futures, real and imagined- part 5

Sunday 2013.11.24

To refresh, here again is a portion of James Kunstler’s November 11th blog note The Turning that I quoted near the end of the last part:

It is one of the great hidden blessings of our time, actually, that anything organized on the massive scale is doomed to failure. But it is likewise the great mission of our time to prepare to get local and smaller, something we’re not really ready for and certainly not interested in. The intertwining of these dynamics will be the story in the year to come.

Wrapping up part 4 of this, I quoted the words above from James Kunstler, and mentioned that many people might immediately, by programmed reflex, think in terms of “downsizing” by being familiar corporate lingo (and practice), possibly from their own experience. That’s unfortunate. That has potential to confuse matters.

We’re talking about something different than practices of corporate managers deciding to toss large numbers of people overboard, although that kind of thing doesn’t exactly slide off to the side in marginal irrelevance, either, as overgrown giant corporations lumber forward into the future. We can expect all kinds of babbling of the euphemistic lingo that tends to be associated with it all (like “right-sizing to be more competitive in a changing economy” or whatever double-talk gibberish might be fashionable at the time), from executives stuck on obsessions with perpetual growth, and increasingly out of touch with the essence of their own business, and, for that matter, what’s outside their insulated world.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. -Sinclair Lewis

We’re in an era where perspective is often badly distorted by the constant message bombarding people that corporate commerce and Wall Street trading and mega-banks essentially are “the economy”. This stuff is so pervasive, I’m convinced, and have been for a long time, that most Americans don’t even grasp how much that kind of notion affects their perceptions and thinking. It’s just an unquestioned set of assumptions. We can probably add to this all kinds of assumptions of the business practices and systems we refer to as globalization as a permanent state of affairs.

Now that we’re heading into late November, most Americans have already experienced weeks of constant doses of exhortations to get going on performing their consumer duties of mass consumption and buy, buy, buy shit they don’t need from the usual corporate commerce retail establishments. If all this hasn’t become warped and perverted enough, including the ridiculous ugly farce that is now referred to as a bit of standard terminology as “Black Friday”, some corporate retail operations are apparently now moving from recent changes to open stores as early as possible to actually opening for this mass riot on Thanksgiving day.

Stepping back from this and examining it shows a mixed picture that isn’t pretty. People who can’t afford to participate in mass consumption frenzy go out and do it under pressure to consume, consume more, and consume now. Looking from another angle, the intense barrage of advertising from corporate institutions of commerce, starting earlier in the year than ever, from my impressions anyway, look more and more like some kind of mania in action.

The point right here is probably lost on many Americans. The corporate based mania of Holiday Shopping Season is just one example, and a pretty glaring one, of things monumentally overblown and out of balance. It kind of tends to ruin the Christmas portion of the year, even though I’m fond of that time, and I do my best to ignore the manic frenzy. It might be a good time to suggest that we all take the Christmas season as a good time to reflect a little on making it a little simpler, a little more basic.

It is not about just Christmas, since people here in America usually refer to “the holidays” and encompass a whole period from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas and then the New Year start. All these days are prime time for people to pause a little, and reflect, and ponder a little basic goodwill, but it’s a pretty easy observation to notice people going nuts in all kinds of ways around all these holidays.

(Of course, with the corporate push to consume getting more and more obnoxious, that makes it appear that “Christmas season” now starts sometime in early autumn.)

In a way, the warped, distorted, and lost sense of perspective about these holidays fits right in with a broader theme that I find myself writing about here almost every time I sit down to write a little note for my humble blog space; a kind of epidemic of a shared loss of perspective about just about everything.

When I think about the way many Americans seem to have gone off the rails about Christmas, it’s not just about the warpage of the Christmas holiday. It hangs in my mind as being a story with a larger kind of theme, a moral to the tale, about how much of present day circumstances in America revolve around a kind of massive overwhelming accumulation of debt in following a course of trying to pretend that we’re far wealthier than we really are.

Once again the Dow Jones Industrial Average magic number is fluttering around 16,000, after having dipped back below that in the last couple of days. This number is getting get people going totally apeshit in excitement, even as nobody ever seems to stop and think about what actual meaning there is to that number. The usual buzzing manic chatter in the associated financial media continues, the same ongoing manic immersion in the dog and pony shows of phantasms and delusions and hallucinations.

The almost unavoidable overall impression I get from it, every time I peek at that world, an experience that I find almost palpably disturbing, is of a literally insane frenzy of activity and mutually reinforcing self delusions among players of the games involved, a constant frantic game played by people determined to skim slices of “wealth” for themselves from anything and everything possible. The deeply twisted thing about that whole circus is that this is happening now even in situations where there is actually no excess “wealth” for people to skim off in their games of getting something for nothing, i.e., no contribution of actual useful work or added value to something.

The games of Wall Street and “the markets” are a performance in an ongoing form of theater that can be fairly described as a continuous massive exercise in misdirected attention and misallocation of resources.

You might have noticed a television commercial, from a credit card company, declaring November 30 as “small business day”, and suggesting that people (you know, the term we used to use to describe consumers) should go out there and spend money (or, actually, rack up debt on the credit card, presumably) at small businesses. How about something different? That would be every day as “small business day”.

There is too much of a tendency to view the whole realm of small business in a weird and almost surreal kind of cultural bubble, and even that television advertising I just referred to has a kind of stylized reinforcement of this kind of thing. Mention “small business”, and I think a large number of Americans probably think of romanticized imagery, whether they regard it as good or bad, wonderful or silly and naïve. It brings forth ideas of “ma and pa” little storefront shops, people might think in terms of some kind of sentimental nostalgia and anachronisms, all Currier and Ives and Normal Rockwell and Main Street small town America of a long time ago. Sometimes it’s as if people think “oh, look, a small business, isn’t that cute?”. This is a ridiculous attitude.

It’s hard to get people to understand small local business as a basic practical matter, and I don’t mean this meaningless advertising pitch for some special artificial holiday of commerce. This is definitely about much more than some token one-day shopping event promoted by a credit card company in the usury business, selling debt. Never mind “Small Business Day” as some sort of special one day event. Small and local was our past, and it’s going to be much more our future than a lot of Americans seem to realize.


There is an ontological darkness in centralized power, and it flows from the disconnect between authority, responsibility and consequence. A leader with vast centralized powers–a president, an emperor, a dictator–has the authority to send young citizens into combat in distant lands, but he does not carry an equal responsibility to ensure their lives are not lost in the vain glories of Empire. The consequences of his decisions do not fall on him; he is far from the combat and the loosed dogs of war. His concern is the domestic political squabbles of the Elites who support his centralized power.

All centralized power carries the same pathology: those with the authority are never exposed to the consequences of their authority, nor do they have any responsibility for the consequences. The president who launches an unwinnable war that chews up the nation’s youth and treasure leaves office to fund-raise for his self-glorification, i.e. a presidential library.

The CEO whose strategies fail to revive the corporation and indeed send it to the brink of insolvency leaves with a “golden parachute” worth tens of millions of dollars.

This pathology is not the result of individual psychology or character; it is the result of centralized, concentrated power itself. –Charles Hugh Smith


It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled – Mark Twain


“Trickle-down theory – the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.” – John Kenneth Galbraith


“There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below.” – William Jennings Bryant


“Gentlemen! I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time, and am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country.

When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the Bank and annul its charter I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin.

Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out, and by the Eternal, (bringing his fist down on the table) I will rout you out! – Andrew Jackson


oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Have We Lost Our Common-Sense?

What’s Ahead? Lower Oil Prices, Despite Higher Extraction Cost | Our Finite World

It Has Happened Here – What Now? by Luke Hiken | Dandelion Salad

Sound the idiot klaxon – Prince Charles and Tom Cruise are hard at work | Marina Hyde | The Guardian

Schilling Shilling | KUNSTLER

Pride of Failure and the Fall | Economic Undertow

For Thanksgiving, Walmart shows us the New America | Fabius Maximus

Deflation, A Stock Market Crash And Then Christmas | Finance

Andrew Huszar: Confessions of a Quantitative Easer – WSJ.com

Charles Hugh Smith: Have a Merry DeGrowth Christmas–Boycott Black Friday

Charles Hugh Smith: The Dark Heart of Centralized Power

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Taking Stock of the 21st Century: What’s Fundamentally Different

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