Y’all, I’m sorry, but the book lists aren’t going to be ready for a few more days. I had some other stuff going on, overshadowed, of course, by the ongoing collapse of the US.
Yeah, that. And yeah, I said it.
Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. All of us need to have these conversations, to look at the elephant in the room, and freaking talk about it. Nothing is “normal” anymore (whatever that even means), and it’s not going to come back in the way you were comfortable with.
I’m not going to make a giant list because you all know that nothing is “normal.” And maybe you hope things will “go back to normal.” Stop thinking that. It won’t. Besides, “normal” wasn’t working. “Normal” in this country props up racist infrastructures, and everybody who got to be comfortable in their daily existence claimed that this was “normal,” when so many people can not access that level of “normal” and instead have spent their lives struggling, being denied many things, and marginalized for whatever reasons.
Tara Scott, book reviewer extraordinaire for The Lesbian Review and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, posted a link on her FB timeline the other day by a writer based in Sri Lanka. That link takes you to Indi Samarjariva’s piece that he posted about a week ago titled, “I Lived Through Collapse. America is Already There.”
Samarjariva was born during Sri Lanka’s terrible civil war, left the country, then came back in his 20s, while the war continued. Here’s how that article starts:
I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.
This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.
I bring this up because what is happening in the US is not something most of us in this country have dealt with. That second paragraph pretty much describes many of our lives, does it not? And yes, we can certainly talk about privilege during a collapse. Samarajiva does, when he says, “It honestly becomes mundane (for the privileged). As Colombo kids we used to go out, worry about money, fall in love — life went on. We’d pop the trunk for a bomb check. Turn off our lights for the air raids.”
He wrote about looking through old photos, and said it’s shocking, and almost offensive to see them now.
“There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks.”
There is no big announcement about a country’s collapse. Americans have been waiting, maybe, for a sign that it’s time, the collapse is coming. But we won’t get one.
“As someone who’s already experienced societal breakdown,” Samarjiva says, “here’s the truth:
America has already collapsed. What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse.
On October 1, Samarjariva posted another piece, titled Collapse Takes a Lifetime. America is Just Getting Started..
This is how that one starts:
It took forever. I feel that Americans are really underestimating what’s going down, and how long it will take.
First off, yes, America has already collapsed. You can’t just step over your newly dead and poor. America has already lost more lives than in WWI and Vietnam, combined. The economic contraction is the worst in your recorded history. The rest of the world has stopped accepting your passports. Worst of all, this is all self-inflicted. Your leadership and 40% of the population drove off a cliff, and they’re still hitting the gas.
If this isn’t collapse, what is?
There are a lot of people right now talking about the upcoming US elections, saying that if we can just get through them, and the authoritarian administration ends, that it will somehow stop what’s happening. That it will somehow solve something.
“Americans,” Samarajiva says in that October 1 piece, “have completely unrealistic expectations of, well, many things, but specifically how long recovery will take.”
You think you’re going to vote this away in a few weeks? Lol, no. Speaking as a recovered collapse addict, recovery doesn’t take months, quarters, or even years.
Recovery takes generations.
Americans think they’re special. The entire (white) identity of this country is founded on believing that somehow, this country and its (white) citizens are “exceptional.” As a result of that magical thinking, we cannot fathom failure even when we’re slogging through it every day as it lays waste to thousands of American citizens and residents.
Samarajiva notes that you don’t just lose 200,000+ people and vote it all better again. Nor do you crash your economy and recover right away. “This is the work of generations,” he says. “Other people — people not yet born — will have to clean up your bloody mess and, honestly, it will never be the same.”
Sri Lanka lost ≈100,000 people over roughly 30 years, and it was deeply traumatic. We’re still not well. I do not understand how America can lose multiples of this and try to walk it off. It’s just… do you process death differently? Like, not at all? It doesn’t… you don’t just move on.
This is a broken country. It was founded on the premise that certain people are superior while others are expendable and its institutions are designed to encourage that. This type of system is ripe for corruption.
That’s another word Americans don’t like to use with their own government or institutions. And, as Samarajiva points out, “corruption” is a term (white) Americans apply to POC, not to their (white) government or white people. The current administration, instead, is referred to as “violating norms” or they have “conflicts of interest.”
Call it what it is. Corruption. At a level that puts other countries with histories of it to shame. And the cray that Americans call “capitalism” is also just corruption, and it solely benefits wealthy (white) people. Corruption is everywhere. All American institutions. And that’s just what we can see. What about what we can’t see? How bad is it?
Imagine the worst.
Think about all the people trying to do good, who believed in public service, who have been fired or who bailed, taking all their knowledge with them to be replaced by sycophants and lackeys, often who don’t have any experience in the positions they’re given.
That, too, is corruption. Kakistocracy. Authoritarianism. Oligarchy. Any number of terms.
America is not special. It’s just as susceptible to rot and corruption as any other country, and thinking that this utter breakdown and the chaotic, brutal, horrible mess we’re in right now will be fixed with one election is laughable. Except it’s not, because thousands of people have died in the span of months and meanwhile, we’re still thinking about what we’re going to do for dinner.
This is a generations-long fix. You’re no longer doing this for yourselves. You’re doing it for your generation’s kids and for their kids. We can’t fix this with one election. We can’t fix it with two. We can’t fix it with more than that. Elections can only do so much when the system in which they’re held is corrupt. And even if the system weren’t corrupt, elections should never be the ONLY thing you do. Democratic governments and institutions require constant vigilance and constant engagement, at all levels, and they require work to ensure that everyone truly can access them and can benefit from them.
So when you find a way to vote, think about how hard it is to do that for so many other people in this country, and think about what more you can do to start fixing that, and to start fixing all the other things wrong, and to start creating a country that doesn’t predicate its national identity on myths. Start thinking in terms of generations, as Samarajiva says, because that’s how long recovery will take.
It’s not just about you.
It never was.