What Is a National Nervous Breakdown?

Washington’s Blog – by Charles Hugh Smith

When the citizenry cease to believe the lies, the nation suffers a nervous breakdown.

Last week I used the phrase National Nervous Breakdown without clarifying its meaning.(The War on Our Intuition That Something Is Fundamentally Amiss)

By National Nervous Breakdown I do not mean the breakdown of civil order or the economy; I mean thebreakdown of the officially sanctioned narratives that underpin the Status Quo. These Master Narratives legitimize the current arrangement; once they erode or break down, the legitimacy of the Status Quo is lost.  

The shell remains in place, but nobody believes the system is a fair, just meritocracy.

Let’s consider the erosion or breakdown of these master narratives.

1. No accountability for abuse of power. The core narrative is no one is above the law, which means not only that everyone is supposedly treated equally before the law, but that abuses of power are punished or limited.

Now that police departments are essentially stealing from private citizens without due process via civil forfeiture, it’s clear there is no accountability for abuses of power.

This is simply one example of many in which blatant abuse of power is sanctioned by the Status Quo, and there is little recourse for citizens who have been abused unless they are wealthy enough to fund a high-powered legal team.

In effect, our legal system is broken. This mirrors the erosion and breakdown of accountability in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when abuse of power was rampant and there was little recourse for the citizenry.

2. Though U.S. foreign policy is guided by realpolitik, it is fundamentally based on the high moral ground of defending liberty, democracy and civil liberties. Wars of choice that squandered American lives, treasure and credibility and the use of torture for dubious gains have demolished the credibility and legitimacy of U.S. foreign policy–once again, mirroring the delegitimizing result of the Vietnam War and all the official lies that were issued to mask that war’s true costs and failures.

3. The manipulation of official data to mask the reality that the U.S. economy now operates to benefit the few at the expense of the many–crony capitalism writ large. Vested interests control the political and financial machinery to expand their share of the national income and power.

Meanwhile, the income and wealth of the vast majority of citizens stagnates.

4. The middle-class roadmap to financial security–earning a college degree and working hard for a corporate employer–is broken. A college degree leads to debt-serfdom in the form of crushing student loans, but the education gained has little value in the emerging economy.

In the corporate world, loyalty has been reduced to a facade of rah-rah PR that masks a culture of insecurity.

5. The government at all levels–local, state and federal–responds to any questioning of its authority or abuse of power with increasing over-reach and violence. There are so many examples of this, it’s difficult to know where to start: the federal government’s war on truthtellers regarding domestic spying abuses, and the state of California’s blatantly unconstitutional confiscation of taxpayer bank accounts with zero due process–the mere suspicion that income hasn’t been fully reported in california is sufficient grounds for the theft of citizens’ money by the state.

Welcome to the United States of Orwell, Part 2: Law-Abiding Taxpayers Are Treated as Criminals While the Real Criminals Go Free (March 27, 2012)

When the master narratives have broken down, legitimacy is lost. What’s left is authority without accountability or recourse and abuse of power without limits.

When the citizenry cease to believe the lies, the nation suffers a nervous breakdown.


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