Who Has The Time And Motivation to Comprehend The Mess We're In? Almost Nobody

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

If we don't understand the problem or the dynamics that are generating the problem, it is impossible to reach a solution or practical plan of action.

When it comes time to assess our grasp of the dynamics of this unprecedented era, how do you reckon historians will grade our collective political "leadership," intelligentsia, central state, corporate leadership and the "common man/woman" citizen? Did we rise to the occasion or did we falter, not in acting to counter the dissolution of the Status Quo, but in simply making a concerted effort to understand the tangled web of lies, corruption, perverse incentives, unintended consequences, simplistic (and utterly misguided) ideologies, not to mention the real-world limits of a supposedly limitless world, that have become the key dynamics of this era?

I suspect future historians (presuming the funding of such scholarly assessments survives) will grade all categories either F or D-. The reasons are not difficult to discern, and it behooves us to understand why we are collectively so ill-prepared to understand our era, much less fix what's broken before the whole over-ripe mess collapses in a heap.

1. Intellectual laziness. Very few people are willing to work hard enough to figure things out on their own. It's so much easier to join Paul Krugman dancing around the fire of the Keynesian Cargo Cult, chanting "aggregate demand! Humba-Humba!" while waving dead chickens than ditch reductionist, naive ideologies and actually work through an independent analysis.

2. Independent thinking is an excellent way to get fired, demoted or sent to Siberia. Though America claims to value independent thinking, this is just another pernicious lie: what America values is the ability to mask failing conventional ideas and systems with a thin gloss of "fresh thinking."
In other words, what the American state and corporatocracy value is the appearance of independent thinking, not the real thing. Since the real thing will get you fired, everyone who works for government or Corporate America masters the fine arts of producing simulacra, legerdemain and illusion. This only further obscures the real dynamics, making legitimate analysis that much more difficult.

3. Relatively few have any incentive to question authority, the state or the corporatocracy. Humans excel at figuring out which side of the bread is buttered, and who's lathering on the butter: self-interest is the ultimate human survival trait (we cooperate because it serves our self-interest to do so).

While we cannot hold the pursuit of self-interest against any individual--after all, who among us truly acts selflessly when push comes to shove?--we can monitor the monumentally negative consequences of self-interest and complicity on the systems and Commons we share.

When roughly half of all households are drawing direct cash/benefits from the central state, how many of those people are interested in doing anything that might put their place at the feeding trough at risk? Sure, people will grouse about this or that (usually related to the conviction that they deserve more or have been cheated out of "their fair share"), but as long as the government payments, direct deposits and benefits keep coming, what possible motivation is there for the recipients to devote energy to investigating the potential collapse of the gravy train?

Corporate America is no different. The store may be devoid of customers, but the employees will strive to look busy to keep the paychecks coming until the inevitable lay-off/implosion occurs. How many Corporate America employees will critique their way out of a paycheck? In an environment this difficult for job-seekers, you'd be nuts to bother figuring out why your division is failing, knowing as you do that the truth will result in the "termination with extreme prejudice" of the naive fools who presented the truth as if it would be welcome
Does anyone seriously imagine that any employee of a bloated bureaucracy will ever voluntarily challenge the squandering of revenues when that might cost them their own paycheck, bonus, contract for their brother-in-law, etc.? A few protected people (professors with tenure, for example) can be "brave," but their "bravery" is cheap: their protestations cannot trigger termination with extreme prejudice, so the gesture of resistance is just that, a gesture.

4. Those relative few who might have a real motivation to undertake independent analysis have little time to pursue this noble project. They are working absurd hours and enduring absurd commutes. Between getting the bundles of diapers into the elevator and planning what to cook for dinner, there is precious little time or energy left for figuring out the mess we're in. Just getting to a second or third job can suck up a significant amount of time, money amd energy.

And so the busy employee/sole-proprietor/contract worker listens to NPR or some talk radio program for a few minutes, reinforcing their ideology of choice, and turns on the "news" (laughably bad propaganda churned up with "if it bleeds, it leads") as background noise and spends whatever personal time they have on Roku, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. seeking distraction or solace from the daily workload.

In a strange irony, there are plenty of citizens who have plenty of time (recall that Americans manage to watch 6-8 hours of TV a day), but their marginalized status and dependence on the state drains them of motivation to do anything but seek amusement and distraction.

If we don't understand the problem or the dynamics that are generating the problem, it is impossible to reach a solution or practical plan of action. In other words, the four points above doom us just as surely as the dynamics of insolvency, corruption, debt servitude, Tyranny of the Majority, etc. etc. etc.

Choose your metaphor of choice, but rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic has a nice ironic texture in an election year, when the "news" will be focusing on rearranging the political deck chairs on the first class deck--at least when there's no celebrity ruckus or "if it bleeds, it leads" to crowd out what passes for "hard news" in a regime dedicated to the distractions of bread and circuses.

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pods's picture

First you gotta do the Truffle Shuffle!


Flakmeister's picture

Ergo cogito sum.


Ghordius's picture

yet how do you prove this to others? I'm being called a NSA or CIA bot. again. I find this demeaning. all this personal interaction and wit and humour (ok, not that much wit and humour)

Spastica Rex's picture

We should subject you to a Turing test.

Calmyourself's picture

There were many red teamers when I started many have awoken to their own cog-dis and cleared that mental hurdle. Most now know there is no Red/Blue team when it comes to the major issues and overall direction toward tyranny (you name it) they do keep separated on the small policy issues (abortion - Squirrel) which can be confusing.  Tough to always keep the 30,000 ft view of the situation which invariably leads to the extinction of media/gov induced and promoted cog-dis.

Spastica Rex's picture

My 17 yr old son was in China for several weeks a couple of months ago. He really loved China, but was shocked at the pollution. He brought back amazing pictures - including smog inside buildings. I guess all that stuff sold at Walmart ends up having an environmental impact, after all.

tvdog's picture

The problem in China is pretty simple. They burn lots of cheap coal, but won't invest in scrubbers to remove the sulfur and particulates from the emissions. Factories also pouring untreated effluent into rivers. It would be an easy fix for a government that wasn't corrupt.

Spastica Rex's picture

Easy solutions are everywhere! It's amazing that we're still in the mess we're in.

pods's picture

Yep, we are fucked.  Ain't no way around it either.  

If anyone disagrees, kindly show me where I am wrong?  The only path I see is a new currency, and yet another ponzi scheme for the moneychangers is not my idea of a solution.

Hard currency?  That would immediately remove our chief export, debt.  And also reduce our ability to make people do what we want, as fuel and bombs ain't cheap if you have to pay for it with actual money, not legal tender script.

No boys and girls, we are on the long slow grind down into former empire status.  Better get used to it.  

I welcome all junks, hell, it might just get me to grab a chicken, throttle it, and start chanting.

As for CHS, that is two excellent articles in two days.  Breath of fresh air I say. Thanks Charles!


krispkritter's picture

If you can spare a moment from choking your chicken, we could use some assistance with the life boats...

Ignatius's picture

Not really fair, but funny.  At ZH, funny is enough.

pods's picture

And the monkey puts one in the upper deck!



overmedicatedundersexed's picture

obuma, a reptile, or hybrid human? He "wrote" in his book on his life that he was born in africa, so did he lie then or did he lie when he said I was born in the hawian islands of good ol USA?  to get this picture strait, his past life is now secret, he may or may not have been born in USA, he attended university, but thats secret now, yet he got elected president....the USA a super power has an  person with a hidden past , no real impact in business or law he claims to be a lawyer, he is now president of a super power, no folks this does not happen without a shadow elite controlling the selection and elections of the "most powerful man in the world"..seeing his face every day on MSM outlets is to let those with eye's that are open, know they are powerless and laughed at by the "elite"..

Kobe Beef's picture

Exactly. It's not Obama I wonder about. He's a simple cocksucking con man, lifted through the lower echelons by Affirmative Action, his family's banking/CIA connections, and a possible benefactor among the Saudi princes. At some point, he was anointed by TPTB to play every Columbia Journalism School grad's Multikulti Wet Dream on TV, and the funds, puff-pieces, and bodies began piling up. As an out-of-his depth, eminently manipulable, blackmailable doofus, there is simply no one better to play the part.

Yet, he couldn't pass a background check to drive trucks at FedEx, with an invalid Social Security Number and Selective Service Number, to boot. At least with Bush II, we know exactly what Old Money nexus of banking, oil, drug, and intel interests put him there.

It's not about Obama. He's expendable. Much moreso than the shunted-aside Hillary. It's the people who put him into power and can keep him there that worry me. We must identify and eliminate them, for they are the real threat. It's the Producers--not the Actors.

Flakmeister's picture


The Two Minutes Hate Room was the 2nd door on the *right*.....

Ghordius's picture

do they realize that Obama is not facing any elections anymore? persistent, eh?

Spastica Rex's picture

The corollary of love isn't hate, it's fear.

Love/Hate = attachment.

Kobe Beef's picture

@Flak, you missed the point entirely. As contemptible as Obama may be, it's not about him.

Flakmeister's picture

Yeah... sure thing, whatever you say...


DeadFred's picture

You're such an optimist. "Long slow grind down into former empire status", there's a cliff lurking out there in the dark waiting for us to find it.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Could be or it could be a bear. A bear that's been slapped in the face with a big fat stick and left to run into the woods to find what it can. And the people in the woods being shot with paintballs filled with BBQ sauce.
Or... it could just be a cliff. Jus' sayin'.

The Proletariat's picture

"I suspect future historians (presuming the funding of such scholarly assessments survives) will grade all categories either F or D-."

I doubt it.  It will be an A or B+ based on the incredible efforts of the FED and government to make the world a better place by providing unprecented economic freedom and equality to everyone....Barry Barack Huessing Soetoro Obama and Benjamin Shalom Bernanke will be placed next to Abe Lincoln freeing slaves, the creation of, and great efforts by, the FED to stop depressions, FDR for saving the world from depression, etal...of course that is presuming their funding of such scholarly assessments is from .gov, just like the present times....and I'm sure it will be. 

The only future historians that will allowed to be heard, are those that stay on script.  That's a fact!

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

"I suspect future historians (presuming the funding of such scholarly assessments survives) will grade all categories either F or D-."

The winners write the history books so immediate future probably not when this all plays out. Too many people are on the take and when push comes to shove they will not give it up without a fight. We have country largely consisting of idealist pussy types who talk a good game but don't practice it in their daily lives who won't get their hands dirty to take away the punch bowl.

When the masses are angry and hungry enough change will happen, until then it is america the clown show. The supply lines need to break.....

10mm's picture

Independent thinking and surrounded by like minded thinkers vs surrounded by majority sheeple. The latter will get you killed or sent to camp De program. 

Dr. Engali's picture

The iSheeple in this country are so damn frustrating. The country is sliding down the shithole, but those that even notice would rather argue amongst themselves about whose team is better, the reds or the blues. The iSheeple are too fucking stupid to understand that nobody on either team gives a rat's ass bout them. If you try to point out how both teams are fucking them they will sometimes give you a nod of agreement, but it will be quickly followed up by..."yeah but that other team.....". I don't have much hope for this country, and I worry about the shithole my kids will inherit.

Spastica Rex's picture

Please - the Reds and the Blues are both upholding their end of the 21st century social contract.

Just sit back and enjoy the reality TV and fast food.

While it lasts.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

We need an upgrade to Dancing with the Stars. Something 'reality'. How about... Dancing with SWAT? Bean-bag guns and tasers, filming the hapless 'volunteers' for the show...

semperfi's picture

dead-on - exactly how I feel

Flakmeister's picture

So then, without resorting to wishful thinking, come up with a few basic ideas that can take the existing system and improve it...

I actually have and have not had to resort to Randian inspired sloganeering as the basis of the idea...

You first...

BTW, the corner of hell where politicians congregate has a special place for evangelical Republicans....

pods's picture

That one is easy Flak, avoid debt at all costs.

We make the chains that enslave us.

It seems to have been happening since ~08, but I do not think it is by choice.  (private debt at least)

If it were to catch on, our monetary system would collapse. And this would remove most of the power.  Military might?  Based on free conjured money in exchange for oil.  Social spending? Same thing.

Inflation?  Trade imbalances?  Labor arbitrage?

All these would collapse if our debt creation does not increase exponentially.


Spastica Rex's picture

Sustainable Exponential Growth

Didn't you sign up for the one-way trip to Mars?

Flakmeister's picture

Fine... I will not argue your points, only in how you mean to achieve your ideal...

So in practice you are supporting Sharia type usuary laws (Christians also used to have hangups about debt, too, hence Jews being sheparded into banking historically)?

So Mortgages would be also be taboo?

Debt growth took a turn in around 1970 and then again in 1980.... 2008 was a blowoff, the result of older practices and policies...

pods's picture

What I am doing in practice is avoiding debt.  I don't want to sound like I am some type of martyr. I do have a mortgage (from 02)
But I have not had a CC for years, and I try to buy all my stuff with cash, except for gas on trips where you don't know the area, that is a check card. Only trips are to see family, no Disney World for us.

I buy only what I need.  My kids do get the occasional treat, but even that is usually something other than what most kids today get. Say, a well made fishing rod and reel, or a pet.

I drive an old (03) car that gets good mileage and I do my own repairs.

I guess it is mildly Randian, but merely just reducing my signature.

And I try to tell everyone who wants to know exactly how our money system works.

I remember after 911, when Bush was all about getting people out spending to save us from the terrrrissts. Later on, I realized that it was about debt, and we were still reeling from the dot com bubble.




Dr. Engali's picture

"I remember after 911, when Bush was all about getting people out spending to save us from the terrrrissts. Later on, I realized that it was about debt, and we were still reeling from the dot com bubble."


It's funny how much that moment sticks with me. When he said that my first thought was..WTF?..... and suddenly it was a clear.

Ghordius's picture

for me it was the moment I realized that the National Security Advisor was not being fired. it brought memories of French warships in NY

Ghordius's picture

re sharia law mortgages: I have to look it up, but as far as I remember, mortgages per se aren't forbidden. the gist of sharia conformity is that you give a percentage of the real flow, not the calculated, theoretical flow

so if I promise you a share of what I will make next year (whatever it is) for a sum X, I'm being ok for sharia law

stocks and all kind of variable participations are ok, fixed debt isn't

Flakmeister's picture

Yes, the lender has a piece of the real action so to speak...

So what do you think has a better chance of coming to pass, reformed Usury Laws or a national holiday celebrating the birth of Karl Marx in the United States? 

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Yup: the ter'ists were the savers.

Spastica Rex's picture

That was a really good answer.

I'm right there with you, pal, minus the "mildly Randian."


Dr. Engali's picture

For me I am perfectly happy with zero debt, a little piece of land to hunt, good neighbors, and a quiet existence to raise my family. There are a few modern amenities that I enjoy, but I don't need to go out and get the biggest, bestest, latest model to be happy.

Ghordius's picture

and this is "randian"? you are describing my lifestyle, and that of many continentals I know

Spastica Rex's picture

I've wondered lately what "middle class" means for a Czech.

/Moravian on my dad's mom's side.

Flakmeister's picture

A 6-pack of Budvar in the equivalent of a mini-bar fridge and something like this 


on the stove...

Spastica Rex's picture

Czechs love pork and hate vowels. Here's the Brno McDonald's menu.

Flakmeister's picture

I am referring to the macro not the micro level... Or was it not obvious?

Spastica Rex's picture

I'm butting in (I know;  it's a personal character flaw):

I think there is no macro level, at least no macro level that isn't hardwired into human DNA. We are termites and this world is the mound that we're building. As individual, crazy termites, we can choose (maybe, I'm not so sure anymore) to go off and build nothing or build something else. Enough termites doing this, and not dying off, would be an evolutionary process.

Ghordius's picture

? you might be a lowly termite, but I am a nobler creature. let's say the majestic dung beetle. otherwise, I agree. the typical city resembles termites mounds or coral reefs

Flakmeister's picture

There certainly is a macro level, that is the level where we all interact with each other...  At the very basic level, it is the local community... It can also be taken as the sum of all individual actions....

Hey, if someone is indirectly advocating subsistence level agriculture for the majority, that ain't gonna cut it...

BTW, Keynes was well aware of what Pods was advocating, he referred to it as a paradox of sorts. I also have eschewed debt and materialism for the most part...

Spastica Rex's picture

My point is that I don't believe that there is any "free will" asscoiated with the "design" of our macro systems.

The Indians died off (with a whole lot of help), an example of a failed macro interaction scheme. Evolution is a bitch.