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Monday, November 26, 2012

A Lesson in Collapse



Once again we turn to the handy dandy example of Greece. By any reasonable assessment, the country is undergoing collapse. Unemployment is high. Living standards have plummeted. Suicide is up. Unrest is rampant. There are riots in the streets. People have turned to barter and the underground economy.

In spite of all that, the country functions -not well, but it does function. Most of the cops are still on the job. There is more bureaucracy, not less. A majority of companies do at least some business. Government benefits, while much reduced, are still being provided.

Greek collapse will look fast to the historians. To the people in the middle of it, it’s a long slow grind.

Now picture an American prepper. Let’s say he’s better prepared than most. Assume a good year’s supply of food, and $10,000 worth of precious metals. Because he’s an American, he has a big assault rifle and 25,000 rounds of ammunition.

Early in the collapse, he loses his job. For a year, his family does well enough. There’s enough food and his precious metals cover other expenses. Property taxes still have to be paid. The utility bills keep coming in. Maybe there’s some doctor or dental expenses. His car needs gas. Actually, he does pretty well to make that $10,000 last a year.

Year two it starts to get interesting. The stored food is gone. Savings are gone. Any government benefits are exhausted. His resources are pretty much gone, except for that assault rifle. That’s not doing him much good either, as he can’t even afford a hunting license. The game wardens are still on the job.

Eventually, he’s going to get evicted from his house. Where does he go? Maybe he had a plan of bugging out to the National Forest. How would that work for him? It’s fine to camp there for a while, but eventually he’d have to move on. What if he’s got school age children? They can’t just disappear from the system.

He probably had some idea that when he’d bug out to the forest, he could do what he wanted: clear land, build a log cabin, set up game traps, build a fish weir, plant a garden -all the things a homesteader would do. Of course, he can’t do that as there are still rules and people to enforce them. Maybe fewer people, but enough. In fact, because of government shortfalls, fines and penalties may be a lot higher.

In a collapse that takes years a different strategy is needed. What’s working in Greece? Most people are getting by. Families have crowed in together. The quality and quantity of food has gone down. People with gardens, fruit and nut trees, are glad they have them. Lot’s of informal work goes on -off the books. The barter economy has replaced part of the money economy.

Government gets less and less effective (which is saying something for Greece), but it does not go away. Most police still come to work. Politics are getting harsher. Fascism has gotten a solid foothold. People are desperate and willing to try desperate solutions. The collapse keeps on grinding down. Relationships are important. Who can help you and what skills do you have to offer others? Family and friends become more important than ever.

How will it play out in other countries? There will be similarities, but different countries have different national characteristics. Some expect collapse in the US to get more violent and sooner. (maybe that assault rifle won’t be a bad investment after all.) If you’ve lost your job, the collapse is well underway -at least for you. There are already plenty of desperate people. Collapse is here, but not evenly distributed.

It’s rarely a single event. For the individual, it manifests as a series of ever more serious challenges to be dealt with. Don’t think of it as an event but a process. The more adaptable a person is, the better off they are. It’s true in Greece. It’s true everywhere.

-Sixbears

22 comments:

  1. It's not a pretty picture Sixbears but one that could well be what we'll be seeing.
    And a flippant thought, how long would Sixbears last before he was reduced to Fivebears...

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    1. It all depends on how it shakes out. All it takes is a major unexpected expense to really set things back.

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  2. I was sitting with my oldest son the other day, calmly discussing ways that we could manage to have his wife and him move up onto our property with us, if finances came to that. It doesn't seem like a big event, having that discussion, unless we think back to how really unthinkable we would have found that possibility to be, only a few years ago.

    I also found it interesting to be a listener to a Facebook conversation recently in which a group of homeschooling moms discussed (without a bit of irony or incredulity) how to raise children that can live and thrive under socialism. Sad but true.

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    Replies
    1. These are conversaions we never thought we'd have.

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  3. Me thinks that comparisons of Greece vs. America might be misleading. Europeans have been used to living on a much lower standard of living as compared to us. So consequently deal with issues differently.
    They do not have that assault rifle whereas here Billy Bob and Gangsta including Urban Yuppie all do...I think that because of this violence will breakout much sooner here. We are used to sustenance on demand, when that is no longer the case...look out buddy !!
    In fact in a micro scale we are seeing this right now with the desperate looking for some means to survive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are many paths to collapse. The US is so big that it will be different where a person happens to be.

      If the food supply is completely cut off, it would get nasty very quickly.

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  4. Or, when he loses his job, instead of circling the wagons and waiting until his 10 grand is gone, he could use it to learn a new trade, or move somewhere where his old skills are in demand.

    Or actually buy a plot in the sticks and do the homesteading thing, rather than wait for the end of the world as we know it to bug out and claim jump.

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    1. Indeed. But he'll most likely do none of those things.

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    2. I have noticed that a guy who is prepping for a flood, but gets a drought doesn't change his plans, he just keeps insisting the flood is coming any day now.

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    3. That's where the adaptable part comes in.

      Of course, won't you feel silly when he's right about the flood. :)

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    4. Sometimes things sneak upon us so slowly that while we are still desperately waiting and hoping that our fortunes change we find that all our options are gone and find that while we weren't looking our house was repossessed, no job offer came, and we still didn't qualify for any help. Sure the guy could've bought some land and worked it but he had the hope that things will get better. Sometimes they don't.

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    5. I was that guy. Got injured at work and it took 4 years to settle. Should have taken about a year. At the end of 4 years, I was about to lose everything I owned, but then I won my case. I lucked out. Had I known the process was going to take 4 years, I might have done things differently.

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    6. But you went to school for a new job. You didn't just piss through your savings and keep denying the disaster you got and insisting the disaster you expected is coming.

      Don't hide from a flood in the tornado cellar.

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    7. Okay. You know me too well. :)

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  5. I think the main difference between me and most Preppers is about 11 years. I anticipated the recession of 2001 but fully expected it to turn out like the recession of 2008. (I still think in some alternate universe Gore was elected in 2000 and that's exactly what happened!) So while I was prepping for Y2K I was really expecting an economic collapse shortly afterwards. So I've already done the long slow grind.

    So where am I now? Trying to figure out what to do with all these eggs my 5 month old chickens have started laying for me...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Omlets, lots and lots of omlets.

      By the time Y2K hit, I'd been living on solar power and had wood heat backup for years. I think I ended up buying another 50 pounds of rice, just in case. It was a lifestyle by then, one I like.

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  6. when have been watching "preppers" on TV many did not have any sort of reference libary or skills at doing some other trade....

    good post SIXBEARS!


    Wildflower

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    1. Thanks Wildlower. No, I don't watch "preppers."

      Like Paracynic was pointing at, they have one scenario they've prepped for and nothing else.

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  7. Good post, Sixbears.

    Got laid off in 2001, and didn't have a "real job" for three years. Got through it by a combination of odd jobs and learning a new trade. Went back into my original line of work in 2007, until getting laid off last year. This last time around I had a greater skillset under my belt and recovered rather quickly, fortunately.

    These days, getting laid off every few years is a way of life. I've fund the key is to be flexible and able to move between a a couple different trades. Maybe eventually get a sideline or two going. I'm still working on that last part.

    Guns are handy, but too many preppers overemphasize having them. That's coming from a gun collector. Tools and skills are where it's at.

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  8. I don't consider myself a prepper. I happen to like gardening, and enjoy having 15 different fruit and nut producing plants.

    However, I have built a hard copy library of 20 books on various aspects of gardening, home repair (electrical, plumbing, carpentry, etc..) and small projects. Also have accumulated a nice little library of classic literature and college-level textbooks (ecology, chemistry, biology, world geography, philosophy, etc..), and some nice reference books on trees, plants, minerals, etc....

    I figure if we lose the internet someday I won't lack for educational material.

    If all goes along fine, well, I already use a good bit of them anyway. Besides, bought most of them at library sales for less than $1, or obtained for free from professor friends at the local univ.

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