By Oke Kay Synder
Well, isn’t it delightful to have our very own modern-day Nostradamus in Peter Turchin? The man loves a good doomsday prophecy, this time with his sights set on none other than the United States. It’s kind of endearing, in a “boy who cried wolf” sort of way. But as someone who prefers reality over dystopian fantasy, I beg to differ. Ladies and gentlemen, rest assured, America isn’t about to tumble off a cliff.
Let’s unpack Turchin’s ‘American Tragedy’ and introduce a touch of reality to this gripping drama.
Firstly, I must say, Turchin paints a picture of America that makes Dante’s Inferno look like a sunny vacation spot. But as much as I enjoy a good thriller, it’s crucial to remember that we’re not living in a Hollywood disaster movie. Someone ought to remind Turchin we’re dealing with real life here.
Our pessimistic oracle builds his forecast on “popular immiseration” and “elite overproduction”. Now, that’s a narrative that would make a great plot for a dystopian novel, complete with downcast masses and an army of power-hungry elites. It’s a beautifully woven tale, albeit slightly detached from the actual state of affairs.
Let’s be honest, America does face its share of challenges. Economic inequality? Sure, we’ve got that. However, to leap from acknowledging this issue to declaring an impending societal collapse is like diagnosing a common cold as a life-threatening illness. The U.S. Census Bureau, which probably deals with slightly more accurate data than Turchin’s crystal ball, reported in 2019 that the poverty rate had fallen to a record low of 10.5 percent, courtesy of a strong economy. I guess the apocalypse isn’t quite upon us yet.
Turchin paints a grim picture of an intense battle royale for prestigious positions. But isn’t the pursuit of success and greatness the very essence of the American dream? The Brookings Institution, yet another reputable source (noticing a trend here, Turchin?), reported in 2020 that almost half of the children born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution do in fact succeed in moving up the ladder as adults. So, it seems like our overpopulated elite are still finding their way to the top!
Ah, the supposed declining quality of life. Now, unless we’re living in parallel universes, the United Nations consistently ranks America high on the Human Development Index, a composite measure of achievement in terms of a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a decent standard of living. So, unless Turchin’s quality of life standards involve owning a private island, I think we’re doing alright.
In Turchin’s eyes, America is a rigid pyramid, top-heavy with the elite. Realistically, it’s more like a bustling marketplace, brimming with opportunity, and teeming with individuals eager to carve out their destiny. It’s a dynamic ecosystem that doesn’t stifle ambition but fuels it.
Turchin laments our ‘collapsed’ trust in institutions and ‘unraveled’ democratic norms. Now, democracy is not a static piece of fine china that shatters at the slightest provocation. It’s more like a blob of Play-Doh, constantly being shaped and reshaped. The United States has endured and triumphed over civil war, global conflicts, recessions, and societal upheaval. It’s quite a tough old bird, wouldn’t you say?
So, is America perfect? Far from it. But it’s a nation that ceaselessly aspires to be a ‘more perfect union’. Yes, we’ve got hurdles to jump over. Yes, we must address issues like economic inequality, social justice, and political polarization. But the very fact that we keep striving forward, always seeking to refine and better ourselves, is a testament to America’s resilience and adaptability.
In Turchin’s world, it seems the glass isn’t just half empty, it’s completely drained and probably cracked for good measure. So, Mr. Turchin, while you continue to predict doom and see America’s downfall in every shadowy corner, please do remember, America isn’t a cheaply built sandcastle awaiting high tide.
It’s a well-crafted fortress that has withstood, and will continue to withstand, the test of time. So perhaps, it’s time for a little tune-up on that crystal ball of yours, or better yet, a reality check!