The decline of the American Empire will be hard for some of us, but I for one welcome our new Chinese overlords. And the opportunity to brush up on my Mandarin.
A long time ago, I managed a Chinese restaurant for a couple of years, and found myself quickly adopted as a sort of Honorary Asian. I have to say, I honestly feel much more at ease with a lot of the cultural vibe of Chinese people than that of most American people. I won’t bore you with all the reasons why; but this will certainly come in handy in the impending econopocalypse. Someone observed back in the late 90′s that if China kept buying US treasury bonds at the rate they were, they’d own them all by 2018. But as a result of our self-destruction as a country over the last fifteen years or so, this has become kind of a moot point. China is now routinely discussed as a possible replacement for America as the world’s next superpower. The US dollar as the global standard for currency exchange is no longer a de facto assumption, and the trade balance between the US and China is… well…let’s just say that if the two countries were Facebook friends, their status would say they’re “In a relationship, but it’s complicated”. But I’m not here to get granular about the specifics of China and the US in relation to global finance, I’m here to help ease you into the future, by pointing out in broad strokes the things that have made it more or less inevitable that soon we’ll all be celebrating the New Year in February, buying our groceries with Yuan, and speaking Mandarin. At least the smarter of us will be speaking Mandarin, anyway. You’re much more likely to end up in management that way. So if you need to bone up and take things beyond the “ni hao” and “xie xie” stage, they say Fluenz Mandarin language software is the latest and greatest. But it’s also almost 400 bucks (about 2500 Yuan), so you might want to check out the trusty old Rosetta Stone, at a mere 150 bucks (or 950 Yuan). Anyway, below are the things we did to ourselves, and the reasons you may just want to sign up for that Mandarin class NOW.
This is the one that’s probably going to kill us all, so let’s tackle this first. Money is probably the closest thing we have to a “commons” these days, and we all know about the Tragedy of the Commons. You see, back in Ye Olden Days, if Ug needed some fire for his cave, he might go over to Grok’s place and trade him a few dead possum for a lit torch, or a shiny rock for his girlfriend. This later became a little more civilized, and their descendants Jeb (who didn’t know how to milk cows) and Josh (who didn’t know how to forge a plow) would do similar trades, and sort of knew that they both needed the actual ground that they walked on and the water that flowed through it, or they’d die.
Later, some smartypants convinced everybody they needed a boss, and commenced to governing them. Not long after that, an even smartypantsier guy came up with the idea that dragging sheep over to Jeb’s place every time you needed a bunch of the nice sweaters his wife made was kind of silly, and suggested that everyone agree that they could use pretty metal coins as the means of exchange in place of the actual objects. Of course, everyone wanted pretty metal coins, and once you had a bunch, you needed a safe place for them, and VOILA! Banking was born. This guy was even cleverer than that though. He pointed out that since pretty metal coins were heavy, and since he was keeping them all safe in one place for you, it wasn’t much of a stretch to issue little pieces of paper to represent the coins.
We all know where this leads. Pretty soon, the Banker guy is creating all sorts of imaginary money just by signing sheets of paper and saying “ABRACADABRA” or “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”. The most modern form of this sleight-of-hand-slash-pigeon-drop is known as “Financial Services”. The “service” provided is that when you give all your money to the banker, he’ll go spend it all to get himself deregulated by the government, so he can do all sorts of foolhardy gambling with it. He actually will make billions, even trillions of dollars, but he’ll do it with doomed Ponzi Schemes, and along the way he’ll tell you you’re not a good enough person to borrow any of it. Later, when the whole thing falls apart, he will have made so much money that you barely notice that he saves a few mil for himself as he rightfully insists that life as we know it will cease to exist if you and your offspring don’t bail him out. And with a bigger loan than you would have ever DREAMED of asking HIM for.
But before long, it won’t matter how many dollars changed hands. Because by that point we’ll actually be calling them Yuan. As I type this, the Chinese Yuan is worth about 0.1573 US Dollars, which makes the old Hawaiian rhyme “Ching chong Chinaman sittin’ on a fence/tryin’ to make a dollar outa fifteen cents” especially poignant for the moment. But soon, you won’t care how many dollars equal a Yuan, because the dollar will no longer be the global standard for currency exchange.
Lobbyists & Think Tanks
It’s pretty comical that the average person devotes any time at all to thinking about who they’re going to vote for and what the reasons are. Why think, when think tanks have done all the thinking for you? They’re much better at it than you are, and once they’ve decided on the best way to get you thinking about whatever they want you to think about in the way they want you to think about it, they’re going to get you thinking that way. That’s why you care more about gay marriage and abortion than the fact that the Supreme Court picked your president for you back in 2000 or that the country is umpty bajillion dollars in debt. Once they have YOU thinking the way they want, they turn things over to the lobbyists, who get the politicians thinking the way they want, basically by buying whatever legislation the think tanks wanted, just in case you don’t actually vote for it with all that democracy and freedom you’re so proud of. The upside under Chinese rule? There’s pretty much only one think tank, and it’s called the National People’s Congress. And it pretty much rubber-stamps all its decisions.
You can complain about Generation X or Millenials all you want, but it’s the Boomers that wrecked it all, just by being so damn plentiful. If you haven’t done the math yet, there will soon be about three times as many retirees trying to collect Social Security checks as there are younger working people paying into the system. This makes it inevitable that the biggest Ponzi Scheme in history will collapse; there was already a $46 billion deficit in 2011. Politicians have known this for decades, but if they had bothered pointing it out, they wouldn’t have been able to gouge your paychecks in the guise of paying into the system, when in fact the money was going to pay their salaries, pay for wars, or whatever else needed cash injections. That’s why GOP think tanks started calling it your independent retirement plan back in the 2000 election cycle. If they let you think about “Social Security”, you’d get all pissed, but by putting the onus on YOU, we now have the bizarre result that the average working stiff is against receiving their own benefits, contemptuously calling them “entitlements”. This is all less of a concern under Chinese rule, since EVERYBODY gets all the benefits they want, because NOBODY REALLY HAS MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Religion & State
Want more church in your schools, and more God in your government? Try moving to Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Medieval Europe. Those are examples of what life is like when you get all religiousy in politics, and the separation of the two was one of the most intelligent things about America’s founding documents. On the bright side, since Chinese rule has a few decades of being atheistic, the worst they’re likely to lay on you is some Buddhist or Confucianist thinking, which doesn’t have many specific rules about dancing and gay marriage, last time we checked.
Duocracies and Duopolies
Do you like Coke, or Pepsi? Verizon, or AT&T? Democrats, or Republicans? The polarized, black and white, red vs. blue, “for us or ag’in’ us” thinking that has overtaken the American dialog and paralyzed our government and made all consumer choices between “Shitty Thing A” and “Shitty Thing B” will no longer be a concern once we’re all speaking Mandarin and making electronic components for foreign countries. This will also be a blessing at the supermarket, since we’ll no longer have thirty-seven toothpastes to agonize over.
Do you remember how weird it was when they announced the new “Department of Homeland Security” shortly after 9/11? No, I didn’t think so. I’ve always been astounded by how few people picked up on the Hitler-and-Stalin era vibe of the moniker. In my opinion, Bush may as well have donned a little moustache, gone on the air and said “Vee haff cree-ayeted ay noo dee-partment to PROTECT ZEE BELOVED HOMELAND!” while straddling a V-2 on Pennsylvania Avenue. Well, now that we’ve had the TSA anally probing us for ten years, and AT&T has eternal license to tap all our phones and web connections, we should feel right at home under the oppressive watch of our new overlords.
Manufacturing & Trade
All you so-called “patriots” that have been belly-aching about how we sent all the jobs overseas to slave labor cities can finally shut your yaps, because all that manufacturing will come back home under Chinese rule, except WE’LL be the ones with the bleeding fingers, making iPhones for twenty cents a day, and living on rice gruel.
Prison & Education System
It’s pretty impressive the way America shifted all the money away from education and into the prison systems without anybody noticing. And pretty handy too, if you’re planning a new totalitarian state.
Health Care & Energy
These are two things about America that probably astound the world. The former, because although we basically created the whole idea of modern health care, pretty much no-one here has any, and the latter because we not only created the machines that made us addicts to the oil that runs them, we have the natural resources and ingenuity to fix the problem, but rather than collecting energy from the sun to power things, we use coal to generate the electricity to run our air conditioners to protect us from the heat the sun beats down on us 365 days a year.
Branches of Government
We could prattle on here about how the brilliant balance of government put in place by our forefathers is just a big shitshow once the president routinely invokes executive privileges, congress holds someone in contempt weekly, and the Supreme court is an active partisan wing of government that shapes elections, but that would be boring. Besides, this will be yet another benefit of the single party system that will guide our lives once we start paying our rent in Yuan.
Jeff Daniels probably put it all pretty well in this clip from The Newsroom:
Ironically, he later said they weren’t trying to make a big statement, they were just trying to create a good show.
Media Control & Citizens United
Remember back in The Before Time when we’d laugh at Russia’s TASS news agency and the way they would print the most seemingly absurd things, like “Russians First on Moon“? Well, today we’re Russia. And TASS is FOX, or CNN, or MSNBC. Don’t kid yourself that Fox has cornered the market on propaganda as journalism. Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher are just as full of crap and useless to you as Bill O’Reilly. Sadly, if you want accuracy in reporting, you have to turn to Comedy Central. Everybody in the world knows this except us, because they’ve been dealing with political control of media for decades, if not centuries.
Combine the narrow control of a few media conglomerates with legislation like Citizens United, which gives corporations the same rights to free speech as humans (except that most humans can’t afford to spend a billion dollars on TV time to promote their preferred candidate) and you essentially have elections that are sold to the highest bidder. And the highest bidder doesn’t give a rat’s ass about whether or not your kid gets an education.