Thursday, April 26, 2012

Greek Diaspora

I ran across a very good article on Greeks who were emigrating from Greece because their economic lives had been shattered and they were unable to live reasonably any longer in their homeland. While I suppose this piece was intended to evoke some sympathy for Greeks in this position, it is also a good illustration of what life in the early stages of collapse is like.

The more I read about Collapse, and people's thoughts on it, the clearer it becomes that people are looking for a "trigger" event that lets them know they need to pack everything up into the Canyonaro and head out to the Doomsday shelter built on the site of a former missile silo. The stock market going to 500, the dollar going to zero, cities burning, no gas left in the pumps, alien saucers landing in Times Square, I don't know.

In reality, there's not going to be a giant gong or factory whistle that blows and lets us know that "it's on!" The reality is going to be going to work one day, finding that there's a mandatory meeting at 9am, where they announce that the place is closing down and people will be directed where to go to fill out unemployment paperwork. Or the reality is that you go to the store one day, find that your pension isn't buying as much food as it once did, as the price goes up. Or, you find some guys unhooking your backyard AC unit and getting ready to carry it off, calling the police, and finding out that budget cuts means that they'll be there in time to take a statement and not do much else.

In other words, Collapse is when the systems we've built over the years to sustain modern life have begun to break down, like a machine that no one can afford to maintain, even if they understood it anyway, and it's grinding, shaking, and belching lots of smoke that's the wrong color.

We all know it's coming, can see it from a mile off, but in a way, we're lost. If a tornado or flood was coming, things are so immediate, we know to grab the kids and the pets, head for the basement or higher ground. The immediacy of things makes us react. But, when we see the Euro taking on water, Greeks leaving for greener pastures, an insurmountable debt, rising oil prices, etc, we are lost.

The metaphor that seems best for our time is living in during the ice age. You can see the two-mile high glacier off in the distance, knowing that it's steadily approaching, that the ground you used to hunt in on is gone, but you can still hunt in front of it. Do you try to still eke out a living in the area, or move on to other lands? Likewise, in our modern lives, we ask the same kinds of questions. Do we still go out to dinner on Friday night, knowing that we should enjoy it while we can, or do we take that money and set it aside to buy hand tools and books on primitive medicine? Do we schedule a vacation for the summer, or decide that gas is too expensive and the money should be spent instead making conversions to the house for wood heat and starting backyard permaculture?

The irony here is that when people look back, they'll see this as a relatively fast blip on humanity's timeline. One hundred years of insane material excess, up to and including marrying off their dogs. Living like peasants that broke into the king's palace while he was away. And so on. They will wonder why we didn't see the signs just a few years earlier, and start shuttering the windows and battening the hatches when we could.


  1. "The reality is going to be going to work one day, finding that there's a mandatory meeting at 9am, where they announce that the place is closing down and people will be directed where to go to fill out unemployment paperwork."

    I had one of those. I was invited to a department meeting with no agenda. 30 minutes later, I found I suddenly had lots of time on my hands.... For a few minutes, loosing my job of 10 years was a terrible feeling. Then it became a great feeling! I realized that I only lost a bunch of troubles that day. In their place was freedom!

  2. Amen to that William. Creativity and thrift is stifled by work pressure that's for sure.

    1. The real irony is that companies depend on innovative thinking to survive and thrive, but most companies tend to not support that kind of activity, because it doesn't have a quantifiable return on investment, so they tend to make drones out of people as much as possible. As a result, people become static in their thinking, following the lead of others, and can no longer respond to significant change.