I was watching "Hard Sun" briefly this morning, and my mind wandered off to thinking about what our society would look like if we knew the end was seriously nigh.
Suppose we all knew there was only 5 years left. What then? Its not imminent enough that many of us could just stop working. We still need to put food on our plates.
I imagine the real estate market would do some exciting things. Lots of people (home owners) have very little in savings and most of their net worth is tied up in their homes. This 5 year deadline massively incentivizes having cash to spend, since suddenly there's no other time to spend it.
If the engines of capitalism keep turning at all. I imagine you would see the slow checking out of people from the real economy. Basically everyone goes on vacation in order of available funds.
By the end the rich and the middle class are just aggressively checking off their bucket lists while the working poor are still bagging groceries waiting for end of days.
@allan I can't imagine a scenario like that not leading quickly to some kind of insurrection by the working poor, even if it was quickly and brutally crushed by the state. But, then, would the military bother showing up to crush a revolution if the end of the world was nigh? Why bother risking your life fighting against your own countrymen if it's all going to end, anyway? What would be the point of maintaining the existing social order?
@ink_slinger I think this is an interesting question. I also wonder if a revolution would happen at all, why bother fighting for a better world if that's no longer a possibility?
Perhaps I'm cynical but I think that the reason there isn't a workers revolt today is because of a learned helplessness, the end of the world doesn't seem like the obvious place to look for hope.
@ink_slinger Another question, how much of life and society depends on us believing in a future? Is this all a house of cards that would fall immediately once we lost all hope in the future? Or, more depressingly, would we continue on more or less as we are because we simply don't know what else to do?
@ink_slinger Homework question: how far distant does the end of times have to be before it materially changes our everyday lives? Would people still settle down and have kids if the world was going to end in 5 years? How about 10?
Is there a point where we just get used to it?
I mean to be pedantic we know there is an expiration date on the earth, it's just so far distant as to be beyond our day to day reckoning.
@allan I guess another part of this is that, if society did start to fall apart because more and more people with the means to do so pulled out of the traditional economy and social norms as the end got closer and closer, there would likely not be enough social cohesion for any sort of workers' revolution to happen anyway. No one would be able to organize.
@ink_slinger my implicit assumption is that rich people are not necessary for the economy to function...
At some point, with enough people checking out, it won't be able to stand anymore and I guess looting ensues. I wonder if institutions would slowly decline and collapse or if it would be sudden, everything seems fine then out of the blue there's no longer a functional government or economy.
We might surprise ourselves and spontaneously form co-ops as we ride out the end times.
@allan The hyper rich are definitely not necessary. They have a shit ton of money, and presumably but a shit ton of luxury goods, but they still buy relatively the same amount of food and toilet paper as everyone else (I assume), so their contribution to the "real" economy isn't much greater than average.
So I think it's only once the different strata of middle-class start pulling out, closer to the end, that there might be noticeable economic changes (assuming all else remained the same).
@ink_slinger I read somewhere that most middle class people can't scrape together more than a few thousand dollars on short notice. Which pretty severely limits their ability to check out of a still functioning economy. It might be like 4 years of rich people burning the world down and 1 year of middle class people desperately trying to do something, anything, with what little time they have left.
A lot of people's "savings" are tied up in property etc. that would be really difficult to unload.
@allan That's true. When your equity is private property -- which has suddenly become mostly worthless -- I guess you're not much better off than anyone else, except that you've got a nicer place to sleep at night. But, then, if you just stop paying your mortgage is the bank going to even bother foreclosing on a property they won't be able to sell?
@ink_slinger yeah, I've been thinking the same thing. It is literally easier to imagine an end of the world with capitalism than a successful alternative. How fucking bleak would it be to shuffle towards the end of the world fully aware, still shackled to an oppressive system?
The flipside is that we can entirely imagine the system feeding upon hopelessness of the end of the world to struggle shambolically to the end. Then perhaps what we need to imagine a different system is hope...