Unfinished, abandoned, mummified. A tour of the archaeology of the Macropolis reveals a vista of industrial decomposition, among the ruins of the present, through rows of putrefying urban corpses: a macabre display that offers the onlooker a timely reminder of his own mortality. The plains flatten everything, including any clues to help us figure out what era this might be: everything atrophies in the Great Recession and all fields of business activity parade their resulting deterioration. Shops, restaurants, bars, shopping centres, offices, factories, homes, buildings that never got a roof, or have had their roof removed so as to pay less property tax, buildings abandoned to a process of slow but inexorable decay, passively observing the passing of time by empty car parks and evanescent signage.
“There are no clues to help us figure out what era this might be: everything atrophies in the Great Recession.”
220,000 in the Central Macro-region, 100,000 in the Western Macro-region and 100,000 in the Eastern Macro-region: these are the estimates of the jobs lost since 2008, a figure which goes hand in hand with the number of companies closing down. In 2013, the worst year of all, companies were going out of business at the rate of two an hour. In percentage terms, the tertiary sector has been most affected, but no area has been spared as the encroaching desert advances on the building industry, manufacturing and agriculture alike.
It is difficult to say what will be left standing, but in the meantime a visit to the ruins of the Macro-region is a chance to appreciate their unique documentary value. Teachers will be able to accompany groups of students to see the excoriated vaults of a warehouse, a hypermarket car park devoid of trolleys, and the lifeless atriums of former shopping centres. People will study the domestic habits of the occupants of the plains, explore the sites where two-storey neoclassical maisonettes colonised the landscape, and attempt to decipher the traces of words on signs to reconstruct the dead language of commerce, while whole sections of museums will be devoted to reproducing the era’s typical manufacturing facilities.
Inside the Lord’s bunker
The catastrophe is already in progress, and the Lord’s bunker is the only safe shelter where to wait for the return of the natural order of things. Decades will be needed, maybe more than a century: generations will alternate with each other inside it, without ever seeing the light of the day. But sooner or later, and this is what we hope for, the signs of the disaster will leave the Plain, and we will start the rebuilding. Nothing guarantees that this is the final solution, but it is in any case a path to walk on: to go into hiding and pray for something out there to make sense once again.
“Cathedrals of Doom will be ubiquitous: irretrievable ruins made eternal by their permanent lack of purpose.”
The advantage of the Macropolis in archaeological terms is that there is no need to dig down, because care has been taken to leave everything on the surface. It will not be easy to work out the story of each place, because in their haste to flee builders and occupants do not usually leave clear information on the setting that hosted them, but research using primary and secondary sources and so on will help provide insight into the identity of the main structures. For years and years after the volcano erupted, everything will be visible as it was, ready to be examined and analysed by the macro-historians of the future. Once petrified, and divested of apprehension and ideological conflict, the landscape will reveal the full extent of the era’s non-existent land planning, the speculation perpetrated to keep the cogs desperately turning until the final crunch, and the incomprehensible and deluded idea that everything would simply continue as it was, for ever.
Our children and grandchildren will learn to accept the unfinished and not to fear it; they will learn to love it because in it they will see the light of the infinite. They will worship abandonment and acknowledge its undeniable element of mystery. And they’ll have to, as they have no other choice. The Cathedrals of Doom will be ubiquitous: irretrievable ruins made eternal by their permanent lack of purpose. The economic appetite of the Plains is no longer ravenous enough to devour them, so they will live on: too expensive to tear down and too dilapidated to use, temples of Macropolis that bear eternal witness to the mysticism of destruction.
“Speculation perpetrated to keep the cogs desperately turning until the final crunch.”