As the global economy slides into ever-deeper recession, a growing chorus of doomsayers are predicting the end of life as we know it. And maybe that would be a good thing.
Unsurprisingly, most elite voices continue to urge calm and feign confidence as they assure the masses that everything will work out in the end. The higher up in the current power structure a person is, the more insistent he or she seems to be that the ongoing crisis can be prevented from spiraling completely out of control.
In his address to Congress and the American people on Feb. 24, President Obama did his best to fulfill the role of cheerleader-in-chief.
“But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken,” the president said. “Tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”
But what if he’s wrong?
Eight disastrous years under President Bush ought to have been enough to convince people that the president, far from being infallible, can in fact turn out to be utterly clueless. The ultimate result of Obama’s economic-stimulus plan won’t be known for years, but denying that it could turn out to be a complete bust is merely wishful thinking.
What if the stimulus does fail? What if America and the world fall into a full-blown depression? And what if political systems around the world follow the global economy down into a complete state of collapse? Well, we’d all be pretty much screwed.
Or would we?
As counterintuitive as it seems, it’s possible that the end of life as we know it could also be the beginning of something better.
It’s not just anarchists who might embrace such a turn of events. Regardless of a person’s place on the political spectrum, there are benefits to be found in the prospect of society’s unwinding.
Those who identify with standard left-wing causes would have plenty to celebrate. On the environmental front, the implosion of the global economy could lead to a radical decrease in pollution levels. There would be no more debates about how best to phase out coal power plants or switch to vehicles that run on renewable resources. A sufficiently severe economic catastrophe could reverse the rapid industrialization of recent decades and bring carbon-dioxide emissions back down to much more environmentally friendly levels faster than the political process could ever hope to accomplish. Activists who bemoan the treatment of vulnerable workers in greedy capitalists’ factories would also quickly find themselves with little to complain about. If the factories aren’t running, then their workers can’t be exploited.
People who fall into the right-wing side of the spectrum likewise have cause to embrace a total system crash. No longer would hard-working entrepreneurs be forced into handing over their money to unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Instead, the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service would stand abandoned in the ruins of that city of parasites. But perhaps it’s social conservatives who stand to gain the most from the dissolution of modern society. The most socially liberal parts of the country are urban areas with high population density. While those who denounce the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals and other sinister city folk often live in areas that produce their own food, the degenerates they despise do not. If the oil were to stop flowing, so would all essential supplies. It wouldn’t be long before the residents of Manhattan were reduced to cannibalism.
For anyone who thinks such events would be unimaginably horrible, I have only one question: Haven’t you seen Fight Club? It’s a rare college student who hasn’t watched that movie and cheered as Tyler Durden demolished America’s decadent consumerism and sought to replace it with a distinctly antimodern new order. Though the collapse of the financial industry taking place in real life isn’t quite as literal as the collapse Durden brings on in the movie, it’s happening nonetheless.
So why aren’t we all dancing in the streets and begging for more?
Sure, millions of people would almost certainly die if our consumer culture were to thoroughly immolate itself, but at least we’d be rid of the Snuggie.
(Cross-posted at the Daily Iowan's main site.)