Relying on Jim Kunstler to bring me down to earth

When I catch myself smiling at a stranger, sniffing a flower, or doing something else which might give the impression that I’m anything other than completely fatalistic, I run home and check in with my favorite prophet of doom, Jim “fuck you” Kunstler. Well, this evening, when watching video of young people in Lansing discussing the plight of our state, and what they intended to do about it, I felt a small spark of hope flicker inside of me. (It was as though someone had lit my pilot light.) And, as I usually do, I thought, “What would Kunstler think about this?” So, I did a quick Google News search, and found a new interview with the author. Here’s my favorite part – Kunstler’s response to a question about the recent pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East.

…One thing we also need to be concerned about is that a lot of the oil production infrastructure could end up getting smashed as these people settle their hashes. Gadhafi explicitly threatened to blow up his refineries and pipelines. The trouble could well spread to Iraq and even Iran. While many idealists are trumpeting the rise of popular movements in these places, it’s important to remember that the outcome is completely unsettled and may remain turbulent for as far ahead as we can see.

The oil industry will not operate well in a turbulent situation. I believe this will lead to a permanent energy crisis, which would include gasoline rationing here in the USA and much more extreme economic distress in more ways than you can imagine. At the same time, we’re seeing the situation aggravated by food shortages connected to climate change crop failures.

I suspect that we have left behind the supposed normality of the past decade and have now entered uncharted territory of the long emergency. We have also seen the first stirrings of American unrest in the battles over public employee bargaining rights. I’d maintain that this is only the start of a very rough political era in the USA. The buildup of tensions is fantastic. You have a dissolving middle class watching their futures whirl around the drain, and an obscenely rich Wall Street banking class (abetted by a disgustingly bought-off political class) that has been allowed to evade the rule of law in running a set of ruinous financial rackets, swindles, and frauds, and this alone is, to me, a recipe for civil disorder. I’m amazed that the Hamptons have not yet been torched…

Pilot light extinguished.

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  1. dragon
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Say what you want about the French Revolution but one thing for sure, it scared the living crap out of the aristos/rich. And that fear permeates them to this day. They – as a class — have never forgotten the day the people kicked back, reached out and started killing them. Successfully. Without pity. Without remorse. Gutting entire families, entire swathes of the population.

    They knew what had to be done. They understood the legal underpinnings of how the rich maintain their grip — inherited wealth. The solution: you can’t leave a single bedbug alive to claim their ‘inheritance’.

    A few escaped, some hid, some waited it out overseas. The Revolution spun out, not finishing its work but removing so many of the parasitic class in such a purposefully effective and dramatic fashion that the lesson taught to the bedbugs still remains in their dim little minds.

    It made Europe the better working society that it is today *precisely* because the rich live part of their lives praying it will never happen again.

    I pray it will.

    BY Wil Burns

  2. Posted March 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of a famous quote by Mark Maynard.

    We could build a shit load of guillotines for $700 billion.”

    [That was the price of the Wall Street bailout at the time.]

  3. Posted March 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get it. If I were in their shoes, and had however many hundreds of millions of dollars, I wouldn’t want more, especially if I knew that doing so would make the country a less livable place. I get that the rich, by and large, can avoid the really bad things that come along with poverty. They can inform their drivers to stay out of places like the South Bronx. But, at some point, they’re going to come into contact with this world that they’ve created, and they’re going to pay a price for it. If I were rich, I’d want the stability that comes along with the middle class. I’d be happy with less if it meant having better cities to spend time in, lower crime rates, etc. That’s just me, though.

  4. BDM
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Can someone remind me to buy bullets tomorrow?

  5. tommy
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Nothing the man said is untrue, but it is a downer. Cheer up Mark. Perhaps the future Emergency Financial Manager of Ypsilanti is a fan of your blog and will appoint you as Minister of Information.

  6. Knox
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    We’re fucked.

  7. Glen S.
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Mark, I had no idea you were a fan.

    I don’t agree with Kunstler 100% of the time, and his commentary can, at times, run toward the hyperbolic. Still, I doubt there’s anyone out there today who does a better job of challenging assumptions about not only our economic and cultural addiction to fossil fuels, but all of our other complex and highly energy- and technology-dependent systems. His critiques of “car culture,” suburbanization, and geopolitics are frequently inter-mixed with scathing assessments of contemporary pop culture and entertainment — all delivered in his signature, wry, laconic style.

    For anyone who’s interested in learning more, Kunstler posts (rants?) weekly on his blog, “Clusterf*ck Nation” at:

  8. Avto
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Kunstler is fatalistic, but his perspective is a welcome one amid all the mindless chatter.

  9. Brainless
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    If the big-talking, gun-toting denizens of Texas were unwilling or unable to put a bullet in Ken Lay’s head, there is no hope.

  10. Jules
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I say, let the bloodletting begin. Just listen to the wallstreet segment of this and tell me you don’t feel the same way.

  11. Bob 2
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Many people, including me, could see a tangible link between right wing rhetoric and the tragic shootings in Arizona, and be angered by it. Recognizing the distinct difference between the chatter on a blog and the rantings of politicians and national commentators, it still seems that some of these comments are stepping over the line.

  12. dragon
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    When it comes to Soylent Green, it seems to me that some of these commentators are part of the dirty shirt, clean plate club.

  13. Profitte
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Once upon a time, prophets were measured by the accuracy of their past predictions not whether they scratched an itch.

    Kunstler seems to make sense, in any given moment, but he’s nearly always been wrong.

    He’s like a fundamentalist predicting Jesus’ return in 1972, revise that 1979, new data 1987, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2012…

    The best of us can all fall to astrology if it affirms what we believe to be true. All the more so if the astrologer believes it himself, that the paradigm he sifts information through is divine.

    Step outside yourself. Smell the flowers.

  14. Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    For the record, Bob 2, I don’t condone murder. I do, however, condone public ridicule and lengthy prison sentences.

  15. Ted
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    People keep pissing my pilot light back out.

  16. Glen S.
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    @ Profitte

    I agree with you that many of Kunstler’s more extreme, near-term predictions turn out to be “wrong,” but I usually take those with a grain of salt anyway.

    However, if you look at his larger message — that natural resources (especially oil) are finite, and that all of the complex economic, political and social systems that depend on having a reliable supply of cheap energy and raw material inputs are imperiled by future (relative) resource scarcity — I think there’s no denying he is right.

    Despite some of Kunstler’s more hyperbolic rhetoric, I don’t think he’s seriously suggesting that we’re going to wake up one morning to discover there’s no oil. After all, his most popular book “The Long Emergency,” suggests quite the opposite … that the coming wind-down of a world society that’s become based on cheap energy will be long, slow and painful.

    Unlike some others, however, I don’t see his overall message as necessarily negative or cynical, but rather, hopeful: By this I mean I think that Kunstler’s overall point is that, by recognizing these likely developments now, we can take steps to re-order our economy, society and culture to be more sustainable, and to avert catastrophe.

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