Wednesday, February 25, 2009


from Murph

Sharon Astyk in her book “ Depletion and Abundance” introduced me to a different perspective on what she calls the informal economy, or the real economy, as opposed to the formal economy. Now before you gulp and the brain cells overheat on terms, this is not going to be an essay with a bunch of esoteric financial terms and theories. Frankly, I’m a bit burned out reading all the different perspectives and statistics and numbers being tossed around on the internet concerning the economy. Her book gave some interesting other ways of looking at this.

There is also a 1 hr 23 min lecture on how money works at;
Worth the watch if you have interest in such things and is very well presented in very logical non technical way.

The formal or official economy is found in all of the rich countries, and involves tax forms, endless other documents, fees and statistics, the banks and other financial entities. In actuality, most of the world’s populations do not live in a formal economy. A great deal of our economy isn’t involved in that either. The informal economy is ‘under the table’, involves little if any forms, definitely no taxes or fees, and can be also referred to as a biological economy, or a survival economy. The formal economy got a real boost from the industrial revolution. Prior to then, most of what was called economy was the informal kind. In actuality, when you look at it from this perspective, the informal economy dwarfs the formal. It includes all volunteer work, all work within the family. How would you put a national value on all of the work a housewife does as an example? How much work is done ‘under the table’ with nothing in between the employer and employee? I know people that have been doing that for most of their work lives. The problem in western societies is that we have been taught that the formal economy is all there is, and what little of the informal economy we run into is considered negligible and unimportant, viewed with suspicion and often is illegal. Of course governments are not happy with that informal jazz, they aren’t getting their cut of the booty and it is difficult to control, it’s under the radar.

I agree with Astyk in that kind of economy is what we are going to have to develop. The concept that this will involve great hardship and not getting what you need for a good and happy life is not necessarily true. Relocalization of production and growing all or a great deal of your own food is part of this type of economy. While it probably does involve what is called a ‘lower standard of living’, it doesn’t mean you have to be impoverished in what you need to live a fruitful and satisfying life. It does mean doing without a whole lot of toys and non essential stuff. It does mean that families will have the time to interact with each other and spend time talking with the kids and spouse, something that appears to be lacking in most families.

Our Grange farmers market started last Saturday. There were vendors we had to turn away, not enough room for all of them. We had a vendor selling Cockatiels, other selling eggs, cookies, candies, hand made crafts while a guy played guitar and sang at one end of the room. A local massage therapist gave massages. We sold out our 10 dozen eggs in an hour. There was bartering going on between tables. We are thinking of having a local didgeridoo player come. Won’t that be a gas. The place was intensively busy from opening to closing time. All of the vendors made some money; everyone had a good time and new friends and acquaintances made. Just wait till the fruit and veggies start coming in. The trade and barter table got a lot of tradesmen and handymen signing on, we are going to be publishing a register of that. This is an example of an operating informal economy.

Now since the state doesn’t like this kind of shenanigans going on (the state figures it must control everything and get a percentage of the exchange going on), there is always the danger of someone not happy with it due to it cutting into their profits and reporting this activity to government agencies. Another good reason to involve as much of the community as possible. There is some safety in numbers, especially if most involved are quite determined to resist government control.

As a branch off of this subject, I am supposing some of you dear readers managed to sit through Obama’s speech to the combined congress critters on Tues night. About all he talked about was the economy and what he planned to do about it. Of course there was partisan cheering on his points. Interestingly, the Repugs have suddenly discovered financial responsibility and at least voiced criticism of the huge spending Obama proposes. Isn’t it interesting that they ignored 8 years of the largest expanding government spending and government expansion in our history but if a Democrat wants to continue it, they are against it.

Now I am going to admit that Obama gives a great speech, really clutches at the heart strings in many aspects. As Freeacre commented in the last post, it was intended to give hope and direction to the nation and appeals for support of his policies and plans. On the surface, the speech seems to really be concerned with the ‘common citizen’. He brazenly talked about taxing the rich (those with more than $250 grand a year income) and closing tax loopholes for the rich. And, we have a majority of people who are adamant about the concept that this problem is of such magnitude that massive government intervention and control is what it will take to drag us out of this economic mess.

Despite my dear spouse’s hopefulness and clear support of Obama, I remain skeptical. Speeches by a practiced orator are one thing, doing it is entirely something else. Let’s look at the situation;
1. Nothing that is publicly stated by Obama wants to significantly change the paradigm of how our money works. Yeh, taxing the wealthy will put more money under the control of the government. But then what? Has the government ever been truly reformist in concept?
2. Frankly, if Obama pushes too hard for restructuring how money works, I figure that the big money people (about 1% of our population) will try and assassinate him. I just don’t see these people passively allowing a reduction of their global power and wealth which is what redistribution of wealth entails..
3. When I look at history, redistribution of wealth is always precluded by a change or dissolution in governments and almost always is accompanied by active and violent rebellion.
4. All of Obama’s speeches contain the element of trying to recapture the momentum of economic growth through capitalistic economic system. For those of us that maintain that continual economic and material growth is simply unsustainable, this is just plain stupid to try and revitalize.

So, in relation to the original theme of this posting, it appears to me that somewhere down the road the concept and practice of an underground or informal economy and a vastly decreased ‘standard of living’ is a necessity. While I admit the possibility of Obama’s efforts might bring temporary relief to the crashing system that is going on right now, I maintain it is unsustainable. I also admit that Obama and his crew are completely unable to deal with this politically if they actually realize this and believe it to be true. Any policies that outright attempt to force a new paradigm and new way of living that proceeds toward sustainability will be met with overwhelming opposition by the very people it would be designed to help, much less the PTB.

While I listened to Obama’s speech, I had the constant thought go through my head that “God is he good at this”. It is such a pleasure, in one sense, to finally hear an articulate thoughtful, educated person lay out their thoughts and policies. That alone is quite a change from the last 8 years. But, keep in mind; it is still a speech, not the actions. And, while in an hour or so, nobody could give all the justification for what they want to do, we can judge what he said from what was omitted. You will notice that there was no solid data presented for his brief mention of his energy policy and why it would work. The main focus was to put people to work, and not what the outcome would be. Does this constitute another government boondoggle and excessive spending program? Do we really need gigantic government spending programs to update and repair roads and bridges to support more car culture and suburban living? Do we really need to spend the money for support of the suburban housing industry and financing? Should we really be spending huge sums of money to support the mafia types that have run our economy for years?

The bottom line is that as citizens we do not have the power to move the government in any particular direction, no matter how justified. Witness the massive opposition to the original bank bailouts. We now can only wait and see what transpires with the new crew. Personally, I hold no illusions that there will be a long term recovery of the system and on an individual basis, better be ready for it. If my gloomy outlook proves to be wrong, so much the better. I am still living the life style I want and in the meantime, will continue to prepare for the worst.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Folks, Starting a new thread here. Belgium has answered my call for a guest posting.


This is a response to Murph’s request for guest posts.
I had many ideas in my head and it seemed I could not tease a single thread from the tangle or at least it would have taken more space than would have been possible for a single posting. My original intention was to explore the relationship, if any at all exists, between Ethnicity, Nationhood and the State. The ethnicity part took over and
what emerged was a comparison of the different ways that primitive peoples and more civilised peoples regard the land on which they live. Perhaps, the bigger work will be for another time.


Peoples that do not own the land have a closer relationship with it and a more cohesive relationship with each other. Conversely, people who do own the land have little regard for it and tend to become more isolationist and comparatively less happy.

I regard these two statements to be true although I have no way of proving them in an absolute way. All I am able to do is give examples to demonstrate my point and hope that I will not be accused of cherry picking.

Primitive peoples have a stronger spiritual relationship with the land than more ‘developed’ peoples. This spiritualism has less to do with superstition about a greater being which holds the answers to eternal questions and more to do with reverence and respect for that which exists around them and on which their continued life depends. The major difference is that more primitive peoples regard themselves as part of nature, coexisting with other animals; forests; rivers and even the rocks of mountains; whereas modern society believes nature is there to be mastered for gain. Ancient peoples believe Mother Earth is the origin of their identity both connecting them with their ancestors and holding her in trust for the benefit of future generations. Thus they have a sense of oneness of belonging to a place and not of a place belonging to them. It has been suggested that since original peoples do not set physical limits on the land which supports them, they have scant regard for the land. In fact the exact opposite is true. For example, the Penan people of Brunei have a great regard for the forest where they live. They have a concept of conservation and stewardship over their habitat which they call “Molong”. Molong, for instance, dictates that the forest is harvested in such a way as to ensure a continued supply of their staple diet of rattan and sago. This seems pretty obvious when it is written down but is a concept that does not enter the heads of many western people. The Penan also hunt wild boar and make sure that there is enough of the boar’s natural diet of acorns and seeds from the diptercorp trees available in the forest to conserve sustainable numbers. The boar also eats plants which grow on the river banks so the Penan take great care to maintain these banks and not pollute the rivers. Their greatest fears come in the form of indiscriminate loggers who are gradually approaching their lands.

The Karen people of Thailand grow hill and swamp rice. The hills are terraced to prevent soil loss and swamp areas are left seven years between successive plantings so that the ground may fully recover. If students today ever hear of the three field system it is a quaint anachronism from a history lesson which could never be used today to support the developed nations’ portion of the worlds present 6.5 billion population. Instead, we transfer minerals from one part of the earth to put life back into an exhausted different part of the earth but time will come when there are insufficient minerals left to distribute. The short-sightedness of this approach is as obvious as are the pitfalls of returning to the old proven ways.

Even at a time when the World is facing an ecological crisis, very few western leaders would admit they could learn anything from peoples whose economies they regard as primitive and whose technologies they deride as stone-age. Such leaders assume they can only learn from salaried employers with university degrees. Yet many of these same scientists are coming to believe that homeopathic medicine practiced by primitive peoples may hold the key to finding cures for many of the western world’s major killer diseases. Although the popularity of such an approach of treating the whole body including the mind with natural products is increasing, it is unlikely to cure the unhealthy relationship that exists between the allopathic drug companies and the FDA. Worldwide, over 3000 plants are used for contraceptive purposes alone amongst undeveloped peoples.

The Karjat peoples of western India have a plant extract which is said to be an effective contraceptive when taken only twice a year. Many primitive cultures regulate their populations to the available food supply and although the theories of Thomas Malthus certainly appear to hold good for more developed cultures they are certainly not true for primitive societies.

It should not be assumed that primitive peoples spend a few hours a day hunting or harvesting their habitat and the rest of the time is spent on music making; dancing and general indolence. Aggression between neighboring tribes sometimes occurs. For perceived major offenses like the stealing of another’s animal then war may break out. This is not the ethnic cleansing exercise we recognise in the west but more a release of tensions in not too violent combat. In a way it is more like
Saturday afternoon football. For example, in Papua New Guinea rival tribes square up to each other across a field but most of the release of aggression is verbal insult throwing. Sometimes flightless spears are also thrown but these are not very well made and their trajectory is often haphazard. Fatalities do sometimes occur, mainly from young braves who are trying to prove themselves to their group but such happenings are very rare. To the Tsembaga and Mae Enga peoples, hostilities are a precursor for peacemaking; inter-group marriage and festivities which bind the groups closer together for a while. At least until someone decides to steal another pig and the process starts all over again. Generally speaking though, peoples who have no desire for ownership of the land have no desire for war, at least in the sense we understand it.

Modern warfare is sometimes about physically wanting to own more land, maybe to put a buffer zone between you and someone else, like Chinas annexation of Tibet. This was easy pickings since the Buddhist monks were no match for military aggression. Mainly though it is about one group wanting to own what is either on top of or underneath the land belonging to another group. Sometimes this is done through proxies, for instance like the CIA funding the Contras of Nicaragua to bring down the democratically elected Sandinista Government for the ultimate benefit of the American Fruit Company. Sometimes it is out and out aggression in its own right like the oil war in Iraq. Either way it is a fight to own the land and deplete its resources until they are used up by the West and the profits go to international financiers. A modern twist to this is the use of economic instead of military warfare.
The World Bank and the IMF throw money at the heads of some third world leaders whose land resources they want to exploit and then wait until repayments are reneged upon. The debt is then restructured in such a way that the country has to forfeit its resources to those who hold the debt. Some world leaders are smart enough to see through this little scam, like former President Sukarno of Indonesia who stuck a finger up at the World Bank’s hand of friendship and so he had to go. That is when the CIA was called in to destabilise the country and install Americas’ choice of President Suharto. Then the benefits derived from Indonesia started to flow to the West instead of the Indonesian people. One thing for sure is that people don’t fight over nothing to have. Whilst the self sustaining indigenous peoples of South Africa; together with those from North and South Rhodesia were made into slaves in their own country in order to work the diamond mines, no one ever started a war, economic or military, with Botswana. There is sand on top of it and sand underneath it and the bush people can bask in relative safety.

The largest ethnic group today without a homeland is the Kurds. They occupy most of Eastern Turkey; a bit of Northern Iraq; a small bit of North West Iran and a scattering throughout Western Europe. They are a largely cohesive group often attacking Turkey from out of Northern Iraq for an independent homeland. It is my contention though, that if they were ever to achieve this goal they would loose this cohesion since it would be no longer necessary to band together in a common struggle and they would become like the inhabitants of any other nation. In this way, it is probably better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

Here is a cute little trick that was worked on the people of the west, particularly America, which is probably an easier example to pick. After the Indigenous Americans were beaten into the back room, who did the newly acquired lands belong to? Well the American Settlers. Who represented these ‘new’ Americans? Could it be the American state? So when you want to have a plot of land to build a house on, then who do you buy it from? The American state in one of its various forms, that represents who? Well we got there; you are actually spending 20 – 30 years of your working life buying something that should be yours anyway. How did this situation come about? I don’t know but it sure seems that when somebody was asked to ‘find the lady’ they turned over the wrong card.

Since I have got into questions and answers here is a final one, it should be easy for most of you. Find a four letter word to finish this late 2001 quote from President G W Bush “The events of 9/11 should not stop the American people from going out to _ _
_ _ “? If I did not know the answer, I would have plumped for Work but that is dead wrong, the answer is Shop. The answer to “Why shop” is that your government needs you as dutiful consumers. They want you to own more stuff so that just like third world countries you will get into debt and they will have control over you. As the benefit of your working hours trickles upwards you will be left with relatively less.
As the credit card companies remind us, “Plastic takes the waiting out of wanting” and boy do we want our stuff but this is mostly trading a short term gain for a long term loss since we will be still paying for the stuff even after its novelty has long worn off. As debt mounts, we will become less happy, at least until the next shiny thing that you can put on your plastic, catches your eye. For companies it is just the same, their next deal eventually becomes your next stuff; Weyerhaeuser’s next clear cut becomes your next garden shed. Both are driven onward in an endless spiral of deals for them and stuff for you. All the time you gradually become poorer and less happy.

Here are a couple of verses from a song that some of you may have seen before. It is a keenly observed indictment on modern society.

People struggle, people fight
For the simple pleasures in their lives
But trouble comes from everywhere
It's a little more than you can bear

People shallow, self-absorbed
See the push and shove for their rewards
I, me, my is on their minds
You can read about it in their eyes

Whatever happened to caring about each other? Where did it all go wrong? Somewhere along the way, we seemed to have traded the wisdom of old for knowledge and we came away holding the short straw.

How can we possibly redress this imbalance? One answer is to reduce our dependence on stuff and as far as possible not be reliant on the big box stores. Grow what food you can and for the rest shop at farmers markets. Try to get involved in community projects to find a common thread with those around you. Try to live a simpler but happier life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shift Happens


Mike Ruppert posted a great piece on Act II From the Wilderness last week (2/04) that elicited an inspired comment from someone called wagelaborer.
Wagelaborer likened what is going on with the economy to a 911 response to a medical emergency. I’m paraphrasing, but it goes like this:
Grandpa has a heart attack. Grandma, freaks and calls 911. The response team arrives and figures that Grandpa is not going to make it, but feels compelled to do their best to revive him and show Grandma that at least they tried. So, they give him some heart stimulant medication (their training advises the more expensive kind, even though it doesn’t work any better than the cheap one) and zap him with the paddles, etc. So, then he’s put into an ambulance and rushed to the hospital, where they start all over, making a play for the family that heroic measures are taken, absolving each other of any guilt that would be assigned if everyone hadn’t given it their best shot. Happily, for the hospital, this also increases the bill at every step as well. Finally, after the patient is hooked up to the ventilator and the family has had a chance to gather around and say good-by, the chaplain takes them into a room to hold their hand while the decision is made to pull the plug because it has finally been decided that grandpa has been brain dead for while - probably since he keeled ever in the livingroom. This may be more real to me because it is essentially what happened in my family last Friday when my nephew died after suffering cardiac arrest at home.

Anyway, that appears to me what is going on with the financial collapse. Capitalism as we know it has just blown up and suffered the consequences of a lifetime of unregulated excess and corruption that has predictably resulted in its demise. And, now we are going to be handed the bill. Oh, yes, there will be gnashing of teeth, but the lamestream media will be reporting that everything that could have been done was tried, and despite everyone’s best efforts, the economy just tanked. Just maybe some miracle might happen and the patient might sit up and look around and be able to get into rehab, but probably not. And the money that could have sustained the family until the kids got a little older has been diverted to the medical establishment (banks), the family is on its own, and up to their eyeballs in debt. What drama. What pathos. What a pimp job.

Pretty soon, the pretense will finally be up. Those who have heretofore been bought off and rendered mute because of their privileged positions and status within the hierarchy, will be handed their pink slips. Awful truths will be revealed. The worms will turn. Revolution will be in the air. States are already threatening to secede from the union. Governments are falling. People all over the world are demonstrating in the streets (while we hear and endless loop of feel-good stories on the lamestream). Troops may be called out. All kinds of hoopla and jaw-dropping weirdness will be diverting and amazing us from all sides. The dinosaurs can’t be maintained in the new landscape. There will be a hideous die off of the old paradigm.

There is another great piece in today’s Tomgram (Smirking regarding the fall of the government in Iceland and the emerging new reality in that country. It is well worth a read. I’m including a quote from the end of it:

’ "There is an enormous sense of relief. After a claustrophobic decade, anger and resentment are possible again. It's official: capitalism is monstrous. Try talking about the benefits of free markets and you will be treated like someone promoting the benefits of rape. Honest resentment opens a space for the hope that one day language might regain some of its critical capacity, that it could even begin to describe social realities again."
The big question may be whether the rest of us, in our own potential Argentinas and Icelands, picking up the check for decades of recklessness by the captains of industry, will be resentful enough and hopeful enough to say that unfettered capitalism has been monstrous, not just when it failed, but when it succeeded. Let's hope that we're imaginative enough to concoct real alternatives. Iceland has no choice but to lead the way.
Rebecca Solnit is a contributing editor to Harper's Magazine and a regular. Her book on disaster and civil society, A Paradise Built in Hell, will be out later this year.
Copyright 2009 Rebecca Soln

And, what’s this? Who are all these little creatures scurrying around, making nests in the grass and tunnels in the earth? Who are these people holding hands and dancing around the campfires? Who is squatting in the abandoned homes, organizing clinics in deserted malls, growing food in vacant lots, sharing their homes with displaced children and covering the backs of wandering neighbors?

All the people who have been ignored for so long, that’s who.

The people who don’t come from New York or Washington D.C. are poised to take the reins. God, I am so sick of New York and D.C. If I never hear about them again, it will be too soon. In fact, when the new “Sex in the City” movie is released, I hope the theaters that show it spontaneously combust. The shallow, pampered, conspicuously consuming, yuppie scum are so over. The numbnuts in suits are dead men walking. Even the slave workforce-exploiting-complicit-Wally World-Nascar-watching dumbasserie are doomed. Debt has peaked. Those who rely on it are zombies.

What is alive is just beginning to emerge. I saw it this weekend at our Grange Farmers Market. Real people producing real products from home-based enterprises are going to re-make and re-take the world. You could sense it in the air. People were talking to each other, networking, planning on bartering and sharing resources, coming up with new ideas of what could work to get us through this disaster. A guy was singing folksongs and John Prine tunes in the background. Chili was being sold for a dollar a bowl. Home grown eggs and meat are being traded for firewood and computer expertise. Kids are helping out and feeling good about it.

Check out this populist song, circulating now on the web:

I am going to be away for a few days. I have to attend to my step-son who is in hospice care now. But, I just wanted to leave you with this post to encourage you while I am gone. Good things are happening. The paradigm is shifting and, like a polar shift, in the long run, there’s not a thing that the gov/corp can do to stop it. You can stick a fork into the Wall Street cabal – they’re done.

UPDATE: A series of snowstorms has hit the Sierras, so it looks like I'm going to stick around for awhile.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


from Murph

Every since this blog and it’s origin with Cyclone, we have been forecasting a pretty much doom and gloom scenario for the future. We aren’t alone of course and I am seeing many blogs and commentaries shifting in their emphasis. One of the most notable, Survivalacres, has been dooming and glooming for some time, and has declared that further writing means nothing. His last post is worth the read and contemplation. Those that are preparing are doing so, and those that aren’t, will not. Further writing (words) will accomplish nothing.

Now of course that statement assumes that the original intent was to convince people that really bad shit was coming down and better get ready for it. This blog has done its share of this. When it becomes obvious that it is a hopeless task to convince more people, do you have another reason to continue?

This last Sunday morning, Super Bowl day, we listened to some of the morning news programs. It was sickening. Most of what we heard was trivia in the extreme and the rest was so full of bull shit I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The talking heads seem to actually believe we can fix the situation and return to more growth and prosperity. What utter nonsense. I felt like I was listening to news of another planet, not this one certainly. There was not one word about other factors affecting societies on this earth other than the financial fix. If that is accomplished, we will return to our happy prosperity. Of course all of them are in the 6 figure income range and seemingly have absolutely no grasp of the real world and what is going to affect all of our well being.

So it surely appears that we are living in a society of utter denial. The very few people that perhaps understand the true situation are already doing something to increase their chances of survival from the train wreck we are a part of and helped create. Oh yes, even those that understand what is happening, contributed to the problem, every one of us. We have become part of a death culture in its extreme. Every thing our culture does involves death in one form or another, from genocide to ecological death, and there is no sign of it decreasing, rather seems to be escalating. Words, more words will not halt or even slow this. So what is the point of writing more on the subject?

We might point to the ever changing and worsening situation which for the people that realize what is happening might alter their preparations. I figure that insight is always a good thing. But, will it change anything? Probably not. Will more words convince more people? Probably not.

All of us writing on the internet, making comments and trying to understand our situation may be just preaching to the choir and perhaps it is self catharsis, a need to put into writing what we are thinking at the time with no anticipation of changing one damned thing. I know that for myself, it is becoming increasingly difficult to write anything but rants concerning the situation, repeating myself endlessly. Not that there isn’t new developing stuff to rant about, but what’s the point. Most of you reading this post on a regular basis tend to keep up with some of the latest insanity driving insane decisions and seeing insane consequences. That is not going to change. Freeacre and I have been writing of our preparations along with a couple dozen other web sites we visit regularly. Lots of similarities and a few differences, mostly concentrated on personal food production and attempting to become as self sufficient as possible. We figure that with no previous experience, it will take a couple of years to get ready for this cataclysm coming at us. I further figure that we no longer have a couple of years to learn a whole new way of living. I do not see this as a long protracted fall with ample time for people to prepare when they realize that their very existence is in question. I do think that we will have brief intervals in the next couple of years that will be proclaimed as the bottom and that it will only get better now. However, if all the data I have been exposed to has any validity at all, the proclamations of getting better will just be another lie. There is no way to be able to return to what we had going on in the 90’s. I see no way there is going to be a gradual (generation) soft impact. It makes no difference if there is some giant pool of oil or natural gas to be tapped. It makes no difference. There are too many other factors at play.

To be frank, I don’t really know what direction to take with this blog right now. I feel as though I have run out of things to say. In many aspects, I am loathe to discontinue the blog. But today, right now, I don’t know what further to talk about. This blog offers a support for people to vent out their frustrations and thinking, provides a kind of emotional support.

Got any suggestions?

Anyone want to contribute a post?