2008: The Return of Chicken Little
This article originally appeared in Conscious Choice magazine.
A few years ago, while working with shamans in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, I channeled a prophetic voice that announced itself as Quetzalcoatl, the Mesoamerican deity. The voice insisted a great karmic reckoning was on its way. These days, I often feel more like Chicken Little, seeking to warn people the sky above them is starting to fall. The more I explore what the near future may bring, the more I feel like running for cover.
Dmitry Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse argues the United States is headed for an imminent economic meltdown that will be as devastating as the fall of the USSR in the 1990s: “Try to form a picture in your mind: it is a superpower, it is huge, it is powerful, and it is going to come crashing down,” he writes. “You or me trying to do something about it would have the same effect as you or me wriggling our toes at a tsunami.” According to Orlov, an engineer and peak oil theorist, the causes of this crash include ideological gridlock, the entrenched corruption of our corporate state, the massive debt piled on by heedless U.S. policies and our utter dependence on a rapidly diminishing supply of fossil fuels.
Predicting mass bankruptcy, hyperinflation and resource shortages, Orlov recommends stockpiling items that can be bartered on the black market, such as razors, condoms and liquor, strengthening local communities and learning how to grow your own food. “For most people in the U.S., rich or poor, life without money is unthinkable,” he notes. “They may want to give this problem some thought, ahead of time.”
The most penetrating inquiries into our immediate future seem to be coming from small press writers such as Orlov. His book is published by New Society Press, which specializes in studies of our unfolding debacle and pragmatic tactics for dealing with its unavoidable fallout. Another meta-perspective is provided by Alexis Zeigler’s Culture Change: Civil Liberty, Peak Oil, and the End of Empire (Ecodem Press). Zeigler’s bracing little screed explores the connection between biofuel production and world hunger and argues that ecological crisis will lead to increased authoritarianism in the short term.
While Zeigler describes the dangers ahead, he is more optimistic than Orlov in that he sees the possibility of a mass activation of social awareness and a shift to more sustainable patterns. “The solution to changing the Western lifestyle is the simple impossible act of creating social networks that build social support outside of the mainstream in the context of a truly sustainable society,” he writes. Both writers foresee the necessity of adapting communal lifestyles to stretch increasingly scarce resources. Interestingly, Orlov proposes the friendly American mentality is much better suited for communal life than the surlier Russian psychology.
I tend to agree with these authors that the next few years are going to see extraordinary and even unprecedented hardships as many negative factors combine in unexpected ways to amplify each other. In the U.S., as the going gets rough, there is certainly the potential for a further degeneration into a hyper-controlled, security state. The horrific development of “disaster capitalism” based on Milton Friedman’s economic doctrine is well-documented in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. The last decades have seen a massive transfer of assets from the poor and middle class to the wealthy elite, who are now contracting with private security firms to guard and rescue them in the event of social or ecological catastrophe.
At the same time, there are many positive developments that could counteract the doom-and-gloom. The increasing ease with which groups of people, ranging from small communities to massive crowds, can self-organize and mobilize through the Internet, using new Web 2.0 tools, is viewed as a revolutionary development in Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. My hypothesis, shared by many, is that there is also a change happening in human consciousness, with increasing numbers of people recognizing psychic capabilities and undergoing initiations that lead to mystical insights, compassionate openings and awareness of deeper levels of unity. It is interesting that our new media technologies amplify our awareness of interconnectivity, a once rarefied spiritual insight that is now becoming apparent to many people.
The material crisis we face is an expression of a spiritual crisis that requires a deep transformation of values and habits. As our current civilization melts down around us, my personal hope is that those people who have initiated themselves through spiritual practices — whether yoga, meditation, shamanism, martial arts or other disciplines — will step forward as leaders, helping the multitudes who have not been prepared for such a shift. A prudent course of action in the near-term might involve a process of self-education and study in sustainable techniques, securing access to clean water and locally grown food, exploring “off the grid” tools and alternative energy sources, while deepening one’s spiritual practice in preparation for greater changes ahead.
As Charles Darwin wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most adaptive to change.” As the pace of change increases rapidly, we have a great opportunity to practice non-attachment, to pare down to essentials and to learn by doing. Rather than ignoring our intuition and remaining complacent, it would be best to face the future and make substantive changes in our lifestyles and expectations right now, while encouraging our friends and communities to do the same.
Image by NiinaC, courtesy of Creative Commons license. Tarot image created by Melanie Gendron for U.S. Game Systems, Inc.Tweet