There’s an echo in here. A sense of foreboding, of dread. Not the pessimism of the informed, something much more personal. The fear of not having enough, as Derrick Jensen calls it in A Language Older Than Words. It’s an echo because those of us in the blogosphere are more knowledgeable than those in society’s mainstream, where most live with that fear, to a greater or lesser extent all their lives, and because we are less distracted than those who get their information and sense of what is happening from the detached, distorted and learned helplessness-inducing mainstream media.
The rest of society will catch on sooner or later, but for now this fear is our dark secret.
This isn’t just the gnawing fear and guilt and anger of having to do without things we’d really like, for ourselves, for our children, things the rich elite have in obscene abundance and squander without a second thought. This is the deeper, darker fear of soul-destroying deprivation, hunger, desperation, not knowing where the next meal is coming from.
This fear is rooted in two dawning realizations:
The rich and powerful are immunizing themselves against this risk, although they still, mostly, deny it will happen. Using the economic power engine shown in the chart above (described in this earlier article), they are furiously redistributing wealth from the poor to themselves, calling in political favours to obtain tax cuts, government subsidies, and increased protection from creditors and litigants, and labouring to gut social programs and creditor and legal protection for everyone else, so that this flow of government largesse is not threatened by demands from the poor. They are dumping their domestic workforce in favour of faraway, cheap labourers who will have neither the means nor the will to vent their fury on the corporatists when Depression closes the plants and lifelines to even basic human necessities. They are reneging on pension and health obligations, cynically shifting worker pensions from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans that will be worth nothing after an economic crash, which is precisely when they are most needed. They are urging the governments in their back pockets to abandon already weakened and inadequate social safety nets by declaring them bankrupt and walking away from them. The objective in all of this is not only to shift wealth from the poor to the rich, but to shift risk in the event of economic collapse from the rich to the poor.
The rest of us have either learned that the government and corpocracy are not here to do us any favours, so we can expect nothing from them, or are prevented by pride and a sense of fairness from the shameless begging from politicians (described euphemistically as ‘lobbying’) that corporatists use to hedge their risks. So we don’t even ask for, or expect, any insurance from the impact of an economic depression or the inadequacy of our savings to provide even minimal needs in our senior years.
There is nothing new in this. It happened during the era of the Robber Barons, and again during the so-called Roaring Twenties. If you harbour the illusion that the 1920s were a period in which the staggering affluence of the rich was shared with the working or even middle class, read this account, from a librarian at U. of Oregon. If the social parallels between the 1920s and the 2000s don’t make you shudder, then you’re not paying attention to what’s happening here, now. The economists, in the pay and employ of the corporatists, while still spouting their lies that ‘average’ GDP has anything at all to do with human well-being, will tell you that the technical causes of the Great Depression of the 1930s cannot recur because of technical safeguards instituted since then.
But the primary cause of the Great Depression was not technical factors at all, but rather a crisis of confidence. It is only public confidence, the consensus of those investing their hard-earned money and savings, that accounts for houses that cost $100,000 to build and another $20,000 per year to commute to and from to work, somehow selling for, and hence being ‘worth’, $500,000 or more. It is only public confidence that accounts for shares of companies that are massively leveraged, dependent on government subsidies, tax exemptions, and artificially suppressed interest rates, selling crap manufactured half a world away by desperate slave labour, financed by debt ten times larger than anything seen in the history of the planet, imported cheap thanks to artificially suppressed oil prices, and flogged to the public at obscene profit margins, trading at 30x earnings or more — in other words priced on the expectation that these already overstretched and unsustainable profits will continue to increase by 20% or more every year forever.
Eventually the baby boomers, a billion or more of them, will, except for a tiny elite, be forced to realize that they cannot afford to retire, and that they will have to work until they die, and liquidate everything they have to make ends meet, and stop buying everything except absolute necessities of life, and become self-sufficient (since they will no longer be able to afford to hire others to do everything for them). If you know anything about economics, you know what happens when large numbers of people stop spending and start liquidating their assets. Crash.
Eventually the international game of chicken that has produced such staggering debt and imbalance in trade will reach the point at which someone says ‘uncle’. If the Chinese don’t do so (because their economy and the US economy are co-dependent), the Arab nations, realizing that their only asset is being exhausted by 8% per year and that to offset the fall they need both a commensurate increase in price and a stable currency in which to price it, probably will. If the Mideastern oil supply survives the Bush-Cheney Crusades (there’s evidence it won’t), the OPEC nations will soon start insisting on payment in a non-bankrupt currency. The Ponzi scheme will then be over, and the first to cash in their chips will do fine, the next will scrape by, and the remainder will be stuck with certificates and debentures whose only value is as wallpaper. The result is what is called a default, and it is the ultimate expression of a crisis of confidence. What happens next is that the US dollar becomes worthless, trade grinds to a halt, everyone whose job depends on trade is laid off, so they stop buying, pushing demand down to the point that price is less than cost, huge profits become huge losses, and the whole economy shuts down. It took until 1932 before someone had the courage to call the ‘correction’ what it really was.
Hence the dread. It’s just a question of when. Cash in too soon and you’ll miss the last orgy of real estate and share price rises, leaving you with a nest egg considerably smaller than it could have been. Cash in too late and your assets will be worthless, and you’ll have no nest egg at all. As soon as a significant number of people start cashing in, the Tipping Point is reached, and there’s no turning back. Only the worn-out lies of economists, politicians and corporatists are delaying this inevitability. And, as I’ve already explained, they’ve hedged their bets already.
Then the Fear of Not Having Enough will become a reality. Search the Internet for information on what living in the last Great Depression was like, and you’ll come up with surprisingly little. It’s almost as if this period in our history has been self-censored out of our consciousness. Maybe there’s a fear that if enough people realize how much our world today is like the 1920s, that could make its repetition a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So what do we do? If you do a cash-flow forecast, on the assumption you will live to the age of 90 (likely if you’ve made it this far and in the absence of a pandemic or similar disaster), there’s an extremely high likelihood you will realize you don’t have enough to retire, ever. And if retirement is still too far away for you to be of concern, you need to prepare now to look after yourself and those you love when we reach the Tipping Point and plunge into the next Great Depression.
In either case, you will have to do two things:
In short, this dread, this Fear of Not Having Enough, that is nagging us, those of us informed about what is happening in this world but not rich enough to immunize ourselves from it, is happening for a reason. We need to be the models for the rest of society, show them what needs to be done. This will take great courage, because we will be accused of being Chicken Littles, or worse, of starting a stampede needlessly. Keynes, the great student of economics, knew the Great Depression was coming but lacked the courage to act, still waiting for the top, for his pessimism to achieve some level of social consensus. As a result, he waited too long and was wiped out.
Here’s how Zane at Lichenology has put it:
So on the cusp of my official mid-life…I am recalibrating and stepping into the fullness of life. I want to serve my family and my community, to live with attention and respect, to be humble and generous. I believe we are entering another time in history when people will be asked to be and do all they can. Each of us must find our rightful place in this unfoldingówe need to find the sense of wholeness from which we can step up to our role.
We need to relearn to trust our instincts. Preparing for events we cannot even imagine, and which might be farther off than we fear, runs counter to accepted wisdom of ‘rational’ behaviour and to our human nature of acting only when we absolutely must, when there is no other choice. The voices of dread whispering to us, filling us with ‘irrational’ fears, are telling us something important. It’s time to pay attention. Others are dependingon us to show them the way.
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Derrick Jensen (US)
Dmitry Orlov (US)
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Dougald & Paul (UK)*
Gail Tverberg (US)
Generation Alpha (AU)
Guy McPherson (US)
Ilargi & Nicole (CA)*
Janaia & Robin (US)*
Jim Kunstler (US)
John Michael Greer (US)
Kari McGregor (AU)
Keith Farnish (UK)
Morris Berman (MX)
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Paul Heft (US)*
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Sam Rose (US)*
Seb Paquet (CA)*
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Preparing for Civilization's End:
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Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
Community-Based Resilience Framework (Poster)
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What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
What Happened When the Oil Ran Out
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
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Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
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A Harvest of Myths
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A Model of Identity & Community
If We Had a Better Story
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
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If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
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Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
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Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
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Learning from Indigenous Cultures
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The Job of the Media
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The Illusion of the Separate Self:
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
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