Why am I hopeful? the Status Quo is devolving, and a better way of living lies just beyond the corrupt, wasteful, ruinous consumerist debt/financial tyranny we now inhabit.
First, let's start with a Christmas song by longtime reader/contributor Dan T. who is a professional songwriter/musician: The Happy Christmas Song - thank you, Dan, for the joy of this music.
I see the potential for a discontinuous plunge into chaos driven by unsustainable debt every time I read a macroeconomic analysis. But "on the ground" in my own life, I see something different. Every day, in millions of unheralded ways, I see individuals making incremental changes in the direction of sustainability. There are twice the number of farmers' markets that there were 10 years ago, largely because the number of farmers is actually rising for the first time in modern American history. My buddy who owns an electric bike shop can't keep them in stock, because people are dumping their second cars in favor of e-bikes. There's more solar on rooftops every week in my little Tempe suburb. Etc. etc. etc.It adds up to "damping the discontinuity," and perhaps explains why we are six years into fearing a plunge into horror that never quite seems to materialize. The better society that you envision - I often think as I read your great essays - may be quietly building itself under all of our noses.
The obvious question, of course, is will it happen fast enough? But I am very much an evolutionary theorist. Unlike Mencken, I don't see boobus Americanus when I look around me, tempting as that dismissal may be. The deeper truth about even the most pathetic Americans is that, like all human beings, they are the end product of 250,000 years of homo sapiens selecting for survival and reproduction, which means selecting for problem-solving.
And I dispute the notion that the "default" way to solve the survival-reproduction problem is to kill or otherwise tear communities apart. At a deep level, we understand that groups and tribes survive more readily - and allow us to mate and raise young more successfully-- than do individuals. I am confident that the emerging solutions will be rooted in that understanding.
Should the manifesting of problems pick up speed, I guarantee that this generalized, widespread, difficult-to-track-or-quantify problem-solving will speed up accordingly. I am confident that the former won't outpace the later to any vast degree. Ultimately, I admit, that's just a guess, but there is a lot of history behind that guess.
I know the numbers you have cited of the debt that's been taken on to support the Status Quo over the past four years ($6 trillion in new Federal debt plus the $7.7 trillion bailout of the banks) don't come close to being sustainable, and suggest serious, rapid, negative change. But a brilliant thinker once remarked that "Food is wealth, health is wealth, energy is wealth; all else is illusion."
So if the first thing that changes is the internalization of this ethic, the remainder of the changes won't be so difficult. Big if. Possible, though, because it will become necessary. Maybe the best example of "problem solving" that I cited earlier will be the revamping of problematic values...
Also - a huge, overlooked positive enjoyed by Americans is low population density amid vast tracts of arable land in a temperate climate. If sufficient food is the real basis for wealth, we'll need to seriously screw up - via nuclear war that spreads within our borders, for example - to experience the loss of anything we truly need. Any "suffering" rooted in the loss of cheap Chinese crap does not, I think, deserve to the labeled as such, and perhaps many people will come to realize this.
I guess I'll stay hopeful until forced to become otherwise. Have not been forced yet.
1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism and the elimination of accountability
3. Diminishing returns
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economyComplex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).
We are not powerless. Not accepting responsibility and being powerless are two sides of the same coin: once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
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To receive a 20% discount on the print edition: $19.20 (retail $24), follow the link, open a Createspace account and enter discount code SJRGPLAB. (This is the only way I can offer a discount.)
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