Las Vegas in winter
Down and out in Las Vegas The Independent
With Americans cutting back on luxuries, and the price of transport rocketing, the so-called "Vegas vacation" is facing the axe. This week, as the nation celebrated Independence Day, major hotels were taking stock of a fall in all-important room occupancy rates from their usually impressive 95 per cent levels to nearer 80 per cent.
Local bankruptcies have quadrupled. The property market, which rode the wave of a boom for most of the past decade is now below its peak by anything from a quarter to a third (depending on whose figures you believe), while Nevada now boasts, if that is the right word, the nation's highest foreclosure rate. The number of empty homes has caused a health scare after it emerged that mosquitoes – possibly carrying the killer West Nile virus – are breeding in abandoned swimming pools.
Even as the air wheezes out of the bag, one wonders how mindful Americans are of the permanently changing landscape. High gas prices, recessions, and even depressions are not new to North America. Everyone wants this whole mess to turn the corner - sweep out out the rats, bring on the new President, a new day, and perhaps falling gasoline prices after the coast is drilled for sweet black gold. Smart cars will be docked into Hummers instead of replacing them.
America is a population that is among the least equipped in history to handle a systemic collapse. People died slowly on live TV during the Katrina disaster. Americans love their media, not their neighbors. Those who are planning their next gambling run down in the casinos just as soon as ticket prices come down and the card gets paid off have no idea at present that this day will likely never come.
The primary hubris of the energized civilization is the power switch. It is such a casual weakness. Nothing happens without it. We're not built to do without it, and most of us don't even know how it works.
It is a strange feeling of unease as an individual, to finally face these weaknesses in our culture for real. The real news is still ignored, while many are ready to start dreaming of the housing collapse turning around, or what have you.
Imagining a herd of robot consumer narcissists when they begin to feel peckish is a nightmare scenario. We've all built our cocoons, our personal worlds, each of us a perverse cockroach in our own right, ready to come boiling out into the streets as soon as the system changes.
Perhaps I should grow a really long beard.