Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quote of the day

...well, yesterday, actually:

When Americans can no longer run their cars on a whim, they will simply go apeshit and you can kiss normal politics goodbye.

Jim Kunstler is someone I frequently quote and/or refer to on this blog. He strikes me as having a lot of expertise, in-depth knowledge, and wisdom (not to mention basic writing talent) and that's a combination I find hard to shrug off. Still, he's been dry-washing his hands together and cackling in barely repressed glee over the imminent death of what he calls America's Happy Motoring Utopia for years now and none of his predictions have come true as yet. I have to imagine he wonders why, and here's the answer I would give him, from the far reaches of my own inexpert, completely shallow, utterly non-wise (and not particularly well expressed) foolishness:

Mr. Kunstler, the world people live in is largely subjective, and while I know the merest thought of this drives you crazy, so, too, is the 'science' of economics. Things are largely what people think they are, and while markets may go up and down and businesses may thrive or fold, nonetheless, if the majority of people in the world do not really believe we are having a crisis, then we are not really having a crisis.

People understand that times are hard when they can't feed their kids any more, or they have to choose between necessities -- you want food on the table this week, you have to short the landlord and hope to dodge the deputies with the eviction notice, or not pay the utility bill and live by candlelight for a while. THAT's when times are hard, THAT's when people start to panic. I don't think the majority of Americans are living that way yet; at the very least, I don't think a significant number of Americans who have been managing to pay all their bills and still eat pretty well have seen that status drop precipitously to this point.

Yeah, everybody is hearing rumblings, and everybody is wondering what comes next... but for now, most people still have money coming in and can still cover their nut.

Times are bad, but what you do not seem to get, Mr. Kunstler, is that most Americans (the Great UnWealthy Class, as it were) honestly believe that times have always BEEN hard for them. You and I know this isn't true, but that's what most of us believe anyway, largely because we have never been able to go out and purchase all the toys that we see our more affluent co-citizens enjoying on TV. So the current coughing and rattling we're hearing in the economy doesn't trouble us much, cuz we think we're tough. When the banks all close and our debit cards don't work any more, when gas hits $4 or $5 a gallon, when the lights go out, when the deputy sheriffs show up to put our shit out on the curb... this is when the American people will finally understand that times really do suck, and all we ever were, really, was rough, tough cream puffs.

Until then, though, most of us will just continue with business as usual, because what the fuck else are we supposed to do? Buy gold? Stock up on emergency rations, guns and ammo? Become insanely religious? Fuck. As long as the TV works and there's something crappy to watch on it, the American Way of Life will remain non-negotiable.

I'm not really being as snarky as I sound; I kinda half believe that the average American's obstreperous capacity to ignore the bugling sounds of impending crisis all around him/her and just keep on truckin' may be our greatest resource for getting through the no-doubt impending calamity. If we continue to just rock on with our bad selves regardless of what tries to tip the boat over, who knows? Maybe our arms will yet hold us safe from a rolling sea... or some shit.

Having said all that, let me hasten to add -- when Americans really can no longer fill up and go wherever the fuck they want whenever the fuck they want in their private automobiles, they (we) will INDEED go apeshit... unless, of course, someone has schooled them (us) to the necessity of embracing other options prior to that point.

I have to hope that, however much they do not want to raise the possibility now (because truth-speaking doomsayers never get elected President), our front running Presidential nominees are aware of this necessity, and making plans to address it once they achieve their desires.

Otherwise, all the wishful thinking in the world will almost certainly not avail us.

Still, I think it can put off the crisis for a little while yet.

Or so I wishfully think, at this point.


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