A Boomer reflects on this collapsing House of Credit Cards and the cadaver of a planet that the Zoomers are poised to inherit
By Mark Cromer
For us Malthusians, this moment of when a Corona gets its lime is merely a mile-marker on humankind’s long jog into oblivion; a population parade route that has seen for the better part of two centuries the oceans strip-mined, the forests clear-cut, the Amazon set ablaze and vast, ancient aquifers sucked dry as thousands of species are dutifully checked into the Extinction Suite each and every year even as the warheads of the human womb explode like massed artillery fire across the globe. The long con of globalization has only sped humanity’s date with destiny even as the band plays on ever louder. Legendary Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich (who I had the good fortune to speak with over the years at various conferences) was not ‘wrong’ when he published his seminal work The Population Bomb—just a tad early. Thirty years ago Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson (and famed Capt. of the Sea Shepherd Society) told me the Earth’s sustainable human population as a viable species was around 2 billion people, and we’re now on track to hit 8 billion souls but hey, who’s counting? Well, turns out, Mother Nature is—and thus this appetizer for what ultimately befalls any herd that breeds itself past its viability. As Winston Churchill once remarked: “Now this is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Oh yes, this indeed is just the beginning of what Mother is sending over to our table, compliments of the house.
~ From a note to an old friend, early March 2020
All things considered, it began unremarkably enough, with a few scattered headlines and news briefs and bleeps across the print, digital and cable universes as 2019 came to a close: a viral outbreak was underway in a Chinese province called Wuhan. Details seemed obscure or conflicting, perhaps unsurprisingly so for an opaque nation like China.
But one fact was coming into focus: Far across the Pacific something had emerged from the gory horror of the country’s street-side slaughter houses where every manner of agricultural staple to so-called ‘exotic’ animals (think bats, primates and snakes, for starters) and domestic pets (ol’ Rover & Friends) are jammed into cages still alive to await their sale and on-the-spot butchering that had been cheerfully christened ‘wet markets’ in the West either as a grim goof or in the pathetic parlance of cultural equivalence and the acceptance-at-any-cost it is meant to facilitate.
The initial minimalistic news coverage seemed to suggest there was nothing much to worry about, at least certainly nothing to panic over, and yet even in those early days of the outbreak an undercurrent of apprehension began to creep across the land, at least among what remains of the thinking class, versus the iPhone-clutching consumer hordes that now populate the American casino believing they are ‘getting cash back’ and ‘earning rewards’ by rolling up five-figure balances on credit cards that charge them an APR of 16% or possibly more. Most of those hominids were lost on Amazon, foraging for new toys, selecting shipping methods and writing reviews—as everything in this era must be reviewed, rated and ranked.
But a few keen observers did sense that the proverbial canary in the coalmine had just stopped chirping.
What followed the dawn of 2020 will likely prove to be less of a story about a viral pandemic’s rampage across the globe and more of another Kodak moment that captured the cascading collapse of the American enterprise into the ocean’s of chaos that now rage around it. As January slouches toward February and the first ‘anniversary’ of the pandemic passes, the COVID-19 global body count has surpassed 2 million, with the United States on track to reach more than 24 million cases identified and 400,000 COVID-19-related deaths before month’s end. But it is still worth contrasting this death toll against historical outbreaks for at least some filter of reasonable perspective, as the Bubonic plague that swept across Europe in the Middle Ages (and consequently helped christen them the ‘Dark Ages’) killed off fully one-third of the continent’s population and sent somewhere on the order of 50 million people to mass graves in several long waves.
As COVID-19 made a low-key but auspicious landfall in the United States, it was at first greeted with something of a collective shrug before triggering a manic reaction among much of the populace that swiveled from spring break revelry to a bar-the-bunker-door mentality as the government descended into a borderline schizophrenic response at virtually every level from Washington D.C. to City Hall.
It was a collective breakdown that has once more revealed in the starkest of terms the absolute corruption-fed rot that has hollowed out the nation well beyond just ‘critical infrastructure’ and again exposed the true nature of the governing ‘elites’ of every partisan feather.
The American house of credit cards has come tumbling down with breathtaking speed and amidst the resulting vast fields of plastic debris can be seen the gnarled reality of the economic boom years—the glimmering mirage that had long fed the fantasy that an expanding economy was the ultimate diagnostic of a healthy nation, one built on a solid and sustainable foundation. The old axiom ‘What’s good for General Motors is good for the country’ had effectively been refined by the dawn of 2020 to simply: ‘Whatever profits the shareholders is good.’ The notion of a nation state had devolved into merely a geographic market of mass consumerism.
But the dizzying buzz that the economic ‘rebound’ that ostensibly heralded a nation that was once again truly thriving across all sectors was in actual fact simply illusory and the pandemic has ended the hypnotic lightshow.
At the cusp of the COVID-19 onset, unemployment had been declared to be effectively at an end (the government considers a 3-percent unemployment rate to be in practical terms a state of ‘full-employment’) but in fact the government simply continued to apply its age-old cooked-books formula of only counting workers who applied for or continued to receive unemployment benefits. The millions of working age men and women for whom unemployment benefits had expired were simply pushed off the books and into the grimly nebulous category of ‘no longer participating in the workforce.’
It’s the same cynical numbers game the government and the media have long played with illegal immigration, maintaining the masquerade that there are approximately 11 million people of every strata in the United States who have no legal right to be in the country. That figure of 11 million illegal immigrants, which has remained on the national marquee since at least the mid-2000s, is as accurate as the 3-percent unemployment figure, in that it’s accurate as long as you don’t count the other 25 million illegal immigrants currently in United States. It’s a cheap but deadly demographic hat trick that Uncle Sam is deathly afraid of revealing, which is why any and all real efforts to ascertain through legitimate but definitive means the true figure of foreigners illegally present in the United States are immediately killed in the crib by both parties.
And there is a reason for that.
In an era where the slogan ‘We believe in science!’ has taken on the desired religious tone its shouters intend, as an article of politically interpreted faith rather than a deliberative establishment of fact and a fearless exploration of meaning, the actual factual hard data of illegal immigrants in the United States—just determining the number—is simply verboten.
In the distant past and deeper still in antiquity such unallowable facts and proscribed lines of inquiry were known simply as ‘Forbidden Knowledge’ and were whispered of only among heretical intellectuals, artists and other malcontents and misanthropes who were intent to neither mildly submit nor blindly obey, however clandestine their resistance may have been.
And so it is today as the true numbers of both the American unemployed and foreign nationals illegally present in the United States have been feverishly obfuscated for decades—a bipartisan endeavor and perhaps the only consensus between the two parties in the Beltway that has held since the Reagan era.
But then came the pandemic.
And within just about six months time—or approximately the lifespan of a toaster warranty—the Great Lies have been laid bare, the neon veneer has been torn away and the facts of our situation have been irrevocably revealed.
Remember the joys of the ‘gig economy’ that were programmed round-the-clock as America struggled out of the Great Recession and remained on high volume right up to the moment the virus fires began? Who could forget the casual glory of ‘the side hustle’ that was trumpeted, pitched and sold to American workers as a viable means to earn a wage—and just a wage, one sans any of the employee protections or benefits to say nothing of the equity that once came with the traditional employment that built the middleclass in America—with all of its supposed flexibility and the sugar high of allegedly working-for-yourself, albeit under a corporate umbrella of Uber or Lyft or DoorDash or among the legions of ‘contracting vendors’ that pumped non-employee workers by the millions into warehouses and behind the wheel for companies like FedEx and Amazon? The $35-an-hour union trade jobs had long been shipped down the Wuhan Ways of the world, but America had a side hustle just waiting for those eager to self-motivate across the overnight shift for an easy net of $172 or so a week—which is more than enough to cover the rent on a shared room in a three-bedroom single-family home rented to a revolving cast of eight or nine people every month (depending if you counted the people living in the living room and the garage).
Remember all that? Sure you do, those commercials weren’t pulled until the nation was well into the pandemic. Well, it was a hustle to be sure, but there wasn’t much sideways about it at all. The so-called ‘gig economy’ was pretty much a straightforward con job.
And so the America of 2020 began just as Washington intended it to, with most Americans working harder and longer for ever-shrinking slices of the meaningful wage pie while the spread of the indentured class rebranded as ‘independent contractors’ made millionaires by the bushel on the publicly-traded markets even though nothing close to a material improvement in the life of the average American was truly being achieved. It sure looked like another banner year and decade-in-the-making for the corporate robber barons as the assembly lines of ‘human capital’ continued to be fed into the vast sausage-maker of product storage and order-fulfillment/delivery systems that have come to define the job market landscape, men and women who invariably emerge on the other side as gutted husks stumbling through habitual unemployment and succored by a government safety net that offers little more than some drinking money and a small paper cup each morning with the blue magic of Alprazolam in it to help numb Americans horrifying spiritual death that is merely prelude to their impending literal demise.
But remember, Jeff Bezos is so very grateful for everything his nearly 1 million Amazonians have delivered to him and his company’s shareholders. Well, actually, not really, in fact, not at all, but if it helps to pretend that Bezos & Co. are filled with gratitude and are focused by it, then go right ahead and think so.
At Amazon, it’s hard to believe the memo line on the paychecks doesn’t read: ‘Be thankful for even this, ye loathsome little worm. Now get back to work!’
With the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO and the rest of organized labor long knocked out and sold out as relevant advocates for working and middleclass Americans, the living wage careers those unions once embodied were shuttered and shipped overseas courtesy of the bipartisan blitz in the mid-1990s that delivered NAFTA and a host of other ‘free trade’ initiatives and all while the floodgates of mass immigration were opened ever wider still to more quickly facilitate the replacement of the American worker at what remained of the American jobsite.
According to an Economic Policy Institute brief published in August 2015, more than 5 million skilled labor jobs in the United States were gutted, fileted and delivered to tables overseas between 2000 and 2014 alone, a figure which doesn’t really come close as an accurate casualty count for the corporate looting that became a Washington & Wall Street, Inc., trademarked brand dating back to the Reagan Administration as the wolves howled their approval of the merge-gut-close-repeat formula that gave rise to real life monsters like Al ‘Chainsaw’ Dunlap, nor the ongoing bleed-out of those jobs that continued through the final years of the Obama Administration.
Eliminated along with the millions of manufacturing jobs lost in America’s estate sale was the nation’s pharmaceutical production infrastructure, which was also shutdown and offshored to increase shareholder profits and ensure the American people—to the extent and as long as they still existed in any relevant capacity—were even more deeply leveraged in and reliant upon a global economy. It’s a bitter betrayal that again speaks directly to the intent of those that carried it out: removing the capacity of the United States to manufacture its own critical medicine supply was to make its people quite literally hostage to the demands of foreign governments.
It’s an insurance policy of sorts for the shareholder-class whose imperial-grade profit margins reside solely in the pirates’ chest of globalism.
Shortly before the pandemic erupted and then arrived on American shores a few sharp pens had indeed had been sounding the alarm of what was inevitably going to happen in such situations. On July 22, 2019, The Seattle Times published an op-ed penned by Rosemary Gibson of the Hasting’s Center and author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine, in which Gibson spelled out in detail the depth of America’s reliance on overseas suppliers of critical medicine and particularly that of an increasingly hostile China.
Gibson ticked off a grim list of hard facts surrounding the current state of America’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, noting that by the summer of 2019 “The U.S. has virtually no capacity to make generic antibiotics to treat ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, Lyme disease and other illnesses.” Twenty years earlier, Gibson reported, the anthrax attacks on Washington forced the U.S. to buy 20 million doses of Doxycycline—an emergency order it had to place with European suppliers who promptly sourced the job to China. Birth control, chemotherapy, HIV treatments, Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimers and many others are all sourced out to overseas producers and primarily those operating under the instruction of Beijing.
In her op-ed, Gibson projected that by 2030 at the latest the United States will have lost virtually all of its capacity to produce generic drugs of any stripe on any relevant scale—transformed into a vast sea of medical cases utterly reliant on the prerogatives of a foreign adversary. She closed her piece with a series of recommendations that Washington undertake with urgency.
Within a matter of months, Gibson’s warning proved prophetic and Americans for perhaps the fist time since its manufacturing lab infrastructure was shutdown and sold off began to become aware that the nation that was once the ‘arsenal for democracy’ was in no condition to even be a medical manufacturer for itself during a national emergency.
That sort of collective awareness could not be left to fester unchallenged.
In response, the globalist publication Reason attacked Gibson’s critical analysis and compelling account of the extremely vulnerable position the U.S. now finds itself with relation to its medicinal manufacturing base, or lack thereof, with Reason’s Eric Boehm dismissing Gibson’s assertion that 80% of key active pharmaceutical ingredients are produced in China as essentially a false alarm.
Not to worry, Reason’s Boehm insists, 80% of key active pharmaceutical ingredients aren’t actually made in China, just overseas, and perhaps with a plurality of that in China, just not all of it. Feel better?
The response from Reason should not have come as much of a surprise, considering editors from the publication have openly called for vastly accelerated mass immigration into the United States to spike America’s population to more than 1 billion people as a means of economic expansion, a libertarian Jonestown prescription in its own right and a double-shot of Kool-Aid not surprisingly cheered by no less a veteran schizophrenic showman as Glenn Beck who gleefully declared that the United States needed to add 700-million people to remain competitive with China.
When theoretical libertarians, rodeo clowns like Glenn Beck, the Democratic Party’s armband-wearing goose-steppers and the corporate whores of the GOP are all singing harmony on a chorus of mass immigration then, mass immigration now and mass immigration forever, well…as they say in the medical community: it’s time to get your affairs in order.
But it’s a little late for that now, isn’t it. Our collective affairs cannot be arranged into any semblance of order, for this is the era of absolute chaos, an end-stage global panic attack.
As continents across the globe buckle under the sheer weight of human masses that are watching their fate unfold in front of them and live-streamed in real time, the reality of precious fresh water supplies that are vanishing as fast as sustainable living space that provides for something more promising than a life amid an SRO human cattle car has finally reached critical mass and thus the great human herds are on the march in a desperate effort to migrate to somewhere else. Anywhere else.
But alas, the geopolitical lifeboats of Western civilization are not only sinking, the boats are burning on their way down.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic spread like fire around the world last year, the limits of government innovation and intervention had been dramatically exceeded and were on prominent display everywhere but in the United States none more so than its Great Cities where in places like Los Angeles and Seattle tens of thousands of men and women stumble around the glittering towers of debauched corruption and financial wet market gang bangs to empty their bowels on the same streets where they sleep even as the government issues ever more ringing declarations announcing a new age of equity, justice and, uh, whatever, while waiting for refreshers of its member’s only bottle service.
If humankind in the modern age hasn’t figured out effective and socially successful birth control by now, if we can’t empower women and educate men on the global scale that is necessary to decelerate our speeding breeding rush into oblivion, do you really think our species ‘leaders’ can get their arms around the viruses yet to come? Can they end the shortages that are already at hand? Can they staunch the violent chaos that’s fanning faster with every passing day?
Yeah, me either.
An honest assessment of the global response to this pandemic can only arrive at one clear conclusion: governments in the main have no idea what they are doing and are making it up as they go along—out of an abundance of not knowing what else to do.
As vaccines for COVID-19 have arrived, wild rumors abound in various circles across all points along the political spectrum that they are actually part of a shadowy last-ditch effort at population control. Ha! The planet should be so lucky. No, there is nothing so hopefully sinister or usefully diabolical about the vaccines against COVID-19, for they are indeed as advertised and another testament to humankind’s resilient resourcefulness, an admirable trait but one that will not save us this far down the line.
As for the Zoomers, well, evidently Gen Z seems to believe if they can write enough code, play enough games, add enough tattoos and piercings and dye their hair a bright enough turquoise then maybe the unfolding calamity will not consume them as well. Or maybe they haven’t given it that much thought at all, what with all the coding, gaming, tatting, piercing and hair dye signaling in-between the fist-raising social justice afternoon prayer services before dinner back at mom’s house.
In which case, even better.
The United States in 2021 is well on its way to becoming the Cocoanut Grove on that fateful night of November 28, 1942, a swinging joint that had swelled beyond its capacity with people from all over the place just looking for a break away from a world at war. A fire found officially to be of ‘unknown origin’ swept through the fronds of the artificial palms inside the Boston club and leapt into its gaudy cloth-covered false ceilings, quickly exploding into an inferno that would devour nearly 500 people as they stampeded toward exits that were locked or blocked. The official inquest would reveal that some guests were overcome with the billowing smoke and fireballs so quickly that firefighters picking through the wreckage found their charred carcasses still in their chairs, drinks literally still in hand.
The lesson the Cocoanut Grove ostensibly taught civic officials nearly a century ago was that it’s generally ill-advised to allow a glimmering oasis of freedom, music and swinging good times to be filled by nearly triple the amount of people it could actually accommodate not only comfortably but safely—the Cocoanut Grove fire actually killed more people than the club’s maximum capacity. While the club had been given an official clean bill of health by officials only days before catastrophe broiled its patrons alive, it would later be disclosed that the club hadn’t been properly inspected, licensed or permitted in years.
As 2021 gets underway, it’s not hard to imagine bombshell Goody Goodelle tickling the ivory and singing in the Grove’s Melody Lounge where the fire began that fall night in 1942, and envisioning one of those cats sitting up front near the stage and dressed to the nines, sporting a cigarette holder cocked in one hand and a dry martini fearlessly in the other, and as the flames exploded, as the smoke billowed and as the crowd ran shrieking like damned banshees desperate for an exit, looking over at his honey for the night and remarking with a grin and a wink just as her hair burst into flames: “Well, I guess we won’t be taking a cab after all.”
So perhaps eons from now, as alien archeologists brush the sediment off our Pompeii, they will marvel at the futile mass rush for the door and the Boomers who just stayed in their seats, smiling.
Drinks in hand.