Chaos, Havoc, and The American Abyss

“If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst.” – Thomas Hardy

In the final days before the 2016 American presidential election the pundits were out in force, engaged in collective hand-wringing.  Glancing through lists of commentaries and op-eds, here are some of the titles:

Don’t Trust the Future to President Havoc, America and the Abyss, An Order of Chaos, Please, Venomous 2016 Race Slithers to a Finish, Who Broke Politics?, Democracy’s Majesty and 2016’s Indignity, Final Days – Awful Choice, Europe on Pins and Needles, The First 100 Horrific Days of a Trump Presidency, America’s Descent into Banana Republican-ism, An Election is Not a Suicide Mission, Liberals Cried Wolf about Bush and Romney and We Were Wrong – Fascist Trump is Different, and The Post-Truth Presidency.

How did it come to this? And where are we headed after the election?

Many have speculated on the reasons for the current crisis in American politics, and surely there are many facets that have played a part, and there are many angles to cover.  Richard Heinberg’s recent analysis (An Order of Chaos, Please) covers much of the same ground  I was intending to cover here, and serves as a good introduction.  He begins by disabusing us of the notion that things will return to normal once the election cycle has concluded. He then shares the somewhat conventional wisdom that many Americans these days, formerly of the middle class, do not have things as well as their parents did. The “wage class” has declined in both income and political power, thanks in part to globalization and other forces. Backs are up against the wall, and people are ready for change. The same-old, same-old doesn’t cut it.

collapse

Heinberg then takes it a step further, telling us that “American civilization was destined to unravel anyway.” He mentions Joseph Tainter’s work, “The Collapse of Complex Societies,”  and offers the sobering analysis that “social pressures from unsustainable debt levels, increasing inequality, and rampant corruption” are the new normal, thanks to “deeper infrastructural issues having to do with resource depletion, pollution (in the form of climate change), and the essential unsustainability of economic growth.” The current election cycle is merely the prelude to an unfolding spectacle of America’s fabric coming apart.

Heinberg eloquently sums up the depressing scenario that seems all too likely:

“The government of the United States of America has developed increasing numbers of tics, limps, and embarrassing cognitive lapses during the past ten or 15 years, but it has managed to go on with the show. Yet as dysfunction snowballs, a maintenance crisis becomes inevitable at some point. When the crunch comes (most likely as a result of the next cyclical economic downturn, which is already overdue and could be much worse than that of 2008), we will reap the fruits of a system that is simply no longer capable of acting cooperatively to solve problems.”

“…The nightmare of the election itself will end soon.  But we may not like what we wake up to.”

Indeed. We are now being forced to wake up today to a Trump presidency and a divided country.

There is another writer who had a perspective that I have found to be unique, timely, and insightful. His name is Peter Pogany.  One of his last major papers, written in 2013 (Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order) before he passed in 2014, was about havoc, chaos, and the abyss, and it was turned into a book published in 2015: Havoc, Thy Name is 21st Century.

Havoc

As dismal as his short term outlook was, Pogany wasn’t all doom and gloom. Like Michael Dowd, Pogany was a short term pessimist, but a long term optimist (Dowd calls himself an “apocaloptimist,” listen to his interview discussing with Terry Patten The New Ten Commandments and the Coming Apocaloptimism here).

Pogany was an economist who saw that “a stagnating economy is civil discontent waiting to happen – especially at a time when government spending must be curbed.” Our current world economy is structured so that it requires continued growth at unsustainable rates just to maintain our standard of living.  We’ve hit the wall, and the wage class around the world is responding – Brexit and President-elect Donald Trump are two corresponding results. According to Pogany, the world is in the beginning phase of a “nonlinear macrohistoric episode” – a chaotic transition, which he saw as a necessity to precipitate a crisis of consciousness that would eventually lead to the wide-spread “integral a-rational” consciousness structure, as based on the thinking of cultural philosopher Jean Gebser

“What will it take to go from considering tightened modes of multilateral governance a monstrous dystopia to people around the world on their knees begging for a planetary Magna Carta that is more detailed, focused and enforceable than the United Nations Charter of 1945? It will take nothing less than a mutation in consciousness, as outlined by the Swiss thinker, Jean Gebser (1905-1973). But a mutation of the implied magnitude amounts to nothing less than a break with centuries of ingrained habits, values, and expectations. It is simply inconceivable without the hard fate of macrohistoric turmoil.”

Darkness must come before a new dawn. It is Pogany’s work that we’ll continue to discuss in more detail in posts to come. An overview of his work can be found on our Peter Pogany page. Many of his older essays are archived at Resilience.org here.

Read Part 2 of this series here: Consciousness and the New World Order

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10 comments on “Chaos, Havoc, and The American Abyss

  1. It wasn’t an election so much as a conjuration, and America now has not so much a president as a shaman king, a conjurer of demons from the dusky deeps — demons of bigotry, demons of rage, demons of unreason, demons of falsehood — who aided his way to the White House. They don’t come gratis, these demons. The Devil will demand his due, and there will be Hell to pay.

  2. davidm58 says:

    Well said, Scott. I highly recommend readers of this post to check out Scott’s blog,The Chrysalis:
    https://longsworde.wordpress.com/

  3. Dwig says:

    Shaman King — now there’s a concept to ponder. I tend to think of shamans and kings as very different psychological types, but the cognitive dissonance could be fruitful.

    Hmm, how about “trickster king”, or “contrary king” (thinking of the Native American figure of the contrary, whose speech and actions are opposite to the intended meaning).

    Looks like Pogany is going to be required reading to understand the emerging chaos.

    • It’s pretty clear by his statements: ie, that he could murder somebody and not loose support, or that his celebrity allowed him to have his way with women, amongst other statements. Only someone who considered themselves a modern Svengali could make such statements, and his victory at the polls will only embolden him in such convictions about the potency of his own magical thinking.

  4. T.Collins Logan says:

    Nice post David. Here are my own thoughts about today…I include a link to your post in my post! 🙂 http://tcollinslogan.com/tclblog/index.php?/archives/280-The-Unseen-Tragedy-of-a-Trump-Presidencyand-Our-Collective-Responsibility.html

    • davidm58 says:

      Thanks Todd, and I recommend folks visit your blog and take a look at what you’ve written today as well! It’s good to bring Agape into the discussion, as you’ve done.

      I’m also reminded of David Brooks’ recent column where he invokes Martin Buber’s I-Thou as an antidote to this election.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/opinion/read-buber-not-the-polls.html

      • T.Collins Logan says:

        Thanks David. Brooks has had some really interesting things to say lately – I’ve seen or heard him on PBS/NPR panels offering what I thought pretty cogent insights. And the Buber piece is equally relevant.

      • Rosenstock-Huessy, who was also a dialogical thinker, thought Buber was premature in his insights, and had reversed the proper order of the I-Thou relationship. Rosenstock argued that the proper order was “Thou-I”. The Thou preceded the “I” in the dialogical relationship. That’s because before we discover our “I” as children, we are constantly addressed, indeed humanised, by the “Thou” or “You” form.

  5. abdulmonem says:

    The story of the suffering of the humans is the same everywhere. Society is built on truth and justice and once these two pillars are discarded all diseases flourish. A society whose shamans are the sowers of discords is doomed. A society whose fishers never like to fish in clean water ,it is no wonder it will face the three devourers you doored your post with. I hope the ride ahead will be smooth, since I feel wholeheartedly that the solution of other problems is organically connected with the solutions of the west problems who is walking right now on pins and needles the west has created for itself.I do not want to increase your pain but I only want to ask who created the mass immigration of the middle east which the west is complaining about and accusing the immigrants of all sorts of disruptions.I hope I am not talking out of context.

  6. davidm58 says:

    Good point, abdulmonem. The west has sown the wind, and is now reaping the whirlwind.

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