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Serious Stuff

All Will Be Well in America

November 11, 2011 by Somebody Else

Predicting the inevitable doom of the United States is most definitely in vogue these days. Where shall I begin?

Well, let's start with the well-known Mayan prediction which allegedly states that the world will come to an end in December of 2012. What a bonanza for the cheap documentary segment of the television industry! They've been churning out one production after another on this dramatic and compelling theme for several years now. I imagine that the advertising revenues generated from these doomsdays documentaries will continue to rise as the grim end-date approaches.

And then, one of two things could happen.

The world could really come to a sudden and cataclysmic end, maybe through the violent outbreak of a deadly and contagious illness, perhaps owing to a global nuclear holocaust provoked by the Anti-Christ, or possibly by means of a huge asteroid impact. In that case, so much for the previously mentioned advertising revenue -- it wouldn't be all that much good to anyone if all of humanity has suddenly gone extinct.

Another conceivable outcome would be that the much-feared deadline will harmlessly float by without any apparent radical change to life as we know it. From a corporate point of view, that would be awesome, because then you could really put to good use all of that money you've raked in through your doomsday documentaries, such as by buying yourself a gold-plated Jacuzzi tub and smoking a hand-rolled Cuban cigar while you relax in its warm, soothing, bubbly waters.

Of course, the downside to this last scenario would be the steep falling-off of financial returns after December 2012 comes and goes. Let's be honest, folks. Nobody will want to watch those documentaries once the nervously anticipated date goes by and nothing apparently happens. At that point, it'll be time to pack up those films and send them off to the Smithsonian Institution for long-term storage. A few hundred years from now, we'll pull them out and laugh, no doubt.

I'm sure that the documentary makers will dig up some other kind of prophecy, maybe something from the ancient Hindu Vedas scriptures which might be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that the end of the world will come in July of 2018, or whatever. For all we know, they've already started production on that new theme and will be ready to roll it out in January of 2013.

And of course, you've got Nostradamus, the gift that keeps on giving. He's been keeping the doomsday industry going for centuries.

There's even some evidence that Nostradamus himself was able to foresee this. Check out the following verses, translated to modern English from the original medieval French:

Elegantly attired and cynical
Gazing upon the commoners with scorn
Plundering the writings of the wise one
The vulture preys upon the hare

Well, alright, I confess, I made that one up. But you've got to admit, Nostradamus could have written something like that. I had you going there for a second or two, didn't I?

But let's move away from the hocus-pocus, prophetic, psychic, mysterious stuff for a moment, and focus more on the cold, hard facts of our present-day reality. I'd say that there's a pretty widespread, general consensus that things in the United States are fairly awful overall, and that the future isn't looking all that bright.

Unemployment and underemployment are rampant. Our political system is deeply divided and broken. Our politicians on both the left and the right don't seem to have a clue about what they are doing, and nobody really believes that any of their proposals or ideas will ever amount to anything truly significant or transformative, assuming the highly unlikely event that they might ever make it through Congress and become law. Money is being sucked out of the middle class with a gargantuan fiscal vacuum cleaner, from whence it is being funneled into the bank accounts of the nation's tiny financial elite. Some of our behemoth and all-powerful corporations receive trillions in taxpayer-funded bailout money and then turn around and give their CEOs whopping bonuses and extravagant gold parachutes while attempting to slap us with new user fees. Other large companies lay off their American workers en masse and move their operations overseas, where they can pay their foreign employees one tenth of what they might pay them here, with no benefits. The millions upon millions of poor and unemployed in this country have been told by no less a man than front-running Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain that it's their own freaking fault that they've got no money and no job. We've been blithely informed that there are no funds available for improving our national infrastructure, and that the hour has come for stern economic austerity measures involving deep cuts to social services, while at the same time our military budget has swollen to truly epic proportions, and the petroleum, coal, and natural gas industries continue to rake in record profits, year after year. Our politicians have one primary goal in mind, which is reelection, and any other objective, such as making a few feeble symbolic gestures here and there towards improving the lot of the common man, doesn't seem to figure all that much into their essential job description. We foul the environment, kill massive and uncounted numbers of innocent people abroad, leave our working class abused, defenseless, vulnerable, and exploited, and prepare for cataclysmic, unwinnable warfare with nations like China and Russia over access to petroleum in the Middle East.

Yep, things are looking pretty grim in the U.S. of A. these days.

So, at this point, you might be wondering: "If all that is the case, then why has Somebody Else called this essay 'All Will Be Well in America?' On the contrary, it seems pretty darned evident that all will not be well in America!"

Will the United States be following the road of ancient and long-extinct civilizations such as the once great and mighty Roman Empire? Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that the parallels between America and ancient Rome were "frightening."

I'll agree with King that there are indeed compelling similarities, but I don't see this country eventually being overrun by barbarian hordes and then being broken up into a fractured collection of tiny kingdoms. History may indeed repeat itself in general terms, but never in the exact details.

So, if you'll allow me to do so, I'll take a look here in my own personal crystal ball and tell you what I see developing way over the horizon.

The single biggest determining factor in the evolving reality of the United States is our ongoing dependence upon non-renewable energy resources such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Within our own territories, we have huge resources of coal, and there should be no need to ever import it from abroad. However, it is becoming increasingly common for us to wreck our environment in our efforts to extract this coal through methods such as open-pit mining and mountain-top removal. Likewise, we possess abundant quantities of petroleum and natural gas in the United States, but not enough to reliably meet our current needs and adequately satisfy projected future requirements, assuming the continuation of our current non-renewable energy paradigm.

For those reasons, we have become critically dependent upon quick and reliable access to petroleum and natural gas resources abroad. Our need to maintain this access is the primary motive behind our latest round of military interventionism in the Middle East, regardless of all other ostensible considerations foisted upon us by our government and its compliant henchman, the corporate-controlled mainstream media.

The United States is heading towards an unavoidable showdown with regard to our present-day non-renewable energy paradigm. Sooner or later, something has to give. The mass of the population cannot indefinitely be convinced to go along with the boogeyman-based war-on-terror narrative as a pretext for continuing to maintain an iron military grip upon the Middle East. As consumer prices for gasoline, coal and natural gas inevitably skyrocket upwards, economic pressure upon the working class will greatly increase, which will lead to much greater social unrest and more urgent demands for a reformation of the economic and political systems of this country.

That's the short-term forecast. In the long-term, our viable non-renewable energy resources will just basically run out. Since our remaining resources are considerably more difficult and expensive to access than the ones we have already removed, we will eventually come to the point where the extraction of petroleum, coal, and natural gas will simply no longer be cost-effective, that is, the investment needed to extract these substances will exceed the expected return for selling them.

Also, consumer prices can only go only go up so high before they become unsustainable. For that reason, if the price of gasoline rises too much, it will lead to a catastrophic breakdown of our current economic order. Our political leadership knows this, and for that reason is steadfastly supporting our military occupation of the Middle East.

So, what will life be like in the United States after the petroleum, coal, and natural gas has run out? Will most of us just shrivel up and die? Will New York City turn into a jungle overgrown with vines and trees, with animals from the former city zoo, such as lions and tigers, roaming the streets, and with monkeys and gorillas from that same zoo hanging out in the desolate and abandoned former offices of Goldman Sachs? Will gangs of ruffians roam the pitted and degraded highways as in the movie Mad Max? Will the White House rot and collapse in upon itself, then fill up with wild vegetation?

All of that sounds great for a Hollywood script, no doubt, but I don't see it happening.

We seem to forget that we proliferated and prospered for thousands of years before we discovered that we could use petroleum, coal, and natural gas on a massive scale. For that reason, there is no reason to believe that we cannot continue to exist without them.

Also, there seems to be a fundamental, largely unspoken myth floating around these days, which states that the supposed greatness of the United States has been built solely upon its economic and military might, which has itself been erected upon nothing more than the nation's enormous appetite for non-renewable energy resources. Take away our petroleum, coal, and natural gas, so the argument goes, and you'll have nothing left but a bunch of mostly empty land and a few hundred million needy people.

However, let's be clear. The true foundation of the United States is not anything that has been extracted from the ground, but rather a bunch of ideas that were scrawled out onto parchment in the eighteenth century.

Were the founders of the nation imperfect? Were they not hypocritical at times? Certainly they were. What about our national history? Hasn't it been one long, continuous storyline of suffering, cruelty, deception and exploitation? In a sense, it undoubtedly has.

But make no mistake. Back in the eighteenth century, our constitution was one of the best things going. It enshrined a number of absolutely crucial principles, such as freedom of worship and speech, which still have us in the vanguard after more than two centuries. Take a look around the world at all of the nations that don't guarantee those freedoms, even today.

Admittedly, we don't have a perfect track record of upholding the noble and lofty ideals set forth in our constitution, as the infamous and grossly-misnamed Patriot Act, passed at the height of post-9/11 frenzy, attests. But again, this act can eventually be repealed, or simply allowed to lapse. Our constitution, on the other hand, is supposed to be eternally binding, at least in theory.

Beyond the high standards set forth in our nation's founding document, we have something that is perhaps ultimately even more significant and important, which is our longstanding idealized vision of ourselves as a nation of justice, fairness, equal opportunity, compassion and acceptance.

Too often, reactionary fanatics who wave the flag and scream out their angry invective against their fellow citizens have captured the media's lens, and have given the world, as well as the people of the nation itself, the mistaken impression that this is what we are all about.

Driving around in our oversized pickup trucks, wearing a baseball cap with a rebel flag emblazoned on the front, we brandish our loaded pistol, roar that everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus will go to hell, and condemn as socialism any government-sponsored efforts to help out the common man.

Are some of us like that? Well, yes, sad but true, some of us are. But not most of us -- in fact, truth be told, in the final tally, not all that many of us, actually.

Reactionary fanatics have been with us since the nation was founded and will certainly continue to be with us as we move forward into the future. Quite often, it seems that they have grabbed hold of the national narrative and have dominated it.

But in the end, the voice of the progressive majority must always predominate, sooner or later. Our common history is a testament to this fact. There may be some steps backward on the road to the future. But for every step backward, there must be two forward. The two steps forward may not happen today or even tomorrow. But they will happen eventually.

The United States will successfully transition into an economic and political system that is no longer enslaved to non-renewable energy sources. It will not happen overnight, of course, and the transition will necessarily be a very painful and drawn-out one. There will be economic and political instability over an extended period of time. Our military expenditures will one day fall away to a mere tiny fraction of what they are now, which will free up trillions of dollars for spending on important domestic initiatives. We will stop seeing ourselves as the "policeman of the world," and will instead understand our role as that of an equal among the nations of the planet. Our economy will be much less centralized, and our individual cities and towns will become significantly more autonomous, with much more being produced and sold locally. Our environment will become considerably cleaner. We will learn to do much more with a whole lot less. Our homes and our communities will become greatly more energy efficient along with our collective and individual means of transportation. Our standard of living, based upon longevity and health rather than material income, will steadily rise as we turn away from the sedentary lifestyle and poor diet that are so characteristic of us today. Reflecting a developing worldwide trend, our national population will level off and then start to decrease.

I understand that I'm going against the zeitgeist by making these rosy predictions for the future.

But paradoxically, to a certain extent, it is the current doom and gloom which have led me to be optimistic. The simple fact that, in this day, the vast majority of the population is moved to speak out against the misdirection of our national affairs, is itself proof positive that we are all capable of envisioning something better. And the last time I checked, we Americans had the reputation for being innovators and problem solvers. If we can invent the airplane and put a man on the moon, there is no reason why we can't eventually overcome our current crises and create a better world for ourselves.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...