A month ago I visited my friend Sadie in Cincinnati. During a chat in her apartment, I confessed to a morbid fascination with the possible collapse of society. She laughed and, in a tone of gentle sarcasm, said she'd noticed my enchantment with that subject. I wasn't sure how subtle I'd been with my pessimism. Apparently, not that subtle.
But I'm not ashamed to be a "Doomer" (one who believes society will be forced to radically re-simplify through a painful process of collapse). When I first learned about Peak Oil 5 years ago, it was very difficult being a Doomer. I was petrified by the potential for social breakdown and extremely reluctant to share my concerns with people outside my circle of friends. Of course, at that point I was convinced we were headed for a Mad Max-style future, and my discussion was framed in terms of absolute certainty, the sign of an insecure cultist. Now I talk about it in terms of probability, allowing for the possibility of a safe future, even though my worries remain. That's a result of my emotional stabilization and has nothing to do with the feasibility of the Peak Oil theory. If anything, my belief in the theory has been strengthened by the events of the last 5 years.
I'll concede that my personal struggles predisposed me to Doomerism. If I were a rich, happily-married screenwriter living in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, I probably wouldn't care a tinker's cuss for Peak Oil. (Shout-out to Frank McCourt!) But I'm a 32-year-old temp living with my parents, so I'm far more receptive to apocalyptic theories. At the same time, I don't think my beliefs are any less valid than those of my successful, parallel-universe doppelganger. Just because I'm more likely to look on the dark side doesn't mean I'm more likely to be wrong. It just depends what era you're living in. Here in the U.S. of A. we've had Happy Days for almost 65 years in a row. Sure, there have been some bumps in the road, but overall our material comforts have been good and getting better (nearly) all the time. Therefore, people who look on the bright side have generally been right for the last 65 years. Now I think we've entered an epoch when the Doomers will be right most of the time.
Again, I must come clean and admit that I'm looking forward to collapse. (I'm using "collapse" in the anthropological sense, meaning only a re-simplification of society, without the catastrophic connotation the term has accumulated.) The process would be difficult, the resulting turmoil and loss of life could be horrific, but the alternative, in my opinion, would be worse. The status quo has devastated the biosphere and impoverished perhaps a billion or more people. Some would say those people were even poorer before, but whatever creature comforts the global capitalist system has given them have been more than negated by the social, emotional, spiritual and (usually) physical dislocation it has forced on them. I realize these are broad generalizations. I make them because I feel that dislocation and despoilment in myself, and I think our way of life is the cause of it.
Re-simplifying our society could improve our lives tremendously. Instead of spiritual alienation, we could again feel connected to the land, the wildlife and the seasons (and there might not be so much Seasonal Affective Disorder). Instead of social isolation, we could again live in community with our neighbors. Instead of competition, we could provide for ourselves by working cooperatively. This is the Sunny Side of Collapse. It may be (ironically) Utopian, but I think the disintegration of capitalism would strip us of many of our paranoid, competitive tendencies. This may be what truly isolates we Doomers, the fact that inside every one of us is a Utopian. We reject society as it is, yet still believe we'll embrace a society forged in the crucible of apocalypse. We're funny that way. (Shout-out to John Astin!)
Now the time has come for my final confession: The sooner collapse happens, the better off we'll be. That's right. Not only am I pro-apocalypse, I'm rather impatient for the end of the world to begin. It's simple, really. Since the System (a.k.a. the economy, or the method by which we keep ourselves alive) is destroying the natural environment (a.k.a. our habitat, or the only planet that can support our kind) and our spirit (a.k.a. the soul, or the thing that makes life worth living), it only makes sense that the sooner the System collapses, the better off we'll all be. The longer the economy hums (or coughs) along, the longer we continue with business-as-usual. Whether we go along to get along or because we honestly believe in the benevolence of the System, we're all just lemmings headed for the cliff unless we diverge from the mainstream.
Also, it's hard to convince people we're in the early stages of collapse when things are still pretty good. Unemployment is around 10% (officially), and foreclosures are spreading like kudzu, but most Americans can still afford to feed, clothe and house themselves. Only when we have trouble meeting our basic needs will we begin to seriously question and fundamentally reform our society. And I believe, passionately, that we need to begin this process ASAP, while there are still enough fossil fuels, water and other natural resources to support 6.8 billion people. So my message is this: Don't wait until the $#!+ hits the fan, because by then it could be too late.