February 2, 2013
We all wonder and worry about what life will be like as the declining Empire we live in falls to ruin. We all have ideas about what it will mean for us, individually, for our families and for the nation as a whole. I, of course, have my own ideas – some of which, from time to time, I’ve put down here on the blog.
But, over the last two weeks since my encounter with the car, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things like life in a declining Empire and the experiences of the last two weeks have shifted my perspective a little. From the beginning of my adventures into doomerdom, I never really subscribed to the idea that, like a house taking a direct hit from an F5 tornado, things were suddenly going to explode and collapse into a million pieces. I’ve always thought it would be more like a house slowly collapsing from lack of care and years of inattention – a few rotting timbers, a few neglected shingles at a time – until the basic structure can no longer support whatever remains of the house. I still think that’s a reasonable approximation of how collapse will occur – in stages and over a fairly long period of time. I don’t expect the final collapse to occur in what’s left of my lifetime, anyway.
What did change slightly over the last two weeks was my perception of how that slow collapse would affect most of us. I came to see my encounter with the car and the ongoing effects of that encounter as sort of a metaphor for my, and probably “our” encounters with the collapsing empire. And I now suspect that, for most of us, slow collapse will be mostly a matter of “the more things change, the more things stay the same.”
When the car turned into the lane I was crossing and “hit” me, I didn’t suffer a direct hit. Fortunately, it brushed my rather well endowed posterior, pushing me from left to right and knocking me off my feet. I had enough time, in that few seconds, to turn toward the front and avoid hitting the ground on that right hip. It was not something I did purposely; it was pure instinct from living with bad balance for the last sixteen years. Had I been hit more directly or had the car been going faster, it would have been a different story. I had time to adapt because it was “a slow crash”.
By the time I got home and into my big chair, things had changed. All the muscles, big and small, that I had stressed in that fall complained long and loudly with every move. My situation had changed rather dramatically, but my basic needs remained the same. And the next few days became a game of adapting my habits to fulfill those needs and leaving the rest until my son came by after work, until I could get around well enough to attend to things with relative independence, again. Had I taken a direct hit, with broken bones, the period of recuperation and adaptation would have been longer and, undoubtedly, more severe. I might have had to move out of my upstairs apartment, for example, at least for a while, but the basic needs – food, water, shelter – would have remained the same wherever I finally ended up and I would have had to go through a similar process of adapting old needs to new circumstances.
With the economic collapse that heralded the most recent stage of our Imperial decline, something similar occurred. I – like most Americans – did not take a direct hit. I didn’t lose a job, or house. My social security income remained secure. Most of my “pain” revolved around keeping up with rising food and energy prices while maintaining the house on a fixed income. And, to the disappointment of some doomers with a more “survivalist” bent, those who did take a direct hit did not riot, or burn down the government or assassinate leaders – as has occurred in some countries, recently. Many of them had some cushion of resources to use, or used the resources of the various levels of government, while they recuperated enough to find adaptations that worked for them, even if it meant adaptation to a lower level than they were accustomed to. There still is, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, a lot of “fat” in the system. And, that is how I’ve come to see the long process of collapse affecting most of us.
Nature equipped us with instincts and, if anything, pushed us toward becoming adaptable creatures with creative brains. That has sometimes gotten us into a lot of trouble, as our long history of collapsed empires shows, but it has also been our biggest success. That ability to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and find creative ways to go on through what are sometimes very onerous changes in circumstance. We would not have survived as a species without it. Even when circumstances change drastically, some things stay the same.
There remains, of course, one other alternative. The car could have hit me directly enough and hard enough that I had no way to adapt and I died. That is always a possibility in more rapidly changing circumstances – on a personal, national, or species wide level. We face several possibilities for such events. The wise thing to do would be to look at those possibilities and make what adaptations we can before such events when we see them coming. But there have been species before us which did not or could not and paid the price. We certainly aren’t immune from such a possibility, either. The more things change, the more things stay the same.