When Collapse Comes, Everything Closes

In 1997, six years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, everything was closed. Could this be our possible future?

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  • I was a child at the time. In retrospect, I know that the 90s were horrible; an atrocity that led to millions of premature deaths. But damned if it was obvious to me back then. Everything was closed? I never went to kindergarten because most of them were either closed or would’ve been better off closed, but I did go to a school. I watched TV, which was full of old Soviet media, badly dubbed American media and crime news. The latter wasn’t distressing to me, it was exciting. The country was a disaster area and if I think about it, the signs were there even for me to see. But it was still entirely possible to live there; most people did, more or less. And of course, things did get better later, in terms of sheer survivability, standards of living and the economy, so even if this is how you end up, it wouldn’t be the end (the global warming, if it’s as bad as you say, would be the end, but that is a different story).

  • Of course, THAT collapse was also engineered by the US as it sent “economic advisors” to Russia in the early 90’s to affect, what they assumed would be, a US economic takeover of Russia after the dissolution of the USSR. In a text book case of “meddling in the sovereign affairs of another country” other US advisers literally ran the re-election campaign of their monumental quisling, Yeltsin, in 1996 (or 97?) from his Moscow office.
    See Stephen F. Cohen: “Failed Crusade”

  • alex_the_tired
    April 24, 2020 8:12 AM

    In those crash test dummy videos, each of the various, uh, flight paths fulfill itself on a slightly different timetable: Mother’s face goes through the windshield just ahead of Junior’s head slamming into the back of Dad’s skull. Microseconds later, Sis is crushed by Auntie, who doesn’t wear seat belts because they wrinkle her dress.
    You only need to see the flash to know the thunder’s coming.
    Current unemployment? 26 million jobs lost in five weeks (still, a gross underestimate as it doesn’t count those who haven’t enrolled yet due to system malfunctions or psychological depression). According to Fortune magazine, we’re now at 20.6% (when you add in the 7 million pre-pandemic unemployeds), “the highest level since 1934.” The highest rate of unemployment in the whole Great Depression? 24.9%. So, we’re still about 7 million more jobs away from hitting the 40 million needed for a 25% unemployment rate. But I’m confident, with the democrats doing all they can to turn wine into water (here’s Nancy Pelosi, giving you a taste of what you can expect), We. Can. Do. It. in about two more weeks, say around May 7.
    Our faces have already hit the windshield and, as we sail through that particular glass ceiling, it will dawn on a very few of us, “Uh, oh. Next stop’s the asphalt.” Everything up to now? This has been foreplay. The real rogering hasn’t even started.
    And I’m scared to death. Honest to God, scared to death. Why? In the middle of a pandemic that has killed 26 million jobs, the candidate who kept going on and on about the need for Medicare for All because you can’t depend on your job always being there is being beaten by a doddering old fool who not only can’t string together a sentence due to cognitive collapse but who has also vowed to veto any universal healthcare legislation that gets to his desk. People (some of them freshly minted jobless bums) are proudly casting their votes for him! This is a mob of idiots, and when you add hunger, they’ll turn hyperviolent.
    Almost none of us in this country is ready, emotionally or practically, for a real catastrophic systemic failure like Ted has described. The supermarkets have always been opened and stocked with goodies and the notion of not having six varieties of diet Coke is the closest many of us can come to apprehending the reality of widespread collapse. Food won’t be scarce. Food won’t be there at all.
    I have begun stockpiling nonperishables (big tip: don’t fill up on crackers and snackfoods. You need real food: rice, beans, pasta, sauces, spices, canned coffee. 2,000 calories equals one day’s energy.) If I could, I’d lay in about three years of food. Even just a couple of weeks could be all the difference.
    This time, I don’t think the government will fumble the response. I think the government will just not respond at all.

  • Ted I love your stories like this one and about your travels where journalists should have gone but never did.

    I’m 54 and in my whole life I’ve never known anyone who actually died of the flu, but I already know someone who has died of Covid-19, only six days after falling ill. It seems so easy to catch. Five members of my extended family have tested positive but only two got sick. The ones who got sick had to be hospitalized and even a week after release could barely speak on the phone when we called to get updates. Controlling a virus is something medical science can barely do even with a big headstart. I think it will be a year before a vaccine is available, if ever. That “if” is a pretty big one. This stuff is related to one of the common cold virus and we’re nowhere near getting a vaccine for that. What happens when Covid-19 runs through the food processing industry? You can’t pick beans with Zoom.

    So Ted, I think your scenario is not all that far-fetched.

  • History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes:

    A collapse in the USA would go down a different path than the Sovite collapse but it can end just as badly.

    Marshall law nation, shoot looters on sight, crush any labor or civil rights protest with batons and rubber bullets and drag the protest leaders into court and slam them with long hard labor sentences.
    Today’s wealthy will be living behind walls covered by guards with machine guns. a technocrat class with lower walls that is doing ok. The former middle class turned into improvised workers that that live on beans, rice, bread and potatoes and shops for most of their goods at second hand stores, swap meets and garage sales. Today’s working poor living in abandoned cars, burned or decayed buildings, tents and shipping containers and looking thin and gaunt. Today’s poor and homeless dying even faster. The government keeps slashing budgets year after year in a hopeless effort to reach a balanced budget.
    An organized fascist state, a ruthless leader with some brains that knows how to cover the iron fist with patriotic words and gestures. The economy will start picking up but you won’t benefit, most of the money will go to well-connected investors, CEO’s and big businesses. Most of the government budget will go to military and police. More weapon sales, more war to unite the people and soak up labor.
    If you can still vote you choices will be the fascist candidate or designated scary candidate that promises to make things worse and will never get more than 1% – 2% of the vote.
    Fragmented nation: gang leaders, generals, mayors etc. forming militias to defend their food / water and extracting labor and goods from the population in their territory

    Highly unlikely:
    A left wing government that has to deal with armed right wing agitators supported by wealthy backers that have fled the county.
    Least likely:
    Another FDR and a competent congress that fix things with less violence than most of the other collapse scenarios…back to a better normal in a decade.
    A green government that 97% of the country supports

  • I fear you are an optimist, Ted – from where I sit the crash of the USA is more likely to involve a thermonuclear holocaust than the emptiness you witnessed in Almaty in 1997. And while the streets of what’s left of our cities may well be as empty as you recall Almaty as being, it’s unlikely that any hiker with a backpack will be around to serve witness….


  • The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter comes to mind now as apropos.

    Scraping the last bits with new technology without a way to step back but into this society’s trail of devastation.

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