“Panic on the streets of London. Panic on the streets of Birmingham.” The opening lines to my favorite Smiths song now describe a real-life crisis. Some legitimate gripes about a police shooting in Tottenham quickly gave way to opportunistic hooliganism. I doubt that most of these mobs burning, robbing, raping, and murdering care about social justice. But then again, I wonder how many of those people would remain law abiding if the global economy wasn’t in the toilet. If there wasn’t massive global unemployment and civil unrest. If governmental debt levels weren’t impossible to control or predict. If you already feel hopeless and it seems like a total collapse is just around the corner, maybe you would smash a window, enjoy your new 52” HDTV, and have a party before Big Brother turns the lights out for good.
(Yes, I just kicked off this post with moralistic waffling. God, I hate myself.)
You’ll have to excuse my distress. I always thought London was the bastion of civility. Well, the thin veneer on their social contract just cracked irreparably. The underwhelming governmental response did nothing to restore anyone’s confidence. David Cameron and the London mayor were both conspicuously absent. There were more police standing watch for William & Kate’s wedding than there were strapping on Kevlar, toting Captain America shields, and swinging Billy clubs at miscreants. How does one protect themselves and their family, since England is a supposedly gun-free nation? Well, aluminum baseball bat sales on the UK version of amazon.com shot up 50,000%. I hope they paid a few extra pence for overnight shipping. In the meantime, a cricket bat, which will drop a zombie with great efficiency, has questionable bludgeoning power against thugs tweaking on crank and bloodlust. Just like Shaun, follow through with your swing and hope for the best.
Mercifully, the Limeys’ nihilistic orgy is cooling off. But I’m still worried. If all hell can break loose in London, when will it happen across the pond? Note I said the word when, not if. Because I have a sinking feeling that we’re a heartbeat away from similar outbreaks over here. Everyone remembers the horror in New Orleans after Katrina. But I don’t know how many people knew about the wave of panic in Baton Rouge shortly thereafter. I saw people pulling up to gas stations, filling up 55 gallon drums full of gas for their generators, and driving off without paying. After that happened a few times, the stations’ proprietors switched over to pre-pay cash only transactions, and they occasionally enforced it by gunpoint. Non-perishables were gone from grocery store shelves in a matter of minutes. People got very pissy (myself included) because an extra 100,000 inhabitants overnight meant you couldn’t get a cell signal, you stewed in traffic for hours, you couldn’t find much to eat, and it was #$%@ing August. In retrospect, I’m amazed that the crap didn’t hit the fan even more drastically. Then again, times were good before the storm hit.
But that’s not the case anymore. If things don’t improve soon, we’re likely enter an era of forced austerity, meaning you will have no choice but to fend for yourself. Take a look at Detroit, which already has massive unemployment and several decades of urban decay. They recently implemented rolling electrical blackouts during a #$%@ing heat wave…. and they were largely confined to the poorest neighborhoods. I’m surprised there wasn’t a massive uprising by the affected locals. Then again, maybe they’re like frogs that are stuck in a slowly boiling pot. Maybe they don’t even know they’re getting screwed anymore.
But what about the rest of us? Congress gave the bankers a trillion dollars a couple of years ago. How well did that work out for you? It’s possible that you may not be able to get another loan in your lifetime. You probably won’t be able to get unemployment insurance soon, which is a frightening thought. We’re approaching 10% unemployment. What if that jumps to 15 or 20% and the government’s relief coffers run bone dry?
And unless you have arable land, the day may come when you may have no option but to buy the $10 dollar loaf of bread. But how will you be able to do that when you get laid off and have to settle for a job that will almost assuredly be sketchy, erratic and low-paying?
And what if we’re afflicted with hyperinflation on par with the dying days of the Confederacy? Most people would rather crack some skulls than haul wheelbarrows of worthless currency to the grocery store. Or strippers might unionize and/or form a militia when the $1 tip becomes utterly worthless. Either that or they’ll start wearing gigantic bloomers onstage to store their fistfuls of gratuities. Lest modesty cripple our nudie dancing trade, let’s whip inflation now, America!
So it’s scary out there. And if God decides to mix any of these problems with another catastrophic natural disaster, technological hiccup, or a “wabbit season or duck season” debate gone awry, things could get out of control really quick. At least that’s my perspective. Most people inherently suck, and they’re even nastier when they’re inconvenienced. Our disaster relief agencies were slow and lumbering when times were good. I shudder to think how they efficient they are now that our country is broke. So if we’re handed a new crisis…..well, good luck.
And if the Dow keeps tanking, I’m going to pull out all of my money, go to the horse track, and bet everything on the horse that takes the biggest dump before they line up at the gate. My odds of success with that strategy are better than relying on the panicky sorcerers on Wall St. And I really wish I had bought/stole/hoarded a few pounds of gold about six years ago. I have a sinking feeling that bullion, booze, and bullets will be our standard currency in a few years.
Yes, I know I sound like a paranoid tinfoil hatter right now. Deal with it. Enjoy these ramblings until a gigantic EMP turns all of our laptops into doorstops.