To-morrow, To-morrow…

June 3, 2012

Obvious the strange, though, deviations are not that unfamiliar.
In the wake last week of some nefarious-images of face eating and kitten strangling, the entire human system appears to be heading off into a bad direction in which there’s no happy ending.

As people we tend to see tomorrow, or the future, in a sense molded in optimist fashion from what’s loosely defined as trend extrapolation, the most straight-forward and objective component of trend analysis — there’s been weird shit before, but it always turns out okay.

Not like nowadays, an entire planet tossed about in a cliché-enriched perfect storm of troubles.

(Illustration found here).

Beyond the climate change/energy black hole — the monstrous, killer elephant in the room in way-more ways than one — modern economics is pulling the cord putting out the lights of civilization as witnessed by distressing numbers coming from all over the place.
In Europe, at least, the drive for all those horrifying austerity measures have slammed into deadlocks via the voting booth — in both France and Greece — and the shifting of policy from cuts to cash-flow stimulus from many others in the Eurozone, but it could be changes maybe too late.
Those across the pond from us, though, have a 90-day window to get their shit together, at least according to billionaire investor George Soros, who chimed up yesterday that Europe is in a dream-like “political bubble” that could easily burst: “In the boom phase, the EU was what the psychoanalyst David Tuckett calls a ‘fantastic object’ – unreal but immensely attractive,” he said.
The mirage is found in the gap caused by social change moving faster than the fiscal/physical.
And a lot of this is caused by the disaster-inducing economic theorists, who have made a lifetime investment in a particular position and are emotionally and irrevocably tied to a stance that is ultimately not supported by data.
Dreaming while wide-ass awake.

Delusion is most rampant in the US — we’re a people who has always figured we were a people apart from the rest of the world’s people, and for a time, it appeared maybe we were, but like a lot of diverse shit, looks can be deceiving.
In fact/fantasy, reportedly a certain number of US peoples are living within their own portion of “The Truman Show” (based off the 1998 movie starring Jim Carrey as a man who spends his entire life unwittingly at the center of a fictional world that’s being broadcast to millions of homes), in which paranoia runs so deep they believe they’re being filmed at all times and that the world that’s in front of them isn’t real.
Despite all the stress and whatnot, research has also indicated Americans’ heads are getting bigger: Within just 150 years, American heads have grown in volume by roughly the volume of a tennis ball.
And why?

“The varieties of changes that have swept American life make determining an exact cause an endlessly complicated proposition,” said Lee Jantz.
“It likely results from modified growth patterns because of better nutrition, lower infant and maternal mortality, less physical work, and a breakdown of former ethnic barriers to marriage.
Which of these is paramount we do not know.”

Maybe, it’s because we think we’re exceptional, and it’s really, really gone to our heads.
And in this election year, shit could hit the headless fan.
An analysis of global economic meltdowns, the New York Times this morning offered an aspect of US delusion:

In Europe, the crisis has grown worse, not better, and the disputes among European leaders have intensified as much of the Continent appears to have drifted into a new recession.
In China, growth remains robust by Western standards.
But concern is rising over the possible end of a property boom that had been fueled in part by local government borrowing and spending.
In the United States, which had been an oasis of relative calm with a growing economy and rising employment, job growth in May, reported Friday, was a puny 69,000.
To make the outlook even gloomier, earlier numbers were revised lower.
That capped a series of three disappointing monthly reports.

In the United States, the ease of borrowing has not made it politically easier to increase the pace of spending.
Instead, there is the possibility of “Taxmageddon,” the threat that the unwillingness of politicians to compromise could lead to a combination of big automatic spending cuts and tax increases in 2013 that could devastate economic growth.
All this is taking place in the midst of an election campaign that is widely expected to be the nastiest ever.

All this horrible economic news is nothing new — the groundswell for all this shit has been festering in the American system for a long, long time, and the long-coming arrival of an ‘obesity epidemic’ is in reality focused through the low-quality social appetites of US peoples — the toast of the planet has become toast.
Social change seemed to have way-outpaced the fiscal/physical.

Musing about these peculiar dire straits facing everybody was prompted last week by summations  found at The New Inquiry in an examination/overview of  historian Morris Berman‘s trilogy of the not-so-real American dream — The Twilight of American Culture (2000), Dark Ages America (2006), and Why America Failed (2011) –  which reportedly drafts a view of a future fairly-bad and dismal.
Some high points from the review (h/t The Dish):

Intellectual distinction isn’t everything, it’s true.
But things are amiss in other areas as well: sociability and trust, for example.
“During the last third of the twentieth century,” according to Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, “all forms of social capital fell off precipitously.”
Tens of thousands of community groups — church social and charitable groups, union halls, civic clubs, bridge clubs, and yes, bowling leagues — disappeared; by Putnam’s estimate, one-third of our social infrastructure vanished in these years.
Frequency of having friends to dinner dropped by 45 percent; card parties declined 50 percent; Americans’ declared readiness to make new friends declined by 30 percent.
Belief that most other people could be trusted dropped from 77 percent to 37 percent.
Over a five-year period in the 1990s, reported incidents of aggressive driving rose by 50 percent — admittedly an odd, but probably not an insignificant, indicator of declining social capital.

Of the 20 advanced democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. has the highest poverty rate, for both adults and children; the lowest rate of social mobility; the lowest score on UN indexes of child welfare and gender inequality; the highest ratio of health care expenditure to GDP, combined with the lowest life expectancy and the highest rates of infant mortality, mental illness, obesity, inability to afford health care, and personal bankruptcy resulting from medical expenses; the highest homicide rate; and the highest incarceration rate.

Contemplating these dreary statistics, one might well conclude that the United States is — to a distressing extent — a nation of violent, intolerant, ignorant, superstitious, passive, shallow, boorish, selfish, unhealthy, unhappy people, addicted to flickering screens, incurious about other societies and cultures, unwilling or unable to assert or even comprehend their nominal political sovereignty.
Or, more simply, that America is a failure.

As a former medievalist, Berman finds contemporary parallels to the fall of Rome compelling.
By the end of the empire, he points out, economic inequality was drastic and increasing, the legitimacy and efficacy of the state was waning, popular culture was debased, civic virtue among elites was practically nonexistent, and imperial military commitments were hopelessly unsustainable.

What will become of us?
After Rome’s fall, wolves wandered through the cities and Europe largely went to sleep for six centuries.
That will not happen again; too many transitions — demographic, ecological, technological, cybernetic — have intervened.
The planet’s metabolism has altered.
The new Dark Ages will be socially, politically, and spiritually dark, but the economic Moloch — mass production and consumption, destructive growth, instrumental rationality — will not disappear.
Few Americans want it to.
We are hollow, Berman concludes.
It is a devastatingly plausible conclusion.

Read the whole review/post — long, but well worth the time.
And I agree with the author’s take-away: There is something immensely refreshing, even cathartic, about Berman’s refusal to hold out any hope of avoiding our civilization’s demise.
Or, we’re fucked — Handle it in the best possible manner.

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