Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Think Happy Thoughts

This is for all of you who might be entertaining some of the same thoughts that continually rise up to plague me. Not a day goes by that I don't think some variation of this line of reasoning: everything that's supposedly being done for "recovery,"--the bailouts, the propping up of the auto industry, the budget initiatives, as well as the little bleeps of encouraging economic news, the "glimmers of hope"--maybe all this is just like what the corporate media fed us when everything in the country was supposedly "normal." That's what they said, and that's what we all thought. But in fact we were heading for the massive trainwreck we're currently experiencing, something that the more prescient among us warned us about before it happened. But nobody listened.

So what the corporate media and the politicians feed us is bullshit, because what's really happening is too nightmarish for anybody--other than those who prefer the unvarnished truth even if it's uglier than a two-headed vulture--to contemplate. Much less our spineless politicians who bestir themselves from self-preservation activities only on occasion. And never, ever, ever to present bad news.

Here's Jim Kuntsler in his latest blog entry, another of my "never miss" blogs.

The truth is that we're comprehensively bankrupt, and no amount of shuffling certificates around will avail to alter that. The bad debt has to be 'worked out' -- i.e. written off, subjected to liquidation of remaining assets and collateral, reorganized under the bankruptcy statutes, and put behind us. We have to work very hard to reconfigure the physical arrangement of life in the USA, moving away from the losses of our suburbs, reactivating our towns, downscaling our biggest cities, re-scaling our farms and food production, switching out our Happy Motoring system for public transit and walkable neighborhoods, rebuilding local networks of commerce, and figuring out a way to make a few things of value again.

What's happened instead is what I most feared: that our politicians would mount a massive campaign to sustain the unsustainable. That's what all the TARP and TARF and PPIT and bailouts are about. It will all amount to an exercise in futility and could easily end up wrecking the USA in every sense of the term. If Mr. Obama doesn't get with a better program, then we are going to face a Long Emergency as grueling as the French Revolution. One very plain and straightforward example at hand is the announcement last week of a plan to build a high speed rail network. To be blunt about it, this is perfectly fucking stupid. It will require a whole new track network, because high speed trains can't run on the old rights of way with their less forgiving curve ratios and grades. We would be so much better off simply fixing up and reactivating the normal-speed track system that is sitting out there rusting in the rain -- and save our more grandiose visions for a later time.*

I wish, hope, pray, long for the return of some semblance of what we all call "the American way of life." Transformed, of course, by adversity and humane thought into something more rational and certainly more just and equitable. And in this, I suspect I'm pretty much like everybody else: comfortable with the status quo I know and fearful of a new paradigm I don't. But in my heart of hearts, I don't really believe we're ever going to go back to anything any of us would easily recognize as the familiar way of life in this country. The historian in me knows that vast wrenching changes happen in history. And few in the midst of them understand. We might be able to escape into some fantasies we build in our heads--the stuff the corporate media and the politicians stoke constantly--but the reality of history is on the front porch knocking on the door. It won't be long before we have to open the door and let her in.

*I am nothing without the ability to admit an error. And I 'fess up to a major mistake I made some weeks ago in a blog about high speed rail. In light of new information, I'm backing off that position. Let's fix what we have makes much more sense. Alas, this course isn't nearly as sexy as the promise of a 200 mph train.
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