James Howard Kunstler On “Omenland”

Did a few loose strands of Ebola seep into the organs and tissues of global finance last week? The US equity markets sure enough puked, the Nikkei bled out through its eyeballs, all the collagen melted out of Greek bonds, and treasuries bloated up grotesquely on a putrid stream of terrified “liquidity” that led two Federal Reserve proctologists to maunder about the possibility of a QE-4 laxative, out of which, in due time, will surely gush explosive bloody fluxes of deeper financial sickness.

The oil price fell on its face so hard it crashed through the floorboards. One particular idiot at NPR wrote that this means peak oil was a hoax (Predictions Of ‘Peak Oil’ Production Prove Slippery). I guess she didn’t notice that the junk financing associated with shale oil capex is also dissolving like the poor late Thomas Eric Duncan’s circulatory system. That is, expect a whole lot less drilling in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford in the months ahead, and a substantial fall in production. Unless the US government finds a back door to shovel money at shale (a possibility considering the crucial myth of “Saudi America” to Wall Street psychology), the investment will not be there for the relentless drilling and re-drilling. As other savants on the web have pointed out, it’s not so much that the world is awash in surplus oil as the world is a’glut in people too broke to buy oil. And anyway, the shale oil companies have never made a buck at any price on anything but the real estate shenanigans entailed in their racket, buying and selling leases and so forth, just more paper games. In short, there is plenty of reason to believe that the shale endeavor may founder altogether at $80-a-barrel.

But I was on the road all last week, first in our nation’s capital and then in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm and its environs. Interesting place these days, Washington, DC. It is among the USA’s richest metro areas now, for the simple reason that torrents of grift from the backwash of Wall Street nourish the pathogenic activities of influence peddling the way agar nutrient will cause E coli to flourish in a Petri dish. But for all the awesome yawning vistas of the national mall and its marble monuments, Washington is deeply unpleasant to walk around. The scale is absurd. I hoofed it from the Freer Collection at the heart of the museum district over to M Street in Georgetown, and that was like the Bataan Death March. Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac, where my hotel was, is a sadder joke. They’ve spent thirty years pretending to “pedestrianize” it, and the outcome is sort of like Wilshire Boulevard meets Hackensack.

A day later, I was in Stockholm, being forcefully reminded what an actual city is like, one designed for human activity, not just some abstract political notion of “mobility.” People live in the center of Stockholm, lots of them, in five and six story buildings that display great variety and conscious artistry within strong orders of architectural unity. The motifs are a northern folkish classicism. The effect is both reassuring and powerfully coherent. You feel civilized. Your neurology is constantly nourished as you walk. Unlike Americans, the Swedes don’t go about in their pajamas. Also absent were cholo caps, team sports toggery, and clown sneakers. How refreshing to see young people aspire to act like grownups instead of the other way around. And, of course, almost no one is supersized over there.

Then, too soon, I landed back in Newark Airport, Lord have mercy. I grabbed a taxi to the Newark train station to get to the Hudson River line out of New York City back upstate. Along the way on Route 21, I passed a graffiti on an overpass. It said “Omenland.” The anonymous genius who sprayed that there sure caught the US zeitgeist. Newark compares to Stockholm as an Ebola victim in the gutter compares to a supermodel at poolside. The scene in the Newark train station was like the barroom from Star Wars, a creature-feature extravaganza, intergalactic Mutt Central, wookies in hoodies with burning coals for eyes, ladies with pierced cheeks, crack-heads, winos, missing body part people, lopsided head people, and the scrofulous physical condition of the station is proof positive that Chris Christie is unqualified to be president. This is a gateway to New York, America’s greatest city, you understand, and it looks like the veritable checkpoint to the rectum of the universe. You know what occurred to me: maybe it is?