While most of his work is very good, pointed and incisive – though sometimes a little off-key – JHK is occasionally absolutely brilliant. This is one of those brilliant times.
“A Bigger Picture” – James Howard Kunstler
In this quoted paragraph, reproduced below, there is a real history lesson and a juxtaposition of the then and now to reveal the true sad state of both the US and, by extension, all Western democratic nation states.
“In 1918, the country was lashed by a far deadlier pandemic disease at the same time it was fighting a world war, and daily life barely missed a step. The economy then was emphatically one of production, not the mere consumption of things made elsewhere in the world (exchanged for US IOUs), nor of tanning parlors, nail salons, streaming services, and Pilates studios. The economy was a mix of large, medium, and small enterprises, not just floundering giants, especially in the retail commerce of goods. We lived distributed in towns, cities not-yet-overgrown, and a distinctly rural landscape devoted to rural activities — not the vast demolition derby of entropic suburbia that has no future as a human habitat. Banking was only five percent of the economy, not the bloated matrix of rackets now swollen to more than forty percent of so-called GDP. Government at the federal and state levels was miniscule compared to the suffocating, parasitic leviathan it is now.”
Having skillfully laid the foundation, JHK then develops the plot –
“What happened? Like Hemingway’s old quip about a man going broke slowly and then all-at-once, we allowed everything in American life to creep into hapless giantism too cumbersome to adapt to new conditions, and suddenly conditions have changed. And now it’s all coming apart: the dying chain stores, the giant zombie companies that can only exist by borrowing money to buy back their own stocks, the auto-makers who have run out of lending schemes for non-creditworthy customers, the shale oil fracking companies that could never make a red cent, the agri-biz farmers grown morbidly obese on a diet of credit and government subsidies (just like their end-customers grew obese on engineered snack-foods), the Wall Street lords of financialization hypothecating fortunes by leveraging the stripped assets of everything not nailed down from sea to shining sea, the swelling underclass conditioned to helplessness, addiction, and vice, the inescapable ambient tyranny of media hype, propaganda, and disinformation, and, of course, the catastrophe that government has become.”
…and outlines the fallout that ensues –
“Many people will seek to escape the places they live now to find new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. These demographic movements are already underway. New York City is hemorrhaging much of its tax base as the wealthy flee, Chicago too, and the whole state of California. These places will be overwhelmed by functional bankruptcy, even if legal legerdemain allows them to avoid declaring it. Other states, counties and municipalities — including many suburban blobs — will also founder, meaning all the usual support systems and safety nets vanish. Many supply chains will break. Money may either be scarce or worthless, which are two ways of going broke.”
And, as every good author should, he provides a solution, of sorts, for the story’s heroes to deal with the presented dilemma –
“Right now, start planning where you might go and what you can do. The turmoil will be filled with opportunity to find ways to be useful to other people, to devise work-arounds for ruptured systems and relationships, in getting food to people, making things they need, distributing them, fixing things that are broken where possible, and moving people and stuff from point A to point B. There will be plenty of work for people who are willing to do it. Keep in mind that it’s entirely up to you to make good choices.”
Well, it’s a plan, for those individuals who can muster the flexibility and determination to carry it out. Though there can be no guarantees in such circumstances.
And for the rest? Well, I leave that to your imagination.
Please read the whole story. These exerpts are only snippets.