The Upside of Down
Dmitry Orlov -- author of the funny, sobering Reinventing Collapse and a Reality Sandwich contributor -- and I discussed the current state of disrepair on a recent C-Realm podcast. The mp-3s of the podcast are available below, or can be played through the C-Realm website, which features many interesting discussions.
In his book, Orlov proposes that the US is entering into a rapid decline similar to the one experienced by Russia after the breakup on the Soviet Union in 1989. He recommends stockpiling provisions and goods to sell on the black market, growing food, and connecting with your local community for security. He also proposes that we begin to imagine a life without money.
That this collapse already seems to be happening is confirmed by recent articles such as this one from The New York Times, on Elkhart, a once middle class town in Indiana, that is now destitute, and this one from Alternet, on "the new paupers". According to the NY Times, the city just passed a law limiting residents to one garage sale per month, since people were running them daily. From the article:
Elkhart, near the Michigan border in an area known as Michiana, is the white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy. Its main industries, the manufacturing of recreational vehicles and motor homes, have fallen apart over the last year because of high gasoline prices. That has taken down ancillary businesses like R.V. parts suppliers and storage warehouses.
The jobless rate in Elkhart has increased more than in any metropolitan area in the country; it rose over 4.8 percentage points from August 2007 to August 2008. According to labor statistics released this summer, nearly 10,000 people were out of work, a rate of 9.3 percent.
“I’m just dwindling to the bottom,” Melinda Owens, 24, said as she emerged from the unemployment office.
City services are on the decline, and hold-ups are on the rise — there were nine armed robberies or attempted armed robberies on convenience stores in just the last two weeks. On Friday, the front-page news of the paper, The Elkhart Truth, was about a local plastic company that was actually not closing its plant.
One question is whether there is any resilience -- any fight -- left in the American character. At this point, it seems like the indoctrination mechanisms of the mainstream media have effectively deprived people of any capacity to shape their own destiny, to organize themselves, to create interdependent support networks. Unless this happens quickly, the collapse here may be far worse than that of the USSR, where housing was at least guaranteed, and people were not as cut off from basic survival skills as we have become.
The average bit of food travels around 2,000 miles to the plate in NYC (across the US the figure is probably similar). With fuel supplies becoming erratic and an inevitable decline of foreign imports as the economy plunges, producing food locally may become a survival issue for many people here. At the same time, the growth of the green economy may be threatened by economic pressures. It is most definitely going to require a mobilizing of the popular will and a rapid development of local communities to make the next few years into a positive transition to a different form of society, rather than a rapid degeneration into collective misery.
Listen to Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse, and me discuss the deteriorating state of things on a C-Realm podcast
Image by Napalm filled tires, courtesy of Crative Commons license.