Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Machine has been grinding to a halt for a while now.

  In 1902,  Forster wrote his little book , The Machine Stops.  People usually think of H.G. Wells when they consider authors who accurately foretold the future very early on.
  E.M. Forster certainly was prescient when he wrote his tale of the future.  The inhabitants of his future world live in automated bliss. Everything they need is provided for them by machines, and because they have no need to leave their comfortable quarters, most don't.  There are few original thoughts or ideas, because everything has already been thought of . People amuse themselves by doing little projects on art or literature and sharing them over an interconnecting communication system, but no one really has any original thought.
   The means for travel still exist, but people don't go anywhere so the huge airships glide back and forth between their ports, empty. Visiting the surface of the earth from the communities underground is considered atavistic and can land you in deep trouble with the community.
Slowly but surely, a great change is taking place in this secure world. The Machine, the device which regulates all and provides all, is breaking down. No one knows how to repair it, or even seems to give the possibility any thought because the break down is so slow that at first, it simply seems inconvenient. By the time the inhabitants realize how far advanced the deterioration is, it's too late to do anything about it even if they had the skills or initiative.

I have a reason for thinking about this book today.   On Friday, 6 September I sent a package of documents to my tax accountant in the city.  It had taken me some time to acquire them, since not all brokerages will let you get financial information by down loading it. A lot of that kind of thing has to be ordered and then you wait for the mail to bring it.  I sent the package priority mail, with a guarenteed delivery date of  Monday, 9 September.  It reached the sort facility of the U.S. Post Office on the 7th.  And there it sat , untouched, until the 12th of September. At that point, they declared it undeliverable as addressed, and it sat in the post office until the 16th. On the 16th they magically discovered that the address was correct, and delivered it. Over a week late, but they delivered it.

There was a time when the Post Office here was a byword for reliability.  "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet..." Remember that ?  But the machine is broken and it's grinding to a halt.  This instance is only a pin prick, until you look at what else is going on.  The water in most major cities (and some small towns) is dangerous to drink.  We routinely have outbreaks of deadly diseases like Escherichia coli and Salmonella in our food supply.  The transportation system in the country is in appalling condition. Anyone who hasn't seen The Crumbling of America, a two hour History  Channel program, should take a look at that.

Care for the mentally ill is virtually non-existent now.  My state simply closed the state funded facilities for those people a few years back. The governor of the time touted the savings but pumping mentally ill people into the streets to become homeless vagrants or murderous Morlocks seems a poor way to save to me.

Since 2007, vast numbers of middle class people have lost their jobs, and shortly thereafter, their homes. If you take a look at the actual numbers, even when they've been toned down for propaganda purposes by the government, the swath cut through middle class families is staggering.

Full time jobs for people in their twenties and above seem to be a thing of the past unless you have someone with an "in" who can get you decent work.  For the rest of the population, now you have to try to scurry between two or more part time jobs to make enough for a cheap apartment.

I'll bet everyone who reads this could add some facet of our civilization that just isn't working correctly or at all anymore.  

Like the people in The Machine Stops  we can all see these things happening but no one quite knows what to do, how to fix it.  So no one will do anything and it won't get fixed.   I tease other folks about doom and gloom prognostications on their blogs, but it's hard not to feel a little apprehensive sometimes over the way things are working out. If you have kids, then it's worse because you absolutely know that the quality of life in their adult years will be far less than that you enjoyed at the same ages. Right now, you can help your kids, grown or not. You can keep up with how they are doing and try to help them with whatever problems they are having to work out. But what happens when you aren't around anymore, and leave them in this quagmire on their own?


  1. While it is a function of things breaking down in a general manner, it's in many ways a very specific function of things breaking down due to large scale utter corruption.

    Things don't get fixed because no one gets punished.

    Union bosses rape the businesses, commodities brokerages (like MF Global) rape their investors, politicians commit absolute treason, banks rape mortgage owners and account holders..... all of whom receive no punishment. No one ever gets put in jail ... or worse.

    And that's just the things we consider public.

    At the personal level, we as a country have swallowed this garbage about where some idiot gets on his his high horse, points his finger and yells "don't you judge me!" (often misquoting out of context, a passage in the book of Matthew) ... and now, as a country, we allow, we turn our eyes down to every perversion that has so far strode out of the closet. Many actually endorse it, sadly.

    We've allowed the perverts and communists to run into our schools and run God right out of it along with the FLAG and the Pledge, and once again some sit silent. Many even congratulate each other on their "enlightened sensibilities" ....

    then ...

    then they are utterly astounded when our children kill each other like what goes on in Chicago EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

    Yes the machine in broken. But all we need to do is look at the other conditions prevalent when it actually worked.

    Back when the rule of law was in force (for all) and criminals went to jail, back when the teachers read the Bible to us in class (yes it still happened in the south in the 70's) and God was allowed in school along with prayer, and perverts (at the very least) kept their habits in the closets, and the communist were still afraid of people like Joseph McCarthy (hey! think he might have been on to something, folks?) we had a country second to none. When we had this, the machine worked.

    Sorry for the rant.

    1. It's not a rant. It's the truth and it reflects the anger and frustration a lot of us feel. The problem is, since we can't go back to the past, are we doomed to this kind of future? Is it really beyond repair? There doesn't seem to be any leader who can deal with the system, it's too big. My brother recently told me the only institution of government he thinks could still save us is the military. But they'll never step in because it's too deeply ingrained that the political leadership rules the country. When I think about it, every time the Roman Emperors got completely out of control, it was the Roman Army that got rid of them and tried to install someone with some sense at the head of the empire. But even that didn't always work. Sometimes the Army chose a bad guy, and sometimes they had civil wars. I get mad about all this, but I just dread it for my kids. Some people get mad at me and send me ugly grams when I say I tried to get my kids out of this country and up to Canada some years back. But it isn't a patriotism thing. It's trying to find a decent place for your children to live their lives, where they can work and have a decent existence. Here, even if you can work, the government takes most of what you earn away. Nothing works like it's supposed to, any kind of disgusting thing can be pushed on the overall population if it pleases the left wing at the expense of the "fly over" states. It's depressing.

  2. I agree with Matt..... They created the storm, but then run screaming when it rains.. *sigh*

    1. If I could see an end to it I wouldn't be so bothered. But I swear, even though I know older people long for the good old days no matter how "not good" they were, I think things are getting worse and worse. Not just politically, but in every day life. My kids have to drink bottled water up in that city they live in because the water from the tap is full of nasty chemicals. The city government says "oh, there's not enough to hurt you" but I 'll bet they don't drink tap water either. It just goes on and on.

  3. How annoying about the post office. I have not run into that problem from them.

    1. Lisa, that's just a symptom of the overall problem. In the last month, I've had three major "fails" with government services, things that would have been very unlikely 30 years ago. One was the post office imbroglio, one was a huge pot hole I drove my truck into on the road, and another had to do with the Veterans Administration. Seems like even simple things just don't work anymore.

  4. I was kinda thinking along those lines some yesterday. I should do a post about it today to go along with yours. Not so much an overall why but symptom that keeps many from helping themselves. The government forbids it.

    1. I wish there was something to be done. The post office blew me off, they couldn't have cared less and had no intention of trying to find out what happened to my package. The county road department doesn't care if somebody winds up in the ditch upside down from hitting a huge pothole (they spent the paving money out at the lake of course, making sure the rich people who live out there don't have to deal with pot holes in their expensive lake houses), The Veterans Administration lost all my paperwork, oh, so sorry, just do it all again.

      It's pretty pointless to try to correct things. Nobody in government at any level suffers any negative effects from not doing their job, or being negligent, or incompetent so why should they change?

  5. What you describe (system breaking down) is made even scarier to me by the utter, abject helplessness of lots of people these days to do even the simplest of things. I run into this on a daily basis in my job. It would boggle your mind if you knew the ridiculous things that people expect the "government" (in this case, me) to come out and do for them.

    Its a self perpetuating cycle. The people get spoiled by the government doing too much, then the people come to expect it, then they loose more and more of the ability (and confidence) to do for themselves, and the government steps in and does more to fill the "need". At some point it has to come to a grinding halt and I feel very sorry for the people who are too dependent on others to make it on their own.

    1. That FEMA guy I talked to said exactly the same thing. He was an arrogant ass, but much of what he told me rung true. He said after Katrina a lot of people just sat on the porch like so many frogs, waiting for the government to come bring them food, and water, and clothing, and take them to a hotel, and on and on. He said they didn't lift a finger to help themselves.

      Somehow we've gotten around to this "entitlement" thing where nobody has to take care of their own behind if they don't want to. Because it's not their responsibility. I saw this thing on the news yesterday where these people in Florida saw a giant python attacking their husky. They ran in the house and the father, a grown man in good shape, called 911 and asked someone to come help. Of course the damned snake killed his dog. Why didn't he get his sorry self out there and kill the snake. The thing was wrapped around the dog and he could have killed it with a club if he didn't have a gun (which he didn't). Then people were saying "oh, we have little kids here. What are we going to do? What is the city going to do to fix this". The Sheriff said "all I can tell you to do is watch your little kids."