A few aficionados are fond of saying, “If it’s Monday, it’s Kunstler” and hurry to read James Howard Kunstler’s weekly rant about how we are S.O.L. and swirling down the toilet, flushed there by bad planning, denial and our love of creature comfort. All of his weekly essays are pretty much the same but vividly written. From the most recent disquisition:
“What a scary season! This is what it feels like to hit the wall of limits to everything the earth provides us. Our oil problems are for real and urgent, despite the arrant nonsense (“THERE WILL BE FUEL”) published last week in The New York Times – a news organization that runs a direct hose-line of smoke up its own ass from the oil industry’s chief PR shop IHS-CERA, The Times’s sole source on the energy beat. Meanwhile, Europe is back to imploding financially again (with Ireland as the rotting head of the dead fish in the current rotation). The US housing sector has flat-lined, the banks are so lost in the “mortgage-gate” morass of lost and robo-forged documents that the ghost of Roy Cohen couldn’t get them out of it alive…” maybe you get the picture. Kunstler thinks everything is going to turn to crap and I pretty much agree with him.
Kunstler is also a novelist and was recently at Village Books reading from his new book—The Witch of Hebron, a fable of life just a few years in the future after his predicted collapse of our economic, government and society. I say “fable” because Mr. Kunstler livens his story with a witch, a ghost, a clairvoyant and a mesmerizer. It’s a great read and book two of what I personally hope is a long series of tales. Book one—A World Made By Hand — was a very good read. The Witch of Hebron is even better. He doesn’t belabor the environmental and social changes promised in our collective future. Instead, he uses the new society, economics and culture as a backdrop for his stories, stories which are told in a format that would make an excellent HBO series. But his POV is clear. At one point a couple of the characters, on the run, overnight in a looted, stripped and abandoned McMansion:
“In the old times, people of means build their houses anywhere they pleased. It was not necessary to live close to a town. It was not necessary to follow any rural way of life in the rural places. In the old times, even the few farmers who remained did not put in kitchen gardens. It was not necessary when the supermarkets overflowed with food from all over the world, and a dizzying extravaganza of food-like products poured out of America’s own factory labs, and the backroads were full of cars taking people effortlessly to indoor jobs that were also effortless, if tedious, and paid princely cash-money salaries.”
There’s a lot for Lummi Islanders to think about in just this one paragraph. Right now, because of a very convenient and reasonably inexpensive ferry service “it is not necessary to follow any rural way of life…” even though we live in what is unarguably a rural situation.
I recommend Mr. Kunstler’s weekly essays to everyone. In addition, he recently was interviewed by Chris Martenson on a wide range of subjects. One of the points he makes is that he sees Americans being blind-sided by events such as the oil spigot being turned off abruptly. For my part, I worry that Lummi Island may be blind-sided in the same way by events that are outside our control. What we can do is begin to prepare and plan for contingencies, a much more productive use of energy than arguing over the fine points of future ferry rates.
The characters of World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron were clearly unprepared for their fate. Those living in a rural setting had certain advantages and quickly demonstrated the adaptability and resilience necessary to survive and prosper.
Sometimes it’s takes the novelist to educate us through stories. But I fear, as does Kunstler, that the majority of us will not be ready, physically, emotionally or financially for what the future has in store.
We can only hope for a good witch to show up and transform us.