The Kubler-Ross Model: Denial, Acceptance and Renewal in America(guest essay) (dateJanuary 25, 2011
Today we offer a guest essay by correspondent Eric A. which applies the Kubler-Ross model to America's current state of denial and wishful thinking.
Reading Charles Hugh Smith’s “Cry in the Wilderness” for Individual Solutions ( As Public Policy Fixes Are Impossible, Focus on Individual Solutions) to our present crisis, I’m struck by the Kubler-Ross model. You know the one:
Is there anybody out there who doesn’t know the financial system is broken? That home prices need to fall at least 30%--if not 50%--more? That Social Security is already in deficit? That they won’t be retiring in the manner in which they’ve desired?
And the solutions, Oh, the solutions!
More of everything we’ve done that got us here. Is there anyone who doesn’t know you can’t solve a debt-and-spending problem with debt-and-spending?
So why is it still going on?
This is the wonder of Denial, of lying to ourselves, or in the American parlance, of Bullshit. Bullshit is different from lying in that it isn’t technically untrue, but it’s effectively untrue. Second requirement is that it’s invariably selling something, getting you to do something for the bullshitter—power or money. Third is that everyone knows that it’s bullshit. They know it’s a lie, but they’re willing to be complicit in the lie anyway, for their own reasons. Like all Cons, Bullshit can never work without the complicit help of the so-called “victim.”
The only reason all these things can still go on is Denial.
I was at a Tea Party meeting (I know, I’ve already admitted it) where one of the participants asked, “Are you willing to give up Social Security?”
“What?” I asked stupidly.
“If you cut these taxes and reduce government, it’ll end Social Security. I want to know who here is willing to have their own check cut.”
I stared, staggered at the obviousness of this simple statement.
“Sir,” I stuttered, “It’s already gone. There IS no Social Security. You’d be lucky to get checks for even two more years.”
My words did not compute so I let it slide, turning to other subjects.
The unsustainable nature of the numbers surrounding Social Security and Medicaid have been obvious since the Baby Boom generation was done being born in 1966. The scam was fully apparent by at least the (non)re-structuring of withholdings with the Greenspan-Boskin Commission in 1983—and at least by 1984, as even the increased revenues were spent, with nothing saved.
It would be self-evident that it wouldn’t matter in any case, since an entire nation cannot buy special pixie dust through its whole life without driving the price up—not Stocks, not Bonds, not even gold—and then sell it through their whole retirement without driving the price of that asset back down to zero again. That is, you can’t all put $10 into a hat, and have everyone pull $20 back out. That’s what Social Security, 401k privatization, the Stock Market, Investors, all propose to do.
Since 1983, there have been commissions every few years, headlines in every major newspaper, including most recently G.W. Bush’s front-page quote,
“There Is No Trust Fund.”
I mean, exactly what kind of warning were you looking for? Do they have to come to your house and shake you by the ankles?
Moving into the new decade, we find ourselves with a $1,600,000 Million deficit --per year--and the now-common knowledge that Social Security doesn’t exist—it’s just a budget item that is paid like any other: through borrowing. Borrowing on top of that $1.6 Trillion. Per Year.
And you STILL think that you have something to lose? That there’s the slightest chance Social Security will be paid?
…And I’m not following the arcana of the way governments reliably o ver-promise and default in history from Weimar to France, the close examples of Russia in 1997 and Argentina in 2001, that in 1776 Adam Smith had already declared “No government ever pays off their debts,” or any of the other second-level study that is easily found.
Now that’s denial.
So what’s my point with this?
Would you rather, as with NJ Governor Christie, be told that there is no money in the known universe to pay what is owed in pensions, on bonds, in stocks, or in real goods, and thereby be able to adjust your life accordingly? Or would you rather, like GM Union workers and Enron employees, wake up one day and find that you have no pension whatsoever, but since you didn’t expect it, lose both house and pension at 70 because hadn’t saved on your own either?
Here’s some help: one way you’ll have a retirement, however modest, and the other way you’ll be eating dog food under a bridge in East L.A. That’s what lying does. Lying to others or yourself. That’s why there is a thing called “morality,” and that’s why it’s wrong.
But this is the bullshit we still tell ourselves, 5, 10, 30 years after the truth is obvious, and this the bullshit they’ll continue to sell you—with your own stolen money—until you stop buying it.
Which leads me to Part Two.
What comes after Denial?
That’s right, Anger, and this country will rip itself apart with recriminations and blame. Blame the Left, Blame the Right; Blame the rich, Blame the poor; blame the insiders, blame the outsiders; blame the government, blame the anti-government; blame the old people who set it up, blame the young who won’t pay for it. Blame, acrimony, anger…and violence. In these still-rosy times perhaps you might have seen what I’m talking about.
Who’s really to blame? Well, people who broke the law—especially that highest law, the Constitution—need to be tried and punished, and in keeping with that law, with real charges, real evidence and by a jury of their peers. There’s plenty of room for that. But what does that do? They only committed the crimes we allowed them to with our own sloth and indifference, with the same immorality we’ve let spring up in ourselves.
We’re to blame. And being responsible, now we’re the ones who are about to take the inevitable consequences of our own immoral and irresponsible actions. There don’t need to be any trials for us: our punishment is already certain. But in the midst of that Anger and Blame, history says there will be wrenching in-fighting between groups, violence, and often even insurrections and war.
What’s next on history’s Kubler-Ross model?
This is what we could have done in the first place, if we hadn’t been so dedicated to what Basiat called, “The Fiction of the State”, that august body “through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
How could each of us live at the expense of everybody else? Who are “we” going to get it from?
Here’s a newsflash: Guess where wealth comes from?
A: We make it.
It doesn't come from Government. It doesn't come from “money,” or a magic fairy called “the economy.” All wealth comes from our own hard work, with each of us working to our abilities, cooperating, using the resources we have.
So if we do that, how are we going to get richer or poorer than what we ourselves do? Get money right out of your head: money is nothing but recording system for reality, not reality itself. Creating money is useless. If you want a hammer, you need to make a hammer. Money does not make a hammer: a hammer factory does. Likewise, if you want a retirement, then you need to build a real condo, train a real nurse, clear a real field, hatch a real chicken for a real dinner, and don’t expect anybody else to do it if you won’t. We can’t do anything that we ourselves don’t do. We can’t have anything we ourselves don’t make. QED. Adding money makes no difference at all. Billions, Trillions, Quadrillions in bailouts--doesn’t matter.
So what is Bargaining? It’s where people are so tired of the uselessness of fighting each other, ordering each other around, making each other pay for each other’s mistakes that we stop wasting our time on this useless activity. This is the first lesson of slavery, of tyranny, and why they fail: it's actually easier to DO the work than to force someone else to do it.
We start saying to ourselves: “We have X in resources, and Y in needs. How do we get substance X to person Y in a fair and efficient way?” We used to use the old ways but the old ways didn’t work anymore. We say, “How much are you contributing to the overall good, the overall wealth, happiness, and security of everyone, and therefore what is fair to receive out of the overall wealth we have?”
We used to use the monetary system to allocate this, but the monetary system was kidnapped, taken out back, and shot. We can make a new one—in the worst of Weimar’s inflation it took only a week—but we will still face the choice to either have a fair one, or an unfair one. The fair one people will work with and prosper. The unfair one people will reject and will collapse into poverty for as long as it takes. 70 years in the case of the USSR, 1,500 years in the case of Feudalism. It doesn't have to end.
The only way the system works, the only way wealth is created is one way: through free, voluntary cooperation. Fighting only makes us poorer every minute we indulge in it.
Guess what also happens with “Bargaining?” We do a real accounting of our real assets, NOT according to the ginned-up, mark-to-fantasy authorized by the now-irrelevant FASB. We are weighed, measured, and we come up wanting. We discover we are as poor as we actually are.
Everybody knows this, of course. We’ve been lying to ourselves for decades. We no longer have manufacturing, no longer head R&D, are decades behind in energy, no longer have businesses, no longer place in education, in work, we no longer have a middle class, we don't even make our own shoes. We’re a gutted shell, financially, economically, morally, socially, intellectually, militarily. We’re a 3rd world nation, on par with Brazil. Why do we lie to ourselves about this? Why do we write pretty numbers in a pretty book that pretends we have real money we can cash in and spend? Is it so bad to have to do real work to create real things in the real world honest men can be proud of themselves for? We used to. For 100 years, from 1789 to 1914 we did. And now?
...The realization that we’re poor, we wasted it all, and have nothing before us but hard work leads to Kubler-Ross #4: Depression.
We are already IN an economic Depression, and we have been since 2001. According to no less a source than Alan Greenspan, ALL the “prosperity” since 2001 was nothing more than debt; home-equity withdrawals that must be repaid. I mean, a 1% growth rate?
All the prosperity was debt, which must be repaid with interest, or else defaulted on in bankruptcy--a bankruptcy that will ruin BOTH the borrower AND the lender. They are a single item on the Asset-Liability ledger book and must live and die as one. You cannot bail out the lender without the borrower, and vice-versa. There is no solution except either total slavery or near-total repudiation of debt.
And when we go bankrupt, no one will lend to us anymore; we will have to live within our means. But wait—you’re saying we will a) not have a ruined economy struggling for decades to re-pay what cannot be paid? We’ll just be free with a new un-indebted economy overnight? And that b) that we won’t be able to borrow, thus fixing the national debt, budget deficit, and insider payoffs all in one fell stroke? And we get PAID to do this? Tell me again why we shouldn’t go bankrupt as fast as possible? What are lenders going to do, repossess and occupy the whole country?
History reliably says if you want to survive, you should default as soon as possible.
…So we admit we are poor as we already are, that we have nothing but our own hard work, and that this will continue for decades. But as the initial shock wears off, we find something interesting: It was always that way. Even in the past, we never got anything we didn’t work for, all that paper, all that supposed wealth, was only us lying to ourselves. For what do you lose when you stop lying to yourself? Only our illusions. We give up something we never had anyway, and with it, our chains. And as we work we get wealthier, happier, safer as our real savings: food, shelter, ability--not money—stabilize and we discover “This working for a living isn’t so bad. Why were we afraid of a little truth, a little change?”
This leads to Kubler-Ross #5: Acceptance
That’s self-explanatory. However, some of you long-wave people may recognize this process by another name: The Kondratieff Cycle:
We started this trip with Winter, the down slope of the 70-year human cycle recently popularized by historians Strauss and Howe as “The 4th Turning”. After the decline into winter—usually punctuated with war, and twice in our history with Civil War—the seasons turn to Spring: hard work, caution, and thrift. Then Summer, the blossoming times of ease and exploration. …Which leads to Autumn, with complacency, abuse, corruption, self-deception, and overreach.
And it all happens again, showing that “the one thing we learn from history is that nobody learns anything from history.” --Hegel
Other than being an interesting walk through financial and social history, what’s the point here?
Easy. The old world as you knew it is gone. Poof. Zip. Nada. Gone. All those promises that were made? It doesn’t matter what they were because there is not enough real substance on the entire planet to deliver on them. You were lied to, you lied to yourself, and you’re going to get nothing. Nothing but what you do for yourself right now.
So what are you—what are WE—going to do about it? Yell and march and blame and shoot each other? Let the liars, con men, and bullshitters walk away free and wealthy men from the scam that bankrupted a nation, a world? Are we going to agitate, recriminate, and get ours first?
This is the “Who are you” test. These are “the times that try men’s souls.” --Paine What’s in your soul? Who are you, America? Because, as a shadow that passeth away, so this old way passes despite every attempt to stop it. You have this one chance in 70 years to make this nation into the America you’d like it to be.
Do we want a thin and false prosperity by war, theft, the wealth of lies? Or do we care more about justice, fair and moral behavior, and the responsibility of hard work?
Next question: if you believe in hard work and Justice, are you going to make the OTHER guy work, the OTHER guy pay, or will the work start with you, and the morality, the truth start with you?
Your choice America.
For me, I know there’s nothing. I’ve paid into the entire system all my life and will get nothing out of it, ever. I never expected to. However, I want the privilege—in fact, the inalienable right—to keep my own property, my own hard work, and use it or waste it as I think best. That means I have to work for it, to do something truly useful in life, and not take it from somebody else who does work, not sit in a cube farm and shuffle meaningless chits for goods that don’t exist.
Look around you, America. Everything needs to be done. The barns are falling down: the cities, the schools, the houses. The railways have been pulled up, the factories and mills are closed, the silos knocked over, the fields paved, the ports silted in and ruined. The children have run away; your poor and the old are abandoned. Who did this to you?
You did it to yourself, and if you want a nation that functions, one that can feed and clothe you, one that has decency and prosperity and goodness, you’re going to have to go make one. That means grabbing the shovel that’s closest to you and starting there. That means if you see a need, some failure, some ugliness, you are the only one who’s going to change it into beauty and success. That means helping, sharing, teaching useful skills to everyone who’s willing to do the least work—for we must each do all we can. That means displacing the corrupt everywhere they’re found, everywhere they’re protecting each other, methodically, legally, one by one, starting in every Town, State, and National body, in corporations, public groups, government hall, and in your living room.
And they won’t go easily, they won’t want audits, investigations, or prosecutions for fraud, theft, and public abuses, but that’s what happens when you let them in, and there is now no other way to keep your country.
If not, well, maybe a just, moral, and functional country is not for you. Then maybe we’ll get the nation we deserve, the one we created for ourselves: one filled with surveillance, snitches, orders and rules as may suit a nation of slaves and prisoners.
That may seem too big a task, but it’s only doing our jobs as adult men and women. To work for ourselves, to organize ourselves, to regulate ourselves, and not ask anyone else to do it for us. For who would that somebody be? Napoleon? Caesar? There IS no one else. That’s what “Republic” means. And as there’s only us, there’s no reason to look to anyone else, or give our attention, our power, our money to anybody else. Government can’t save us; government IS us. We can't all put $10 in a hat, pull out $20, and give government their cut to boot. Simply use your $10 on the task you find most worthy.
This is how the world is going to change: it’s going to be under your control and become what YOU make it. Nobody anywhere else is going to save you. Right now the much-vaunted all-powerful government can barely hold off it’s own collapse: it's not going to save you.
You’re on your own.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s what we have planned at my house:
The Maid d’Orleans* Mutual Aid Society will be meeting January 27th and every 4th Thursday thereafter at Elsewhere Café, in the near-ruins of once-majestic Victorian downtown of Albion, NY. We will be giving presentations on the things one needs to know to work in life: growing and preserving food, cooking cheaply and well, and the tools and techniques that make living well easy, possible, and most importantly, enjoyable. That is, how to do all the things you need do after you discover that no one’s coming to save you.
As a poor starving man once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Is anyone out there ready to work?
Email maiddorleans ( at ) g mail ( dot ) com
*The “Maid of Orleans” is of course Joan of Arc, a young farm girl who, merely by standing up, forever changed the course of human history.
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