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

Europe and Canada reinvests 50% of its economy into bettering themselves socially. The USA? Just 15%.

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America struggles to figure out how to invest in itself while making sure that investment does not benefit the lower-class and non-white people. So, if prefers to do less to none as a result.

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It’s really right at the founding of the country that this started - our entire socio-economic system was conceived of by people who specifically wanted to escape a unified society, and so they set up petty kingdoms where they wouldn’t have to be beholden to anyone else.

We’ve spent our entire existence as a country violently defending the rights of feudal landlords with the aspirational idea that one day you could become that landlord.

So, I agree with the author when they question whether or not America was ever truly a society - we were never a unified anything, just a bunch of warring fiefdoms.

I tend to agree with Hunter Thompson that there was a brief time window where we almost had it, but we choked at the last minute, hide-bound to a legacy of reckless individualism at the expense of others, taking the short-sighted gambit to try to get ahead. And so the wave broke and rolled back, and instead we culturally embraced the notion of the individual as being the most important thing in society.

So now we see where that leads - division, rampant classism, and a profound cynicism about the value of people who aren’t us.

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There’s a great book about this that uses the example of public pools in the US:

“The American landscape was once graced with resplendent public swimming pools, some big enough to hold thousands of swimmers at a time,” writes Heather McGhee in her new book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” These pools were the pride of their communities, monuments to what public investment could do. But they were, in many places, whites-only. Then came the desegregation orders. The pools would need to be open to everyone. But these communities found a loophole. They could close them for everyone. Drain them. Fill them with concrete. Shutter their parks departments entirely. And so they did."

“Drained-pool politics are still with us today and shaping issues of far more consequence than pool access. Drained-pool politics — if “they” can also have it, then no one can — helps explain why America still doesn’t have a truly universal health care system, a child care system, a decent social safety net. McGhee, the former president of the think tank Demos, offers a devastating tour of American public policy, and she shows how drained-pool politics have led to less for everyone, not just their intended targets.”

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Between my house and the freeway exit there is a house that has had a flag hung on a pole on the porch for maybe a year or two that I’ve been meaning to look up what its significance is. Due to a local subreddit discussion I now know that it is a stupid ‘sovereign citizen’ flag and my reaction is “because of course it is, fucking hell”. I have no reason to have to interact with the occupants at that house, but now I will consider that stretch of road extra sketchy. I was worried the flag had some kind of conspiracy connotations but I was holding out hope it was some kind of Americana decoration, but it’s one of those things that I see it while driving by and wonder what it means and then forget about it 30 seconds later.

This flag:

The department of education tracks literacy:

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies ( PIAAC) is a cyclical, large-scale study of adult cognitive skills and life experiences developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and, in the United States, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Respondents get scored 1-5, higher is better. Here’s a sample of what a level 3 question is like:

The stimulus displays an exercise equipment chart. The respondent has to use the chart to determine which equipment received the largest number of “ineffective” ratings.

The median US adult is level 2:

That’s pretty disheartening. Doesn’t bode well for the country fixing things.

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I don’t have any evidence for this thought, and maybe I’m even thinking about it from the wrong direction, but I wonder beyond simply reading comprehension what the “idea” or “concept” comprehension level is for Americans - I assume it is not great and getting worse. Or listening comprehension might even be a more easily measured skill.

That level 3 question is actually sort of an “idea” or “concept” question. You have to look at the information and not just read it, but also possess some kind of basic understanding, and an ability to interpret. Very basic, but still something.

So I think the answer to the question is: it’s really bad. If people can’t correctly answer a question that requires such a basic level of synthesis, there’s no way they can process more complex or nuanced concepts.

We’re boned.

I will say that 16-65 is a bit of a huge demo to track this for and Boomers having a larger population share while being older will of course shift this negatively as they decline in their 50s and 60s in the time period shown.

That graph is on the page:

Oh good, so I am correct in my assessment that Boomers are real fuckin dumb.

I don’t know if this technically belongs here, it involves a government institution (the Supreme Court), but it’s impact would be felt in all aspects of society.

If the Supreme Court did carve out religious objections for same-sex people, we would be going back to a pre-Civl-Rights Era 1950s America where you could refuse service. It’s back to the grand 'ol days of Separate But Equal. /s

The thread title update was mostly to clarify to people with lower reading comprehension that “collapse of civil society” didn’t mean “democrats need to be more civil towards republicans”.

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Not sure where the best thread is for this. Mostly I just want to tell part of an ongoing story because I’m sure many people have dealt with or are experiencing similar situations to some degree.

I’ve got a couple of uncles on one side of the family who are very pro-Republican party ideals for many years and in the past 5-6 years have been increasingly vocal about how dumb and harmful they view Democratic politicians and ideas. I argued with them online or via mass-group emails that nobody who was receiving them asked for for a couple of years, but by 2018 I just started setting everything to ignore as it was very clear they were simply repeating Fox News talking points and didn’t actually have any rational reason behind their positions. I also decided I would avoid any family events they would be at. Fast forward to this weekend when there was a memorial service scheduled for my late grandmother on that side of the family, she had passed away in 2019 and due to her wishes and scheduling and then covid no formal services ever happened.

The event this weekend was planned to be small and brief to bury her ashes at the base of the tree where the same was done for my grandfather’s remains some years ago. I went to honor her memory and for my mom’s benefit but knew these two uncles would be there so I had made a plan to avoid them and leave quietly as soon as possible. As soon as the service concluded I was speaking with my brother and one of the uncles was making his way closer to me and I tried to move away surreptitiously. As soon as there was a break in the conversation he engaged me by asking “so, have you forgiven your old uncle yet?” I responded by asking if I should have done so and he actually acknowledged that he had been annoying to me and others with the way he would proclaim his strong political beliefs in the past and not knowing when to keep his mouth shut but that family is such an important thing and my grandmother would want us to remain close as a family. But then he just kept talking and talking about this new woman he was dating after his wife’s passing a couple of years ago and all the ways she was an accomplished woman and I just was standing there silently trying to figure out what to do about him. I give him credit for some self awareness and for being proactive, but I did not come to this service to hash out this issue with him or the other one and his apology was only scratching the surface of what the fundamental issues is - essentially that he sees his religious piety and care for his family as noble yet has no problem adopting and spouting the most racist and hateful rhetoric with unsupported conspiracy claims about Hispanics and especially Muslims, Democrats, and some vague New World Order control bullshit.

So no, simply acknowledging that the way he would bombard family and friends with forwarded emails warning against a coming storm of moral decay and collapse of western society is not enough for all to be forgiven at the asking. The last time I heard anything from him was before Q and January 6th and all that so I have no idea how deep down the rabbit hole he went or where he is at today, that would all have to be laid bare to even have a chance of reconciliation. He has always viewed himself as the family diplomat or facilitator-in-waiting for when the older generation would pass on or wise elder statesmen or some such, so no doubt he doesn’t want to waste any time or opportunity to demonstrate his family leadership bona fides at events like these.

Anyway, he stepped away to see if his new girlfriend was available so he could introduce us but I moved away as well to my car and left. I hate the whole situation but am glad that I mentally prepared so that I didn’t waste my breath doing something that would have been seen by most of the other attendees as disruptive, rude, and unjustified without considering the bigger picture and history. You would have to know this side of my family to understand the way they “don’t want to talk about politics” ever. I hate the notion that extended family should be something special without having earned the relationships, because there is no rationale for that default assumption in today’s world IMO. Yes, you knew me when I was a dumb baby and uninformed child, good for you treating an ignorant child kindly but now that I know who these people are I have negative desire to be associated with the older generation. Their kids are ok in most cases that I am aware of.

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Read this yesterday, its always darkly funny how they think that the technology/social structure for their disaster compound will somehow continue to function in any sort of long term disruption. Inevitably a component brakes and your backup store is eventually exhausted and/or the one doctor you have dies from a disease or accident or enough of the post-modern share cropper farmers you setup to support you want out and stop sending in their tithe.

You would literally need to become a a “stationary bandit” in the state formation sense exerting coercion on surrounding productive land and people at some point to extract rents (probably in agricultural taxation) to maintain the value hierarchy but as the article notes, the leader of the merc team protecting the compound is the person who would most naturally fill this aristocratic warrior position, not the capitalist money guy who floats on centuries of state capacity gains, economic growth and diversification.

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Yep. There’s a good walk-through of these dynamics in Love, Death, and Robots S3E1 “Three Robots: Exit Strategies”

The funniest part to me is that these idiots never stopped to think “Hm, Once freed of the societal and economic incentives to NOT just kill me and take my things, my armed guards might just kill me and take my things.”

The more I reflect on this latest examination of the absolutely absurdly stupidly wealthy and their desire to convince themselves that they can buy themselves the avoidance of future societal calamity the more I keep coming back to the sense that the more wealth disparity becomes so incredibly extreme (not just that the wealthy have more than the plebes, but such an almost-governmental quantity of money) the more they have to try to do SOMETHING like this. These people are so out of touch with what normal people do everyday to live (buying groceries, waiting for appointments, managing their time with work and relaxation, chores around the house, considering what to spend their money on and what financial goals they want to aspire to in the short and medium term) that they literally cannot conceive of having to adapt to even a modicum of that plebeian life. What I think they worry about is not that society completely ceases to function, but rather that things change significantly from how the global supply chain and government services function today, even if far short of apocalyptic collapse.

The other thought I had before completing that article was how the obvious solution is to not be so narrowly focused on the self, but rather to expand the circle of people that they should be trying to preserve. And, ironically, the larger that circle is the more unlikely it is that they will ever need to resort to a survival compound. In fact, taken to the limit, the more the ultra wealthy ensure that a significant portion of society have what they need to live comfortably with all the amazing resources civilization has organized, the more likely the (only) quite wealthy will not need to worry about a huge drop-off in their standard of living. The article gets to this point too, though missing the obvious conclusion that if wealth were not so concentrated in the hands of so few there likely would not be such a mind-boggling endeavor, at least not to the level discussed in the article.