The loyal opposition is the party out-of-power in a polity that stands divided into two factions — assuming the polity can still function as such, which, apparently, it no longer can. Historically in the USA, this used to allow for the tempered regulation of changing conditions during two hundred years of a rapidly evolving techno-industrial economy that pumps out more goodies year after year while the population grows and grows.
Much of America, political leaders especially, assume that this arc of growing goodies and more people will just keep trending up forever. They are just plain mistaken about that. Rather, the whole industrialized, wired-up world is rolling over into the greatest contraction ever witnessed. The only thing that’s postponed the recognition of this reality is the profligate borrowing of money, or shall we say “money” — data entries that pretend to represent secure wealth. This amounts to borrowing from the future to pay for how you live today. Of course, the act of borrowing is based on the supposition that there will enough future productive activity to allow you to pay back your borrowings with interest. This is obviously not the case now, in the face of epochal contraction, especially of affordable energy to keep things running hot.
Thus, the US has decided to get through the approaching winter by setting its house on fire. The two political parties alternately in charge of things are driving around the burning house, stopping at intervals to run Chinese Fire Drills. We call these “elections.” Both parties pretend that the burning house is not a problem. Mr. Trump, aka the Golden Golem of Greatness, has taken “ownership” of the rising temperature in the burning house. “.” He and his party have been piling all the furniture inside the house on the fire, to keep the heat up, rather heedless that flames are starting to shoot out of the attic.
The other party has no quibble with burning down the house. In fact, this has been the Democratic Party’s sovereign remedy for problems since the War in Vietnam, when it was explicit policy to burn down villages in order to save them. Seemed to work, until it didn’t — and then we just tried to forget about the whole sorry exercise. It still haunts them, though. So these days they’ve decided to destroy the culture that abided inside the burning house. They’re taking down the draperies and collecting all the clothing and tchotchkes and framed photographs of loved ones, and piling them on top of the burning furniture, doing their bit to keep the heat up.
You might infer from all this that no matter whatever else the Republican and Democratic parties might do now is not going to prevent the house from burning down. In a month, or six months, or eighteen months, they will be left standing stunned in the ashes. !?! Even the clown cars they were riding around in will be smoldering wrecks. And then the rest of the people of this land can sift through ruins, seeking a few trinkets or useful tools with some remaining value. These people will be entitled to call themselves “survivors.” And they will act like survivors should act: by earnestly assessing how the house happened to burn down, and using what few assets and resources they still have at hand to shelter-in-place, while they draw up plans for a more sensible house.
If there was a true loyal opposition in this land, they would have called the fire department long ago. But they were too busy texting out their contrived grievances and sending cute Instagrams of each other in pussy hats to friends and allies while the flames of the burning house reflected off the screens of their iPhones. The vaunted technology did not save the day. It only stole their attention.
If it happens that the Democrats lose the midterm elections a few weeks ahead, they will jump up and down and holler that the elections were stolen from them, that somebody meddled and colluded to deprive them of victory, and that will amount to throwing just enough gasoline on the still-burning house for one final glorious burst of heat and flame before the rafters crash through the floor. Welcome to the Long Emergency.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency, Too Much Magic, The Geography of Nowhere, the World Made By Hand novels, and more than a dozen other books. He lives in Washington County, New York.
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