September 3, 2011
Grim news, yesterday, to start the Labor Day weekend. For the first time in sixty-six years, the economy produced no net new jobs. The unemployment rate remained stalled at 9.1 % – the broader unemployment rate rose to 16.2 % – with Black unemployment at 16.7 % (the highest since 1984) and the jobless rate for Hispanics at 11.3 %. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm Federal, state and local governments cut back on public sector jobs for the tenth straight month in their relentless drive to balance budgets and reduce deficits. And, according the the San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/02/BU221KUHO0.DTL&feed=rss.business even self-employed Americans lost ground. After an increase from 15.7 million at the end of 2007 to 16.3 million at the end of 2008, those numbers dropped to 14.7 million by July of this year. At jobs fairs, lines of jobseekers wind on for blocks.
As if it needed saying, the American worker continues in a world of hurt and nothing the Fed, the Gov or the economists do seems to help. It’s small comfort to him or her to note that the entire global economy seems to be dancing on the head of a pin right now, as manufacturing slows down, again, worldwide. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/02/business/global/surveys-show-manufacturing-slowing-worldwide.html?_r=1
This Labor Day weekend, millions of Americans will welcome the long weekend with picnics, barbeques and perhaps one last trip of the season to visit friends and relatives. But, behind the celebrations, those same millions sense that something big, something monstrous is about to catch up with us. Sadly, they’re right.
In this era of specialization – in science, economics, even in the way the media reports what’s going on around the world – it’s almost impossible for the average American to get a comprehensive picture of where what he or she faces individually fits in all the talk about the economy, resource depletion, the destruction of environments around the globe and climate change. And, if half your town has just been wiped out by a tornado, or flooding from a hurricane, or wildfire and drought, do you have time to figure it out?
Some feel this is a deliberate ploy on the part of The Powers That Be. Certainly, special interests – both corporate and political – spend enough money on confusing people about those issues here in America to make that assumption seem valid. Yet, I can’t help but think that TPTB, in their blind drive to maintain business as usual, their ideological certainty that constant growth is not only possible, but imperative, suffer from the same inability to grasp the overall global picture, and how dire our situation as a species has become, as the average man on the street. In fact, Joseph Tainter pointed this out, in his book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. As Brian Davey says, in his paper at CounterCurrents, this morning, “This situation echoes the ideas of Joseph Tainter:that societies collapse not because of stress surges per se, but because, when stress surges occur, circumstances have become so complex that the authorities are overwhelmed by all the complications to the point of being unable to provide a response and see it through.” http://www.countercurrents.org/davey020911.htm (A very good paper on the overall and interconnected crises that we face.)
Davey seems more optimistic that this can be overcome than I am. I think slow collapse is too near the tipping point into rapid collapse for those with what he calls “distal power” to effect change at the level of “proximal power.”
So, what can the ordinary American worker do in this dismal picture to protect himself and his family?
1) Be honest with yourself. Take the economists at their word. Most of these jobs are not coming back and many more will be lost as we get deeper into collapse. Whether you can gain just the right training for what jobs may be created on the way down is questionable at best.
2) Prepare as much as you can for the worst. Whatever you have at this moment may be as much as you get. Use it wisely to make yourself and your family as secure as possible. Some government programs will be available for quite sometime if the government itself doesn’t collapse. By all means, if you need to take advantage of local, state and federal aid to do this, take what you need. That’s what it’s there for. Just remember that your friends and neighbors may need the same sort of help as you do.
3) Get involved with your friends and neighbors in making your community more self-sufficient by working to localize food production and delivery channels and utility delivery systems – with or without the help of official channels – building on neighborhood strengths and reducing neighborhood weaknesses.
4) Work outward from there to city, area-wide and region, finding and building on strengths and reducing weaknesses as much as possible in the time left.
5) Work to build at least the skeleton of a workable neighborhood or local economic system – whether it be a time bank, a barter system or some other system you may develop together to meet everyone’s needs.
You may find you’ve created new jobs for yourself and others as these projects develop. In the meantime, live your life as fully as you can, cherish your family, help your neighbors – all the things we say we wish we had more time to do. Realistically, the jobs fairy doesn’t live here anymore. We still do.