied not in a race-neutral way.
What do you expect from Obama after his presidency?
Do something about prison, health...
tainted products [being sent to Africa]
K.T. The law's limits are sometimes greater than what it can accomplish
-->On Obama's statement about his children's generation thinking about race.
Hopeful but it's the experience of a very narrow section of African Americans.
Segregation still alive
Racial publics: committed to anti-racist agendas.
K.T. "I am not a person of faith."---No single role orgs can play nor single method.
Peniel: A research org @ Tufts: race and democracy connecting to public policy
"We want public policy transformation[s]"
Farah: Measure of success can't just be by Sasha and Malia but by gulf between Juror B-37 and Rachel Jeantel
Farah: Twitter irritating but allows back-and-forth. "Angry at the access racists have" to her... Messy, but democ. debate
Farah: There's a focus on natl. elections but what about local elections?
"We need to be just as vigilant about those elections as well."
Audience member: African American pols "ghettofied" to narrow districts. Tea Party better organized.
K.T. Talking about "a long revolution." Politics is often about how we imagine ourselves in relation to others. Nation: "imagined community"
"[P]olitics of the imagination" no subst.for hard work but motivates people to think critically and even refuse neolib.
Audience member: What about Alton Maddox?
It was then that the panel discussion had to end.
What are Kunstler's thoughts on hip hop? Based on his writings, he seems to think it's immature at best and nihilistic at worst. Unaware of the many genres and subgenres contained within hip hop, Kunstler gives Kanye West as an example of the gangsta rapper shouting "N---a!" He is right that a gulf stretches between black and white in America.
I welcome your thoughts as I add to this post.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Friday, July 19, 2013
@hsmoghul her face already stars in a claymation horror flick.— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) July 19, 2013
He can write better. This is lazy. But he tends to insinuate (see his recent comments on Joyce Carol Oates) and make cheap shots.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Saturday, July 13, 2013
But it's always interesting to see the gulf between American and international box office. Some movies do poorly in the States, but colossal internationally. And vice versa.
@michaelarria is is a profession that seems to attract many with low empathy/mid level authoritarian traits— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) July 14, 2013
Also, Zimmerman will get his gun back.
This guy tweeted this,
Have to admit, I find the idea of rooting for someone to be convicted to be a bit strange if you have no personal connection to the case.— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) July 14, 2013
leading Max to ask rhetorically, What's the term for one lacking empathy?