Monday, April 27, 2009


Is our society on the brink of collapse? Could that be a good thing?

Ok, I know there's enough bad news out there. And I also know that it's a pretty cheap thrill to predict the demise of the world (Y2K anyone?). But it does appear that our present system is not sustainable. We cannot be great unless we're good, and the goodness is gone. Shortsightedness and greed have conspired to bring about an explosive cocktail. Those in control are apparently going to ride this horse until it drops. And drop it will. In James Kunstler's The Long Emergency he says, "(Those in control) will not surrender to circumstance until it is simply no longer possible to carry on...meaning there is not likely to be any planning or preparation for change." Abba Eban counseled, "History teaches that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives."

Once, when he was stuck in a cab in a traffic jam in London, G.K. Chesterton began musing on the breakdown of civilization. "Comunications may break down, and men may be forced to live where they are as best they can. I think how probable, after all, is the prospect of a relapse into barbarism." A sign that we might be getting closer? The rapid rise in gun sales. Gun shows are crowded. Gun prices are rising. Vigilante law may be lurking around the corner. Depressing, isn't it? Not in Chesterton's estimation. He suggests in The Outline of Sanity, "by this broken road simplicity may return." He is hopeful: "Man has before now broken down in the elaborate labors of empire and bureaucracy and big business and been content to fall to a simpler life. He has been content to picnic like a tramp in the ruin of his own palaces....We will not be downhearted. Our cities may also be deserted and our palaces in ruins; and there may be a chance yet for humanity to become more human."

A couple developments that may speed humanity becoming more human: the end of the age of cheap oil, and the escalating pricetag (either environmental impact if we let it go, or in cost if we don't) of coal-generated electricity. Just imagine in the next 20 years being priced out of these commodities. Bye-bye American way of life. Kunstler suggests that American suburbia be retrofitted "into the kind of mixed use, smaller scaled, more fine-grained walkable environments we will need to carry on daily life in the coming age of greatly reduced motoring." In Hope for the Coming Collapse, Robert Moore-Jumonville says, "Those places to which we can jog...may soon define the parameters of community." By the way, if CTK can continue to keep the main thing the main thing, and continue to break down into smaller communities of caring, we may be ideally positioned for what is about to come.

In any case, it's not if our civilization will collapse, but when. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go. Christ's kingdom is forever. It is the rock hewn out of the mountain that strikes at the feet of the statue, crumbles it to the ground, and then becomes the mountain that fills the earth. I'm glad it's not my job is not to prop up this world's system. As author James Baldwin remarked, "I'm optimistic about the future, but not the future of this civilization. I'm optimistic about the civilization which will replace this one."

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