Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Five Stages of Collapse in Colorado

It’s been a while since I ran a guest post, due to a lack of good candidates, but this article by user h_h from ZeroHedge caught my eye. It uses my book The Five Stages of Collapse as a jumping point and nicely outlines the case studies I used to examine each stage of collapse.
Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost.

In the case of financial collapse, the example is Iceland—the only country so far that had successfully fought off international efforts to saddle its people with the debts incurred by its defunct private banks, allowing it to recover economically even as the US and the EU, which bailed out their failed banks, continue to sink deeper and deeper.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost.

Commercial collapse is shown as seen through the eyes of the Russian mafia and criminal syndicates, explaining how “the free market,” in order to be able to operate, requires, at the very least, a protection racket, be it the mafia or the government. For those brought up on the pablum of nonviolence, this case study offers a useful lesson on the constructive uses of violence.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost.

Political collapse as a steady state condition is described through the example of the Pashtuns—one of the world's largest ethnic groups inhabiting parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan—whose code of honor (Pashtunwali, or the Pashtun Way) has allowed them to fight off (and, in some cases, help destroy) every empire that ever blundered into their habitat. (They are known to the consumers of Western propaganda primarily as the Taleban.) The Pashtuns allow us to clearly see the dividing line between a hierarchical, imperialist, collapse-bound society and that of a steady-state, entrenched, well-organized anarchy.

Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost.

Social collapse—or, rather, a very stable lack thereof—is studied with reference to the Roma, or Gypsies, who have survived intact over many centuries and who now number in the millions both in Europe and the US in spite of being shut out financially, commercially and politically in every country they inhabit. This case study allows us to ponder what it means to be marginalized, for to be marginalized by a collapse-bound society can be a blessing in disguise.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in “the goodness of humanity” is lost. 

Cultural collapse is explored with the help of the Ik, an African tribe of hunter-gatherers who, once they were prevented from hunting and gathering, survived by mutating into a cultural form that we may not wish to recognize as human—yet they persist. The Ik allow us to explore an important question: Is survival at all cost really worth it?

The article’s author claims that the scenario he describes has something to do with what he calls “full-retard collectivism.” This is incongruous for at least three good reasons:

1. Collectivism is a higher form of culture exhibited by tight-knit groups that share a common ideology or faith, possess a great deal of solidarity or ésprit de corps, and have it within their cultural DNA to put the interests of the community ahead of those of the individual, all the way to suicidal altruism if the conditions warrant. Does that describe the US? No, it doesn’t. Americans’ primary allegiance is not to each other but to little green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them. Under such conditions, sudden, spontaneous appearance of a wellspring of collectivism is unlikely; what is likely is that mutual self-help will be limited to some amount of charity and a few acts of altruism based on personal sympathy.

2. The US is running against a number of physical or organic limitations that no amount of regulation, compensation or social engineering can possibly overcome. The energy returned on energy invested is dropping to levels where an industrial society can no longer be maintained, making the common living arrangement unaffordable for most. The effect of forcing together organically incompatible ethnic groups breeds alienation, hostility and violence, making basic social adequacy something of a stretch goal. These are predicaments rather than problems to solve, and what one does with predicaments is accept their consequences with equanimity and poise.

3. The US can be described as a single, highly integrated, systemically corrupt scheme. To say that there is some corruption in the US would be like saying that a huge termite colony has a slight termite infestation problem. Everywhere you look, be it finance, the military-industrial complex, education, medicine, the legal system, the private prison system, agriculture and food production, you see a corrupt, predatory scheme that has been enshrined and indoctrinated as the proper way to get things done. The intelligence community fabricates fake threats for the military-industrial complex; corporate lobbyists and congressional pork barrel politics micromanage the economy; food that makes people obese and sick provides profits for both the agribusiness and the medical industry; the police and the courts stock the private prison system with slave labor. Systemic corruption at this level cannot be reformed. Again, that would be like asking an exterminator to improve conditions at a termite mound.

That said, the article goes on to describe what these five stages will look like for some unlucky Colorado residents, and the picture it paints seems realistic, so I now turn it over to ZeroHedge user h_h:
Rather than using Iceland, the Russian Mafia, the Pashtuns, the Roma, and the Ik, I will use one hypothetical ZeroHedge reader as our space monkey. In fact, let's refer to him as mr_monkey. We will pretend that the monkey family lives in a suburb of Denver, Highlands Ranch, in a typical single-family monkey house on Paper Street. mr and mrs_monkey have two lil_monkeys, and their extended families live far away on the left and other-left coast, respectively. mr_monkey designs training software applications for Lockheed-Martin and mrs_m operates a day care in the basement of their suburban home.

Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost.

Government's deficit spending for eternal war and vote buying has finally caused the USD to lose its reserve currency status, and all of those trillions of dollars exported over the past 50 years come flooding back to Amerika, dramatically increasing the local supply of US dollars, decreasing the value of each dollar, and increasing the price of everything mr_monkey needs or wants to buy. This is called hyperinflation.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost.

Gasoline is now rarely available at gas stations, due to multiple failures within the just-in-time delivery system. When gasoline is available, it costs more to fill up than mr_monkey earns in a month. Fortunately, mr_monkey is allowed to work from home, but so are most other people still working, and therefore mrs_monkey's daycare business collapses as parents stay home with their children. mr_monkey spends a good portion of many days riding his bicycle to obtain a couple gallons of gasoline from fuel thieves that trade with him for pieces of silverware that mrs_monkey received when they were married. The fuel thieves will not accept the constantly depreciating dollars.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost.

mr_monkey learns that his job as a training software designer at Lockheed-Martin has been realigned with the company's new Five-Year Plan. Due to his four years in the Navy as a cyber security technician, he is offered a "security" position at the company's Waterton Canyon facility, which is about 15 miles away. He is happy to hear that he will receive weekly raises that he is assured will keep up with the government's official inflation rate. mr_monkey will not be allowed to telecommute, but he tells mrs_monkey that the exercise he will get by riding his bike will do him some good. When he arrives the first day, he is issued a pistol and a yellow reflective vest, and is sent to guard the entrance to a parking lot surrounded by chain link fence and concertina wire. On his bicycle ride home, at the end of the day, he leaves the vest but takes the pistol. In the couple of hours riding home, he hears more than ten gunshots, and passes by hundreds of families camped in the state park.

Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost.

After a couple weeks of spending most of the day hunkered down in the basement with the lil_monkeys and their diminishing supply of food and toiletries left over from the daycare business, tonight, mrs_monkey is starting to really worry. It is now well past dark, the power is out, again, and mr_monkey has yet to return home with his pistol. She can hear bits and pieces of what sounds like two of her neighbors involved in a serious argument out in the street. All of the sudden, she hears a window explode upstairs. Both of the lil_monkeys start crying. mrs_monkey grips her 9 iron with both hands, while holding the flashlight in her mouth. Tears are running down her cheeks, but she isn't sad. She is pissed off.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in “the goodness of humanity” is lost.

mr_monkey is sitting alone by a small fire, in the snow, cooking lean meat on a hillside overlooking a long-empty Red Rocks Amphitheater. He recalls hearing from his mom and dad about the time when they were dating in college, and they had heard Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing down there among, "a bunch of big rocks," while touring to support their release, "Darkness on the Edge of Town." He recalls that grandpa_monkey had a newspaper clipping on his office wall. "The idea is to deliver what money can't buy," Bruce had said prior to the show.

mr_monkey is cold and shivering in the greasy snowmobile suit he has recently acquired. He only has five rounds remaining for the pistol. He promises himself that he will not use the last round on someone else, as he had earlier that day, when he had come across the skinny teenage boy asleep in the snowmobile suit. Nope. No matter how hungry he gets, he will save the last round for himself.

This may seem like bad news, but there is some good news as well. First, The Five Stages of Collapse is now easy to buy in Australia via Fishpond. Second, its Swedish translation will soon be published in Sweden.
I will tackle the topic of systemic corruption next, because it is a very interesting topic to explore, and because understanding it allows us to determine the limits of constructive action. When asked “What kind of collapse would you prefer?” people rarely respond with “Slow and painful, please!” But that is what efforts to reform a systemically corrupt, unreformable system would amount to.


RB Seymour said...

My money is on "slow and painful".

All roads lead to the City of London.

Jef said...

The rate at which hate and ignorance are increasing throughout society has me feeling more pessimistic than ever before. I just don't see a way to reverse that trend so things will get ugly.

Stop the hate and educate!

RZ said...

The crazy weather will result in higher food prices and shortages pretty soon now. I don't know what to do about that since we sold our small acreage a few years ago.

Bob said...

Mr. bob's Five Stages of Collapse

Disclaimer: I'm heavily influenced by Duncan's Olduvai Theory and by riding out both Rita and Ike.

Stage One: The shelves in the baked goods department are no longer fully stocked each day.

Stage Two: The internet goes down.

Stage Three: The grid goes down. For good.

Stage Four: A few psychos in the military shirts take everything down.

Stage Five: It's gonna smell really, really bad.

Total elapsed time: Ninety days tops.

Peter said...

Amazing stuff, Mr. Orlov. However I can find no evidence of the original post in Zerohedge? The comments there would be priceless.

Dmitry Orlov said...


Anonymous said...

"The rate at which hate and ignorance are increasing throughout society has me feeling more pessimistic than ever before."

i am coming to realize that a "civil society" is an artifact of cheap and abundant resources... which is why things are changing. kind of a "too many rats in a cage" thing.

and as disturbing as things are now, it is very likely we will look back at these as "good old days".

toktomi said...


Yup, to the point; everything a body needs to know about the road ahead.

However, at the Yahoo Group, Alas Babylon back in the day when Scott Meridith still owned it [and, by the way, virtually never did any moderation or god forbid, censoring], Perry Arnett once stated, "It will be in no one’s best interest to factually report the reality of the [collapse] once it begins in earnest.”

Hear, hear.

As an aside, I would offer that the five stages of collapse are a description of the collapse occurring "in earnest". The collapse of industrial human society has had nearly a half century lead on the five stages. From the mid-70's through the 80's and beyond the signs are splattered across the global landscape. When the rate of economic growth began to slow, the fate of industrial society was sealed. It did not require economic contraction which has been the norm for the last decade or so.

But I yammer; I doubt that the band knows this tune anyway. So, if you could move your chair over just a bit we might play a bit of deck shuffleboard.

Bruno said...

Western civilization is already well engaged in all the stages of collapse.

The process has been unfolding in slow motion for the last 30 years or so, with noticeable acceleration at the turn of each decade, and since 2010 the slide has been almost vertical.

By the end of the next decade it will be all said and done, that is... unless the terminally decadent people in power decide to precipitate the process by igniting a major conflict, which is what the insane second coming believers have been desperatly trying to do for quite some time.

I note that the five stages of collapse do not include natural environment collapse, and yet it is happening... how far can humans go in a dying natural environment?

Mister Roboto said...

Come 2023, world population will be at about eight billion, give or take, which represents a doubling of the four billion population number of the planet less than fifty years prior in 1974. I have a feeling that if anything will represent a certain tipping-point. The "collapse-fever" feeling has been in the air, in fact, since about 2017 when we hit the 7.5 billion mark.

Daniehl said...

Slow and painful are a continuum. Capitalism has been a painful process forever and the process of disintegration has simply been speeding up without the heady excitement of chasing the roadrunner.

sykes.1 said...

But, according to UN population projections (the biologically realistic low one) by 2030 world population should begin a slow decline. How that contributes to collapse is an interesting question.

Zidar said...

I am from former Yugoslavia and I can confirm that the things do happen the way Dmitry describes. After all, collapse of SSSR was similar to collapse of Yugoslavia, with one difference - there was no civil war in Russian federation. Wars between former Soviet republics have happened, some hevae never been active ever since with no end in sight. However, wars are not the pont.

I remeber clearly store shelves being either completely or mostly empty, due to inflation, thatb followed ianbility of then ruling elite to manage the country and economy. We lived in asuburb.

I remeber waiting in line for a milk truck to arive, from 4 AM - truck was due usually around 10 AM. And when the truck arrived and brought 12 one-liter bags of milk. There were 15 people in the line, and only, either young mothers with infants to feed, or eledrly toothles people who could not eat or afford anything but warm milk or stale 3 old day bread mixed with warm milk. It was a suburb, everybody knew everybody (we were not westernized to the degree where you do not know neigbours). The grocer (privately owned store, we were not total comunisam) was crying - she had to choose who to deny milk, to single out 3 people out of 15 basically personal friends, with her and among each other.

Gsoline was sold in 1.5 liter Coca-Cola bottles, coincidentally the price was the same all over the country. Ocassionaly we had electricity, with blackout periods loner and longer. After 6 day or longer blackouts, we realized that even food cashed in deep freezers was going to perish. People were already baking bread themselves, vegetables and fruits had to come from your own garden, or somebdy close to you who lived in the country (peasant farmers). Now we needed a solution for preserving meat for longer periods. The solution some people tried was boilin pig fat and covering already cooked meat with boiled fat and keep it in 18/10 stainless still pots and watching for mice.

When my fisrt son was born, back in 1991, we had to provide gauze, bandages and stiching tread on the black market so the birth can happen in a hospital. Still, medical facilities worked, with what they had. Kids were checked by pediatricians regularly, we even received a few visits by pediatric nurse who showed us how to properly tie cotton diapers and how to care for the baby's bellybutton. Medical services were working, public transportation, schools. people were not paid in money. For several months my wage was 1 kg loaf of bread per day. And we were well off public utility. people shared whatever tehy could. Bus ride to Belgrade from my suburb, normaly 25 minutes, became 4-5 hours, due to lack of busses (no way to fix the broken ones). Trains could be late as much as 37 hours (official announcement by station master - I was expecting someone on that train)! How can anything be late more than 24 hours is a mistery. Actually, not a mystery- Monday train did not show up as schedulled at 2 PM, Tuesday was MIA too, so next train (Monday, Tuesday) arrived on Wednesday at 3 PM.

Zidar said...

There is more, due to 4096 charactes limit:

All banks collapsed, several privatelyrun appeared and ALL turned out to by big scams.

Then we got protection rackets and gangs or private armies dividing the city. Dividing lines were not too clear, so we witnessed gun battles in the downtown core, at noon. Every thug wanted to open a caffe, so we saw drive by shooting or hand granade tossing A few times a bazooka like rocket launcThers were used. After all, we were deeply in war, so guns were not that difficult to acquire. Of course, "collateral damage" was ever present

Meanwhile, seenig people digging through trash containers became a normal thing.

I could elaborate and argue about what caused the collapse, internal problems or external interference (we got 79 days of aerial bombing by 19 countries at 1999), but thet would be useless. It is what it is, what happened happened, we are pretty much 'every guy for himself' now. It cannot be undone, it was out of our control when it started, and it os out of individual control afterwards.

A bitter consolation is that our high school students still win medals in mathematic olympics. As for us soon to be retired, I can say that we, former Yugoslavians, and otehr eastern europeans, especially Russians, we keep USA and Canada from falling apart. Ignorance is overhelming all around, the higher you look, you see more delusional beleifs (market, capitalisam, technology and other useless crap). There is no need for climate change, global warming or peak oil. One can have all imaginable resources, yet being incapable of using and managing them. That is what causes a collapse - ignorance of both masses and elites, who inherited a semi-decent society and standard of life. When critical mass of ignorance is reached, smart people cannot help, no matter how smart. Just like poverty and tent cities and street living in USA and Canada. No matter how rich 1% becomes, does not help the 99% masses.

All I can say, yes, collapses do happen. Dmitry witnessed and partly experienced one, I lived through one completely. It is all how he descibed, sometimes worse. Yet, here we are and continue chogging, somehow..


tsisageya said...

My money is on all the white-washed tombs in every city, every state, being destroyed into oblivion.

Do you dnow what the white-washed tombs are? I think you can guess, but I'll tell you.

White-washed tombs are all the government buildings strutting their ass.


RB Seymour said...


rossbcan said...

We're already at the point where NOTHING can be depended upon but YOU and those who have REALLY earned (as opposed to alleged / propagandized) YOUR trust. Not to mention powerful predators with delusions of control to be avoided. Whatever happens, YOU must deal with it and, to do so YOU NEED TO CHOOSE FREEDOM.

Carpe Diem:


Forgive the pugnacious site name. It is truly what we are dealing with...

tsisageya said...

"The rate at which hate and ignorance are increasing throughout society has me feeling more pessimistic than ever before."

Dear ShastaTodd,
I take exception to your assumptions. Would it comfort you to know that you have fallen prey to propaganda? Hate and ignorance are not increasing throughout society. You must be watching the good ol' (((corporate-owned))) media.

I could tell you about a typical day for me, in Montgomery, Alabama, but I would really rather hear about a typical day for you. A Day In The Life Of ShastaTodd, if you will.

Sachin Sharma said...

Medical services were working, public transportation, schools. people were not paid in money. For several months my wage was 1 kg loaf of bread per day. And we were well off public utility. people shared whatever tehy around360tome.com could. Bus ride to Belgrade from my suburb, normaly 25 minutes, became 4-5 hours, due to lack of busses (no way to fix the broken ones).