By James Howard Kunstler
July 23, 2012 8:59 AM
Europe is giving new meaning to the term "bootstrapping," the age-old (virtuous) idea of picking oneself up off the floor after some blow or reversal of fortune has laid you low. The new method might be called "skyhooking" in which a massive rescue apparatus secured at some mysterious point unseen in the clouds lifts whole exhausted nations from their knees in order get them to summer vacation. Hence: the interesting spectacle of an entire continent headed for vacation despite facing utter financial ruin, revolution, and civil war.
No one who has been to Europe in our time can doubt that it is a lovely place to stage human existence. The towns and cities are in immaculate condition, even the ones bombed to gravel in the receding unpleasantness of the 1940s. The trains, trams, and subways run cleanly and on-time. The citizens, though well-fed, maintain normal physiognomies and wear dignified adult costumes out in public. Everything along the streets broadcasts the notion, central to civilization, that grace and beauty matter -- even the handwriting on the bistro chalkboards. What a wonderful place. I'd like to go back. But events suggest that this sweet period of history is drawing to a close and whatever happens there next will be less like Midnight in Paris and more like Riot in Cellblock D meets Quest for Fire.
This skyhooking procedure has been both fun and sickening to watch, like any great public stunt of seemingly impossible derring-do. Here you have a whole bundle of nations, all up to their chins in the quicksand of debt, pretending to catch lifelines of new credit dropped mysteriously from the clouds by hidden central bank airships, only to find that the lifelines are a kind of collective hallucination coming over them like a fever dream in their hour of desperation. Seems rather cruel, actually. Especially since they have lately sunk deeper in the quicksand from their chins to their eyeballs.
No one on the scene -- or watching from a remove for that matter -- can conceive a happy ending to this chapter of history, which might be remembered on some distant clear-skied day yet to come as the age of government-by-check-kiting. Or the Chinese fire drill banking model -- no offense to that great nation of diligent workpersons. Yet, reports from even the most anguished Euro nation du jour (Spain) say that the restaurants are bustling and there is no shortage of nearly naked nubile beauties along the beaches of the Costa Brava. And over in Italy, of course, a squirrel could make the journey from Monterotondo to Lago Maggiore by leaping from one outdoor luncheon table to the next with its knobby little knuckles never touching the ground.
The question is: what happens when the recognition finally hits that the money just isn't there? That the whole circus of alphabet soup bailouts and skyhook rescue operations was a fraud? Well, my guess is that things fracture and splinter and there commences a great scramble for the table scraps of the incredible banquet that this congeries of nations put on its Master Charge card. And when the table scraps are all gone, the members of some nations, or regions within nations, set out pillaging around the place where their neighbor sat at the banquet, and pretty soon you get such a disorderly scene in the lovely old banquet hall of Europe that even diligent Chinese tourists will not venture there for a while.
None of this is to say that the action I describe is not following similar lines in other corners of our sore beset planet. For instance, those diligent Chinese I aver to have been running a set of banking rackets at least as shoddy, careless, and plumb crazy as the Eurolanders. And don't get me started on the Anglo-American clusterfuck, which has left the rest-of-the-west with a future as ingeniously booby-trapped as the Aurora cineplex shooter's apartment (and to a strikingly similar note of destructive insanity).
But in these dog days of summer (and the horse latitudes of the spirit), isn't it easier to just mix another vodka and tonic, kick off your flip-flops, and enjoy the feeling of cool sand between your toes? Rest up all y'all. Events will be pinging around the reality-scape good and hard in a few weeks. Me: well, I'm just keeping the fruit trees watered out back for now.
Enjoy your vacation.