- JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER BLOG - Jan 26, 2021 -
JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER -
Events are in the driver’s seat now, not personalities. Gil Scott-Heron was right way back in the day when he said, “the revolution will not be televised.” Only what he called “revolution” turns out to be collapse, led by the disintegrating news business, so that the people of this land are flying blind into a maelstrom of hardship. Everything is going south at once here, and you probably don’t know it.
If you think we’re headed into a transhuman nirvana of continuous tech-assisted orgasm, social equity, and guaranteed basic income, you are going to be disappointed. Our actual destination is a neo-medieval time-out from all the techno-dazzle of recent decades. It’s not as bad as you might think. The human project will continue at a lower pitch, probably for a good long while, but minus most of the comforts and conveniences we’re used to, and with very different social arrangements. You can waste your energy hand-wringing and wailing over all this, or summon the fortitude to go where history is taking us and make something of it.
The old economy is wrecked. Many Americans already know this because they’ve lost their businesses and their livelihoods. What used to be there isn’t coming back. But there will always be ways to make yourself useful providing things and services that other people need, just not within the crumbling armature of the economy we’re leaving behind. There will be a lot of debris left in the way to overcome, especially the crap we’ve smeared all over the landscape.
One business you can begin to organize right now is a salvage industry, sorting out the reusable components of all that crap — the steel I-beams, the aluminum trusses and sashes, plate glass, concrete blocks, copper and PVC pipe, and dimensional lumber. A lot of this stuff we just won’t be making anymore, certainly not at the former scale. Think of all the shopping malls to be disassembled.
Growing food and getting it to markets is the most critical activity. Poor Bill Gates, addled by his fortune, has bought up something like a quarter-million acres of farmland. His grandiosity prompts him to believe he can organize farming on the super-giant scale — Walmart for corn and turnips. Nothing could be further from the real coming trend: a reduction of scale and scope of farming and of the distribution supply lines that serve it. Poor Bill doesn’t seem to realize that the oil-and-gas-based “inputs” (fertilizers, pesticides) won’t be there for him, nor will the million-dollar diesel-powered combines. Nor the trucking industry. He could do more good for mankind getting into the mule business. (He won’t. Lacks razzle-dazzle.)
The transition between the old giant agri-biz model of farming and the emergent system of small-scaled farms based on human and animal labor will be arduous and disorderly in the early going. A lot of people will miss a lot of meals, and you know what that means. Working on a farm will be one way to make sure you get enough to eat. But also consider all the businesses that have to be created from scratch on the local level to serve the logistics of farming. You are already seeing many food products unavailable in the supermarkets. That will become more distressingly obvious in the disorders of 2021. When food deliveries to the supermarkets get really spotty, the farmers’ markets will not just be for schmoozing over lattes and almond croissants.
For those perhaps not paying attention, Covid-19 has destroyed what remains of education, especially the public school system. It was already moribund, waiting to crash, reduced to a pension racket for teachers. Going forward, the money won’t be there to operate these giant centralized schools and their yellow buses (while paying out pensions). The virus has kick-started exactly the kind of home-schooling pod system (several families combining) that can be reorganized into small-scale schooling for people who want it. People who don’t want it can move into their future without knowing how to read or do arithmetic. We’ll finally get a good test of the noble savage hypothesis. As for the colleges and universities, their business models are toast. They’ll be downscaling and shuttering as far ahead as the eye can see. Whatever remains will be more like finishing schools for neo-medieval ladies and gentlemen — and, by the way, the distinction between men and women will be reestablished. Why? Because reality insists on it. There will be plenty of work for former professors of Intersectionality in the sorghum fields.
A central theme of The Long Emergency is that government becomes increasingly impotent and ineffectual as our manifold crises deepen. Is Joe Biden not the perfect avatar for this feature? He’s spending his first week in office laser-focused on policy that supports transsexuals, about 0.42 percent of the population. When the applause dies down, he’ll be unable to act on anything that might get the people moving on what they need to do and where they have to go.
Meanwhile, we get an exciting show-trial: Donald Trump’s impeachment in the Senate. Not a bright idea. Mr. Trump would get to defend himself, of course. What if his attorneys produce solid evidence (i.e., proof) that the incursion into the capitol building was actually launched by Antifa / BLM cadres? Could happen. What if the Democratic Party gave them some aid-and-comfort in organizing the event? Wondering what is on Nancy Pelosi’s purloined laptops?
President Joe B may not even be in office a month from now. Justice Amy Coney Barrett will rule shortly on the lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin for ignoring constitutional requirements in changing their voting rules. Unlike so many other cases tossed out on procedural grounds, there’s a pretty good chance this case will stand, and the outcome could end up nullifying last November’s national election, cancelling Joe Biden. That will birth a whole new political crisis on top of the cratering economic picture. There are no road maps for any of that.