Homeless

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 26, 2014

 

History is moving the furniture around in the house of mankind just about everywhere but the USA. Things have changed, except here, where people come and go through the rooms of state, and everything looks shabbier by the day, and lethargy eats away at the upholstery like an acid fog, and the walls reverberate with meaningless oratory. The USA is going nowhere because it doesn’t like the new place where history wants to take it.

That is, first of all, a place of far less influence on everybody else, in a new era of desperate struggle to remain modern. That fading modern world is the house that America built, the great post World War Two McMansion stuffed with dubious luxuries in a Las Vegas of the collective mind. History’s bank has foreclosed on it and all the nations and people of the world have been told to make new arrangements for daily life. The USA wants everybody to stay put and act as if nothing has changed.

Therefore, change will be forced on the USA. It will take the form of things breaking and not getting fixed. Unfortunately, America furnished its part of the house with stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really was. We like to keep the blinds drawn now so as not to see it all coming apart. Barack Obama comes and goes like a pliable butler, doing little more than carrying trays of policy that will be consumed like stale tea cakes — while the wallpaper curls, and the boilers fail down in the basement, and veneers delaminate, and little animals scuttle ominously around in the attic.

Everybody I know is distressed by this toxic languor, this sense of being stuck waiting in a place they want desperately to move on from — like the prison of elder-care where so many find themselves hostage to the futility of staving off a certain ending, while all the family resources drain into various bureaucratic black holes. Do we care that the generations to come will have nothing left, nothing at all?

This Memorial Day the usual pieties are noticeably muted. Few politicians dare to utter sanctimonies about our brave soldiers maimed on far-flung battlefields, when so many of them are stuck waiting alone in dark rooms with only their wounds and phantom limbs for company. If regular civilian medicine is a cruel, hopeless, quasi-criminal racket, imagine what medicine for army veterans must be like — all that plus an overlay of profound government ineptitude and institutionalized ass-covering

Even the idle chatter about American Dreaming has faded out lately, because too much has happened to families and individuals to demonstrate that people need more than dreams and wishes to make things happen. It’s kind of a relief to not have to listen to those inane exhortations anymore, especially the idiotic shrieking that “We’re number one!”

Others have got our number now. They are going their own way whether we like it or not. The Russians and the Chinese. The voters in Europe. The moiling masses of Arabia and its outlands. The generals in Thailand. Too bad the people of Main Street USA don’t want to do anything but sit on their hands waiting for the rafters to tumble down. My guess is that nothing will bestir us until we wake up one morning surrounded by rubble and dust. By then, America will be a salvage operation.

There’s a long and comprehensive To-Do list that has been waiting for us since at least 2008, when the nation received one forceful blow upside its thick head. We refuse to pay attention. First item on the list: restructure the banks. Other items: reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act; disassemble the ridiculous “security” edifice under the NSA; upgrade the US electric grid; close down most of our military bases overseas (and some of our bases in the USA); draw up a constitutional amendment re-defining the alleged “personhood” of corporations; fix the passenger railroad system to prepare for the end of Happy Motoring; rebuild Main Street commerce to prepare for the death of WalMart and things like it; outlaw GMO foods and promote local food production; shut down casino gambling.

That’s just my list. What’s yours? And when will you step out of this rotting house into the sunshine?

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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