jon_flanders at compuserve.com
Sat Aug 10 15:24:40 MDT 2002
My favorite blog is the site of the writer James Howard Kunstler("The
Geography of Nowhere" and most recently "Cities in Mind")
Here are some of his latest musings. I passed on Mark Jone's last
think-piece to him, by the way, of which he spoke highly.
The Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle
Commentary on the Flux of Events
by Jim Kunstler
August 8, 2002
The remarkable oscillations of the stock markets are like bouncings
of a diver on the high board before his fateful plunge.
There are dependable cycles and seasons on this earth, and historic
convulsions customarily get underway in the fall of the year. World War
One's Guns of August were an overture for the military acts of September.
Hitler stomped through Poland in September, 1939. The stock market debacles
of 1929 and 1987 were both October affairs. The derivatives-and-currency
meltdown of 1998 occured in late summer and fall. So here we are in late
summer with all the elements lining up for an epoch-changing tipping point.
The violent impasse in Israel / Palestine and American designs on
Iraq are priming the Islamic world for a concerted jihad. The Ponzi
finances of all South America are unraveling faster than you can do the
Macarena. Western markets are saturated. Credit cards are maxed out. House
values are cresting and about to tank into a cloacal liquidity vacuum of
sub-prime mortgage default.
These are ominous conditions, but the clusterfuck that they combine
to produce will be aggravated terribly by our inflexible American Dream
drive-in utopia living arrangements. In an expanded war between
international Islam and the West, the oil markets and their supply lines
will shut down, and we will not be able to compensate for that with oil
from Russia. Meanwhile, our suburban metroplexes will seize up like V-8
engines trying to run on corn syrup. We are going to learn the hard way
that our economy was about suburbia and little else -- building it,
furnishing it, running it, and servicing it. The collapse of this living
arrangement, and many of the economic relations within it, will be the
back-story of the long emergency ahead.
We will be left with these questions: Where do we begin rebuilding a
daily infrastructure that has a future (hint: they're called towns). How
can we be good neighbors and protect our own interests (hint: find a way to
be useful locally and get paid for it). What do we do about melting assests
and the value of the dollar (hint: prepare for austerity). What kind of
politics will this emergency provoke? (hint: think corn-pone Nazis).
Is this the last summer of Happy Motoring?
August 7, 2002
If this nation ever does come out of the coming clusterfuck, it will
have to do so with an altered mental infrastucture. In his column this
morning, Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley writes:
"In my post-bubble vision of the US economy, a purging of the excesses of
the 1990s is vital before America can resume a more sustainable and
vigorous economic expansion."
Well, yes. But instead of "expansion" or growth, how about we
substitute the word "activity?" Isn't it time we detatched everyday
economics from the language of cancer? Our economic troubles (as well as
political and ecological, not to mention spiritual) are largely the results
of 100 years of turbo-hyper-growth. We're going to need a different kind of
economy -- and a different brand of thinking -- to get beyond the overshoot
disorders of the 21st century and resume the project of civilization. For
me, of course, this implies the necessity for reorganizing our everyday
activities at a much finer scale, the local scale.
What passes for "expansion" these days is something like the
gruesome spectacle I saw the other day along Route 50, in Wilton, NY, two
miles north of Saratoga Springs. A great convulsion of earth-moving was
underway there, next to the Lowe's store, which is next to the WalMart
Super Store (each store and its parking lot occupy at least 15 acres). The
adjoining thirty acres (across the highway from the under-tenanted Mall)
was being bulldozed for yet another power center (i.e. ensemble of Big Box
stores). I'm confident that most people who motored past this landscraping
operation felt sick to their stomachs -- even those on their way to the
WalMart to be consumers. (That's another word we need badly to get rid of.
Consumers, unlike citizens, have no obligations, duties, responsibilities
to anything but their appetite for Cheez Doodles. Americans demean and
confuse themselves when they call each other "consumers," especially in the
By the way, the idea that we need more Big Box retail infrastructure
in the Saratoga area is a joke, but that anyone would undertake such an
investment just as hyper-turbo-economy tanks is a sick joke.
Now, it may be true that under any circumstances all systems rise and
fall, flow and ebb. But turbo-hyper-growth of the kind we have experienced
for several generations, is naturally prone to turbo-hyper-bust, and that
means economic clusterfuck. We need a new vocabulary for new circumstances.
We need economic activity, but the times will soon require it to shrink in
size and increase in quality. This is a huge task, but if we fail to
address it, our nation is liable to dissolve in obsolescence and disorder.
August 5, 2002
A friend got me decent seats for the Lyle Lovett / Bonnie Raitt
concert at our big outdoor performance shed last night. Probably 10,000
people came (many on blankets on the "lawn" portion of the great grassy
bowl outside the shed). They put on a good show (though poor Lyle was
encumbered by a huge surgical contraption on his right leg (compound
fracture? knee operation??) and had to sit down through his whole set.
Bonnie looked as slinky as a jaguar, sang great, and played pretty darn
good slide guitar. What dogged me through the show, however, was the
nagging thought that it might be the last bigtime rock-and-roll show that I
would see for a long long time, if ever again.
Not because I expect to keel over from an infarction or get hit by a
pulp truck, but because I believe we're entering an age when shows on this
scale can no longer be mounted, and there will not be enough fans willing
to spend seventy-five bucks to see a couple of musical acts. It seems to me
that the rock show circuit operates at the same scale as WalMart, and I
believe that scale of things has poor prospects. As we left the Saratoga
Performing Arts Center (SPAC) after the show, two huge 18-wheel trailers
idled near the backstage area, waiting to cart the immense amount of sound
equipment and stage scenary to the next gig. The performers themselves
probably fly between many of their gigs. The number of fans who traveled
over fifty miles by car to fill the shed must have been substantial. The
sound amplification was excessive. We were in a middle row of the shed and
the sound was deafening. These are not really the kind of musicians who
need to be heard that way. In sum, the show seemed an exercise in the show
biz of the cheap oil age. Bonnie made a few "green" remarks between
numbers, but considering what the show requires in energy "inputs," her
comments were fatuous.
Anyway, I much prefer to see either of these two acts in a club that
seats a hundred and fifty people. And perhaps someday I will.
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