Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And Life Goes On...

An old REM song keeps popping into my head with greater frequency these days, and I find myself crooning, "The world is collapsing ... around our ears..." to my cow, for instance, as I go about milking.

No doubt this financial crisis is worming its way into more American (and beyond!) psyches than just mine. We're poised on the brink of a reckoning, without a doubt, and regardless of how it all shakes out, the unknown is difficult to handle. There's simply nothing out there yet to wrap our brains around, no solid challenge to tackle head on. Just lurking shadows of history and chimeras of fear that keep us all on edge each time we round a corner.

Add to that the perfect storm of peak oil, population, and global instability and we live in very interesting times, indeed.

I vacillate between panic and paralysis in my own head, and who really needs to read about my private neuroses? So, I've been pretty quiet here lately, preferring to go insular and spend much of my time, mouth agape, watching the train wreck in front of my eyes, searching for small hints and signs of direction and best action.

I admit I'm filled with doom and gloom these days. I think there's a very good chance that we're headed into a global depression as the culture of credit and consumption catches up with all of us whether we're complicit personally or not. (Though I'd argue that it's impossible to live in the developed world without being complicit.) The direct infusion of cash into banks worldwide is enough to momentarily shore up the financial systems, but simply printing more money is not a long term answer. Far from it—it is instead a short-term band-aid that arises out of the same profligate mentality that got us into this global crisis in the first place.

We humans are unsustainable. That is the most basic inconvenient truth of our lives and one we're now forced to face. What we're seeing is a mad dash to deny that truth, or at the very least to keep the man behind the curtain for just a little while longer and continue the deception for the masses.

Our culture is unsustainable. Our sense of comfort and convenience and the entitlement to both are unsustainable. Our hubris and push toward immortality are unsustainable.

Our governments and financial leaders keep telling us that the central problem to the crisis is that credit is locked up. No. The central problem to this crisis is that the cash to lend no longer exists. Not that it ever did, of course, but now the house of cards has collapsed, and the Ponzi scheme of endless credit is revealed. Banks are holding onto their cash to try to cover their own asses. But that doesn't change the fact that there's nothing real, nothing hard behind the paper, and if we continue to try simply to print our way out of this mess, we're in for a world of hurt down the line. Pain now or pain later. Or both.

The point is that our economy is contracting, and this contraction back toward some semblance of sustainability will be painful. Jobs. Homes. Food. These are the basic things that we'll see falter. As the economy contracts, more and more jobs will be lost, affecting folks' ability to pay mortgage or rent, which means more people will lose their homes. Not just people who were overextended, but perfectly solvent and responsible people who depended upon their job to pay for food and shelter. Pretty basic stuff since most of us fall into that category.

How secure is your income? How adaptable are you? How self-sufficient? These are the questions I'm asking myself and I think everyone should be asking.

Can we pay off a 30 year mortgage in the next year? No way. Is our income secure enough to rest assured that we'll keep our home? I hope. Do we have ways of creating income should our current one fail? I don't know because history tells me that even if I can produce goods for sale, there's no guarantee anyone will be able to buy them in a depressed society.

Aren't you glad I'm back? I promise I'll go light on the gloom and doom and heavy on the self-sufficient stuff in the coming days.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are back and I feel exactly the same way! I have not posted since late August and feel I have nothing to say yet.I go back and forth between "oh my God it is happening faster than I thought and society is collapsing soon" and "well maybe it won't happen as fast as I thought". It makes it hard to decide what to do. I have been trying to find others in my community that have the same concerns and have been able to find a small group. It helps. Take care.
Cindy in FL

MeadowLark said...

I'm a "doomer" as well. But trying not to be. Because (unless we lose our house) things aren't so bad. I know how to live frugally, our house is old enough to be built without those darn heat-wating vaulted ceilings and great rooms, and I have just enough room to squeak in a garden. It could be worse, and that's what we need to focus on. I guess.

Mist said...

You've taken the thoughts right from my head and posted them here. For now, I just keep taking things one day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. I never feel as if I'm getting things done quickly enough though.


Carolyn said...

I have missed you so! Can't wait to hear what you have been up too.

scary times we are in.

Danielle said...

I figured I probably wasn't alone in my neuroses. ;)

Carolyn, I haven't forgotten you—promise. I'm pulling together some stuff that has required some time. In particular, I'd like to include something I'm making for friends and family for the holidays. So please know that I'm thinking of you and having fun pulling together your gift package.

Jenny said...

I'm right there with you, as you know. It's so much harder because of being a mom. If it were just my husband and me I would feel quite prepared for anything that came my way. But my kids are still so young and it is they who will bear the brunt of all of this. Thank goodness I didn't waste their time sending them to school! Off to eat some farm-raised beef, potatoes, and chard for dinner.

Love you,

Country Girl said...

Glad your back, even if it is gloom and doom. I have been nervous about our future and hope we will come out of it.
Missing you posts, I thought about going through your archives because I missed all I've learned from your posts.

Woody said...

Dang Danielle...I figured you were out pulling weeds and picking csa shares just a cussing and fuming over current events. I too have had a knot in my stomach for a while.

Happy to see a posting from you. Even if it is a doom and gloom reality check. Give your kids and Jim a hug and rest a little easier knowing that you are surrounded by the love of a strong and prepared family.


Anonymous said...

Your thoughts sound just like mine! I knew this was coming, I just thought it would take another year or two, or the breakdown would be much slower than it is. My husband and I keep joking that we can survive off of potatoes and milk if things get really bad, right? Our off farm income is pretty stable, but I worry about other members of our family whose jobs are more consumer driven. oh and glad to see you back.

Gina said...

You articulated this situation so well. I've been having a real hard time grasping for the proper way to say how I feel about the "train wreck".

Your questions to yourself are really similar to the ones hitting home to a lot folks out here.

Indeed, we have tough times ahead...

Madeline said...

I echo what Woody said - rest assured that you have a strong and prepared family. I am glad to see you here again. You'll be fine, no matter what. You are one of the most capable people I know. It is a scary time, but you and yours will be fine.

Verde said...

Yea, I've been on a preparing run for a while and it's time to sit back and let the finances catch up. I wish our house were more secure.

Danielle @ Savor Culture said...

Hi Danielle,

I think that your posts regarding the financial and economic crises are appropriate, and I definitely appreciate them. Personally, I've been wanting to grab people (including members of my family) and shake them to make them aware of how their behavior weakens our environment and our long-term economy. Not being able to do that, and not knowing what I should do, has kept me pretty frustrated for some weeks, during which writing about cheese seemed unthinkable!

Fortunately for my peace of mind, I returned to blogosphere a couple of weeks ago. It's inspiring to read blogs like yours, which remind us to DO SOMETHING. We can all do a little more to be self-sufficient and to consume fewer resources. We are not totally powerless, even when we face undesirable choices.

Thanks for writing... about homesteading, the economy, whatever. The discussion is comforting and empowering.