One Man's Reality Check From "A Corner Of Flyover Red America"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Howard Kunstler via,

While the news waves groan with stories about “America’s Opioid Epidemic” you may discern that there is little effort to actually understand what’s behind it, namely, the fact that life in the United States has become unspeakably depressing, empty, and purposeless for a large class of citizens. I mean unspeakably literally. If you want evidence of our inability to construct a coherent story about what’s happening in this country, there it is.

I live in a corner of Flyover Red America where you can easily read these conditions on the landscape - the vacant Main Streets, especially after dark, the houses uncared for and decrepitating year by year, the derelict farms with barns falling down, harvesters rusting in the rain, and pastures overgrown with sumacs, the parasitical national chain stores like tumors at the edge of every town.

You can read it in the bodies of the people in the new town square, i.e. the supermarket: people prematurely old, fattened and sickened by bad food made to look and taste irresistible to con those sunk in despair, a deadly consolation for lives otherwise filled by empty hours, trash television, addictive computer games, and their own family melodramas concocted to give some narrative meaning to lives otherwise bereft of event or effort.

These are people who have suffered their economic and social roles in life to be stolen from them. They do not work at things that matter. They have no prospects for a better life — and, anyway, the sheer notion of that has been reduced to absurd fantasies of Kardashian luxury, i.e. maximum comfort with no purpose other than to enable self-dramatization. And nothing dramatizes a desperate life like a drug habit. It concentrates the mind, as Samuel Johnson once remarked, like waiting to be hanged.

On display in the news reports about the mystery of the opioid epidemic is America’s neurotic reliance on supposedly scientific “studies.” Never before in history has a society studied so much and learned so little — which is what happens when you resort to scientizing things that are essentially matters of conduct. It rests on the fallacy that if you compile enough statistics about something, you can control it.

Opioid addiction is just another racket, a personal one, in a culture of racketeering that is edging toward truly epochal failure, for the simple reason that rackets are dishonest, and pervasive dishonesty is at odds with reality, and reality always has the final say.

The eerie thing about reading the landscape of despair is that you can see the ghosts of purpose and meaning in it. Before 1970, there were at least five factories in my little town, all designed originally to run on the water power (or hydro-electric) of the Battenkill River, a tributary of the nearby Hudson. The ruins of these enterprises are still there, the red brick walls with the roofs caved in, the twisted chain-link fence that no longer has anything to protect, the broken masonry mill-races.

The ghosts of commerce are also plainly visible in the bones of Main Street. These were businesses owned by people who lived in town, who employed other people who lived in town, who often bought and sold things grown or made in and around town. Every level of this activity occupied people and gave purpose and meaning to their lives, even if the work associated with it was sometimes hard. Altogether, it formed a rich network of interdependence, of networked human lives and family histories.

What galls me is how casually the country accepts the forces that it has enabled to wreck these relationships. None of the news reports or “studies” done about opioid addiction will challenge or even mention the deadly logic of Wal Mart and operations like it that systematically destroyed local retail economies (and the lives entailed in them.) The news media would have you believe that we still value “bargain shopping” above all other social dynamics. In the end, we don’t know what we’re talking about.

I’ve maintained for many years that it will probably require the collapse of the current arrangements for the nation to reacquire a reality-based sense of purpose and meaning. I’m kind of glad to see national chain retail failing, one less major bad thing in American life. Trump was just a crude symptom of the sore-beset public’s longing for a new disposition of things. He’ll be swept away in the collapse of the rackets, including the real estate racket that he built his career on. Once the collapse gets underway in earnest, starting with the most toxic racket of all, contemporary finance, there will be a lot to do. The day may dawn in America when people are too busy to resort to opioids, and actually derive some satisfaction from the busy-ness that occupies them.

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SmackDaddy's picture

So sympathy for junkies.  Can't wait to clean up my own back yard using the Duterte method on my brother in law.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

"Decrepitating." I have to remember that one.

In a sentence: Hillary(!) is decrepitating WAY too much.

On an anti-decrepitating note: Don't buy from Amazon - shop locally - if you want to undecrepitate Main Street.

JRobby's picture

 "life in the United States has become unspeakably depressing, empty, and purposeless for a large class of citizens. I mean unspeakably literally."

I can't add to that. It's perfect.

HenryHall's picture

>> "Decrepitating." I have to remember that one.

I had to look "decrepitating"up. And I was suprised by what it means (to heat to very high temperatures without melting).

cheka's picture

globalism in 3d.  tariff or continue to get bled out by nyc.dc parasites

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Ok 'scuse me if I find myself dubious as to Kuntslur's ability to speak about flyover country.  Some of what he said is correct yes.  But anyone who takes the drug route has to be termed a bit weak.  All drugs should be legal of course I get that.  But to over use them to the detriment of all else is just plain dumb and undisciplined.  Life is too short and you should be resisting the bankers if you are getting short shrifted !

SumTing Wong's picture

I live right in the middle of Hellhole, Flyover country. My city used to be a big deal, making bricks for all the people for miles around. There were three factories in the town of about 8000 people. Lots of farmland. I work in a big-deal university the next town over. And drugs, particularly meth, are literally zombifying a lot of the populace.

We live in the town but are not of it. Although we are in our 40s with five children ages 3-13, we find our friends in this town are mostly 70+. Since grandkids are far away, they take my son fishing with them on their lake. They teach blacksmithing. They still see use in life even though they aren't running a large scale farm any longer. Every once in a while they come to laugh at the professor who has 15 acres, some animals, an orchard, and a garden. And then they help. These are good folks.

But I'm with Cracker on this one: "I hate my generation." I love the smart kids I get to work with, but I hate the lazy asses. If yu have no other reason to get up tomorrow than to piss off the banksters and other authoritarians, you have a reason to get up. So get off your ass, learn something new, and get to it. I've reinvented myself more than once, and I come from this white trash. Surely they can do the same. 

I know. I'm an old fart. Well then get the hell off of my lawn!

AldousHuxley's picture

Drugs & alcohol = easy way out for lazy. cant' deal with reality then this life is not for you.


Strongest don't survive for long. 

Species that survive are the ones that are most adoptable to constant changing priorities and environment.


America is going down hill, but still more freedom then high taxed socialist europe with royal families lording over you OR cutt throat competition of billions in INdian and China with far more corrupt government OR 0 freedom North Korea. 



unsafe-space-time's picture

Darwinian bs. Adaptable to changing priorities? Like ass rape. That's a major priority now a days.

Genes have all of the code necessary for survival.The least genetically degenerated survive the best.

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Dear SumTingWong

Dude your description is so good.  People act like they are living in a hell hole when in reality they are living in paradise of sorts.  Try living at Grand Ave & I-44 in St Louis in the hood.  My home base is in Eastern Ohio.  It's cheap and tranquilo baby.  

Fact is the drug issue is more them entertaining themselves chemically where imagination must have been found wanting.  I've tried just about all you can try and quite frankly nothing compares to the runners buzz you get from lifting weights.

Curious round about where your city is ??

Read this on a stall wall 30+ years ago at the University of Cincinati:  Reality is for those who can not handle drugs.

.........think about that.  If you can't control yourself then stick to reality.  Drug are for those who are self moderating.

Forbes's picture

-->"They do not work at things that matter. They have no prospects for a better life — and, anyway, the sheer notion of that has been reduced to absurd fantasies of Kardashian luxury, i.e. maximum comfort with no purpose other than to enable self-dramatization."

I wonder, is Kunstler talking about himself? Does his writing matter? It appears with no purpose other than self-dramatization.

-->"Before 1970, there were at least five factories in my little town..."

For those of you keeping score at home, that was 47 years ago! His complaints are the lament of noticing the barn door was left open, long after the horse has bolted...


City_Of_Champyinz's picture

I am just glad that for once he did not blame my Jeep and her endless LUST for Hydrocarbons for all of the world's problems.

pods's picture

I have had many conversations with my sister about the rampant heroin epidemic where I grew up. She thinks along the lines of the old way of things. That these drugs are so evil that they "hook" people into doing them.

The reality is there will always be a certain percentage who will choose drugs no matter what is going on. But, up there the economic situation is bleak. Old rust belt town that used to have high paying jobs out the wazoo (IBM was started there).  If your future looks shitty why not get fucked up?  The reason there are so many people doing drugs up there is that most of the people who can leave, did leave.  Now you have the people with no means of getting out stuck in a place that in good economic times is gray and cold for 8 months out of the year. Not that redeeming. Add in no new money coming in and that will depress the fuck out of you. So, you try and make yourself feel a bit better. Some choose to be alcoholics, some choose other drugs.

There is a reason why drug abuse is higher in these old, dying areas. Because the future is bleak and most cannot accept it. For if they did, they would have to change something. And that is tough for some people.

Shit, even where I live now, which is doing quite well, things are much worse off than 10 or 15 years ago. Wages have stagnated, and there is a growing number of H1Bs to keep salaries depressed.  I can see it everyday. But most here are still happy enough with a shitty life and an outstanding online persona they have created. But when that isn't enough, they will turn to mind altering chemicals too.  Just how things go.

Until we throw off the yoke of fractional reserve banking things will keep getting worse everywhere.



Falling Down's picture

Pods, great post.

One small quibble.

A lot of people have no power to change anything in their immediate environments. I grew up in Rochester, and have witnessed the hollowing-out of what was once a great city for the middle class. The crap that I once considered urban in nature has crept into the surrounding 'burbs, like a metasticized cancer. Heroin is now rampant across the entire landscape of Upstate, NY, too.

I saw the warning signs a long time ago, and ignored them, like most. Figured some decent start-ups would pop out of nowhere, make things better, while I worked hard and went to school.

These days, I think most people have realized the real end game in most of the U.S. is bleak, at best. I escaped NY, but the pain still lingers, something I can't, and maybe refuse, to shake off. I wish more people would simply wrap their heads around just how bad things are in most of the U.S.

nightshiftsucks's picture

I live in the SF east bay suburbs.The problem here is that everything looks ok so the people who live here think it's like this accross the country.The fucking idiot sheep are going to be shocked when it collapses and I've tried to help them by informing them what has been going on.When the SHTF I will not help a single one,fuck them it's their fault.

Mikeyy's picture

I live in the LA suburbs and it's very much the same here.  And frankly, I couldn't give a rat's about those low-life drug addicts in red-state flyover country.  They talk ad nauseum about personal responsibility and at the first sign of adversity, they blame H1-B holders, illegals, the Fed, the government, Wal-Mart, and other assorted and sundry people.

Man up!  Or drop dead.  I don't care.  And quit complaining.  Nobody gives a shit about you.  And if you can't take care of yourself, don't expect sympathy from me or anyone else.


Evan Wilson's picture

And you wonder why the people are depressed?

pods's picture

Well I grew up about 3 hours away (Binghamton area). I would agree that many people have difficulty in changing their lives, especially if not of age. We helped my niece move down here because she was starting to get institutionalized with the area. Many in that area don't even think they can leave. It's weird. I bet Rochester is much the same.  People have this thought that things will get better because it has to.

But it won't. Especially up there. Way too high a burden of taxation, lack of freedom, etc.  Either GTFO or practice that "walking on ice hunched over in pain I hate life look."


Kidbuck's picture

Too true. These people are trading comfort of old surroundings, old friends, and old family for the discomfort of scouring the earth for a paying job. Take away all public assistance and this would change quickly.

Giant Meteor's picture

You said it better than I could, and conicidentally, near my old stomping grounds I refer to in the post below,

Well done ...

I noticed the greater depression up there and in surrounding communities, 30 - 40 years ago, 


Stuck on Zero's picture

The day will come when plywood replaces many windows on Wall Street, rundown houses in the Hamptons collapse, penthouses in New York get subdivided into 50 small suites for the poor, and private jets are abandoned to bake in the Arizona desert.

SWRichmond's picture

We can make that happen in our lifetimes, and we should.  It's not American to take this shit lying down.

BullionBlast's picture

Great posts by you and Pods. I'll add my 2 cents worth in terms of support. I too grew up in the Rochester area. I was a little kid in the 60's but remember clearly the growth of Xerox and the strength of Kodak....a Fortune 50 Company then. There were jobs ....good jobs for anyone who would work. Gleason Works, Stromberg Carlson, Rochester Products, Delco, Bausch & Lomb and dozens more. I quit Kodak after 20 years because the decline was well underway by the late 90's. People were certain those companies would somehow pull through. I found a great job in the Caribbean where I remain today. Yet every summer when I visit family it is noticably worse than the year before. Upstate NY is a shell of what it was just 25 years ago. You are right about the's cheaper than weed was when I was in high school in the 70's! NAFTA was the start of the outsourcing, which hammered Upstate NY worse than many other areas. All of those skilled jobs left because of high taxes and the high cost of doing business....ever heat a factory when it's 20 degrees out for 4-5 months?

When the economy crashes and the US enters a depression - one that won't end for 20 years - Upstate will fare worse than many other Rust Belt areas. Well respected families now have working young adults hooked on heroin, hooked on food stamps, rent support, etc.... When all of those free handout end there will be a crime wave that any and all law enforcement won't be able to handle. There is a big FEMA camp in the Watertown area and the Facists will have that place full in no time. The military or private military contracters will say "we had no choice....even Martial Law didn't work." There will be no power left BUT the military.

Falling Down, you and Pods are right in saying that most people there have no power to change anything. There is a quiet despair that everyone over the age of 25 has. There are no easy fixes . There are damn few decent jobs anymore and most people don't have much extra $ for any backup plan.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

"...and an outstanding online persona they have created."

Ah, yes... I am Creepy Crackaah.

pods's picture

Pods thinks that to make it even better Creepy Azz Crackaah should speak in the third person.


(and sign each insignificant post too)

NidStyles's picture

Nid agrees with your thoughts on this one. However, if Nid were to do it, he would be seen as a dangerous sociopath, and likely be harassed some more by everyone's favorite Tribe.



Giant Meteor's picture

Yes there is a reason, reasons as you point out. I have seen it with my own eyes, in the places of my youth. It began in earnest early seventies, mostly boozing then. As I moved away, and returned many times. the economic destruction, poverty, hopelessness, and eventually crack cocaine that took out entire families, families who had once upstanding names in said community They were gainfullly employed, and were once productive. As the businesses folded, and the wealthy "benefactors", town elders either fled or died off, nothing, no one of substance to replace the economically displaced, nor offer credible cure to the Federally inspired malaise . Many for whatever reasons, would or could not leave, many did leave, those who could break old bounds ..

My little hometown is not unique. 

All sense of community, shared responsibility, we are all in this together approach to problem solving, increasingly replaced with chrony, corrupt politics, corrupt law enforcement, criminal stewardship and the remaining little people surviving the best they knew how  or could  ..

With each successive generation, the trouble magnified 10 fold ..

People often say, fuck the vets, offing themselves in record numbers, fuck these towns and their drug addled lost souls, who are already most likely dead, it'd be lucky for many of them to get it fast.

The thing is, you cannot rail and rage against the policies of the FED, and the Feral government, nor complain about the usurpations of milatarized police, deep state governments, at all levels of government, the chronyism, corruption, lies, sabre rattling bullshit, the destruction of cities, villages, and towns acrosse the land, destruction of small farms, farmlands, which I witnessed  taking shape before the 1970's - but in those days, it spread like a cancer ...

You cannot complain one wit about any of these things, without understanding, the relationship of cause and effect .

Yeah, it fucking matters .. Even Khrushchev knew it, and said as much.

No one ever needed fire a shot at the USA, to take it down. 

It matters, because it hasn't mattered for a very long time, and most of us see just how far that has gotten things ..

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

Walmart, Amazon, Google...we decided to make a few asshole billionaires even richer while the 90+% get Oxycontin for breakfast

SWRichmond's picture

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

cossack55's picture

Hot, cold, tepid does not matter as long as the dish is served (add a dolop of extreme prejudice for flavor)

ElTerco's picture

There is a complete lack of meritocracy now. The infiltration by opportunists is almost complete at all levels. The weak legal system has rewarded opportunism for the last three decades and has encouraged our youth to pursue opportunism over work/competence, so of course the whole system is going to collapse.

Giant Meteor's picture

You are correct, and even with a collapse, what is the chance of the present culture learning anything from it? I suspect this is why collapse is a controlled demolition at best, fairly much as we have witnessed it to be. Those who succumb to hopelessness and despair are first casualties, the train wreck in slow motion, time lapse photography.

The destruction of local communities via direct interventions and resulting of centralized, treasonous government at all levels, in conjunction with the wishes and dictates of the money changers, has resulted in said destruction. Their endless wars of CHOICE are emblematic of all other societal ills, and wanton destruction, and the systemic erosion of any and all notions and noble ideals of "personal responsibility." Open air theft, by supposed "leaders" , a healthy society does not make.

Small communities, local farms, moms and pops, families once the backbone of what were once thought to make for a healthier society, were replaced by fiat chasing citizens, doing the oft suggested of following the money, while those not making the trip either found other ways to survive outside the system, or were entirely consumed by it ...

Notion of personal respnsibility went hand in glove with shared responsibility, as well as something else called "personal sacrfice." Virtue in the empire, it seems, has gone missing in an empire of lies ...



looseal's picture

I moved to Apalachin, N.Y. in 1997 from NYC/Long Island area.  The mind set of the folks in the N.Y. southern tier is what drives them to despair.  They are extremely unfriendly.  They oppose adding an Amtrak line there because they don't want others to come to their town.  They don't need any more friends because they still have the friends they grew up with plus their family lives nearby.  I could go on with examples of how small their lives are due to their personal choice.  It's not just the shitty economy.  

Wide-Eyed and Innocent's picture

Oh, Pods, you are one of my long time favorite posters, but on this one I have to disagree with you a bit.  I live in western Pa., 4th generation steel industry.  When big steel went down in the '80s, this area was completely decimated.  The cities just barely held on, and except for Pittsburgh, which has done an amazing job of re-inventing itself, all of the small towns look exactly as all of you have described other small towns across the country.  Right now, my road has a large tree branch sticking out of a hole in the pavement to warn people away from it.  The prospects of that road being repaired are nil.  Our township is broke. (I was an auditor, so I know this is true. Our taxes are very low and our services non-existent.) A big controversy in the near-by borough right now is whether they should knock down half a city block of empty buildings on main street or apply for grants in the hopes of saving them, even though there are no prospective buyers for them.

Here is where we disagree.  You are right about people leaving these areas.  My brother is 6 years younger than me, and I would guess the vast majority of his graduating class (including him)left and never looked back.  However, my sister lives in NE Ohio, and she doesn't drink or do drugs, and neither do I or anyone in my family here.  My brother, a resident of Phoenix, however, has struggled with alchoholism and drug addiction.  By your reasoning, my sister and I should be living out of shopping carts while my brother was king of the world.

Happiness has nothing to do with where you live and everything to do with your attitude.  If you feel that you have no purpose in life, it is hard not to be depressed.  My husband and I have run three businesses in our lives.  He retired in January and we are looking at starting another one, with the hope that it can grow to be a business that will employ our children and grandchildren.  We garden, fish, hunt and used to boat until that unfortunate accident. We go to our grandchildren's sporting events, we entertain and we read.  (I spend a lot of time here.) Our lives are so busy and full, we don't have time to be depressed, drink or do drugs.

Is there plenty of that here?  Damn straight.  Things we never thought we'd see in small town USA are now every day occurances.  Murder, drug overdoses, child abuse.  I hate to turn on the news.  The people who are still here complain mightily, but are unwilling to make even the tiniest effort to improve things here.  Many of them talk about relocating, but I know they won't be any happier no matter where they go, because their attitude will relocate with them.  I used to try to make people see that life here can be every bit as satisfying as any other place they might go, but I stopped. After all, things here would be much better for me if they do go. Let them be a useless blight in somebody else's back yard.

My best wishes to you and yours, and all of us here. 

Giant Meteor's picture

Excellent commentary in it's entirety. 

"If you feel that you have no purpose in life, it is hard not to be depressed."

The purpose for many , has been obscured by cross purpose, dilution by mass media, instant communications and arts of the deal , leading to effective "dumbing down" of the culture by digress and degrees. Strong minds resist brain washing. Weakened minds succumb to it, in it's many forms. For many, the resulting is  utter hopelessness, disallusionment, and despair.

Enter the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ...

How can one explain, a nation being lied into wars, with no accountability or justice? People for better or worse, the masses, are led to the slaughter. The hat trick, over and over again  ..

People for better or worse, like any healthy family unit, are led, and strengthened by healthy, wise stewardship. They are weakened and made less by a lack of it. The adults in the big room of humanity, have gone entirely missing ...



Wide-Eyed and Innocent's picture

I love your last line.  The adults HAVE gone missing.  No one wants to lead, no one wants to be responsible.  Everyone looks to someone else to do the heavy lifting while they drink, watch tv and live a life with no purpose.  Everyone can't be President, or the doctor who cures cancer or the scientist who takes us to the next galaxy.  But we can all live a life of honor, compassion, and honesty, and set an example for the next generation.  This is exactly where we are failing.  If we don't set a standard and adhere to it, how can we blame younger generations for drifting aimlessly through their lives? 


7thGenMO's picture

Excellent point that a fraudulent monetary system is the root cause of most of the nation's problems.  I recently lectured at a public high school, and, it was obvious that none of the students knew about the "Creature" that creates the green notes they've been brainwashed to worship as money.  I displayed a silver dollar, and school officials seemed to grow uncomfortable.

fockewulf190's picture

This just confirms for me that the Great Reset is going to be one horrible, extinction level event, and I fear that I am still underestimating how it's really going to end up being.

vealparm's picture

I think the meaning here comes from the word, decrepit: old, doddering, aged, feeble, antiquated, broken-down.

Jim in MN's picture

"We decrepitated some folks"

Dugald's picture

The writer should have used the word decrepitude, education is a bitch when trying to impress.....

Jim in MN's picture

Cuz, like, the verb is actually just DECAY, y'know?  

Jeffersonian Liberal's picture

If you admit to that one singular perspective (and ignore a plethora of people who are not impacted by these power games), then you are admitting that "they" have succeeded in getting into your head, are living there, and are successfully demoralizing.

As with self defense, inscribe a perimeter around you and enjoy your life with the conviction that if anyone comes within that perimeter to harm you you will destroy them.

That is what conservative patriots have done, and that is why we take so much abuse. We will let them play their socialist game up to that perimeter. Once they pass that perimeter, they will regret it.

NidStyles's picture

That is the philosphy the Alt-Right has adopted as well.

techpriest's picture

Yes, this is great.

I'm an American and a Christian, but I was once greatly inspired by a Chinese Confucian scholar whose job is something like Indiana Jones - search tombs for the lost books of Confucius (so far he's found two previously unknown sentences from a book he found in an excavation).

I asked him how it could be possible that the books are "lost," and he explained that several times in his nation's history, the State orders that all contradictory books be banned or re-written. It's happening right now - there is a "revised" Confucian text taught in universities, and the real books, which only a few historians like himself can get to.

There is a long history there of burying the books in the hopes that someone will dig them up and restore the practices a few centuries later. That's how the philosophy lasted. Funny enough, its also how Christianity survives in countries where it is banned, also.

None of us asked for these times, but we might be faced with the choice to rise to the situation and be the historical heroes who helped the truth to out-last a collapsing empire. Even if that means burying the books out of reach of the book burners. Or perhaps to carry them out of a collapsing empire and preserving them elsewhere.

Maybe I rambled a bit here, but the point is, even if they are trying to take your money, do not let them take your mind.

11b40's picture

Except now, bury hard drives, CD's, and thumb drives ;-)


cbxer55's picture

Only problem with them may be that in the future, if it's as bleak as some here believe, there may be no way to utilize such things. Books can always be read, for those who can read. Electrical gadgets require certain devices to make them work. Maybe those devices will not be available in a bleak powerless future?

Chief Wonder Bread's picture

Pair it with 'insouicance' (sp) and you got a winner!

"The decrepitating insouicance of her cankles spoke to her rapt followers".

Dugald's picture


You don't understand the word decrepitating and you can't spell  insouciance,....Its foolish to be intelligent where ignorance is sublime