dystopian land

Vladimir Manyukhnin
We Westmen have become accustomed to thinking our condition synonymous with wealth. Sure, we might have trouble paying the bills, we might not have as much stuff as our neighbours, we might go on Instagram and see lifestyles of unthinkable luxury, but we're not living in the filthy slum hives of the third world. Our streets are not full of refuse and excrement. Famine does not stalk through our thoughts.

We're the fortunate sons of history.

We're rich.

Or so we tell ourselves.

Consider the supermarkets. At a glance, their shelves groan with abundance. Aisle after aisle packed with a dizzying variety of ultrapalatable foods, ringed with a perimeter of cheeses, breads, meats, vegetables, and fruits obtained out of season from distant lands with friendly climates.

Yet, peer behind the curtain, and it's a mirage. The processed foods stocking the aisles are almost entirely built from derivatives of corn and soybean oil, laced with generous quantities of artificial flavouring, preservatives, emulsifiers, and other chemical agents rubberstamped into the food supply by captured regulators. For all that they are calorically dense, these packaged items are not in any meaningful sense 'food'. They are addictive drugs shot through with poisons.

Then there are the unprocessed foods. These are suffused in pesticides and herbicides, painted and waxed so as to preserve their appearance and what flavour they retain from the mineral-stripped soil in which they were chemically fertilized. The meat is hormonal and antibiotic, injected with dyes to simulate freshness, stitched together from scraps using glue to give the appearance of steak.

This isn't to say that actual food is impossible to find. Most supermarkets offer organic produce, locally sourced free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, and so on. Such food is, however, extremely expensive. Limit your diet to such items and you rapidly realize how 'rich' you truly are.

Over the last generation or so our agribusiness and food distribution system has engaged in a vast sleight of hand. Actual food has been slowly replaced with the simulation of food, without anyone really noticing. Sometimes this was done openly, as with the encouragement to use the toxic sludge called 'margarine' rather than the butter we'd been eating for thousands of years. Saturated fats are bad for your heart, you know1. In other cases it was done with no great fanfare: using the engine lubricant called canola oil in place of olive oil to make mayonnaise, or substituting high fructose corn syrup for cane sugar in Coca-Cola. Recipes were quietly altered, by and large no one noticed the difference, and corporations pocketed the difference arising from their lower production costs, happily externalizing the costs inflicted by the ruined health of the general populace that this mass poisoning resulted in.

As an aside, has anyone else noticed that North Americans seem to have gotten subtly uglier over the last few decades? I don't just mean the diabesity, although that's part of it, and I don't just mean the aposematic fashion of the tranissary horde, although that's certainly part of it too. People's faces seem different to me, the proportions off from what I remember from the 90s and before. The contrast seems quite notable whenever I compare to Europeans. Is this epigenetic damage arising from decades of malnutrition, endocrine disruption, and environmental toxicity? Has the adulteration of the food system made people uglier? Or am I imagining things? Because I rather hope that I am.

Over the last few years, inflation and shrinkflation have combined to make even the fake food substantially more expensive. We now pay considerably more for the packaged poison, and we get considerably less than we used to in that package. First the simulated Food™ was gradually put in place of actual food, to the point where the plastic simulacrum dominated, and now even the fake stuff is being gradually withdrawn, leaving only brightly coloured packaging inflated with air. It's reminiscent of Haitians assuaging their hunger with cookies literally made from mud, who then found that the price of the mud had increased beyond affordability.

Food is just one example. There are others, almost everywhere you look. Education, healthcare, and housing particularly come to mind. In every case, we lavish cash upon them, while getting essentially nothing in return. Our youth are more ignorant by the year. Our population has never been sicker - life expectancy in the US has fallen from 78 to 76, by two whole years in just two year's time, and yes, we all know why. Home ownership is essentially an unreachable dream for anyone not already on the property ladder - achieving the standard of living that was considered the birthright of the middle class just a generation ago is now reserved for the top few percent by income.

The great irony is that we are awash in consumer goods. The material detritus produced by Chinese slave labour crams our homes, to the point where no one wants it. Used bookstores are basically a thing of the past. Several months ago I tried selling off an apartment full of slightly used furniture and workout equipment (not because I needed the money - it was just too much of a hassle to bring with me), and ultimately had to give it away.

We have more stuff than we know what to do with, but meanwhile struggle to afford food that won't slowly twist us into pot-bellied goblins, and must run the Red Queen's race to stave off homelessness. Which, you might have noticed, has become far more prevalent as of late, what with tent cities of fentanyl zombies sprouting like fungal blooms in our rotting cities. A huge fraction of young people have had to move back in with their parents. Even those with jobs, which isn't all of them by a long shot.

It's not really a great mystery what happened. The petrodollar system forced on the planet during the 70s combined with the Federal Reserve's license to print infinity dollars to result in a colossal currency arbitrage advantage for the USA. That monetary mutagen deformed the American republic into the bloated monstrosity of the GAE, by giving the US the ability to import as much material wealth as it wanted in exchange for the promissory toilet paper everyone else needed to access OPEC's black gold. Before long the physical economy of the US had been replaced by a rust belt of payday loans, dollar stores, unemployment, disability, and opiods, as Wall Street consumed North America's wealth in a potlach of FIRE - Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate. Making things was no longer the path to wealth, moving digits around in the memory banks of semiconductors manufactured in Taiwan was.

Technology continued to improve, of course, and labour productivity with it. But somehow real, inflation adjusted wages stayed the same, with all the winnings captured by the money men.

So they rolled out credit cards, with interest rates that would have been considered feloniously usurious only a short time before. Sure, the good factory jobs are gone, and whatever paltry raise you managed to get barely stays even with inflation2, but you can pretend that you're more prosperous than ever with that magic plastic card that instantly unlocks access to everything you could want, no savings required. Just don't ask what happens next.

Student loans were part of the same scam. No decent jobs for high school graduates in your area, since corporate closed the plant to pivot their operations to Malaysia? No problem, here's a loan, your kids can go to university, the ticket to the professional-managerial class. They'll be more successful than you ever could have been, we swear.

I'm not going to pretend to understand exactly how all of this works at a deep level. I'm not an economist.

All I know is that when I look around, I don't see a rich country.

I see a country pretending to be rich.

We identify as rich. We are trans-rich. But we are not rich.

Rich countries make things, and we don't make anything. We're entirely dependent on extended global supply chains for our entire resource and manufacturing base. Our infrastructure is falling apart, and even the human capital who know how to repair the physical capital are getting too old to do it anymore. By far the largest part of the economy is composed of useless office drones with bullshit jobs, together with the service industry specialists that cook their meals, clean their homes, drive their Ubers, wash their laundry, look after their kids. Insofar as anyone still deals with actual atoms, it's mainly in the context of pushing atoms mined in Africa and assembled in Asia through the consumer supply chain.

So, now, here we are, about 50 years out from the initiation of the petrodollar system and the great gutting of the industrial wealth of the continent. China just brokered a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the Saudis are cheerfully selling their earth-blood to the Chinese for Yuan. Meanwhile Russia is selling its oil for rubles.

The petrodollar system quietly died this year. No one needs the USD to get their energy anymore. All those trillions of federal reserve notes, treasury bills, and US government bonds have become superfluous. For now, foreign governments don't want the USD to crash - many of them have pegged their own currencies to the FRN, and many of them have a considerable amount of US treasuries on their balance sheets. But there's no question that everyone sees where things are going. The clock is ticking, and no one wants to be the last one holding the bag. Governments are going to start divesting themselves, quietly and carefully, at least at first - trying to avoid the sort of fiscal panic that will blow a hole shaped like a truck-sized pallet of greenbacks in their national treasuries. The debt the US charged the world has become a depth charge, one the world's fiscal divers are trying to disarm before it pulls a Nordstream on the global economy.

Whatever happens, the result for the average American will be the same. All those dollars are going to come flooding home like a radioactive tidal wave from a Russian doomsday device. It's already happening, really - the real estate bubble is one sign of all those dollars washing through the system, trying to find a safe home.

We're about to wake up on a continent full of people who don't know how to do anything useful, who don't know anything about mining or refining or farming or manufacturing, and who no longer have the ability to pay foreigners to do it for them. The Potemkin village facade of prosperity that has tricked us into thinking we're the richest people in history will get rolled up like the cheap theatrical set that it is, and we'll be left staring at the cobwebs and dust coating the bare walls of an undecorated stage as we realize the people prancing around on it pretending to be skilled professionals were just actors.

We're going to need to fix things, and there isn't going to be anyone to help us, but us.

I realize this sounds grim. I suppose it is. But you know me - I hate ending on a down note. I'm not going to make an exception this time.

Truth is, I'm rather excited by the prospect of this Potemkin prosperity being set on FIRE. The current state of things is an absolute mess, and everyone is miserable. We've got stuff, sure. But we're all lonely, and sick, and bored. Our jobs are meaningless. Our schools are a running joke for the rest of the world. Fixing things is going to be extremely painful, yes. But I think it will be worth it.

If Food™ becomes too expensive to buy, people will have to grow their own food - which will tend to be a lot healthier. So, no more obesity, no more metabolic disorders.

All those insufferable, useless people obsessing about pronouns and the latest permutations on the Acceptable Nomenclature?

All those sanctimonious busybodies in the regulatory agencies, sticking their noses into everyone's business?

All those midwit bureaucrats foisting their half-baked mandates onto society, which somehow never really go away no matter how useless everyone knows they are?

All of that is a direct function of an economy warped by the Federal Reserve money printer.

Luxury beliefs are luxuries that a poor country cannot afford. The sooner we realize we aren't rich anymore, the sooner we'll stop imagining that we can afford them, and the sooner we can all have real countries again.
1 They aren't, but the myth has persisted. Regime nutritional advisory bodies continue to push this zombie science, despite its having been discredited almost twenty years ago.

2 According to the hedonically adjusted inflation statistics at least, which are deliberately designed to make inflation look much less than it really is.