Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, 14 February 2018 in a still image from video. Photo: / Reuters

By Umair Hague
25 January 2018

(Eudaimonia & Co.) – You might say, having read some of my recent essays, “Umair! Don’t worry! Everything will be fine! It’s not that bad!” I would look at you politely, and then say gently, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think we’re taking collapse nearly seriously enough.”

Why? When we take a hard look at U.S. collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it is much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America — especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

Why would people abuse opioids en masse unlike anywhere else in the world? They must be living genuinely traumatic and desperate lives, in which there is little healthcare, so they have to self-medicate the terror away. But what is so desperate about them? Well, consider another example: the “nomadic retirees”. They live in their cars. They go from place to place, season after season, chasing whatever low-wage work they can find — spring, an Amazon warehouse, Christmas, Walmart.

Now, you might say — “well, poor people have always chased seasonal work!” But that is not really the point: absolute powerlessness and complete indignity is. In no other country I can see do retirees who should have been able to save up enough to live on now live in their cars in order to find work just to go on eating before they die — not even in desperately poor ones, where at least families live together, share resources, and care for one another. This is another pathology of collapse that is unique to America — utter powerlessness to live with dignity. Numbers don’t capture it — but comparisons paint a bleak picture.

How did America’s elderly end up cheated of dignity? After all, even desperately poor countries have “informal social support systems” — otherwise known as families and communities. But in America, there is the catastrophic collapse of social bonds. Extreme capitalism has blown apart American society so totally that people cannot even care for one another as much as they do in places like Pakistan and Nigeria. Social bonds, relationships themselves, have become unaffordable luxuries, more so than even in poor countries: this is yet another social pathology unique to American collapse.

Yet those once-poor countries are making great strides. Costa Ricans now have higher life expectancy than Americans — because they have public healthcare. American life expectancy is falling, unlike nearly anywhere else in the world, save the UK — because it doesn’t.

And that is my last pathology: it is one of the soul, not one of the limbs, like the others above. American appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die, in all the ways above. They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by the four pathologies above: their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity, or having to numb the pain of it all away.

If these pathologies happened in any other rich country — even in most poor ones — people would be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and certainly moved to make them not happen. But in America, they are, well, not even resigned. They are indifferent, mostly.

So my last pathology is a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about. [more]

Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse


  1. Anonymous said...

    Well, we all saw it. If you're over the age of 13, you were a direct witness to the internal decay of American institutions. It began a long time ago, we inherited this mess and its stinking rot has only gotten worse.

    We had a President that could diddle a intern and still remain in office. Both he and his wife went on to engage in public and private corruption scandals (and a trail of bodies). Nothing was done.

    More institutions showed rot, manipulation of markets, the Federal Reserve and major banks. Pensions and housing became the next victims, nobody was punished. Bankers and traders made off with mega-million dollar bonuses while people were being tossed out into the street.

    Every (s)Election cycle, we're promised reform and a return to our principles and ethics, but it never happens. Each succeeding Chief Officer continues to corrupt Corporate USA into deeper debt, insolvency, corruption and abuse. The revolving door between government "service" and corporate elites demonstrated what a joke our "democracy" really is. We have not forgotten. But the media betrayed us all and gave up their standards and ethics along the way. Everything is now bought and paid for and we're not any part of this except the wage slaves that are still required to keep this thing rolling.

    And then we got a Trump card delivered to the top of the stacked deck. This boondoggle is still unfolding, but the bottom of the bag is sogging wet and it's about to blow open. We move from scandal to crisis and back again, over and over, and we can point to the names and addresses of who is doing it. It's not us. It's like a merry-go-round and Hammer all at once - nobody knows what is up or down anymore, and we're all be jostled and shaken around, hoping for a few more pennies to fall out of our threadbare pockets.

    Our institutions have been gutted, disbanded, discredited and largely abandoned by ethical, responsible, competent and capable people, who retired or left in disgust, having been first-hand witnesses to their corruption from the highest offices in the land. And all this shit trickled downwards, ever faster and faster, absolutely burying the mom's and pops, the individuals and families, and those still struggling to just get a damned toe-hold and find a way to survive.

    I can't possibly mention it all. The despair is palpable now. You can literally taste it and see in the eyes. It'a all over the street and permeates the tent "cities", housing tracts and projects. It's found in the workplace and the doctors office. They gutted EVERYTHING and made it nearly impossible to just life or hold onto any hope and life. So people quit caring, they quit trying and they quit everything. They've offered us NOTHING and NO WAY OUT. It's going to explode. ~Survival Acres~  

  2. Anonymous said...



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