Worldly Things and a Solution of Stone Soup

I gave up long ago ever thinking I could escape my financial debt. While this may seem like a very depressing statement, it is a personal analysis that more or less stems from the overall ineptitude and lack of foresight in the brains of those operating the economy at large. While I do not absolve myself of responsibility for my financial instability, I like many did not have a firm grasp on what financing and credit were all about in my mid-20’s. Yet, in the midst of not having been able to make rent on time while in college, I became swamped with credit card offers from institutions specifically targeting people like me in this position.

Whether in the category of Student or Working Low-Income, companies providing these offers used people in my position because they saw long-term payoff in the form of interest accrual. We weren’t going to use our credit in a thoughtfully paced and responsible manner, paying it off every month we used it; no, we applied for those credit cards because we saw them as loans for paying off larger bills, so we could level out the playing field in our lives. A lower credit card payment every month was much better than the pressure from an energy company turning off our electricity, or a bank aggressively charging overdraft fees on a daily basis. But interest would accrue over time, requiring larger payments to actually pay off the balance of these cards. Larger payments that didn’t really exist for people who received either modest or below-modest income.

I don’t know. I wonder if the expectation was that our generation was going to find the same career placement their forebears did in the wake of college, and eventually gain the income needed to pay off the credit card bills we were singled out and targeted for in what was essentially a smash-and-grab scheme for long-term interest profits. In any case, that didn’t happen, financial institutions did not receive the amount of return they expected, and the mentality that operated this scheme on several levels contributed in large part to the financial crisis we are in. For the first time on a really mass scale, the failings of a system that worked on a premise of imaginary money have been laid bare.

In the documentary film Collapse, the views of a man named Michael C. Ruppert were the main focus. The claim for a documentary being entirely about him and his views are that he has been loudly and actively predicting the global economic meltdown we are currently in since 2001, and predicts resoundingly that our current societal structuring will not survive this collapse. In a global structure and a population that relies almost entirely on oil (outside of food), he states that in our functioning as a collective energy-producing global machine, we are currently experiencing entropy, in keeping with all governance of energy under the laws of thermodynamics. “There is no such thing as infinite growth,” he states, “but that is precisely how our world economy is run.”

He goes on to tear apart the various methods we have on the table at getting to alternative energy, such as the obvious myths of “clean” coal and corn-based ethanol (which, energy trade-off wise, causes us to use more fossil fuels actually creating the ethanol than the energy it will itself produce). The electric car is even unrealistic, in that “there are seven gallons of oil in every tire [produced],” as well as in creating the components of the vehicle, shipping it, et cetera. Basically, if oil runs out, this option would also be entirely unfeasible. He shines the light of possibility on solar and wind energies, decrying projects like putting a giant solar collector in the desert as unrealistic (they supposedly can only provide energy locally, in that local grids have to use it before it is transferred any further distance).
What originally put Ruppert on the outs with many as a “conspiracy theorist” were his suddenly not-so-extreme viewpoints as to where this entropy would take us. Initially, I found him to be a man completely without hope and with little faith in humanity. Then the filmmakers revealed his other side. While speaking of the inevitable breakdown of the current global paradigm, he begins to espouse the importance of people in being able to band together and become interdependent. Basically, going back to a tribal society where everyone has an important role to fill, and all work towards the common good. This, he stated, was the only thing that was going to allow humanity to survive, as well as hoarding organic seeds, which realistically would allow these communities to continue to thrive.

I have felt that money would no longer be the issue, which is why I don’t try to worry about paying all my bills off by a certain time. If the global economy is any indicator, money will be exposed blatantly, flagrantly to the light of day as the meaningless pieces of paper we always knew them to be. The real value is in those skills and resources that lead to our survival. Chief among them is our interdependence with one another.

I’ve been talking with some friends and family, and in several conversations the subject of communal farm living comes up. The more and more I think about what Ruppert says about the inevitability of this collapse, the more I firmly believe that this is the way to consolidate with one another. Everyone I know is struggling to get by, and that’s one thing to live that way, but if we were all together working towards our own food production and resources, surely one could not say we were poor.

This could be dismissed as a bunch of malarkey, but think about it this way: The so-called “American Dream” that has been force-fed us (two-story house, two-car garage per couple, etc.) has only been around since the economic boom after World War II. That is only two generations, three if you can count some overspill into this one. It won’t be around for our children to enjoy. The method that has been time-tested throughout history is the collaborative and local community.

So I gave up ever thinking I would escape financial debt. I have instead replaced a perceived dearth – and by perceived I mean “if I think about it hard enough, it really doesn’t exist” – with the wealth of a community of friends who help each other in time of need, a church community that serves as a haven for both comforting and intelligent thought, and a family that has come together strong in times of distress and emergency. With these kinds of things in place, how could anyone consider themselves poor?

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3 Responses to Worldly Things and a Solution of Stone Soup

  1. Jake Barnett says:

    The time is coming where living beyond our means will be impossible. After that time I’m convinced that through advancements in technology it will be possible to transmit/create power locally (http://www.bloomenergy.com/), recycle more materials (Such as the tires you mentioned), and in a distant future possibly support a resource-based economy (http://www.thevenusproject.com/index.php). If you want a better tomorrow, in my opinion, it is through advancement and not regression.

    As far as “The American Dream” is concerned, I’ve never heard of the definition you used. I’m more familiar with the one used by James Truslow Adams, author of “The Epic of America” in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. Granted based on that definition we are still far from that goal, but that is another conversation. The point is it’s achievable without the ownership of homes,cars, and children.

    You mentioned working toward food production and resources as a community. Can you elaborate? I picture either a pre-industrial or post-apocalyptic community with the way you’ve painted things thus far.

    “He who moves not forward, goes backward.”-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    P.S. This post caused Ryan and I to debate for an hour on global energy solutions.I blame you 🙂

    • craserit83 says:

      I do not doubt or disagree with the content of your message, Jake, but I guess I must clarify some of my statements. “The American Dream” I referred to is not the one of success by trial and travail that you reference, but the one sold and marketed to us as a capitalistic and conformist society: That all have the ability to “Make It” in America, and all should strive for and achieve the family and individual household spread out across sprawling suburbia. This latter aspect did not exist during the time of James Truslow Adams’ definition, but after World War II and the creation of the middle class. Of this I did explain in the blog, and as many have stated, living spread out in large houses with each adult having their own car is the most energy-inefficient out of any country.

      To address the sense of regression you get from my sentiment, I think the term “simplification and prioritization” would apply better to what I was getting at. Should the world economic system crumble, I firmly believe that that will be the mantra and course of action for us all. I didn’t mean to sound all gloom and doom. I applaud the vision of the future that idealists like the minds behind the Venus Project have, but obviously, the current system would have to be dismantled first in order to achieve it. It is in the interim that I am proposing the tighter-knit communal lifestyle that would carry humanity over into an economic system more reliant on resources we need (with emphasis on the betterment and progression of humanity and the Earth).

      “Collapse” was also very depressing and apocalyptic, which is why I wasn’t focusing past the worldwide breakdown. Watch it, and tell me it doesn’t rip the hope for humanity right outta you.

    • craserit83 says:

      If you want an elaboration on the “American Dream is a lie” watch this documentary:

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