I have been thinking a bit about the idea of the death of the American Dream for several years. I've been having these contemplations since before 9/11 but then the took a turn which was overshadowed by geopolitical neonconservatism. I think the big lesson I have learned, but is not quite finalized, is that America is not aimed towards developing the proper Empire, neither internal nor external. And now I am a bit more happy about that because I'm more libertarian than I was 12 years ago. I am thinking more about the probabilities of city states and global powers that could be associated with them.
You probably won't believe it but some of this thinking was influenced by my trip to see the latest Marvel movie, 'Wolverine', in which Logan fights an army of ninjas from a 700 year old clan and Yakuza gangsters on the top of a bullet train. The idea there is simple. 95% of what needs to get done at a human scale in this world can be accomplished with an army of 5000 killers. I might be wrong, but I'd need someone at West Point to tell me how wrong.
The major part of my rethinking of America came in the form of the Peasant Theory, in which I fundamentally assert that the collapse of certain democratic institutions (and they need only suffer distrust) pushes people back to more natural feudal arrangements. And it is interesting in this note to regard that suffering to come in Season Three of Downton Abbey, as new global arrangements have destroyed the investments of that feudal clan. One wonders, however, exactly what Lord Grantham needs to pay and to whom. Could it be merely taxes to the crown?
But the net of the Peasant Theory is that the broad American middle class is not as empowered as it thinks itself to be and much of it will be relegated to a state of relative peasantry, unable and ultimately unwilling to secure its own liberty against the privations of feudal powers now gnawing away at Constitutional protections, and the calamities awaiting plebian overreach. Yes I'm reading Roman history and looking at celebrity politicians as the Tribunes of our time, soon to be struck down by the Next Republic.
The Last New Genaration is that of our children who have already assessed the lack of low hanging fruit for their consumption. But what strikes me is their greater appreciation for our silliness as we have latently perceived the corruptions of the Baby Boom's easy money. I have decided that this is a good thing, and that only a few of our innovations will survive - that the consumer economy will shrink and that which will survive will be the local and the industrial and the grid of our civilization. But they will have to be distributed and redundant to survive which is why I am coming to think that the city state and its region will be the way forward. No powers of such magnitude as we have seen might long survive.
There is the nuclear question. Does anyone possess the gall to destroy an entire nation? To destroy Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv would be to destroy Israel, and perhaps Shiva only comes in twins as the Fat Man follows the Little Boy. But it would take a great deal more to kill America, or Russia or the planet. So how much holocaust can we stand? How must we be reorganized so that we might be able to stand when the fanatics finally get their Bomb on? At some point we are going to have to recognize the ultimate fragility of super-duper-high-level organizations. How can anything function practically four management layers higher than the Mayor of Chicago, considering that nothing much exceeds the University of Chicago? How long can we stand people's artificial loyalties when their feet don't hit their natives lands? Somewhere around a city, is what I think the limit is. We all should be at least that superstitious. We all have to go to ground.
With that small comfort in mind, there needs be some new landed gentry. Or at least that is my aim. They must provide for the grid in some way that we might be comfortable with our civilization and that it be a civilization that favors the networked locality over the super aggregations of oversight and governance.
The Last New Generation will take our dreams to their logical conclusions but they will not invent new ones. Rather they will mine what we and our parents of abandoned in our haste and sloth. And they will say 'because I said so' and they will be the same reasons as ours. But they will be more certain because they have a mess to clean up that we tolerated for too long.