Marauding hordes require organization

If you’re paying attention to forecasts in the blogosphere, you’ve no doubt seen James Howard Kunstler’s projections for 2009. As always, Kunstler’s writing is humorous and provocative. The forecast is a bit vague and bloated, but we’re halfway to the Dow 4,000 Kunstler predicted more than a year ago we’d hit by the end of 2009.

But I don’t think Kunstler understands the consequences of Dow 4,000. Yes, it means massive unemployment. Yes, it means continued contraction of the industrial economy. Yes it means spot shortages in the supply of gasoline (as the country has experienced during the last two years). And it means plans to develop infrastructure by states seeking money from the federal government, will have to focus on a lot more than just highways. But I think it means a lot more, all of it dire for civilized humans and optimistic for other species, other cultures, and future humans (none of whom, apparently, have entered Kunstler’s mind).

When the Dow dips down to 5,000 or so, traders will simply cash in, as they nearly did twice in September and once in November (when the Dow far exceeded 5,000). When that happens, the entire industrial economy brings down with it our entire way of life. Forget about the something-for-nothing culture we’ve come to love, even as it fades away. Spot shortages in gasoline will seem like good times indeed, when gasoline is not available to anybody at any cost. Ditto for electricity, food at the local big-box grocery store, and water coming out the taps.

And, as I’ve indicated before, I worry how hyper-indulged Americans will behave when the economy to which we’ve become accustomed dependent fails. I fear American exceptionalism will turn quickly into exceptional ugliness toward one another.

Let me put it another way: If you believe clean water is a gawd-given right, and you believe “your” clean water originates at the tap, you’ll defend to the death the system that allows (insures?) clean water coming out the tap. Unfortunately, very few Americans understand where their food and water actually come from.

Will we transform immediately and totally into ill-behaved rats, clustered in a cage without food? Perhaps, at least in the cages known as cities, particularly when the food runs out, along with the water. But people in the “tribes” known as neighborhoods and communities will try to get along, at least for a while, at least while we’re all suffering more-or-less equally. Small communities will be particularly well-suited for the hard times ahead. The neighborhoods of suburbia, on the other hand, are particularly poorly suited for neighborly behavior of the Mr. Rogers kind. Indeed, sprawling American suburbs seem to have been designed specifically for anonymity and therefore uncaring, unfriendly neighbors.

Which brings me to the mud hut.

As I’ve intimated, it’s quite rural. The nearest town of 10,000 is more than 30 miles away, the nearest real city 200 miles. Within a mile, there are 50 people, maybe 100. We’re alongside a road to nowhere — it ends a couple miles beyond the hut, at a poorly maintained, little-used campground. We know the neighbors, and they know us. We get along, in large part because we’re willing to help each other. And generosity is a trait we’ll be using a lot in the near future

Will we see marauding hordes in the months and years ahead? I doubt it, even though the nearly perennial nearby river is reasonably well known by people in the region. And at least a few people know my thoughts on the matter, and are likely to try to find me and “mine.”

On the other hand, people are likely to remain firmly entrenched in denial, at least while the revolution is televised. And every day in denial, wishing it’ll all work out, is a day removed from being able to escape the deathtrap known as Suburbia, USA. By the time Joe and Jill Sixpack put the kids into the SUV and head for the wilderness they fear lies beyond the city limits, it’ll probably be too late to organize anything resembling a horde, marauding or otherwise.

So forget about Joe and Jill. But what about Single Bill and his buddies? Well, maybe they’ll get their collective shit in a sock, load up the truck with supplies and ammo, and make their way toward the mud hut. But so what? Will they make it? If so, do they think the neighbors won’t notice?

I’m betting we won’t see any pitched battles in the front yard. Rather, I envision two scenarios. Either Bill and his buddies will employ the element of surprise and simply kill us, unannounced, or they will grab the five-year-old playing on the property and ask us to leave. Given a choice between the two, as if I have one, I’d take the latter over the former. Then, proverbial gun to the head, we’ll leave. Quickly.

If we’re so lucky, we must then ask the ecologically literate question, the one that should follow every decision important humans make: “And then what?” What will the “takers” do, considering they can’t milk a goat or grow a potato? And what will we do, recognizing that some futures are not worth experiencing?

Taking the property back entails an entirely different scenario than a pitched battle on the frontier. It requires planning, practice, and stealth. Needless to say, I’ve been working on the plan while trying to convince my neighbors about the importance of planning, practicing, and stealthing.

Comments 9

  • Professor Guy:
    I believe you are correct on everything except the time line.My own forecast is for Dow 5,000 and S&P 500- 500 level by end of 2009(neat huh), but probably we’ll have an exponential then parabolic death curve that will take us to much lower levels within a few years.I envision death by a thousand cuts,as the powers that be deperately try to forestall the inevitable.You’re time line is much more humane—it is going to happen–so the sooner the better.

  • hey all
    the following I was going to include on
    the previous post. Camping in a national
    park listening to the nocturnal copulations of
    koalas was my lot last week. (a family of 4
    went through 10 lites of water a day).
    I love the simplicity of camping.
    Something that we may have to get used
    to as our standard of living slides.
    Anyway 2 quotes – both from Michael Pollan,
    he quotes John Berger. (british marxist cultural critic
    currently living the life of a peasant in rural france.)
    Thought of you Frank, Guy and Stan? when I read them.
    ‘Ambivalence and ambiguity are the hunters lot, and according
    to Ortega it has probably ever been thus. Like John Berger
    he believes that the mystery of animals – how they can be at once so like and
    unlike us – has always been one of the central mysteries of human life:
    “humanity sees itself as something emerging from animality, but
    it cannot be sure of having transcended that state completely. The
    animal remains too close for us not to feel mysterious communication with it”‘
    ‘Dreams of innocence are just that; they usually depend on a denial of
    reality that can be its own form of hubris. Ortega suggests that there
    is an immorality in failing to look clearly at reality, or in
    believing that the sheer force of human will can somehow overcome it.’
    These quotes come from The Omnivores Dillema, a chapter on hunting.
    Hunting is an interesting bridge/’mediation’ between the animal and the civil/culture.
    The literary discussions and the self reflection a hunter experiences is quite interesting. ie the hunter experiences both exhilaration, grief and thanks.
    Pollan quotes Ortega extensively – Ortega y Gasset, Jose. ‘Mediations on Hunting’
    anyway I always going to talk more about the garden – a place that is both
    real and metaphorical, perhaps some other time.

    What did you do last night to ring it in?
    Living on the other side of the Line,we have to wait another 12+ hours to do so.
    Thanks for the Ortega references.Professor Guy and I understand that when we stopped being hunter-gatherers it was the beginning of the end for humans.
    And you’re damn right I’m ambivialent.As a fan of the drop,I’m wondering how I’ll keep the beer cold when civilization ends.


  • Frank
    for new years we travelled to the
    CBD to watch the fire works with the kids,
    not a single drop of grog all day.
    (I dont drink or very little, you would think otherwise
    given my obvious ‘mental impairments’).
    New years day rode my bike in the morning with the
    lads, 65km through the countryside.
    on ag –
    there is a great pdf available on line
    by jared diamond, no doubt you are
    familiar with it.
    for my masters research project I travelled to bangkok,
    the subject was called ‘sustainable environments studio’,
    anyway, we looked extensively at sustainable ag
    and agro forestry. Asian nations have a long history
    of sustainable ag prior to industrialization.
    They planted nitrogen fixing plants (legumicacae family)
    alongside their food producing plants. Aquaculture was/is
    still being used by families in rural/semi rural areas.
    Also, asian nations are famous for their use of human manure.
    (we now see it as waste, they saw it as a resource)
    It is true however that their growing season is 10 months
    long, and they are blessed with an abundance of rain.
    anyway, historically their ag techniques did support a large
    population base. In thailand they had a unique understanding of the
    sacred – ie nature. Influenced by buddhism and animistic/indigenous
    religions. The landscape or their view of the world was seen via
    a 3 part prism – ie the temple, the rice paddy and wild nature.
    I did the project 6 years ago, stretching the memory a bit,
    I have a book on thai agriculture, I have been meaning to re read.
    Having said the above bangkok is now a sewer, and ironically
    the physical reminders of the sacred are everywhere ie
    coke bottles with insence (sp?)in gutters honouring the water spirits.
    I know I am unfashionably optimistic, anyway the thoughts of
    David Holmgren are worth investigating, he is a little more
    optimistic when it comes to the future of suburbia.
    The thoughts of John Michael Greer also worth reading,
    no doubt you are familiar with him.
    ever the ‘dilletante’

  • Matt:
    What does CBD stand for?

  • CBD – central business district , ie centre of melbourne

    apologies for being optimistic about the future,
    scroll down to the bottom article,
    its about co-ops in australia,
    they had their genesis during
    hard economic times in the past,
    – the businesses primary function
    = community benefit!
    I know its a crazy mixed up world.
    8% of europes GDP comes from
    to paraphrase Dr Rob Hirsch with regards to peak oil,
    ‘we are not going to lie down and die,
    we are americans afterall’.

  • Marauding hordes coming to steal your bacon!?!
    Don’t have the food to give to all Nobunga’s Raiders and have some left over for you and yours?
    Never fear, The M14 in .308 Winchester is here! It slices, it dices, easy to use with the ever useful “Kung Fu Grip,” and even makes Juliann fries! Reliable as all get out, even the wife will love it! Think it’s too big for the kids? No way! it’s great for all ages! Stops bad guys *DEAD* in their tracks, is great for righties, but even better for lefties! 2 MOA accurate and perforates body armor like it was paper out to 800 meters! Nothing stops the bad guys quite like the M14! Get yours TODAY!
    Realistically Guy, you’re far enough out that for someone to make a play for you and yours, they’d have to be desperate in the extreme or think you’re weak. I don’t know how many people you’ve got out there (Nor do I want to), but if even one of them has a firearm and more importantly the willingness to use it, that in itself is a huge deterrent. Being that you’re far outside the distance that could feasibly be covered by someone without transport, and the sparse nature of the desert, the risk just isn’t worth the potential reward for ousting you. Also because of the distances involved a potential marauder is going to have to come at you in a vehicle, which makes quite a bit of noise and leads us into the next paragraph.
    Another great idea is a couple dogs. For the all time low price of dog food and a nice place to sleep they’ll keep your Mud Hut interloper free, or at the very least let you know someone’s there long before you’d notice them. Dogs are good like that, especially farm dogs or dogs that don’t come into contact with strangers and will bark. A friend of mine from work lives way out in the sticks. His dogs seem to know when someone’s headed toward the house and will start barking and walking down the road before you’re within a mile of his place. In the desert Southwest where you’re at, with their hearing that is estimated at 28 times more sensitive than yours, better direction finding, and since there’s wide open expanses of nothing out there, they’ll probably start warning long before someone gets remotely close to your spot, in which case you should be ready.
    Don’t attract attention! Let me say that again: Don’t Attract Attention!!! As you and I said before, the area your hut is in is very sparsely populated. The odds that someone is going to be headed your way intentionally are rather slim. The possibility is there that someone could blunder into your area, but that’s a remote one at best. Let’s face facts here, it *IS* a hot, waterless expanse of a great place to die of dehydration. Second, don’t tell people where it’s at, or worse yet that you’ve got preparations there. Remember the grasshopper and the ant? The grasshopper only went to the ant because he knew where the ant lived. Give the grasshopper an AK47 and have a nice pacifist ant and the story of who survived that one might have been radically different. If people know what you’ve got, and where you’ve got it, when they’re out of their own, they’re going to come for their share of yours. It’s up to you how you handle it at that point.
    Lastly, have a rifle. Learn to use it effectively, and I’m not talking just for protection from bipedal game. Military calibers are best for the simple reason that they’re plentiful, reliable, hard-hitting, and cheap. If the fecal matter impacts the spinning air displacement unit tomorrow, there’s going to be a pile of .223, 7.62×39, .308 and 9mm rolling around out there. What there’s not going to be is ammo for that .476 Newton Bee you thought you had to have. A .308 is a fantastic deterrent to doers of evil, and will keep venison in your belly, but anything you know the limitations of is a good choice. (as long as it’s a plentiful choice.)