The Shape of Things To Come (July 8, 2011) - Charles Hugh Smith
The Great Reset could take many forms. The only certain thing is that today's profound political disunity and our destabilizing financial Plutocracy will force a crisis.
Yesterday I laid out why the U.S. will inevitably experience The Great Reset. What comes after that systemic devolution/crisis is unknown, but we can speculate on the shape of things to come.
Though we cannot know the outcome, we can certainbly discern the outlines of the crisis itself. These destabilizing conditions will force a crisis at some point and will be resolved one way or another:
1. Profound political disunity. As I noted in Survival+, this was a key feature of the Roman Empire in its final slide to collapse. The shared values and consensus which had held the Empire's core together dissolved, leaving petty fiefdoms to war among themselves for what power and swag remained.
Today we have several types of political disunity. Superficially, the two "political theater" wings of the Demopublicans stage a bitter partisan war over whose vision of the U.S. as a "Plutocracy, but with benefits" holds an increasingly enfeebled political power.
But this is all theater and artifice. Neither wing has any vision or values of substance; each slavshly serves their masters, the corporate cartels and financial Oligarchy, while feeding their vast constituencies in the Savior State great gobs of borrowed treasure to maintain the "Plutocracy, but with benefits."
The real disunity is between a doomed Status Quo and those willing to deal with reality. Right now those willing to deal with reality are few, but they have the distinct advantage of reality on their side, while the Status Quo has only propaganda, artifice, phony political theater and empty promises.
The disunity stems from the public's innate desire to hold onto the empty promises and cling to the hope offered by the Status Quo that these grandiose, impossible promises will be met, despite the abundant factual evidence to the contrary.
Every attempt to lead the public toward the realization that the present is unsustainable will be crushed by a frantic assault of the fiefdoms, cartels and players who will lose power and profits when the Status Quo crumbles under its own weight.
Promises always sound better than reality until a crisis punctures the promises. But the anger generated by this deflation of "too good to be true" promises threatens both rationality and stability.
2. A dearth of leadership. The weakness of what passes for "leadership" today is not just a matter of bad luck but of the corruption of politics to the point that it only attracts sycophants, moral midgets and sociopaths. It's easy to blame those attracted to the game for this, but the real cause is the American people, who reject honesty in favor of artifice and promises. The American public is child-like, self-centered, myopic, ill-informed and ultimately uncaring about anything but getting their share of the swag.
Thus anyone who promises that their share of the swag will remain untouched wins, and anyone who suggests the swag is unsustainable is rejected as "judgmental" or "negative." To the degree a nation gets the leadership it demands, then the U.S. is in trouble. We're now a nation of spoiled teens who get to elect their parents. No surprise, the 'rents who never enforce any rules, never challenge their own bosses (the kleptocrats) and who dole out the most allowance win every time.
Thus we get leaders who refuse to challenge the Financial Power Elites, cartels and fiefdoms because the Status Quo would devote all its stupendous wealth and influence to defeating a challenger, and we get leaders who refuse to be honest with the American people because that honesty is rejected as unwelcome.
Ideally, a leader persuades the public to grow up rather than pander to their basest desires, but such a leader would only have one term of office.
3. The unstable double-bind of rule by Financial Plutocracy. A funny thing happens when a nation allows itself to be ruled by kleptocrats: such rule is intrinsically destabilizing, as there is no longer any center to bind the nation together. The public sees the value system at the top is "I, Me, Mine" greed fed by complicity/corruption, and they follow suit by pursuing whatever petty frauds and corruptions are within reach: tax avoidance, cheating on entrance exams, gaming disability, lying on mortgage and job applications, and so on.
Meanwhile, the diverting of national income into a few power centers is also destabilizing, as Central Planning and Market Manipulation (TM, Federal Reserve, all rights reserved worldwide) are intrinsically unstable as price can no longer be discovered by unfettered markets. As a result, imbalances grow until some seemingly tiny incident or disruption triggers a cascading collapse.
The double-bind is two-fold: the Power Elites can't bear to part with any of their power or wealth, so their resistance guarantees systemic collapse. The political "leadership" cannot challenge the Power Elites' grip on the nation's throat because the entire Status Quo has been co-opted/sold out and is now wedded to the Oligarchy as their guarantor of financial security.
What this leads to is a Status Quo committed to a sinking ship. The very imbalances created by a Financial Elite and the enabling Central State Central Planning doom the system, but since everyone within the Status Quo depends on it for their own slice of wealth and power, then no one dares speak up in favor of reality. Complicity is the order of the day, but complicity can't stop the ship from sinking.
4. The political corruption of religion. Jesus did not say, "Go forth and lobby the Roman Senate, to make laws which impose your interpretations on others." Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)
Although it is unpopular to say so, some aspects of religion in the U.S. have been corrupted by a desire for wealth and a focus on acquiring it, and by a desire for political power masquerading as morality.
Very few (I know of none) commentators, mainstream or independent, see the potential for a Great Awakening, a spiritual, non-denominational renewal of faith not as some political force in the greasy halls of power but as a motivator of personal responsibility and resolve. I may be alone in this, but American history is replete with examples not only of political upheaval but of broad-based spiritual renewals that reject the earthly excesses in favor of a renewed moral center.
Such movements need not be associated with any one religion or denomination; they tend to be cultural in nature, drawing inspiration from religious faith but extending beyond the confines of the church.
Complicity and dependence erode the soul; political or financial "fixes" alone can't fix the rot. In a fundamentally corrupt, complicit society, rules and laws are routinely evaded, bypassed, undermined or simply ignored. Making more rules fixes nothing if the rules are merely for show, or only for the bottom 99%.
The resolution of these brewing instabilities could be orderly or disorderly. In an orderly scenario, a new Constitutional Convention is convened, and a leadership backed by an enlightened public hammers out a consensus to limit the political and financial dominance of Financial Power Elites and corporate cartels. The new consensus reorients the Central State to its original purpose of limiting predation of the citizenry by Elites and criminals, defending the nation and imposing the rule of law as defined by the Constitution. The Savior State would be dismantled in an orderly process.
In a disorderly resolution, the Status Quo and the public both refuse to deal with reality and instead cling to the Titanic, demanding magical solutions that will keep the doomed ship from sinking. There is no such magic, of course, and so the ship will go down, and disorder will reign.
It might take the shape of a financial crisis such as a devaluation or hyperinflation, or it might take a political crisis such as a "Quiet Coup" by Elites or an outbreak of resistance to the heavy-handed Central State.
At the outer boundaries of such disorder, then the nation could split apart, along the lines of the book The Nine Nations of North America, or into permutations of civil war as invisioned by author/blogger Chris Sullins in his novel series Operation SERF.
The salient feature of instability is its unpredictability. The longer the nation waits to deal with unwelcome realities, the greater the eventual destabilization. What happens as a result of that inevitable destabilization will be up to us.