Summary: We usually worry about the wrong threats to America. The threats that fill the newspapers are known and minor compared to the ones we ignore – against which we are unprepared and vulnerable. We need to and can have clearer vision.
About those predictions of doom
Lots of doom predictions of out there. For decades, some have predicted that America will get crushed by its high levels of government debt. Or by its private sector debt. Or by a collapse of the US dollar. Or by inflation. Or by climate change. Or by resource exhaustion (e.g., peak oil). During the 1960s and 1970s pollution and overpopulation were said by some to cause the end times. Now falling population is certain doom. It is a long list.
I have written that none of those is likely to cause collapses in our times (for the next generation or so; longer range predictions are just wild guesses). But beyond the specifics of each scenario, there is a second reason to give low odds to such predictions: everybody knows about these threats.
Y2K and Peak Oil are examples. Everybody knew about it. Doomsters predicted certain disaster. But its visibility sparked massive programs to prepare, which were successful. Similarly, rising oil prices after 1999 signaled an approaching problem. While doomsters predicted the end of civilization, exploration increased, efficiency was improved, and new sources of energy were developed.
Social collapses most often are caused by unexpected problems (excluding natural disasters and losing wars). There were many problems discussed during the 1920s, but few anticipated the collapse of America’s banks in 1930-32 – or the magnitude of shock that would create. We regulated the banks. But I have found nobody that predicted that the banks would crash again in 2008 – or the global shock that would create. We fell into the Cold War, with the world on the verge of nuclear annihilation for 20 years (and it is still possible, although less likely). Few saw the threat of mutual destruction until the weapon systems were built.
The risk of dangers widely feared is low because people are not total fools. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, we began to (slowly) uncock the threat of nuclear weapons. The danger of increasing pollution sparked regulations. And so forth.
We should be looking for serious but unseen problems which might wreck us. The equivalent of lead exposure in ancient Rome, a silent invisible poison. There are several candidates. I will mention two.
Political change: instability, regime collapse, or revolution
First, there is the washing away of America’s (and the West’s) social cohesion. It has been our greatest strength, and has carried us thru many hard times. See the data on people’s support for our political system. There is no need to wait for the crash of our politics. It has already happened. The dam has burst. The flood just hasn’t yet reached us. We have not noticed, since we focus on money money money. Other things are more fundamental, such as political legitimacy.
Trump’s election showed that our political system is hollow. An outsider (a clown) easily captured Washington, with all its power. I wrote on 20 January 2016 that Trump would win – and that this would be a milestone event. Within six months of his inauguration, the implications were becoming clear:
“Trump began with almost nothing in terms of campaign organization, reputation, or funding — especially compared to the front-runners Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. He ignored or mocked the standard campaign procedures. And he won.
“Trump’s success, despite his fantastic weaknesses, reveals the hollowness of America’s political regime. I am certain that notice has been taken. Now strong leaders are making plans to gain power. They might be politicians, from Wall Street, corporate America, or the military. But no matter where they are, they are thinking “if a clown like Trump can take the White House so can I.” Some of them will have more appetite for power than Trump.”
I pointed to a similar milestone event in the history of Rome.
“Although Nero’s death had at first been welcomed with outbursts of joy, it roused varying emotions, not only in the city among the senators and people and the city soldiery, but also among all the legions and generals; for the secret of empire was now revealed, that an emperor could be made elsewhere than at Rome.”
— From The Histories by Tacitus (~56 – 117 A.D.).
Nero’s reign began a period of instability in Rome, as legions realized that they were the real power in the Empire. Trump’s election might begin a similar period of political instability in America. We should think about the possible size and nature of the problem – and act to prevent (or mitigate) this threat.
A second threat is social instability created by the rapid and massive change in gender roles during the past few generations (an eye-blink in history). Like monkeys at the controls of a nuclear power plant, we have spun the dials with little understanding of the machinery. We have ideology, so no testing or experimentation needed! We are fiddling with the keystones of our social structure, heedless of possible ways this could end badly.
I have written 200 posts about the resulting gender wars. Others have given us deeper analysis. The most recent, which I strongly recommend reading, is “Hunting Predators: #MeToo and the Strange Psychology of Mob Justice” by Samuel Veissière at Areo. Here is a brief excerpt. It is not a summary, just an example of the many insights in this article.
“Over the past century, living conditions and opportunities for women have significantly improved. In Western democracies, men’s legal privileges have been entirely eradicated, while positive discrimination practices (in the form of specialized scholarships, hiring policies, the training of educators, gender studies programs, the moral obligation to embrace feminism, etc.) benefitting girls and women have become the norm.
“In popular culture, the virtues once assigned to traditional markers of masculinity like strength, endurance, dignity, protection and selflessness have slowly eroded, giving rise to largely absent, or at best confusing, models of culturally admirable social roles that men can embody.
“In her book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys (2011), Kay Hymowitz plots the rise of a new archetype of man the loser in American TV and movies of the 1990s and 2000s: a trope she argues has come to offer one of the most prominent role models for Gen X, and millennial (now Gen Z) boys. Homer Simpson, for example, embodies the stereotype of the goofy, impulsive, unsophisticated, accident-prone idiot, incapable of functioning without the wisdom of his wife Marge. In contrast with her brother Bart, who is equally impulsive and troublesome, Lisa is the picture of genius, talent and virtue.
“By the late 1990s, a new archetype of the man-child, can-never-get-it-right goofball was fully installed in our culture, and was being broadcast in films and series starring such actors as Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, John C. Reilly and Will Farrell. We might term this the Seth Rogen effect. In this modern myth, the masculine loser archetype usually comes to show or develop redeeming qualities, but typically needs the wisdom of a woman to help sort him out.”
This essay is a remarkably bold analysis for a social scientist, verging on career-ending political incorrectness. It is descriptive. Readers must apply these insights to see their social impacts.
Also see his paper about this material: “‘Toxic Masculinity’ in the age of #MeToo: ritual, morality and gender archetypes across cultures” at Emerald Insights. It’s well worth reading. Samuel Veissière is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and co-director of the Culture, Mind, and Brain Program at McGill University (Montreal). An anthropologist and cognitive scientist by training, he has published widely on the study of cultural evolution, social dimensions of cognition and mental health, social polarization, and cultural shifts in gender relations.
Be skeptical about doomsters preaching about well understood threats. Instead worry more about threats in the shadows, against which we remain unprepared and vulnerable. Expect the unexpected.
For More Information
Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see posts about doomsters, about shockwaves, about the precautionary principle, about forecasts, and especially these …
- Spreading the news: the end is nigh! — An assortment of peak oil doomster predictions.
- Requiem for fear. Let’s learn from failed predictions to have confidence in ourselves & our future.
- Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past.
- Dreams of apocalypses show the brotherhood of America’s Left & Right.
- Collapsitarians and their doomster porn.
- Doomsters warned of End Times from overpopulation. Now *fewer* people are disastrous.
- A new survey reveals American’s top fears, showing our true selves.
- We love scary stories. The reason why reveals a secret about America.
32 thoughts on “The unseen largest threats to America. Let’s prepare.”
The biggest thing that I can’t understand about the gender war is that the mothers of boys don’t stand up for their men.
Where are the women saying their sons, brothers, husband’s are good people? Very rare in my travels. It almost seems that they put team woman ahead of their own familes.
That is mildly surprising. What I find far more astonishing is that in my 15 years as a Scout leader and Sunday School teacher, I never saw dads are more proud of their children than when their daughters acted like boys. The effects of this are massive, and ignored.
What psychological pathology is motivating this?
“What psychological pathology is motivating this?
I wish I knew. It is the big question, and over my pay grade.
I would suppose that it is due to a perspective that says acting “like a boy” is intrinsically laudable, therefore should be encouraged. Indeed, in the level of encouraging the individual economic success of your child it may even be the right call, but everyone making an individually smart decision can have long-term negative problems in the aggregate.
You’d think the sensible perspective would be “some boys are into typically feminine things, and some girls are into typically masculine things, and this does not render the individual child lesser” but nothing’s ever easy.
“some boys are into typically feminine things, and some girls are into typically masculine things, and this does not render the individual child lesser”
While that’s very PC, it is also possible that such produces confused people with weak identities – and that the traditional approach produces happier and stronger people.
Americans make such judgements based on ideology, as if that was magic. We have lost confidence in science, so scientists in ideologically hot areas work in fear of the ignorant natives destroying them. On the other hand, this makes us pleasant peasants, easy for our elites to rule.
Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh describes what I think will most likely happen. People will be forced into ad-hoc tribal structures to overcome the collapse of our current farce of a republic.
Ed note: From the publisher:
“What happens when resources become scarce and society starts to crumble? As the competition for resources pulls America’s previously stable society apart, the “New Normal” is a Soft Apocalypse. This is how our world ends; with a whimper instead of a bang. “It’s so hard to believe,” Colin said as we crossed the steaming, empty parking lot toward the bowling alley. “What?” “That we’re poor. That we’re homeless.” “I know.” “I mean, we have college degrees,” he said. “I know,” I said. There was an ancient miniature golf course choked in weeds alongside the bowling alley. The astroturf had completely rotted away in places. The windmill had one spoke. We looked it over for a minute (both of us had once been avid mini golfers), then continued toward the door. “By the way,” I added. “We’re not homeless, we’re nomads. Keep your labels straight.” New social structures and tribal connections spring up across America, as the previous social structures begin to dissolve. Soft apocalypse follows the journey across the South East of a tribe of formerly middle class Americans as they struggle to find a place for themselves and their children in a new, dangerous world that still carries the ghostly echoes of their previous lives.”
There is zero evidence that “resources” will become scarce. People have been predicting that for at least 150 years, ignoring both geology and economics. I’m astonished that people learned nothing from the Peak Oil hysteria.
I added the publishers’ summary of the book to your comment.
Had someone told you that Venezuela would have gasoline shortages in 2005, would you have believed it. It’s not about physical exhaustion of the resources. It is about the destruction of the trust and organization required to harness them into a useful form.
What’s happening to Venezuela is a garden-variety depression, a commonplace in history. Don’t get hysterical.
@Larry: People seem fascinated by the idea of “resource wars” and I’ve been seeing them confidently predicted as near-term certainties for my entire life (36 going on 37). I have heard of damn few of them, with the closest being the Japanese efforts to seize some colonies in WWII – and as history has shown subsequently, they could have probably just made peaceful friends with Indonesia etc. and avoided the entire unpleasantness.
I suspect it’s because the idea of fighting over finite resources is something you can easily wrap your head around.
Much geopolitical analysis is fantasy. Every year people get excited about a likely war between two nations which aren’t going to fight. For example, geopol websites were sizzling a few years ago about the coming wars between Japan and the Philippines, China and the Philippines, and China and Japan. I guess it keeps them busy.
Much “news” is just info-tainment, a way for people to feel involved.
“What I find far more astonishing is that in my 15 years as a Scout leader and Sunday School teacher, I never saw dads are more proud of their children than when their daughters acted like boys. The effects of this are massive, and ignored”
That doesn’t surprise me.at all. Does your observation hold if the man has a son and a daughter or just when the man only has daughters?
I’m not an expert but there is something called the “first born daughter effect ” having a daughter first seems to affect a father’s behavior vs if his first born is a son. It might be on point, I need to do more research.
Perhaps it isn’t as much as women feminizing their sons as much as men masculinizing their daughters as you indicate.
My father had a son first and a daughter last. My sister was always into “tomboy” things to the consternation of my mother. My mother doesn’t often talk respectfully to my dad and my sister talks the same way. I suspect therefore the behavior of daughters is just following that of American mothers who are increasingly-domineering and have the power of the State behind them.
Then you have the effect of parents putting their daughters into a bunch of club sports to “keep them busy” which is a substitute for actual parenting and teaching daughters religion and domestic arts. The other reason given for club sports is so daughters can “earn a scholarship.” Sports are traditionally a male domain so the effect of girls’ sports is to teach them “toughness” and “grit” and traditionally-male traits. Sports have a masculinizing effect on daughters. Go to some of the YouTube channels of female Crossfitters and listen to how they talk and see how they act – very masculine.
Another unseen threat to femininity, as David Robertson observes, is transgenderism. The natural progression of the erosion of gender roles is for there to be no genders at all.
I’m going to put forth an ultimate cause that likely no one will agree with: we are impossibly trying to have a culture without a cult. The collapse of family and gender roles and all our institutions was downstream of the collapse of the Protestant church. A new cult will be established, then things will stabilize somewhat. The new normal will be worse for everyone just as it was for Romans under Nero.
That is a great addition to the list of “unseen” threats. Unseen in the sense that few take it seriously.
That a society needs religion is an ancient idea. Rousseau worried about the decline of faith in Europe, and wrote “Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar” (book 4 in Emile; text and Wikipedia) – his watered-down version of Christianity for the modern age.
Nietzsche gave the most powerful voice about this. More recently, see Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind.
It is the worry of a few for centuries. There is much to it, for without religion our values have no foundation.
Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II by Cornelius Tacitus – 1912 translation in HTML (with illustrations), EPUB, Kindle and plain text file : http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16927
This is probably the best insight in an overall excellent article. Thank you.
The counter example that comes to mind isn’t something that was widely warned of (so doesn’t disprove the thesis), but certainly the information was there. In much of the western US a combination of management practices have lead to large tracts of forest ripe for wildfire. It has been a number of years since I’ve hunted in Colorado, but I remember in the early 2000s seeing huge stands of dead timber killed by bark beetle infestation. They may have cleared most of this in the meantime, but if not it really is just a matter of time before the predictable inferno occurs. What isn’t obvious is when this will happen, and the specific source of ignition (careless campers, lightning, sparks from a passing vehicle, etc). As I understand it this also describes the devastating fires we just saw in Northern California.
There is a strong parallel with what we are doing regarding marriage. Large groups of uninvested men is a growing hazard. We know that sooner or later it will lead to catastrophe if we don’t take remedial action. But it is also true that so far we really haven’t felt much pain due to the new family model, and it isn’t clear that we will face any real pain on the issue during the time horizon that would cause us to make policy changes. Also like the risk of forest fire, when we have a problem there will be a natural tendency to focus on the specific source of ignition, and not on the build up of fuel.
Where I think the marriage problem is different from most other problems is attempts to address it are likely to initially make the problem worse. Much of the reason our new family model works as well as it does is our denial of what is really going on. We pretend that marriage has legal and moral meaning, and that the family courts aren’t in the business of meting out punishment to men whose sole crime is being a boring loyal dude. While denial is a flawed long term strategy, it has so far worked remarkably well. If and when we decide to address the problem, I see no way to avoid initially making it worse.
The problem is that by the time the problem was recognized, it was unsolvable. Controlled fires were tried, but deemed too dangerous. If an act of God burned down New Mexico, that’s life. If the US Forest Service accidentally did so, there would be hell to pay. At the Boy Scout base camp in Philmont NM they have been clear cutting protective zones around the buildings to save them in the coming conflagrations. That’s a massive job, and is the most they can do.
(2) “Large groups of uninvested men is a growing hazard. We know that sooner or later it will lead to catastrophe if we don’t take remedial action.”
I don’t believe that threat is widely known. I suspect a NYT op-ed about it would be received badly by the Great And Wise. After all, don’t 4th wave feminists want men (esp white men) to “get out of the way” and let them run America?
(3) “Where I think the marriage problem is different from most other problems is attempts to address it are likely to initially make the problem worse.”
Yes. Exactly like efforts to fix the tinder box forests with controlled burns. Thanks for contributing that powerful analogy! Spot on, as usual.
I wasn’t aware of this. But it makes perfect sense.
Hence my series about solutions to the Gender Wars (which you have seen, I think), and about ways to reform America. Clear sight is essential for success. That and spirit, a burning desire for liberty.
Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh describes what I think will most likely happen. People will be forced into ad-hoc tribal structures to overcome the collapse of our current farce of a republic.
Always possible, perhaps just a steady drift to greater and greater income inequality, casualisation in employment and social tension rather than a full collapse, combined with rising relative energy and resources costs.
I know people in London who signed up to Employment Agencies when we graduated in the 1990’s and are still working for them now, they do basic clerical work and occasionally warehouse or supermarket shelf stacking. I know a couple who still rent where we all rented as students, they rent a large rundown house, sub-let to students downstairs and get by with this sub-letting, agency work and some cash for essay writing and private tuition to the rich. This couple have two children, the government schools in the area are good, so they manage to give their kids a chance. It is a market clearing wage, they have never owned a car, live off discounted food (end of sell by date), second hand clothes and furniture, they look like 50+ year old students. They have subsisted basically, they play up the eco side to put a positive spin on it, but in London to be on $36,000, no pension, sick pay or anything never let’s you get ahead. They do go on a family holiday about every three years and they get a last minute discount deal often to Spain, Turkey or Greece, the other years they camp on the English coast. They will work like this until they are pension age 67 years old. Their children will have left home by then and they will move to the coast and live in a caravan. They hope they will have enough saved once the kids leave home to buy the caravan. The rich couple that own the house they rent, don’t do any repairs and the family keep it tidy in return for them allowing subletting. Both of the couple have degrees in Sociology and I think he has a masters. He works 9 – 5 in clerical work on 4 to 6 week assignments, then usually does a couple of hours tuition in the evenings when he can get the work, unless the work is too far away they cycle to work, she now also does part time work for a Social Work Practise, having been a full time Mum for twelves years.
As an aside their marriage is one of the best I know off, they have nothing and have to pull together or let poverty rip them apart. They have stayed slim, as they never waste money on fast food, come Sunday they always go for a long family walk usually several miles and visit a museum, exhibition or something else free. Maybe too much affluence makes use weak and the struggle may harden and sharpen us up. It certainly can’t be the cabbage and lentil soup that saves the marriage!
Exactly why I think The Apocalypse will be soft. Nobody will dumb enough to play Global Thermonuclear War. People will just adapt, get by on less, and then one day the less will not be enough so the current order will reach a state of entropy.
As I said before, there is zero evidence that the resource scarcity theory has any validity. There is little basis for the belief that there will be a long global depression more severe than the 1930s, which is what you appear to be describing.
Spinning nightmares is not rational planning. As described in the For More Info section, it is entertainment for people who like to be frightened.
Here’s a piece theorizing WWI was the end state of a Soft Apocalypse that made the hard one unavoidable. By the time Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, rooms full of very enlightened and intelligent men led their countries had no better option than war.
As usual with Spengler, his thesis is incoherent and muddled with errors. Nobody familiar with history considers the slaughter of WWI to be unprecedented. The Thirty Years War as not “in some ways worse” – I can’t think of any metric by which it wasn’t worse. His account of the reasons for the war muddles many factors – and ignores that there was a large body of people — and books, etc — saying that war would be disasterous for all.
“had no better option than war.”
That’s too ridiculous for rebuttal. They did have other options. The accurate way to say this is “that they believed…”
“end state of a Soft Apocalypse”
WWI was not an apocalypse in any meaningful sense of the word. As Spengler says, there have been many previous such wars in both European and world history. It is an apocalypse in the meaningless sense of a “bad event.” In which case apocalypses are like buses. Wait a while and another will come. Wait a little longer, and you’ll have forgotten about the previous one.
Also, Europe recovered in every sense in a generation or two – excerpt *perhaps* in its self-confidence.
“The risk of dangers widely feared is low because people are not total fools.”
Scott Adams made the same observation a few years ago as he formulated ‘The Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters‘ — “My observation is that whenever humanity can see a slow-moving disaster coming, we find a way to avoid it.”
Thanks for posting that! Adams has a way of posting simple clear explanations of complex matters.
Here are a couple of places where I think we could run into unexpected problems that aren’t widely discussed:
* Political disorder in oil-producing nations: In the event of relatively near-term displacement of oil consumption for transport and so on, a lot of countries that derive funds from oil exports will have big problems. The US economy is pretty well diversified and we are a net exporter anyway, but it could be very bad for many Middle Eastern states (who seem to have anticipated this) and Russia (I don’t know about them.)
* The US Senate: Many of the states presently losing population will probably continue to do so. It is not inconcievable, especially if automation and migration to cities erodes more farm/rural population bases, that some states will approach “pocket borough” status. The details may vary and will not be predictable (though the present trends suggests entrenchment of Republicans, things can always change) but if the US was going to have a legitimacy crisis, I imagine it would come from here.
Good point about overseas destabilizers of the US. There are a large number of those!
As for “rotten boroughs”, we already have them. Wyoming has 579,315 people (as of 2017) while California has almost 40 million, Texas has 28 m, and Florida has 21. Disparities like this are ignored during good times. They become fault lines in bad times.
California has many sanctuary cities and makes it very easy for non citizens to vote. Democracy in California is likely to take on the form of democracy in Latin America, with an Asian side note.
The State of California is becoming the employer (and benefactor) of first and last resort for more and more, as small and medium businesses are forced out by regulations. A federal bailout for California will be crucial, just as soon as Washington shifts back into “proper” alignment.
I am amazed that people believe that a nation’s culture results from something other than its people. That the massive numbers migrating to the US from failed states won’t bring their dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors with them. And that people have no responsibility to change their own nation, as peoples of the West have done.