You ever get the feeling—that raised-hair feeling—that something may be about to go down? That reality is sliding along on a narrow ridgepole, set at any moment to go pitching over one side or the other?
— § —
The professionals have for a long time been all agog about China. Can it survive? Can they hold it together?
Yet trust in their government and media is at record highs. Trust in ours at record lows.
— § —
— § —
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were events that, in retrospect, had long been brewing, yet at the time they shocked everyone. Nobody saw them coming.
The potential energy in the system was such that a few tiny vibrations set off oscillations that couldn’t be contained, until the whole thing shook apart.
Suddenly, it was gone.
— § —
Since I was a teen I’ve predicted that by 2050, the United States of America will no longer exist.
That’s never been a considered, academic position. More a gut feeling.
I’m starting to think I was too optimistic.
— § —
If I were to write a bit of free-association narrative tonight, it might go something like this:
In 2026, out of nowhere, a governor or the mayor of a major urban area declares that they’re done. Maybe they do it on social media, where it’s intended to be sarcasm, hyperbole, a meme in frustration. They’re out, they say, they’re done. As of now, they’re seceding from the United States. They cite a list of reasons, amongst them those above. They don’t really mean it seriously, at least not consciously.
Rather than getting into hot water for it, their public is immediately thrilled; it gets millions of likes and comments within an hour or two. Similar figures in a handful of other states begin to do the same thing, making the same declaration for their states. The national press—what’s left of it—begins to cover this in bewilderment. What’s going on? Is this real or fake, sarcasm and steam-blowing or official business? There are people dancing in the streets, not all of them, but enough. The population of partisans.
It doesn’t matter whether the original figure(s) took it seriously; their publics did, and the horse is out of the stable. The tide is going out.
Rather than be upset about this, partisans in the states on the other side of the political divide begin issue rapid and healthy “good riddance” statements. Their publics are equally elated to be rid of their presumed nemeses.
The public as a whole understands what is happening before the politicians of a now defunct society do. Everything is unclear for a time. Maybe for months. It’s not clear what has just happened; only in the aftermath and dialectics of the time does it gradually dawn on everyone that the United States has dissolved, that public and civil servants and military are dividing their loyalties, that nobody was very loyal to the old regime any longer.
Within a year or two, two new nations emerge. There are refugees and broken families and much pain running in both directions. Relations are not good between the fledgling nations, and circumstances on the ground are descending into chaos. Corruption, organized crime, totalitarian state power and oligarchy, along with a healthy dose of valenced cultural and moral fury aimed at remaining Others. Things are not good in general. Both become rapidly repressive and backward, each giving in to its respective brand of mob populisms as its elite seek to consolidate their status, power, and wealth.
The equivalent of two Cultural Revolutions happens at once. Many die in each place. Within two generations, the United States of America has the feeling of black and white or maybe sepia photography about it. It was once there, but no one alive any longer can really remember what it was like.
And in retrospect, its collapse had long been brewing, even if everyone had been shocked about it at the time.
— § —
Am I just dry drunk tonight, thinking up this story, and starting it with the year 2026?
They keep saying that one of these mass shootings, or one or another of these scandals is going to finally bring about change. But there are structural reasons why change is highly unlikely, if not impossible, in the ways in which people are thinking about it.
Maybe one of them—or, all of them together—will bring about change—in a form that nobody sees coming beforehand, because they’re swimming it in, unable to see the implications of the fact, or sense the texture of the fact that social trust is at all time lows and declining rapidly, underneath all of the problems I outlined to begin this post.
— § —
Gut tells me that interesting times are coming.
Actually, this makes me sad.