by Umair Haque
March 09, 2019

from Eudaimonia Website




What Global Collapse Means

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:

  •  economic

  • political

  • social

  • cultural

  • psychological collapse

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.


Civilizational collapse doesn't mean the following things:

  • That whomever's left become bands of nomads, roaming a desolate earth for


  • That humanity 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 plain sight.


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 society?


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,

  • your "insurance" company's trying to take away your healthcare

  • your "bank" is trying to defraud you of your savings

  • your "employer" is trying to take your time and income

  • your "economy" is making sure you never grow one penny richer

  • your "democracy" 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 living it.


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:

  • One: that democracies collapse into authoritarianisms, fascisms, theocracies, tyrannies of various kinds.


  • Two: that economies collapse into stagnation and depression.


  • Three: that 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 triumphant, totalitarian capitalism...


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 political collapse.


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 admired.

Those old Neitzschean sentiments,

whites are the chosen people! The rest are vermin! Make us great again!! ,

... reared their ugly heads anew.


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.


American democracy 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 untouchables?


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 ended.


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 were none.


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 collapse...

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 and selfishness.)

That's collapse, my friends...


It's just the bizarre, gruesome, horrifying story of modern day America, a place,

  • of wrecked cities

  • of opioid epidemics

  • of schoolyard massacres

  • of people choosing death over bankrupting their families with healthcare bills

  • of pensions 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 superhero movie.


We don't need to imagine dystopias  -  we live in one...


Civilizational 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 countries.

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 danger yet.


Let me spell it out for you.

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 other.


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 number one.


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 doesn't do.

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 apart.

(Do you think I'm kidding?


Consider just how much damage has been done in America in just three years.

  • Camps.

  • The end of historic alliances.

  • "Family separations."

  • Rank corruption, kleptocracy in plain sight.

  • Supremacy run amok.

  • The tearing up of global order.

  • The loss of whatever reputation America had left, and its emergence as a laughingstock.

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.

Science, which 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 backward.


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 ,

15th 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 speed.


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 threats:

  • climate change

  • extinction

  • inequality

  • stagnation

The answer, my friends, can be summed up in one word. Zero... Bang! There goes the future.

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 violence.


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, into ruin.

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 home...