The American Collapse (of Civil Society (non-governmental institutions))

I’ve been thinking about starting such a thread for a while now, about the collapse of civil society in America separate from typical Democrat/Republican politics and Trump. Trump being a symptom, not a cause, etc.

Part of this was me realising that I don’t have any emotional reaction to mass shootings in America any more. I think I mentioned this in the gun control thread. News of 12 school shootings in 22 days so far this year? I didn’t even think twice about it, let alone get upset about it. And I noticed nobody else had mentioned it in this forum.

Also it got to the point where I could no longer watch the John Oliver show with Juliane, as it became to stressful. All we were doing was pausing every minute or so to exclaim “How the hell can Americans be okay with treating each other so badly? And letting others treat others so badly?”

A lot of my thoughts have been expressed far better than I could do in this article:

Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse - The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State

So my last pathology is a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.

It’s worth checking out.


Well, we are a nation that “compromised” on the continuance of racial chattel slavery at the very founding of our new government. Our entire political system was based on maintaining that delicate “compromise.”

We have an in-built mechanism to ensure that an abhorrent minority opinion can hold undue and far-reaching influence on the government as a whole, and it’s been exploited for generations.


The foundational belief in American society is that you control your own fate. Looked at through this lens, a lot of American bullshit (like not really “getting” racism, generational inequality, etc) makes sense. “It can’t be RACISM because you can just OVERCOME that by being GOOD”, thinks the stereotypical American.

That we’re seeing a geunine decay and rejection of this idea is probably one of the bigger wedges between this generation and the last in America; possibly bigger than the Tech Gap.

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You have a house that seems pretty good. Everything seems great. Then one day you go in the basement and see termites eating the foundation! Oh god!

But those termites aren’t new. They’ve been there since the beginning. We only think things have gotten worse because now the truth has been revealed. It’s actually been this bad all along. Even as bad as things are, the US is somehow actually STILL better than it has been for most of its history! It’s still really shitty, but really shitty is better than godawful.

Now that about half of us can see what the fuck is going on, and want to fix it, we have to battle with the other half that out of ignorance, evil, etc. want the termites to win.

TL;DR: There is no American collapse. The broken foundation of 200+ years is now clearly visible and being perceived mostly correctly


And most of the half who can’t see it properly is because they’re old and blind, and are thankfully starting to die off. I think we are going to get better one funeral at a time.

Dark, but likely true.

Like Scott, I’m not convinced this is a “collapse” in the sense of novel degradation of societal structures.

Rather, I think this divide has always been here, and in “polite” American society, we don’t talk about it. The Internet has shown this to us, and now we can’t ignore how fundamentally fucked up we are.

America has never had to confront its misdeeds, because we’ve coasted on the memory of ancient success. American exceptionalism is an idea from 100 years ago, but talk to some people and you’d think we were still fighting Nazis today.

We escaped world wars with our country largely intact. We powered through. We never had to rebuild ourselves in a new global world, so we never had to figure out a new way of doing things. We keep pushing this ancient vision of America out there - but it’s old hat in a changing world.

Our only effort at rebuilding was a failure - the Reconstruction era just allowed the prejudices that precipitated the Civil War to take root and flourish. We are literally combatting a 150 year old ideology that has never been challenged meaningfully, and it’s baked into our political process.

I sincerely believe that we need actual domestic warfare and destruction before we will change.

Slavery has shaped every aspect of our society from the foundation up, in ways we never learn or think about. It has affected America’s attitude toward most issues.

The idyllic part of me wishes that the full history/repercussions of slavery was taught as its own class in schools, as well as classes on the importance of empathy.

Prosperity has spent 100 years making it easy to ignore our fundamental failures.


The analogy is good, but your conclusion is that a house with rotten or broken foundations can’t or won’t collapse. I can’t help but think this isn’t true. A strong wind, a flood, an earthquake? One might come along and do the house way more damage if the foundation collapses.

I have a bad feeling that Trump might be one sign of a disaster that will cause the foundation to break.

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I don’t think the concept of it being a collapse is incompatible with the observation that these problems have been a fundamental part of this nation since its founding. The foundation of the house has been rotting for 300 years, but I think that pressure of the world has served as something of a check and pressure to occasionally toss a fogger into the basement to at least make the problem less visible.

But then we reached “The end of History” and any considerations of self-control started to seem quaint. “Why do we have to consider anything like guides or limits? The system’s never crashed, and it conquered the world!” I don’t know how much the threat (promise) of communism made the American system check some of its worst impulses, but I think it’s been a part of motives in the middle of the 20th century.

The system’s always been rotting, but the crazy in ways is getting worse. The number of school shootings. Fuck, I remember when my HS would have lock-downs after Columbine. And now, I only realized how many there had been because it was in passing. It’s not even a major story anymore.

When an awful things that is hidden becomes visible it can cause negative feelings. In reality, it should bring positive feelings because making horrible things visible is the first step to actually fixing it. But those negative emotions contribute to a general “sky is falling” mentality.

If someone has had cancer for a year, but didn’t realize it, they’ve been collapsing for a year! But they don’t start worrying and feeling doom and gloom until they find out. The US is a country who has always had cancer and is just beginning to find out.

I’m not saying it can’t collapse. I’m saying that it isn’t collapsing any more now than it has been.


I’m not so confident about that. There seems to be a significant proportion of the younger population that also can’t see it properly or who actively embrace it.


I think that might be the magnification of the internet megaphone, or at least I like to hope it is.

I was listening to Dan Carlin on his podcast Common Sense a while ago and he mentioned that he said, in his youth, that all they, his generation, has to do is wait for the last generation to die off and then we’ll be free of all this bigotry and racism that has soaked into america.

They have died off and yet here we are, it’s still as strong as ever.

Why should our situation now be that much different than their generation’s?

I’ve been reading a big of Chomsky recently, and Catch-22 as well. I mention this because they both may have colored my thinking in this topic.

But I think that the systems inherent in this country will continue to allow and spread all the things that are wrong, at least what the general consensus here feels is wrong, with our culture. It is a machine, an amoral machine that will grind us down until either we buckle and die or we dismantle it with sledgehammers.

I am increasingly filled with the thought that this republic can not be saved. It must be razed to the ground and a new one built upon it’s ashes.

Not that I want to be the one to foment revolution. I just can’t really see it working any other way.


If polite society was aggressively intolerant of untruths in any form, we’d be in a much safer position.

That seems almost a contradiction in terms. The problem is that society is being too polite in accommodating people’s untruths, to the point where we have fucking Nazis marching in this country again. Things getting better is not a given just because of the passage of time. The loss of hard-edges racism to softer aggressions just allowed the openly racist to regroup.

How do we walk back from this place?

Ban white people from voting for 20 years.

I’d vote for this if it were an option.