Saturday, March 25, 2023

"Societal Collapse"

"Societal Collapse"
by The ZMan

"Most people think of societal collapse as something like a zombie apocalypse where everything suddenly stops working. Instead of people turning into brain eating zombies, they stop going to work. The “system” collapses, so everyone just stops doing what they normally do all of a sudden. The next day, people divide up into gangs and begin to guard their turf using what is left of modern weapons. Life quickly returns to a hunter-gatherer existence with modern clothes.

This image of collapse is a powerful one. Google the phrase “United States collapse” or some version of it and you get results going back many years. Most of them start with economics but some start with culture. Right now, the people we call the Left for some reason think America is on the verge of collapse because they cannot force people to nod along with their weird morality. Many normal people think collapse is coming because they see the food bill every week.

Of course, there is a market for taking the contrary view. This is a popular gag for internet characters on what we continue to call the Right. They counter the claims from their fellow anti-leftists with arguments for why the “founding principals” will prevail and avoid societal collapse. Maybe they will point out that the magic of the free market has conquered communism, so it will conquer whatever is happening now. It is a form of strategic gainsaying to get attention.

The thing is societal collapse is a real thing that does happen just as civil wars, revolutions, wars and social upheavals are real things. Thirty years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed and we got to watch lots of it on television. When people suddenly realized that the guards were not going to shoot them if they tried to escape to the West, it did not take long before order broke down. Once the process started, there was no way to stop it and the system collapsed.

The thing is it did not happen overnight. The collapse actually started much earlier but people did not notice it. Little things stopped working. For example, people in Hungary began to notice that the border to Austria was not always guarded. Maybe the guards were there and ignored their duty or they just abandoned their post. Over time the border was not much of a border. Similar breakdowns of small systems became common over the course of the 1980’s.

Of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union did not send these societies back to the stone age either. Politics became increasingly chaotic. Law and order broke down to the point where criminal gangs were imposing their will on whole cities, because the police no longer had the ability or desire to stop them. The people got poorer in many small ways, but mostly in the breakdown of trust. They could not rely on the system, so they slowly abandoned it for alternatives.

We do not think of social trust as a part of the poverty equation, but in realty it is the key component of social happiness. High trust societies may not have unlimited consumer goods, but the people trust the system, because they trust one another. This allows for long term planning. Africa will never be rich, despite having massive natural resources, because social trust is near zero. Finland will never be poor because the Finns can count on their fellow Finns to always be Finnish.

Social collapse, like war and revolution, will reflect the material relations of the age because those reflect the resources of society. Revolution in the 18th century was peasants with pitchforks, because that is how you can revolt in an agrarian society operating under feudal rules. In the 19th century revolution was workers hurling homemade bombs and shooting at the authorities, because that is how you can stage a revolt in an industrial urban society.

This is the information age, so revolution will reflect the weapons we choose to use in this age, which will be money and knowledge. Money in all of its forms is a type of information that says things about the general state of affairs. In completely financialized societies like the West, money is the big weapon. It is also other information, like the government hiring clowns and carnies to nudge people in the “right direction” during the Covid panic.

The great tumult in the West over the last decade has been centered on the things that are important in the information age. The rise of a new group of oligarchs was made possible by the technological revolution. Just as agrarian people measured wealth in land and industrial people measured wealth in capital, technological people measure wealth in control of information flows. The reason Mark Zuckerberg is richer than Bill Gates is he controls something more valuable than PC’s.

Societal collapse in the information age will, at least at the beginning, reflect the socioeconomic relations of the age. Trust in what we are told by the media has collapsed, because it is easier to see the lying than in prior ages. In 1985 you could think the New York Times was biased, but predictably so. Today, you cannot trust anything they say because it is false in unpredictable ways. Trust in the media has collapsed because their information is chaotically false.

The slow collapse of trust in our information is spreading. We used to think that the courts were predictable, if not always fair. Poor people might not get the same justice as rich people, but the reason was understood. If you could afford a competent lawyer, he would get the most from the system for you. Today, no one knows what the hell will happen in a courtroom. Alex Jones just got fined a billion dollars because the regime supporters are still salty about the 2016 election.

Of course, trust in government is collapsing not because they do not fix the streets or make the buses run on time. Trust is falling because they lie. It is not about politicians lying, which is expected and predictable. It is the government itself. For example, they appear to be faking key economic data. Their inflation numbers are laughable as anyone who buys food will tell you. They also like to change the meaning of words, which puts an Orwellian spin on the lying.

Getting back to the topic of collapse, what happens in the information age when no one trusts the information? In a world where your bank may close down your account because they claim you hold the wrong opinions; how can you trust them to be straight about anything else? If the government is faking economic data, how can we trust anything else they are doing? When the people responsible for 100% of disinformation claim to be fighting disinformation, who can we trust?

When the Soviet system began to collapse, it was the symbols of its power that first came under pressure. When people stopped fearing the border guard, they slowly stopped fearing the system behind it. The same will be true in this age. When people stop trusting the information that runs this world, they will slowly begin to stop trusting the system behind it. It is at that point the system begins to slowly unravel as alternative trust networks form up to fill the void.

The bottom line is those waiting for collapse are mistaken. It is not a thing that is looming over the horizon. It is a thing that is happening now. Every day there is a new reminder that the system cannot be trusted. Maybe it is ten dollar gas in Germany or skyrocketing food prices in England or demonstrably false claims from the drug makers with regards to the Covid jab. These things chip away at trust in the system and like the game of Jenga, the result is inevitable."
Joseph Tainter, 
"The Dynamics of the Collapse of Human Civilization"

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