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In These Times

by Berry Friesen (October 9,  2017)

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves,
so that when it is gone, you always will be welcomed.”  Luke 16:9

Last week Chris Hedges posted an essay about the approaching collapse of the US-led empire.  You’re not into gloom?  Me neither.  Yet I encourage you to read Hedges' “The End of Empire.”  Big changes are coming our way here in America; it’s time to begin thinking about how to protect and nurture what's important to us.

Here are a couple of quotes from Hedges’ article.

“The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars
 in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts.”

“The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.” *

University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Alfred W. McCoy “predicts the collapse will come by 2030.” As he puts it: “So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed.”

Between now and then, the US is a great threat to us (e.g., the recent Las Vegas shooter(s)**) and to the world (e.g., Syria, Korea, Iran, Venezuela).  Hedges explains and gives us a visual from “Mr. Fish:”

“Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.”

Image result for "will destroy the world for money" picture

We have 13 years to get ready, according to McCoy.  How do we use the time well?

To engage in that sort of thoughtful planning, we need to imagine how the collapse of the empire will alter the experience of living here in America. Obviously, many scenarios are possible, some of which are pretty awful.  But it would be a mistake, I think, to assume that everything we depend on today will disappear when the empire collapses. There still will be a functioning economy of sorts, and much that we see around us will still be here.

Yet the trends we already are experiencing—privatization of public goods, the decline of concern for the general well-being, the formation of oligarchic fiefdoms that are a law unto themselves, the co-option of law enforcement and the military for private purposes, the contempt for those who lack the technical skills and cynicism to “succeed”—will accelerate with blinding speed.

I imagine it will be like Russia during the ‘90s or Ukraine today.  Governments (federal, state and local) will be zombified, incapable of providing even the most basic services.  Wealthy oligarchs will effectively create their own statelets where their crimes, corruption and arbitrary decrees will be enforced by intimidation and resources looted from the Pentagon.  “Succeeding" in such a world will entail attaching oneself to a one of these quasi-criminal fiefdoms.  Some people will flourish and claim personal credit for their success; many more will be cut off from any sort of broader economic opportunity—losers in a world that has become unabashedly Darwinian.

And what about us—followers of Jesus, seekers of the Light, those who do NOT mourn the loss of empire, but see it as birth pangs of a better world?  I’m assuming we won’t attach ourselves to one of the fiefdoms on offer. How then will we flourish and thrive?

With the help of friends and acquaintances.  Not just a handful, but many. We will flourish and thrive to the extent that we know, trust, equip, invest in and protect one another. Serious, purposeful community--with people near and far--will be the key.  That’s at least part of what Jesus meant in the epigraph above.

And between now and then?  We ought to get started; this will take some time.  Stop elaborating our distinctive and separate identities (religious, partisan, color, ethnicity, gender, etc.) and begin building community and cultural capital. We’re going to need one another.

Much more could and should be said.  John has been saying some of it with his posts on community and simple living (here, here and here).  Yes, it's very basic in one sense and can easily be dismissed as not up to the task of creating a life after empire's collapse. Yet it also is an orientation toward problem-solving that will unlock unimagined resources and potential. Let’s start practicing now.   
*   For more on the impact of the shift away from the US dollar as the world’s currency, see  Federico Pieraccini’s “Challenging the Dollar: China and Russia’s Plan from Petroyuan to Gold.”

** For a brief overview of the October 1st mass murders, see Edward Curtin's "The Las Vegas Massacre: The Media Narrative is Deceptive."

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