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    • Now That We’re At Peak, How Fast Will Civilization Collapse Be?
      Last week I wrote an article about the future of civilization, collapse centered around a graph from “Limits To Growth.” I spent a fair bit of time staring at this graph yesterday, and I want to return to it, because it says some very important things about what’s coming up over the next decades. The first thing to understand is that the future is, as Willia […]
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Well… It’s here

happy-new-year-2017-images-hdWho list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.

Americans are spoiled. We haven’t had war pounding on our door for 150 years. If we want to engage in warfare, we have to join someone else’s war or create one of our own somewhere else. Yes, Yes, there was that whole Pearl Harbor thing but you know, it’s not the same when it happens halfway around the world.

Not that there’s going to be a war this year. Or at least not a new one. I hope.

It’s just to say that Americans don’t really know hardship. Well, SOME Americans know hardship rather well. They’ll probably adapt better than the rest of us. It helps to have been laid off in the Great Recession. That will give you a good perspective on things, like when’s the best time to plant your garden.

All this is to say that 2016, as awful as it was, is going to be nothing compared to 2017. In 2017, I expect to see a fire sale of the various working pieces of government as there is a rush to privatize absolutely everything. The Congressional Republicans will try to replace Medicare, which you have paid for all of your working life out of your salary, with scrip that you can only use at the company store for inflated prices.

The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat.

I expect that they will also use generational warfare to stick a shiv deep into the thoracic cavity of Social Security. They will lie about how broke the program is. But it’s not broken if they raise the limit on the payroll tax. Simple, simple fix that will harm almost no one. That’s not how these people roll though. So expect them not to do the simple thing. Expect them to dismantle it piece by piece, giving the elderly Fox News crowd a temporary sense of false security.

There are surely some elderly out there on fixed benefits who use Medicare who are saying, “They would never do that. Why would they do that?! No one would put up with that.” It’s just INCONCEIVABLE that these paragons of Christian virtue would permanently vitiate your future or current retirement or medical benefits. You’re an American, after all. That kind of thing only happens in Greece.

I hate to break it to the Fox News contingent but the people you have been following probably don’t care about your suffering. They’re very good at deflecting blame. But they are in office for a reason. You voted them in or did nothing to prevent it. It’s a little like listening to the seductive whispers of the vampire. Once you invite them in, they get a little blood thirsty and the honeymoon is over.

These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.

As for Obamacare, it was doomed when Obama and the Democrats went all soft and squishy on setting the cost of procedures and prescription drugs just like every other nation with an operating national health care system.

{{banging head on keyboard again and again and again}}

Ok, I’m better now. Where was I?

Who to blame? Well, I’m not going to blame myself or any of the GOTV people I worked with this year who were magnificent and dedicated and took their mission very seriously. I’m sure as hell not going to blame the candidate who performed so brilliantly at the debates that the fog of indecision lifted for millions of voters to such an extent that it had to be brought crashing down again quickly by a poisoned letter.

The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.

There are several culprits in this whole bad thing coming our way. First, there was the unforgiveably long recession brought on by what appeared to be criminally negligent and fraudulent behavior on the part of the finance industry. We were crippled by that and the fact that when we needed the government to work on our behalf, it did a really half-assed job of it. Someone needed to get serious and courageous with the stimulus package. Someone didn’t.

Second, there is the media. There’s just no getting around it. I hope someone has a plan to deal with this problem. Because the good guys are not able to control the message.

Anyway, long winded rambling. We’ve heard it all before.

It only remains to be seen how brazen Trump is going to be. I think we can expect him to go up to the line and cross it – routinely. Expect palace intrigue, a survival of the fittest attitude at the White House as the wealthy and powerful discover with intense self-reflection that they are the most virtuous and deserving. This gives them the responsibility to take whatever they can get so it doesn’t fall into the hands of the unvirtuous and undeserving.

Regrettably, Trump’s supporters may find that without the requisite proof of their virtue, say, $100 Million or so, they will fall into the latter group.

The absence of attention at the top is only going to encourage the courtiers and advisors to fill the vacuum, probably by stepping on the metaphorically dead corpses of their colleagues.

What is bewildering is that we have seen this before and still ended up here. Don’t set your sights too high or climb the ladder too fast in the court of a volatile, self centered king.

By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.

Next time, if there is a meaningful next time, don’t sit at home on election day. Vote.

Circa Regna Tonat, “About the Throne the Thunder Roars”, Thomas Wyatt, 1536

The Dissolution

Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire Wolds

In the mid 1530’s, King Henry VIII of England authorized Thomas Cromwell to shut up the monasteries in that country under the guise of consolidation.  A methodical review of all of the monasteries, complete with inventory, was conducted.  Most of the smaller, poorer monasteries were closed, the monks and nuns forced to seek shelter at the bigger monasteries.  At the bigger monasteries, a different kind of pogrom took place.  Some of the abbotts and abbesses were able to negotiate small pensions to ease their way and that of some of their charges in the world.  The monasteries and convents were stripped of their wealth and sent to Henry’s treasury where he rewarded his retainers to ensure their loyalty.  The monasteries themselves were broken apart, the libraries made into bonfires and the tenants dispersed.

Those who resisted, like the Bishop of Glastonbury, were treated to “black propaganda”.  They were accused of the most heinous offences of pedophilia, sexual licentiousness and the like.  And while there were instances of immorality, sloth and greed at some of the richer abbeys, it wasn’t true of all.  The Bishop of Glastonbury did not survive his encounter with Henry’s men.  He was charged a traitor to the crown and was drawn, quartered and his parts nailed to the gates.

Nuns fared particularly poorly.  Henry forbade them from marrying unless they were coerced to take their vows before the age of 20.  Some nuns did eventually marry but were persecuted for it in some areas of the north.  The convents themselves were places of education for anyone who could spare the time from their daily chores to learn.  They were particularly important to women because there was virtually nowhere else in England where women could learn languages other than English or be acquainted with the classics or discuss Aristotle.  It is said that after the dissolution, education for women did not recover its former capacity for two centuries.

Oddly enough, Anne Boleyn, who was the instigator of the reform movement in the first place, tried to intercede for a number of convents that applied to her for help.  She had limited success.  She also came into conflict with Cromwell who performed his duty to enhance the power of the state under Henry.  Anne was appalled that the proceeds of the dissolution were going into the hands of the already rich and powerful.  She challenged Cromwell and Henry to turn the monasteries into colleges and to distribute the money to the taxpayers who had footed the bill for the monasteries for centuries.  She had her chaplain sermonize to Henry about it from the pulpit.  He was not amused.

It was this conflict that finally cost her her head.  Maybe Henry could have given her a couple more years to produce an heir.  Maybe he could have worked out a deal with Emperor Charles V to recognize his marriage to Anne while restoring his daughter Mary to the succession.  But he couldn’t tolerate Anne’s bleeding heart liberalism getting in the way of enriching his treasury.  Cromwell saw her as a threat to his authority and set her up.  Henry signed off on the plan.  To the Tower she went.

History and human nature have ways of repeating themselves.  Those of us who get too comfortable are in for a nasty shock when the rules holding the social compact together get relaxed.  There will always be people who look after themselves and cement their place in the hierarchy using violence, intimidation and propaganda to satisfy their greed for power and wealth.  It has happened since time immemorial and will happen wherever the general public lets down its guard or is lead astray by clever salesmen.  Whatever wealth there is goes to the sociopathic robber barons with the blessing of the state.  Tenants are evicted.  People die in old age in poverty.  No system of government is immune.

A system tends towards disorder without constant vigilance.

For more on the subject of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, listen to the In Our Times podcast.

For more on the Dissolution of America, read There Will Be Blood by Paul Krugman.