When the Lights Go Out

by Matt Patterson on November 10, 2011 · 9 comments

in Economy, Zeitgeist

There was a lot of noise in the news this past week, so you may be forgiven if you let this little nugget slip past you. From Reuters: ”Alabama’s Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy court protection on Wednesday in the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.”

There are three words in there that should never be in the same sentence — biggest, bankruptcy, and history — but there you go. Jefferson County has now followed Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (a state capital, incidentally), Vallejo, California, and Central Falls, Rhode Island, in going recently — and literally — belly up.

First cities then counties, the collapse is upward. People waiting for an economic apocalypse are anxiously watching banks, financial institutions, and national governments, but they are looking in the wrong place — at the local level, the level in which most people live most of their lives, the apocalypse is now.

The consequences will be horrendous, for local governments are the institutions that provide the most basic elements of Western civilized life — police protection, light, sanitation. These governments are too-small to fail. Think about it: If the federal government disappeared tomorrow, it could be days or weeks before the average citizen noticed. But your local garbage collection misses one pick up and damn, the stink sets in right away, don’t it?

These basic services are already wasting away, all across America, right under our noses. The city of Highland Park, Michigan, for example, has gone literally dark. The Associated Press reports: ”It wasn’t always this way. But when the debt-ridden community could no longer afford its monthly electric bill, elected officials not only turned off 1,000 streetlights. They had them ripped out — bulbs, poles and all. Now nightfall cloaks most neighborhoods in inky darkness.”

They didn’t just turn off the lights — they ripped them out. Think about that. A society with hope in its heart would leave the infrastructure intact in anticipation of better times to come. A society without hope sees the darkened lamps as an offense, a taunt from better times likely never to return. So they self-vandalize, plucking out the painful reminder.

We are turning out the lights on our own civilization, literally and figuratively ripping up what our ancestors have built. May our children forgive us for letting it come to this.

Bob Robertson November 14, 2011 at 9:04 am

Wonderful! Actual darkness at night? I am so very happy that the profligate spending on the backs of hapless taxpayers is coming to an end.

To finally see the stars again.

If this be the end of “western civilization”, then let it end NOW.

jay November 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm


I must admit to some of the same sensations. When we recently lost power for a few days due to a hurricane, I relished stepping outside of my house to soak up a truly dark night.

Margaret November 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

We NEED civilization. To prefer to see its collapse, than to take responsibility for bringing all the criminals up on charges is simply wicked. We have been ROBBED, MURDERED, ABUSED, AND IT IS BRINGING US TO GLOBAL NUCLEAR WAR.

Communities that wer built by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors are closing down all over Michigan, and all over the country. HOW MUCH do we have to lose by their theft before we say ENOUGH!!!

None of it is necessary. To renounce our debt based money supply, to seize every asset that was stolen, and to return to honest money and our Constitution would solve almost all of it.

But instead, we have morons and idiots saying BRING IT ON.

We can thank YOU when the nukes start dropping on our cities and neighborhoods, because the rest of the world doesn’t want to be treated so wickedly.

Howie November 14, 2011 at 11:27 pm

The cities mentioned here are just a fore-taste of what’s coming to the rest of the country. The momentum is building. The powers to be just don’t care. Greed and Corruption in government is causing the fall from within. (Sound familiar)? We shouldn’t be surprised when this country has become the modern day Sodom and Gomorah. Morality has seen it’s best days in the U.S.A. May God bless and help those who remain faithful to the end!

Ed Lawrence November 15, 2011 at 11:43 am


This brief, pithy journalistic note is beautiful – and actually, terribly beautiful! It is heartening to find it, and to think that I can share and commiserate with it. It deserves a deep silence, upon reading it, however. It is like a coda.


Brian Jackson November 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

This is the most frightening thing I’ve read in a while… Good lord, help us…

Ian Random November 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Ever notice how small the counties are east of the Mississippi and given the economic conditions it should be no surprise they would be more susceptible to bankruptcy. I often wonder why they don’t merge counties so they might weather bad conditions better.

Ian Random November 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Actually, I take back my previous comment, looks like with 600,000+ people they are big enough.


VinnyG November 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm

This article is fatally flawed by conflating civilization and government. For civilization to utterly fail would be a terrible thing. For government to finally be exposed as the criminal enterprise it has always been and utterly fail would be wonderful.


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