Coasting Toward Zero

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Founding Father George Freda
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  June 2, 2014

In just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. We don’t know what to do about our own culture and its traditions, the useful and the outworn. We surely don’t know what to do about relations between men and women. And we’re baffled to the point of paralysis about our relations with the planetary ecosystem.

To allay these vexations, we just coast along on the momentum generated by the engines in place — the turbo-industrial flow of products to customers without the means to buy things; the gigantic infrastructures of transport subject to remorseless decay; the dishonest operations of central banks undermining all the world’s pricing and cost structures; the political ideologies based on fallacies such as growth without limits; the cultural transgressions of thought-policing and institutional ass-covering.

This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it. The nostrum of an expanding GDP is just statistical legerdemain performed to satisfy stupid news editors, gull loose money into reckless positions, and bamboozle the voters. If we knew how to act we would bend every effort to prepare for the end of mass motoring, but instead we indulge in fairy tales about the “shale oil miracle” because it offers the comforting false promise that we can drive to WalMart forever (in self-driving cars!). Has it occurred to anyone that we no longer have the capital to repair the vast network of roads, streets, highways, and bridges that all these cars are supposed to run on? Or that the capital will not be there for the installment loans Americans are accustomed to buy their cars with?

The global economy is withering quickly because it was just a manifestation of late-stage cheap oil. Now we’re in early-stage of expensive oil and a lot of things that seemed to work wonderfully well before, don’t work so well now. The conveyer belt of cheap manufactured goods from China to the WalMarts and Target stores doesn’t work so well when the American customers lose their incomes, and have to spend their government stipends on gasoline because they were born into a world where driving everywhere for everything is mandatory, and because central bank meddling adds to the horrendous inflation of food prices.

Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots. What kind of foolish Popular Mechanics porn fantasy is this? If human beings have only a minor administrative role in this set-up, what do two hundred million American adults do for a livelihood? And who exactly are the intended customers of these products? You can be sure that the people of China, Brazil, and Korea will have enough factories of their own, making every product imaginable. Are they going to buy our stuff now? Are they going to completely roboticize their own factories and impoverish millions of their own factory workers?

The lack of thought behind this dynamic is staggering, especially because it doesn’t account for the obvious political consequence — which is to say the potential for uprising, revolution, civic disorder, cruelty, mayhem, and death, along with the kind of experiments in psychopathic governance that the 20th century was a laboratory for. Desperate populations turn to maniacs. You can be sure that scarcity beats a fast path to mass homicide.

What preoccupies the USA now, in June of 2014? According to the current cover story Time Magazine, the triumph of “transgender.” Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate sexual confusion as the latest and greatest achievement of this culture? No wonder the Russians think we’re out of our minds and want to dissociate from the West. I’ve got news for the editors of Time Magazine: the raptures of sexual confusion are not going to carry American civilization forward into the heart of this new century.

     In fact, just the opposite. We don’t need confusion of any kind. We need clarity and an appreciation of boundaries in every conceivable sphere of action and thought. We don’t need more crybabies, or excuses, or wishful thinking, or the majestic ass-covering that colors the main stream of our national life.

***

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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4 Responses to Coasting Toward Zero

  • Mister Roboto says:

    Kunstler’s Baby Boomer homophobia really makes it difficult to take him seriously sometimes.

  • Joe Dellatorre says:

    Mr roboto r u fucking kidding? JHK makes a clear case for the inevitable economic, environmental, and social collapse of a resource constrained world dominated by thoughtless morons who are too transfixed by the latest shiny object to actually do something useful or productive about it. At which point you choose to prove his commentary by acting like a thoughtless moron who cant see the example through the trees. Kunstler is not railing against sexual preference as much as he’s pointing to the irrelevant shiny object of the day; which also happens to be a poster child for ambiguity. Kunstler is saying that now more than ever we need clarity and laser focus on the things that really matter – into which your personal sensibilities do not fall.

  • Mister Roboto says:

    Wow, speaking of thoughtless morons…do you even read Kunstler’s column regularly? Completely gratuitous gay-bashing is a standard component of his rhetorical arsenal.

  • Joe D says:

    My frustration and anger with our current predicament should not have been directed at you, Mr R, and I apologize. I am unaware of Kunstler’s memes/biases and I dont think I care because I am totally consumed by the larger point. However, that is not a reason to be rude or insulting. There seem to be so few options for “us” to solve the myriad problems we face and I am deeply saddened by this fact. Please excuse me for lashing out – I regret having done so. It’s just that I’m flailing about, apparently like many others, trying to thread the needle to a better future. If we don’t put all the other distractions on the back burner and totally focus on the core problems of environment and energy, then I don’t think our children or grandchildren will get the chance to have an argument or a discussion about anything – meaningful or otherwise.

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