Showing posts with label World Made By Hand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World Made By Hand. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Summer Reading Suggestions: Dip Into Apocalyptic Literature

 Summer is here, and everyone is looking for an enticing novel to read while on vacation. Most of us want a page-turner--something vacuous but exciting, a book we can read on the beach while sipping a tropical cocktail.

The summer of 2022 is different from the summers of the recent past. Inflation is rising, and most of us feel that we are only beginning to see substantial price increases in food and staples. Gas prices are at historic highs. It seems like everyone is unhappy, anxious, and fretful. What lies ahead?

So--why not read some apocalyptic literature to help us focus on what may well be America's future? Here are my suggestions:

First, I urge everyone to read James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand novels. Kunstler's books are set in upstate New York during the post-petroleum age. He describes a nation that has dropped back into the nineteenth century with people riding horses instead of driving cars and lighting their homes with candles rather than lightbulbs.

Before diving into Kunstler's novels, I suggest you read The Long Emergency, his best-known nonfiction work. In this book, Kunstler argues that the petroleum-based economy is ending and that so-called renewable energy (wind turbines, solar panels, and such) will not allow us to maintain our lavishly materialistic lifestyle.

The Long Emergency is very persuasive. Kunstler convinced me that our gasoline-driven world is not sustainable. I fear our future will be bleaker than progressive voices predict. We are more likely to be raising chickens than driving electric cars.

I also recommend reading some of John Wesley Rawls' apocalyptic novels.  Rawls' books imagine life in a world after the global economy collapses. Violence breaks out all across the United States, and an international, fascist military force stamps out democracy and individual freedoms.

What I like best about Rawls' books are the technical details. For example, he provides a recipe for making napalm out of styrofoam and describes how to harden a suburban home against a terrorist attack. His books even have glossaries.

Rawls is a prolific writer, and I recommend you begin by reading these four novels: PatriotsSurvivors, Expatriots, and Liberators. If you read all four of these books, I predict you will buy 2,000 rounds of .22 ammunition and a 10/22 Ruger rifle with a camouflage finish.

William Forstchen is another master of the apocalyptic genre. One Second After describes life in Black Mountain, North Carolina, after one of America's enemies set off nuclear bombs in the earth's upper atmosphere. These explosions trigger an electromagnetic pulse that shuts down all electronic devices--including vehicles and electrically powered machinery.

As food runs short, Forstchen's town officials begin rationing, and looters and arsonists are summarily shot. Large terroristic gangs sustain themselves by cannibalism, and the town organizes a militia made up primarily of college students that fights the terrorists in a bitter battle to the death.  

Finally, I recommend people to read Cormac McCarthy's dark and harrowing book, The Road.  McCarthy's apocalyptic environment is not drawn as sharply as those sketched out by Kunstler, Rawls, and Forstchen. Still, he describes a grey, ashen world in which the sun no longer shines and crops cannot grow--a perpetual nuclear winter. It is a harrowing book that ends with a bare flicker of hope.

Americans should read all four of these authors because they sketch out for us--to one degree or another--America's future. We should pay heed and prepare for it.

I, for one, went to the grocery store and bought four cans of Spam.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

We are all peasants now: The student-loan crisis is destroying the middle class

As the world changed, we reverted to social divisions that we'd thought were obsolete.  . . . A plain majority of the townspeople were laborers now, whatever in life they had been before. Nobody called them peasants, but in effect that's what they'd become.
World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler 

American higher education is the emperor who wears no clothes. College leaders boast that our nation's universities are the envy of the world while they rake in so-called federal "student-aid" and parade about in medieval regalia peddling worthless degrees.

And America's young people are the losers. They've been gulled into thinking they can gain a middle-class lifestyle by getting a college degree and maybe a graduate degree as well. But millions are finding that their college degrees gained them little more than massive debt. And those online MBAs and doctorates they purchased with borrowed money--just junk.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, outstanding student-loan debt reached $1.56 trillion last January. Around 45 million Americans have student-loan obligations and 7.4 million are enrolled in long-term repayment plans that stretch out for as long as a quarter of a century.  As Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos admitted with shocking candor last November, only one out of four student borrowers are paying off the principal and interest on their loans.

It is now well documented that student-loan debt is contributing to the nation's declining birth rates--now near a record low. People can't afford children because they're paying off student loans.

Young people can't afford to buy homes, they can't save for retirement, they can't pay off their debts.  Their liberal arts degrees, their shoddy law degrees, their fluffy MBAs and doctoral degrees qualify them to become baristas and clerical workers.

We are now in the early stages of the 2020 presidential election season, and what do our politicians talk about? Russia, border walls, free health care, and the Green New Deal.  We should be discussing the New Raw Deal--the deal our government and our universities have imposed on guileless young people.

For too long, Americans have bought the line that our colleges and universities operate for the public good and that the people who run them are wise and kindly. We particularly revere the ivy league colleges where we get nearly all our prune-faced Supreme Court justices and most of our presidents.

But if the folks who run Harvard are so goddamned wise, how could they have fallen for Elizabeth Warren's scam that she's a Cherokee? And if our elite college leaders are sensitive and kindly, how did little boys wind up getting raped in a Penn State shower room? And how could dozens of female athletes get groped by Larry Nasser while he was on Michigan State's payroll?

No, let's face the truth. Many American colleges and universities are not run by wise and kindly people; most are run by administrators who are primarily concerned with the bottom line. And far too often, higher education is not preparing young Americans to enter the middle class. On the contrary, by forcing people to take on oppressive levels of debt to get a college degree, colleges are setting up millions of Americans for a lifetime of peasantry.