Could this be the end?
The end of… “civilization as we know it?”
I’m sometimes caught off guard by comments around the web, and not in survivalist and NRA forums, but let’s say in some academic blog where a finer point of economics or finance is being discussed, and someone opines that we’re just weeks or months from TOTAL MELTDOWN AND CATASTROPHE.
They say this calmly and assuredly, which makes it that much more disturbing. Really? We’re that close to the edge?
I have a hard time imagining it all breaking down. Yes, I remember 2008 and that there was a bit of a panic, and I know a lot of people have had a hard time of it, and I read a lot of blogs and hear all kinds of scary things about…
Oops. I’m getting away from my point.
What I meant to observe is that, day to day, the sun still shines and the stores are still open and people are still shopping and going about their business. It’s easy to imagine things carrying on more or less as they have, with gadgets becoming ever better and cheaper.
I wonder if my failure of imagination comes from over-investment in The System. Both literally, in dollars, and figuratively, in my belief that it will continue working. (And in my ownership and delight in shiny electronic gadgets.)
Have I at last bought completely into a big lie?
Maybe I don’t want to admit it’s all a giant Ponzi scheme, and I’ve gotten in too late. The system has always been rigged, of course, but it seems the riggers are no longer content to let as many crumbs fall to the floor. They appear to be increasingly offended by the presence of rats. And so many of the rats don’t understand: we’re the rats. “They” don’t want us running around in their rigging, fouling up their sails. (I’m sorry. I got lost somewhere in that paragraph.)
It would be a shame to have it end now. I’ve seen it pay off for lots of middling people in my grandparents’ and parents’ generations. Grind away for 30 to 40 years and save and you’ll be okay. All you have to do is play along and count on the next generation of suckers to keep it going long enough for you to grow old and die at the taxpayers’ expense. I’ve been indoctrinated well enough to be content with my station.
I so don’t want to be the last generation of suckers. I’ve put in 15 years, doing work I’m not particularly excited about. I might have chosen differently, had I known the scheme would unravel.
Have I been training my daughter to participate in a system that will soon be gone? I think about all those years I watched my dad and other adults going to work, mowing lawns, and maintaining their suburban homes and lives, and now I’m doing the same. This probably makes sense to my little girl as her view of the world comes into focus, just as it did for me. She has no reason to believe it isn’t real. I haven’t cautioned her that it’s all going to end any day now, and that she better learn to eat something other than peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
Maybe she’ll be better served if I start hanging out in those survivalist forums. I should be field stripping an AK-47 at the dining room table, as a more realistic demonstration of how to get along in the world, than sitting in front of a post-apocalyptic blackboard all day, the way I do.
(In case you can’t see it, there’s an accompanying photo of a Dell flat panel display being used as a blackboard at a diner, and it’s wonderful.)
I don’t even own combat boots. We’re not ready. I should be preparing her for the world she’ll inherit. We should be spending more time on knot tying than on Mario Kart. This kid can’t even tie her shoes yet!
I’ve only earned enough for relative comfort in the old system, anyway. I’ve convinced myself I’m happy with a $15 digital answering machine and fourteen-year-old Saturn. I don’t have enough money to live in a walled enclave with armed private security force. And I won’t be able to buy my way onto the big spaceship that will leave for a better planet when this one is ruined.
I need a reasonably coherent civilization, with “reasonable” being defined to include electricity, air conditioning, and internet, at a minimum. After these basic needs have been met, it would also be a good thing if we can retain indoor plumbing and the art of toilet paper manufacturing.
Hoo boy. I thought things were going so well. Insurance just paid for a new roof and siding on my house. I thought I had I won the lottery. These damn shingles won’t even stop the flaming meteorite shower that’s sure to come.
Perhaps it will be okay. Perhaps it doesn’t end in bloody revolution and the destruction of my retirement portfolio. Maybe with accessories like tablet computers and Facebook and YouTube, the Roman Empire could have lasted another 10,000 years. It will be okay. It has to be okay. Jobs will be created for us. Money will trickle and even flood down from Olympus.
I really hope it’s not the end. I watched my daughter play some game on our Kindle Fire the other night, and it struck me how far we’ve come from my old Mattel handheld electronic football game. I loved that thing, and it was just a few red LED lights moving around on a fixed grid. Now look what we have. Imagine the great games we’ll have in 20, 30, and 40 years, if we don’t fall into another dark age.
We have amazing bread and circuses these days.
It can’t be the end.