Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,
The incontestable incompetence of the USSA’s monopolies, institutions and agencies is about to take center stage in 2021.
When I mention that the U.S.A. feels increasingly like the U.S.S.R., a surprising number of people tell me they feel the same way. Welcome to the U.S.S.A.: United Simulacra States of America where everything is an absurdly transparent simulation with little connection to reality and dissent is crushed by an everpresent, ubiquitous narrative police state enforced by the union of Big Tech social media, search and other monopolies and the Savior State: do what we tell you and you’ll get a piece of our endlessly spewed trillions.
My colleague Mark Jeftovic recommended an insightful book on the unraveling of the USSR, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation.
It’s an academic book so there are the required servings of jargon and references to suitably opaque academic tropes, but beneath the conceptual clutter lies a profound analysis of how humans adapt to and navigate a system that has lost all authenticity and survives entirely on the ceaseless marketing of artifice: in other words, the USA today.
Of particular interest are the book’s personal accounts of dutiful Party members going through the motions of obedience as a means of enjoying their private friendships and lives. Joining the Party’s machinery was a way to meet friends who you recruited for your committee work. Everyone went through the motions but nobody actually believed any of it: you did homework while “listening” to the endless canned speeches, you went out for coffee while telling the Party functionary that you were on Party business, and you worked on parades and activities that were a bit of fun despite the dreary official purpose which everyone ignored.
Despite the enormous effort put into placing propaganda everywhere, nobody actually saw any of it: it was all background noise. When it changed, nobody noticed.
“Regular” party members avoided the True Believers and the Dissenters as both could get you in trouble–and who wanted trouble? It wasn’t worth it. And so a carefully cloaked language of phrases and signs emerged to separate the safe “regular” members from the dangerous True Believers and Dissenters.
Documentarian Adam Curtis called this artifice as reality hyper-normalization, a concept also referred to as super-normalization: “normal life” is stripped of authenticity in favor of a simulacrum “normal” that supports those at the top of the status quo. This “new normal” reaches extremes of artifice, hence hyper-normalization.
As long as everyone thinks there are no alternatives to this hyper-normalized simulacrum, this artificial construct appears to be immutable–everything is forever.
But once the power structure admits, however minimally, that it no longer has the answers to the decay of the social-economic order, then the entire artificial construct collapses in a heap. This is the sociology of collapse: people accept a facade of artifice and propaganda without actually believing any of it, though they do have a limbic loyalty to the founding ideals of the State.
The ideologues (True Believers) are avoided as dangerous brown-nosers, and the Dissenters are avoided because it’s not worth being sent to digital Siberia (shadow-banned, deleted, marginalized) just to publicly call attention to the abject failure of status quo institutions and organs of propaganda.
What’s real is denial, repression of dissent, group-think, virtue-signaling and a profound loss of competence. What’s hyper-normalized artifice is all the media spew about how great everything is going to be once we print and squander another couple trillion dollars to prop up the zombie corporations, institutions and government agencies until the magical vaccine time machine returns us to the glorious debt-dependent overconsumption of 2019.
The USSA has not yet admitted that the decay of its socio-economic order is unstoppable, and so the internal gulag has yet to be breached. But artifice is not a substitute for reality, and what’s unsustainable (hyper-normalized artifice) unravels very quickly once the first thread is pulled.
The USSR took 20 years to unravel, but 19 years of the decay were hidden by an increasingly disconnected-from-reality simulacra of “success” and competence: the USSR lost the race to the moon in 1969 and 20 years later two decades of decay led to collapse.
The USSA responded to the dot-com crash of 2000 with artifice and propaganda, an absurdly transparent simulacra of “success” and competence. Twenty years of decay has brought us to the precipice of collapse, and the internal gulag of TINA–there is no alternative– is fraying.
The incontestable incompetence of the USSA’s monopolies, institutions and agencies is about to take center stage in 2021. The sociology of collapse will be followed by a not-be-missed banquet of consequences.
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My recent books:
A Hacker’s Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).
Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).
Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).
The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)
Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).
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