Systemic Failure and Why We’re Ignoring It

I’ve been thinking about the 2016 U.S. election a bit, and how a similar situation played out in Canada a decade ago, when we elected the worst Prime Minister in my lifetime.

I wonder if the growing discontent among the poorer, rural half of our continent has to do with the looming end of consumerism than it does with anything else. The reinforcement of the cycle of poverty among the previously unduly privileged labourers may finally be coming home to roost.

Listen: You’ve got an entire class of people who could, for much of the last seventy years, do relatively simple work (factory work, for example), and get paid well for it. They could live where they chose, afford a house, multiple cars, cheap energy, cheap food, etc. They had it great, and they know it.

The oligarchy supported this because it lined their pockets, and they stole from whomever and whatever they could to perpetuate the cycle. The environment, migrant workers, developing nations, the oil-rich Middle East, etc. The West just sucked up all the resources it could find, and when those resources started to dry up, ran up the national credit cards in order to keep the party going. They undermined education, ridiculed science, and reinforced ignorance, because an informed population tends to notice when you’re screwing them over. Thanks to the marketing of consumerism, the party started in 1941, and went on for generations.

But the party started to falter in the early 90s, got one last hurrah in the late 90s, and then bottomed out around 9/11. Small towns that could once survive based around a single business suddenly found themselves broke when said business moved to Mexico to keep the world’s Trumps afloat. Suddenly, buying smokes for a month costs half as much as your rent, and it’s $100 a week to fill up your car to commute to a shitty job in a town that still has a factory, and how much does that pack of chicken breasts cost?!

The social fabric breaks down when poverty strikes. Look at the red states in the U.S. — in communities traditionally based around church life, crime is worse, teen pregnancy is higher, there’s more divorce, etc. They look to their masters to tell them who to blame, and the oligarchy points at the immigrants, the darkies, the queers, and the more-righteous-than-thou liberal elite. It couldn’t possibly be the oligarchs, who mouth the right noises to make the worker class think that they’re on their side. Donald Trump is the most obvious symptom of this disease, but it’s rampant across the board. And don’t think only the Republicans in the U.S. and the Conservatives in Canada are to blame. A critical look at Christy Clark in British Columbia and Hillary Clinton in the U.S. should make it abundantly clear that the rot is across the board. Stop telling us Obama is the great liberal hope when he’s authorizing drone strikes that take out entire families, upholds antiquated drug laws, and won’t step outside of party lines to honor the NoDAPL initiative, an unprecedented show of unity among indigenous peoples. Don’t tell me Justin Trudeau is the anti-Harper when his government is still selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, deporting citizens en masse, and lining up to sign the TPP.

Meanwhile, the oligarchs continue to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. But it’s starting to fail — Trump is the clearest symptom of this. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can keep it together. The shine is coming off Justin Trudeau, as people are noticing that he’s not on their side, despite his sunny demeanour. The Conservatives in Canada are still regarded as a bad joke, but the people we replaced them with are doing some eerily similar stuff.

But what’s the alternative? A bunch of people who are either outright crazy in their batshit idealism, or people who sound the same, because what they’re proposing as a survival strategy tosses out a ton of things we’ve been taught are the underpinnings of a functional society — by which I mean, cheap and plentiful amounts of whatever the hell you happen to want at the time.

In the meantime, the short-sighted, overfed generations who trace themselves back to post-WWII prosperity are whining about how the cost of their extravagant lifestyle can’t be hidden anymore. Why does the electricity bill cost so much? Why doesn’t the gov’t give me stuff, even though I fight tooth and nail against any tax increases? It must be gov’t waste, because shit didn’t used to cost this much! It can’t possibly be that we let them borrow against the future. It can’t that the bill has come finally and murderously due.

The signs of systemic failure are all around us. From economic infrastructures that can get gamed by bankers, to voting systems that are regularly compromised, to the ongoing effects of climate change. The oligarchs who present as the liberal left let their followers squabble over who is more righteous, and the oligarchs who present as the right tell us how everyone else is to blame. In the meantime, the world heats up, prices continue to rise, and the fortunate among us are singing “Kumbaya” around the glow of little screens.

Welcome to your future.