A couple bits of news heard this week:
- People are again picking up Manhole covers to return for cash. Never mind that 200+ pounds of iron only return 15-20 bucks, people are picking them up all over the country.
- Once again there was a piece on the news about people stealing catalytic converters from cars.
Add this to the view of a couple other houses with their aluminum siding torn off in Gary, and I have to keep asking the question of whether the United States has indeed become a third world nation.
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The reason I ask whether the United States has become a third world nation when talking about scavengers is that it used to not make sense to scavenge stuff. Sure, there were exceptions (aluminum cans and glass/plastic bottles in Michigan) but for the most part there was only enough remuneration from scavenging for those who were dedicated or too poor and scattered for anything else. While that meant there was a lot of waste, it also meant a lot of stuff was left alone.
Like a house I remember standing abandoned and open to the weather (somewhat) for a few years. I remember actually walking through it once, wandering around the rooms and noticing the pickles sitting in the cupboards waiting for someone to use them. Nothing was taken (it was a house, I just wanted to explore) and soon enough it was rehabbed with people living in it again.
Today, that house would be stripped of everything of value both inside and out. Then it would be torched and the local fire department would spend useful time putting out a fire at a now useless building.
And what’s this about manhole covers being stolen? Twenty bucks for two hundred pounds of iron, and this is something you need to have friends help you out with. To make this work out well, you’d have to steal twenty or thirty of them and risk getting a hernia.
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But here’s the point: forty years of Republicratomics (rip off the poor for the rich, give the poor a bribe here and there to make it appear that they’re on our side, sweep the evidence-gathering mechanisms under the rug so we’re stuck with anecdotes, take everything not securely fastened to the ground) has brought things to the state that the people of the nation have become too poor for their surroundings. And when that happens, the surroundings get gutted because the people want money and see that the stuff around them can be used for that.
It’s like fruit trees down on Easter Island. While they may have been fruitful when the natives first landed on the island, it got to the point where there was no longer fruit coming from the mature fruit trees. So, needing something to keep them warm, they cut down those now-sterile trees, then worked on the smaller saplings.
But consider this: now that people are using empty houses and manhole covers and catalytic converters to get money, it means there’s only one way for things to go: down. It’s now become impossible to rehab various areas of the country because the people around them will steal what’s not secured to the ground.
And so areas go backwards. The people live with less, and learn to like it.
Welcome to feudalism, 2008 style. Watch it develop.