… I have mentioned the very visible decline of the US and its associated Empire in many of my articles already, so I won’t repeat it here other than to say that the “ability to exert influence and impose its will” is probably the best criteria to measure the magnitude of the fall of the US since Trump came to power (the process was already started by Dubya and Obama, but it sure accelerated with The Donald). But I do want to use a metaphor to revisit the concept of catastrophe.
If you place an object in the middle of a table and then push it right to the edge, you will exert some amount of energy we can call “E1”. Then, if the edge of the table is smooth and you just push the object over the edge, you exercise a much smaller amount of energy we can call “E2”. And, in most cases (if the table is big enough), you will also find that E1 is much bigger than E2 yet E2, coming after E1 took place, triggered a much more dramatic event: instead of smoothly gliding over the table top, the object suddenly falls down and shatters. That sudden fall can also be called a “catastrophe”. This is also something which happens in history, take the example of the Soviet Union.
The fate of all empires…
Some readers might recall how Alexander Solzhenitsyn repeatedly declared in the 1980s that he was sure that the Soviet regime would collapse and that he would return to Russia. He was, of course, vitriolically ridiculed by all the “specialists” and “experts”. After all, why would anybody want to listen to some weird Russian exile with politically suspicious ideas (there were rumors of “monarchism” and “anti-Semitism”) when the Soviet Union was an immense superpower, armed to the teeth with weapons, with an immense security service, with political allies and supporters worldwide? Not only that, but all the “respectable” specialists and experts were unanimous that, while the Soviet regime had various problems, it was very far from collapse. The notion that NATO would soon replace the Soviet military not only in eastern Europe, but even in part of the Soviet Union was absolutely unthinkable. And yet it all happened, very, very fast. I would argue that the Soviet union completely collapsed in the span of less than 4 short years: 1990-1993. How and why this happened is beyond the scope of this article, but what is undeniable is that in 1989 the Soviet Union was still an apparently powerful entity, while by the end of 1993, it was gone (smashed into pieces by the very nomenklatura which used to rule over it). How did almost everybody miss that?
Because ideologically-poisoned analysis leads to intellectual complacence, a failure of imagination and, generally, an almost total inability to even hypothetically look at possible outcomes. This is how almost all the “Soviet specialists” got it wrong (the KGB, by the way, had predicted this outcome and warned the Politburo, but the Soviet gerontocrats were ideologically paralyzed and were both unable, and often unwilling, to take any preventative action). The Kerensky masonic regime in 1917 Russia, the monarchy in Iran or the Apartheid regime in South Africa also collapsed very fast once the self-destruction mechanism was in place and launched.
You can think of that “regime self-destruction mechanism” as our E1 phase in our metaphor above. As for E2, you can think of it as whatever small-push like event which precipitates the quick and final collapse, apparently with great ease and minimum energy spent.
At this point it is important to explain what exactly a “final collapse” looks like. Some people are under the very mistaken assumption that a collapsed society or country looks like a Mad Max world. This is not so. The Ukraine has been a failed state for several years already, but it still exists on the map. People live there, work, most people still have electricity (albeit not 24/7), a government exists, and, at least officially, law and order is maintained. This kind of collapsed society can go on for years, maybe decades, but it is in a state of collapse nonetheless, as it has reached all the 5 Stages of Collapse as defined by Dmitry Orlov in his seminal book “The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit” where he mentions the following 5 stages of collapse:
- Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost.
- Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost.
- Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost.
- Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost.
- Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in “the goodness of humanity” is lost.
Having personally visited Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, and seen the Russia of the early 1990s, I can attest that a society can completely collapse while maintaining a lot of the external appearances of a normal still functioning society. Unlike the Titanic, most collapsed regimes don’t fully sink. They remain about half under water, and half above, possibly with an orchestra still playing joyful music. And in the most expensive top deck cabins, a pretty luxurious lifestyle can be maintained by the elites. But for most of the passengers such a collapse results in poverty, insecurity, political instability and a huge loss in welfare. Furthermore, in terms of motion, a half-sunk ship is no ship at all.
Here is the crucial thing: as long as the ship’s PA systems keep announcing great weather and buffet brunches, and as long as most of the passengers remain in their cabins and watch TV instead of looking out of the window, the illusion of normalcy can be maintained for a fairly long while, even after a collapse. During the E1 phase outlined above, most passengers will be kept in total ignorance (lest they riot or protest) and only when E2 strikes (totally unexpectedly for most passengers) does reality eventually destroy the ignorance and illusions of the brainwashed passengers.
Obama was truly the beginning of the end
I have lived in the US from 1986-1991 and from 2002 to today and there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the country has undergone a huge decline over the past decades. In fact, I would argue that the US has been living under E1 condition since at least Dubya and that this process dramatically accelerated under Obama and Trump. I believe that we reached the E2 “edge of the table” moment in 2018 and that from now on even a relatively minor incident can result in a sudden downturn (i.e. a “catastrophe”). Still, I decided to check with the undisputed specialist of this issue and so I emailed Dmitry Orlov and asked him the following question:…
My question for you is this: where would you place the US (or the Empire) on your 5 stages of decline and do you believe that the US (or the Empire) can reverse that trend?…