Bird’s Eye: Sam Beckett said it best, “Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.” Some people look at America and see a crumbling empire headed for ruin; some see a country that has still great potential. The next two sections offer some of the more eloquent visions of each.
* A Metaphor for America Chris Hedges The Walrus (Thanks, Terry)
The country’s 716 overseas military bases, some the size of small cities, will eventually become too costly. Many will close. But, unlike the British, who methodically dismantled an empire, we will not retreat in time to save ourselves. We will go down like ancient Rome. Our traditional allies in the Middle East and Asia, smelling blood, will look elsewhere for alliances and protection. The US dollar will no longer be the reserve currency, meaning we will be unable to pay for the huge deficits that fund military adventurism by selling depressed Treasury notes to China and other foreign investors. Climate change, with its droughts, heat waves, freak storms, and flooding, will hammer crop yields and tax emergency services. The US, like the city of Scranton, will teeter back and forth with insolvency. I do not know when the collapse will come. A year. Two years. A few years. But America has about it the smell of mortality.
…And the contagion will spread. Destabilized by the collapse of the American dollar, rising prices, and declining exports, Canada will also suffer, although yours will be a less virulent strain than the one that infects us. But what is happening to us will happen to you, because there is no way out. The corporate forces that doomed us will doom you, too. Canada will become to a disintegrating America what Hungary was to Nazi Germany. But for us, the fall will be swifter, harder, more terrifying, and far more violent, because we retain the capacity, like a wounded animal, to lash out irrationally, to use our bloated military in reckless endeavours. We are not psychologically, emotionally, or intellectually prepared. We lack the self-reflective mechanisms to understand. Our national identity and sense of omnipotence will be inexplicably taken from us. The tragedy, however, is not that the American empire is dying. It is that we will bring so many people like you down with us.
* Some Personal Thoughts Ian Welsh
Recently I had a day where I burned out on anger. Oh yes, when it comes to public affairs I’ve been angry for years, though I think rage is the more applicable word. I don’t think this rage was misplaced, and I still get spasms of it.
The reason for the rage is simple enough: we’re killing and making a lot of people suffer who don’t need to with our political policies, economic policies just being a subset of politics. The financial collapse was foreseen by many, myself included and we told the powers that be what to do to avoid it. The rise of economic inequality, which is correlated with pretty much every bad thing you can imagine, from heart attacks to infant mortality to bad performance in school and crime (read the Spirit Level if you need this proved in tedious detail), has been going on since the mid 70s at the latest, and was clearly visible by the mid eighties. It was, and is a clear policy choice. It was chosen in response to a real problem, the end of cheap oil and the rise of the oligarchy rich, but it was a choice, there were other ways of dealing with the problem available. First the Brits, then the Americans, then the Canadians and then various other nations chose the policy option which would lead to increased inequality. This was combined with a concerted assault on civil liberties, in this case I believe starting in America with the War on Drugs. Society became more totalitarian, whatever the trappings, and less free, not just in government, but in every part of our lives. I find the way we treat our children today, with virtually no freedom, particularly odious (no your precious children are not in more danger than children in the 60s and 70s who were allowed to run free). Police in schools are routine now, we imprison people in stunningly cruel prisons for minor crimes and so on. Visiting Britain was like visiting a starter project for Orwell’s 1984, with CCTV cameras everywhere.
Our response to the financial crisis, a totally optional crisis which was based almost entirely on fraud, was to make the poor and the middle class pay through austerity, while bailing out the rich with trillions and trillions of dollars.
* A Failed Experiment Nicholas Kristof New York Times
Time and again, we see the decline of public services accompanied by the rise of private workarounds for the wealthy.
Is crime a problem? Well, rather than pay for better policing, move to a gated community with private security guards!
Are public schools failing? Well, superb private schools have spaces for a mere $40,000 per child per year.
Public libraries closing branches and cutting hours? Well, buy your own books and magazines!
Are public parks — even our awesome national parks, dubbed “America’s best idea” and the quintessential “public good” — suffering from budget cuts? Don’t whine. Just buy a weekend home in the country!
Public playgrounds and tennis courts decrepit? Never mind — just join a private tennis club!
I’m used to seeing this mind-set in developing countries like Chad or Pakistan, where the feudal rich make do behind high walls topped with shards of glass; increasingly, I see it in our country. The disregard for public goods was epitomized by Mitt Romney’s call to end financing of public broadcasting.
A wealthy friend of mine notes that we all pay for poverty in the end. The upfront way is to finance early childhood education for at-risk kids. The back-end way is to pay for prisons and private security guards. In cities with high economic inequality, such as New York and Los Angeles, more than 1 percent of all employees work as private security guards, according to census data.