by Umair Haque
and Why its
Risks are Skyrocketing...
Lately, I've been discussing how we are beginning to run the risk of
irreversible civilizational collapse now.
Five great waves of
collapse are merging to form a kind of tsunami:
Hence, the world around
us appears to be plunging into chaos and ruin faster than anyone can
even process it, make sense of it, understand it - much less do
anything about it.
What does this
alarming phrase "civilizational collapse" really mean?
Am I just playing
a game with you - trying to frighten you into submission,
shock you into paying attention?
Nope - sorry, that
would be too easy. You can be the judge of whether my definition
makes any sense.
Let's dispense with the childish fantasies of American pop culture.
doesn't mean the following things:
left become bands of nomads, roaming a desolate earth for
itself will suddenly go extinct
That the roaring
oceans will suddenly drown us all
That we'll fly
off to Mars, or that we'll upload our brains into computers,
...and so on.
Collapse means something much more prosaic, something hidden in
We aren't quite ready to
deal with the obvious in this age, and one of the most obvious
things is that collapse is right in front of our eyes, if only we
know how to look.
Collapse simply means that in the 21st century,
even the world's most powerful and rich countries - America and
Britain - can fall into total disrepair, ruin, and chaos, plunge
into paralysis and catastrophe, seemingly overnight.
Right about now, these
are the only two countries in the world with falling incomes,
life expectancies, savings - just choose an
indicator, it'll be plunging downwards.
And if it can happen to
them, my friends - it can happen to anyone...
Collapse, in the
simplest definition, simply means that progress can turn into
regress - suddenly, swiftly, seemingly overnight. No matter
how mighty a nation is, this century.
Perhaps you disagree. Would you say that America's a collapsing
Let's consider a tiny
slice of daily American life.
You get up in the
morning, far earlier than the average European or Canadian,
because you're worked to death - and I mean that literally,
your life expectancy's shrinking and you'll never retire, while
they will - and then you get up and go the job that's the very
mechanism of your own oppression, the thing that makes
capitalists rich and keeps you poor and powerless. LOL - it'd
be comical if it weren't so tragic.
Meanwhile, your kids have
to do "active shooter drills" at school - which means being
assaulted and traumatized - and while all that's happening,
company's trying to take away your healthcare
your "bank" is
trying to defraud you of your savings
is trying to take your time and income
your "economy" is
making sure you never grow one penny richer
is bought and paid for by all the above...
So let me ask you again:
would you say that
America's a collapsing society? I would...
Americans live poorer,
unhappier, shorter, bleaker, dumber, meaner and more violent lives
than anywhere else in the rich world - and they do so every single
year. The rate of decline, moreover, is accelerating.
Where will it end? Stop?
Probably when America reaches Russian levels - 60 years of life,
half of European income, and so on...
But Russia is the
textbook definition of a collapsed society. So in America's example
we begin to see what "collapse" really means. It isn't some kind of
cartoonish fantasy - it's a bitter reality that we
don't want to confront, probably because many of us are too busy
Britain, of course, by
Brexiting, is well on its way to being Americanized -
within five years or so, Brits will eat American food, suffer
American "healthcare", and so on.
What "collapse" really means, then, isn't Mad Max by way of
the Purge, guest starring Freddy Krueger.
It means, in a realistic
sense, three quite literal and pragmatic things:
democracies collapse into authoritarianisms, fascisms,
theocracies, tyrannies of various kinds.
economies collapse into stagnation and depression.
societies collapse into pre-modern forms of organization -
castes, feudalisms, tribalisms, dynastisms.
Those three things are
what "collapse" really means - and what we are in danger of now,
as a world. At a civilizational level - which, in turn, means,
that those three things are already spreading across the globe, like
a terrible wildfire, consuming all in its path.
Again, you don't have to look much further than
America to see it.
The American economy
collapsed into a kind of hidden depression, for which American
economists, like their Soviet predecessors, have no name, because
they're wedded to fantastical and utopian theories about
But the depression
Americans face is very real - their incomes haven't grown in fifty
years - half a century - while costs have gone through the roof.
Educating a kid or giving
a family healthcare is now something that's crippling, which drives
people to suicide, which indebts and bankrupts for life. That's a
depression by any other name - a situation in which living
standards go backwards, which is expressed by the both accurate and
grim American expectation that people won't live lives as good as
their parents or grandparents (true.)
America's economic collapse, in turn, produced a kind of of
As the middle class
imploded, became a democracy for the first time in history, what
happened was what always happens when middle classes shrink:
an explosion of
authoritarianism, this time in the guise of the racial fascism
that America itself pioneered, which the Nazis both studied and
Those old Neitzschean
whites are the chosen
people! The rest are vermin! Make us great again!! ,
... reared their ugly
Utterly predictable -
when people grow poor, especially people who expected to get rich,
the very first thing they do is turn on their neighbors, and take
from them what they were promised for their own.
collapsed into fascism, by way of economic collapse. That collapse
of political economy went hand in hand with social collapse.
Driving all this was a
great and terrible structural change in America - which its
brain-dead intellectuals and Soviet-style thinkers either haven't
noticed, don't care about, or are trying desperately not to talk
about, because it disproves all their theories.
The middle class shrunk.
Mobility dropped. One's chances in life were now determined by one's
class, race, and sex. America had become a caste society.
(You'd be right to
point out - wasn't it always? When blacks were only 3/5th
people, wasn't that the creation of a slave caste, a class of
Sure it was...
And that foolish
logic came back to haunt America just a few short decades later,
after the formal end of segregation, which had never really
You see, a caste
society cannot ever have or develop public goods, things like
public healthcare and affordable education and childcare and so
on. By definition, because those things are either for all or
for none - and in America, they couldn't be for all, so there
In this way, America
failed to undo itself as a caste society - and the eventual
result was the implosion of the white middle class. Bang! Social
Social collapse into what? A kind of society without a heart, a
mind, a soul. A place where the predatory strode the land
looking for new prey, forever hungry. Raid a pension fund -
done? Go loot a bank. Charge people 5000 percent more that same
drug. And so on.
As society collapsed,
culture did, too.
Whatever sense of
morality and ethics there was swiftly went out the window - as
it always does when people grow poorer, because the impoverished
must do what they have to to survive.
So America became a
place of things the rest of the world found baffling, vulgar,
bizarre, and gross - from sex-tape-celebrities to celebrity
Presidents to armed teachers to a culture of unrelenting cruelty
That's collapse, my
It's just the bizarre,
gruesome, horrifying story of modern day America, a place,
of wrecked cities
choosing death over bankrupting their families with
stolen by "private equity" funds
of young people
so depressed and traumatized suicides are skyrocketing,
...and not a finger
lifted about any of that.
When I say that we run
the risk of civilizational collapse, it doesn't mean that I
want you to see a cartoon in your mind, some kind of ridiculous
We don't need to imagine
dystopias - we live in one...
collapse essentially means the world goes American, and becomes
a place that turns its own ruinous decline into a kind of reality TV
porn spectacle, to be gawked and laughed at, which revels in its own
abuse, because there's nothing else left to do but join the abusers.
(Maybe you think to
yourself at this point - "What a drama queen! That doesn't
sound so bad! If that's collapse - being America - bring it
on!" I'd wager that you're one of those Americans who doesn't
quite have a sense of perspective, and needs one badly.
More people die in
Chicago than in Iraq, hence Chi-raq.
Nowhere else in the
world, so far as I know, are teachers arming themselves. Insulin
doesn't cost as much as it does in America even in poor
The point isn't to say that "collapse means America, so poor
countries will get rich! Haha!! Umair's so dumb!!"
Rather, it's to say
that collapse means progress turns into regress, which can
happen even to countries like America, in years now, for making
foolish choices. It means societies with broken systems turn
into those with completely failed systems.
Do you want to live
in one of those? What do you think happens to lives in such
societies? It's true that many countries in the world haven't
built fully working systems.
Yet even nations like
Costa Rica and Rwanda are trying to build public healthcare
systems. Even cities like Lahore have new metro systems.
The list goes on.
What collapse means
is that these countries lapse and fall back into an era of
stagnation and regress, just like America has - only maybe
starting from 2 instead of 6.
Collapse means that
progress becomes regress - faster, harder, and more violently
than we imagine, just like it did for Americans.)
Perhaps you don't see the
Let me spell it out for
What does a world of
little Americas look like? Well, what do countries run by
proudly quasi-fascist governments do? They start wars with each
What do nations
brimming over with bellowing supremacist sentiment do? They
start genocides and commit crimes against humanity.
What do nations
exploding in rage do? They lose their minds, and can't think
straight anymore, they fall for every lie under the sun.
What do nations who
don't have any purpose or vision left - except to be "great
again" do? They break up with their allies and friends, they
insult and demean their friends and partners, hoping to be
What do countries
where life expectancy and living standards are falling by the
year do? They implode into authoritarianism and extremism.
What does a world
full of such countries do? It begins to solve all its problems
through violence - just like America, whether it's the
violence of the school shooting, the suicide, the denial of
care, the deliberate withholding of money, safety, security...
Here's what it
Such a world is a place
that has reverted to tribalism, to feudal dynastism,
just like America - and explodes
into violence, crackles with fury. It is a world which tears itself
(Do you think I'm
Consider just how
much damage has been done in America in just three years.
The end of
kleptocracy in plain sight.
The tearing up of
The loss of
whatever reputation America had left, and its emergence as a
Do you see what I
mean a little?)
Now imagine a world full
of little Americas, run by their own little chest-thumping
would-be tyrants, backed by their own cults of ignorant,
bigoted, spiteful, greedy fanatics.
Does that seem a pretty
place to you? Is it world that makes any progress? Of course not.
Here are just a few more
things that will fall away in such a world.
depends now on things like CERN's huge
hadron collider, which takes
billions in joint investment.
The arts, which
depend on global cooperation and trade. Healthcare, which
depends on national health systems funding research.
And so on...
What will happen in a
collapsing world is that every form of human progress essentially
turns into regress, and what collapse really means is that we go
What's left is a few
islands of light, enlightened countries - who are fighting just to
not go backwards, like everyone else is.
Backwards towards what? The question is how far and fast we fall.
Perhaps we end up at
something like the middle ages - societies of techno-serfs and
techno-barons, replete with guilds of alchemists, aka "economists."
Perhaps we end up at
something like the 19th century - tyrants compete, and
the most violent among them form empires, and the weakest societies
end up colonies once again.
Maybe we end up in a
weird cocktail of ages in different places ,
century style theocracy there, 20th century style
fascism there, 19th century style colonialism there,
13th century style peasantry there...
Right about now, I don't
think anyone can really say precisely who will collapse into what.
But the general trend of
the 21st century is very, very clear. It couldn't be more
obvious. We run the risk of civilizational collapse. America
and Britain are
canaries in the coal mine - the
first rich countries in the world to go backwards in the modern era.
And they haven't just
"gone" backwards - they've plunged backwards, full tilt, at light
The risk we run now as a
world is that more and more countries follow their lead - and
begin to collapse, like dominoes, in a chain reaction of ruin.
If you think that sounds like a stretch, just ask yourself how many
countries have a realistic plan, a genuine agenda, to manage,
reverse, handle all four of this century's great existential
The answer, my friends,
can be summed up in one word. Zero... Bang! There goes
Our challenge, you and I, is to be the kind of people who don't
settle for all the above.
Who don't let the world
end up a collection of little Americas - a scattering of societies
fatally mismanaged that they plunge into every kind of ruin more or
less that can be imagined, from people dying without basic medicine,
to kids being massacred at school, to the food supply being a thing
that's poisonous, to dealing with all their problems through
Such a world is not a
world any of us should want - and all of us should understand
right now that America and Britain are the canaries in the coal mine
of a collapsing global future.
No matter how powerful or
rich a society is - in the 21st century, if it is as
foolish and selfish and arrogant as these, bang! Down it will go,
Our challenge - our responsibility, perhaps - is to the kind of
people who aren't content anymore. With all this. With now. With the
world going backwards, right into the Dark Ages - because, hey, at
least billionaires got to be trillionaires!
Who cares if all it cost
was democracy, the planet, and human progress itself...?
Now is the time, my friends, that we must be malcontents with the
status quo. That we must stand against it and reject it. Be the ones
who passionately hunger and yearn, as innocently and authentically
as children, for a better future - not just for ourselves, but for
all life, every river, every tree, every forest, every insect.
Who don't roll our eyes
cynically at that idea - admitting defeat with our fatalism,
letting the bad guys bully us into the weakest kind of submission.
When there are enough of us - rebels, malcontents, idealists -
then perhaps a great transformation will come upon the world. Until
there are, I imagine... we will continue on the path we are on now,
which is civilizational collapse.
The ignorant, the
foolish, the vain, and the arrogant leading the blind, the
damned, and the greedy into the abyss, and calling it the way