Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kunstler: Self Evident

Kunstler talks about the ominous failure of leadership. It's easy to blame leaders for this. But leadership is something we can all come up with. Leadership involves making decisions. Fessing up to our own bullshit and making changes, not because of how it looks, or feels, not because everyone is doing it, but because - simply - we know we should. Leadership is leading by example, and living with integrity. If your leaders aren't doing it, why don't you let the change you want to see start with you?

Here are some truths which I believe to be self-evident: that the USA has been running on fumes since the beginning of the 21st century. That you can't get something for nothing, and attempts to do so always end in tears. That massive expenditures of energy produce equivalent globs of entropy - which you can translate to "bad ju-ju" or the tendency of whatever can go wrong to go wrong. That because we're unwilling to re-scale and reform the things we do, nature is about to do it for us. That America has transformed itself from a nation of earnest, muscular, upright citizens to a land of overfed barbarous morons ruled by grifters. That what has been economics is about to turn dangerously political.

The greatest loss of the last decade was not in 401-Ks or manufacturing jobs or foreclosed houses, but the rule of law. Without genuine rule of law, anything goes and nothing matters. As a consequence of that, finally, everything goes. The rule of law is what kept foreigners buying our debt all these years (the fumes we've been running on). They kept buying because they believed, when all was said and done, that Americans would enforce contracts and regulate behavior in the direction of fair dealing - not for it's own sake but because it made things work better. But when the rule of law goes here, the rest of the world will notice its absence. They'll stop believing in our money and our future. They'll cash out and we'll wash out. Then, as human tribes are wont, they may just turn around and kick our ass because we're down.

The comprehensive failure of leadership deepens every week, as does the gulf between what people like Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell say and what is really happening on-the-ground in the arena of everyday life. Storyline: last week, Mr. Obama hailed the revival of the automobile industry with the debut of Chevrolet's new electric car, the Volt. Reality: at $41,000 retail, nobody outside lower Manhattan, Hollywood, or K Street will have enough money to buy one. Storyline: Mitch McConnell inveighs against a bill to require corporations to take responsibility on camera for their political advertisements; he says it will lead to job losses.  Reality: the Senate Minority Leader is shilling for corporations that want to run massive, unlimited ad campaigns in support of corporate agendas - such as off-shoring jobs.

The failure of leadership extends through government to the news media to business to the universities to the courts. All authorities are suspect. All are dishonest and cowardly. When the attempt to enforce some basic rules of decency in banking ends up in legislation that runs two-thousand pages, the rule of law is dishonored. Anyway, adding that much unneeded complexity to a system that is already too excessively complex to function anymore must be an obviously bad move. The Glass-Steagall act was under forty pages. Why not just correct the mistake we made eleven years ago and vote it back into existence? Somebody must know where it is - in some back filing cabinet of the Library of Congress.

In times like these politics gets very crazy. The public forgets how misled and confused it is and develops vicious certainties that do not necessarily jibe with reality. The public becomes a mob and democracy turns into a kangaroo court, which is to say: a mockery of the rule of law. I suspect we'll see a correlation of turbulence in politics and markets as the weeks pound forward toward Halloween. By election day, democracy itself will be in disrepute and the streets will run with mad dogs. When this sucker goes down (to paraphrase a past president) it's going to be like a fire in a circus tent. Don't expect much from the clowns' bucket brigade. We'll be lucky if they don't toss gasoline into the grandstands.

I doubt I'm the only one who senses something in the air - and not just the impressive heat and humidity. Anyway, I'm going off for a few days' vacation this week to do no more than walk around in the salt air beside the ghost-filled ocean

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