There was a time in my youth when it was the simply unthinkable that America, the good 'ole US of A, would not exist as 50 united states forever. If anything was a constant in the life of a teenager in the mid 1970's it was the absolute supremacy of the American way of life. Yeah, so, I was a bit naive, but try to tell me back in the day despite the turmoil of the post-hippie era you didn't think the same thing?
Today at the ripe old age of 51 I have never been so ill at ease about the future. It isn't any one thing - its everything. It isn't just me - its everyone. Thinking people can read the signs, but even those not paying attention know something is wrong. From the moribund economy to the mass invasion from the south to the doom saying environmental cabal, not to mention recent generations of youth without the slightest grasp of history, American or otherwise. Reading the headlines and the winning legislative agendas across the land one would begin to think there is no actual "American" culture.
Honestly, it's a little frightening. Sometimes I feel compelled to plan for the
apocalypse before its too late. I had always thought survivalists were
slightly off their rockers, now they seem to be the only ones on the
ball. The question is - which apocalypse to plan for?
Having read the mood and the trajectory of the culture our authors, movie makers and TV producers dove right in to entertain us - or warn us??? Novels and films like the Book of Eli and The Road focused on the world after a cataclysmic war or a global catastrophe. We follow loners as they journey through a nasty post-apocalyptic scene. Currently they are several highly rated TV shows following the same theme in one fashion or another. Perhaps the most popular is The Walking Dead where survivors of a zombie apocalypse battle daily for simple existence against an unthinking horde of ravenous zombies as well as other desperate and dangerous fellow survivors. Falling Skies depicts the world after an alien invasion had decimated humanity leaving only rag tag pockets of free men to able fight back. The now completed TV series called Fringe featured another invasion scenario of a sorts. This time the invaders where not from outer space, but rather from our own future. After evolving into unfeeling, uncaring creatures of pure logic and reason they (we) had moved back in time to reclaim the world before it succumbed to human caused pollution and devastation.
The draw, the fascination with each of these shows is seeing our fragile society collapsing into the unrecognizable. Still, there's more to it than that. The characters we bond with touch the basest part of humanity that exists in each of us - the will to survive. In those brief moments during each episode as we project ourselves at a subconscious level into the scene we feel more alive than ever. As each episode comes to an end we feel a momentary letdown as we realize we have returned to our ordinary but safe lives. True, most of us like it that way, but a part of us longs to feel that feeling again and again. Like it or not there's is a chance our society will someday collapse into the unrecognizable and it will not be exciting at all, it will be deadly.
The most likely scenario right now is not one of those but rather a societal collapse born of a financial meltdown. What would that look like when the power goes out and the trucks stop delivering to the supermarkets and gas stations? There are two other shows currently running that deal with the aftermath of a total breakdown of governmental order. The TV show Revolution, while ridiculous on many levels, does explore a post government United States and the reordering of regional societies. The show deals mostly with the extreme violence of personal vendettas, but around the edges it offers a glimpse of the rise of a new order. The other show running on cable TV's Sci-Fi channel called Continuum is infinitely more sophisticated and nuanced in every aspect. Here the world's governments have spent themselves into bankruptcy (prophetic anyone) and have been bailed out by big business. In this scenario multinationals are the ultimate authority, crafting society to their benefit. The checks and balances such as they are today are a thing of the past. For many life is grand, for the rest it's only scarcity and exploitation.
As we take stock of the world today with the economic stresses and the threat of terrorism's global reach we can't rule out that old standby war, yet the slow devolution of the cultural West and the disintegration of so-called "free" societies is likely to spark our decent into disorder and chaos. How will it start? What will the first signs look like? Just look around...
We have an entire generation of young people pushed from an early age to go to college (not necessarily a bad thing) only to find themselves starting their adult lives under a mountain of debt and unable to afford the dream of buying a house or starting a family. They've played by the rules and when they come out the other end of the tunnel they're lucky just to find halfway decent job. This while the colleges and universities sit atop mountains of wealth in one form or another and still they squeeze the student, their parents or the taxpayer for more. One recent grad told me she knew how to be rich and successful in America - start a college. It wasn't always like this.
For those lucky enough to be working the squeezing didn't stop on graduation day. Less Americans have a job today than they did in the 1980's while nearly 60 million draw a government disability check. With the baby boom generation entering their retirement years and drawing their justly deserved benefits how long can the Federal government remain solvent?
Some will say those foolish enough to rely on the government benefits for retirement will get what they deserve. Most of us heeding this advice were sold a cruel joke by the promise of home ownership and a 401K package at work. We were told these things were the path to a happy retirement. But the squeeze continues. Home values plummet and our 401K's collapse before our eyes. What we have worked for all our lives disappears in a blink. This while the power brokers and well connected continue line their pockets.
Those enjoying good incomes - no doubt through their own hard work and perseverance - are forced to give it up through taxation because it's unfair that they should have so much while others have so little - this while millions of slackers draw a monthly check for doing nothing. This is called fairness and compassion.
Paradoxically the hand-wringing over the so-called welfare cheats bilking the system masks the real outrage - that being the corporate/special interest control of our government and our wealth. It is a vast and overwhelming paradigm that defies logic - impossible to fully grasp, impossible to ever rectify.
If this sounds like a conspiracy theory it should, because it is. No, not a grand conspiracy with an all powerful puppet master pulling the strings, but a conglomeration of conspiracies designed to control all human activity while making a select few filthy rich. The problem is one day it will come crashing down on them and on us. There will be a triggering event - a black swan event - that will start the dominoes falling. It could be anything.
There is hope, is there not? I want to be an optimist, I really do. However, as I read the writing on the walls I find little room for positive feelings. My hope is maybe I'm not reading between the lines...
Can the U.S. continue following the same general trajectory we see now? Is it even possible? Will there be a painful correction or maybe a savior with the power to set things right? Yes, yes, yes and hopefully.
Obviously anything's possible. America could teeter on the edge for decades dodging that one cataclysm that would blow this house of cards down. Its likely, even highly probable there will be a massive financial correction that would make the mortgage crisis seem like a walk in the park and quite possibly the world would emerge better, stronger and more balanced.
After WWII all but one of the world's advance industrial societies for all intents and purposes was destroyed and still the world recovered. There was real political leadership and vision that helped remake a world that rumbled and stumbled its way into the 21st century. There is no evidence that any such leadership exists anymore, none whatsoever.
What will happen to the world if America and West collapse? I'm guessing it won't be like the grit, grime and violence depicted in the TV shows - it'll be far worse.
But I could be wrong.