- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Underestimating American Collapse

A reader sends in this short, provocative essay by Umair Haque, who believes we are underestimating the sickness infecting American life [1]. Excerpts:

When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

He then talks about the opioid epidemic, and how in many parts of the Third World — the so-called shithole countries, note well — you can buy opioids over the counter, but people don’t abuse them. Why not? Haque writes:

So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

He talks about the loss of family and community, and other things. And then:

American collapse is a catastrophe of human possibility without modern parallel . And because the mess that America has made of itself, then, is so especially unique, so singular, so perversely special — the treatment will have to be novel, too. The uniqueness of these social pathologies tell us that American collapse is not like a reversion to any mean, or the downswing of a trend. It is something outside the norm. Something beyond the data. Past the statistics. It is like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs: an outlier beyond outliers, an event at the extreme of the extremes. That is why our narratives, frames, and theories cannot really capture it — much less explain it. We need a whole new language — and a new way of seeing — to even begin to make sense of it.

Read the whole thing.  [1]

The first thing that came to my mind was my telling my wife the other night about the school shooting in Kentucky, and her saying that it’s incredible that we’ve gotten to the point where this is just ordinary news now.

The second thing that came to mind after reading Haque’s essay was this:

It shows that when a number of Hawaiians knew that they weren’t going to die in a nuclear explosion, they rushed to the Internet to watch pornography to calm themselves. They didn’t go find a wife, a partner, a friend. They went to their computer and, alone, watched strangers screwing.

We are a sick, sick society. Yes, you can point out the fact that we are less violent than we were in the past, and that we are less racist, and that we have made progress on this or that front. And you will be correct.

But there is something deeply wrong with us. Something that is hard to pin down, but that more and more people sense is real. In an earlier essay, Haque writes about the epidemic of loneliness. [2] Excerpt below; emphases are Haque’s:

I read a fascinating and urgent recent piece of research: loneliness is rising dramatically among young people. It mirrors a greater trend: social bonds are breaking down systematically, globally, and significantly. Trust in institutions is collapsing. Trust between people is falling. Loneliness is rising. Suicide rates in the most forgotten places are spiking. This is a kind of invisible, fiery, self-made catastrophe of human possibility —as though a meteor of despair has struck the planet — so much so that I will wager that you do not see it as anything resembling one.

Why? Because if social bonds are broken, then democracies, economies, and societies are more likely to become authoritarian, tribal, feudal places. The world plunges headlong into tribalism, division, hate, spite, anger, rage, and fear — for the only projects that a society which doesn’t trust itself can engage in, ultimately, are segregation, servitude, and building a caste system. How then can such societies, one in which people enjoy few bonds, do not trust each other, hope to solve its real problems — whether climate change, inequality, stagnation, or declining democracy?

More:

In other words, loneliness will drive people — especially young people — into the arms of the fringe right, the fascists, the authoritarians. They will seek safety in the arms of strongmen and father figures. And thus a society teetering on the edge of authoritarianism may find itself, sooner than it knows, a place of tyranny. Thus, loneliness both reflects and exacerbates our plight: a world balanced on the razor’s edge of democracy and breakdown. The more loneliness there is in a society, the harder it will be for it to stay a democracy, a peaceful place, or a prosperous place.

Are you surprised that Yascha Mounk of Harvard and Roberto Stefan Foa have recently found that support for democracy among young people around the West has fallen off a cliff? [3] Look:

Something very big is happening. I think about how Patrick Deneen’s new book Why Liberalism Failed [4]and my book The Benedict Option  [5] attract the same kind of reviews from a surprising number of places: panicked responses from people who are so unnerved by the things we point out that they resort to wildly distorting, even lying, about our books to keep the chaos they portend at bay. They really do believe, these critics, that everything is basically fine, and that if we just tweak this or that thing, all will be well again.

Interestingly, neither Patrick nor I have a clear, comprehensive solution. We only offer diagnoses and partial solutions, because, I think, it is not at all clear what the logical successor to liberalism is. (Nor, from my point of view, which is cultural and religion, is it easy to see what form of Christianity will survive this decline and fall.)

Why Liberalism Failed [4] and The Benedict Option [5] are canaries in the coal mine. You don’t have to agree with us entirely, but if you can’t see that the ground is shifting under our feet, you’re not paying attention. The first line of Jordan Peterson’s first book, Maps Of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief [6], reads:

Something we cannot see protects us from something we do not understand.

I offer this corollary: Something we refuse to see leaves us vulnerable to something we do not understand.

Advertisement
165 Comments (Open | Close)

165 Comments To "Underestimating American Collapse"

#1 Comment By Roy Fassel On January 30, 2018 @ 11:12 am

Maybe Hillary Clinton was right. “It takes a village to raise a child.” We live in an age of more children being raised by a single parent. Parents and other family members and friends are focused on the latest tweets, the latest text message, the latest movie etc. …and no one seems to have time for each other. We are witnessing the natural unintended consequences to everyone “connected” by technology, but not connected with each other. Yes, it takes village to connect with each other.

#2 Comment By Franklin On January 30, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

Clinton may have been correct in that statement, but every policy she has ever supported with anything more than words has led to the direct opposite effects: the breakdown of community via criminal prosecutions, neoliberal economic policies (supported by both parties) including privatization of our public commonwealth, globalization and crony capitalism of the most corrupt kind.

We need a new path forward. Hopefully we can salvage our democracy from its state of full corruption and find that way. Authoritarianism is not the answer.

#3 Comment By Professor On January 30, 2018 @ 12:55 pm

Read up on ‘cultural marxism’. I think the authoritarianism we fear and that has the greatest momentum is what we see in the progressive movement. It has dismantled all the institutions in order to recreate the perpetual revolution Marx invoked. It is not a new philosophy, but inthe past 10 years it has proven effective. Worth looking into as we attempt to ‘see’ what is going on aorund us.

#4 Comment By JonF On January 30, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

Re: Read up on ‘cultural marxism’.

“Cultural marxism” is a myth of the Right. Which is not to deny that the phenomena being discussed here are real and exist– only that they have no connection with any sort of Marxist.
Also, Marx never invoked any sort of “perpetual Revolution”. For Marx, Revolution would be like the Parousia for Christians: it would happen and history would end and the worker’s paradise would arrive.

#5 Comment By davido On January 30, 2018 @ 6:37 pm

The statistic of 11 school shootings in 23 days is BS. There was a segment last night on Tucker Carlson on that very “fact.” It is pushed by a notorious gun control group that deliberately ignores the FBI’s definition of “school shooting” (at least 4 people dead, excluding the shooter). The cases they cite are such things like a student shooting a bus window with a BB gun, a student suicide, a grown man getting shot in a school parking lot that had nothing to do with the school, etc. Do you really think, even today, 11 school shootings would not make the news?
However, what certainly is an example of social collapse is the degeneration of the media into propagandists for a particular point of view.

#6 Comment By Pat from Dearborn On January 31, 2018 @ 10:33 am

Haque is a leftist. Read his articles on Medium. He only gives his socialist/communist side of the story. His conclusions are nothing new, and makes no unexpected conclusions or points. Europe great, America bad. Socialism great, Capitalism bad. Funny he doesn’t talk about the excessive killing of Islamists in Europe verses America. What about the anti-Christian crack down going on in Europe? What about turning a blind eye to rape gangs in Europe.

The one thing not discussed is the fact that the further America goes towards socialism, the worse our society has become. That’s really the problem, we are become more like Europe.

#7 Comment By Doug On February 2, 2018 @ 1:02 am

A shorter version of this information was published some time ago. It identified the whole world as its domain, not just one, relatively young political entity.
You can read it for yourself at 2Tim 3:1-5.

#8 Comment By paul becke On February 5, 2018 @ 4:20 pm

Sorry about that. I’ll try to write it in English :

The Christian belief of the early church is what is missing. It was never meant to be a smorgasbord. When capitalism is uniquely hegemonic, and eventually shows its true colours, it turns out to lead to anarchy presided over by a kleptocracy.

As St Augustine of Hippo put it, on the cusp of the Dark Ages :

“When justice leaves a society (as in : “Money talks….”), what are its leaders, but mighty bands of robbers ?’

Reform must start in the Vatican and in the highest reaches of the church. I think Pope Francis understands this, but inevitably has to tread softly. It will probably take a global cataclysm for the current ‘rulers of this world to take a back seat, to retire.

#9 Comment By FAM On February 5, 2018 @ 7:43 pm

This is what happens in a post-Christian society that has pushed God out of view. Without the common societal anchor of traditional Judeo-Christian moral teachings and a healthy respect for the concept of mortality and what follows, we have become a country of naval-gazing, moral- relativist, pleasure-seekers too busy looking for our next “fix” to care about the ills described above and totally unequipped to fix them. This is partly why the left has been so successful in pursuing the politics of division. Just pander to each group’s list of “concerns” that make them “feel good,” and watch the lemmings line up and vote. Who cares about the long term cost?

It’s so twisted to have leftists such as this author point to the problems they have largely helped to create without stepping up to own their responsibility for a good portion of it. No doubt, there is surely blame to go around, including for the Church. However, the fact that we have all but banned God from public discourse and from relevance in answering our “big” questions is an outcome for which the left has agitated for more than a century, and it is the primary source of our dysfunction.

Now that the monster is up and walking around, take a bow, Dr. Frankenstein.

#10 Comment By FAM On February 5, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

This is what happens in a post-Christian society that has pushed God out of view. Without the common societal anchor of traditional Judeo-Christian moral teachings and a healthy respect for the concept of mortality and what follows, we have become a country of naval-gazing, moral- relativist, pleasure-seekers too busy looking for our next “fix” to care about the ills described above and totally unequipped to fix them. This is partly why the left has been so successful in pursuing the politics of division. Just pander to each group’s list of “concerns” that make them “feel good,” and watch the lemmings line up and vote. Who cares about the long term cost?

It’s so twisted to have leftists such as the quoted author point to the problems they have largely helped to create without stepping up to own their responsibility for a good portion of it. No doubt, there is surely blame to go around, including for the Church. However, the fact that we have all but banned God from public discourse and from relevance in answering our “big” questions is an outcome for which the left has agitated for more than a century, and it is the primary source of our dysfunction.

Now that the monster is up and walking around, take a bow, Dr. Frankenstein.

#11 Comment By Carlos Caso-Rosendi On February 6, 2018 @ 4:29 am

Umair Haque does not understand the problem. The problem is we do not understand Liberalism and the forces that it has unleash on our country and the world. Here you have a few thoughts of people that saw it coming decades ago. Read and think.

“Perhaps I am asking impossibilities. Perhaps, in the nature of things, analytical understanding must always be a basilisk which kills what it sees and only sees by killing. But if the scientists themselves cannot arrest this process before it reaches the common Reason and kills that too, then someone else must arrest it.”– C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 1945.

“The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.” – T. S. Eliot, Thoughts After Lambeth, 1931.

“The error of the Progressives resides in rejecting the necessity of working for the implantation of a Christian social order. In doing so they are obliged to accept the lay city, Liberal, Socialist, Communist. The root of their error and their deviation from Christian progress lies in seeking the alliance of the Church with modernity.” – Fr. Julio Meinvielle (1905-1973) From the Kabala to Progressivism.

#12 Comment By STEPHEN CARLILE On February 7, 2018 @ 12:18 am

Most people are not aware that for every abortion a ‘dark angel’ is permitted to enter society and influence every person that the child and his guardian angel would have influenced. The US has had about 60 million abortions since 1973. These negative effects in society, described in the article and books cited, are the result of these millions of dark angels disturbing a population that has been savaged by media abuses, loss of faith, economic deprivation, drugs, and gangs.
The momentum and trajectory of these trends will lead to a hell on Earth in many cities in just a few more years.
Only a great revival of Christian faith will overcome such great evil. Let us pray for an end to the human sacrifice of abortion.

#13 Comment By mhy On February 7, 2018 @ 2:06 am

When you want to accept this decline of western civilization is result of liberalism, and this so called democracy is it anything but tyranny of money and in the name of money we make anything possible then we are surprised by the result this system is broken and finished for better or worse

#14 Comment By MrTea On May 4, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

The Birchers warned everybody about this 50-60 years ago and of course were ridiculed (and actually smeared with forged letters associating them with the Nazis and Klan–by the KGB!). Take a look at Gary Allen’s “None Dare Call It Conspiracy”, or the indispensable (and suppressed) histories by Antony Sutton and see for yourself.

Later we Perotistas warned the country and were of course again smeared and ridiculed (after the corporate media skillfully used Perot to weaken Bush, though he richly deserved it).

Globalization itself and it’s twin of mindless, addictive consumerism will be the end of any concept of individual freedom. Conservatives could head this off by seizing the environment issue and stamping their foot down on the insane practices of China which is proceeding to burn mountains of Pakistani coal in unfiltered plants and is affecting our weather right now. Tax Chinese imports to reflect the damage they are doing to the environment. Ooh, but “free trade”….published 4 years ago but never on the Big Media:
[7]

#15 Comment By Jon Connor On July 16, 2018 @ 3:22 pm

Umair’s assertion that loneliness will drive young people to fascism is totally wrong if we take history as a lesson. The only example we have of “fascism” is Nazi Germany, and the rise there was not by young people. It was by all demographics of the German society that felt beat down to the point of breaking by the Versailles Treaty. So you cannot argue that the rise of the Nazi’s was due to “young” people. What history has shown is that young people are predominantly socialistic and or predisposed to accepting communism as a form of government because they are young and dumb, to be frank. A recent Jimmy Kimmel interview of people on the street could not EVEN NAME one country on a world map. NOT ONE! Not even Mexico or Canada! How do you expect these same young people to understand the complex workings of governments and economies? So they generally accept false promises from people like Bernie Sanders, Mao Zedong, and Karl Marx. Their visions of a utopia sound nice and even possibly workable, but they have no understand of free-market economics and thus trust the details to those that quickly become the elite after they shame or execute their former capitalist rulers. Once they realize they have actually helped an actual tyrant rise to power, rather then the democratic leader they feathered and tarred as a tyrant, it is far too late.