For some reason, the study of the end times has been a popular topic of interest to people since the dawn of civilization. How it all ends is of far more interest to people than how it all began. In fact, there is still a lot of resistance to even contemplating how it all began. The intelligent design stuff is, when you’re honest about it, is an argument against even thinking about how life began. How it all ends, the end of all days, is of interest to everyone, regardless of their inclinations.
For Americans, the vision of the end is usually one of two basic plots. One is a swift financial collapse that plunges everyone into chaos. Suddenly the ATM’s and credit cards no longer work. Bank accounts freeze and business grinds to a halt. If England is a nation of shopkeepers, America is a giant shopping mall that happens to possess a space age military. Consumerism is the religion of the people, so it makes some sense that collapse scenarios would start with the collapse of commerce.
Another vision of the end times is the plague scenario. The super-virus is a popular devise to hustle along the collapsing and get right to the end times. The popular TV series Walking Dead is a great example of this. The plague and the zombies are ridiculous, but they not only make for good TV, but they allow the writers to quickly get to the end times scenarios they wish to explore. This vision of the end is really about the beginning of what comes after this phase of civilization.
The current madness may give us a glimpse of how an actual collapse of civilization would unfold. We have both the threat of the super-virus, real or imaginary, and the threat to the cult of consumerism. The reality of the virus in this case is unimportant, because it is assumed to be real. The same is true of the financial markets. We may not be in an historical collapse, but it is assumed to be a real threat. In effect, this is a live action stress test of the system and the people in charge of it.
The first thing we can observe is the great lock-down started when the nation’s circus performers, went into hiding before anyone. The sports leagues and public entertainment operations were the first to respond. One would think that having them continue the show would make sense, in order to keep spirits up during the lock-down, but that was not the case. In fact, the big streaming services downgraded their service quality at the start of the lock down.
Now, you can make of that all sorts of things, depending upon your temperament, but the one important take-away is that the people in charge are not all that concerned about people getting restless in the lock-down. Despite what we are told, they are not terribly concerned with the circus half of Juvenal’s famous line. They could be mistaken about that, especially as this thing drags on, but for now people seem to be getting along just fine with reduced entertainments in the lock-down.
Of course, the lock-down itself is important. The controlling ethos of the ruling class is unfettered movement, yet in a crisis, their first instinct is to halt all movement. The people who just a few weeks ago were singing the glories of the free flow of people and goods are now threatening to weld our doors shut. When the real end times are upon us, the first clue will be a mandatory lock-down of the population with cops in the streets and a 24-hour curfew, except for approved personnel.
Another thing we can observe in the present situation is how the authorities have started to abandon certain duties. For example, cities have started to throw open their prisons, letting the inmates run free. The argument is they could get the virus if locked up in close quarters. That means the people in charge would rather see them raping and murdering in your neighborhood than possible getting the virus and passing it to one of the bureaucrats operating the jails.
We are also seeing the cops abandon their duties. In Cincinnati, the cops are no longer responding in-person to 911 calls. The stated reason is “to reduce unnecessary contact between officers and the public to reduce the spread of COVID-19.” Presumably, if you call while being murdered, they will come out to identify your body, but if you call while it is just at the home invasion stage, too bad for you. If you want to get a glimpse of what the breakdown of society will be like, think about this.
Some people in dissident circles like to mock the paleocons, but the one thing the paleos got right before everyone else is anarcho-tyranny. Not only do we see this in our daily life in normal times, but it is in bold relief in this crisis. The first instinct of the people in charge is to “tyrannically or oppressively regulate citizens’ lives yet is unable to enforce fundamental protective law.” This is a crucial insight into the managerial system, but also how that system meets its demise.
That’s probably the way in which the great longed for collapse transpires. It will not be a great sudden end that results in chaos. It will not be a supernatural end that suddenly flings us into a post-apocalyptic world. Instead, it will be the slow withdraw of authority, along with the growth of a banal sort of tyranny. It is more cops hassling innocent people for no reason and fewer cops chasing actual bad guys. In time, new social systems evolve to fill in those gaps and provide local order.
The model to keep in mind is probably something like post-Rome Spain. Once the Roman authority collapsed, various barbarian rulers tried to fill the void, with varying degrees of failure. Eventually, local authority filled the gaps, providing order and protection for the people. In time, the Roman villa system became what we think of as feudalism throughout Europe. As the American empire fades, a similar sort of process will evolve. The end will be a whimper, rather than a bang.
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