Some kind of theme seems to be repeating in much I’m looking at lately. There are, definitely, people who are aware of what’s going on, and trying to sort out what’s happening. But it’s still a situation where that’s a rarity. It’s not much of a stretch to declare that the majority of people are either just completely oblivious of anything beyond arm’s length in their day to day or not on a TV screen in front of them, or trying really hard to avoid paying attention, and pretending. There’s a lot of not paying attention and/or pretending. It’s hard to be sure, you know?
I mean, that’s a big part of the problem in even trying to sit down and write about topics where’s it beyond relaying some news and information and background. I can’t really know what’s going on in people’s heads. Questions about that sort of thing come up in my own on a regular basis.
The news keeps coming in, for the people paying attention, and swatting aside the noise of the infotainment substitutes for journalism, or the full on propaganda, and Glenn Beck idiocy.
Within recent days, a couple of articles posted on The Automatic Earth shine a light on a couple of fundamental and serious topics that people are mostly missing. The article This Is Not America ought to be a dose of wakeup call about the reality of the years of trying desperately to sustain the unsustainable in the games of economists and financiers in debt and “growth”, piling debt upon debt and playing trading games in debts and debts based on debts and on and on, trying to maintain the illusion of perpetual “growth” and the idea that this is all that there is to an economy.
We have the clues hammering us that we’ve lost the plot in ideas of work and commerce being about something, about getting work done that needs to be done and paying for it. We’ve had clues hammering us for quite a while now.
Among the games of the last few years, economic madness and fiercely maintained illusions combine with song and dance acts of illusion in the area of energy resources, in another article on The Automatic Earth, Shale Gas Reality Begins to Dawn. This follows a recent blog article from Dmitri Orlov on natural gas that addresses the differences between the song and dance routines from people hyping their own enterprises, or playing games in this for other reasons, and the reality of the situation with natural gas.
How much does it take for a general concensus to take hold and enough people to realize that we need some serious rethinking and adjustments?
It might be time to restate something I’m pretty sure I’ve laid out before.
As a US Army General, during World War II Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. After retirement from the Army, he served two terms as President of the United States. While he had to deal with the nuclear games and Cold War madness of the time, as president he clearly wanted to avoid making the United States some sort of military empire martial nation. That manifested itself in things like his attitude and direction regarding the formation of NASA, being adamant about it being a civilian agency, even while there was military service involvement. In one of his last acts as president, he addressed the nation in his famous speech warning about the perils of what he called “the military-industrial complex” and how it could, if we allowed it, among other things, squander the nation’s resources in its service.
Jimmy Carter graduated from the US Naval Academy, and then served in the Navy being trained in the US Navy nuclear submarine program. With this technical and science background, as President of the United States one of the noteable themes of his presidency was addressing the nation often about energy use and resources, and the need to seriously get ourselves focused and acting to reduce the consumption of energy resources.
Ronald Reagan worked as a radio announcer and then got into acting as a mediocre B movie actor. During World War II, his “military service in the war” consisted of serving in the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Force. His war military service- he made movies. He returned to acting as a civilian, then eventually got into politics.
The differences among these men are interesting, to say the very least about it. Their backgrounds are very different, and as these three men became president, their attitudes and actions were very different. Two of them were, shall we say, “reality based”. One was not.
As President of the United States, Ronald Reagan came into office at the beginning of 1981 and served two terms, and some things changed, changes that have carried through three decades now, and we’re suffering the repercussions. My short review of Presidents Eisenhower, Carter, and Reagan is not a pointless little trip through historical trivia. There’s something profound and incredibly important in looking at what I just summarized, and the point seems to be lost on most Americans today.
I recently read Richard Buckminster Fuller’s book Critical Path, which is a subject of its own. One thing in particular stood out in stark clarity, in the midst of extended discussions of many things. Old Bucky, writing this book in 1980, pointed out that, at that point, over three decades in the past now, technically the United States government was already bankrupt, at that point being something like 700 or 800 billion dollars in debt. That was then, just before Ronald Reagan became president. Much of his book probably would have been much different if he had written it after Reagan’s terms in office.
Carter’s doses of basic reality, particularly in the general subject of energy, came after US oil extraction rates had peaked around 1970-1971, exactly as had been predicted by oil business geophysicist M. K. Hubbert, and after the bucket of ice water wakeup call clue of the infamous 1973 oil embargo crisis. People didn’t like that, having their president suggest that there were limits here on planet Earth, and we couldn’t do whatever we want and have whatever we want. The thing is, the universe doesn’t give a shit about what we like.
Ronald Reagan came into the picture in 1980 and presented a happy fantasy complete with advertising campaigns telling everybody “it’s morning in America again”, and lots of the American populace happily went for it. They gladly swapped out problems, difficulties, and limits of reality for a happy illusion.
As Reagan was inaugurated, the American hostages being held captive in the US embassy in Tehran were released, prompting many people in this country to babble in praise of Reagan as the new mighty and strong president whose wonderful mightiness made the Iranians give up the hostages in fear of his mighty power. Later on, we all discovered that what was really happening was that Reagan and his people had made a deal to sell weapons to the new theocratic government of post revolution Iran. Imagine today, if President Barack Obama sold weapons to the Iranians (still essentially the same government, and in the official portrayal of things, an enemy, just as the Reagan administration portrayed things while secretly selling them weapons). The same people who fall over themselves praising Reagan as their idea of America’s greatest president would be shrieking in outraged hysterics. Imagine people like Sean Hannity, et al; they would be going apeshit.
Over two terms of Reagan as president, the accumulated debt of the US federal government started as what Bucky Fuller described in 1980 as completely bankrupt, and by the time Reagan left office, had roughly tripled. TRIPLED.
Now, turn on a TV and force yourself to sit through the televised circus of Sean Hannity on Fox News every evening, and the odds are in your favor if you bet that on any particular episode, Hannity will babble something about Carter as the worst American president ever (including what seems to be a favorite phrase about “Obama is Jimmy Carter on steroids!”, whatever the fuck that means), and Reagan as his personal hero as the greatest ever American president, including some deluded fiction about Ronald Reagan as President of the United States being his golden example of “fiscally responsible governement”.
The stuff goes on and on. Ronald Reagan, the career showbiz man, who spent World War II in “military service” in the Army movie making unit in southern California, came into the presidency and went full tilt into a kind of flag waving blind nationalistic militaristic jingoism, pushing the bankrupting of the country even more under the cover of “defense” and “national security”, including the almost cartoonish absurdity of the famous SDI program.
The man who became president following Carter was there in office as petroleum began to ramp up in flow rate from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, and elsewhere in the world, from the platforms of the North Sea between the UK and Norway, and with this, reality was shoved aside in favor of a general position of “oil problem? what oil problem?”. Now, of course, the patterns of Hubbert’s curve have played out in both of those areas and each of those two regions long ago passed peak extraction rates and went into the downside decline of Hubbert’s curve. Now, as we’ve been bumping along hitting the “bumpy plateau” or “wobbly plateau” phenomenon of limits and diminishing returns of petroleum extraction rates worldwide for around seven years now, reality in this department is still ignored, most severely ignored by many of the same people living with a fantasy illusion of Ronald Reagan as president replacing the historical reality.
The most incredible part of this stuff is how many people swallow all the deluded fictional nonsense revisions of history in all this who happen to be old enough that they lived through at least the presidential terms of Carter and Reagan and were old enough at the time to be able to know what was going on, and now listen to babbling bullshit from talking heads on the radio and Fox News and assorted “Conservative news” and fall for it all.
Now, listen to characters like Hannity and the rest, and you get this nonsense of Carter as Worst President Ever and Reagan as Greatest American President (including the complete fiction of hero of “fiscally responsible government”). Eisenhower? He’s completely ignored. It’s like he never existed.
It’s really easy to find people around you who will go into reveries of praise and some kind of idealized nostalgia about Ronald Reagan as president, with comments like “he brought America together” and “he made America feel good about ourselves again” and assorted things like this that demonstrate the kind of collective extended hypnosis and delusion I’m talking about. For people like this, you can’t even do anything to break the spell and point out the actual reality of the past to them. There’s this solid impenitrable romanticised kind of illusory memory of Reagan as president for people. Try to bring the actual reality of the matter into their consciousness, even suggest that Ronald Reagan was not the greatest president of their lifetime, maybe even of the entire 20th century, and some of them will just go apeshit in indignant offense.
The overall summation of all this is that now, looking at the present, and looking back in retrospect, it’s not hard to see if you pay attention to the history of the period and the present. You can set a historical marker turning point; Ronald Reagan assuming the office of president began a turn of a large portion of the American population, and a general consensus, away from reality and into a realm of delusion that still continues right up to now, and we’ve never recovered from it and come to our collective senses.
It’s pretty reasonable, almost to the point of being obvious, to argue that Ronald Reagan didn’t have a career in show business and then go into politics and become Our Great American Leader; rather, his entire career was in show business, right up through his last and greatest role, Ronald Reagan, in his starring role as “President of the United States of America”.
The fairly short piece I pointed to earlier gives you a pretty short simple summary of the reality of the economic story over the time period I’m talking about now, this period of about three decades or so that started with Ronald Reagan and the magic wand illusions of “morning in America”. Even now, as we have the reality of a whole variety pack of troubles smacking us around, a large dominant general consensus exists here of people blowing smoke up each other’s asses about America, the mightiest world power ever, America, the most prosperous nation on Earth, beacon of freedom. All this, even as we further bankrupt the country’s government and “private sector” with a combination of hubris of military empire and all the madness of corporate and banking plutocracy in place of representative government serving the people, and the assorted destruction from lunacy and fraud in corporate management and finance and banking and “The Markets”.
That’s not even getting into stripping the planet like locusts, and generally ravaging the Earth.
Even talking about this, in the kind of mass state of deluded psychosis we have around, gets people twitching in pure reflex because of how they’ve been trained to react, and bark noises like “why do you hate America and our freedoms and prosperity?!” or “what are you, one of those communist liberals?!”.
Too many people detached from reality several decades ago, and even worse, now we have young people whose entire lifetimes have never known any other state of things.
In the United States in the decade of the Roaring Twenties, people thought, hey, we’re in the money! We’re so grand and prosperous, we’re so clever and great, everybody’s going to get rich and just keep getting richer!
In Germany in the late twenties and through the thirties, a large portion of the German people thought, hey, this Hitler guy and the National Socialists, they’re alright, they’re making Germany great and mighty and strong and prosperous again. A lot of German people bought into the notion “we’re the greatest nation on Earth, and, why, yes, perhaps it is only natural and right that we should rule the world, everything would be so much better then!”. It’s easy to superficially glance back into history and two dimensional images and old war movies and think of the German population of the time as cartoon monsters and villians, when many of them probably thought the above kinds of thoughts, saw themselves as the righteous Good Guys, and thought that living in Germany in the thirties was a great time and place to be alive, even gloriously wonderful.
Time passes. The universe has its way. People who fall into mass delusions of grandeur and hubris and detaching from reality and sanity and general consciousness and goodwill find that this does not end up well, ever.