Podcast

James Howard Kunstler: The Dangers of the Age of Delusion

We're acting as if risks have no consequences
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 1:53 PM

It’s characteristic of the time that we’re living in that there simply is no sense of consequence. And that’s exactly what you get when you have a Federal Reserve that’s out of control and a public that is filled with technological narcissistic visions of Santa Claus delivering rescue remedies on demand. And so there’s no general sense that when you do things, bad things can happen

James Howard Kunstler is concerned. Sure, he still has the same issues with the West's highly energy-consuming suburban lifestyle that he famously brought to light in his books The Long Emergency, the World Made by Hand series, and Too Much Magic. But beyond our decaying fundamentals, he's distressed by society's unwillingness to be honest with itself about the issues it's facing.

Instead, we are embracing a narrative based in "magical thinking" (e.g., prosperity through the printing press, energy independence through domestic shale) that assures us everything is fine. That we'll be able to enter the future without having to make any changes to our manner or standard of living, despite our massive debts and depleting resources:

History is very peculiar in the sense that sometimes cultures and societies go through very strange periods of their history, and we’re in one of those now. And I characterize this as the “great period of America lying to itself.” And the way that it’s really carried out as a practical matter is that accounting fraud is now the basic mechanism for running most of the important things in American life. Accounting fraud is now the basis for banking and finance, and it’s certainly the basis for government, and certainly for its fiscal role.

So I think what you’re seeing is a kind of deformity of the consensus. And of course, the most striking feature of our current times is this inability of the country to construct a coherent story about what’s happening to us, and therefore the inability to construct a story about what we might do about it.

And the sad thing is there is much we can get busy on to address our situation. But to get started, we first need to engage in an eyes-wide open assessment of our true state:

What's really happening in reality, in this moment in history, is a comprehensive contraction in economic activity, because there’s a connection between the energy inputs into an economy and a culture and your ability to accumulate wealth of the kind that we’re used to, produced by industrial activity. And that’s coming to an end, and there’s no way around it.

Now, there are plenty of things we can do. And the terminology that we use, I think, the way we deal with this – for example, using the word “growth” incessantly is, I think, very counterproductive rather than using the term “activity”. Because you can have a lot of activity of the kind that we need without necessarily having the kind of industrial growth that we’ve experienced in the past. For example, we have a tremendous amount of work to do in this country to reform and downscale and re-localize and reorganize the major activities of American life, whether it’s agriculture – which is going to have to get smaller and more local and finer and be done by more human beings than machines, and be done by more human beings than energy slaves – or commerce – which has got to be reorganized from the Wal-Mart level of twelve-thousand-mile supply lines and warehouses on wheels, depending on all of the tractor-trailer trucks running incessantly around the interstate highway system.

So that’s a huge test that faces us. We basically have to rebuild the Main Street economies – and not just in an intellectual or conceptual way, but actually in the bricks and mortar. We’ve got to go in there and refurbish our downtowns. We’ve got to change the transportation system, because the airline industry is failing and the happy motoring industry or way of life will be coming to an end, probably sooner rather than later.

Yet if we continue to cling to our magical, no-consequences narrative, Kunstler fears we will likely burrow deeper into our delusion:

It comes back to the unfortunate condition of a nation that is so frightened of the consequences of what it has been doing that it cannot really face reality, and so it just spins one story after another.

I think Jim Rickards put it pretty well the other day when he said that this kind of monetary policy exists in what he referred to as a critical state dynamic. In other words, you can’t just dial up free money and then dial down free money when you seem to be getting into an inflationary problem. The control, the toggle, just doesn’t work that way. And what happens, in fact, is that things go critical because it is a critical state dynamic.

And what’s been going on is that we’ve been trying to compensate for the lack of capital formation with this imaginary money. And by capital formation, I mean the ability to accumulate real wealth from real wealth-producing activities. And creating credit card money on a national level is not real wealth-producing activity.

I think the closer we get to this point of criticality, the more delusional we’re liable to become about it. So this is just a subset of that larger dynamic of, the more distressed the society gets, the more delusional it gets.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with James Howard Kunstler (46m:59s):

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. And today I am really happy to welcome back to the program my friend, James Howard Kunstler.

Jim is a well-known author and social critic whose ideas have been extremely influential to myself and both the Peak Oil and sustainable living movements. His best known works include The Long Emergency, one of the first books I came across in this genre, in which he argues that declining oil production will result in the reversal of modern industrialized society, and compel Americans to return to smaller scale, localized, semi-agrarian communities. He also wrote World Made by Hand and its sequel, The Witch of Hebron, which used fiction to entertainingly transport us into what that future narrative might look like – and, more importantly, feel like. More recently, he wrote Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation. And of course, he continues to write regularly at his excellent weekly blog found over at www.kunstler.com. Jim, I’m really happy to have you back with us.

Jim Kunstler: Oh, it’s a pleasure to be here with you, Chris.

Chris Martenson: Thanks. So let’s start with your most recent book. Now, as I look at the S&P 500 sitting here over 1500, I suspect many are beginning to think that wishful thinking works just fine. In the realm of fracking the shale plays, that is now being heralded as the means for the U.S. to best Saudi Arabia at the oil game; perhaps that technology is a form of useful magic. Put it all together. Is not our fate really one of manifest destiny?

Jim Kunstler: Well, it’s really funny to me that I wrote a book about wishful thinking just at a moment in American history when the wishful thinking in our culture revved up to unprecedented levels. And the stories that actually began to come out in the year that Too Much Magic was published – which was 2012; it was published about six months ago – it absolutely coincided in lockstep with the stories about us becoming energy independent and becoming the next Saudi Arabia and having no problems and blue skies everywhere. And one of the net effects, of course, was that the nation was in such a mood of wishful euphoria that people really didn’t want to read about wishful thinking. So that was, I think, to my disadvantage.

But it’s still going on, and the stories are pouring out. But I think the larger issue around that is the way that America is just lying to itself. I wrote in The Long Emergency in 2005 that you could predict – there was categorically a correlation between the distress that a society feels and the amount of delusional thinking that goes on, and I think that this has been borne out now. So nothing but blue skies ahead and everything’s great and don’t worry, be happy. But of course, in the background, events are churning away, and we’re going to be disappointed about how that all works out.

Chris Martenson: I keep trying to characterize this in a way, to capture it appropriately. Because I understand the headlines that are coming out say one thing, but when I scratch at it and look at the data, there’s all this other data that says something entirely different. I don’t exactly know how to square up improving state budgets and GDP that’s apparently growing on the top line and record numbers of people landing on food stamp programs or things like that. And with oil still pretty close to $100 a barrel in the U.S. – but it’s well over $100, it’s $115 on the world stage. And that doesn’t comport at all with this notion that we are just about to enter a new era of absolute abundance in oil. And so I must imagine that there’s some cognitive dissonance for a lot of people in this country right now.

Jim Kunstler: Yeah, and by cognitive dissonance, I think we mean the clash of ideas in our heads with reality. And history is very peculiar in the sense that sometimes cultures and societies go through very strange periods of their history, and we’re in one of those now. And I characterize this as the “great period of America lying to itself.” And the way that it’s really carried out as a practical matter is that accounting fraud is now the basic mechanism for running most of the important things in American life. Accounting fraud is now the basis for banking and finance, and it’s certainly the basis for government, and certainly for its fiscal role.

So I think what you’re seeing is a kind of deformity of the consensus. And of course, the most striking feature of our current times is this inability of the country to construct a coherent story about what’s happening to us, and therefore the inability to construct a story about what we might do about it.

Chris Martenson: Speaking of accounting fraud then, I’ve been tracking the shale gas and shale oil stories, but the shale gas story is particularly interesting. And you would think that by the time the President of the United States is using information and says something like there’s a hundred years of natural gas left, that that would’ve gone through some relatively heavy filtering, or at least some fact checking, or it would’ve somehow gone through a process where it had been vetted.

Jim Kunstler: You’ve got to wonder like what is going through Steven Chu’s head, and I’m speaking of the Secretary of Energy who just announced his resignation a few days ago. How could he vet that statement?

Chris Martenson: And what’s interesting there is that to pull that claim and use that claim, you have to just rely on industry pronouncements of what they have. And I don’t mean to cast aspersions on an entire industry, but I do know something about oil and mining and gold mines. And there’s a tendency for the operators of said resources and production facilities to exaggerate just a little bit. My personal handy number is, whatever the industry says, I usually divide by two.

And sure enough, a big report just came out where Texas looked at the Barnett Shale, which is the longest running shale play that we happen to have. There are sixteen thousand wells; there’s enough data that they can actually calculate the trajectory of these wells. And guess what? About half what the industry had been claiming they were going to get is going to come out of those wells. It’s still nothing to sneeze at, but the difference between having, say, thirty years of natural gas and a hundred years is all the difference in the world. Because if we’re going to use that gas to do something useful, like rebuild our infrastructure or invigorate our waterways for transport or something, we’re going to use that energy to perform some useful work to get us to a different future than the one we’re inhabiting.

Instead, we have this narrative that says we have so much, it’s so many years in the future, no rationally sane politician should ever have to think about it. In fact, let’s just lose twenty-five percent of the energy in that natural gas and compress it because we think we can sell it to the Japanese for a dollar profit. What is going on there? How can this still be happening?

Jim Kunstler: I think it’s pretty simple, actually. There’s a kind of master wish behind all the other sub-wishes in the battery of wishful thinking. And the master wish is for us to be able to drive to Wal-Mart forever. And it has a lot to do with the investments that we’ve already made in American society. I’m speaking of the physical infrastructure of daily life in America, the way life is laid out; the suburban subdivisions and the strip malls and the way you have to get around and the highways and everything. And so because we can’t imagine letting go of all those investments – and frankly, it is hard to see how we might do that – it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to transition out of, necessarily. It’s probably something that’s going to be just subject to failure.

But I think the stress of imagining that and being fearful of it produces the master wish to drive to Wal-Mart forever. And then, that is adumbrated by the information about shale gas and shale oil and incorporated into the story, which is a false story, that these resources will allow us to drive to Wal-Mart forever. And I think that’s pretty much how it works.

Chris Martenson: Well, it seems to me that what you’re saying is that it’s our prior investments that are shaping our future decisions. And one possible reflection of that – that I thought was an extreme example but it came up multiple times in the past three months – where I noted different columnists were arguing that we have to boost our population growth numbers because we have these entitlement programs that are going to break if we don’t. And I thought, that’s a really strange reason to bring people into the planet, as a rationale.

Jim Kunstler: Yeah, it’s very similar to the rationale that we should continue our immigration policies because we need more potential homebuyers, right?

Chris Martenson: [Laugh] But it’s offered, and not even tongue-in-cheek. It’s a straight-up argument; it’s a rationale that many people hold. It’s interesting.

Jim Kunstler: Well, it isn’t a whole lot different from the rationale that we should just keep on creating imaginary money to compensate and offset for the fact that we are not accumulating real wealth in a real productive economy anymore. So all of these things are applied to the cognitive dissonance, as you said – the clash between what is really happening and what we wish for. And what is really happening in reality, in this moment in history, is a comprehensive contraction in economic activity, because there’s a connection between the energy inputs into an economy and a culture and your ability to accumulate wealth of the kind that we’re used to, produced by industrial activity. And that’s coming to an end, and there’s no way around it.

Now, there are plenty of things we can do. And the terminology that we use, I think, the way we deal with this – for example, using the word “growth” incessantly is, I think, very counterproductive rather than using the term “activity”. Because you can have a lot of activity of the kind that we need without necessarily having the kind of industrial growth that we’ve experienced in the past. For example, we have a tremendous amount of work to do in this country to reform and downscale and re-localize and reorganize the major activities of American life, whether it’s agriculture – which is going to have to get smaller and more local and finer and be done by more human beings than machines, and be done by more human beings than energy slaves – or commerce – which has got to be reorganized from the Wal-Mart level of twelve-thousand-mile supply lines and warehouses on wheels, depending on all of the tractor-trailer trucks running incessantly around the interstate highway system.

So that’s a huge test that faces us. We basically have to rebuild the Main Street economies – and not just in an intellectual or conceptual way, but actually in the bricks and mortar. We’ve got to go in there and refurbish our downtowns. We’ve got to change the transportation system, because the airline industry is failing and the happy motoring industry or way of life will be coming to an end, probably sooner rather than later.

As far as the airlines go, that is an activity with a very short time horizon. The announcement came over the web just this morning that American Airlines and US Air have finally found a way to merge. And that means that now all of the major airlines have accomplished a major merger. But it also means that a lot of people are going to start being fired as they consolidate the activities of these two airlines, and routes will be eliminated and there will be fewer flights between both airlines. It’ll be one airline now, but with fewer flights to fewer places. And a lot of the secondary and tertiary markets like Appleton, Wisconsin or Knoxville, Tennessee – they will have fewer flights to those places.

So that’s all happening, and there is no mention whatsoever of rebuilding the conventional railroad system in the USA. We’ve had this conversation before, and I’m not going to drag it out. But it’s a techno-narcissistic fantasy to think that we’re going to build a high-speed rail system in America. We’re not going to do it; we’re too broke. The money’s not there. The capital formation is impaired. We may build, or start to build, a line or two between San Francisco, or Sacramento and Los Angeles. But we may never even finish those.

But we desperately need to rebuild a conventional railroad system. People would be delighted to go from New York to Chicago at ninety miles an hour if the trains ran on time and arrived on time and left from stations that were not like public toilets. And we’re not talking about that. So we’re facing the imminent decline and probable eventual demise of commercial aviation as we know it. We’re in this big continental-size nation and we’re not thinking about another way to get around.

So this whole range of tasks – rebuilding Main Street commerce, rebuilding agriculture and reforming agriculture, rebuilding transportation – those are three things right there that are immense tasks, and we don’t have time to wring our hands; we don’t have time for blame games. But we’ve got to get down to work and accomplish these things, and we’re not doing any of them.

Chris Martenson: Well, let’s talk about how we set priorities then. I guess a useful starting point here in this conversation might be the State of the Union address, which just happened a couple days ago. And so I know that’s largely a political sort of a venue, and there’s a lot of politics going on, and I’m not entering this conversation with a partisan slant or bone in my body. And yet, I think the collective narrative is expressed there on some level, and at least it gives us something to react to.

And I noticed that Obama did say, together we’ve cleared away the rubble of the crisis, I think he said, we’re getting stronger, giving us a sense of direction. But somewhere in that speech, he mentioned that there are 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country and we’re going to fix all of these. And by the way, it’s not going to cost a dime more, so it’s not a deficit situation. Isn’t this an example of what you’re talking about? We have 70,000 deficient bridges. We need to fix those, but we want to do it without costing a dime. How do we square that circle?

Jim Kunstler: Well, I think more to the point, the entire State of the Union message is about a campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which means a campaign to stay exactly where we are and at all costs try to maintain the systems that are running the way they’re running now. And an unwillingness to face the necessary imperatives that reality is now bringing down on us.

I got a good hard look at the State of the Union address, and there were a number of things that struck me about it. One is – and I say this as a registered Democrat who voted for Obama twice because the alternative seemed to me to be worse than Obama – I do think that the Federal government cannot pretend to compensate for a real economy by just introducing government programs to offset the contraction that we’re under. And the more that it tries to do this, probably the more incompetent and ineffectual it’s going to be. We’ll end up being in a never-ending Hurricane Katrina type of nation where nothing really works and the interference and interventions and manipulations of the Fed government, especially in money matters, are going to end up just being very destructive.

The idea that we’re reviving manufacturing in this country is not quite credible because it mostly says to me these are jobs for robots. Because the way manufacturing is done at the moment really means automating the factories as much as possible and having as few people working in them as possible. So I don’t really see that as being something that’s going to be meaningful.

The idea that rising house prices are a good thing, which Obama made a big deal of – why is that? Is it so that people can use their houses and ATM machines to get into greater debt again, after the debacle of the early 2000s when households went into debt catastrophically? That’s not a very good idea. And is it a good idea to make houses more expensive when young people don’t have jobs and don’t have incomes and can’t form households themselves? So the housing sector’s just being jacked and gamed by destructive Federal government policies and Federal Reserve policies for low interest rates and banking shenanigans that are keeping foreclosed properties off the market. And so what you’re seeing there is just a racket.

Then there’s the immigration thing. We’ve already spoken about that, but we actually need to curtail immigration at all levels, including well-educated people from foreign lands. We don’t have enough jobs for people with masters’ and doctoral degrees in America. So the idea that we need to let in more people from other lands with advanced degrees is insane. And I’d remind listeners that there were times in American history when we made rational decisions to curtail immigration for a while – the 1920s, for example. After five or six decades of very robust immigration, we turned around and said maybe it’s time to turn off the faucet and just stay where we are for a while.

And I think that was a good decision, and we might have to make it again. Because there are a lot of demographic movements all over the world right now, as regions of the world become less favorable to live in for one reason or another, and America cannot absorb them all. An awful lot of them are going to want to come to America. And I’m speaking of whether it’s a Third World place in great distress like Mali, or a nation like France, which is an advanced nation putting a lot of pressure on its citizens to get out with its tax policies. So we just don’t need that.

And you come to the conclusion that President Obama’s a genial fellow and a nice guy, but sadly clueless and increasingly tiresome.

Chris Martenson: He certainly seems to be a very, very strong component of the idea that we’re going to preserve the status quo, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from anybody who managed to rise through the national political machine to get to the presidential level. Of course, that’s their job. And you’re articulating this idea that our status quo is now beginning to feed upon itself, it’s going through some sort of – as John Michael Greer put it – catabolic collapse, as the body starts to eat itself when it runs out of other forms of fuel. And the thing that I find distressing or upsetting in all this is that I can clearly see that we could chart a very different future for ourselves where we had a realistic conversation about what’s possible and what’s not possible.

Just at the economic level – let me take complexities around energy off the table, if that confuses the average politician. The idea that we’re going to return our economy to how it used to be functioning is an idea that we’re going to return to a state where we’re going to grow our debts at roughly twice the rate of the underlying economy and we’re going to continue to do that forever. And anybody who’s ever had an income and a credit card can tell you that’s not possible. It’s just a math problem.

But somehow, we have all of our faith now reinvested in the Federal Reserve. They are omnipotent; we have complete faith that they are going to walk this absolutely razor-thin edge, where on one side they blow it and they create too much money, too many claims against too few goods, and there’s this sort of destruction of the currency through an inflationary event. And on the other side of this knife edge, there’s a deflationary collapse, and we’ve largely collectively at this point – at least if we trust the mainstream media – said we think the Fed has this in hand. They’ve got it. And all you have to do is crack open the minutes from the 2007 Fed, which contains the most recent sets that we have. They had no idea that the housing bubble was bad or how bad it could be or that there were any issues growing in subprime, even though there were people – like you and me and anybody else who could rub two thoughts together – saying we have a problem here.

So how do you remain engaged in the narrative when it’s that far off the reservation?

Jim Kunstler: It comes back to the unfortunate condition of a nation that is so frightened of the consequences of what it has been doing that it cannot really face reality, and so it just spins one story after another. And the Federal Reserve part of the story is just another untruth that we can create imaginary money forever, and that takes the place of capital formation.

I think Jim Rickards put it pretty well the other day when he said that this kind of monetary policy exists in what he referred to as a critical state dynamic. In other words, you can’t just dial up free money and then dial down free money when you seem to be getting into an inflationary problem. The control, the toggle, just doesn’t work that way. And what happens, in fact, is that things go critical because it is a critical state dynamic.

And what’s been going on is that we’ve been trying to compensate for the lack of capital formation with this imaginary money. And by capital formation, I mean the ability to accumulate real wealth from real wealth-producing activities. And creating credit card money on a national level is not real wealth-producing activity.

I think the closer we get to this point of criticality, the more delusional we’re liable to become about it. So this is just a subset of that larger dynamic of, the more distressed the society gets, the more delusional it gets.

Chris Martenson: Well, that’s on the large scale, certainly. As we troll the media, there’s a story being spun, and it’s getting a little strident, I find, in its ability to overlook certain things.

Jim Kunstler: Well, Chris, it’s hilarious. I mean, one hilarious thing about it is that everybody is kicking back and marveling at the rise of the Dow and the S&P, when it’s quite clear what’s going on. There’s just a lot of phony baloney – not real money; credit, basically. A credit card is being stuffed into the ATM of the stock indexes and jacking them up.

Chris Martenson: Well, that’s what thin air money does. And one of the larger mistakes that Greenspan made that Bernanke is perpetuating is this idea that as long as asset prices rise, we’re actually all getting wealthy. They call it the “wealth effect,” as if it were a real thing. But they distinguish that if commodities are rising, well, that might be inflationary. But when assets are rising, that’s virtuous and they’re the same process. It’s the exact same dynamic.

And what I don’t think they understand is that there has to be some balance, of course. They should understand it because it’s written into the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 – the mandate, the actual mandate that the Fed has. By the way, the Fed does not have any legal mandate written down in any document that says they’re responsible for unemployment levels or the general nature of the economy or fiscal matters or any of that stuff. Their job is to make sure that money and credit aggregates remain in rough proportion to the economy, period. They’re not there to direct the economy; they’re not there to ensure that the S&P is rising constantly; they’re not there to make sure house prices are at the “right level.” That’s not their job.

But somehow, mission creep and organizations do what they do, so they are now responsible for everything.

Jim Kunstler: Well, of course, it’s also the wishes of political figures to use the mechanism of the Federal Reserve to try to manipulate reality, and that can only go so far. I think that the issue that you and I are treading around without maybe articulating it is the amazing fact that there has not been an enormous financial accident in the last several years. Because there are so many circles of things traveling at high velocity at the giant scale, whether it’s the movement of capital around the globe electronically or the size of the bailouts that are being extended to institutions or just the gross nature of these manipulations and interventions. It is an amazing thing that some terrible financial accident hasn’t occurred.

But I think that gets back to Rickard’s view of criticality, that these are threshold events. These are things that happen in inflection points. There’s a term, I think, in the study of [the movement of volcanic material] Lahar effect. It’s that you have to account for the difference between the moment where all that stuff was stuck on the mountainside and the moment after that when it all fell down. And maybe the difference is [as minor as] one single snowflake or the movement of one grain of sand.

But we’ve set ourselves up for a very bad moment in which people are going to lose confidence in a catastrophic way in their currencies and in the institutions that manage them. And this is the tremendous danger of using accounting fraud as the basis for operations in banking. It’s that you reach a point of criticality when all of a sudden you have a worldwide bank run of one form or another, and that becomes a cascading catastrophic event.

And I think the amazing thing is that nothing like that’s happened. The only little tremor that happened was that 1000 point Dow drop that was called the Flash Crash, I think, in 2010. And it is just an amazing thing that nothing else has occurred.

Chris Martenson: Well, it is amazing. I think if we’re going to break this into two camps of thought, I know that there are some people who are thinking look, because nothing bad has happened in the last few years, we’re going to take that as an idea that the Fed has played out the clock well, that the underlying risks have been mitigated in some way. President Obama said it in the State of the Union. Together we have cleared away the rubble of the crisis.

Jim Kunstler: Absolutely, I think you’re quite right.

Chris Martenson: And the other camp of thought that goes on the other side of that is – which I think you’re articulating – oh, no, no, no, no. All we did was we are now storing that potential energy up into a larger future event of some form. You can delay, but you can’t completely defer these sorts of things.

Jim Kunstler: And I think it’s easier to do in something like a financial system because you’re not dealing so much with hard concrete things so much as abstraction. And what you’re doing is manipulating abstractions, and you can keep a lot of abstract balls in the air for a while. But eventually, of course, you are left with reality and you are left with what happens on the ground. And eventually, abstract concepts are not a replacement for that.

One of the major lessons of the last twenty years that has not been learned in advanced societies and in particular, in America, is the idea that the virtual is not an adequate replacement for the authentic. And a virtual economy of computer money created out of thin air is not a replacement for activity on the ground that works for real people that gives them real roles in society. That gives them real fulfillment and an income and an ability to run a community and run institutions successfully at a level and a scale that they are capable of operating at.

So in a way, it literally is too much magic. it’s like the old viziers of the Arabian Nights, thinking that they can just invoke magical auguries and have things happen and make things right. And we’re going to be disappointed about that.

Chris Martenson: And in that vacuum, that gap, that cognitive dissonance between reality on one side, which is sending signals – all you have to do is open up a couple of pages deep into the newspaper and you find reality staring at you. Whether that’s Bluefin tuna now at 1% of their former population densities, or it’s the fact that all the old trees in the world seem to be dying, the fact that aquifers are being depleted in places that are extremely populated. There’s no Plan B for what happens when that water runs out, on and on and on and on.

And so as I travel around, I note that in that vacuum, there are people stepping into it saying I don’t know exactly what I have to do, but I have to do something. And the most exciting progress I see is at the individual and community levels. I’m wondering what you’re seeing.

Jim Kunstler: Well, I hear a lot, and the region I live in is close to you. We’re in different states. I’m in Upstate New York, you’re over in Massachusetts. But I think both of us are in old mixed landscapes of former industrial activity and a rebirth of agriculture. I’m certainly seeing it around here. We have very good soil in Washington County, New York. The dairy industry went through a long decline, and as it is ending, young people are actually moving up here and starting small farming operations.

Now, the commercial economies of the towns have not caught up with that, because they are still dominated by the chain stores. And for the moment, there’s no way for them around that. It’s very hard, for example, for the little downtown of the old factory village where I live to revive, because a quarter of a mile down the road, there’s a Kmart, which has basically taken over all of the dry goods commerce that used to be downtown.

I don’t think that the American public realizes how quickly that can change, and how quickly the dynamic of the chain-store economy can implode because it depends on these 12,000-mile supply lines and the warehouse on wheels and just-in-time delivery of all the stuff. And we are eventually, I think, going to rebuild the fine-grain local commercial networks that will support an agriculture economy. So far we’re only seeing the beginning of the agriculture module start to reform.

Chris Martenson: I’m interested in the big stores because I think there’s a situation developing that I think we could keep our eyes on because it will give us a model of how this might unfold, and that’s Argentina. They just last week or the week before implemented a three-month price freeze at the store levels. And they have a bunch of Costcos and Wal-Marts down there. So I’m trying to imagine what you do if you’re a big national or international company like a Wal-Mart and you are being forced by Fiat to accept pretty punishing losses. That’s the nature. Price controls are just a way of forcing the store owners to eat the losses that the government has enforced through its printing policies. And so we might get to see what happens if you have these big international companies that just say you can’t operate, it’s one thing they might say, and they just up and leave. And all the sudden, you could go from relatively well-supplied middle class consumer abundance to paucity really quickly.

Jim Kunstler: I think it’s an excellent example, and we would probably agree that the whole notion of price control is generally a self-defeating policy. But what you’re describing is in the folder of unintended consequences. And unintended consequences are one of the reasons that large Federal governments become so ineffectual and impotent and destructive. Because unintended consequences, by their nature, are things that are not foreseen. But it’s this inability to even imagine consequences that is interesting.

Let me put this another way. I think it’s characteristic of the time that we’re living in that there simply is no sense of consequence. And that’s exactly what you get when you have a Federal Reserve that’s out of control and a public that is filled with technological narcissistic visions of Santa Claus delivering rescue remedies on demand. And so there’s no general sense that when you do things, bad things can happen.

And I think what I’m afraid of at the really gut level of where we’re going – and I’ve expressed this in my novels – is that the American people are going to be so disappointed by the broken promises of technology and government and of the idea of progress, generally, that they’re going to retreat into superstition and the supernatural. And they’re going to reject science and they’re going to reject reality. And that’s really, I think, something that we’re really not prepared for, to live in a society that is dominated by superstition and supernatural thinking. But it could get that bad if we keep on playing fast and loose with reality and with the consequences of the choices that we make.

Chris Martenson: It’s interesting, then, because we already have examples that we could look at here in the United States – whether it’s Detroit, which is showing a failure of industry that happened. Or we could look at the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, which is still pretty much a disaster zone. Or looking at how we’ve just turned a blind eye to a lot of the victims in areas that are pretty devastated by Sandy. Or we could look at what’s happening in Harrisburg [Pennsylvania] with all the sinkholes, and the town’s too broke to even pour sand into them as a stopgap measure. Or what’s happening in Camden, New Jersey – it doesn’t matter. We have all these areas which show that this is what decline looks like. And my read of that is that, generally speaking, we just don’t look at them. That’s our response. It’s if that was a developmental stage. I know exactly how old my children are. As long as you don’t look at something, it’s not there.

And so it’s hard to really feel like we’re squaring up to circumstances as they are at this point. My vision is to actually reveal these things and to help get the narrative moving up the curve, not down the curve. And I feel like that at this point, we are further away from getting the story right than when I started, and I don’t like that feeling.

Jim Kunstler: I agree with you. And those of us who like to think that we’re in the business of trying to create a reality adjustment in America have had a rather hard row to hoe in the last several years. And I do. I published a book about wishful thinking at a time in the arc of this story when wishful thinking was the most popular thing going. And being what it is, people didn’t want to hear about it.

But I think we’ll see some movement in events. Let me put it this way. I think we’ve entered a time when events, rather than personalities, are in the driver’s seat. And I think that we are going to see movement in these events and we’re going to see what I would call consequence in a major way start to incept the reality zone of the world that we live in. And I just hope it doesn’t get too rough and ready and I hope that it doesn’t lead to conflict and war and a lot of really nasty internal division in the USA.

Chris Martenson: I hear that. Let me ask you this then. Anything in particular you’re keeping your eye on? Let me put it this way. Do you have any favorite horses in this race for the events that might precipitate a shift? Are you looking at Europe, Japan, U.S., budget sequestration? What’s capturing your fancy at this point?

Jim Kunstler: I think that we’re both hitting a wall of consternation where we both recognize that what we’ve been seeing for years and years probably is going to happen. But we’re sitting here waiting for the jury to come in from the jury room. And the jury’s been out for a very long time, and I think both of us may be getting cranky about it.

Chris Martenson: I call it crisis fatigue; that’s what I have.

Jim Kunstler: To answer your question, when I started writing about these issues, I felt that energy would be the lead in the story. And to some extent, it’s still high up in the story pyramid. But really, I think what’s happened is that the repercussions and consequences of the energy story in finance and banking and the management of money – and by that, I mean the management of the accumulated wealth of our societies – has become a much bigger story.

And now, what we’re seeing is, the mismanagement of accumulated wealth has become so grotesque that we’re really turning around and finding ourselves broke at every level – whether it’s the French government or the U.S. or the State of Indiana or you name it, your household or anybody. The state of mismanagement has been so gross that we’ve turned out, found out that we’re broke, and we’re going to make the really unhappy discovery that we don’t even have the money to continue the exploration and production operations to get the energy that we need to keep on having this economy that we’re wedded to. And that we’re unable to find our way into the next economy or another economy or something that will allow the human race to remain civilized.

And at the bottom of a lot of my hopes and dreams is that we do manage to remain civilized. There’s a lot to be said for civilization. I know people have made arguments against it; a lot of people think that we should just revert to becoming hunters and gatherers. But it’s probably a good thing that we have Mozart and root canals and that we sleep more than three inches above the ground and things like that.

Chris Martenson: Well, I’ll tell you, the reason that I spend my life trying to turn this narrative around is not because I want to go back and live in a simpler time. That’s not my motivation. Honestly, my motivation is, I would love to preserve all of the things that we do have that are truly wonderful. I think being able to get a root canal and penicillin along with it is a wonderful thing compared to the alternative. And what I see is my country, my nation, squandering its wealth, squandering its opportunities – time being the most important one. But just the thought that we’re going to export our natural gas is an extraordinary squandering.

What I want is what I used to have in my time working at companies, which is that if you worked for a good company, there was good leadership, and you always had a strategy. And this strategy only has two things to it, two arms. One arm says where are we going? and the other one says how are we going to get there? It’s your vision and a sense of your resources.

And guess what? You never have infinite resources, so what you do is you prioritize. And to me, that’s my primary critique of the State of the Union address – it was really short on giving a clear sense of where we’re going, except to the same place. We’re trying to get back to where we just were; that’s our direction. And secondarily, there was no sense of resource limitations. It’s like oh, we’ll do it all and it won’t cost a dime. And so that is just so far off the mark in terms of being actionable, measurable, realistic. It’s wishful thinking. It’s too much magic.

Jim Kunstler: Well, we see nations get into trouble. And I like to read about history and I spent a lot of time when I was writing Too Much Magic reading about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and the state of mind of Germany in the 1920s and 30s. Because it really remains one of the great mysteries of history of why the best educated nation in Europe went crazy in the 1930s – literally went crazy. And I’m afraid that the United States is capable of becoming even more crazy than Nazi Germany was in the 1930s because we’re starting from a much lower, less cultural level, when you look around and you see the actual level of education of people.

And you take a freshman from any college class and they probably can’t find Argentina on a map of the world. And you see all the tattooed, pierced people sitting around the convenience store and you wonder about what our country is capable of. And I come to the conclusion that our country is capable of some pretty terrible behavior under the wrong circumstances, and it frightens me. It’s one of the reasons I’ve made the choices in life that I have, to move to a small town, far away from where a lot of people are.

Chris Martenson: Well, as we’re waiting for the jury to come in on whatever the verdict is on this next stage of our history, I find that my joy, my passion, my vitality comes from applying myself at my homestead here. I love growing things, I love planting things. It’s my way of saying what I can control, at least, gives me some measure that I’m doing things with purpose, that are fulfilling, there’s quality involved, it’s beautiful. Those are the things that I do.

And in large measure, that’s a reaction to the idea that I feel there’s nothing I can do on the political stage. There’s nothing I can do except wait, in some respects, for certain things to transpire, even as I recognize that this is probably one of the most important times in history to continue to articulate what needs to be said. I truly believe that truth goes out of fashion but it never entirely disappears. And it’s pretty clear to me that your voice, my voice, all the other voices that are really trying to say hold on, stop, there are some other things we need to talk about and think about, it’s probably one of the most important and fulfilling jobs that needs doing. But in the day-to-day part of it, it’s a mystery how to be really effective at this sometimes.

Jim Kunstler: I’ve had a very vivid sense for at least a decade or more of the importance of having to just personally lead a purposeful life. And I struggle to get to the place where I can do that where I could manage my own time and be my own boss and get a little piece of my own land to do my own gardening and grow my own fruit trees.

Chris Martenson: Well, absolutely, we’re in agreement about leading a life of purpose, and I’m really glad you did find a way to engineer your life in a way that makes sense for you. And if I could, I’m going to invite myself up to come see your place sometime. I’d really like to.

Jim Kunstler: Okay, please. And do come in the spring when you can actually see what’s going on here underneath the snow.

Chris Martenson: Yeah, I know better than to visit somebody’s place in the New England region in February, or even March.

Jim Kunstler: My apple trees and pear trees have only been in the ground for a year. They did grow a lot in one year but they’re not that impressive. They’re not as impressive as yours are, certainly.

Chris Martenson: Those are three years old. You’re going to love them. It’s one of my favorite things to watch those trees grow, and they grow so much faster than I thought. It’s wonderful.

Jim Kunstler: And I’m getting a couple of chestnuts this year. There’s no guarantee they’re the American Chestnuts that are supposedly now blight resistant, and I hear various stories about how well that has worked. But I’m looking very forward to watching them grow over the next decade, which I plan to be here for. And it’ll be great for you to come up and give me some of your ideas about what I’m doing here.

Chris Martenson: Well, I would love to. And we’ve been talking with Jim Kunstler, of course. You can find more about Jim over at www.kunstler.com. Of course, any of his books are very easy to find on Amazon. I would suggest that Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation is an important book to read, especially when there is a lot of magic thinking going on, maybe more so. So Jim, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Jim Kunstler: A pleasure to be with you.

About the guest

James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler says he wrote The Geography of Nowhere, "Because I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work."

Home From Nowhere was a continuation of that discussion with an emphasis on the remedies. A portion of it appeared as the cover story in the September 1996 Atlantic Monthly.

His next book in the series, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, published by Simon & Schuster / Free Press, is a look a wide-ranging look at cities here and abroad, an inquiry into what makes them great (or miserable), and in particular what America is going to do with it's mutilated cities.

This was followed by The Long Emergency, published by the Atlantic Monthly Press in 2005, is about the challenges posed by the coming permanent global oil crisis, climate change, and other "converging catastrophes of the 21st Century."

His 2008 novel, World Made by Hand, was a fictional depiction of the post-oil American future. The sequel to that book, "The Witch of Hebron," was published in 2010.

Mr. Kunstler is also the author of eight other novels including The Halloween Ball, An Embarrassment of Riches and Maggie Darling. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Op-Ed page, where he has written on environmental and economic issues.

Mr. Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He moved to the Long Island suburbs in 1954 and returned to the city in 1957 where he spent most of his childhood. He graduated from the State University of New York, Brockport campus, worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis. He has no formal training in architecture or the related design fields.

He has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, MIT, RPI, the University of Virginia and many other colleges, and he has appeared before many professional organizations such as the AIA , the APA., and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

He lives in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York.

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49 Comments

RJE's picture
RJE
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Nothing in this world is greater than planning,...

...planting, propagation, and designing by your own visuals your yard, and garden. You do this for the visuals, you do this to attract bugs, bee's, birds, and all this to help everything else in your yard to be pollinated, and add beauty and sustenance. Nothing beats this. The joy of working, showering, and rocking on a favorite swing with beverage of choice, looking to make sure every blade of grass was clipped, with wondering eyes, and the sound of a ball game, with your dog at your feet can match this inner and spiritual peace. Yard work is my greatest pleasure, hands down. Sharing this with my Lady. Priceless.

So Chris, if this describes your feelings then I agree 100%.

Kunstler is a Man's, Man. I enjoy him, and read him, and have a sense that we would get along just great. 

BOB 

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westcoastjan
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One sentence said it all

"Let me put this another way. I think it’s characteristic of the time that we’re living in that there simply is no sense of consequence."

There is a profound lack of consequence to every aspect of current society, from the corporate world right on down to individual accountability. A lack of consequences enables continuation of the same behaviours, be they illegal, immoral, unethical or whatever. Without consequences there are no failures. Without failures, there are no lessons learned, no price to be paid, and therefore no reason to change.

As long as TPTB continue to perpetuate and encourage the self-defeating/destructive behaviours that got us into this mess there will be no movement at all towards real problem resolutions.

Our challenge is to not succumb to crisis fatigue, to live well based on what we know to be real, with a sense of consequence for who we are and what we do. At the very least this will make us part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem.

Jan

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Rob111
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Excellent!

Thank you for having Mr. Kunstler on Chris, I thoroughly enjoyed listening.

RJE's picture
RJE
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Yep,

"Our challenge is to not succumb to crisis fatigue, to live well based on what we know to be real, with a sense of consequence for who we are and what we do. At the very least this will make us part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem."

No other comment necessary.

RJE's picture
RJE
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one of many of my favorites folks and applies here somehow...

Head pounding here Folks

BOB

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Creative Desperation.

Being highly opinionated,what am I to say if all my opinions are expressed for me?

I can offer Jim an opinion as to why Germany went nuts, I have both Jewish and Prussian blood in my veins.

The Germans saw the Jews as parasites and not really of the Volk. (A Profound lesson there!). It was easy for the German psychopaths to deflect the population’s anger at the state of the nation onto the Jews. We all know where that led.

I am so in love with the fruits of civilization that I clutch at straws. Call it magical thinking if you must. I call it creative desperation.

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Casey
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Main Streets

Thank you Chris and Jim.  I've been using quotes from The Lond Emergency in presentations to Main Street audiences since things turned south in 2007, e.g., "Big cities will be in trouble. Small towns will be where the action is - they will be resilient, particularly if surrounded by agriculture."(approximate quote)  Chris, I came across The Crash Course after participating in "Architects of Transition" with John Petersen of the Arlington Institute and have incorporated elements of the Three E's in the same presentations. 

I just spoke to my brother about his experiences with six rural towns and 30 businesses in KY over the past two weeks, and I'm embarkng next week on a swing thru  official Nat'l Trust Main Streets and other small towns in MD over the next few months.  Small business owners are indeed suffering from crisis fatigue as they struggle to hang on in the face of fewer customers, smaller, less frequent transactions, and increased competition from Big Boxes.  Many audiences don't want to hear about the current state of affairs, they just want to know what to do.  And, Jim speaks of rebuilding our bricks and mortar in the downtowns. My question to you both is:

What would you say in front of an audience of small town business owners desperate to keep their doors open?

Community in all its forms is the path I see ahead, from local capitalization, i.e. investing elsewhere than the NYSE,  to the sharing circles that have been discussed on this site.  The Great Transition will be arduous but will result in a quality of life full of reward and blessing, as you both testify.  If you travel to the D.C. area, we invite you to stop by, or crash at, our "Urban Oasis" and our Main Street here. 

Doing our best in Takoma Park.

c.

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SingleSpeak
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I was suprised

when Kunsler stated that he voted for Obama again. I remember from an earlier podcast with Chris how dissappointed he said he was in Obama's performance. 

Maybe it's magical thinking, or more likely just Einstein's definition of insanity.

SS

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Jim H
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Arthur, I so agree...

You said, "I am so in love with the fruits of civilization"

I think this thought so often... my life so does not suck in its current incarnation.  Took my daughter to MIT today on a campus visit.. such a bundle of potential she is.. and such a wonder of a school MIT is.  Had dinner in downtown Boston with all the energy of life and prosperity flowing around us.  Life is good in the matrix for some.. and I admit .. for me.  My lament is that I know we cannot, will not, find our way to a more sustainable future that at least retains some semblence of this civility.  Have I given enough as gifts to others that I live the future I would like to see?  Time will tell.     

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anexaminedlife
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They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45

Interesting discussion. A few excerpts perked up my ear: 1) JHK's fear that as things fall apart, the population will resort to superstition and 2) his brief discussion about Germany and how it was that one of the most developed and sophisticated countries of the day could devolve into the Nazi years. Both of these observations go hand-in-hand. It has always been a simmering fear on my back burner that if/when things fall apart, most people won't understand what happened or how they got there and they will turn to delusional and dangerous answers. 

There is a book, which I just happen to be reading now, that was written in 1966 by a Jewish-American   journalist of German descent. He went to Germany and befriended, in the real meaning of that word, ordinary Germans to find out just what the hell they were thinking during the Nazi years. He did not tell them he was Jewish. As you can imagine, the pedestrian accounts of and excuses for those years are chillingly familiar. But the author’s account in Chapter 13 ("But Then It Was Too Late") of a conversation he had with an educated and thoughtful German who understood what was happening – and what was about to be – frightened me. The book is They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, by Milton Meyer. I strongly recommend it. At the very least, read Chapter 13, which is so disquieting to our time that you will find it posted in full all over the Interwebs just by googling the name of the book and chapter 13. 

Chapter 13 will certainly propel any thinking, compassionate, and aware person to speak up and speak often.

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Speak up

anexaminedlife wrote:

The book is They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, by Milton Meyer. I strongly recommend it. At the very least, read Chapter 13, which is so disquieting to our time that you will find it posted in full all over the Interwebs just by googling the name of the book and chapter 13. 

Chapter 13 will certainly propel any thinking, compassionate, and aware person to speak up and speak often.

Here is a link to an exerpt from chapter 13.  This is chilling. We must speak up now.

http://www.junkfoodforthought.com/long/TheyThoughtTheyWereFree.htm

RJE's picture
RJE
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Jim,

...this was a beautiful visual. I think we all feel this way, have prepared in this way, and are just waiting, ready, and will just do what we must. Very nice seeing you with your baby girl (their aways our babies).

Very touching Jim

Do wish you well

BOB

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Stand up. Speak up. Start

Stand up. Speak up. Start now.

RJE's picture
RJE
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Yes Mark,

...I humbly submit that I will do that. I will represent. 

Respectfully

BOB

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
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Will you Speak up?

RJE wrote:

...I humbly submit that I will do that. I will represent. 

Respectfully

BOB

How appropriate that "anexaminedlife" brought this thought forward. To "stand up"  and "speak up" requires a real gut check. It will become increasingly more dangerous to voice an opinion contrary to TPTB.

RJE's picture
RJE
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If this article about Deflation, and getting "worse" in Europe..

...is true then 40% of the economy's dependence on foreign profits is about to have its impact here in the U.S don't you think?. That can't be good but then again the markets will most likely reach all time highs.

http://theautomaticearth.com/Finance/deflation-arrives-in-the-eurozone.html

"James Howard Kunstler: The Dangers of the Age of Delusion"

We are delusional indeed.

Everything has its consequences.

BOB

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Used to read

Jim's blog Clusterf@#k Nation of a regular basis, the sarcasm and wit are certianly enjoyable.  Back in 2005 when The Long Emergency came out, it was certainly nice for those of us struggling with these issues for a long time to read confirming thoughts.  But after a while the negativity got to be a little much.  I think it was telling when Jim said that he was afraid that we would become somehting worse than Nazi Germany.  Fear is not a good foundation for a new narrative.  Beneath the decline of current paradigm, there are the undercurrents of a new beginning which are daily growing stronger.  These will as a matter of course be under reported in and by the main stream political and media entities, which are trying to save the status quo.  This is pretty self evident, lets get over it already.

I do agree with his assessments about many things, though I think that corruption rather than incompetence has a bigger role play.  This is a fairly minor quibble, but I think that when the right awarenes comes to bear, it will mean that we will be more affective a dealing with our problems than would be otherwise the case.

I know that seeing the pierced and tattooed youth hanging around convenience stores can be disconcerting, but we all here at this blog may have more in common with them than the well trimed ivy league graduate headed off to Wall Street to make a killing.  Those young people who have became disaffected with society in its current construction may be more sensitive and aware at an intuitive level about what is going on than we are.

I think that Rob Hopkins came to an important realization after years of environmental campaigning.  You don't win a lot of hearts and minds by telling people how horrible things are and how much worse things will be if we don't snap to.  A better world is in the offing, the current exploitive societal model is corrosive to the natural world and the human spirit, presnet events are the midwife for a new and amazing future. Those who have been given the gift of clear insight, IMHO have an obligation to avoid indulgences in fear and negativity and lead with a clearer vision of a better future.

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Treebeard wrote:You don't

Treebeard wrote:

You don't win a lot of hearts and minds by telling people how horrible things are and how much worse things will be if we don't snap to. 

I completely agree with that statement and no doubt, it is the reason we hope for the best and keep our mouths shut about the rest. 

Treebeard wrote in the same post:

A better world is in the offing, the current exploitive societal model is corrosive to the natural world and the human spirit, present events are the midwife for a new and amazing future. Those who have been given the gift of clear insight, IMHO have an obligation to avoid indulgences in fear and negativity and lead with a clearer vision of a better future.

That statement represents a wonderful dream, but in my opinion, has little no basis in reality. We might one day see that vision, but as I see things now, I don't know how we are getting there. 

I wish I could have Treebeard's optimism about the future. I don't. I have no idea how things will play out; there are many very insightful and knowledgeable thinkers out there who don't see a bright future (Chris Hedges comes to mind, there are others). 

My concern revolves around the vast numbers of people  in this country who depend a great deal on the system even for their daily sustenance.  While we can already see fall-out of a kind that may reach our shores in Greece and Spain, we don't see the evident rise of a evil Fascist power in those countries. But as the book , They Thought They Were Free, clearly lays out, the rise of Hitler was many years in the making.

This is not to at all say that we could be facing a Hitler in this country; it could be, and likely would be, something entirely different. As an aside, the swift erosion of our civil rights in the past decade is disconcerting. One thing I do believe is that the fruits of growth we experienced in pervious years are over and now we are going to pay the piper somehow for continuing to live it up as if we still had the same growth. If the common people experience a slow diminution of fiat  largess, then I believe we could be spared a sudden dislocation and the resulting ugliness. If things fell apart more quickly (e.g. hyper-inflation or a severe deflation cycle), I think we could face something much worse. 

As treebeard observes, getting too negative only serves myself; no one wants to hear it. That is, in fact,  the underlying theme of Chapt 13 of the aforementioned book. That leaves me with something of a dilemma. How much do I speak up? I have decided to only speak up about facts, that is, to inform people about things like NDAA and other incursions on our freedoms and civil rights. Otherwise, my "speech" to others consists of my own quest to establish a resilient lifestyle. 

And, because I have little influence or credibility anyway, I very much appreciate this site and the speech of others that get the word out. As more people sense things are changing, I believe more people will disconnect from the mainstream and start paying attention to this site and others like it... so thanks to all. 

(Yikes! Sorry for the long post but I think this is a very important topic.)

Edited to acknowledge PP and others. 

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Anexaminedlife...

I have the same feelings for TreeBeard's optimism.. while beautiful in concept, I think that expecting some kind of mass awakening of spirit is naive, for the reasons you describe.  That does in fact leave us all with this dilemma of how or whether to oppose what is happening.  One who has written extensively on this same topic of our slow descent into Facism and tyranny is Paul Craig Roberts;

Americans who have no experience with, or knowledge of, tyranny believe that only terrorists will experience the unchecked power of the state. They will believe this until it happens to them, or their children, or their friends.

source:  http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2013/02/14/while-left-and-right-fight-po...

One important step in my awakening process was to see the videos of Occupy protestors in NYC (and later in Oakland, CA) feeling the Jackboot of our militarized police forces.  The thought ran through my head of what I would want to do to a rogue agent of Gov't power like Anthony Bologna if it were my daughter he had maced in the face, unsuspecting, while otherwise being help in a pen already.   

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/occupy-wall-st-pepper-spray-anthony-...

Relating to Chapter 13 - While war was the proximate cause for finally dropping the hammer based on all the past incremental gathering of tryranny in Nazi Germany;

  "Once the war began, the government could do anything 'necessary' to win it; so it was with the 'final solution of the Jewish problem,' which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its 'necessities' gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany's losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it."

It should be very clear to anyone reading this that the proximate cause of our final downfall into tyranny will be the culimination of the financial crisis.  (sorry about being stuck in the font from above.. I don't know how to turn it off).  Just change the words above from "war" to "financial crisis" and "win" to "solve".  Same playbook exactly.  And who will be walked down the gangplank then, certainly financially, if not literally?  Why me, of course.... the guy who has the bulk of his life savings in Gov't tax deferred savings plans (IRA's, 401k's).. just sitting there waiting to be stripmined via exchange for special Gov't bonds.                 

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Oliveoilguy
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Vision of the Future

treebeard wrote:

Those who have been given the gift of clear insight, IMHO have an obligation to avoid indulgences in fear and negativity and lead with a clearer vision of a better future.

Treebeard,

Your vision is beautiful. I want to figure out why a whole society in Germany could not project a positive vision onto the future and was left with the blood of Millions of Jews on it's conscience. Society can't endure more episodes like that.

Having the "gift of clear insight" does not exempt one from action. The Patriots who bought our liberty also had a "gift of clear insight". They saw a future free of oppressive governance and they made it happen. 

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anexaminedlife
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Jim H Thank you!

I just reviewed the Paul Craig Roberts site. I was not aware of him or his writing until now and I really appreciate your mention of him here. He's got the cred:

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.

and his writings/interviews and guest posts are well-worth my time. So thanks again Jim H. 

Not to get off topic but.....If anything can "save" us from our fate, I think it is the Internet and the dissemination of facts, opinion, and other useful information. We must be vigilant to keep the Interenet available as a forum for the free flow of information. 

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treebeard
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What is optimism?

Thanks for sharing your well reasoned and thoughtful comments.  I would not disagree with your comments in many ways.  My current view of our predicament is perhaps more bleak than those who criticize my optimism.  I am in agreement with Chris Hedges and his assessment, which is pretty dire.  I think that in many ways we already live in fascist state, we have freedoms but within a very tightly confined box.  We have our freedoms as long as they don't impact the financial underpinnings of the system, when they do, as we saw with OWS, the reaction is swift and cruel.  Our fascism doesn't have a face, which perhaps makes it more difficult to overcome.

If I were a betting man, where would I place our odds? 1%? 2%? Zero, I don't know maybe, but I don't think that it really makes a difference.  When Ghandi marched 240 miles to the sea, do you think that he took odds before he went?  When civil rights leaders marched from Selma to Montgomery, what to think they though there odds were of ending Jim Crow in the south?  I think they went because they had to.  What choice do we currently have?

Does optimism mean putting rose colored glasses on?  Hardly.  Does it mean not speaking out about the calamitous we see our "representives" making? Absolutely not? Does it mean denying any part of our current realities, again a resounding no! Even if this bright future is only lives in my imagination, I will not give it up.  Even if martial law was declared tomorrow, I would not give it up.  If the seas began to boil, I would not give it up.  If masses of straving people ransacked my home and gardens, I would not give it up.

There is nothing in physical reality that is stopping the future we all want from occuring, all this suffering is a treasured wound, we as humantiy must give it up.  We are the only energy messing up this wonderous, awe inspiring planet, what a wonderous gift. We need possitive energy, and that is love, it is worth giving, every last bit that we can muster, even if we are to be defeated.  It will still be worth it. I will never stop believing in this world, in all of us, while I still have a breath in me.

Peace and Love

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RJE
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I love how neatly everyone wraps things up,...

Me, I'll sit back and check this out a bit longer, and my guess, we won't be worrying so much about the extremes for a good while longer. If in my lifetime?

My 2 cents. No debate is necessary or wanted, I just wanted to cast my vote is all.

Peace and Love INDEED! With a sprinkling of some kick ass thrown in perhaps. I am conceding absolute zero to a fate accompli.

BOB 

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After reading the book When

After reading the book When Money Dies (freely available to read in full on the web), which details the economic troubles of Germany post WW I, I came away with a different picture of the German mindset. A lengthy and crushing series of inflation, deflation and hyper-inflation swings had a profound effect on the country as a whole. This was a country that had free press, a diverse group of political parties representing a moderately progressive country. The prolonged austerity endured by the populace left them vulnerable to the influence of a forceful, decisive, charismatic leader (of course the same was true of post revolutionary France, after it's crushing period of auterity). They had been through enough vacillations of well meaning successive gov't initiatives in the lead up to Hitler's power grab. Also, Hitler insinuated himself into the national leadership change by strategically appearing with the country's revered elder statesman, so gained approval by association.

I agree with JHK that USA is ripe for a similar transformation. Disappointment in failing systems will be as nothing to the long term affects of grinding austerity. Contraction inevitably moves a populace away from tolerance toward intolerance. I think that the Jewish population was simply an easy target, a way to channel an energy that had come out of years of deprivation which had already resulted in a hardening of sentiment. And Jews were not the very first target. The first group that he went after were people with disabilities. I can easily see this happening again (intolerance of people with disabilities) as money becomes tighter. I already see it expressed by people I come in contact with. They resent the money which goes to fund the high-tech motorized wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs of a couple of children on the small island where I live in New Zealand. The resentment is always there in the background- "Why should THEY get all that when the money could be 'better' spent elsewhere"

I do follow the dictate of speaking up, especially at those times, but at the same time I know that I have little impact on those people.

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mememonkey
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The dangers of Kunstlers' delusions

Some thoughts on this thread.

While I credit kunstler's book the Long Emergency with being a relatively early alarm call on the broad strokes of peak oil and limits to growth, he, like so many,has a perspective hobbled by his operant conditioning and social (elitist) enculturation.  He would be well advised to direct his intellect to challenge his own assuptions.  His continuing belief in the mirage of US demcratic institutions ie. the  right/left puppet show, zionist legitimacy, the war on terror, etc speak to a a mindset that is as conformist albeit more eloquent than the  "NASSCAR morons" he likes to ridicule.

More broadly, expecting that our now defunct democratic institutions can somehow be cajoled or shamed into effecting the sorts of reforms he adovcates,  ie conventioal rail renaissance, downscaling agriculture etc (all legitimate and appropriate responses btw) is naive. 

I am convinced that those sorts of adaptaions (broadly speaaking relocalization) are both desireable and inevitable indeed are already in the nascent stages of happening,  but not by legal/social mechanisms currently in place, they are occuring as both a function of awarness and individulal action in  light of that awarness all of which is driven by to the dynamic forcing functions of the macro economic feedback of the three E's

If this critique were a few decades ago , I would say that working on the reformation of our democtatic institutions was warranted,  hovewer at this stage of the game, that train has left.

for those of you worried that a fascist dicatiorship/police state could happen here relax,  it  already has,  as Treebeard posted it just looks and feels different.  the average citizen doesnt currently  experience the tyranny of the state like a jew in Nazi Germany (yet)  but the instituitions mechanisims legal justifications, propaganda systems, torture techniques, and rationals are all in place and have been field tested in Guantanamo, Iraq,Afganistan Pakistand Yemen, Libya etc.  The American populace has been propaganized and entertanined into aquiesence of those aformenetioned preparations

Unlike kunstler,  Paul Craig Roberts has no delusions regarding our government:

Whether a person believes the official story of 9/11 which rests on unproven government assertions or believes the documented evidence provided by a large number of scientists, first responders, and structural engineers and architects, the result is the same. 9/11 was used to create an open-ended “war on terror” and a police state. It is extraordinary that so many Americans believe that “it can’t happen here” when it already has.

We have had a decade of highly visible evidence of the construction of a police state: the PATRIOT Act, illegal spying on Americans in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the initiation of wars of aggression–war crimes under the Nuremberg Standard–based on intentional lies, the Justice Department’s concocted legal memos justifying the executive branch’s violation of domestic and international laws against torture, the indefinite detention of US citizens in violation of the constitutionally protected rights of habeas corpus and due process, the use of secret evidence and secret “expert witnesses” who cannot be cross-examined against defendants in trials, the creation of military tribunals in order to evade federal courts, secret legal memos giving the president authority to launch preemptive cyber attacks on any country without providing evidence that the country constitutes a threat, and the Obama regime’s murder of US citizens without evidence or due process.

As if this were not enough, the Obama regime now creates new presidential powers by crafting secret laws, refusing to disclose the legal reasoning on which the asserted power rests. In other words, laws now originate in secret executive branch memos and not in acts of Congress. Congress? We don’t need no stinking Congress.

 

What to do? 

Join the resistenece ... Build resilience, community, awarness, and spirtiual strength, Separate as much as possible from the domminant paradigms of  industial society, Big AG Big pharma, Big OIl Wall street etc.,  turn of  your TV, let go of materialism Stop participating in the charades of democracy voting for either entrenched party twin heads of the same oligarchy  Practice non violent resistence,  but arm yourself as a last resort.  Educate people dont ridicule them like Kunstler, often does, its counterproductive.

participate  and build democratic tools of engagement at the local level. from the blockwatch on up.

Try to grasp the big picture,  we are 40 years into the collapse of industrial civilization, this will play out over our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren,  It is happening slowly from our perspectives but is blindingly fast on a historical scale.  While the overall process seems slow,  there will be rapid adjustments, 2008 was just a fore shaddowing,  Prepare for the coming rapid step functions of Instituitonal and currency collapse.

Our current govenrment and institutions and empire is in a process of collapsing,  Do not look to moribund industrial institiutions to fix that.  Collapse, as unsettling and fraught wilth tyrannical potential as it is,  is our best hope for a better life   The structures of power will not give up easily there will be suffering, things will likely get really bad but there is reason for optimisim.

mememonkey
 

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John Lemieux
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Chris Hedges Hope Speech at OWS

For inspiration I often return to watch this inspirational speach Chris Hedges gave at OWS. I believe that he was arrested following this speach.

For myself the issues boil down to knowing who I am, and what I believe in. It's about doing the right thing, for the right reason. And especially about not giving to fear.

I extremely grateful that there are extraordinary people like Chris Hedges that are sticking their necks out and taking a stand. And I agree that all that now is to protest, and to resist. But also that resistance to the corporate state must always be non-violent as demonstated by the OWS activists.

Hope speech, Chris Hedges

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Hotrod
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Germany and Hitler

What great input from all the people who have posted!  Thank you for sharing such well thought out pieces of wisdom.

A few observations I'd like to make:

1.  Hitler and his minions were cunning and knew exactly how to play the masses.  The Jewish people were an easy scapegoat and being involved in finance and business made them extremely visible targets.  Being a small percentage of the population didn't help them either.

2.  Hitler's military buildup greatly improved Germany's manufacturing economy and the average German family could feel they were better off financially with Hitler in power, in spite of the bad things Hitler was doing. The Great Depression did not affect Germany economically as much as many other countries.

3.  A society that is massively equipped for war must find enemies to justify its existance, either foreign, domestic, or both. This certainly sounds like 30's Germany, what about us?

4.  Hitler was able to gain power through an election where he received only a plurality of the vote, but he was bold enough to seize all the power, and got away with it..

5.  In our American Revolution about 1/3 of the population supported the uprising, about 1/3 supported the Crown, and about 1/3 were neutral or profited from both sides.  A very small minority actually was responsible for the Revolution and its eventual success.

My opinion is that Hitler was the wrong person at the wrong time in Germany's history.  My hope is that a small minority of good willed people are able to sway the future in a positive direction.  I wouldn't bet the farm on it though. 

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thatchmo
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In the morning, we ride.....

So what is our March to the sea, or to Montgomery?  We're fat, we're lazy and apathetic.  But "we" seem to know something is amis.  Not paying taxes, would that be a start?  Remember the moratoriums of the Vietnam era?  "No Business as Usual".  Absolutely love the threads like this on PP.   Aloha, Steve

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thatchmo
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another thought

As I registered as a Republican last year to support Ron Paul in his efforts in Hawaii's first Republican primary, I received an invitation last week to participate in the island Republican Party caucus.  Having no affinity for the party, I went to see what was on the minds of the local Party.  It was the largest turn-out of 3 gatherings on Kauai- an island of 60,00 people- that day.  On one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the country, the other 13 participants were, like me, white and old.  I think there was one guy younger than me- he looked about 55 and was a past candidate.  To my dismay, there was no talk of platforms or positions, only selections of precinct captains and delegates and district chairpersons.  There was a presentation by a couple professional young guys from the Leadership Institute on how to "get out the vote" effectively.  Their mantra was, in part, "Don't discuss issues when canvassing, that is the candidates job".  Just deliver the votes and we'll put them to proper use.  The men and women there were smart, concerned, and committed.  Their chances of success in Hawaii is miniscule.  Yet they were enthusiastic.  I'm glad I didn't wait around after the presentation, where I could see myself saying to them "No matter what candidate you may get elected, your grandchildren will likely be financial slaves without the liberties we take for granted now".  Heartbreaking, really.    Aloha, Steve.

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MarkM
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To those that are frustrated

To those that are frustrated with the task of helping others to see what is going on, I understand. I have the same feelings. Then I read more, connect a few more dots and know that I have no choice but to continue to try. At some point, this will come to a "head" and the more people that have been touched, even if only slightly, the better the chances for a more favorable outcome.

I will say this as a point of encouragement, people are waking up. I have been in business for myself for 30 years and have direct personal contact with 20 - 30 people daily. My relationship with many of these people spans many years. I can honestly say that I have never, NEVER heard the things discussed that are being discussed these days. People are angry, they are beginning to realize that they are lied to and manipulated on a daily basis. People that would not have had those thoughts five years ago. I am encouraged by this. Sure, many are still slumbering and will continue to do so. Let them slumber and move on to the ones that are somewhat open to discussing the problems we face.

Hone your skills of conversation. Never condescend or ridicule. Rants are generally not helpful. I save those for my poor wife. smiley

I find joy in things every day though I am not the carefree guy I was 6 or 7 years ago. I believe we are headed for some serious challenges in our future and the timeline is unpredictable. I do know that every step taken down the road we are on makes the ultimate battle that much more difficult.

I couldn't agree more about local community and building relationships. Something I have avoided most of my life. That is no longer a choice. Find people of like mind. They are out there and they will know of others. Work with people you can trust, preferably someone you have known for some time.

While I see the benefits in remaining positive and upbeat, I also believe that there is a great potential for situations to arise that will require a hardened person. Work hard. The stakes are high. Read the excerpt from ":They Thought They Were Free" again. Do I know the timeline? No, but I feel the signposts are there and cannot be ignored.

A note of gratitude for all the great input on this site. This place has been one of the huge factors in my enlightenment.

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LesPhelps
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Patriot Act

Did anyone else keep thinking about the "Patriot Act" when they read this?

in order for me to get on an airplane today, I have to take off my shoes, belt, watch, go through a metal detector, listen to a speech about why they are going to frisk and wand me and then get frisked and wanded.

Once, I tried to get them to skip the speech, but was told it's required.  Did they pass a law that I was required to listen to speech about the rights I no longer have just to board a plane?

Another time I fought with the TSA for a half hour over a reading fork.  I use it for, guess what, READING!  They saw it as a weapon, the same as the nail clippers that I once had confiscated when boarding a plane. 

How did we let this happen?  Who thinks we can afford the cost associated with the TSA and the security measures we have added since 9/11?  Who feels safer after the patriot act and added security?

Those are the things that occurred to me when reading chapter 13.  It's one giant step in an ugly change.

Les

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westcoastjan
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nice thoughts

Thanks MarkM,

One further perspective to add: I think the best possible thing we can do is to simply plant the seeds of thought around these issues so that others can allow those seeds to germinate and grow. As you said, there are conversations taking place now that would have been unheard of a number of years ago.

It is not our role or responsibility to change people, but rather to try to educate in manner that is compelling enough to get people to change on their own. In that regard rants are counter-productive, and at times serve to make us look like a bunch of tin foil hat nutbars.

If we really want to make a difference then we must influence change by becoming top-dog salespeople of the messages that we believe to be true. Take a page from CM - he planted the seeds with the Crash Course and enough of us read it and thought it was credible enough to become believers.

Not everyone can be converted, but take heart that the sheeple follow the herd mentality, and if enough of the herd starts moving in one direction, the rest will follow.

Jan

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KugsCheese
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Coherent Story?

The main problem is supposed rational "coherent story" planning.  City-States were much more succesful on an aggregate net time basis.   Top->Down planning always fails in the long run.  Get the government out of planning and regulating everything under the Sun to let entrepreneurs solve the upcoming problems.   For example, there is much local produce available even in Walmart now.   We have a flexible transporation system so that can adapt quickly.   And luckily America has some wonderful farm land.   The great threat is the "almighty dollar" with nowhere really to invest because of FED policy influenced by Congress.   Local bridges could be rebuilt by selfish private interests (and non-union labor) that recoup by traffic efficeincy and toll fee.  On the immigration front just get the government out of offering free schools and such and you will see the ones coming turning around.  

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Are people sensing the three E crises?

I agree that many people even here in semi rural Canada are sensing intuitively that things in our world are changing in very disconcerting ways. The strange changes in the weather are an obvious example.

I recently moved on my own to a semi rural region of Western Canada. So I am eager to strike up a conversation with people I meet in places like coffee shops or the grocery stores. And I have been surprised that without me initiating it, a couple of times the conversation (most often when I'm in the grocery store) has turned to a concern that our three E's are out of whack.

The most significant exchange was with a very "down to earth" late middle aged woman (over 60 I guess). We initially struck up a discussion about our shared belief in the benifits of choosing healthy foods to purchase. But then I was surprised when she said that she knew that something scary was happening with our economy simply because she was noticing price increases at the store. But when I picked up on her concerns and asked her to elaborate further, it quickly became apparent that we were pretty much on the same page in regards to the overall message presented here at PP. 

She said that her husband was a truck driver and she fully expected that he will looose his job when the SHTF. But she also said as she walked away that she has faith in a "higher power". So I assume that belief is what's behind her attitude of acceptance and her calm manner.

And funny enough the much the same thing happened again in the same store, in the same spot with someone else less than two weeks later.

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RJE
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Posts: 1369
Just imagine,

I was asked for my ID when I tried to cash a check from a bank teller!

I was even stopped at the exit door at a local store because the buzzer sounded, and it turned out they didn't de-magnatize something I just bought.

I am so upset because I just received a ticket in the mail for blowing a stop sign at 65 MPH and because of this I caused an accident, and I am so pissed because they use those darn camera's. They didn't catch me so I figured tough crap. Dummy me.

I have never been arrested or even yelled at when I refused entry into my home by a policeman (3 times that I can think of)..

I have never been stopped on the street asking for my ID.

I have never been stopped to see if my big ole dog while drooling had his rabbis ID on.

Imagine the shrill that went through my body as I watched thousands die instantly when a couple of planes flew into the trade centers and now we have security checks. How stupid is that? I'm boycotting then, NO MORE AIRPLANES FOR ME. To be fair minded though Idon't believe we have had any such incidents since 9-11.

Twice I have had guns nearly pulled on me by people I knew (both times I was fortunate in advising them to stop what they were doing and they bought my bullshit), and never by an official of the government or police. I could explain this in depth but I will just say I had a tactical advantage, removed the weapons from danger, and left them behind as I left.

I have NEVER met a soldier that wasn't polite or respectful no matter where they came from. I often buy them their food at a restaurant because I love what they stand for. Snappy dressers too.

I think tattoos are cool and want an Old English D on my left shoulder. Gooo Tigers!!!

I leave my home feeling safe and secure. The only Folks that bug me are the police, and they haven't bothered me ever. I have seen things and is why they bug me. Like in society it is the few that make the whole batch suspect. They have their code you know. "Protect and Serve", each others. Sort of like racial profiling in the opposite.

To be fair I want my policemen to be feared as it keeps them out of harms way. Usually. Plus I may need them some day, and I don't expect the situation to be all that pleasant for them. I'll be calling in an emergency.

Honestly, I haven't a clue what is happening today. The government is so intrusive in our lives it is just appalling. Then again I can't think of one reality only imaginary of their intrusiveness. Yes, I know, I have heard from someone who heard something, and where told by someone else, and of course if I shared I would have to...well you know the ending.

The real stories are in books or articles, and boy are there ever bad things happening in the world. No doubt about that. I just think for the most part that birds of a feather flock together, and they have a totally different reality than us normal Folks.

As a country we are broke, and it's all our faults but it is only natural to blame someone, and imagine all sorts of things. Everything is subject to negotiations now, and the world over is now in the negotiation phase, and at some point loses will have to be taken. Soc.Sec, medical, pensions, Debts, and all sorts of stuff but lets get rid of the waste first, and that can only be done when everything tanks, and the Reality hits everyone and we can cut. No time like the present I say.

Truthfully, the Man has too much power but I can count on one hand the times I have had any encounter or concerns with these authority figures in my life. You would have thought I would have had more intrusions in my life. I haven't though and I'm not the quiet type. Go figure.

Sex, drugs, violence, and conspiracy all sell books and things. They center on the imagination within all of us, and is so powerful. Fear is the number 1 seller, and is why gun sales are off the charts I suspect.

Oil and energy are a major issue and so we go backwards in time, a slow rewind you could call it until we figure this thing out. Maybe Mother Nature will just take matters in her own hands, and wipe a few billion of us good Folks away, and that would delay things a bit. I'm not wishing this to happen but a pandemic is over due as I read things.

I really wish I could just sit back and say nothing about this subject, the Elite and those wishing to enslave me for demonic tastes but I can't. Someone has to speak of the dead, and the ideals they stood for, and the troubles they managed throughout their lifetimes. See, they speak to me, and insist that I say to those who have such conspiratorial minds, "suck it up you pansy asses, and work to fix things". Hey, you can't shoot the messanger so maybe you could start to listen to some of your family members who are screaming at you. You just got to listen is all.

I concede nothing to anyone.

Peace 

BOB

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Adam Taggart
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Posts: 1822
JHK on the Death of Big Box Retail

From James's site today:

There will be no new chain store brands to replace the dying ones. That phase of our history is over.
 
    What we're on the brink of is scale implosion. Everything gigantic in American life is about to get smaller or die. Everything that we do to support economic activities at gigantic scale is going to hamper our journey into the new reality. The campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which is the official policy of US leadership, will only produce deeper whirls of entropy. I hope young people recognize this and can marshal their enthusiasm to get to work. It's already happening in the local farming scene; now it needs to happen in a commercial economy that will support local agriculture.
 
    The additional tragedy of the big box saga is that it scuttled social roles and social relations in every American community. On top of the insult of destroying the geographic places we call home, the chain stores also destroyed people's place in the order of daily life, including the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other. We can get that all back, but it won't be a bargain.

Read the full article here

RJE's picture
RJE
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Posts: 1369
Man, wouldn't it be nice if JHK would be right about...

...the revival of Main St. U.S.A. I would like a bakery again, a soup and salad restaurant would be nice, A gun repair shop combined with other sporting goods for the field. Maybe even a horse and buggy bus service from one end of town to the other. Ahhhh, I like going backwards in time very much.

I just think the Amazon model will rule the retail space for many years to come. Retail is dying but it will be because of the robots and guaranteed 2-3 day delivery. I will never leave my home for the jungle again and that cannot happen all to soon for me. Just on the energy savings front not because I am anti social.

Come to think of it I think Amazon has ended Globalization and the WTO. Why do we need cheap labor? We don't. We just have to balance cheap Robots and Labor so that someone pays taxes, and spends some cash. We will need labor because of energy, and the energy we have must be used smartly as we will need it so the lights stay on at least. My goodness, the lights can't go out, right? Airlines are toast and mass transportation is a lock. A new grid then. We'll get that stuff done, it's only a matter of time. If I can figure this one out then somebody else has, I just have to believe that.

Robots will change the Oil equation a bit are my thoughts.

Now if we can have these office towers emptied and the good Folks can work from home we could really be stewards of our resources. Women and Men could work in their PJ's and save all that senseless travel time, and hours and hours spent bumper to bumper.

Reclaim all that land. 

Plus raise our children again instead of having some early teens raising them, and we wonder why the kids have such ideas about things. Maybe, just maybe the kids will be healthier of spirit, mind and body. Imagine that.

I think we can now mesh the old with the new and actually create sustainable futures for our families, and live well within our means. We always did until recently anyways. Some of us always have but we pay for the others too. The American way.

I think we are heading for a revolution in work ethic again, and that day will be the happiest of days. There are way to many good Folks just lolly gagging on the current workers toil, and that has to stop. If you can move then you gotta work. You want to eat, you gotta work. No freebies. So, time to open up all the Parks and Rec centers, paint them up, and let the kids play. Community centers too, and have the kids read too, let them color, and sing and dance. Feed them, and teach them the value of money. It would only take a generation, and the kids would be well prepared for the economy of tomorrow.

The times we are heading into will only effect those who have never done without. Those who only knew new stuff learn to really like the better worn out stuff. Those used to dinner out may find dining in a bit of a let down but will learn how to cook, and actually like eating at home more, and it's cheaper.

We all can learn to live with so much less, and that will prove up in good time I'm guessing. That is where many of you will see that what you have then is not worth conceding to some Elitist form. You'll dig in, and so will many around you. 

I'm very encouraged and hopeful for the future. A funny thing happens when you get out of Debt and are somewhat prosperous you begin to feel better, even cocky because no one owns you. Just wait until this idea catches on, and it will. Banks will actually pay you to keep your money with them. Imagine that.

I am an optimist, again, imagine that.

Fascism: No way ho-say.

Think about this for one second: Some Folks here actually believe that I am naive for being an optimist and out of my mind for NOT thinking fascism is our future. Blows my mind quite frankly. l'lI stay in denial then, and I expect so will many. I know, I know, that's when the Big Bad Boogy Man strikes, it's how they control me. Hitler for instance. Hogwash.

Good Stuff Optimism...Fascism, not so much. I got my eye on that Faulker.

BOB

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gillbilly
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Past, Present, Future

Wonderful thread. I've enjoyed reading all your posts. I thought this quote might be inspiring. It was written by the late Vaclav Havel (1936 - 2011), a past president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. He was speaking about and to current politicians regarding the future, drawing from his past experience.

It seems to me that all of us face one fundamental task from which all else should follow.  That task is one of resisting vigilantly, thoughtfully, and attentively, but at the same time with total dedication, at every step and everywhere, the irrational momentum of anonymous impersonal, and inhuman power – the power of ideologies, systems, bureaucracy, artificial languages, and political slogans. We must resist its complex and wholly alienating pressure, whether it takes the form of consumption, advertising, repression, technology, or cliché. We must draw our standards from our natural world, heedless of ridicule, and reaffirm its denied validity. We must honor with the humility of the wise the limits of that natural world and the mystery which lies beyond them, admitting that there is something in the order of being which evidently exceeds all our competence. We must relate to the absolute horizon of our existence which, if we but will, we shall constantly rediscover and experience. We must make values and imperatives the starting point of all our acts, of all our personally attested, openly contemplated, and ideologically uncensored lived experience. We must trust the voice of our conscience more than that of all abstract speculations and not invent responsibilities other than the one to which the voice calls us. We must not be ashamed that we are capable of love, friendship, solidarity, sympathy and tolerance, but just the opposite: we must set these fundamental dimensions of our humanity free, and accept them as the only genuine starting point of meaningful human community.  We must be guided by our own reason and serve the truth under all circumstances as our own essential experience.

I know this all sounds very general, very indefinite, and very unrealistic, but I assure you that these apparently naïve words stem from a very particular and not always easy experience with the world.  - from "Politics and Conscience," 1984

A Task For Politicians:

It will certainly not be easy to awaken in people a new sense of responsibility for the world, an ability to conduct themselves as if they were to live on this earth forever, and to be held answerable for its condition one day. Who knows how many horrific cataclysms humanity may have to through before such a sense of responsibility is generally accepted. But this does not mean that those who wish for it cannot begin at once. It is a great task for teachers, educators, intellectuals, the clergy, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, people active in all forms of public life.  Above all it is a task for politicians. The main task of the present generation of politicians is not, I think, to ingratiate themselves with the public through the decisions they take or their smiles on television. It is not to go on winning elections and ensuring themselves a place in the sun till the end of their days. Their role is to assume their share of responsibility for the long-range prospects of our world, and thus to set an example for the public in whose sight they work.  - speech delivered at Harvard University, 1995

Vaclav Havel (1936 – 2011)

Thank You

Sirocco's picture
Sirocco
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Posts: 31
Simply surviving is not enough

Our world is changing. Regardless of whether the changes end up (10 - 20 - 30 years down the road) in a positive way or a negative way, most people fear and resist change.  My experience has been that people, especially in a crisis situation (which the coming changes are likely to be for many people), tend to forget to use their critical thinking skills and, instead, tend to react out of fear, anger, denial. This is especially so when they are unprepared. When people are frightened and don't know how to deal with a crisis, they tend to respond by clinging to the familiar (even when that may be counter-productive), looking for a charismatic leader (a savior), or by finding a scapegoat to blame and punish. Or all of the above. And then there are those people who see times of huge change as an opportunity for selfish profit or worse. Given this human dynamic, I think that the chances of "fascism", anarchy, mob mentality, or some such wide-spread social devolution is quite possible.

I find a lot of value in the benefits of civilization and not constantly fearing for my life. I think the best way to avoid falling to the lowest places is to be prepared. To be proactive. To have viable solutions in place. Practice makes perfect. I know that many people on this site are personally preparing; I am too. But, I am becoming more and more convinced that simply surviving the coming changes isn't enough. While it may be neccessary to rebuild agriculture, transportation, community, technology, finance, and government from the ashes, so to speak, I/we'd better start the building now. Because if we wait until after the fall to begin creating something new (that will actually work), someone else is likely to already have stepped in to fill the void. And I/we may not like the solution they bring forth.

I've been following the blogs by John Michael Greer (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/) with interest, because he seems to be working hard to figure out a workable vision for the future of our government. We may not be able to implement a new/revised government now, but we'd best be considering, researching, discussing, and trying out what that new government should be like now. And, imho, we need to be including as many diverse people in those conversations as possible, so that all of us feel like we have some control over our fate. Some stake in the game. The process of envisioning the future allows us to collectively prepare ourselves for the changes to come. Hopefully, by conceiving the future and having viable alternatives in mind or even in place, we can avoid the worst of the social chaos and get right to work building our new reality.

I'm convinced that the future can be positive, but 1) simply surviving isn't enough and 2) we have to figure out and implement viable solutions for how the future should look - now. 

I guess I'm a cautious optimist...

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AkGrannyWGrit
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Posts: 156
Welcome Sirocco

Thanks for sharing. I agree that just surviving these changing times isn't enough. We need do-ers and we are exposed to many do-ers on this site. Those like CM, JHK, AT and ever so many people that contribute on these threads are helping us to navigate our changing world and move in the direction toward the world we would like to see.

And, if we end up in a world we don't like, then we will need to come from hardy stock and have the ability to adapt.

Look forward to more great posts.

AK Granny

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fionnbharr
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Posts: 26
Then They Came For Me

anexaminedlife wrote:

Interesting discussion. A few excerpts perked up my ear: 1) JHK's fear that as things fall apart, the population will resort to superstition and 2) his brief discussion about Germany and how it was that one of the most developed and sophisticated countries of the day could devolve into the Nazi years. Both of these observations go hand-in-hand. It has always been a simmering fear on my back burner that if/when things fall apart, most people won't understand what happened or how they got there and they will turn to delusional and dangerous answers. 

There is a book, which I just happen to be reading now, that was written in 1966 by a Jewish-American   journalist of German descent. He went to Germany and befriended, in the real meaning of that word, ordinary Germans to find out just what the hell they were thinking during the Nazi years. He did not tell them he was Jewish. As you can imagine, the pedestrian accounts of and excuses for those years are chillingly familiar. But the author’s account in Chapter 13 ("But Then It Was Too Late") of a conversation he had with an educated and thoughtful German who understood what was happening – and what was about to be – frightened me. The book is They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, by Milton Meyer. I strongly recommend it. At the very least, read Chapter 13, which is so disquieting to our time that you will find it posted in full all over the Interwebs just by googling the name of the book and chapter 13. 

Chapter 13 will certainly propel any thinking, compassionate, and aware person to speak up and speak often.

anexaminedlife,

I am afraid I am late to this discussion, hoping that I may influence another aspect to your introduction of Milton Mayer's 1955 book, They Thought They Were Free.

I have to admit that I broke down in tears while reading chapter 13 - provided by Oliveoilguy in post #11 - having begun reading the book on line now - link - and awaiting my order from Amazon.com.

Milton Mayer died almost 29 years ago on the 20th of April 1986, aged 77 years. For what he came to know was a proof that the legacy of history has its continuum in repeat, with the only means to faulter such outcome as the second world war becoming a third world war are for all people to have awareness of the signs of free society closing down.

The meaning behind the term politically correct has its status here. By the slow removal of the vocabulary that acts as a political weapon against the means of closing down societal freedom - of simplification - uninformed and unenlightened choice - none can be seen to be living in a democracy/republic.

From chapter 13, Milton Mayer wrote:

"... one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head."

Turning to the history of the United States, Daniel Ellsberg precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers - a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War - to The New York Times and other newspapers. At roughly the same time in 1971, The McCarran Act - or Subversive Activities Control Act - was partially repealed by the Non-Detention Act, which was the push back as I see it - all but simplified - of the re-opening of a closing society.

At every attempt, society has the possibility of closing down through the actions of each generations opportunists. The fact that most do not live long enough lives to see history repeat itself, we are lucky that the 81 year old Daniel Ellsberg is today fighting a similar cause against the Obama administration, as he was under the juresdiction of the Nixon government over 40 years ago.

Ellsberg, along with many noteworthy recipients - including M.I.T professor Noam Chomsky and the Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges - are presently fighting bill 1021 of the National Defense Authorization act. This act holds the provision of indefinate detention of American civilians “until the end of hostilities”; which in the age of permanent war is probably a lifetime.

This bill that appears will be faught right upto the level of the Supreme Court - and if enacted and implemented - will mean that journalists - and the bloggers that share information freely on this very website - can and may be optionally arrested without trial, and imprisoned indefinately.

To quote again from chapter 13 of Milton Mayers book:

"Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late."

I do not wish to be a part of the next round of statistics that suggests my removal from society will benefit it somehow with my absense.  Chapter 13 certainly has propelled my thinking, and my compassion and awareness as a person who wishes to speak up and speak often.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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Posts: 372
From my dark period

.....Naomi Wolf summed things up pretty nicely, I am also very familiar with the work of Paul Craig Roberts as well.  I am surprised that Mike Ruperts name has not come up on this thread. If you want to take a trip down a very dark rabbit hole read his tome, Crossing the Rubicon.

These days Yes Magazine is more my speed, great articles about coops in the latest issue.  I have spent enough time in the belly of the beast, decided to cut some holes and enjoy the view.

sofistek's picture
sofistek
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Posts: 635
Civilisation

Good chat but both JHK and CM came up with their own wishful thinking: somehow "civilisation" is maintained as our global society goes down the gurgler. This wishful thinking leads to not thinking things through. Chris wants to retain anti-biotics despite the increasing struggle to remain ahead of the bacteria, doue to the overuse of them (I wonder if any use would be overuse). They both want to retain root canal dental surgery rather than thinking about the diets that perhaps have led us to requiring such surgery. Maybe retaining Mozart (and the conditions that led to his works) would be nice but it's wishful thinking.

All civilisations have collapsed and this one will collapse. If anything is retained that might be a bonus (or it might not) but why even try to retain only the elements you want? That is too much magic.

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Hladini
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Posts: 59
Lesser of Two Evils

I was very disappointed to hear Mr. Kunstler announce he voted for Obama twice because Obama was "the lesser of two evils."    I voted for Obama in 2008 because I could not stand Palin, thus casting my vote for the "lesser evil."  I have come to the realization that ONLY candidates should strategize; the voter needs to vote his/her conscience.  

I do not believe that Obama is "the lesser of two evils" because no matter what Obama does (and it's a laundry list): 

sign NDAA bill,

secretly execute US Citizens,

increase military aide three-fold over Bush to dictators during Arab Spring,

personally go after Arab reporter who broke US Drone Killing of US Citizen Anwar Al Alawki in Yemen,

campaign for GMO labeling then appoint Monsanto Lobbyist, Tom Vilsak, Secretary of Agriculture,

campaign on closing GITMO but instead closes the office in charge of closing GITMO(!),

engage in UNPRECEDENTED all out war on whistleblowers;  

lull medical marijuana dispensiaries into false sense of safety publicly, then prosecute with a vengeance,

the "left" is silent.  

Imagine, we are soooo programmed, we cast our vote for a candidate we do not like.

I believe it's wasting your vote to cast your ballot for a Democrat or Republican on the national and State ticket.  You see, the Republican and Democrat parties is actually one, two-headed monster.  So long as you listen to the mainstream media, you will be programmed - even if you are an educated and enlightened soul like Kunstler.

For me, it is 30 years and counting since I have channeled television or cable into my home.  I refuse to give good money for garbage.

Hladini's picture
Hladini
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Posts: 59
I agree

Mememonkey,  I agree with you.  We are already there!  And to think Kunstler voted for Obama, twiice!

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
The only mistake Kunstler made was saying who he...

voted for. I was always taught who I voted for was none of your dam business.

Note: I wasn't saying it wasn't any of "your" dam business (aka: being rude) just who I vote for is none of "your-PLURAL" dam business. So, if I was asked, I would say, "that is none of your dam business". Thank you (think Rosanna, Rosanna, banana of SNL fame).

Regards

BOB

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Online)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 2346
The Road to Hell.

We got Mugabe, you have got O'Bama. These things start with hope and enthusiasm and end in tears. 

At the height of a very nasty war Ian Smith had one (1) security officer, who often lost sight of him. He would sometimes find him chatting to some nobody (black or white) in the middle of the street. He was quite safe.

Come close to the screen. I will tell you a little secret. 

There are no Terrorists. (Except that one under your bed) There is no War. 

There is however, the Ministry of Peace.

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KeithM1116
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Posts: 67
Bad things can happen

Hladini

You're absolutely right.  It's tough to distinguish between Republican and Democrat in a lot of elections, but Kunstler said a few things that I found just outright incongruent!

"The notion of price controls is a self defeating policy" but he voted for Obama after he forced Obamacare on the nation, which, as much as anything, places price controls on health care (which will drive down the supply as more and more doctors decide to retire early since their potential income is being limited).

And his comment that in the US there is "no general sense that when you do things, bad things can happen."  I agree with SingleSpeak's observation: Kunstler emobidies in large part what he bemoans - he has bought into the magical promises of our campaigner-in-chief.

Sometimes what I fear the most is that perhaps we've all given up on the power that used to be embodied in our right to vote.  Maybe I'm just naive, and think that power is still there...

Keith

Ken in MA's picture
Ken in MA
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 26 2009
Posts: 4
"Main St" New York City

Casey, browsing the comments here I came across a familiar face.  Nice experience and the first time that's ever happened to me in the blogsphere!  

There's what looks like an Interesting phenomenon here where I live in Greenwich Village (NYC).  Greenwich Avenue, one block away, is a street historically filled with independent businesses which typify Main St. in a small town.  Restaurants, bistros, and bars of course - but also independent clothing stores, a 'mystery' speciality bookstore, dry cleaners, hair salons, tabacs, hardware stores, an art gallery, and boutique clothing and home speciality stores.  Independent operators all.  

Over the past six months as I've walked the street I notice one after another going out.  From what I've been able to gather, even in these times of slow economic recovery these folks are being forced out not for lack of business but because of dramatic rent increases!

It seems the landlords in the area are anticipating (rightly or wrongly) a new class of wealthy consumers with a taste for high end goods and services and so are looking to secure high-end retailers who can easily pay inflated leases for their space.

That in contrast to what you're seeing in rural areas.. and a paradox in the current economic climate.

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