Life During Collapse

What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse.

Indi Samarajiva, “I Lived Through Collapse. America is Already There.”

I went to a local coffee shop yesterday, sat outside with my cold brew and watched the cars go by. The hand-painted letters on the shop’s plate-glass window are pitted now and ragged at the edges, the result of several years of weather-blasting and the air-borne grit of perpetual street repair. There was grime embedded in the painted trim, a crack in the sidewalk leading to the door. The coffee was good.

Later I went to the local fancy food market and bought some vegetables for dinner. Broccoli, some mushrooms to go into the pasta sauce. I drove home past the new hospital campus, the one that seems to sprout another building every three months. Business is booming.

Nobody comes on TV and says “things are officially bad.” There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.

I came upon an old Salon article from 2010 in which the author discussed the collapse of the American Empire by 2025. He offered four scenarios. Not one mentioned climate change. Or a global pandemic.

Or a mad would-be king.

Collapse as an abstract: whose armies will prevail? Whose economy? Meanwhile, the eviction notices are going out and what will happen then?

Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else. That’s all it is.

Our focus is necessarily myopic. We see what’s in front of us: the coffee in the cup. The ragged, hand-painted letters. The cars on the street, going too fast for the neighborhood. The accident that hasn’t yet happened to us.


Indi Samarajiva is a writer living in Sri Lanka. You can read this three-part series of posts on the American collapse starting here.

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