But It Can’t Happen Here!
Ask your average American whether he/she thinks the economic imbroglio currently ravaging Greece, Spain, and Cyprus could ever strike here, in the homeland, and the answer is likely to be resounding no. Hyperinflation, widespread famine, social unrest—these are things that happen in other countries; not ours. After all, we are the United States of America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Bad things happen on occasion, but the Superiority of our Democracy, forged as it were by our Glorious and Honorable Founding Fathers, precludes anything truly nasty from happening.
What if, though, such thinking is merely reactionary?
What if, as is increasingly being reported by both the right and left, these United States are every bit as vulnerable to economic collapse?
What if our country is bankrupt, and we’re not ready to admit it?
Turns out there are a whole host of reasons why denial might win the day, despite glaring realities.
First of which being the fact that most of us have never experienced full-scale Greece-style economic meltdown. Unless you’re one of the dwindling octo- and nonagenarians who’ve weathered the Great Depression, it’s just not within your realm of possibilities. And even the Great Depressioners can’t really relate: there’s was a crisis of deflation; ours—at least where the middle and lower classes are concerned—is one of inflation.
What’s happening right now—the beginnings of permanent energy scarcity—is something new under the sun. Things that are new under the sun are hard to anticipate.
Exacerbating this is the media’s ever-intensifying obsession with scandal, sex, and lies—what in a more innocent age was called yellow journalism. Who among us hasn’t heard of Benghazi debacle, Anthony Weiner’s wiener, or the Royal Birth? Meanwhile, homeownership has slipped to its lowest level in 18 years, radioactive tritium from the crippled Fukushima power plant flows freely into the Pacific Ocean, and the NSA is revealed to have violated privacy rules over 2700 times from April 2011 to March 2012. Bereft of a conscientious media, the public has no means of measuring its collective health, no inciting incident against which to stoke its indignation. People go blithely about their daily business, completely ignorant of the rot which every day penetrates deeper into the foundation of their charmed American lives.
In his excellent book, Collapse, Jared Diamond unearths yet another reason for mass denial, something called, “Creeping Normalcy”.
“If the economy, schools, traffic congestion, or anything else is deteriorating only slowly, it’s difficult to recognize that each successive year is on the average slightly worse than the year before, so one’s baseline standard for what constitutes “normalcy” shifts gradually and imperceptibly.”
Normal becomes $3.75 for gas. Or $900 for a one-bed room apartment. Or $35,000 in student debt. Or $7.75 an hour at Starbucks. Normal becomes whatever set of backwater conditions happens to prevail at any given moment.
Even if the public suddenly awoke to the reality of our gutted, foundationless, oil-addicted economy, there’s no guarantee they’d act. Man, after all, requires a certain amount of hope, hope that any realistic look at our future instantly dispels. The hard truth is this: We are officially on the sad side of the Industrial Revolution’s gleaming bell curve. The easy oil is gone, the top 1% have consolidated their control over the government, poverty is exploding, debt is mushrooming, and Washington, through the NSA and DHS, is quietly preparing for massive social upheaval. A system dependent upon endless consumerism cannot end well; it can only end catastrophically. Which your average American—your faithful correspondent included—doesn’t really want to have to come to grips with.
And so we pretend that everything’s roses; we assure ourselves our homeland is immune; we cower behind the myth of exceptionalism, the delusion of jingoism, the folly of invincibility.
As every day brings us that much closer to our national karmic bill coming due.