Another guest post. Translated from the Russian by Your Humble Narrator. It's a letter sent in by one young, once optimistic Russian who finds himself marooned in some blighted Boston exurb in southern New Hampshire.
I hope you don't mind that this is in Russian. I think that this way I can be more completely honest. I am a relatively recent graduate of one of the many faceless post-Soviet institutions of higher learning, with a degree in philosophy. Last year I moved to the USA and married an American woman.
The question of when the modern capitalist system is going to collapse has interested me since my student years, and I have approached it from various directions: from the commonplace conspiracy theories to the serious works of Oswald Spengler and Noam Chomsky. Unfortunately, I still can't fathom what it is that is keeping this system going.
My wife is a very pleasant woman, but a typical white conservative American. Whenever any political question comes up, she starts ranting about the Constitution and calling herself a libertarian conservative and a constitutionalist. I used to think that she is well-educated and understands what she is talking about. In fact, she is the one who introduced me to the US, and I once believed everything she told me about it. But as I found out later, she understands nothing about politics, and just repeats various bits of populist nonsense spouted by Severin, O'Reilly, Limbaugh and other mass media clowns. Well, I am not going to try to prove to my wife that she is wrong on a subject that I don't quite understand myself. After all, she is a good wife. And so I try to steer clear of any political questions when I am with the family, although I do not always succeed. Perhaps if I had a copy of your book, it would help me explain myself to her better, but our family was one of the first to be flattened by the real estate market collapse. My wife went bankrupt, lost her bank account, house, job and the rest a while before I came here, and so we can't buy anything online.
In the talk you gave at the conference in Ireland you mentioned that there are certain regions of the US where the common people only eat garbage food from places like Walmart, which consists of artificial colors and flavors and corn, and that such a diet makes them "a little bit crazy." To my utter disappointment, I have to entirely agree with you. Various witty Russian commentators love to heap ridicule on the "dumb Americans" and on the USA as a generally stupid country. But if they spent a bit of time living here and paid closer attention, they would realize that it is not the low cultural level that distinguishes Americans from, say, Russians: both are, on average, quite beastly. But even when I've visited here before, as a student, my first impression was of a country that is full of madmen, ranging from somewhat mentally competent to total lunatics. And the further south I traveled, the more obvious this became. At first I even marveled at this, thinking, look at how intoxicating the spirit of liberty can be! But now I understand that this is a catastrophe, that American society is brainwashed and alienated in the extreme, and that all that's left for Americans to do is to play each other for the suckers that they have become.
Unfortunately, I feel the pernicious influence of all this on my own family right here and now. You don't have to be a brilliant visionary to realize that in the current situation all these endless suburbs, built on the North American model, are slowly but surely turning into mass graves for the millions of former members of the middle class. Those that do not turn into mass graves will become nature preserves - stocked with wild animals that were once human. My family is turning feral under my very eyes. Lack of resources has forced us to live according to the Soviet model - three generations under one roof. There are six of us, of which only one works, who is, consequently, exasperated and embittered. The rest of the household is gradually going insane from idleness and boredom. The television is never turned off. The female side of the family has been sucked into social networks and associated toys. Everyone is cultivating their own special psychosis, and periodically turns vicious. In these suburbs, a person without a car is as if without legs, and joblessness does not allow any of us to earn money for gas, and so the house is almost completely isolated from the outside world. The only information that seeps in comes from the lying mass media. And I understand that millions of families throughout America live this way! This is how people turn into "teabaggers," while their children join street gangs.
For me, as for you, this is the second collapse. You had left USSR before it happened, while I was there to observe it as a child. I saw what happened when people were finally told that they were being had for seventy-odd years, and were offered a candy bar as consolation. Now, after all this, Russian society is finished. It grieves me to see the faces of Americans, who still believe something and wave their Constitution about, and to know that the same thing is about to happen to them. I think that the model which you have proposed will allow us to confront and to survive this collapse with dignity.
Somebody already attempted to submit a "If you don't love America then go back to Russia!" type of comment, so I decided to put this one in as a placeholder and reject the rest. Please spare us your inferiority complex!
Very good observation. The picture of the three generations living together reminds me of my childhood when in the household of my grandparents were living three generations. If I have to periphrase Dickens 'These were the worst years, these were the best years'.
Good luck with living and surviving another collapse:) You are 'lucky' to live in interesting times:-)
Lovely post, Yevgeny, though I'm sorry you came here just in time to witness this country's descent from bad to worse.
Dmitri, the rejected comment you mentioned above is all too common of much of the mentality here in the USA ~ or in the United Parking Lot of America, as some of us call it. Visit any number of blogs, or comment sections following news articles, and you will find much moron of the same. There seems to be plenty of it over at Kunstler's blog. It is all too patriotic here to wave the flag and talk about “supporting the troops” and “defending the nation”, while remaining blitheringly ignorant of how no other nation has declared war on us since the early 1940s, and how our current wars in the Holy Land are purely wars of aggression.
Some of us make fun of this with the bumper sticker that reads “Be nice to the USA .. or we'll bring democracy to your nation next!”
It is no use trying to argue with the type that posted that rejected comment. One of the most blatant examples of that stuff I read recently was on the comments section following a news article about some protests at an air base being used for deploying predator drones domestically. Can't find the article just now. The comments were truly disgusting. For every one person that made a valid point, there were five more calling for violence to be done against said against anyone not supporting the war effort, or for even worse things to be done against the civilian populations of Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Yevgeny & Dmitri, kudos to you both if you can find something worthwhile about this country just now.
It adds measurably to your blog when you post commentary from others like Yevgeny who have experienced the Russian collapse and are now living in the US. We need observers who have not been compromised by the toxic paradigms leading us towards our own collapse. Yevgeny's voice, at least as transcribed, has an authentic ring to it and I hope he will continue his commentary.
Your analysis of the suburban is accurate, and familiar. But you seem wedded - in more ways than one - to the problems you so clearly perceive.
Time to do something, may I humbly suggest? Take the man out of suburbia/ suburbia out of the man?
Thanks for sharing your predicament. I am seeing the same 3generational family lodging arrangements in my neighborhood also. Things do seem to be squeezing people into new realities. Learning to live with the "new normal" will be challening to all of US spoiled folks. I hope everyone stays calm.
On the other side of that coin, Dmitry, I really admire your Russian friend's honesty. I can find no fault with anything he has observed. I hope you will post more of his letters here.
A poignant and, alas, accurate characterization of suburban America in decline, where people have no physical connection with their local geography and are socially rootless. I
Having spent 10 years myself in post-Communist Eastern Europe, I can say that in the large cities of the former Soviet Union many aspects of life are not better. People pursue the same meaningless white-collar jobs, typically containing the lofty title "manager." There is a lot of economic hopelessness, and many people take poor care of their health and fill themselves with garbage and the lowest-grade nicotine. There are some social benefits, though -- thanks to the higher population density and remnant Soviet infrastructure in cities you can move around with ease on inexpensive public transportation and maintain a diverse, face-to-face social network. You're forced to come in contact with hordes of strangers every day. And many or most people still have roots to the countryside.
I would recommend to Yevgeniy in New Hampshire that he enjoy the best America has to offer and try exploring some of the wonderful long-distance footpaths, such as the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail. There he will encounter the opposite of suburban lifestyle and will find many kindred spirits who share his sentiments about society.
Hey, Yevgeny. You pretty much get it. I'm truly sorry the fates saw fit to introduce you to a significant other who would eventually bring you to our little slice of purgatory here in the Untied States. If I were to ever have a Russian boyfriend (full disclosure: I am a middle-aged homosexual man), I'd want him to be the kind of Russian man you seem to be: smart, no-nonsense perceptive, and casually snarky. I guess that also describes our kollapsnik, so I guess I would also have to add "young" to that list. ;-)
This posting was a really nice insight into how an educated outsider sees this process, thanks for translating it, and thanks to the poster for posting it.
However, I think you should have let in one sample comment from the love it or leave it crowd, simply because it's such a fine example of exactly the mental wasting that is consuming our ex-urban wasteland's dwellers.
I don't think I've come across a finer, more succinct explanation of the tea-party-er phenomena, and I don't think anything will do better to explain them, though you can fill in details I guess if you want.
There's in my mind no question at all that these social failures (and I mean failures in the technical sense, as in evolutionary failures, people unable or unwilling to adapt to changed circumstances) will form the backbone of an essentially fascist reaction, they already willingly insert the television/talk shows into their minds so you don't even have to try to get the word out, they do most of the work for you. Perfect brown shirt material.
What I found most rewarding about reading this Russian's views was that the solution is right there in the words: simply do the exact opposite of everything these people he describes are doing. In other words, throw out the tv, plant a garden, support local farmers and farmer's markets. Get the heck out of the suburbs or exurbs or if you can't get out, start growing food.
Get out of the house, interact with people. If we're really coming to a collapse, or are in it now, then our current daily actions are going to be what defines our future, thanks for a such a wonderful view of what not to do, it's inspiring. Looks like the Russian educational system was doing pretty well based on the quality of the writing there.
PS: The corn-products we are pretty much force-fed are also making us diabetic in epidemic numbers. And with diabetes often comes a very unpleasant accompanying disorder known as systemic candidiasis. I told the hygenist at the dentist's office who was doing my annual teeth-cleaning that I was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and she said that it seemed to her as though every other patient that dental office has over the age of 40 is diabetic. This wasn't the case before 1980, and we took just as bad care of ourselves in the previous decades!
This guest posting was horrifying and hilarious at the same time. It must be a Russian characteristic to be able to express such a deep despair with such wit.
I think he needs to get the members of his family out of the house somehow and involved in something constructive and focused on helping others. A church, a volunteer group, a community garden, 4-H, Girl or Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, local animal shelter, Appalachian Mountain Club, something! I assume the kids have transportation to school at least. Rides to volunteer activities can usually be arranged with other volunteers. It sounds like even just walking down the street and back would help.
Oy! I wish them well.
Yevgeny is brave to write such truth. Americans have a hard time grasping how utterly insular we are. I come from a multicultural background, my dad was from another country, my mom midwestern American so I got to and still get to see the dysfunction with a different perspective.
I feel really sorry for Yevgeny in that he didnt understand our culture enough when he met his wife-to-be to understand that she was immersed in and buying the libertarian teabagger bilge.
I feel sorry for him because obviously it is not in harmony with his worldview and that is a difficult place to be.
I can assure you Yevgeny there are MANY progressives in this country, middle class and not, caught in the collapse like everyone else but not raging against everything like brain-damaged anger-addicted teens.
There are many people who totally get peak everything and who are suffering but who choose to remain functional, compassionate, hopeful for the human race, and working toward an energy descent that works for our kids.
Yevgeny, thank you for posting your well written letter. It is an interesting perspective of the events unfolding before our eyes in the West (as this is happening in Europe as well). I agree with your take on things, and think there's a great deal of denial occurring as to what's really happening by the vast majority of people. I might suggest that those few whom are able to see what's really going on, are those who have traveled abroad and experienced many different cultures and ways of living. I spent much of my adult life abroad, and that experience opened my eyes, and my eyes can not be closed now that I have returned home in the US.
I just wanted you to know that there are those of us out here who do understand what's happening, and see what's going on. When I was in Poland I found an old pocket watch for sale that was Russian. On the front of it, there can be seen a Russian soldier and an American soldier shaking hands. It was given to someone as an award. It still keeps perfect time. I keep it, remembering that while many in our governments pushed toward insanity, there were those of us that prevented destruction. I hope for everyone's sake that the collapse won't lead to all-out world violence.
Funny, sad, partially true. Of course you don't need to live in an exburb, or eat processed corn, or consume media. Last I checked Russia has a great literature. Come to think of it, so does the US. Think I'll read Charles Olson's The Maximus Poems for the rest of the afternoon.
Yevgeny is "on the money". It is sad it takes someone from another country to point out what is so obvious to a few of us that are "awake"; that most Americans are in an absolute oblivious state. They believe what the t.v tells them, they take for truth what is spoken by the talking heads and have no time to research the true state of what America is now and how we actually came to be.
Kudos to Yevgeny!
Thank you for these two-in-a-row outstanding guest posts.
I agree with Yevgeny, American culture has become toxic - from the financial system to the educational system to entero-infotainment system... we're slowing going tits-up. I'm American and I've felt like an alien living here for the last decade.
Unfortunately, I think the collapse of our Global Village will not be as relatively "peaceful" as the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.
P.S. I think Wisconsin will be the worst place on the planet to be going forward. No one should migrate there.
Can't tell from your comment whether or not you have turned off all comments. Oh well, one can but try...
I am a 69-year old American, 'tho one who has traveled and lived abroad sufficiently to see both the faults and virtues of my native land.
I have read "Reinventing Collapse", carefully, and there are a lot of excellent points in it. I especially like your advice to flee from those with a political agenda. Russian wisdom! However what I think you (and your unfortunate correspondent Yevgeny) might miss is the (often carefully hidden) resilience and inventiveness that seems to come second nature to Americans. Because it has been rewarded financially, no doubt.
By European standards, we do appear to be loutish and uneducated. So it will be interesting to see how things devolve as the collapse happens. Makes me almost wish I were 30 years younger. (But not for long. :-)
Always the best social criticism comes from outsiders looking in. Thanks for posting Yevgeny's essay.
I am too polite, as a multi-national immigrant, to risk criticizing Americans, but how it does make me smile to have someone else do it for me. Yevgeny makes two points that I have come to realize will hit us hardest first.
The inability of Americans to accept a new reality is not restricted to libertarian teabaggers. The company I keep with smart, seemingly well informed people working high tech jobs in the Bay Area has begun to alarm me at how quickly they, too, are becoming climate change deny-ers, peak oil not having entered their consciousness at all except at the gas pump.
The second is the level of disfunction within people's families when tested by any sort of crisis. Everyone tries hard to maintain their old view of what is normal and want to fight it out among themselves to regain what they once had. Luckily it only takes one family member with maturity and a clear eyed view to lead through such crisis, but it is exhausting work for us.
I have been here too long (since ten years old) to have a sense of how Europeans or other first world countries will fare, but I do hold out a little hope for Americans having enough progressive family members to help others through. There are pockets of us who excel at being "early adopters".
Here in the Bay Area, I'm hoping the combination of intelligent therapists, Buddhist practitioners, aware environmentalists, informed scientists, bold entrepreneurs and the self-educated are numerous enough to get us through the first level of accepting the new normal of climate change and financial collapse.
I'm not sure about the changes that will be wrought by more challenging collapse aspects. Since we are still relatively wealthy in this area, given the resilience of the prime real estate; we are not really having to face that yet.
Would it be possible to link the original Russian letter?
How refreshing to ignore your spouse's politics because "she's a good wife" and put up, with minimal complaint, living with three generations of her family. Russians are a tougher bunch than most Americans, I'll give you that. Most folks would have a hard time living with only two generation of their in-laws in Southern New Hampshire, never mind three.
Also, don't rule out the effects of bad water on insanity and Rush listening or the dizzying effects of sulfur odors that arises from the ground in the Springtime. It can leave you apathetic, unwilling to eat anything but Hot Pockets, and roaming aimlessly around malls, despite having no money to buy video games. On the other hand, the vodka is cheap, so it's not all bad...I've lived in Southern NH...I can attest ...
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry over your post. I grew up in southern New Hampshire and your letter brought back memories. Yes, many Americans and the places they inhabit are crazy and depressing but, having lived in many places in the US, I have to say that there is something especially nasty and backward about the entire state of New Hampshire. Hard to explain why or pinpoint one single cause. I left there almost as soon as I could scrape up the bus fare to Boston. On the brighter side of things, spring is just a few weeks away and I say dig up the front lawn and plant some potatoes--as I recall, they grow quite well in that gravely, acid soil. Blueberries too. Maybe you can convince the rest of your family to help.
Third, so-called Tea Party People. I truly appreciate their ability to collaborate and stand for what they think is right. And after all, as it seems to me, the vague ultimate goal of them is prosperity of the common people as opposed to the prosperity of corporations. "Bring country back to the people", oh, excuse me, "The People". Doesn't sound bad, does it? The only thing I do not tolerate is their JINGOISM. As Chomsky noticed, since the Carter administration every presidential candidate should pretend to be religious fanatic in this country in order to win elections. I completely understand why these exact people voted for Dubya somewhat 10 years earlier and Reagan 3 decades ago. They did it for the same reason why Bolivians elected Evo Morales from indigenous Aymara tribe and Brazilians elected Lula Da Silva, a blue collar worker without higher education. "Just like us" factor is crucial in this case. We need somebody who would share and understand our grievances. Dubya, a "lucky sperm club" member from the wealthy New England family, who avoided draft after college, skillfully played rancho owner with a Texas twang. Really, he deserves an Oscar. The only people who would buy it are those with pitchfork in one hand and crucifix in another. And they bought it because they desperately needed that. And I can totally understand that, no joking. My family believed in Stalin too, because otherwise their lives would be too miserable. But jingoism, ignorance, implicit racism, religious fundamentalism – no, screw those soccer moms and NASCAR dads, excuse my French. This is where "Our country, right or wrong" and "Love it or live it" comes from. Pure imperialism, complete opposite of what they think they stand for.
Last but not least, my wife. I really adore her as a person, wife, mother and friend. And I shouldn't have involved her in that issue. She read the whole thread and I can tell she's pissed now. I am really sorry for that and shall never jeopardize our personal life over such matters as differences in political views. Yeah, I am a cosmopolitan youngster, been places, seen different people, speak some languages and all she knows is America and it's suburbia. And I know exactly how hard it is to take an unbiased look at the world and your country without having completely different experience. With all that being said, we share many views. Please, keep writing. I can tell, this is way more fun and positive experience than what you can witness at the Russian-speaking networks.
This is Yevgeny! Thank you everybody for kind words and constructive criticism. It's been a little while since I wrote this email to mr. Orlov who has been so kind to send me a free copy of "Reinventing Collapse". So, since then I have stepped a little forward in developing relationships with the local community (if such exists, not sure yet). To be honest with you, I LOVE America, first and foremost. For the first time in my life I feel like this is the place where I belong. It might not seem this way according to the post, but come on, you can't say everything in one email :). This blog and its readers is one of the million proofs that this country is full of thinking people, caring for each other, and I knew that. What I realized through the process of filling the gap in the knowledge about U.S.A. history in a local public library - nearly all the benefits, all the good publicly accessed things and rights in this country are the result of a long, painful struggle of the populace. For revealing statements in public such as "Freedom is not granted to people, freedom is taken by people" in Russia today you would be blamed of political extremism and got to the blacklist of the Federal Security Service. Just for starters. But this is exactly the case of the United States and its civil rights movement.
Second, as a pure city boy, I wouldn't stay a day in suburbia if I could. It hasn't been my choice though, my American family is very settled and has been living here for quarter century, my stepdaughter goes to school here, which is the main family's argument for not moving out (you know, "suburban schools are better and kids are safer here" thing). One thing is for sure - there is no future for country of SUVs, big houses in the woods and mall-strips along the highway and people denying that are bound to extinction, a very miserable one. Personally, I'd love to start farming, this thing is very familiar to me, since my father is from the peasants family. At the hardest times when we had not a penny to bless ourselves with there was always a food on a table. But, unfortunately, the landlord owns this property and we can't raise anything neither on the front yard nor the backyard. By the way, as James Howard Kunstler noticed, this is what makes this collapse different from the Great Depression. In the early 30's roughly 25% of the American populace still had farms, so, even if they failed to get employed they would always come back to the farm and feed themselves. Russia had several cases of severe famine during the 20th century and learned that lesson perfectly. If there's any Dmitry's blog reader who still lives along NH-MA border, I can propose you to collaborate and form a little commune, raise plants and share them between ourselves and other needies. I've got enough enthusiasm and plenty of time :))) And since I'm a vegetarian, my diet is really frugal.
I appreciate the observation. I live in the rural areas of the US. Here people are changing.
When we first moved here everyone had huge SUV's or pick up trucks. Everyone had a mortgage and the people in town looked down on us for having so many children so young and living in such a small home. They assumed we rented first. Then they assumed we mortgaged the tiny thing. I actually had to explain I anticipate being jobless for at least six months, due to pregnancy, and paid for the thing in cash. Well, of course everyone thought I was stupid for doing that as I could have gotten a bigger house with such a big down payment.
They looked down on our car as old, tiny, jap trap. It got good mileage. They asked me why I didn't have two cars and how much my payments were for my current poc. (piece of crap) I explained I paid 200 outright for it and that we didn't need two cars.
Our family was so different from everyone down south...
Things have changed. I took my tax money and bought a scooter and sold the car. The scooter gets 100 mpg and when the high gas prices came it didn't touch me. People in town took notice and started buying scooters.
As I have made little repairs here and there with what little employment I have been able to get, people have lost their homes. Now the less well to do in town say to me, "Ya know everyone is losing their homes, most of them are people you would never imagine having troubles.." These are the same people that looked down their nose at me when I first came here for my tiny home.
Now people have always looked down their nose at me for having a lot of children, or even having children. I chose to have children for many reasons, most of which is their survival. It is easier when you have a sister or brother to lean on, then when you don't. It is also easier to feed and clothe a bunch of children, and use hand me downs and what not, then to raise one spoiled brat in a bad economy. Lots of children makes the work lighter. It also makes the days brighter.
With brothers and sisters there is no need for tv or video games so those expenses are not an issue. It is only now people are starting to see the wisdom in this and unfortunately most of them are past reproduction years.
We are now starting to farm. Our children are in 4 H. Our children do most of the work as it is a part of their 4 H and curriculum. Now instead of being viewed as a blight on the community, people are looking to what we are doing to make it by. I mentioned wanting to buy a horse to replace our gas powered items...people laugh. But now people are buying horses. Could be a coincidence. Could be rural living. I wonder.
The housing crisis has also struck in the counterculture. I have a friend who is a NeoPagan author. When he does a book tour, he sleeps, at each town where he appears, on a couch or spare bed provided by someone associated with the group or business that brought him there to speak. On the San Francisco stop of his 2009 tour, there was no couch or spare bed available because, in his words, people were living six to a room. He had to go to a motel.
On the positive side, you can be thankful that God gave you the opportunity to help out those still living in a corn induced stupor.
Well I’ve lived in Russia and there can be no comparing Russia’s collapse to the one coming in America. Russia is a much more cohesive society, and they’ve lived through horrors in living memory that Americans can hardly imagine. They’re just much tougher people in general.
The big problem America has is its totally fragmented culture; people not only don’t know their neighbors, they fear them, and there are huge ethnic hostilities simmering just below the surface that multicultural engineering hasn’t even begun to resolve. I don’t see this American experiment ending non-violently like Russia’s did; it’s an apples and oranges comparison. I’m always amazed at the tame brand of liberalism that so many doomers subscribe to, and their utter denial of the reality of ethnic conflict in America. If you pay attention to what goes on at the street level, there is a very primitive tribal struggle for control of territory going on, and it’s going to get very ugly when order breaks down. At least in Russia they don’t have to fight over which tribe is in control. You could view the Soviet collapse as a retreat back to defensible tribal Russian borders, and something similar is likely to happen here.
Thanks for the insight. Most of the time I feel so doomed. With testimony like Yevgeny's at least I might learn to smile with the collapse and learn to stay flexible enough to get by.
How long will youth sports keep up? People will always do things for their kids....
Whoa! Sorry we got you in the doghouse with teh missus, Yev! However, probably none of us thought you'd be letting Ms. Y. peruse our comments. Though given the close quarters of your current living-arrangement, maybe we all should have realized she would end up seeing what we had to say.
I promise that I'm not trying to cyber-seduce your husband, Ms. Y!
Seriously though, your observation on the US being full of very deranged people makes me wonder what psychological effect it has on less-deranged people when the economic situation forces them to live in close quarters with more-deranged family-members. The one thing that made our insane dysfunctional families tolerable was the fact that the USA's relative social and geographic mobility made it easy enough to get away from them. With that safety valve removed, I shudder to think of the dysfunctional-family pressure-cookers that must be simmering and seething out there!
In other news: Stage Three (Political Collapse) appears to be initially underway.
Your blog and life are often on my mind lately. I've lived in 26 places from East, West, North and South of the USA. This letter you have been kind enough to translate comes vibrantly to me; my fiancée is Canadian; her present life position doesn't afford us the opportunity for me to immigrate to her side (for her to stay close to extended family who have many generations established in that area). As I read this letter, the situation this man experienced between he and his wife I thought of many times my Love and I sat and talked of the state of things, about the limits of growth in a finite world, the ridiculousness of governments big who place their budgets and hopes on the vision of growth forever and the negative community impacts of corporations as they are presently and long discussions on the limits of energy sources and inevitable failure of cheap oil. This letter made me thankful she agrees with me on all these. She used to tell me she was afraid to think of it; the inevitability of the energy intensive exergy wasteful race-to-nowhere life that exists now, that she was taught to expect all her years in school and that so many worship in our two societies, was going to end whether anyone thinks about it or not. Over our years together I have shown her the fear was not really necessary and most of it is because outside of this continuous growth stupidity she saw only blackness and destruction because that image sells movies and what sells movies also sells 'news' ('news': those observations of sort-of real life which can be spun to sell as well as the movies). I have had the pleasure of showing her housing cooperatives, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and the many possibilities that exist in human society when it is not drunk on excess much energy; and we spend a lot of time talking about how it will feel for society to come down off its figurative sugar rush. I go to a place here in Buffalo every week for a pot-luck, not under the banner of a particular religion or political label (is there much difference anymore?) but a thoroughly enjoyable community pot-luck where anybody who wants to bring a dish of food can share with the rest of us. The dinner is had in the large dining room of a housing cooperative's fixed-up old late 1800's building which has been described as "A four story house filled with art and music and food and recycle bins and good people". If memory serves there are 12 long term residents currently there but we have 20 or more with us each Wednesday night for dinner (I don't live there, at least I have not asked for an application to move in yet).
I am reading The Gulag Archipelago and I think of the nearly 200 unlisted and unmarked facilities for holding people in the U.S.. I read "War Is a Racket" and thought of the waste of this strange empire as it tries to prop itself up. I have found videos of 2 of your own talks and watched them many times. I listen to Dr. Bartlett on the short-sighted stupidity of continuous growth. I have read your entire blog archive and that of John Greer and James Kunstler's (and his TED video), Food Inc, the video 'The End of Suburbia' and the scattered writings of so many others that these last 3 or 4 months have felt like lifting my head realizing that I was rushing full ahead at a brick wall. It has been interesting to see that this was not the only option and try to walk a better road from what I have had the pleasure to learn. Please forgive my rambling but this letter you have translated and posted strikes home to me and touches the disheveled bookshelves of my mind on all of these topics related to the generally unfortunate course of society and all of the unfortunate suffering that is being visited on so much of humanity and that will almost certainly spread to a much larger portion of presently living and yet unborn humanity as so many people continue to refuse to believe that they have been led astray.
I think you did good by your wife in your letter and hopes she forgives you. I thought your description of her was honest, caring and respectful.
"Three generations under one roof" is not the definition of "failure" for every American. It only looks that way on TV.
Good luck to you and your family. I hope to read about how you find or start up a community garden. You may also find a google search on "guerrilla gardening" or "crop mobbing" interesting.
I watch RT all the time and I have to say Russia reminds me of my Italy, especially outside Moscow or St. Pete. Simple, basic, back to nature, chopping your own wood, growing your own food, etc. I live in the Adirondacks of UpstateNY so this is pretty much what we do here even in the rural villages and cities. End of Empires `from the Romans, to the Brtish, from Tsarist Russia to the Soviets and now the Anglo-American.' Take heart and return back to the early 20th Century basics and we'll be a happier people the world over!
"a person without a car is as if without legs"
Thank you for your honest and witty depiction of life in your area. I follow this blog (and others similar) and find the description of the situation in America morbidly fascinating.
I realise that many of the forces that are acting on your situation are also in effect here in New Zealand but our situation does seem quite different.
Stay positive. I believe your past will have given you a resourceful edge.
Your stay in the suburbs is charmingly put, Yevgeny, and befits . . . well befits Mr. Orlov himself. Russian sensibility much in evidence. But could you not venture from suburban hell long enough to meet some neighbors and start a garden, perhaps? Put a little perhaps in your collapse!
Or one of the things here. You could still be funny while enjoying the spring outside doing something useful, or perhaps getting to know your neighbors, many of whom may be inside reading ClubOrlov.
Thanks for the guest post and translation.
How do people feel about bringing a child into the world these days?
Thank you Dmitry & Yevgeny. And Mrs Y.
Yevgeny, I'm askin Mrs Y directly: Please post a comment here. You might be intrigued to hear from a group of people who are mostly done with right left hokey pokey politics. And you might learn from and teach us all a few thinks. Thinks that are vital to all of our survival.
Funny today that I caught myself cataloguing and reasoning out the mistakes and lies of one of my coworkers who still listens to Fox and Rush and all. (I'm just as often doing the same for the Obusha supporters.) The irony is that I'm workin at the Solzenitzen rule. Apparently I need a lot more work at it.
Life is so much easier when I don't feel responsible for correcting each lie as it comes up.
Dr Doomlove and Robt C Guy hit a nerve for me here. We're probably in over our heads given what peak oil and 50 years of mismanagement is doing to our food supply. Even so I'm much more worried about the coming civil war in the US.
As evidenced elsewhere and at other times, it won't just fall along ethnic divides. The ethnic fronts will be harsh enough. To be sure, extremists from both sides will be doing their share of attacks that are in their view defending themselves. What we've seen verbally for a few decades is likely to get much nastier than the oral riot we've seen so far.
Currently my wife and I are workin out the logic of sellin a suburban home to rent an acre or two of house and farm for awhile and live as wisely as Working Mom. If we can do it we might be able to swing some of that 1 or 2 generation stuff in a bit more peace and comfort. Hope we can keep in touch here either way.
So keep at it Yev and all. Thank you for bein you.
Henry de Montherlant wrote in his novel Chaos and Night (1963):
"A single nation that has succeeded in lowering the intelligence, the morality, the quality of the human race almost throughout the globe is a phenomenon never before experienced since the beginning of time. I accuse the United States of being in a constant state of crime against humanity."
He then continued:
"Catholicism has made man stupid, but it has not degraded him; it has introduced as many good and beautiful things as bad things. The United States have simply degraded humanity. Catholicism has done less harm in two thousand years than the United States in two hundred."
Well, in my mind I resist the idea of having a child any time soon. It would be a crime against child, because we wouldn't be able to provide the latter with healthy food, shelter, education, healthcare etc. You either have to be rich, off-scale optimist, or accidentally pregnant pro-lifer to willingly give birth to a child today while still being dependent on failing system, I think. Don't know what others think, though. But we have infants in our extended family and those of our friends - all of 'em grow up in poverty, live in bad, destitute neighborhoods, with rare exception their parents are on welfare for disability/unemployment. As long as social security fund keeps shrinking, these kids and their formerly obese parents are doomed to starvation.
There is no future for these kids. If financial bubble collapsed, say, in 2000, most of them wouldn't even exist.
I was born and raised here. I love America and detest the United State.
I can say in all honesty that you understand what America is and what America is supposed to be better than 80% of all Americans.
And to Working Mom,
Thank you for having children. (I bet you don't hear that every day.) As the saying goes, "Children are proof that God still hasn't given up on the world."
A world without people having children is evidence of a world full of some very selfish people. Giving birth to and raising several children is one of the most giving things anyone can ever do. There are those who see human beings as not much more than parasites: lice sucking on the skin of the earth, but if someone has the right idea of what it means to be human and why we're here, [not just to live as long as we can, as well-off as we can while using the fewest resources, then to die and pass into oblivion] then we rightly perceive children as a gift to the world, not a curse.
It is a sign of a complete cultural collapse that on a large scale, people are buying little dogs and give them modern human names like "Chloe" and "Bailey," dress them up, buy them clothes and say, "They're my kids" really drives home the fact that these people know that their lives are unfulfilling. Then their dogs will die in about 12 years. Children, raised properly, would carry on their ideas, their genetics, support them in their old age, and have families of their own, passing down a legacy of love.
To cite/paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt (of whose ideas I am not often a fan), "Go ahead, contracept! You will only have proven yourselves unfit to cumber the earth."
Thank you for believing that your ideas and your culture are worth passing on to another generation, Working Mom.
I used to only think in vague abstract terms about collapse, but now I think that maybe we will be better off with a rapid collapse. No more money for police officers or money for pensions like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and perhaps a renaissance of downtown living and more concentrated economic activity that is sustainable. No more a kleptocracy in which citizens are subservient. No more will we be servants of the weak, devoid of thought or light to seek.
Maybe we will build reactors to close the nuclear fuel cycle and use hydrocarbons for plastics. Maybe there will be an international consortium to explore space.
Ooops, I get carried away at times.
This Alternet.org article is as good an explanation as any of why the USA has become a society of unhealthy and unhappy thundering lunatics.
Good suggestions on how his family could escape thier plight but,thier apathy is endemic of our society. That house will be thier grave. we are all too afraid to be free.
Mrs. Y here :)
I appreciate the insight Fritz!
My suspicion is that if I did not want to learn, I wouldn't have been following this thread. I love to learn and am very open minded.
I dislike Rush, and I am not conservative or liberal, I am independent. Those are all just labels anymore. I have my own set of values and rules. I'm interested in content, current events and the views of other people on all sides.
I'm quite done with politics myself but still believe that I should pay attention to what is going on in the world.
And for those who are curious. I did forgive him. We get along to well to let petty differences get in our way;)
As an expatriate father of two young daughters planning to move back to the USA, the comments on this thread are distressing, to say the least.
Korea, where I have taught English for the past ten years, continues to treat me well (reasonable pay and free housing, full government health care for me and family as well as government pension plan).
But I still have no choice but to opt for the US as a better place for my children.
I can either move back to the US and expose my kids to what people here describe as corn-fed lunacy, or I can stay here in Korea and expose my girls to straight-up, unapologetic sexism, racism, xenophobia/nationalism.
So what's a young father to do?
I can only tell myself that there is no perfect country for my kids, anywhere on Earth. But it is my mandate to guide them through it, the best I can with as much wisdom and compassion as I can muster, and then some.
Yevgeny ... Dmitri ... from what I am following on Ukraine after the American `Orange Revolt' defeat of 2010 ... (reminds me of the old Orange Crush commercials logo???) ... the Ukraine or at lest the East and Crimea will be turning back to All the Russias culturally (shall we say) after a GDP crash of 20% as are all other former CIS/Soviet lands (Belarus is the only one I believe that registered a Soviet-like 3% GDP bump up. Even the the RF went down some 8-9% in 2009. Life is simpler outside of Moscow and St. Pete (maybe harder and hip-hop boring) and I know there is much to say about USA's `constant gotta be out there proving myself mode.' But even as an American born, Italian-American, served as a Marine Reservist outta HS, Deputy Sheriff during College w/PoliSci/Criminal Justice Majors. I can honestly say after all the health probs (MS/Diabetes) I have now (just 42), I am still lost in the USA. Even family here (too USA all the wayified) are incorporal (missing and generally do not check on me to see if I am still breathing (and that is a very real day to day with yours truly). They are very superficial at best - aka `lost in the nuclear family mode of America' now! I know the Old Italians are emotional people and love to fight about almost all, anything with heated hands and gestures (even immediate family) ... and in the end they're all eatin' the pasta and sauce together, throwin' the wine around w/the cheese. And later ... all outside working as an extended family in some group exercise in the ole' countryside. At least that was how it was even 30 years ago - I miss my mother's small mountain top village. At least the Russias in the Rurals in that sense still has much of that and I can tell you from my own garden barters up in the NorthEast of NYState (that it works here too, to make you have a purpose). If ya can do it and forget politics. Build a big garden and flowers and bring the wife, friends and family that is back to the Earth you made w/your own bare hands! Once they always get to my yard they all never leave after 6mos of MIA! It is to funny to watch - the stress completely leaves their faces (as if they have transported to some other dimension). And I usually build all my yard stuff with timber and old scraps of `free' - be it picnic benches, Adirondack chairs or pergola, benches and little nooks around the yard to enjoy your coffee there - it tis' a fun hobby that transcends its use!
What is the sustainable carrying capacity of the human population on this planet, and how will this be balanced as our current roughly seven billion vastly exceeds this number? Your instincts are laudable, but your instincts were based on an evolutionary background where only one child born in 3 or 4 would reach maturity. Are you prepared for the other side of your calculus? The math will not be denied.
YankeeKwon - I'd move back to the U.S. with them! They'd never be all that accepted in Korean society anyway. And the 'corn fed lunacy' shouldn't be a problem for too much longer. They'll grow up watching it collapse, and will be able to adapt to that better than you or I! I have a couple kids myself, and feel that finding a (moderately) chaotic and unstable environment for children to grow up in is challenging enough to give them strength without putting them at too much risk. Having good natural areas nearby is a blessing and a safety net. You are fortunate that you likely have the ability to choose any place in the country to relocate to... choose wisely!
Poor man...He believed in American Dream.
I am writing again from Spain.That story is very sad, not only for American people. Here we have bad imitations of USA suburbs too.
Here the suburbs are not exactlly the same as in the U.S. but we have many new areas with townhouses
My cousin went with her husband and children to a house on the outskirts when they said being rich. Now there are 4 adults in
the house; only work 2 and badly (shitty jobs). They have many expenses and my cousin is now too old for many jobs. If you don't have a car you cant go anywhere. When the collapse strike these areas, they will be in the style of mad max.
Some day they will eventually pay off the mortgage, I guess.
Fortunately, I think people in Spain are not as brutish as the Yankees. Moreover, only a few snobs moved to suburbs far from
cities. We still have decent areas to live here. Therefore, although the Spanish economic situation is horrible (spanish president is a moron), I think it will not be as dangerous as in the States.
Your daughters will do just fine as long as they are able to solve problems and that comes with learning basic skills.
I grew up on rural property, chasing frogs and gathering eggs from the chicken coop. My parents were both handy with tools and while I am neither a carpenter or a plumber, I can fix the kitchen faucet or repair damaged baseboard.
These skills might be considered odd for a woman but now I feel truly blessed that I learned so much from my dad.
I have 2 daughters that are now in their 20s and while they turned out just fine if I had to do it over again I would have kept them out of the public school system.
Dmitri has an excellent post on schooling that struck home as I learned to read at a young age and never stopped.
Whoooaaa! Yevgeny! Dude! Welcome to the real beginning of the post-industrial age! Look for that silver lining of recycled industrial "garbage". Make use of it. Grow some chickens. Grow a garden. Learn some "old" skills. TURN OFF THE TV!!!
I think it will not be as dangerous as in the States.
Dangerous??? When the collapse happens, I think it will be just like the Renaissance Fair. It will be so much fun!
Totally joking, so please don't run me off this forum with the cyber-equivalent of torches and pitchforks, even if it would serve me right! But would you all believe that was an actual comment on a Peak Oil forum of which I was a member back in the mid-2000's? The poster could have just been a troll, I realize, but still...
you're rockin. No surprise here. Kinda figured as much since you had the brains and guts to marry one such as Yev.
Got a few friends in the midwest from inside and outside the US. We all train together in a Japanese art(now there's a culture for ya).
I've learned to respect and pry a bit. We have siblings outside the US, older relatives foreign born and many older foreign born friends in America.
Askin a fish to define water is the same as askin Americans to define America (or speak another language for that matter). It takes awhile and some trust, but insights from fair and friendly outsiders are invaluable.
Case in point: A Kazakh I trust with my life was over for dinner with other younger very American friends. After dinner we tossed a frisbee a bit. We reminisced about games and sports we played when we were kids.
Jax (not his name) was listening and understood our common games but didn't move here until he was 16 (about 10 or 12 years ago). He was too quiet so I asked if K-stan had similar games.
It blew our minds when he told us about games played for hours rolling bones (probably goat and probably an early form of dice). Jax has learned to trust us enough to recognize our hysterics are aimed at our ignorance and our assumptions about the rest of the world. The laughter is not aimed at the rest of the world.
Culturally we're like most non-poor kids in the US who are confined to air conditioning and video games year round. They don't realize temperatures above 90 deg F don't require A/C for survival.
Yeh, so we kept tossin the b and kept probing Jax about K-stan. After some lessons in how American front doors are in no way a hinder to contrary folk (bandits et al), he described his PE class in school.
I lost it when Jax brought up the grenades they trained with in PE. It took serious time, trust and cajones to tell such Disneyfied folk about learnin to throw grenades (blanks) in PE class.
The confused and surprised looks on the younger folks' faces while he elaborated (probably in the early 90's) made breath secondary to laughter.
That and I worked in public schools in an affluent suburb. I can just see Tiffany and Jennifer and Stephanie and all their friends in Naperville with all their makeup and perfectly pressed gym uniforms pullin out the ol grenades from the supply room and headin out onto the football field.
Here's the thing. That was a valuable and good PE class for those kids in that context. It probably wouldn't hurt Tiffany and friends either. When I caught my breath and made that point to the younger Americans present, Jax went on to lament, "yeh, my Dad went to the same school and they had rifles back then."
Now these are not the standard "When I was a kid we walked through 3 feet of snow uphill both ways..." storylines. I lost it again and had to ask "ok Jax, I'll bite. What happened to the rifles?"
"They got stolen so grenades was all we had."
Totally serious and flat and calm and totally outside our little Disney realm of reality. Hell most Americans still believe the Disney lies about lemmings jumping off cliffs. And those of us who know that crap when we see it get labelled as socialists or conspiracy theorists or tea partiers or all of the above.
So yeh, sorry if we came off as labelling you. We all know better. So have you had a chance to read any of Dmitry or Sharon Astyk yet? Any thoughts from the real estate perspective on how to improve on the suburb life? You guys looked at local zoning laws and/or changing them to get chickens and gardens in?
We're in a similar situation here near Chicago. So far it looks to be getting worse before it gets better. Unfortunately the Disneyites still run the local govt and don't see a need to let us bring livestock into the neighborhood. Yet.
@ Dr Doomlove ... hey I found your comment on `retreatable borders an excellent descrip' of what will happen - I also think it will be regional (like UpstateNY/VT) vs. DownsateNY/NYC. We may even end up under the control of Quebec - better have the kids learn French! I am def Soviet/RussoPolitico way back from college - when did you live in the RF?
I also think the divisions will be regional, but based on two things: Sports and Corporate power.
The food companies like Monsanto and ADM will set up protection systems for their contracted farms, who will have plenty of peasant labor to command.
Better dust off the whips and shotguns if you are going to farm.
Yevgeny and Dmitri,
Thank you both for freely sharing your impressions of American culture and its weaknesses, vis-a-vis collapse. As in many other areas, it is often the case that outside observers can be more objective than those immersed in a culture. This outside perspective is very helpful in triangulating where we are really at, and to help understand how decline will manifest itself here.
I am particularly interested in the observation mentioned in the original post, between "food" and American insanity. I have done a significant amount of research into environmental health issues, and I think this may be one area where there is a widespread misunderstanding. For decades in the US, the word toxic has been ubiquitous in the media, but there is a very odd interpretation of exactly what that means in a biological context. From what I can gather, this term is almost universally meant to mean stuff that will kill you. But based on my studies, the meaning is much more nuanced, and far more complex than the simple idea of toxic=death would imply.
The counter-question I often ask myself is: if you ingest a "toxic" substance, and it doesn't kill you, what exactly does it do? The answer seems to be - to vastly over-simplify, is that is *does* make you a little crazy, where crazy means that some biological system has reduced stability and an increased potential for runaway. The environmental health literature is replete with examples of all sorts of behavioral changes induced as a result of exposure to a variety of chemicals, and significantly, the effects are most pronounced when exposure occurs in utero.
With these kinds of generational time delays, it is no surprise that there is little appreciation for how environmental change has impacted the culture. Just to take but a single example, the pharmaceutical drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), a potent synthetic estrogen, was used for decades (roughly 1954-1972) by cattle and poultry farmers to increase feed conversion ratios (see, for example: http://www.asas.org/Bios/Raunhist.pdf). They found that by using the drug, they got an increase of up to 30% in the animal weight with the same amount of feed.
So now the US has an obesity "epidemic" and there are all sorts of explanations as to why there are so many overweight folks: excessive caloric consumption, sedentary lifestyles, poor parenting, etc. A recent Newsweek article (http://www.newsweek.com/id/234886) trots out all the usual suspects, but completely fails to mention the DES experiment. And as I mentioned, this is only one example. I could go on and on with different examples.
My sense is that these kind of changes to the "environment" translate into the culture, but we are particularly blind to them because: 1) there are often long time delays between exposure and effects, 2) there are powerful and vested interests who wish to obscure any such relationships, and 3) the potential liability for all this experimenting would be incalculable.
Of all the countries in the world, I think it is fair to say that none have experimented so widely with chemicals and new technologies as the US. Germany would be a close second, but the EU has been doing a much better job in protecting their people, I think in part because most of the EU countries have some form of socialized medicine, and so it is in the interest of both rich and poor to reduce exposure to chemicals likely to have health impacts. Russia has its own share of pollution, but my sense is that it tends to be more localized, and less widespread than in the US. I haven't researched Russian pollution or practices much, so I could be mistaken there.
Thanks again for sharing your insights. Very thought-provoking.
Interesting comments--I came here from post-war Germany in 1956 as a ten year old and still feel like an alien and share many of your observations, although they are now commonplace to me. The"Enlightenment" happened centuries ago, yet it has yet to penetrate the general population. The "American Revolution" wasn't really a revolution, since it merely installed the existing indigenous economic power structure which replaced the colonial one. This made little difference to those on the bottom, and that is where we remain. The real revolution is yet to come.
Credit was invented to keep the capitalist American system going by giving people the ability to spend more money that they don't actually have. It was never meant to prevent but just to delay the inevitable collapse, and it's a lifeline that is in it's death throws now.
The capitalist principle America is based on is simple:
Companies hire people who work and make money for the company and then the company gives back much of that money to it's workers who go out and spend it on worthless consumer junk and the money goes back to the companies again and the cycle goes on and on.
But more and more outsourcing means more and more dollars earned by Americans going outside of America and not back into the American system; more and more automation and computerization to increase efficiency and reduce costs at the cost of human workers; politically motivated and greedy unions that make hiring Americans and not outsourcing jobs more difficult while maintaining a competitive profit margin and staying alive in a ruthlessly competitive market.
Oh, not to mention the fact it's becoming less and less of a "free market" system and more of a no-bid contract to friends and associates kind of system.
There is more U.S currency in circulation today than ever before and this had led to massive inflation, but there are less and less Americans earning that money these days than in a long time before. Where is all that money?
The money is in the pockets of the corporate kingpins and bankers that control the U.S political system and they continue to give less and less back to Americans.
What would have been smart was if the U.S government took that bailout money and divied it up and gave it to ordinary Americans to pay off some of their debts to the bankers and credit companies and go out and spend some money and inject it back into the economy.
It doesn't surprise me that the Obama admin instead choose to give even more of the money to those who already have most of it and just helped compound the problem in the long term.
This system may manage to survive for a few more decades if the current U.S government proves to be as good at coming up with bandaid scams as past governments have been... but I don't think they're even really trying to stop it now but are just trying to get as much of the wealth as they can before it goes down.
This oligarchy knows it's days are numbered and are trying to get as much as they can now so when it does go down they are the only ones capable of rebuilding and can re-assume their power.
But maybe that's just a conspiracy theory and it's just a case of accidentally organized stupidity, given the people we "trust" with power these days it can't be ruled out...
I agree it is quite depressing to look at our politics and culture in the context of energy decline and the slide it will trigger. Neither the ranting right nor the bitchy left seems to have an answer, or even a clue what is causing all this turmoil. I have been amazed that the run up in energy costs between 2005 and 2008 is never considered as a cause of the economic crash we all are in the middle of. Granted there were many shenanigans underway in the markets and banks, but why did the sheeple suddenly run out of the cash to keep the masters of the universe in business? To me it's pretty clear the price of gas was what pulled the trigger, even if it was Wall Street that loaded the gun. I have some hope that once the economy gets rolling and the fuel price once again climbs to reflect demand this will become clear to more folks. Now is a good time to talk about peak oil and explain that "reserves" are not "recoverable reserves" are not "Economically recoverable reserves". Perhaps if we prime the pump now we can put out some fires later, or at least have fun with the fire hose when things get away from the current political nonsense. As for me, I shall continue to harass any politico who will stand still. I suggest joining one or both of the parties and attending their state conventions, great fun may be had while educating the unenlightened and generally they serve drinks.
That and buy extra ammo!
Thanks, M/M Y. Sounds as if humor is still in your quivvers, which helps a lot here in the USA.
Bicycles can be had for a song; is the library in range? Or has your town too closed theirs, since we have no funding left after defending our freedom in every nation in the world? Well, maybe some local wag gathers wild foods in the woods. Maybe he/she takes apprentices.
There's a growth industry!
Suburbia here on the MA/RI border isn't a whole lot different, though more settled, thicker. We're lucky; this was once a farm, has apples and pears, berries, whatnot, and a small river.
I'd been thinking to hide out here, eating nuts and berries and protecting the place with bow and arrows, but have lately come around to thinking I ought to tear the front lawn up and move the garden there, ruining the Pleasant Valley Sunday motif my neighbors favor. Function over form. Scarecrows flapping in the breeze.
Scarecrow manufacture will be a growth industry.
Monkeywrench the tv, Yevgeny. (Oh...Hi, Mrs Y!)
If the house can't afford to fix it, things will quickly improve. Perhaps your clan can develop a board game based on the collapse, real bone dice and whatnot, and barter it for garden space.
Whoa! Not so fast, folks.
Things are dire in many quarters, but the Russian experience skews our American reality. Our history and experience is different. We do not carry century old shackles with us wherever we go. And we invite you to take them off.
Americans, and our visitors and new residents who came for what it is that America offers, know a deeper reality than the brooding, "it's your turn to experience what we have known," exhibited here by some.
Yes, too many Americans are mindlessly following the kool-aid trail. Yes, many Americans cling to the former paradigm of easy jobs, easy money. Yes, the collapse has been a sober reminder that we are not immune to the human condition: where greed and personal pursuits ( whether under Marxism or capitalism) outweigh commitment to the whole, to the greater good, then the nation teeters over a precipice.
But America is blessed with natural resources, including her determined sons and daughters. We will throw off this current administration, we will recover our former values of hard work and inventive risk taking, we will channel a healthy competitive spirit, we will reestablish self-reliance, we will remember how close we have come to the edge--in short, the culture must recover before the economy can recover.
If you are out of work, work anyway--make something, build something, help your neighbor, read classic books, instruct children in music and the arts...make a contribution that is NOT counted in dollars.
Grow a garden, read to the blind, sew a coat...look for ways to be useful. Practice frugality. Refuse to give in to despair, including the despair multiplied in the comments to this post.
The world is full of people who can define a problem. As Americans we will solve our problems, not simply describe them.
What has happened is a blessing in disguise. We freedom loving, freedom raised people have needed a wake-up call, and it is here. We needed a reminder that freedom must be defended and its foundational principles taught to the next generation. And it starts with ME. With YOU.
Get involved at the local level. Make your own neighborhood the best it can be. Inspire other neighborhoods. Adopt a "we can do it ourselves" spirit in your state. We do not need the federal government to do everything. Soon your counties and states will become a healthy template for others to emulate.
We see the mess that has been made. But we are young and not tired of history, we have ideas and energy. So we will clean up our troubles and move ahead, wiser and forewarned that it could happen here too if we ever forget how our original freedom was won.
vertalio - our local public library is within 30-40 minutes of a slow walk among not so nice pragmatic American architecture, and that's what I've been doing for months by now. So far that library is my favorite place in town, if not the only place in town I like. Bicycles.. I use the chance to ride a bicycle any nice day, but we've got only one and it is used by my father-in-law to get to work (yeah, some people still have jobs in USA, hard to believe). So, indirectly that bicycle is our bread and butter. If it's broken we are screwed. Well, I'm exaggerating, but still don't want to upset the old man. Farming.. Lately it has become my idée fixe. I have a little experience in farming, in my childhood I used to work at y grandparents' farm every summer. It's very hard but worthy. It would be just so vital for everybody, if local farming developed in this country. So, if I could I would start farming tomorrow. But we live in the neighborhood where it's practically impossible, my father-in-law pays the rent and there is nowhere to go. We are trapped.
Hopefully, by Dmitry's prediction the abandoned buildings will start being massively squatted all over the country, like in Europe. If some nice community like this settles around my area I am moving in immediately. Last year in Barcelona I stayed in a couple of completely self-sustaining squats. And it was the best kind of dwelling I have ever seen in my life. There are over 5,000 squatters living in Barcelona alone, they have everything including kindergartens, schools, gardens, swimming pools, concert halls, movie theaters and sometimes even their own currency (in Germany). Anarcho-syndicalism at work!
Yevgeny, a couple of really practical observations about your well written piece. First of all, you should consider joining/contacting (they probably will waive fee, if not they certainly will offer some info) NOFA-NH - the Northeast organic farming association is likely to offer you a body of like-minded people, including some ones not too far away.
Second, if you'd like to garden, try walking around your neighborhood and looking for houses with elderly folk in them - knock on the door, and explain that you want to have a garden, and that you will keep up their yard in exchange. Also contact your city about community garden plots. You might also talk to local churches about the possibility of starting a garden.
One of the very interesting things about America is that Americans are so utterly accustomed to wasting resources that they often are astonished - in a pleased way - to discover that they actually have something of value to someone, and are quite generous with it.
i live in a house without a garden too. But apparently you can grow indoors : use bottles or hanging vegetables etc. I'm gonna try this one day.
Besides if I can't afford gas for my car some day I will probably start using my car as a mini-greenhouse. At least that would be useful.
Wow...this lady's wife says she is a libertarian conservative and she listens to Rush and Hannity? lmao why would she listen to them? So sad that people are so deluded. Their views are not libertarian. Oh and they are disgusting.
Woah, Aunty Belle .. you seriously cant think that the current depression is the result of this administration. If you do, I have some beachfront property that I would be happy to sell you.
Those stolen 'rifles' were AK-47's.
My Eastern European wife is still proud that she won her high school (required) competition in target shooting a tripod mounted machine gun.
Everyone rags on Tea Partiers, so let me (as a Tea Partier AND an Orlov fan) put in my two cents.
I listened to Rush Limbaugh for years, and I've listened to Glenn Beck a lot lately. (Before that, I was a regular NPR listener.)
After some serious thought, I must say that I am beginning reject all of these politics, as Orlov recommended. I admire our Constitution, and I love my country, but I do not think that rebellion (which is what many Tea Partiers say they want) will actually make any difference. Either it will corrupted from within, or it will go too far. Or both.
The first American revolution was unique. It will not happen so nicely again, as the South found to its dismay in our last Civil War. America is not entirely doomed any more than Russia is, but she will certainly suffer for a long time.
As for me, I'm learning to garden, working a minimalist job, praying a lot, reading too much DOOM, and doing a risk/cost analysis on a lovely Kevlar blouse.
Do you have this in Russian? I would like to send it to Russian friends.
'My Eastern European wife is still proud that she won her high school (required) competition in target shooting a tripod mounted machine gun.'
I love the Slavic women, now more than ever
Although the area you currently live in sounds grim there are many good areas in the US where people are making the best of the situation and not exposing each other to a constant barrage of mindless madness such as you spoke of. I am in the Rocky Mountain West area (Wyoming) and really like it here. I moved here from California and there are actually jobs here and we have much outdoors activities to keep our minds and bodies busy.
You should look for a place where people try to make their lives better
Whoa, I was totally vilified at the Russian thread. But, it's a good old Russian tradition - to blame you of being douchebag for anything you say. Provoked the furious dispute that will turn into oblivion. And there's still no light at the end of the tunnel. But! There are a few good tips at the end of the thread.
Northeastern enthusiasts - where are you? Let's do things together before we starve!
Cute observations. I think it's embarrassing for some people to see we got screwed by some Wall Street Pirates. Too bad we drank the cool-aid of free market
deregulation given to us be "the brightest & best minds". The oversight & regulation gang were asleep at the wheel.(The ones that tried got bullied into submission) Result:Strip mined assets & a crashed economy. Some (Wall Street)pricks took the money & ran. The politicians that took big money are playing stupid.(That could be real) So what to do? Prosecute the Pirates, set up effective oversight & dust ourselves off and get back to work. Oh, set priorities for a sustainable country & life. And try to treat people with a little respect. Quality of life is important in my opinion.
How come even many Dmitri's blog readers don't have a clue about Peak Oil issues? It seems like until Glenn Beck & Co admit it a very few of us will even pay attention to the fact that all these economies and in fact our lives are completely dependent on the abundance of fossil fuels, which is already a history.
wow aunty Belle,
at risk of being labelled a pessimist (and if that puts me in company with the likes of Ben Franklin and Yvon Chouinard, so much the better) what specific resources are we in command of here in the US that were lacking elsewhere?
Petroleum? Rare earth minerals? Nat gas? Vast old growth timber tracks? A crushingly huge, and almost omnipresent and almost omniscient military - industrial - health complex of oligarchs?
We do have plentiful sun and wind. And far too few of the oligarchs are moving in that direction to make much difference yet.
For the sake of speed, take a look at a few well researched documentaries. Food Inc is one of the better new ones. How exactly are you plannin on feeding 300 million Americans once the petrol supplies drop harshly?
Currently it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food that we Americans consume so carelessly.
While I do appreciate your determined positive mindset, a little reality (especially a little scary reality) is a good thing in all processes.
Please don't confuse the folk here as defeated nor defeatist. Some of us have already survived (and flourished in) far worse than what we've seen already.
With a little collective memory to draw on, we might use what resources we have left to survive and flourish in spite of the hell the oligarchs seem intent on draggin us through.
environmental change has impacted the culture.....the pharmaceutical drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), a potent synthetic estrogen, was used for decades (roughly 1954-1972) by cattle and poultry farmers to increase feed conversion ratios (see, for example: http://www.asas.org/Bios/Raunhist.pdf).......
Gracias for that. Have you thought to run that by folk like Michael Pollan and/or Eric Schlosser or any of the folk involved in "Food Inc"? Good luck gettin a school in the US to research it. They're all big pharma financed. Still, someone's gotta have a blog set with Food Inc folk that can run with that.
Yev, there's gotta be a way to get you a bike. craigs list? anybody?
Sharon, got any good ideas for folk in a suburban town (officially annexed and incorporated) on how to farm chickens. I checked. Zoning rules out poultry in city limits, aka us. Tempted to try it and ask forgiveness later if egg bribes don't work.
Gracias for that. Your wife's experience is way cool when you think about it.
The militarist aspect sucks. It'd be way cooler if they were hunting up food instead of preppin for war.
Just the same, understanding technology, any and all technology in a practical sense is invaluable. Americans are raised on violent movies with no clue what real violence is.
They don't know let alone feel what they nor anyone else is capable of. Sheeple.
The real pertinent fact here is that we're so amazed and aghast that your wife did that, let alone that she was good at it and proud. We don't have a clue.
To be sure, take a look at other blogs who are linkin up to this thread. Quite a few folk flat out don't believe this kind of think. Alot also think it's cool in some Mad Max day at the movies kinda way. As if it hasn't been this way all along and we sheltered sheeple aren't due for a good eye opener.
Thank you again. By the way. Who paid for the rounds? Her practice had to have been conspicuous.
Gotta love the smell of kevlar in the morning garden.
Hey take a look at Bradblog.com. He's no blind obama supporter and a good antidote to the lies of the NYT, NPR, Rush and Beck. He's good since he goes back as far as his commenters require him to research and he works with verifiable facts.
The irony here is that we're all almost hypmotized to believe NYT and NPR are polar opposites of Rush, Beck and Murdoch. It ain't so. Big Pharma, Oil, Coal, Insurance,.... have their hands in all their pockets. It's all kabuki.
The beauty is that bradblog is callin all of them on it. politely and directly. it's not as useful as these threads. It is nice to know who's responsible for what issues and what's coming as big brother prepares to make things worse.
I know D. I'm comin close to violatin Solzhenitsyn's rule again. Guess it says something that I'm learning to spell his name.
The Russians in the US villified you? On what grounds?
yeh Yev. I showed a copy of Food Inc. to folks at work. Most are into it and passing it around. They're learnin and eating at Chipotle more and McDonalds less. Ironic how well it fits into Corn Madness. At first I thought that movie prompted you to write this.
One of the stealth tea partiers only comment was tossed off about how "oh yeh. that Al Gore's involved in that movie. He's into everything."
That could have been a compliment. Since they're a climate change denier, it was sure to have been intended to insult. More importantly, Gore's only involvement in the movie was some reviewer's comment on the back of the case comparing the movie to an Inconvenient Truth.
So there's always knuckleheads. Oh well. Just don't let em grind ya down. To be sure most of us here understand climate change better than most Glen Beck listeners.
fritz, get yourself a blog of your own, and post a link to it here. This thread is getting crowded.
Fritz, I've got 2 bikes now. A minor repairs and I'm free to go miles away.
Russians wherever they live are ready to demonize you if you're American or (God forbid) Russian immigrant. The attitude generally is that person like me is a shallow demagogue who came to America to live on others' expense, who never worked and never will, who hasn't done anything neither for himself nor for anybody else and blames the world of his personal issues. 'Shut your mouth and find a job' attitude. It turns out we've made it all up in our minds.
On food issue - seriously, people had a massive research on harmful effect of the food we consume in supermarkets, but I never heard a lot about its impact on our mental health. I mean, if you support your vital activity with macaroni & cheese from the box and stuff on a daily basis, eventually your body will turn into macaroni & cheese. You are what you eat. And I can tell you based on what I saw in Russia, Europe and U.S. - America is an absolute world champion in obesity, madness, gun violence (or sharing the pedestal with Colombia and Brazil), jingoism (hello North Korea), religious fundamentalism (that's right, take deep South alone and it will leave Iran far behind) etc. Even in Russia that has a marginally nationalist, ultraconservative and aggressive society you won't hear stories about university professor shooting the colleagues or white suburban kids from middle class families making massacres in schools. There are militia officers committing these crimes though. You won't hear stories about world being created just a couple of thousand years ago, there are no evolution deniers in educational institutions. And finally, if you see enormously fat person on the street in Russian city, I almost guarantee you it's an American exchange student or missionary ;). In no way I am whitewashing Russia, it has much more severe problems now, such as alcoholism, domestic violence, profound corruption on all levels of government, violation of human rights etc. But we are different people with different mentality, still different history and last but not least we eat different food. So, the question of the post was - what and how affects these factors in United States of America?
As long as shallow demagogy is my favorite subject, here's George Carlin's quote:"When you're born into this world you are given a free ticket to the freak show. And if you are born in America you are given a front row seat".
So, why is that? Why?
apologies D and all.
DAWN, Mrs. Y here. I call myself a libertarian and I was misrepresented. I listen to Jay Severin. I do not listen to Hannity or Rush etc. Mr. Yev has mistakenly clumped Mr. Severin into that category of political misfits in which I do not indulge. I may have perhaps listened to one or two of Rush's talks, but only to gain insight into what the "other side" is thinking.
I will however state (for the record) that I believe the "Tea Party" followers are getting a rep that they do not deserve. It seems to me that they are sorely misunderstood. Perhaps when I recover from surgery, I'll write a blog and explain a little more in detail :) Nice responses everyone :)
Why is America a freak show?
Its always been the wild west .. we ran out of west (resources) but retained the wild.
You are only getting a small taste of this large extremely diverse country.
I have lived in many parts of it - moved a lot - moved 15 times before I ever graduated from high school, lots since then. Have lived throughout the south, the mid west, the mid atlantic, california, alaska, now New England.
There is one thing in common with all these places, there is little homogeneity. There are ugly-to-the-bone Americans all over (I do not mean appearance at all - I mean their personalities) and there are truly amazing kind compassionate beautiful Americans all over.
One thing about culture shock in the USA - if you start to cope by drawing up stereotypes you will quickly find it utterly useless.
I am the very last person to defend America - I am one of those brown immigrants, rather like Obama, mixed race and (in my case, not Obama's) not in the least beholden to USA or nationalist in any way.
But I warn you that trying to grok America from New Hampshire, from one family, is silly, or worse. You will never get it that way, promise.
I dont really get the obsession with pointing out American obesity. Obesity rates are shooting up in the rest of the world, your just behind us is all.
Sure, "you are what you eat" but I think there is a much more simple and much more obvious answer to why we have teabaggery - hate, self hate, ignorance, and deeply lazy minds NEVER challenged by their education and malignant willful truculent anti-intellectualism promulgated and coddled by their religions.
Thank you, nika, I am 100% on your side at this point. As it was briefly mentioned in the post, I've been to America before and so far have visited 11 states along the East Coast. We have family in Florida, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma etc. I worked and studied with Americans from all over the country. I fell in love with Americans once and forever. Also, as a musician I couldn't live in a better place. What I especially appreciate about people in this country is the diversity and tolerance, which of course varies from place to place, but generally stays on the high level compare to the most of the other countries. In his speech given last year Noam Chomsky mentioned the Obama election as a display of fundamental change that happened in a few decades. He said that at this point Europe is much more racist, anything like this would be unthinkable in any European country. My first reaction to that statement was mixed, but after a short consideration I agreed. Electing anybody but white caucasian (not always male though) to the high government post on that side of the Atlantic IS unthinkable, although there is massive ethnic diversity in Europe, from Norway to Bulgaria. Even if attempts will be made during next few years, the elites WILL NOT let it happen. In the meantime, ultra-right politicians have huge popular support all over Europe - Le Pen in France and Berlusconi in Italy are just for starters. Of course, there are many of those who have problem with the fact that the person with the name Barack Hussein is in the White House, but they do not comprise majority anymore.
The point is that psyche of average American is fragile, and that was pointed out not by me, but by way more educated people that were born or reside in this country, including Mr. Orlov. Also, "madnesswise" New Hampshire seems very mellow. If I'll be asked to define madness I will probably fail to do that. But I only judge by actions and by comparison. So, for me as an outsider it does look like mental instability in this country is more widespread than, say, in Russia, France or Portugal. I am talking about things such as sociopathic snipers, people like Glenn Beck on tv, scary preachers acting like Iggy Pop in concert, marchers with "God Hates Faggots" on their banners, frequent shootings based on purpose of "restoring justice", massacres in schools, religious and random bigots harassing passer-byes etc. In Russia we have cops killing people all over the country and not getting punished for that. But there's a serious crisis in Russian police and government institutions. We, Russians, are very rude, aggressive, superstitious, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, moderately jingoist and ignorant, but we rarely "go nuts". Many men over 30 have "beer bellies", but in comparison with average American fat person it's not even fat. There is NO obesity as a serious threat to the nation's health in Russia, nor any European country I've visited. To find the reason is a no-brainer: we eat less and move more. Russians are poor, many of us don't have and DON'T REQUIRE a car to survive, we use public transportation and sidewalks. Most of us live in tower blocks, our suburbs don't look anything like American ones. Our food contains less fat and carbohydrates, our average portion size is 2 times smaller than American and it requires smaller amount of food to satiate person in Russia. Also, we simply cannot afford more than a frugal ration. If you are unemployed or retired you starve, there is no welfare. My grandma is payed ~$200 a month and she considers it a good pension. That makes people angry and jealous of rich Western countries, but people still manage not to lose their minds. But I digress. For me America seems today a failed paradise. If you stay in suburb for a long time you already challenge your psyche. If you have never lived in a city I won't be able to explain. Also, Americans work a lot, which is probably a major factor affecting mental health. While you're sweat your ass off at work your kids are bored to death. Boredom and self-sacrifice to job are like Scilla and Charybdis of suburban life. Ok, some shallow demagogy again. In his speech given in Ireland Mr. Orlov pointed out that malnutrition can also be a reason of mental instability. Which made me curious.
My two cents on the prevalance of mental instability in the USA: Much of it has to do with the fact that Americans are conditioned by their society and culture to expect happiness and the fulfillment of our ego-fantasies as a birthright. The reality is that this only happens to a blessed few, even in a very dynamic and prosperous society such as the USA until about 2002. When people who expect fantasy-fulfillment as a birthright collide up against reality, they have one of two choices: 1) Wake up and smell the damn coffee; 2) construct an internal fantasy-world in which to live so that the fairy tale may be further believed. People with very weak self-actualization skills (the vast majority of the US population and perhaps the whole world) will almost certainly choose the latter. The disconnect between reality and the fantasy-world creates a psychological schism that only grows worse as time wears on.
The end result is somebody who is willing to engage in batshit-insane behaviors in order to behave as if their fantasy-world truly reflects their world-context, and in worst-case scenarios, you get people who are willing to do utterly ruinous things to attempt to force the larger world to conform to their fantasy-notions. I see a lot of this sort of thinking in the more unhinged Tea-Party folk and Movement Conservatives.
It also doesn't help that the USA is very socially atomized. This is perhaps owing to our being a spacious "frontier society" where people are in the habit of moving around a lot, and also other ways in which our social reality is fundamentally structured. This makes people more lonely, and lonely people who live in a fantasy-world that reality just isn't supporting, are more likely to get blisters on their fingers from going "bleeble-bleeble-bleeble"!
Very well observed and said. Our health starts with our food and when you see or imagine what all of these fools are eating, you haven't got to imagine much more. Add the television and all of the other toxic bs people are sucking on like the titties of their existence and the picture becomes crystal clear, like the HD plasma screen these folks debt for.
I find it hard to feel bored or idle with so much to learn and explore, hands dirty and things sprouting...
Excellent and realistic guest post. About the waving of principles, constitutional or otherwise, I think that it is a bad sign. When societies are healthy, principles do not have to be waved around. If they are, it means either that they were never well established and accepted, or that they were once but no longer function. I know of no example in history where such principles could be revived. Rome never went back to being a republic, for example.
What have we learned from the Russian failure?
Is there anything we can do to prepare for the coming American failure?
Who survived in Russia? Who thrived? Who failed?
Those are the real questions.
Who survived in Russia? Who thrived? Who failed?
Who thrived? Those who always thrive in times of chaos and change -- manipulative sociopaths, who grabbed as much for themselves as it was possible under the banner of privatization and rapid (and heavily US-influenced) transition to "free" market.
The failed ones are, by and large, the regular folks, those who have always worked hard, but did not know anybody important, and so had no opportunities to scam for themselves any slices of the post-communist pie. This was the situation all over the Eastern Bloc, but it was the most pronounced in Russia. The system has changed, in the name at least, but the haves and have-nots remained the same. It's as if the elite just switched their coats and titles, but still remained in power and at the trough.
In the US, we see the same thing happening these days: the well-connected, scruple-free sociopaths are making off like bandits, while the rest of the populace can barely stay afloat (if that). The president is different, but those surrounding him and making decisions are pretty much recycled from other positions of money, influence and power.
What changes, continually, is the growing inequality between the top and the bottom -- and the deepening despair of the latter (combined with continuing oblivion and arrogance of the former). A recipe for Tea Parties and a social disaster.
Not sure whether there are instructive lessons to learn from this -- not for the powerless, IMO.
So why doesn’t capitalism collapse?
The Soviet Union was state capitalist and it collapsed. The Russian version of Marx’s first chapter of Capital was removed from publication because it was too incendiary in that it was too accurate a critique of a so-called socialist society.
The answer is capitalism does collapse and it has done so repeatedly. After collapse it is restored by primitive accumulation which is accomplished by the taking, by means of brute force, the assets of another nation, or by the magic of ledger money creation, the co-creation of debt and money wealth, in the nation loyal to that state, funding that state which then distributes money to its party’s financial supporters in the so called, in the USA, private sector. As long as the state is able to extort what it needs to live by the violence of law without justice from a submissive population, the few can live unencumbered by responsibility to the many that provide its material basis.
A bigger collapse is inevitable when the material basis of wealth is eventually found, as it must be, to be inconsistent with the fiction of money wealth.
BEHOLD! "Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons."
Yevgeny could you give us an update. There were many suggestions made in the 2010 comments. Did you follow up on any of them? If so, what were your experiences? Has you situation improved? Have you met like minded people locally?
It is time for you to do something about your satiation. Do not give up! Give your TV set to Goodwill first. If your family members will protest let them watch TV but don't do it yourself, organize free TV zone in your house.
Take you children out of school and teach them home, teach them how to cook, chop wood, knit. Get healthy, walk , bike garden. You will become an example in your family of an alternative lifestyle.
We left the former USSR in 1990, and are starting to get this feeling that we are going back to our past. It is there. It is like going back in time...But... we donated our TV set to Goodwill, took our kids from school, and are homeschooling them for 8 years. We started to recognize them, and they became normal again. And this is the most important thing. We made Chehov, Tolstoy , O'Henry and other books reappear on our shelfs, and it became our new toys. By the way, Sharon Astyk's books helped us a lot.
I found Russians very resourceful. It is in our DNA, probably due to a prolong hardship of a previous generations in Russia. i am grateful for that.They really CAN cook a soup from an ax. So do not give up! Good luck to you. Olga
First viewing from up here on the England Scotland border: I missed this the first time round.
Good luck to you all. Could we hear from the working grandad who cycles to work? Sabina, Mrs Y, are you back to work or do you play music like/with Mr Y? Mr Y - where do you play your music?
Dream on folks - it could be the illusions you recall, as the song said of youth a while back now.
Capitalism persists because class conflict persists.
Well, thanks, ya'll for hanging around, those who still remember this silly letter to Dmitry.
A lot has changed in my life since then indeed. I'm not sure if most of it has anything to do with this blog and its usual topics, though. But let's take a peak anyway, shall we?
Where do I even start? Well, for instance, today I received my divorce papers. My one way flight ticket to Russia is booked for September 15th.
Yep. I do have a green card in my pocket, though, but getting it was quite a Pyrrhic victory. I wonder if all the effort and sacrifice was even worth it.
Maybe a month after this post was published a couple from Maine contacted me through ClubOrlov. They were typical disillusioned American lefties (you know, Chomsky, occupy whatever et cetera) who struggled with finances and were just plain bored, feeling lonely, stuck in their house in the woods, trying to find a new meaning of their lives, while trying to raise their two children and to get ends meet. I know, a stereotype, right? A husband also was really into sailing and boat building, being a shipwright himself. Anyway, this collapse and peak oil thing was something new to them, but they were definitely game and they owned a bunch of land somewhere in coastal Maine which they wanted to put into use. Maybe, a farm, maybe, a little settlement, maybe, a wharf or all combined, you know, however far one's fantasy can get. We met in Portland, Maine where Chomsky was giving a speech and got a kick out of each other. To make a long story short, soon we got kicked out of the house when my then father-in-law had one of his fits and we moved in with them. I was excited, to say the least! Finally, a new chapter in our lives, something worked out for me in this desperate situation. Living under one roof with people who think just like me and want the same things - I felt lucky beyond belief. Of course, later I was proven wrong, but we did get to live in someone's house rent free, fed and taken care of for almost a year. In exchange, we were babysitting their kids, performing menial tasks, taking care of the house, running various errands like grocery shopping and in my case a kitchen garden. The latter was a lot of fun (and work too). Zucchinis and cherry tomatoes grow like weeds in acidic New England soil, let me tell ya. I also tried raising plants in the way Masanobu Fukuoka did, without any tilling, just throwing seeds onto the soil and covering it with a thick layer of straw or hay.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out in Maine after all. There was always some tension present in the house, all the plans to radically change our lives never went beyond talking. They were just too caught up in their mundane routine, ADHD, depression and responsibilities. You know, mortgage, bills, daycare, full time jobs, all that bs. My wife and I, on the other hand were bored to tears. We ended up in the place even more lonely and stranded than before. I managed to make a couple of friends in the village and even started to go out and play some guitar at the local open mic venue once in a while. That probably saved me from insanity. I also went out on a bicycle a lot and cycled up to 30 miles a day, up and down those hills of Northern Appalachia. On the bright side, though, I got to meet mr. Orlov, who came up and stayed with us for a couple of days. Later we payed him a few visits in Boston, where we got a chance to stay at his & Natasha's boat overnight. I don't remember if I've ever slept better than at the v-berth of that boat.
In the meantime, our benefactors felt somewhat unappreciated for everything they were doing for us, while we felt equally unappreciated for whatever we did for them. Plus, we simply realized how little in common we really have. So, when we left that place last April I felt relief again. My life has been very volatile since then. We got to sleep in a car for a few nights, stayed at one friend's place, another friend's place, finally got a room at the Nashua flophouse, a place that was filled with bedbugs and very, very sketchy characters. We did a few odd jobs until I got a job at the moving company last summer. And I've been lifting things up and putting them down for living since then. I hate every second of that job.
I'm going back to Russia at least for a few months, partially due to my dad's deteriorating health, partially because I really want to be at the
place called home for a while. This May I had an opportunity to visit my hometown for a week and, quite frankly, it felt better to be there than
being in the United States. Russians are tougher, no matter how you look at it, and they are prepared way better for any hardship than my fellow
yankees, even now, despite being spoiled by consumption hype, loans and credit cards. As a result, in the country on the verge of civil war, at
least 10% unemployment rate and a spree of natural disasters it doesn't feel as desperate as in this "land of opportunity." Although, after a few month I might look at it in a different way. But the point is, my friends appear to be happier than ever before and it just breaks my heart, since I wasted 3 years of my youth in this poophole for nothing. Who knows, Maybe, I'll get to meet Sandy Krolick, or even get inspired to write my own "Reinventing Collapse:Vol.2"
impressive. ironic that it does not feel like it for you. this is one of the few examples of folk putting in serious effort whether they had disposable income or not to live the post collapse life.
tougher or not we do what we do. if any of us are tougher, perhaps it's due to a lack of choice. either way, you and sabina learned alot. at least some cautionary tales.
for what it's worth, we are in the same place we were when you wrote this. with the same jobs. we have been fortunate. our own private collapse in early '90's taught us to be careful. so far so good. or at least not as bad as most we know are doing.
we ordered a chicken coop for this suburban little plot last week. many neighbors have chickens now. where we will get their feed when adm, cargill and soros cut shipments is another matter. at least it's a start.
given the little we can see of the horizon from such a lowly spot in life, gotta think russia is as good a place as any to be. looks like the rich and powerful will impose a civil war on an all too willing populace of angry sheeple soon enough.
given how dumbed down our history has been for decades, it's doubtful any of the sheeple have a clue what this means. d.o.'s boat does sound more and more like the place to be. perhaps some day kollapsnik will invest his engineering skills in one of those makers on some slightly more useful project.
perhaps another time we can write of all we learned in the meantime of who and how they're responsible for this ongoing intentional mess. kinda doubt it given their history the last few centuries. might be nice to think some better records might be preserved after we're gone than the ones we were given to work with. suppose will have to leave that to cluborlov to print some way as permanent as the georgia guidestones
keep at it and hope to see you in an open sourced society like marcin jakubowski is building.
The article in this blog was recommended in a reader's commentary in Germany's DIE ZEIT - after a similarly "realistic" and "descriptive" article of a German journalists who toured from Oklahoma to California via New Mexico and Arizona - drawing parallels to Steinbeck's description of conditions in the Great Depression.
Valeria, this was hardly an article. I just wanted to talk to Dmitry at the time. Russian "kitchen politics", you know. But there is nothing to describe either, really. Everything is clear-cut.
Last week my Slovakian coworker described his impression from one of his first trips across America to California: "it's filled with vast empty space and retards. You can literally look people in the eyes and see a back of their heads." That about explains everything.
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