How Do You Prepare For The Unimaginable?
I’ve been reading a lot of Casaubon’s Book lately. I usually come away from it feeling like I ought to convince Mr. Z to move back to southwestern PA with me so the two of us can become gentleman farmers and live sustainably after peak oil – maybe we can live out our days in mom’s house and garden in the backyard, as my grandfather used to, or buy some nice cheap land out in the countryside in Greene County, and I’ll raise chickens, and maybe we’ll even have goats, or…
I think FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!!!!!!! we are all so fucking SCREWED!!!!!!!!! Even those crazy ass folks who are moving out to the farms! What, who are they kidding? It’s all gonna go down the crapper!
See, Sharon even agrees with me:
And that’s right. All of those painful and ugly truths are absolutely correct. None of it is enough to do all the things we change if we could, none of it is enough to soften all the pain, none of the safety nets we try and put in place for those we love and those we do not know are sufficient to catch everyone. It is all true – and that’s terrible.
Well, not really.
And yet, it would also be a wild and radical understatement to say that simply because you cannot fix the vast problems of the world piece by piece that that doesn’t matter, because of course, it does… All of what I do is a response to the world I live in – get up and clean the messes, because they need cleaning. I get up and tend the sick kids because they need tending. I get up and write my pieces because they need writing – because internally, I need to write them and because they might be of use. I make things because we need them. I weed the garden because it needs weeding. I try and reduce emissions because they need reducing. And I bring other people back to my home, because they need to see and know what I know, and I need to know what they know. I do it because in the end piece by piece is the only way to mend what is broken, the only way to make a future. I once thought I could live my work and my life in separate pieces. Instead, I found that, piece by piece, I was building a whole – and that the future is built the same way.
After awhile of this stuff ping-ponging around in my brain, I generally reach the conclusion that my blog is more or less irrelevant. Then my brain can’t take it anymore, I block it all out, make myself some coffee, and go back to business as usual.
Question: is this why the world is, in fact, SCREWED!! ?
Occasionally when I read the comments at Casaubon’s Book, they remind me of a friend of mind who once used to brag and brag about how she and her husband were not car snobs like all the other people at the research institute where we worked, with all their late model vehicles, because they had the oldest and shabbiest looking vehicle in the parking lot. She was exceedingly proud of how they were so not into cars. She was a holier than thou reverse car snob.
Some of the commenting is exchange of information – I’m trying to do this, how’d you do that – but some of it just strikes me as bragging.
– We keep our house THIS COLD all winter!
– No, our house is COLDER!
– We NEVER eat at restaurants, and if we did, we wouldn’t drive – and do we ever enjoy telling our guests to just sack up and walk the six miles with us!
– We use cloth diapers!
– So what, we don’t use toilet paper anymore – we wipe our asses with washable cloth strips! AND I built my own composting toilet out of repurposed parts I bartered for on Freecycle!
Okay, I might be exaggerating about the composting toilet (but not much). Sharon says she is not a survivalist, and most of her commentariat claims not to be as well – they say they are something much more positive. But some of the stuff that runs through the comment threads leans toward survivalism, albeit with a heavy naïve streak. The “real” survivalists are building compounds and laying in ammo to ward off the hungry mobs and looters; these cherubic souls think they will go on placidly gardening in an undisturbed fashion while the hungry ravening mobs swirl around them. If even half of what they are predicting on the blog and in their comments comes true (and I don’t doubt it will, mind you) I just don’t see how that’s going to be possible.
Maybe I’m wrong, and they are right. Maybe enough people will turn away from excess, and to gardening, and living simply and with less, and we’ll find our way through.
Or maybe as famine becomes more widespread, so too will behaviors like those seen in North Korea. In a book review of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Frank Langfitt notes
In a chapter entitled, “The Good Die First,” [author] Demick points out that those who lie, cheat, and steal for food survive, while those who follow the regime’s edicts – don’t buy food on the black market – are among the first to die.
Langfitt also recounts a story told to him by a Chinese trucker who hauled food into North Korea to trade for scrap metal.
[He] had a gash on his forehead from his latest trip. He told me a teenage boy had hit him with a rock as a crowd leapt on his truck, cut through inch-thick ropes, and made off with 30 bags of flour. Other Chinese traders described children so weak they didn’t have the strength to climb onto the trucks to steal.
Well, maybe things won’t get quite that bad here in the U.S. We won’t be starving (at least…not all of us…), but everything, especially energy, is going to cost a lot more. Maybe electricity use (will there be electricity?) will be rationed. People might have to give up using some of their big energy hogs. Maybe…who knows…maybe even their precious, yesssss….the big screen t.v. What will happen to all those big screen t.v.s when the lack of cheap oil makes them obsolete? Let’s see…angry peeps plus ammo plus t.v.s no longer good for anything means….
…We’ll just haul them out into Skull Valley and shoot ’em up! Ah…you know…if we’ve managed to hoard enough gasoline to fuel the Hummer to get us out there and back. But say, if we have made the switch to the simpler lifestyle already, we can probably haul the bigscreen out there in the oxcart to shoot it full of holes. If we haven’t already dumped it and shot it full of holes as part of our adapting-in-place downsizing.
I fear I have not the sanguine nature required to placidly prepare for the unimaginable. Though I gotta tell you, I am keeping my house MUCH COLDER this year than I did last year! Still using tp, though. And not wearing diapers, of any sort. Yet.