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Sun

17

Aug

2008

No Longer a Lunatic
Sunday, 17 August 2008 13:28
by Carolyn Baker
What is madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance
Theodore Roethke "In a Dark Time"
It's the same with everyone I speak to who's been watching the downward spiral of empire for any length of time: "I can't believe how fast things are unraveling", we all say to each other. The incessant mantra these days from people who haven't been paying attention is that "things are going to get better", but almost no one is denying that we are in uncharted waters beyond anything we've experienced since the Great Depression. The uninformed are traumatized, and traumatized people almost always revert to "it's going to get better" thinking in order to cope with their current plight.

I continue receiving emails from former students and former readers of Truth To Power which essentially state, "We thought you were a raving lunatic when you were telling us this stuff five years ago, but everything you said would happen is happening." Included in these comments are reports of foreclosures, bankruptcies, lost jobs, loss of student loan funding, medical bills that can never be paid off, applying for food stamps, regular trips to food banks, illnesses that cannot be treated because of lack of insurance or funds, depression, rage, profound ennui, and a sense of meaninglessness.

My reaction to this feedback is not "See, I told you so, stupid!" but rather deep feelings of compassion and sorrow. I've been a fringe person for most of my adult life, thinking outside the box, and generally living ahead of the curve. I don't say that arrogantly because there's always been a price to pay for living on the edge. Yes, I've been a prophet but a prophet among many other prophets who began their journey long before I did and learned a lot more, a lot faster.

It's easy to point fingers at the perpetrators-and fingers definitely must be pointed, but then get lost in raging against "the New World Order" that orchestrated this nightmare. It's easy to get caught up in egoic "I told you so's"; it's much harder to breathe deeply many times a day and take into the cells of one's body the reality of what's happening and how quickly. It's more challenging to allow oneself to feel the pain of other humans, animals, and the ecosystem itself. For me, it very quickly becomes overwhelming, and I have to step back, breathe again, and think about what more I can do to help alleviate the suffering we've all participated in creating. Yes, we've all participated-we've all colluded. The word collusion simply means "co-illusion", that is, the sharing of an illusion.

As soon as I stop raging and making this entirely the fault of someone else outside of me-as soon as I feel my feelings about what's happening, then I must act to support others who are just now waking up and finding themselves terrified and unprepared. Here in Vermont, most people are thinking about the winter ahead. Some aren't, either because they have lost themselves in the glories of a beautiful summer or because they want to believe it won't get that bad. What I know is that many people in the Northeast are going to have a ghastly winter, and many are likely to die. My work, along with other folks in my community, will be to help keep each other warm and fed. It won't be easy, and everything Dmitry Orlov has already said and written about the collapse of the Soviet Union and Russian winters bounces around in my head as I prepare for one ahead in New England.

Several internet sites this week have carried Barbara Ehrenreich's article "Suicide Spreads As One Solution To The Debt Crisis", and on my site I've stated that I believe this is just the beginning of people killing themselves and going crazy as collapse intensifies. One feels the desperation and madness when visiting places in America's heartland where meth labs are well-stocked and the shelves of food banks echo abject emptiness. Listen to almost any middle or working class parent talk about getting their kids ready to go back to school-no money for school clothes and supplies even as school districts are already pleading for parents to kick in contributions for things the districts can't afford. Ask that wait person or barista serving you lunch or a now-very-occasional latte if she/he is making ends meet with paying rent, student loan debt, credit card payments, and buying food. Then don't ask if he/she has health insurance because you already know the answer.

And yet, this is only the beginning. If you want the full flavor of the psychological devastations of collapse and the emotional wreckage amid the shambles of a former first-world society, read Jim Kuntler's World Made By Hand. Click on this hyperlink and watch the trailer for the novel, listen to the music, feel the plaintive sounds of the mandolin strings, the loss, the total absence of a world of shopping malls, fast food grease pits, NASCAR, or plasma TV's. But also feel that these characters are in the process of discovering something they could never have known in an American Idol existence. They are discovering the land, where their food and everything they consume comes from; they are discovering each other, and probably for the very first time, the deepest layers of themselves.

Who knows if any of these characters saw collapse coming long before it did? Who knows if they were mindlessly chanting "it's going to get better" when they lost everything they had? Those individuals who are willing to learn about collapse, open to the reality of it, and prepare for it are much more likely to fare better than whose who don't. But even those who don't may survive those who do. If ever there were a time of no guarantees, it would be now.

You see, that's the kicker about denial-cover your eyes and plug your ears now, and in a few years (or less?), you'll wish you hadn't because if you had only been willing to let the truth in, it could have prepared you to navigate the unthinkable. Unfortunately, many people will have to discover those tragic consequences for themselves; others already know that the only promise denial has ever kept is extinction, and they will not cover their eyes or plug their ears anymore.

Many Truth To Power readers regularly email me with stories of how their families and friends have written them off as nut jobs, doomers, paranoids, hysterical, dramatic, negative, catastrophizing, and let's not forget, lunatics, for taking collapse seriously and preparing for it. For all of you, I recommend another wonderful site, Kathy McMahon's Peak Oil Blues which is invaluable for reality checking and providing emotional support for thinking, talking, and taking action around collapse. Likewise, Sharon Astyk's Casaubon's Book site is both supportive and very practical in terms of no nonsense preparation.

The human ego loves to be "right", and some people prefer to watch the world burn with great glee and vitriol. But this is not the time for ego my friends; ego is what got us here. We have been called "lunatics", and now we are being called wise women and men, but it isn't about labels. It's about moving into the next phases of collapse with sensitivity, compassion, and humility, realizing that when people take their own lives in the throes of their own private and our collective collapse, there but for the grace of Something Greater goes any of us. Perhaps if they had been willing to look at the truth, they might have been able to hang around a little longer-or not. Nevertheless, our work is to continue waking ourselves and others up, which may be easier than it was five years ago, and meet everyone with kindness and empathy. It was very painful, yet sometimes a little bit fun to be called a lunatic, but now, the lunatics rest their case.
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