January 1st, 2024 | John Miller

The MandIbles: Social Collapse Foretold

Written in 2016, this book is prescient.
“As of this evening, myself, the secretary of the Treasury, and the chairman of the United States Federal Reserve have declared a universal “reset”. In the interest of preserving the very nation that would meet its obligations of the future., we are compelled to put aside the obligations of the past. All Treasury bills, notes, and bonds are forthwith declared null and void. Many debtors have wept in gratitude for the mercy of a wiped slate, the right to a second chance, which for individuals and corporations alike all fair-minded judicial systems like our own have enshrined in law. So also, must government be able to draw a line and say: here we begin afresh.” - The President of the United States, pg. 57 of The Mandibles

Those of us on the dissident right have many tremendous works of fiction to lean into. The literary quality can be suspicious, but incorporating a worldview so specific into a narrative compels many of us to overlook the failings.
With Lionel Shriver’s 2016 book, The Mandibles, we need not extend grace to the quality. This book is a fantastic insight into many of the concerns and issues of our day, played out as a near-term future tale of woe and decline. Shriver takes an Ayn Rand approach of using the narrative as a platform for discussing everything from the history of the gold standard to the geo-political realities of a multi-polar world. She does this, however, with a truly frightening street-level view of ordinary middle-class characters adjusting to the changing world around them.
In the novel, the United States is facing decline due in large part to an unsustainable debt. The rise of the BRIC nations and their parallel currency called the “Banco” is vying for supremacy with the once mighty U.S dollar. The national debt of the United States has hit critical levels and servicing the debt is no longer a viable option. The story begins around the time that the President of the United States enacts drastic measures, including default, in order to preserve the nation.
The fascinating telling of the story is that the perspective of the characters is extremely relatable. This is a story about a family and these events impact their lives enormously. At first nothing changes, and everyone carries on with standard expectations and status-quo thinking, but with each chapter we see the arrival of decline and disorder in a step-by-step fashion that makes this akin to a horror story.
The main character of the story is Willing, the young and intense teenage “natural born leader” who anticipates the collapse of the United States. He is brooding and intense and pessimistic. His older relatives struggle to keep up with the times, but Willing is way ahead of the game. He knows.
Watching the characters from a variety of walks of life struggle to adjust to the spiraling decline of their society is fascinating. Some memorable moments?

-         Lowell is an economist working for a university and he has TENURE! He thinks this makes him invulnerable to the Great Depression-level collapse that is occurring around him and he has an interesting exchange with the administration regarding his dismissal. This book was written in 2016, just before Woke broke out in spades across the Western world and it’s fascinating to see how prescient much of Shriver’s narrative is. Perhaps it’s a product of living in New York and London and being ahead of the zeitgeist, or perhaps it’s just her individual sense of cultural pulse taking, but so many scenes in this book were ahead of their time and this is one of them.
-          Lengthy sections describe toilet paper shortages. The family has to consolidate under one roof and toilet paper becomes an issue. The characters squabble about toilet paper rationing and when they run out they have to use washable squares of cloth. All of this would have seemed kind of uncouth before Covid, but reading it today brings back memories of people savagely filling Costco carts with as much toilet paper as they could handle. Shriver’s near future is already our past.
-          The human condition was fascinating throughout. Shriver captures the snide, envious, self-serving and frustrating aspects of human character placed under different forms of stress. We often romanticize big families living together under one roof, but this novel pulls no punches. When multiple families are forced to live in every spare room the house can hold, the arguments rage, the truth erupts, the privacy plummets and the tensions rise. Add scarcity and decline and then crime on top of this and we see what people are really made of.
-          As inflation destroys everyone’s standard of living, there’s interesting scenes like Lowell going to a grocery store with his severance check and wanting to look like a hero for bringing home a big load of groceries. He discovers that his money doesn’t go far enough to buy a cart of food, so decides instead to go to a gas station and buy less of more sought-after foods like chocolate. He then gets robbed at knife point and left with nothing but the car he drove to the store with. (They end up losing that too.)
-          Spoiler alert (sort of): When they lose their house, they all make their way to a homeless shelter that is overflowing way beyond capacity. Shriver does a fantastic job depicting the bleakness of the situation at this point. When they are standing on the street and told by Willing that they’re going to have to walk to upstate New York and that it may take months for their group to do this, the patriarch of the family throws the story into total hardcore despair.
By the end of the novel, the state of Nevada separates from the United States and offers a refuge from big, bad government.

“There were no paramilitary battles – because there weren’t any ‘patriots’. Everybody had fucking had it with DC, and anyone feeling swoony about America the Beautiful was welcome to leave. From what I’ve been told, ’42 was the most graceful revolution in history. Municipal governments were already in place, and they stayed in place. Ditto the state government – which simply became the national government, bingo, overnight. So people woke up. Sun rose. They went to work. Nothing changed. After all, ever think about what the federal government does? Takes your money and gives it to somebody old. That’s about it. Oh, and then the feds do expend an awful lot of energy interfering with anything you want to do. Really miss that.” – Jarred, pg. 387 of The Mandibles

The ending leaves the reader on a positive, although fatalist note. Utopia doesn’t exist anywhere and while we can fight the good fight, there is a tendency amongst civilization to move in inevitable directions.
Buy gold. Buy guns. Read The Mandibles.
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