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There Ain't No Escape From Collapse

By Joe Bageant

April 22, 2010 "
Information Clearing House" --

Joe,

In response to a letter from a reader (Joe, why did you crap out on us?), you wrote: "Places like Ecuador, northern California -- all sorts of places -- creating little spots of sustainability as best as possible."

Since the US is the nexus of all the fraud, empire, control, and will thus be the center of the pain in the upcoming financial collapse (AND contains a huge percentage of "useless eaters", i.e. superfluous workers) have you given any thought as to where the best places/countries in the world will be to "hang out" while the Collective Madness and Economic Collapse take over?

Thanks,
Kevin

------

Kevin,

Well, I don't think it's possible to "hang out" until the collapse is over. For starters, it could take 50 years. Or it could take five years. If we knew, more people would probably get off their asses, even in America. But I don't think it will be all at once, or even recognizable at any given moment to techno-hybridized Americans on the ground. For example, most Americans STILL do not recognize the irreversible ecological collapse so well underway. More aware thinkers are calling this "denial," but it is not. They are simply experiencing the world they see before them, as honestly as their senses and experience permit. And that ain't much.

Thanks to technology and layers upon layers of mediation by TV, movies, the Internet, etc., gadgets and manufactured imagery, we all live many steps removed from reality. Collapse is symbolized to each of us in different ways. To some it would be the sustained malfunction and lack of access of the Internet, which is surely coming.

Incidentally, this will be capitalized upon by privatizing the net and selling access at a much higher price, just as with oil. Of course they will experience it as "the consumers" they have been reduced to. So they will see it as bad guys charging money for things that used to be free. Given that their consciousness is a product of technology and its false promise of solutions and endless plentitude, they can never understand that everything is a finite resource and that technology itself can reach such a point of complexity as to be unsustainable. Even your laptop and router is made of petroleum and both eat oil or coal.

Others might perceive collapse as banking failure, given their absolute belief that money is the blood of society -- a capitalist hallucination if ever there was one. My point is that many will not even understand that collapse is going on because capitalism will provide excuses and more fake solutions at ever higher prices -- mainly at the expense of the world's poor and defenseless of course -- until it can no longer extract from them through banking, military force, or other means. This slows down the inevitable and helps the western world maintain its disastrous belief systems. None of which answers your question, but I just had to say it.

There is really no "safe place" to run. For instance, the banking system may utterly fail; actually, it already has, yet no one is calling for an entirely new system. This shows you both the thoroughness of indoctrination of the American people, and the astuteness of the overlords who profit from the masses. Gasoline for cars can become nearly unavailable, and energy prices can become exorbitant, as they are becoming in the UK. And again, people will slowly learn to suck it up, and the system will roll on for a while longer. The more perceptive among them will dream, and are now dreaming, of escape.

Escape as they conceive it does not exist. The ongoing collapse manifests itself in the least developed world too, and even harsher terms: hunger, lack of water, warfare, government corruption, infrastructure collapse, crime. It's a planetary problem and no one escapes that. They just experience it in different ways.

The question is not so much where to do it as how to do it. The question is not "Where can I run to to escape?" It is "What sorts of problems can I best deal with?" To my mind, you cannot deal with them alone, despite the romantic imagery of being "off the grid" on some homestead growing your own food. Yes, there are people doing that successfully. But it has been my experience that they are people who've wanted to do that for a long time, and that they are the kind of people suited to deal with the problems that come with that life. I've done it and believe me, it's not for the average American, who is, quite frankly speaking, incompetent in the ways of the earth. It's a very long learning curve, even if you grew up on a farm. You don't just stick seeds in the ground and wait for your food. Every spot on the earth is unique and you have to come to understand the place you are, which takes time, error and dedication.

Not to be a smart ass or snide, but let me ask: How much do you love your fellow man? Or do you merely want to save your own ass? By now you must know the answer. From what I've seen, a person can be honest with himself on this matter, then pursue either route more effectively.

If you have the temperament and character to readily love other people around you, and the willingness to labor solely for sustenance, community and friendship, then there are countless options. Because that's what most of the rest of world's people do every day, if allowed to. So you could do that in any number of places on the planet, especially here in the New World south of the US. You can do it in literally thousands of places, some of which are in the US. I get emails from all over. But I don't give out contacts anymore because I learned the hard way in Belize that human chemistry is a complex thing. And most Americans do not come into approximately sustainable situations with either the social skills or the willingness to sacrifice for the group. Hell, some Americans starting up such communities don't have those qualities.

Yet, believe me, just being in a place where life is more fundamental and simple, if hard, goes a long way toward peace of mind and discovering human normalcy. It's the learning ground. And usually one learns that people who escape at least some of the ravages of our slow collapse, always seem to do it in cooperation with a community of some sort. Either an already existing one, or an intentional one they create between themselves.

There's nothing new in this, of course. Latin America and the world have countless communities hundreds of year old. Governments come and go, rivers dry up, but the people always have tortillas, one way or another. Americans and Europeans usually see these people as poor, thanks to our heavy social conditioning, industrialization and commoditized consciousness -- not to mention the denial of the effects of colonialism by Euro-American culture. We see no connection between our iPods, high speed wireless, and, say, the present condition of the Haitian or Dominican people.

Anyway, to me, this is the bottom line:

There is no escape in the sense Americans and European culture thinks of escape. Which is mainly running away to a place where you will get something for nothing in a new and different way -- in this case, security and safety from the storm -- and also keep some or most of the stuff and gadgetry and ease that has come to represent "quality of life."

Unless you are rich, this is impossible. And rich these days, including here in Mexico, means so fucking well heeled that even a 90% devaluation cannot hurt you. Oh, there are retirees still living down here on the last shreds of the glory days of the empire. They will tell you there is nothing wrong up there, because they are still getting their checks. But I'm not seeing many newcomers join their ranks. Not at that level. Beyond that, the empire never goes away. It always claims you as its "citizen," which is to say its property. And lately the empire has been extending its tentacles toward expats, in order to extract new money for its failed system.

The rest of us, the non-rich who would prefer to take a shot at some different life -- and just about anything will do in the dark of the night when it is gnawing at your guts -- must choose another way to cross the border (the "gringo wetbacks"). But always we run up against the same barrier, the same closed gateway to what we suspect is greater satisfaction and peace of mind, but increasingly cannot afford the price of admission, if we play the same old brainwashed money game.

I have come to think the price of admission anywhere in the world, (except in America and Europe, where enough dough will get your ass kissed in any circles) is service to others. We have been indoctrinated by an earth devouring capitalist system to believe otherwise. Believe that giving only depletes. And that mankind and civilization came about through kings and warriors and "great men." But the essential glue of man the social animal, and society has always been on cooperation and sharing. That an endless stream of elite thieves have always managed to steal the fruits of that cooperation does not matter. And the best that is in man still rests on the same fundamentals -- cooperation for the greater good of all.

So I would suggest that in planning for the future, you first spend many days pondering the question: How can I best go about giving up the world as I have known it -- which, after all, is the root of our pain and of our catastrophe -- and serve others every day and in as many ways large and small as possible. In other words, sacrifice. In truth, the sacrifice will not be sacrifice, but liberation, because Americans are buried under so much material shit and petty notions as to entitlement, that shedding such things is a blessing. A gift.

From that vantage point you can "watch the collapse" while you help put up a pole barn in Oregon or make love in a Patagonian mountain shack after a hard day of well digging, or smoke a joint in utter relaxation after rescuing orphans from the streets of Guadalajara. And chances are that the collapse of the empire will not much cross your mind.

There is no escape, but there is freedom. And if our fellow Americans long ago forgot that, well, one can still get there alone.

But its not for the faint of heart.

In art and labor,

Joe

About Joe

Born 1946 in Winchester VA, USA. US Navy Vietnam era veteran. After stint in Navy became anti-war hippie, ran off to the West Coast ... lived in communes, hippie school buses... started writing about holy men, countercultural figures, rock stars and the American scene in 1971 ... lived in Boulder Colorado until mid 1980s ... 14 years in all ... became a Marxist and a half-assed Buddhist ... Traveled to Central America to write about third World issues...
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