Monday, December 19, 2011
So When Do We Reach an Awareness “Tipping Point?”
It is a constant frustration among those who are peak oil aware and anticipating the eventual collapse of our modern industrial civilization. When do we reach the so-called “tipping point” when awareness of what is coming spreads from a very small cadre of the informed to a substantial portion of the population at large? I would argue that it partly depends on what your definition of “awareness” is. It’s pretty clear from recent public opinion polls showing overwhelming disapproval of Congress and stating that the country is on the “wrong track,” plus the number of dour, gloom and doom economic articles that frequently appear in even mainstream publications, and the rapid brushfire manner in which the Occupy protests broke out all over the country nearly simultaneously that many people are at least dimly aware that something is very wrong in the “shining city on the hill,” as Ronald Reagan so laughably described America on one of those occasions in which he was blowing sunshine up the voters’ asses.
Nevertheless, there is still a huge gulf separating being a discontented citizen of the empire after four years in the economic doldrums and recognition that there has been a fundamental change in which the era of economic growth has switched over to an era of permanent economic contraction. The attempts by governments and central banks across the globe to prop up the façade of our zombie globalized economic model, combined with the relentless cheerleading of the politicos and mainstream media has so far concealed the ugly truth about our predicament from most people. The efforts of blogs like this one to put out the truth pale in comparison to the mind control power of even one relatively low rated cable teevee channel like CNBC.
The evidence of this is very easy to see. However much angst and anger may be being detected in those public opinion polls, many millions of people who are still employed have not changed their behavior one iota. They are still engaging in long-term destructive behavior like whipping out the plastic at the mall and going into hock to buy stuff they don’t need, socking their money into a 401(k) or IRA account they cannot access for many years, encouraging their college bound children to take out gigantic student loans to pay for what will likely turn out to be an utterly worthless education, and buying houses in the far flung suburbs “at the bottom” while ignoring the fact that with few good jobs being created and the Baby Boomers getting ready to retire and sell their houses in massive numbers there is no chance that prices are going to recover.
I posted a story recently about how Republican primary voters in the state of Florida overwhelmingly told a pollster that they favored ending our overseas military entanglements over slashing Social Security as a way to bring down the federal budget deficit, and yet were still least likely to vote for one of the two candidates who might actually ramp down military spending: Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. This reminds me of those upper middle class “greenies” who nevertheless live in a suburban McMansion and drive a large SUV to keep their precious little snowflakes “safe.” It’s like the old saying goes, “put your money where your mouth is.” People may profess to believe all kinds of stupid shit, but it is their actions, particularly in regards to how they vote and spend their money, that belie the real truth about their value systems.
All of which brings me back to the main question in this essay: when do we reach the “tipping point” of real awareness of what the future holds from a peak oil and resource depletion standpoint? Quite obviously, we are nowhere near that point yet. Looking around at the people who populate my own life, other than my father and my brother I do not know a single other person who holds such true awareness. Some have an understanding of part of the picture to varying degrees, and a few have even taken affirmative steps like paying down debt to allow them to better weather the coming storm. But true awareness that we will soon be passing through the “eye of the needle” in which not just a sizeable minority but a vast majority of the population will find themselves utterly destitute and struggling just to survive is lacking even for them.
Perhaps that is for the best. Given how unprepared all but a very tiny segment of the population is to survive without a functioning modern infrastructure to support them, I cannot envision that our society would hold together for very long if the truth were to suddenly become widely known. Instead, there would likely be a mass panic and scramble to secure food and other resources that would quickly bring down the entire system, like a rush for the exits after someone screams “fire!” in a crowded theater. In essence, that is what those who believe there will be a “fast” collapse need in order to be proven correct. I’ve said before that I don’t think such a scenario is in the cards, at least not as long as there remains sufficient resources to keep the basics of the system operating even as it slowly devolves and millions of individuals fall through the ever widening cracks. Whatever else they may do, the elites will do everything in their power to keep the game going for as long as possible and manage the descent as much as they are able.
Even having said all of that, 2012 is shaping up to be a key year in the Long Emergency, just like 1968 was for the counterculture movement of the sixties. I look at what is going on right now, Europe teetering on the financial brink, the Occupy movement bubbling at a low boil, the promises that a real “recovery” is just around the corner sounding increasingly threadbare and a presidential campaign that no matter whom the Republicans ultimately nominate (it won’t be Ron Paul) will pit two arrogant, out-of-touch oligarchs against each other and I see the possibility for massive instability and unrest that might even put the late-1960s to shame. On the flip side are the proto-fascists among our elected officials, just waiting for the right moment to spring the next major curtailment of individual civil liberties upon the citizenry. Unfortunately, there is a decent chance that as anger and frustration with our broken political system mounts they will get what they desire sometime during the coming year.
By this time next year, I suspect the landscape will have been altered dramatically. Whether that will also shock enough people into awareness along the way so that we finally reach that “tipping point” of awareness remains to be seen, but I tend to doubt it. In the meantime, I’ll be here, reporting the truth as I see it, hoping to reach the very few souls out there who are receptive to hearing the message while there is still time enough for them to act upon it.