There is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of therapy, and that is DON’T READ ARTICLES LIKE THIS ONE. Recounting in detail just vivid enough to give you horrible daydreams (but vague enough to keep you from knowing what to do), Alfred McCoy delineates nine different ways the American Empire will end, and end quickly. It’s got it all: China, space war, Oil Shock, tech viruses… and it does it without even mentioning loose nuclear material, superbugs or global warming.
Many things contributed to my cure from PTSD – therapy, drugs and time, mostly – but one other directive from my therapist was to erase all of my news bookmarks on my web browser, and forbade any research on the dark subject matter that was clouding my brain. The minute I saw this article, it felt like what a whisky must feel to a person just out of rehab. I consumed the piece knowing full well I shouldn’t, and regretted it instantly.
The comments didn’t help either, full of people mentally masturbating to their own collection of apocalypse porn. Some people obviously get off on writing variations on “we’re all fucked”, although I’d wager none of them have young kids. Having children makes that sort of scorched-earth thinking irresponsible.
However, the piece raised a tangential issue: when people like me start feeling incapable of fomenting change, despair begins to take hold, and many of us move away, or opt out at some macro level. I don’t mean to raise my personal importance to an untenable level, in fact, I think it applies to almost all of you reading this. Your demoralization makes these nightmare scenarios more plausible. When the smart men and women stop giving a shit, they’re very unlikely to fight for it when things get bleak.
And why the fuck should they? We live in a culture that denigrates expertise, mistrusts facts, and has given corporations the same rights as humans. To quote from the article:
Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country’s role and prosperity in a changing world…
Now, to quote “Animal House”, I find Milton as boring as you find Milton. There’s nothing in this that you haven’t heard a million times before, in the usual harpie progressive hand-wringing squawk. Even the right-wing goons will join in the turkey shoot. You’ll see exchanges like this:
“Okay, then I’ll buy a hybrid and get solar panels and eat locally.”
“Won’t matter. The oil shock will take away all plastics. You’re fucked.
“I’ll get some land with good soil and learn how to farm basic staples and store them.”
“Then some people with machine guns will come and take it away from you. You’re fucked.”
“We’ll move to Canada or Australia or Italy.”
“They won’t let you, and besides, it’ll be even worse over there. You’re fucked.”
However, through all this bottom feeding, it is interesting to think that people like me and you can speed this process of disintegration up considerably. So I put it to you, fair readers: is the idea of “America”, in its present state and trajectory, meaningful to you? Do you believe in any of these scenarios? Do you believe you can protect yourself against the worst of it?