I suppose we’ll know in a few hours whether Colonel Muammar Gaddafi gets hung out to dry, Mussolini-style, from a lamp-post, or is mercifully handed a one way ticket to Palookaville, a.k.a. The Hague, where old despots go to eat French fries with mayonnaise and be judged. The rebels celebrating in Tripoli’s main square looked a tad ticked off about all the trouble it took to pry the old rascal off his throne. Over in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, the ophthalmologist who rules the place, must be following developments with a keen interest. (Perhaps he will hastily decide to re-open his medical practice in, say, Iraq.) Despite the bubbling of CNN news-readers, I suggest that we Westerners hold our applause until the world gets a clue as to who or what will govern Libya (or Syria, in the event).
Besides, we have a sort of Man-Who-Would-Be-Gaddafi fresh out of the woodwork right here in the USA. I speak of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Bush-Without-a-Brain clone who pulled off a kind of “hat-trick” of cretinism last week by 1.) announcing his disbelief in climate change science; 2.) announcing his disbelief in evolution science; and 3.) more or less threatening to lynch Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. The nation has not seen such a puffed up rogue take the stage since the days of Huey Long, but the rural idiocy that saturated Louisiana in the 1930s has finally seeped all over the country so that even people in once-literate Minnesota are represented by reality-averse evangelical maniacs. Candidates like Perry and Bachmann make a plain vanilla narcissist like Sarah Palin look at least capable of running a student council. What a low moment in America’s history. Don’t lose sight of the fact that there’s room for the bar to go further down.
Otherwise, the weekend was notable for the complete and utter retreat from public view of European leaders charged with figuring out some way around the EU’s banking woes. The dirty secret is that there isn’t any way around these Alp-size heaps of broken promises, worthless certificates, overdrawn accounts, shiftless governments, and booby-trapped counter-party contracts. The people in charge are trying like hell to make it through the vacation season before the entire continent tips over, but then what? I’ll tell you: the chain-lightning of ruin will crackle across the Sargasso Sea and strike deep in the heart of JP Morgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and all the other citadels of grift until blood runs out the bronze nostrils of George Washington’s statue on the portico of Federal Hall. I don’t begrudge poor Barack Obama’s attempt to eat a few ice cream cones at the seashore with his wife and two girls. Some presidents are just one-termers. History is cruel that way. But it also rhymes. Rick Perry may be as dumb as Ronald Reagan.
Nobody can believe what’s happening. Nobody knows what to do. Well, here’s some straight dope: do you want to have an economy? Then prepare to cut your losses and move on. There’s so much to do “out there” in America, but the catch is it’s not the same as what we’ve been doing. Do you want to eat a few years from now? Get serious about reorganizing agriculture on a smaller, finer, more local scale. Believe me, there will be plenty of jobs. Only they won’t be like sitting in a cubicle writing a marketing plan for a video-game about the slaughter of gym rats from another planet. Do you want to be able to travel around this big country in a few years? Start working on the nearest reconstructable railroad line – and get over your techno-grandiose fantasies about running all the cars on algae, corn, or the plug in the wall. Do you want have some household goods in the future without sending an order halfway around the world? Figure out a way to make stuff in some North American place where there is running water for electric power.
There isn’t a politician out there, including the Paul duo, who can really articulate the direction in which history is propelling us. This “recession-depression” narrative doesn’t even adequately capture it. This is the end of a certain way of doing things – the industrial growth-spurt fiesta. We’re in permanent contraction now. There are no technological rescue remedies that will restore the old economic regime. The banks are not working anymore because we can’t create more real wealth, and the wealth we pretended to create for thirty-odd years in the form of IOUs can’t be paid back into existence. We can’t fund any more senior golfing careers and a lot of people will have to just stop eating fried pork rinds, guzzling Pepsi Cola, and then waddling into the emergency room for consolation.
Does this sound a little harsh? Surprise: history is not your therapist. This is the New Age you never expected. Crybabies need not apply.