I borrowed the title phrase at the top from an article on the Resilience website.
Writer Christine Berry more or less gets at the most basic questions that don’t often come up, or, maybe I should say, never come up in all the public chattering about “the economy”, like asking what is the economy? What is it for? What’s it all about, anyway? We’re in the middle of some mass epidemic of derangement, some kind of weird cognitive warp, where any sense of value is scrambled, distorted, lost, or, well, deranged.
A couple of other recent entries on the blogs of James Howard Kunstler and Charles Hugh Smith nailed things on the head, essentially looking at the same general problems from slightly different angles.
The strangest thing about all of it is that not only do these three pieces nail things pretty squarely on the head, but none of it is new, virtually all of it is fairly obvious (or should be), and has been for some time, especially, as Kunstler says, since 2008. Even worse, even with people like this telling people, few people seem to really get it, still.
I was reading something not long ago and the word simulacrum came up, one I had encountered before, but not exactly a regular part of my vocabulary, and it has a certain resonance to it looking at not just economic matters, but probably about many things, the idea of something being replaced by, as one definition puts it, a slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance of something, the real replaced by a fake, something that seems to be what something once was, but, isn’t, really.
Both Kunstler and Smith really smack this problem with a good solid blow from each of them, yet an amazing number of people seem to stumble onward in some weird zombie mode, like they’re in trance and just keep chanting just keep pretending… just keep pretending… just keep pretending…
The question of “pretending what?” is quite a knot to untangle. Kunstler and Smith in particular are a couple of people who have been keeping their perspective clear and focused and doing a very good job of clarifying for people. One problem, though, is that there’s almost a preaching to the choir atmosphere around it all, certainly not their fault, in the way that I suspect that not enough people are getting the word who haven’t already heard about it, from people like these guys, or Gail Tverberg, and others.
There was a note I saw posted online from a distant online acquaintance a few days ago that exemplified what’s thought and believed by so many other Americans these days. It based comments on a set of false notions stuck in mind of the kind programmed in by the bombardment of PR and political propaganda telling people about purported “energy independence”, and “shale revolution”, and all the rest of it, fed from “I read an article on the web” to “I saw a thing on the news”.
Very smart people, who probably consider themselves as well informed and attentive people, have ideas in their heads about the current circumstances and future road in oil and natural gas that are, to be blunt, misinformed to the point of being completely deluded.
Now, if anybody has been paying any attention to the notes in this space (and all I’ve pointed to in links), this would be obvious, just from lining up the kinds of ideas expressed by the online comments I just mentioned, which are so like so much commentary about “energy” around us now, and comparing to facts and analysis of the matters at hand based in actual reality. People have seriously mistaken ideas in their head for obvious reasons, because it matches the nonsense narratives shoveled out constantly for public consumption, with even more or less attentive people only getting that stuff to inform them.
The result is people thinking that some sort of hydrocarbon energy miracles have occurred in the United States in recent years, and we now supposedly have all the petroleum and natural gas our little hearts desire. The result of that, then, is that we have the problem I’ve been hammering on for years now, which is that there is absolutely no meaningful public awareness and discussion and understanding of the realities of oil and natural gas depletion and diminishing returns, or any of the thought and planning that needs to be done to deal with it.
This has come up before.
This has all come up before so many times it started to feel a little ridiculous a long time ago, including repeatedly mentioning that, the feeling that it was becoming so repetitive it felt ridiculous, but, it’s necessary.
Part of this, unfortunately, is that doing what I’ve been doing, in trying to point out matters like our broad cultural failure to get a handle on understanding our energy predicaments, has the hazard of running into an attitude of people dismissing it offhand, a kind of “oh, so you think you’re so smart, Mister?” dismissal.
It’s not just the subject of energy and hydrocarbon deposit resources and everything about that. Economic insanity and misbehavior dominates us, while supposed authority figures and experts (like a parade of professional academic economists and assorted corporate and Wall Street characters) spew manipulative nonsense and reality distortion, and people swallow it all whole, because, I assume, they’re regarded as experts and authorities, so people buy the bullshit on the face of it. It doesn’t seem to matter, to far too many people, if you point toward people who are arguably much more authoritive and knowledgable, and painting a different picture, more based on truth and a clear grasp of reality and reason.
Sorting out the reasons for that is definitely a tough chore, maybe beyond me, but I have some hunches. One general and broad example is something I’ve said before, and it seems pretty clear. I’m sure about it, and it’s pretty simple. People want to hear something that fits what they would like to think. Sometimes they just want a simplest possible answer, when any real answer to a question is just not simple, but they figure it’s easier to pretend that it’s simple.
That last bit is a huge problem all by itself, and probably a major component in what Kunstler is talking about, of not being able to get any kind of realistic general public concensus of shared understanding about what the fuck is happening in just about anything that matters. Kunstler has really been putting things in clear sharp focus about this kind of thing for a while, and the short essays I referred to earlier are both dead on target, and, really, old news. Smith’s essay nicely hits another component to it, really meshing perfectly with Kunstler’s notes, in addressing such a basic problem we have. That’s the game of people completely lost in making things look good, or at least what some people think is good, rather than what things actually are, making things work, making things actually BE good.
The pervasive public delusions and wishful thinking nonsense about the broad subject of “energy” is just one chunk of our problems with this general problem of pretense. Just about anything related to “economics” is another, which continues to be on display in the Wall Street-business-financial news buzzing away via CNBC and elsewhere, with the regular new record highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other benchmarks, even while actual functioning real-world economic matters are a clearly obvious malfunctioning shitstorm, clearly obvious to anybody who, like the little boy in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, simply refuses to play the game of pretending.
Again, at the risk of repeating things ad nauseum, none of this is new.
This strange atmosphere of unreality seeps through everything, and has nasty corrosive and corrupting effects. Another essay from CHS takes a peek at just one manifestation of the resulting lunacy, from an episode of his own personal experience, in which the law is turned into some sort of warped freakshow of lunacy:
Saber Rattling at West Point
“When it shall be said in any country in the world ‘My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of happiness’: when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.” -Thomas Paine