Peace in our day

America can’t last. Anyone with eyes to see can see that. It won’t take God sending a hurricane to express his wrath — it’s just a natural consequence of our tolerance of insane leadership that continues to gut our social bond and productive capacity from the inside out. Fordism, along with the New Deal and the Great Society, was the best we could do: certainly not a utopia, still a stunningly amoral society, but at bottom a rational management of the empire. As that model faltered under the weight of an unwinnable war and out of control fuel prices, a motivated fringe element was able to shift the model of government from one of rational management to one of sustained looting.

There’s no question: we deserve to fall. What comes after — Chinese hegemony? a de-globalized world made up of regional power centers? total environmental collapse? — could be better or could be worse, but the immediate fallout is certain to be catastrophic. Within the US, a police state characterized by ever-greater brutality is a much more likely outcome of “increased contradictions” than a “new New Deal.” Elsewhere, financial systems are so rigged to the US economy that the results are unpredictable. Even China and India don’t seem to be developing domestic demand quickly enough to make up for lost access to the credit-card accounts of American consumers. Meanwhile, we’ve been happily selling weapons to literally everyone who can afford to pay and giving loans to those who can’t. Europe is obviously great in some ways but prone to extreme xenophobia and in any case heavily dependent on the US for defense. Latin America seems to be a mild beacon of hope and perhaps a good option for waiting out the apocalypse.

The best we can hope for in the US at this point is prudent management of our decline. A full-fledged welfare state, a rational system of transportation, a rebuilding of our manufacturing base and a resurgence of unionization, a turn away from militarism — barring a miracle, none of these things are seriously in the cards at this point, no matter what the speakers at the DNC said. The situation reminds me of the reign of Hezekiah, one of the “good kings” of Judah who narrowly avoided being conquered by the same Assyrians who decimated the Northern Kingdom:

At that time, when Merodachbaladan, son of Baladan, king of Babylon, heard that Hezekiah had been ill, he sent letters and gifts to him. Hezekiah was pleased at this, and therefore showed the messengers his whole treasury, his silver, gold, spices and fine oil, his armory, and all that was in his storerooms; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and asked him: “What did these men say to you? Where did they come from?” “They came from a distant land, from Babylon,” replied Hezekiah. “What did they see in your house?” the prophet asked. “They saw everything in my house,” answered Hezekiah. “There is nothing in my storerooms that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah: “Hear the word of the LORD: The time is coming when all that is in your house, and everything that your fathers have stored up until this day, shall be carried off to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. Some of your own bodily descendants shall be taken and made servants in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Hezekiah replied to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is favorable.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (2 Kings 20:12-19)

We’ve shown our cards — the end is a foregone conclusion. The best we can hope for is “peace and security in our lifetime,” and for me, that’s ultimately what Obama represents. He may not be our last chance. A Democratic congress could restrain a president McCain sufficiently to give us another shot in four years, though they would likely be extremely demoralized by a McCain victory. Whatever the Democrats do, it may well be the case that we can afford “four more years of failed leadership” — the US started out so strong when the onslaught of the Reagan Revolution began that we might even have a few decades left in us.

I don’t want to take the chance, though. The US is going to fall, but I don’t want to be around to see it. That very fact may illustrate how irrevocably American I am — someone has to take the hit, but why should it be me? — and, more broadly, why we can’t depend on those living at the heart of the empire to “be the ones we’ve been waiting for.” We’re corrupted, co-opted, hopeless. We’re so powerful that we can’t seem to do anything, except perhaps to write earnest diaries on Daily Kos and donate to the candidate who will try to bring about a slow decline rather than a catastrophic one. To expect anything else from us is to expect a miracle.

11 thoughts on “Peace in our day

  1. I think you’ve said just about everything I’ve been feeling but not able to acknowledge. We’re fucked, but Obama fucks us more gently. There seems to be no antidote to neoliberalism and the left is dead. I honestly don’t know what to do anymore, except vote for Obama and hope.

  2. Adam, I’m afraid the collapse will be faster than you suggest, and it will be global rather than confined to US. And of course imperialistic factions of American finance and military are working hard to make sure the rest of the world suffers as much or more than we do.

    World oil production is peaking, which means that a large component of geopolitics is energy conflict.
    Gates oversaw an “energy shockwave” scenario in 2005 before becoming Sec. of Defense. Russia in Georgia is all about asserting energy dominance and threatening the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, not to mention throwing the hammer down on Europe this winter. Oil has gone down in price mainly because global economies are weakening drastically. Oil exports are declining much faster than production declines, too, which exacerbates the situation. See

    The financial crisis is still raging, and it’s much worse than it appears; we are experiencing severe deflation and monetary destruction, as capital and credit disappear. See
    This means that we do not have the capital to invest in another stock or market bubble, and we do not have capital to invest in desperately-needed alternative energies. Cheap money is based upon cheap energy, and energy is becoming much more scarce and expensive.
    The fossil fuel era is coming to a close, except for coal (for the moment), and coal is the most dirty and polluting form of fuel we have, which just contributes to global warming.

    We can all live with less, but I don’t know how possible it is to have our current form of capitalism without growth, and I don’t know how catastrophic a transition to a different economic practice and model will be. Ultimately the earth will not be able to support 7 billion people, which means a lot of people will die, one way or another. I’ve struggled with this for four years, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I hope things break down more locally into semi-autonomous regions that can still preserve some sort of civility and sustain some food production and distribution.

    The main reason I have to support and vote for Obama as opposed to McCain or to simply not voting, is because I know that McCain strongly supports military force, which will hasten and heighten global and American destruction. Iran is one thing, but if we go toe to toe with Russia there is absolutely the possibility that it can go nuclear, and don’t think the neocons wouldn’t go there. Obama you have at least the chance that we don’t blow up the planet right away, even if he doesn’t fundamentally change anything.

  3. No I can’t watch the fascist display, it’s too sickening, as is the police state display outside as protesters and journalists get herded, teargassed and arrested.

  4. Oh, and part of the whole election spectacle is to distract us from the economy, as now the stock market goes down with the price of oil as people finally start to realize it’s the incredible weakness of the economy that’s bringing oil down.

  5. Agreed, re: the police state display — though it was also rather bad in Denver, too.

    Not sure about the election as a distraction. Do you mean THIS election specifically? Or in general, are elections distractions from something more important, and this time it is the economy. If so, I think it’s a fool’s errand. The only people distracted are the media, not the people forced to deal with it on a daily basis.

  6. The passage from Kings is pretty interesting. It’s seemingly taken for granted within the text that Hezekiah’s wealth is really impressive. But the Babylonian diplomats were probably bewildered by this deranged schmuck local tribal chieftain showing them the equivalent of a bent pewter spoon, two Barcaloungers (one broken), a collection of vintage Judas Priest LPs, an almost complete series of orginal edition Left Behind novels and a bronzed footprint of Hezekiah’s youngest kid and the messugah gonif is babbling on about how this junk is the treasure load. I mean, they’re high officials from Babylon, they’re probably using gold-plated Q-tips to clean out their earwax. Why would they be impressed by anything King Yuckamuck of the Kingdom of Bumfuck can show them?

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