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Having trouble maintaining my humanity

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  • Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 11:07pm

    #1

    plantguy90

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    Having trouble maintaining my humanity

Went food shopping with the family today, and I couldn’t help but observe everything a little bit differently.  It wasn’t about my level of preparation; it was about just watching everyone else go on with their normal lives.  Like Chris said, our economic system is somewhat fragile.  The stores were stocked and people were shopping.  I kept wondering, whats it going to be like 6 months from now? A year, Two years…  Five years?  On the positive side I told myself China has been around for 5000 years, and there will always be shops, and people trading (money) for goods.  On the negative side I noticed how many people still live blind to the upheavals coming down the pipeline.  I find I am already hard, preparing for an uncertain future, the trust in future gone and now its affecting how I see ordinary people.  Everything I read depresses me.  My family consists of farmers who have had difficult lives, sharecroppers with vivid memories of being poor and hungry.  We’re not now, and I how tough some of them are and I don’t worry about them.  But when I read here about people embracing the agricultural lifestyle, I have to tell you, farming is not an easy life, especially on a small scale.  There is a reason most people in the modern world moved away from the farms to cities to "seek a better life." The richness and abundance of modern life cannot be easily discounted.  Big difference between being a "hobby" farmer and one that counts on a crop to sustain his/her family.  You have to be in a situation when you stress about nature and her power to appreciate that.  Chickens are fun to raise when the grocery store is still right around the corner or down the street, what if all that changed?  When they get sick, how would you feel if they were not so easily replaceable?  Sorry to be so glum, but the title of this thread is my question, how can I maintain my sense of humanity and optimism?     

 

  • Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 11:50pm

    #2
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

Hi Plant guy.

I relate to you totally.  I have looked around for a while as I go out to the arcades – wondering how they will look in future.  Not only how many people, but what will be being sold.  If the arcades exist at all.

Thank you for the reality check about farming.  I needed that, as we are about to buy a small holding and I need to know what I am in for! 

In the future, there is no insurance policies.   If your chickens get sick, they get sick.  I think that is where the value of community will come in.  Hopefully.  Hopefuly someone will tell you what they know about husbandry and give you a healthy chicken to get you started again – with a trade of course.

Don’t appologise for being so glum.  The forum is full of it.  I don’t see it as glum – just a reality check.  And I am interested in everyone’s views of the future in order to prepare for my own, I think that is why a lot of us are here.

I think only you know how you can maintain your sense of humanity and optimism.  I know it feels really over bearing sometimes thinking about what we are preparing for. 

My suggestion is to prepare as much as possible which will hopefully give you some sense of control over your own situation.  There is a saying which goes "you can’t help others till you help yourself".   Even the safety instructions in air planes tell parents to put their own oxygen on before their childrens’.  They cannot help their children if they cannot breathe.  I think the same goes here.  Make some preparations so you are in a position to help other people.

Then tell as many people who will listen about Chris Martenson.  Being as proactive as you can will hopefully also give you a sense of satisfaction from some action.  I have joined transition towns which I have found to be great.

I tried to kid myself it would all be OK too for optimisms sake.  I put a thread up "can permaculture and community really save us?"  short answer was no – although there was some differeing opinion.  It depends a lot where you are and how you prepare.  And of course what your knowledge skills are.

This probably hasn’t helped you, but just so you know – I totally empathise with how you feel.  Many of us feel the same as you.

 

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 12:03am

    #3
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

Hi plantguy90,

I agree with you about farming.  I live in a New England hilltown where oil and electricity didn’t really begin to penetrate until the 20th century.  There is a strong collective memory of how tough life used to be.  On this site, many people’s big plan for the future seems to be to go into subsistence farming.  Well, subsistence farming stinks.  While I will never say a word against the immense value of being prepared, the fact is that even before the first drop of oil was pumped, the lowest rung on the ladder was a subsistence farmer.  A craftsman, doctor, shoemaker, artisan or merchant had a much more desirable occupation.

How do you retain your sense of optimism?  Simply by remembering where happiness in life comes from.  It doesn’t come from material things.  Wealth gives a nice sense of security, but it doesn’t bring happiness.  In times of scarcity, families and communities even tend to get along better, since there is a greater sense of collective reliance.  Today, if a thief steals a few chickens, or even breaks into your house, that’s a shame.  In a poorer place, the thief will incur the violent wrath of the whole community, because everybody knows how much a chicken is worth, and how hard they had to work to keep their own.  Studies of traditional Amish communities have repeatedly shown markedly decreased levels of depression in comparison to the general US population, especially among females.  

The main result of loss of wealth is increased opportunity for worry, I think.  Without the security of a modern lifestyle, there is opportunity to worry about all sorts of things: "Will I have enough food to eat, enough fuel for the winter?  What happens if it doesn’t rain?" &c.  But worry has nothing to do with happiness or sadness.  Once a person learns to tame their propensity for worry, and learns to distinguish between the things that they can control, and accept those that they cannot, they can be just as happy as any other person.

After all, it is rather arrogant of us to think that we are the only happy people in the world, isn’t it?  There are billions of people living in the most severe poverty all over the world, and there is no evidence that they are any less happy than the overfed Americans and Europeans.  In fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction.  We are already the unhappiest of them all, statistically.  So, it seems that wealth has nothing to do with the ability of people to be happy.

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 12:48am

    #4
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

Plant Guy,

One thing that helped me as I became aware of these issues is understanding that the emotional stages I was moving through were a perfectly natural part of the grieving process.  Chris has written about this here in his Six Stages of Awareness article, which he adapted from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  Kubler-Ross worked with terminally ill patients, and she identified five common stages of awareness they all went through when they learned of their diagnosis.  They are: denial, anger, bargaining (wishful thinking), depression and acceptance.  Chris added "fear" between bargaining and depression.

The emotions you’re experiencing are perfectly normal.  Using Kubler-Ross’s framework, you’re in the "depression" stage.  I would wager that everyone on this site has gone through that stage – often several times.  However, it does pass!  For me that point came when I fully accepted the reality of our situation and became actively involved (with friends and my community) in making the transition to a saner and more sustainable way of life.

Now, I have no idea what the future holds.  I’m not saying that my efforts and my community’s efforts will be sufficient to meeting the challenges ahead.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they’ll come up short.  But I am already reaping the benefits of a closer connection with my community, a sense of satisfaction from being part of the solution (however small that part is), and a greater sense of well-being from eating local food, bicycling for transportation, growing a garden, etc. 

 

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 01:12am

    #5
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

jrf29 and Chris

Great answers.  Much more enlightened than mine.  Yes you are right about Elizabeth Kubler Ross, I hadn’t thought of that.  But although it may explain the anxiety – it doesn’t make the end result any less real.

Also what exactly is the definition of subsistence farming, as opposed to normal farming or small holdings ?   I am wondering whether the other trades you talked about eg shoe maker etc will still be considered better than farming in the future ?  If TSHTF, I think, atleast in the short term, growing food will be where it is at.  People can wear no shoes – so long as they have shelter food and water.  Medium term as we are working through the crisis, then perhaps those professions will be much more important.  But I think those close to the land, the land owners will come off well.  I just don’t see times in the future like times of the past before oil.  

While we are on the topic, I think other important professions will be the black smith, the lady who sews things (isn’t it funny that our society is moved to a point that I can’t even remember what they are called ! , people who can do things with hide to make leather, doctors and vets (although not sure to what extent if medicine is expensive or limited),  teachers (although anyone could be a school teacher), horse trainers and breeders….. please feel free to add to list !

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 03:32am

    #6
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

I apologize that this thread is distended and unclear and has a few subjects rolled up into it. 

The depression is starting in after I have already accepted the view of the future.  Long before I discovered this forum I thought I smelled a rat in the economy and made moves towards preparing myself and my family.  I only found this forum less than a month ago.  Most of the time I am rational thinking, usually accused of being a bit too cold in my calculations. So even after being "fairly" prepared for what may come, its not what I would consider part of CM’s 6 stages as there was never any doubt for me that someting bad would hit the baby boomers, or that this country was broke, or that we were working on leaving the earth an empty stone.  Its nice to know others out there are preparing too.  And its one thing to realize and discuss academically about the "culling" of various peoples across the continents, and another to look them in the eye during day-to-day activities.  That is what saddened me today.  Maybe its guilt that I have somehow been blessed, while others will not be so fortunate..

As for farm life being grueling, I am a wholesale nurseryman.  I do not sit in an office all day, and I find myself lifting 1000’s of plants a day a lot.  We do indoor foliage because the margins are better than in food crops.  My elders have a lot of experience in food crops, and its hard to convince them even now to go in that direction because they know how difficult it is.  I expect that will change in good time. 

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 04:17am

    #7
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

" I have to tell you, farming is not an easy life, especially on a small scale."

Farming is for people who don’t know how to do Permaculture.  Permaculture is FUN!  Constantly looking out for ways to improve the design….  so that one day it mostly looks after itself.

Farming for money sucks.  When I look at how cheap food is (even now it’s dearer) I can’t understand how anyone makes a living from it.  But doing what I do allows me stacks of free time (like now!) and the variety of tasks available to me means I’m never bored.

To be sure, my chickens have never gotten sick, but I have lost quite a few to wildlife.  But hey…  they reproduce!  And don’t put all your eggs in one basket Wink raise all kinds of birds…  they all do different jobs, and they taste different too!

Harvest time around here is more like browsing…..  I often eat straight off the plants when wondering around checking on the fruits of my  labor.

Why make life hard for yourself?

Mike 

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 05:49am

    #8
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

[quote=plantguy90]

Went food shopping with the family today, and I couldn’t help but observe everything a little bit differently.  It wasn’t about my level of preparation; it was about just watching everyone else go on with their normal lives.  Like Chris said, our economic system is somewhat fragile.  The stores were stocked and people were shopping.  I kept wondering, whats it going to be like 6 months from now? A year, Two years…  Five years?  On the positive side I told myself China has been around for 5000 years, and there will always be shops, and people trading (money) for goods.  On the negative side I noticed how many people still live blind to the upheavals coming down the pipeline.  I find I am already hard, preparing for an uncertain future, the trust in future gone and now its affecting how I see ordinary people.  Everything I read depresses me.  My family consists of farmers who have had difficult lives, sharecroppers with vivid memories of being poor and hungry.  We’re not now, and I how tough some of them are and I don’t worry about them.  But when I read here about people embracing the agricultural lifestyle, I have to tell you, farming is not an easy life, especially on a small scale.  There is a reason most people in the modern world moved away from the farms to cities to "seek a better life." The richness and abundance of modern life cannot be easily discounted.  Big difference between being a "hobby" farmer and one that counts on a crop to sustain his/her family.  You have to be in a situation when you stress about nature and her power to appreciate that.  Chickens are fun to raise when the grocery store is still right around the corner or down the street, what if all that changed?  When they get sick, how would you feel if they were not so easily replaceable?  Sorry to be so glum, but the title of this thread is my question, how can I maintain my sense of humanity and optimism?     

[/quote]

Maybe you shouldn’t seek a justification for your optimism.  I mean, maybe that’s just how life is.  Age-old tales, legends, and myths have revolved around this issue.  It’s what makes, life, life.  This isn’t the first time something like this happened (to civilization) nor will it be the last time.  During your lifetime, do you know how many people have died from the very things you’re so worried about?  While you were growing up you probably had no idea that, then, and now, there were thousands and millions of people starving (I mean really starving) and dropping like flies everyday.  This is life!  Whatever you thought life was supposed to be is not what it is.  We can survive IF AND ONLY IF we (and the PTB) cooperate and make very intelligent decisions from here on forth.  We are not cooperating because we are not educated to cooperate in this manner.  WE ARE EDUCATED TO COMPETE.  Competition is cooperation’s vice.  Sure, we may be doomed because we have ill-educated ourselves and our current future generation.  BUT, this is life.  We will make it; or we wont.  We will clean up our world or we wont.  We will educate better or we wont.  IT IS ALL UP TO US.  There is no one else.  We must make the best of our lives or we’ll die as a civilization.  And believe me, the human species isn’t the first, nor the last species, on this earth to go extinct. 

WE WILL OR WE WONT!  Most of the world hasn’t woken up yet.  Maybe they never will.  But how can we blame them?  THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WAS ENGRAINED IN THEM FROM BIRTH—-CONSUME! BUY! WATCH T.V.! CONSUME! BUY! WATCH T.V.! CONSUME! BUY! WATCH T.V.! CONSUME! BUY! WATCH T.V.!

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 05:53am

    #9
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

[quote=plantguy90]

But when I read here about people embracing the agricultural lifestyle, I have to tell you, farming is not an easy life, especially on a small scale.  There is a reason most people in the modern world moved away from the farms to cities to "seek a better life." The richness and abundance of modern life cannot be easily discounted.  Big difference between being a "hobby" farmer and one that counts on a crop to sustain his/her family.  You have to be in a situation when you stress about nature and her power to appreciate that.  Chickens are fun to raise when the grocery store is still right around the corner or down the street, what if all that changed?  When they get sick, how would you feel if they were not so easily replaceable?  Sorry to be so glum, but the title of this thread is my question, how can I maintain my sense of humanity and optimism?     

[/quote]

 

Hi plantguy90, I’m completely in agreement. 

I live in India where things are more like how Dmitry Orlov describes the fmr soviet union. Slow, inefficient, sluggish and you need ‘friends’ to get things done. Though things have ‘changed’ a bit since India’s economy got globalised (and is moving to a US Mal-Wart culture from the beautiful local communities that used to thrive).

I work at Yahoo! and my wife works at Amazon. We’re in India and maybe we can take comfort at this possible resilience due the the structure of life out here… but yet my entire family’s income depends on the US. There are other friends of mine who have this magical belief that even if US dies there will be needs for software development and managing computers within india. Of course,these are nay-sayers about an eventual energy decline and I can only pity them for being so blindly confident in humanity.

I bought a small-patch of land (< 2 acres) just with the aim of getting some source of food for family’s own needs if not an abundant source to bring to the market and earn ‘capital’… and I’m in agreement with you for this very reason: Nature is way too powerful, there IS a reason why farming is not an easy job. Especially when you consider that oil allowed agriculture to run on steroids for a while.

I can also see how the water table is falling all around my patch of land. In 2003, there were a total of 2 bore-well pumps to irrigate. Water was available at 80ft… Now there are 120, thanks to govt incentives… and now water has sunken to 250 ft – in just 5 years! But people are happily running the system at full speed because with abundant energy, they can afford to produce through out the year… and yet, farmers commit suicides across india due to nature’s ravages. My own crop was affected in December due to a never-before-seen-in-history super heavy rainfall. I got some yields but I made a loss.

However, there is one vital point to take heart about: I got _some food_. It is definitely enough to feed about 20 people and that should be okay for me to even barter out essential nutrition if a community of locals plan their stuff. If planned smartly (permaculture) I’m sure 2 acres is enough to feed 20 people.

Sure, its tough. But that’s reality for you. The oil drug has worn off, it was a brief glimpse of heaven…

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Like Chris Martenson says, you can either feel depressed about it or feel exhilarated about some new opportunities. The choice is yours.

 

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 02:43pm

    #10
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    Re: Having trouble maintaining my humanity

hey plant guy,

I know how you feel.  Best thing you can do is to farm even if it is just a hobby ((with heirloom seed)). Than you can ramp up quickly and farm for family if you need too. 

The point of humanity,  we need technology to get off this rock before the red sun comes ((we have a bit of time for that LOL)), but need to learn balance and to get more in tone with nature.  You are going through that transformation now.  In tone with nature but able to have technology.  Once you are comfortable with that than you will teach others in the best way possible:

"Teach a balanced life, and if you need to use words"

Thank you for this thread, it has helped me focus.

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