It's the year 2040 in what used to be the United States
January 2, 2019
How will we end up in our old age? Here is a speculative and satiric vision I had of my own old age, written when I was 58, as 2018 drew to a close and 2019 began. I was feeling rather pessimistic about the current condition of things in the United States, probably because I was paying too much attention to disturbing economic and political news. Perhaps I let my imagination run wild into the realm of impossibility in this essay, but I don't think it's entirely fantasy. There have been some rapid societal and political changes in the United States in the early 21st century. The United States of 2019 is almost unrecognizable compared with the US of 1980. I expect that the pace of change will increase in the coming years as younger people assume power. In 20, 30, or 40 more years, anything could happen. Maybe my timeline will prove to be off by a couple decades and maybe some of my projected events are exaggerated, but I do expect that events similar to those I describe are likely to eventually occur.
I’m 80 years old
I never thought I would live to be 80 years old. I never wanted to live to be 80 years old. I must have a longevity gene, because taking care of my body was never one of my priorities. Fatty, salty foods and rotgut alcohol were my dietary staples for most of my life. But, unlike many people, I never got fat from consuming those poisons. That probably helped me avoid major health issues when I was younger. Now here I am, in the year 2040, and I’m 80 years old. They tell me that I have problems with some of my organs—liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, heart—but apparently nothing that is going to kill me anytime soon. I also have some memory problems with occasional confusion.
One thing I know I'm not confused about is this: I’m penniless and living in a government-run home for old, sick, indigent people. There are lots of us here and in many other such places in the four separate countries that were formerly the United States of America. The facility they put me in is in Chicago, which is now part of the North-East Socialist States of America (NESSA).
Collapse of United States, Establishment of Socialist States
In my younger years, I had quite of bit of money saved in the bank and in several investments. I had worked hard to save that money, earned in a profession that didn't pay a helluva lot—freelance writing. I thought I would be OK in my old age, should I live that long. I remember my financial advisor—actually just the guy at the bank—telling me that I should be OK. But you know those guys lie. I was always a little worried about “the coming crash,” as Ron Paul and other naysayers in those TV commercials used to warn about. I tried to diversify, as the experts recommended, and I picked all conservative investments because I wanted to play it safe.
However, that all proved useless when the entire American economy collapsed in the 2020s. I suppose it was inevitable after decades of government and corporate financial irresponsibility, incompetence, and greed—greed for both money and power. It was a toxic public-private combination that led to a series of major market collapses, widespread corporate bankruptcies, and bank insolvencies. Government "guarantees" on bank accounts were meaningless, because the government had no funds to back up those guarantees.
By 2030, the vast majority of regular Americans had lost almost everything they had owned, including their savings, investments, and property. I was one of them. I couldn't find any work, and I had no income at all for a long time. Unemployment rose to more than 50 percent. It was far worse than the Great Depression, which happened a century earlier. Millions of people who lost their homes were forced to live as beggars on city streets. Public mass suicides became a cultural phenomenon, organized through social media like the flash mobs of old.
Needless to say, political chaos ensued, as did massive riots in most large cities and armed rebellions across the country. The perpetually bickering Republican and Democrat parties proved totally impotent to deal with the mess, so they went extinct. Hard-core socialists and communists seized the moment and assumed power of the state and federal governments. Some of these political opportunists used the old-fashioned label of "progressive," but most proudly proclaimed their adherence to the principals of Karl Marx. The mass media called it the "Radical Revolution." It happened surprisingly—shockingly—fast. No elections and no guns were needed to oust the old leaders. The new radical ruling class simply took over from their hated conventional predecessors, who resigned en masse and then quickly left town. Most of the public seemed to feel good about this outcome. People were at least willing to give the new system a chance.
It soon became clear that the new state and federal regimes were essentially leftist dictatorships, reminding some people of Communist China or the old Soviet Union. This Radical Revolution was reportedly, according to some social media posts, backed financially by China as a way of covertly taking over the American government. Other foreign support for the radicals supposedly came from Vietnam and Russia. Nevertheless, as I've already indicated, much of the American public would have supported these leftist authoritarians with or without the international subterfuge. After the massive failures of two-party democracy and crony capitalism, the new way seemed like the only way to go for a lot of desperate, pissed-off people—people who simply had nothing left to lose. There were, of course, angry grumblings from the relatively few remaining conservatives and libertarians—especially in such traditionally right-wing states as Texas and Wyoming. But even these dinosaurs knew that they had no chance of changing the direction of history.
The ruling socialists and communists proceeded to outlaw virtually all private corporations and put the government in charge of all sectors of the economy. These previously—say, in 2018—unthinkable moves were able to go forward because they had the support of not only most of the public, but also most of the police and military. Thus, any vocal opposition could be quickly quieted. The leftist political-security alliance eventually banned all political opposition on the Internet, on television, on radio, in schools, on the streets, and everywhere else. Private gun ownership was outlawed after the radicals felt they were firmly and permanently in control. Then the authorities got around to arresting and executing thousands of political figures, corporate executives, bankers, old Fox News pundits, and others whom they blamed for the dire situation in the nation.
Inevitably, “the nation” disappeared. The 2030s lurched from one crisis to another, and the new socialist/communist state and federal governments appeared as helpless as the old Democrat and Republican governments to deal with the problems. Unemployment, poverty, and homelessness remained high. People were becoming increasingly disgruntled with their socialist saviors, especially in the southern and western states. Still, there remained no sentiment for a return to the old crony capitalist system. Rather, particular leftist factions came to dominate different regions of the country. A consensus developed among the rulers that they would be safer and the government would be more stable if each region’s regime was tailored more closely to the particular wants, needs, and preferences of that region. Moreover, the federal socialist planners realized that they might be able to manage things a little easier if the units to manage were smaller than the entire vast United States. Ultimately, a series of political conventions were held, resulting in the mutually agreed-upon division of the USA into four independent, though cooperating, countries. The leftists finally achieved their long-time goal of abolishing the pesty, archaic US Constitution and replacing it with new guiding documents based on their perceptions of social justice and on the principles of Marx.
The corpse was buried and the tombstone was erected: “United States of America, 1776-2036.” It’s standing not far from the tombstone reading, “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1922-1991.” The USA lasted for 260 years, though by the end, the Founding Fathers would not have recognized it at all.
Each of the four new countries has its own special strain of socialist authoritarianism. The most hard-core, strictest strains of socialism/communism reign in my region, NESSA, which spreads across the northern states from the East Coast to the Midwest, and in the West Coast Socialist Federation of America (WCSFA), which includes Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. (California itself is divided into three semi-autonomous states.) The governments have somewhat less strict forms of socialism—with a little more private enterprise and a tad more individual liberty—in the Southern Socialist States of America (SSSA, from the Carolinas to Louisiana) and in the Western Socialist States of America (WSSA, from the Dakotas and Texas to Idaho and Arizona, plus Alaska).
I don’t know how long this new setup is going to last. And I really don’t care, because I don’t expect to last much longer myself. Eighty years should be long enough for anyone, especially someone in my situation, robbed of all his hard-earned savings and all his freedom by the rich, crooked, capitalist bastards who drove my country into the ground. And now I’m forced to depend on the socialist utopian dictators who promise everybody everything but deliver only their own forms of subjugation and domination. They promise the people free education, free healthcare, and guaranteed incomes, but, in reality, those plans don't work out as well as they sound. Almost everybody today lives in tiny state-owned apartments with just enough money to buy just enough food at state-run markets to survive. (Except for old folks like me, who live in the state-run nursing homes.) Few people have jobs that mean anything to them. Most people simply collect their guaranteed minimal income from the government, with no work required. If they were to get jobs that pay much more than this minimum, most of the extra cash would be confiscated through taxes. So what would be the point? The socialist dream of equality has been achieved; everyone is equally poor. Thus, to keep the masses satisfied and compliant, the government also provides unlimited free or reduced-cost sexual and drug entertainment at state-run brothels, strip clubs, and lounges.
All the authorities demand in return for providing this pleasure utopia is no ownership of property, no savings accounts, no freedom of speech, no dissent, no guns, and complete adherence to the always growing list of government rules and regulations that cover virtually all aspects of speech and behavior. Violation of any of the rules could result in immediate loss of sexual and drug privileges, substantial fines, community service, and perhaps imprisonment. Despite these potential penalties, the system seems to be satisfactory for the majority of Americans. There have been no big protests or riots in a long time—at least none that I've been aware of. Of course, the state-run TV and Internet news sources available in this old folks' home are not exactly reliable. I think the only way to find out what's really going on out there is to hack into some illegal online news site. I certainly don't know how to do that!
Nevertheless, please allow an old guy who is not yet completely lost to dementia to make an observation, my own twist on Rousseau: Man is born free but dies in chains. That is probably the way human societies always have been, to one extent or another, but I suspect it may be worse now than ever before.
Then again, perhaps I'm too old, sick, and tired to understand and appreciate what is going on. I might be hopelessly confused. Maybe the world is actually more wonderful than it has ever been. For all I know, it might be all peace, pleasure, free love, and fragrant flowers on the outside of this dark, depressing place. I’ll never see the outside again. I’m stuck here inside with a bunch of mumbling, drooling, farting old fools whom I can’t even have a semi-coherent conversation with. That doesn't do much for one's attitude.
History of problems from 1960s to 2040
I didn’t think I would end up like this, with both my life and my country utterly destroyed. However, when I look back in my mind at the long history I remember (or I think I remember), there were definite warning signs of the shape of things to come. I was a kid in the 1960s, when the United States was wasting money and lives fighting a stupid war in Vietnam, while anti-war and racial riots rocked city streets. I was more aware of the world in the 1970s, when the first firm signs of post-World War II economic decline became obvious, in association with the Arab oil embargo and Jimmy Carter’s pathetic “malaise” speech. The 1970s also brought us the first of a series of impeachment efforts against a president that the other party didn't like. Nixon's forced resignation highlighted divisions in American society that would grow much worse in subsequent decades.
I remember the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan bragged about an economic recovery and “morning in America,” but many poor and minority people fell further behind. Then there were the 1990s, when Bill Clinton tried to address social inequities while growing the economy. He achieved some success with his policies. Unfortunately, he embarrassed himself and the nation with his out-of-control sexual impulses, which led to another wasteful and divisive impeachment effort.
In the disputed election outcome of 2000, we got George W. Bush, who promised to “scrub the Oval Office clean.” But he added his own stains on the world stage by using lies to launch a wasteful war in Iraq to avenge his father, thereby destabilizing the Middle East. This mess together with an economic collapse led us to Barack Obama, who travelled throughout the world apologizing for real and imagined transgressions of the United States. Obama was the first president to be strongly identified with a socialist/progressive economic and social agenda, but his policies contributed to a chronically sluggish economy.
Donald Trump, who promised in his crude and simplistic way to "make America great again," rode an anti-establishment populist wave to the White House in 2016—in another disputed election outcome. He turned out to be mostly bluster and brag, with few positive results. Although he claimed "amazing" economic accomplishments, his highly contentious time in office resulted in wild stock market instability, deeper political division, and greater feelings that poor people were getting screwed by rich people. I was never able to conclude if it was Trump's policies or his personality that generated such intense hatred for him among liberals and the media. Whatever it was, the hatred led to the most divisive attempt yet to remove a president from office.
Societal divisions—mainly right versus left—had seemingly become irreparable in the United States. Talk of secession and even civil war grew in volume. Maybe California would split off toward the left, or Texas or Alaska toward the right…
Rather than those developments, however, the country overwhelmingly began to follow a straight leftward direction after Trump. This unexpected form of unity happened as the economy became increasingly unstable for much of the population. We got a surprising (at least for me at the time) surge in popularity of self-avowed socialists, beginning with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and continuing with many new elected officials. Socialism became more popular than capitalism, first among young people and then among older people. This trend occurred in tandem with growing intolerance for any expression of conservatism, traditional beliefs, or political incorrectness. It was interesting to observe how these obvious signs of public dissatisfaction and social upheaval did not halt the greed and selfishness of the corporate establishment or the cluelessness, confusion, and corruption of the government establishment. Thus, the stage was set for the Great American Collapse than transpired in the 2020s, followed by the founding in the 2030s of the four new socialist countries out of what once was the United States.
The socialists have been in charge for quite a while now. And as of today, in 2040, the former United States produces three products of economic value: pornography, recreational drugs, and sports competitions. Those are also the only three industries where "workers" are allowed to make fairly decent incomes. (Americans—regardless of political leanings—have always valued their entertainment.) These entertaining diversions may be enough to keep the masses in a perpetual state of placidity, but they are probably insufficient to sustain a healthy domestic economy that can compete successfully in the international marketplace. Word is that China is actually propping up most of the American economy now—and that China will soon formally make the four former-US nations territorial dependencies, both economically and militarily. That makes sense to me. If the Chinese do take such action, I believe they would encounter little opposition from Americans. Everybody knows that China is the only nation in history that has managed to find a supremely successful combination of socialism and capitalism. It must be some kind of Far Eastern secret. They even have a permanently staffed scientific base on the moon now, and they are preparing for the first human flight to Mars. So let the Chinese take a shot at saving this Western wreck of a society. I wish them luck!
The way I see things now, Americans did not get much from decade after decade of Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, libertarians versus progressives, Wall Street versus Washington, the US versus the UN, CNN versus Fox, fake news versus real news, group rights versus individual rights, citizens versus immigrants, whites versus blacks, straights versus gays, pro-life versus pro-choice, science versus religion, climate changers versus climate deniers, this versus that, and that versus this…
It all amounted to the same thing: regular people getting screwed by powerful people, and the screwing kept getting more painful with each political turn, no matter which political tribe was in charge. My conclusion: You can't make a utopia on Earth. You can't even achieve anything close to justice on Earth. Life is unfair—sometimes dismally so—and it always will be. I wonder if the human dreams of justice, joy, and peace become a reality beyond the lives we live on Earth. Is there a better afterlife? I might soon find out for myself.
Please don’t tell if I call you pretty
My mind keeps rambling around from thought to thought. I keep wondering about things. I wonder about a lot of different things these days. I've got nothing else to do. I’m just an old man living in a dark, depressing hellhole, sitting in a wheelchair and staring at the floor and thinking about my life, which is now almost over. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to certain pretty women I used to know so long ago, decades ago, in another life. I'm still a horny guy, and I miss flirting with pretty women. That always used to make me feel happy. But I'm not allowed to flirt with the nurses or nurses' aides here, because the government now classifies male-to-female flirting as a sex crime. I could go to jail for that, if the authorities found out, and jail would be even worse than this place. Political correctness is now enforced with an iron fist! The only places where flirting or any kind of sexual innuendo or sexual contact is allowed is in the state-run brothels and strip clubs, where government officials posing as bouncers confiscate most of the tips given to the girls.
I wonder why they are keeping me alive here. I suppose I serve the purpose of justifying the jobs of the nursing home staff. I’m the human equivalent of paperwork for the modern government employee. That’s how they push me around in this chair, just like a big stinky stack of paper.
I wonder if I could have done anything differently in my life to avoid this sad situation. Or was my fate always out of my control and in the hands of others? What does it matter? There is nothing I can do about it now. I won’t be around much longer in any case. Man, I have lived too long! God, I wish I could die! Now I can tell that I’m getting confused again. I’m probably thinking too much about stupid stuff.
Oh, here comes my lunch. Looks like some kind of yucky disgusting soup with stale bread again. But, hey, look at that nurses' aide! Sexy young blonde! That used to be my type. Dammit, that still is my type! I wish I could tell her that she’s pretty. Maybe I'll take a chance. I wonder if maybe she could keep it a secret and not tell her bosses. Perhaps she'll have pity on a poor, horny old man who is out of place and out of time.