Everyone agrees that 2020 has been a strange year, with disaster after disaster that we’ve had to deal with. More than anything, it has been known as the year of COVID-19. But if I were to pick out a second thing for this year to be known for, I would call it the year of shortages. Never in my life have I seen shortages in the grocery stores, like what I’ve seen this year. They’re still happening now, after all these months.
While some of the shortages made sense, like those for disinfectants, gloves and masks, others have been clearly panic buying. People who weren’t prepared started buying up food when the threat of lockdowns was first mentioned.
This isn’t surprising either, as we’ve always expected those people to panic buy and clear out the grocery stores when a serious disaster happened. But then there’s toilet paper, the craziest shortage of all, which just proves that the herd still follows whoever is up front, even if what they do doesn’t make sense.
But when is enough going to be enough? When are those people who weren’t prepared going to feel like they’ve got enough? When are our stores going to get back to normal? Do they need a full year stockpile to feel comfortable? That would be a real switch.
But now, just about as soon as the first rush on the grocery stores seems to be ending, the second rush is beginning. Of course, calling it a “second rush” depends on how you define the first rush. I think we had 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D, with the only common theme being the aforementioned toilet paper, which is finally back in stock, at least for now.
So why is there a second wave starting? For much the same reason as the first. With a new surge in Coronavirus cases, people are concerned about going back into lockdown mode. Should that happen, they want to make sure they’ve got enough to eat. The question is, just where does that leave you and I?
Hopefully, you’ve been rebuilding your stockpile as we’ve gone through the last few months. I’ve been working on doing that with every trip to the store. Not only have I been trying to replace those things which we’ve used; but I’ve also been building up areas where I didn’t have enough in stock, like rubber gloves (which are still hard to find).
But that hasn’t been possible in all cases. Some things, like Clorox wipes, just haven’t been available. Either the factory isn’t making enough, they’re not getting to my area, or people are just buying them up as fast as they can put them on the shelves. Regardless of the reason, we’re heading into a new wave of shortages and we need to be ready for it.
Beat the Rush
In a way, prepping or at least the part about building a stockpile, is about buying before everyone else does. We build a stockpile, so that when a disaster strikes and people empty out the grocery store, we don’t have to be standing in line or fighting for that last pound of ground beef.
I’ve been in the stores plenty as we’ve been going through the pandemic, seeing bare shelves and people grabbing up what they can. While this hasn’t been all that bad the last few weeks, it’s starting to get bad again.
Even with all the shortages, I never ran out of toilet paper; I didn’t even get into my emergency supply. But what I did is to get to the stores first thing in the morning, standing in line and waiting for them to open. If there’s any time when the stores are likely to have what you’re looking for, it’s before everyone else gets there to buy it out. Better to be one of those buying them out, than one who missed their chance at getting something you need.
You can even do this with curbside pickup, although timing can be trickier on it. All it takes is to arrange your pickup time so that you will be on the first batch of orders pulled that day. That way, there’s a greater chance that the items will be on the shelf, when the “personal shopper” goes to fill your order.
So try to schedule a pickup time that’s about an hour after opening. But don’t schedule it for pickup the first thing in the morning, because that will be pulled at the end of the previous day, when stocks are at their lowest.
Make it Yourself
We all talk about being self-sufficient in the wake of a TEOTWAWKI event; but why wait until then? With all the shortages we’ve been having, I’ve been making things for myself. Like many others, I’ve been making my own masks, but I’ve also been making my own disinfectants, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.
With all the shortages, making it myself has made sure that I always had what I needed. But there’s another reason for it too. I’m sure of the quality of what I have. With all these new companies making hand sanitizer, who never made it before, how can any of us be sure that their products are strong enough to do the job?
Many of them are not bothering to get listed on the EPA list N. By making it myself, I am assured that it is at least 60% alcohol, once the alcohol is mixed with other ingredients.
While we can’t necessarily make everything ourselves, each thing that we can make is one less that we have to worry about the stores having. Since most of the other people out there don’t have any idea of how to make their own disinfectants or hand sanitizer, our chances of finding the necessary materials to make those for ourselves, are much better than finding the finished product.
For the rest, we’ve got our stockpiles. That should be enough to see us through.
Shop in Unusual Places
The other useful strategy is to shop in places where others don’t shop. Even at the worst of the spring shortages, there were still stores out there which had many of the things we needed. They just weren’t the stores we’re used to shopping in and they may not have had things packaged in the way we’re used to finding them packaged.
One such place is ethnic grocery stores. My son lives in an area of Houston where there are many different ethnic areas nearby. He loves it for the variety of food that it offers him. But during the worst of the last round of shortages, he found something else. That is that even though Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, the ethnic grocery stores didn’t run out of many items that the big chains were out of.
Another option is to go to commercial suppliers, like restaurant supply houses. While items from those sources are not packaged for sale to consumers, there’s no rule that says you have to tell them that you’re a consumer. You’ll have to buy those items in case quantities to purchase there; but at least you’ll be able to get them. Besides, those case quantities are usually cheaper.
The American police state is currently making its boldest test run to date in Portland, Oregon, escalating violence and lawlessness against the peaceful population of an American city. The people of Portland have responded with increased resistance, but support from officials elected to defend the Constitution is scarce and weak.
Oregon’s two senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, are both Democrats with reputations for being on the better side of important issues. But until July 20, their best response to federal secret police operating without restraint in Portland had been to wring their hands and call for a federal investigation of the uninvited federal forces that have ratcheted up street violence and terrorized the city.
On July 20, the two senators made their biggest move yet, an amendment to pending legislation. Supported by 18 other senators and several members of the House, their press release “announced that they are introducing the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, which would block the Trump administration from deploying federal forces as a shadowy paramilitary against Americans.” This sounds a whole lot better than it looks, since it’s only an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, unlikely to pass the Republican majority or, in the extreme, a presidential veto. It’s what you might call Potemkin legislation. The establishment of a police state is happening now, after decades of preparation, and this is a “solution” that will never matter.
What’s the matter with these people? The deployment of secret police, unidentified and unidentifiable, defying local control, should be recognized as a Rubicon crossing that cannot be allowed without kissing constitutional government one last goodbye. Why are these senators and their staffs not out in the streets with their constituents? What don’t they get that’s not worth even a single evening of their taxpayer-funded jobs?
Senator Merkley seems to understand on some level the significance of this crisis, having issued a statement on July 17 (more pushback!) that refers to two federal, executive-branch agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ):
DHS and DOJ are engaged in acts that are horrific and outrageous in our constitutional democratic republic. First, they are deploying paramilitary forces with no identification indicating who they are or who they work for. Second, these agents are snatching people off the street with no underlying justification. Both of these acts are profound offenses against Americans. We demand not only that these acts end, but also that they remove their forces immediately from our state. Given the egregious nature of the violations against Oregonians, we are demanding full investigations by the inspectors general of these departments.
Oregon has five congressional representatives, two of whom – Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, both Democrats – joined their senators in calling for an investigation. The other three – Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, Republican Greg Walden – had even less objection to secret police patrolling Portland. There were no reports of them or their staffs taking a stand with their constituents in the streets.
Representative DeFazio issued a press release fretting about “reports” but failing to acknowledge the actual violence perpetrated by unidentifiable federal officers on peaceful protesters. The best DeFazio did was promise no action while vaguely expressing something like mild distress:
“I am deeply disturbed by the reports coming out of Portland about the escalating use of force against citizens peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights….”
In June, Rep. Schrader joined his senators and reps Blumenauer and Bonamici in a press release complaining about a possible surveillance aircraft flown by a federal agency over earlier protests following the police murder of George Floyd. The lawmakers wrote a letter to the U.S. Marshalls Service (USMS) asking for answers about a USMS-linked aircraft that spent three hours circling Portland protests on June 13. As for police-state tactics in Portland, Rep. Schrader seems so far to be AWOL. Also missing in action is Republican Rep. Walden, who is not running for re-election. Silent on federal secret police, Walden on July 21 called for a “safe, effective, accessible COVID-19 vaccine.”
Oregon’s Democratic governor Kate Brown has been consistently, insistently objecting to the federal secret police presence since it first started escalating police violence on July 11, when a USMS officer shot an immobile, peaceful protestor in the head with a “less than lethal” round that shattered the man’s skull. No one in state or local government requested any federal help. Those officials are unanimous in wanting the feds to leave.
Governor Brown has requested that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immediately withdraw its unwelcome officers from Portland, but with no effect. DHS officials have not responded to the Oregon governor’s office. In effect, the federal policing in Portland is an experiment in martial law with no justifying declaration of martial law. Acting DHS head Ken Cucinelli told NPR: “This is a posture we intend to continue, not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.” The secret police presence in Portland does not limit itself legitimately to protecting federal facilities but operates freely outside its legal jurisdiction with no restraint by any other authority. This lawlessness appears to be a form of anarchy.
… against the United States Department of Homeland Security, the United States Marshals Service, the United States Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protection Service and their agents alleging they have engaged in unlawful law enforcement in violation of the civil rights of Oregonians by seizing and detaining them without probable cause (see AG Rosenblum vs John Does 1-10 Complaint).
In addition to its lawsuit, Oregon planned to seek an immediate temporary restraining order (TRO) against the federal government’s police state activities. If granted by the court, the TRO “would immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians.”
One of the incidents prompting the state lawsuit – when peaceful, standing-still protestor Donovan LaBella, 26, had his skull fractured by a projectile fired by an unidentified secret police officer – is also the subject of a criminal investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice, joined by the Multnomah County District Attorney.
Another lawsuit filed July 21, charges the US with violating the tenth amendment of the Constitution, that reserves to the states all rights not specifically granted in the Constitution to the federal government, such as local law enforcement. The multiple plaintiffs in this case include two state representatives, the First Unitarian Church of Portland, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
With the possible exception of the TRO, which would likely be appealed, none of the state’s measures promises any immediate relief.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, 57, is a timber fortune heir who once climbed Mt. Everest. In the current crisis, Wheeler seems hardly able to climb out of bed. By a quirk of local government, Wheeler was also able to assign himself the role of Portland’s police commissioner, which is both legal and a conflict of interest. Portland Police Bureau has a long, dismal history of bias and violence that Wheeler has been loath to address. In 2018, half of all Portland Police arrests were homeless people.
During the protests after the George Floyd murder, Mayor Wheeler imposed a curfew on Portland, despite objections that it would encourage police abuse. He lifted the curfew two days later, after nights of excessive police use of tear gas and other chemical weapons.
Wheeler issued a statement saying he shared people’s concerns about police using chemical weapons during a pandemic that causes serious lung problems. But Wheeler refused to ban police use of chemical weapons. His statement went on to enshrine his inaction in language amazingly lacking in any sense of leadership:
Today, I directed Portland Police Chief Jami Resch that gas should not be used unless there is a serious and immediate threat to life safety, and there is no other viable alternative for dispersal. I strongly believe that gas should not be used to disperse crowds of nonviolent protestors or for general crowd management purposes. It should only be used in response to violence that threatens life safety. My priority and focus are to protect the lives of demonstrators, our first responders, and the people in custody at the Justice Center.
That statement was issued June 6, and police use of chemical weapons in Portland has continued, unhindered by the mayor who is also police commissioner. Before issuing the May curfew in Portland, Mayor Wheeler asked the governor to mobilize the National Guard to patrol Portland. At a June 1 press conference, Gov. Brown said: “Mayor Wheeler asked me over the weekend to mobilize the National Guard and put them in direct confrontation with protesters. This was not the first time the mayor has asked to mobilize the National Guard and not the first time I have declined.”
Mayor Wheeler has said publicly th at he would like the federal secret police to leave Portland, but he has not made a big issue of it. In spite of his expressed concern for peaceful protestors, he has not chosen to join them on the streets any more than the rest of Oregon’s reluctant leadership class.
Real leadership in Portland is coming from the streets and has been growing in response to the violent tactics of the federal police state.
Doing what no one in Oregon government attempted to do, a “Wall of Moms,” mothers and grandmothers, has emerged to stand as a human shield between the federal aggressors and the protestors. The feds tear-gassed them anyway.
In one of the most vivid videos coming out of Portland, Christopher David, 53, a career Navy vet, approaches a line of secret police in camo to ask them a question or two. David hadn’t paid much attention to the first seven weeks of protest on Portland, but unidentified militia kidnapping bystanders in unmarked vehicles got his attention. The Naval Academy graduate told USA today:
What they were doing was unconstitutional. Sometimes I worry that people take the oath of office or the oath to the Constitution, and it’s just a set of words that mean nothing. They really don’t feel in their heart the weight of those words.
David is a large man, a head taller than most of the secret police that he approached, but his approach was slow, calm, deliberate, non-threatening. One of the feds hit him in the chest with a baton, knocking him off balance, backwards a step. He recovered, presumably still intent on asking the officers about their oath to the Constitution. Then one of the feds clubbed him three times (breaking his hand) and another reached out to pepper spray him in the face. He tried to slap the pepper spray away as he backed up, then turned away from the feds who had just given him the short course in police state violence.
Acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf is a former lobbyist who has been with DHS since March 2017. His early work centered on the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, but he told Congress it was not his job to say whether the policy was right or wrong. Recently, Wolf has been vociferous in his defense of US police state practices in Portland. In a statement which is technically true, but does not actually deny the underlying accusation of savagery, Wolf said: “These police officers are not storm troopers, they are not Gestapo. That description is offensive.”
Yes, that description IS offensive. It’s intended to be offensive. And it’s also accurate in characterizing the behavior of American secret police. Is it better or worse to know that Wolf sent them into the field even though he knew they had not been trained in riot control or mass demonstration management?
Even other DHS employees are worried, according to Buzzfeed, which reports that “DHS employees are worried the Portland Protest Response is destroying their agency’s reputation.” Wait, what reputation is that? DHS, you’ll recall, is a mega-agency with no coherent mission, created in bi-partisan fashion in the panic after 9/11 (Ron Wyden voted for it in a 90-9 Senate vote). It was never a good idea. Right-wing authoritarians had written the legislation long before 9/11, then used the crisis as an occasion to take a massive step forward along America’s evolution toward a police state. Where we are now should be no surprise to anyone, any more than the mostly supine response so far to the initial deployment of our Homeland Security police and the presidential promise to take it nationwide.
We’re getting close to the end now. Can you feel it? I do. It’s in the news, on the streets, and in your face every day. You can’t tune it out anymore, even if you wanted to.
Where once there was a civil debate in the court of public opinion, we now have censorship, monopoly, screaming, insults, demonization, and, finally, the use of force to silence the opposition. There is no turning back now. The political extremes are going to war, and you will be dragged into it even if you consider yourself apolitical.
There are great pivot points in history, and we’ve arrived at one. The United States, ruptured by a thousand grievance groups, torn by shadowy agencies drunk on a gross excess of power, robbed blind by oligarchs and their treasonous henchmen and decimated by frivolous wars of choice, has finally come to a point where the end begins in earnest. The center isn’t holding… indeed, finding a center is no longer even conceivable. We are the schizophrenic nation, bound by no societal norms, constrained by no religion, with no shared sense of history, myth, language, art, philosophy, music, or culture, rushing toward an uncertain future fueled by nothing more than easy money, hubris, and sheer momentum.
There comes a time when hard choices must be made…when it is no longer possible to remain aloof or amused because the barbarians have arrived at the gate. Indeed, they are here now, and they often look a whole lot like deracinated, conflicted, yet bellicose fellow Americans, certain of only one thing, and that is that they possess “rights”, even though they could scarcely form an intelligible sentence explaining exactly what those rights secure or how they came into being. But that isn’t necessary, from their point of view, you see. All they need is a “voice” and membership in an approved victim class to enrich themselves at someone else’s expense. If you are thinking to yourself right now that this does not describe you, then guess what? The joke’s on you, and you are going to be expected to pay the bill…that “someone else” is you.
In reality, though, who can blame the minions, when the elites have their hand in the till as well? In fact, they are even more hostile to reasoned discourse than Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, or Antifa. Witness the complete meltdown of the privileged classes when President Trump mildly suggested that perhaps our “intelligence community” isn’t to be trusted, which is, after all, a fairly sober assessment when one considers the track record of the CIA, FBI, NSA, BATF, and the other assorted Stasi agencies.
Burning cop cars or bum-rushing the odd Trump supporter seems kind of tame in comparison to the weeping and gnashing of teeth when that hoary old MIC “intelligence” vampire was dragged screaming into the light. Yet Trump did not drive a stake into its heart, nor at this point likely can anyone…and that is exactly the point. We are now Thelma and Louise writ large. We are on cruise control, happily speeding towards the cliff, and few seem to notice that our not so distant future involves bankruptcy, totalitarianism, and/or nuclear annihilation. Even though most of us couldn’t identify the band, we nonetheless surely live the lyrics of the Grass Roots: “Live for today, and don’t worry about tomorrow.”
The “Defense” Department, “Homeland” Security, big pharma, big oil, big education, civil rights groups, blacks, Indians, Jews, the Deep State, government workers, labor unions, Neocons, Populists, fundamentalist Christians, atheists, pro-life and pro-death advocates, environmentalists, lawyers, homosexuals, women, Millenials, Baby Boomers, blue collar/white collar, illegal aliens…the list goes on and on, but the point is that the conflicting agendas of these disparate groups have been irreconcilable for some time. The difference today is that we are de facto at war with each other, and whether it is a war of words or of actual combat doesn’t matter at the moment. What matters is that we no longer communicate, and when that happens it is easy to demonize the other side. Violence is never far behind ignorance.
I am writing this from the bar at the Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna, Austria. I have seen with my own eyes the inundation of Europe with an influx of hostile aliens bent on the destruction of Old Christendom, yet I have some hope for the eastern European countries because they have finally recognized the threat and are working to neutralize it. Foreign malcontents can never be successfully integrated into a civilized society because they don’t even intend to try; they intend to conquer their host instead.
Yet even though our own discontents are domestic for the most part, we have a much harder row to hoe than Old Europe because our own “invaders” are well entrenched and have been for decades, all the way up to the highest levels of government. That there are signs Austria is finally waking up is a good thing, but it serves to illustrate the folly of expecting the hostile cultures within our own country to get along with each other without rupturing the republic. Indeed, that republic died long ago, and it has been replaced by a metastasizing mass of amorphous humanity called the American Empire, and it is at war with itself and consuming itself from within.
Long ago, we once knew that as American citizens each of us had a great responsibility. We were expected to work hard, play fair, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and serve our country when called upon to do so. Today, we don’t speak of duty, except in so much as a slogan to promote war, but we certainly do speak of benefits for ourselves and our “group” of entitled peeps. We will fail because of our greed and avarice. The United States of Empire has become quite simply too big, too diverse, and too “exceptional” to survive.
I’ve been hearing about a pending financial collapse for years.
Ever since the Great Recession hit in 2008/2009, one financial guru after another has warned us about a pending financial disaster, usually to sell us some sort of product. It’s hit the point where I no longer listen to those declarations of financial doom; as far as I’m concerned, they’ve all lost credibility.
But that doesn’t mean that a financial collapse can’t happen. Actually… it already has. In case you hadn’t noticed it, we’re in the midst of the worst financial collapse the world has seen since the Great Depression. With over 36 million people out of work, our unemployment is the highest it has been in almost a century and the percentage of working Americans above the age of 16 is down to 51.3 percent. That’s considerably lower than the 58.5 percent we saw during the Great Recession in 2009.
It’s hard to pin down the actual unemployment rate, as there is usually a bit of lag in that figure. If you look online today, you’ll see an “official” unemployment rate of 14.7 percent. But even the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the organization that puts out that number, tells us it is wrong. The real unemployment rate is believed to be somewhere between 19 and 23 percent, depending on who’s numbers you believe.
Regardless of what the actual number is; it’s too high. We can’t sustain that high an unemployment rate, without it having drastic effects on other parts of the economy. Right now, people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic are living on unemployment, which has been boosted by $600 per month, and their government COVID check of $1,200.
The Lost Ways is a far–reaching book with chapters ranging from simple things like making tasty bark-bread-like people did when there was no food-to building a traditional backyard smokehouse… and many, many, many more!
It’s unlikely the second round of stimulus checks will be forthcoming, even though various politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for it. But the $3 trillion packages created by the Democrats have no chance of passing. In return, they are unlikely to cooperate on any package the Republicans put forth.
Nevertheless, the $600 boost in unemployment is making it attractive enough to some, that they’re refusing to go back to work. Small businesses that want to reopen are struggling to find workers who will show up. Then there are the small businesses that will be shutting their doors permanently, killed off due to the lockdown order.
One can say that those small businesses were doomed to fail anyway, but that’s not true. Many small businesses run on a minimal margin, so they are working from month to month, just like a family who lives from paycheck to paycheck. That doesn’t mean they’re doomed to failure; it just means that the business isn’t very profitable. Many small businesses stay at that point, providing a living for the owner and their employees, but nothing more.
Yet without cash reserves, the owners of these companies don’t have anything to fall back on, when the doors are shuttered, as they are now. Even the government loans don’t help, as they are required to pay at least 75% of the money received out in employee salaries.
So, while we’re going to see people going back to work over the next couple of months, the National Bureau of Economic Research says that some 42 percent of the 36 million people laid off due to the pandemic aren’t going to be getting their jobs back. Nor will the roughly 12 million small business owners whose businesses probably going to make it, according to the Small Business Administration.
In other words, high unemployment is going to be around for at least the next couple of years, until enough new jobs are created to make up for all the jobs which have been lost and will continue to be lost due to the nationwide shutdown orders that various governors have put into effect.
Then There’s Inflation
The government can’t keep making money out of thin air, without it having an inflationary effect. The $2 trillion relief package that was signed into law a couple of months ago, plus the more than $700 billion in quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve has done in response to the pandemic, mean that the value of the existing pool of US dollars has been diluted by that much. In other words, each dollar is worth less than it was when the year started.
That’s where most inflation comes from, not from businesses raising the cost of their goods and services. Businesses do that in response to the government creating more money because they can no longer buy what they used to, at the old money value. So we should expect to see inflation coming down the road. It can’t stay at 1 percent.
Grocery prices are already starting to climb, an increase that has been brought about as a result of the pandemic. You’ve probably noticed the increase in eggs, which have been the hardest hit. Egg prices averaged just over $3 a dozen in April, compared to a bit less than $1 a dozen at the first of the year.
But eggs aren’t the only thing going up in price. Due to the various shortages, overall consumer prices for food increased by 2.6 percent in April; a huge increase, when you consider that the overall inflation rate has been down around 1 to 1.5 percent per year for the last several years. If we stay at the same rate of inflation we can expect food prices to go up 23.4 percent by the end of the year.
Fortunately, that’s not likely to happen. With the country opening back up, the agriculture and food industries are going to shift back to normal operations, gradually taking the pressure off from the current strain that they are under and food prices should stabilize. But I doubt they’ll go back down.
Putting the potential for inflation together with the high unemployment rate means that we are already at the brink of that financial collapse, if not right in the midst of it. There’s a very real risk of runaway inflation, which will put us over the edge into financial freefall. The Great Depression, act 2, just waiting in the wings.
You can put it in your tea, add it to your rice or scrambled eggs, or make a soup out of it.
Making it Through
So it looks like they’re throwing a financial disaster party; the question is… are we going to come? Just because people are going to be in trouble financially, doesn’t mean that we have to be. Everyone talks about a financial collapse as if we’ll all be out of work and we’ll all be in financial trouble. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, 24.9 percent of the people were unemployed in the Great Depression; but what everyone seems to forget is that 75.1 percent of them still had their jobs.
In other words, a financial collapse doesn’t have to entail you and me losing our jobs and suffering. While we may all face difficulties, we can mitigate those, lessening their impact on our lives. The trick is figuring out how to do that, implementing the right strategies before it’s too late.
Obviously, if millions of people are losing their jobs, the most important thing is to keep yours. That means having a job with some security; either because it is inherent in the job itself, or because you have made yourself indispensable to your employer.
Some jobs naturally have a lot of job security associated with them. We’ve all heard a lot about “essential jobs” in the last two months, as people in “non-essential jobs” were laid off. It’s pretty clear, based on that, which jobs are fairly secure. While not a perfect example, those who managed to hang onto their jobs are more likely in an essential occupation and will continue working.
There are some distinct exceptions to that though. During the financial collapse of Argentina, many factories and businesses shut down which dealt with luxury goods. People aren’t likely to buy a new Mercedes when the economy is rocky. Even those who can afford it, are likely to hang onto their old Mercedes longer, putting off the purchase of a new one until things look better.
This actually creates opportunity, as those people who are holding onto things they would otherwise replace the need to have them serviced. Whether we’re talking about Mercedes cars or iPhones is irrelevant. People who can repair them will have job security, while people who make and sell them won’t.
Even within a specific professional field, there are those who have more job security than others. These are people who have made themselves indispensable to their companies. They are the ones that their bosses know they can count on to tackle the tough jobs, work overtime, and get things done. Even if your company is laying people off, being that indispensable person means that you’ll be one of the last to go.
Get a Side Gig
Many financial gurus are now telling us that everyone should have multiple income streams. That’s an especially good idea in times of financial uncertainty. Having something else that you can depend on, which brings in extra income, can help you get through those rough months. It also gives you something to fall back on, if you lose your current job.
Ideally, your side gig should be something that will be secure, even during tough financial times. That means that you’re providing a necessity, rather than a luxury. Selling crafts isn’t a good idea unless those crafts are highly useful items as well.
As you look at the possible options for a side gig, think about how scalable it is too. You’re better off with something that can be scaled up if you or a family member loses their job.
Get Out of Debt
In studying past economic collapses, it is clear that the people who suffer the most are those who are in debt. Whether or not you lose your job, having debts you need to pay reduces your available income. If you do lose your job, it can also mean losing your home, car, or whatever else you’ve bought on credit.
I realize it’s hard to get out of debt. Most of us live on more than 100% of our income, which is how we get into debt in the first place. So it’s necessary to find ways of cutting your expenses if you expect to get out of debt. It’s also useful to consolidate debt, so you can make one payment, instead of several. I could write a whole book on reducing your debt, but don’t have the room to do so here.
More than anything, you need to look at your current debt, with an eye towards figuring out what you don’t need. If you’ve got a high-end car, for example, you need to ask yourself if you could get by with less. Trading that car in for something smaller and less costly could save you a lot of money.
Invest for the Collapse
Finally, if you have the ability to do so, invest for the collapse. If we end up with high inflation, as I expect than having money in the bank isn’t going to be all that great. The value of that money will disappear rapidly, making it as if you didn’t have it at all.
If you have a lot of money to invest, then the most secure investment in a time of financial difficulty is precious metals. As the value of cash goes down, the value of gold and silver goes up. Historically, silver has actually been a better investment than gold. Since it costs less, that’s good for those of us who don’t have a lot to invest in.
If you just have a little to invest, you might want to invest it in non-perishable food, rather than precious metals. One of the biggest shortages during a time of financial crisis is food. Investing in food not only means that you’ll have something to eat; but that food can be used as trade goods, allowing you to barter for other things of value.
The physical book has 300 pages, with 3 colored pictures for every plant and for every medicine.It was written by Claude Davis, whose grandfather was one of the greatest healers in America. Claude took his grandfather’s lifelong plant journal, which he used to treat thousands of people, and adapted it into this book.
By the end of 2020 more people will have died from hunger, despair and suicide than from the corona disease. We, the world, is facing a famine-pandemic of biblical proportions. This real pandemic will overtake the “COVID-19 pandemic” by a long shot. The hunger pandemic reminds of the movie the Hunger Games, as it is premised on similar circumstances of a dominant few commanding who can eat and who will die – by competition.
This hunger pandemic will be under-reported or not reported at all in the mainstream media. In fact, it has started already.
In the west the attention focuses on the chaos created by the privatized for-profit mismanagement of the health system. It slowly brings to light the gross manipulation in the US of COVID-19 infections and death rates – how allegedly hospitals are encouraged to “admit” COVID19 patients – for every COVID19 patient the hospital receives a US$13,000 “subsidy” (under Medicare), and if the patient is put on a ventilator (average death rate 40% to 60%), the “bonus” amounts to US$ 39,000. According to Dr. Senator Scott Jensen, Minnesota in a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham:
“Right now Medicare is determining that if you have a COVID-19 admission to the hospital you get $13,000. If that COVID-19 patient goes on a ventilator you get $39,000, three times as much. Nobody can tell me after 35 years in the world of medicine that sometimes those kinds of things impact on what we do.”
(Dr. Sen. Scott Jensen, from Fox Interview)
In real life, poor people cannot live under confinement, under lockdown. Not only have many or most already lost their meager living quarters because they can no longer pay the rent – but they need to scrape together in the outside world whatever they can find to feed their families and themselves. They have to go out and work for food and if there is no work, no income – they may resort to ransacking supermarkets in the city or farms in the country side. Food to sustain life is essential. Taking the opportunity to buy food away from people is sheer and outright murder.
“Every child who dies from famine in the world – is a murder” – Jean Ziegler, former UN-Rapporteur on Food in Africa.
Whoever the architects behind this COVID-19 pandemic –who have the universal order to instruct national governments to follow strict total lockdown– are wittingly or unwittingly responsible for “crimes against humanity”.
The Lost Ways is a far–reaching book with chapters ranging from simple things like making tasty bark-bread-like people did when there was no food-to building a traditional backyard smokehouse… and many, many, many more!
This process is committed on a worldwide scale. It is unprecedented in the history of humanity. Only few countries have not or only partially following the total lockdown tyranny, and thereby saving a considerable segment of their social wellbeing and economy. Is the objective to dominate the world under a New World Order, aiming at a totally controlled and massively reduced world population?
Who will live and who will die? The stated objective of the depopulation agenda is to reduce world poverty. How? through tainted toxic vaccinations, rendering African women infertile. (The Gates Foundation with support of WHO and UNICEF have a track record of doing so in Kenya and elsewhere, see here Kenya carried out a massive tetanus vaccination program, sponsored by WHO and UNICEF); or letting the “under-developed”, the already destitute, die by famine – preventing them from access to sufficient food and drinking water. Privatizing water, privatizing even emergency food supplies – is a crime that leads exactly to this: lack of access due to unaffordable pricing.
Should this not be enough, “Lock Step” has other solutions to trigger food shortages. HAARP can help. HAARP has been perfected and weaponized. According to US Air Force document AF 2025 Final Report, weather modification can be used defensively and offensively, i.e. to create droughts or floods, both of which have the potential of destroying crops – destroying the livelihood of the poor.
And if that is not enough, the 2010 Rockefeller Report also foresees food rationing, selectively, of course, as we are talking about eugenics. Let’s not forget Henry Kissinger’s infamous words he uttered in 1970: “Who controls the food supply controls the people – the quote goes on saying,
“Who controls the energy can control whole continents;
who controls the money can control the world.” .
A recent Facebook entry (name and location not revealed for personal protection) reads as follows:
“….. In the poorer country, where I live, the entire village is on lockdown since March 16. Here the people have nothing to eat … The wife of my main worker was raped and beaten to death. She was of Chinese descent. In spite of not being allowed to go outside, the people were starving and rampaged walking miles from farm to farm destroying everything. I have lost my entire livestock, fruits, vegetables. The houses were burned and the vehicles, tools etc. stolen. I am bankrupt with nobody around who can give money to rebuild. My workers cannot be paid. Their families are also starving. More malnutrition and undernourishment which will lead to a higher starvation rate or death from other diseases. How many will commit suicide through landing on the streets completely impoverished? – How many died in India trying to walk literally up to thousands of miles to get back home in the hope of finding refuge, after all public transportation was shut down and all had to go into lockdown. I am sure that these numbers will be a lot higher than the number who have died from the virus as well as will increase the numbers for those dying of next year’s flue due to a weakened immune system.”
And as an afterthought …. “Maybe the elites are planning depopulation. It sure looks like it.”
This happened somewhere in the Global South. But the example is representative for much of the Global South, and developing countries in general. And probably much worse is to come, as we are seeing so far only a tiny tip of the iceberg.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that worldwide unemployment is reaching never-seen mammoth proportions, that nearly half of the world’s workforce – 1.6 billion people -may be out of work. That means no income to pay for shelter, food, medication – it means starvation and death. For millions. Especially in the Global South which has basically no social safety nets. People are left to themselves.
The New York Times (NYT) reports (1 May 2020) that in the US millions of unemployed go uncounted, as the system cannot cope with the influx of claims. Add these millions to the already reported more than 27 million unemployed, the tally becomes astronomical. The same NYT concludes that the millions who have risen out of poverty since the turn of the century, are likely to fall back into destitution along with millions more. Latest FED forecasts predict unemployment could reach up to 50% by the end of 2020.
Dying of famine – mostly in the Global South, but not exclusively – is an atrocious death for millions, maybe hundreds of millions. Dying in the gutters of mega-cities, forgotten by society, by the authorities, too weak to even beg, infested with parasites due to lack of hygiene – rotting away alive. This is already happening today in many metropolitan areas, even without the corona disaster. These people are not picked up by any statistics. They are non-people. Period.
Imagine – such situations in large cities as well as in rural areas, under the Rockefeller “Lock Step”, the death toll could be even higher.
The current lockdown – brings everything to halt. Practically worldwide. The longer it lasts the more devastating the social and economic impact will be. Irretrievable.
Not only production of goods, services and food – comes to a halt, but vital supply chains to bring products from A to B, are interrupted. Workers are not allowed to work. Security. For your own protection. The virus, the invisible enemy could hit you. It could kill you – and your loved-ones too. Fear-Fear-Fear – that’s the motto that works best – it works so well that people start screaming – gimmi, gimmi, gimmi- gimmia vaccine! – which brings a happy grin on Bill Gates’ face. As he sees the billions rolling and his power rising.
Bill Gates along with WHO “he bought” will become famous. They will save the world from new pandemics – never mind, their side effects – 7 billion people vaccinated (Bill Gates’ dream ) and nobody has time to care or report about the side effects, no matter how deadly they may be. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) may be slated for the Peace Nobel Prize – and, who knows, Bill Gates may become one of the next Presidents of the dying empire. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate reward for the world?
Meanwhile the rather cold-blooded IMF maintains its awfully unrealistic prediction of a slight “economic contraction” of the world economy of a mere 3% in 2020, and a slight growth in the second half of 2021. The IMF’s approach to world economics and human development – to social crisis, is fully monetized and lacks any compassion – and thus, becomes utterly irrelevant in the age of corona. Institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, mere extension of the US treasury, they are passé in the face of an economic collapse, for which they are also in part responsible.
What they should do – perhaps IMF and WB combined – is call for a capital increase of up to 4 trillion SDRs (as was suggested by some of the IMF Board Members) and use the funds as a special debt relieve fund, a “Debt Jubilee Fund” for Global South Nations. Handed out as grants. This would allow these nations to get back on their feet, back to their sovereign national monetary and economic policies, recovering their internal economy, with a national currency, public banking and a government-owned central bank, creating jobs and internal autonomy in food, health and education.
Why is this not happening? – It would require a change in their constitution and a redistribution of voting rights according to new economic strength of nations. China would become a much more important player – with a more important share and decision-making role. Of course, that’s what the US does not want to happen. But the unwillingness to adapt to new realities, makes these institutions irrelevant to the point that they should and might fade away.
Interestingly, though, two of the three economic projection scenarios of the IMF, foresee another pandemic, or a new wave of the old pandemic in 2021. What does the IMF know that we don’t?
Juxtaposed to the insensitive approach of the global financial institutions and the globalized private banking system, the World Food Program warns (25 April 2020) that the COVID19 pandemic will cause “famines of biblical proportions”; that without urgent action and funding, hundreds of millions of people will face starvation and millions could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As it is, every year about 9 million people die from famine in the world.
The WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, told the UN Security Council that in addition to the threat to health posed by the virus, the world faces “multiple famines within a few short months,” which could result in 300,000 deaths per day—a “hunger pandemic.”
Beasley added that even before the outbreak, the world was “facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II” this year due to many factors. He cited the wars in Syria and Yemen, the crisis in South Sudan and locust swarms across East Africa. He said that coupled with the coronavirus outbreak, famine threatened about three dozen nations.
According to the WFP’s “2020 Global Report on Food Crises” released Monday (20 April ), 135 million people around the world were already threatened with starvation. Beasley said that as the virus spreads, “an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people.”
The famine pandemic is further exacerbated by the ongoing refugee crisis – which is also a catastrophe of misery – hunger, disease, lack of shelter – total lack of hygiene in most of the refugee camps.
Professor Jean Ziegler, Sociologist (University of Geneva and Sorbonne, Paris), Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Committee, recently visited the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. He described a situation where 24,000 refugees are cramped into military barracks that were built for 2,800 soldiers, live under calamitous circumstances – lack of potable water, insufficient and often inedible food, clogged and much too few stinking toilets…. diseases no end. COVID19 would just be a sideline.
These people who fled Europe-and-western-caused warzones, destroyed livelihoods – are being pushed back by the very European Union, as most countries do not want to host them and give them a chance for a new life. This atrocious xenophobic behavior of Europe is against the Human Rights that all EU countries signed and against internal EU rules. They are a sad reminder of what Europe really is – a conglomerate of countries with a history of hundreds of years of colonization, of merciless exploitation, plundering and raping of the Global South.
This abjectly atrocious characteristic – shamelessly continuing to this day – seems to have become an integral part of the European DNA. These wars and conflicts are willfully US-NATO made, for power, greed – to maintain the US military industrial complex alive and profitable – and as a stepping stone towards total world hegemony.
The refugees emanating from these conflict zones, their fate and famine will be added to those starving from the also man-imposed corona crisis. The death toll from sheer hunger and famine-related causes, may become astronomical by the end of 2020, way-way outweighing and dwarfing the doctored and manipulated COVID-19 figures.
Is there hope? Yes, there is hope, as long as we live.
The world has to wake up.
Seven billion people under lockdown- wake up! Realize, what is happening to you, all under false pretenses to control humanity, to digitize and robotize your very lives.
What better way to do this than under the pretext of locking you away “for your own safety”? – Defy these rules, stand up against these invisible omni-powerful self-appointed rulers, who only have the power, we, the People, give them, or allow them to take from us. Because all they have is money, and corrupted media that spread fear and more fear to keep locking you down.
My final words: follow you heart. Open your heart to love and beyond your five given and media-manipulated senses and enter a higher consciousness.
Get out of FEAR, get out of the lockdown, stand up for your rights, for your freedom. Because freedom and liberty cannot be bought with money, nor trampled by the media. They are inherently within us all. If enough of us open our hearts to LOVE, to an all-englobing love, we will overcome this small psychopathic elite.
The physical book has 300 pages, with 3 colored pictures for every plant and for every medicine.It was written by Claude Davis, whose grandfather was one of the greatest healers in America. Claude took his grandfather’s lifelong plant journal, which he used to treat thousands of people, and adapted it into this book.
Capitalism imposes a kind of double false consciousness on us. It tells us that the world is naturally full of suffering anyways — so it’s perfectly justifiable for us to be “apex predators”, and destroy everything in sight. And it tells us that the way we deal with our own suffering, as these mortal walking apes, these bags of water and dust, is to…pile up more acquisitions and money so we can feel superior to the next ape.
The result has been catastrophic. We have accelerated and amplified the amount of needless suffering in the world to extreme degrees. The world has never suffered more than it is, right at this moment. Yes, really.
Remember how dumbstruck I felt with grief imagining Snowy suffering? The truth is that we human beings are killing off life on the planet as we know it, as tremendous rates. Don’t each of those lives suffer? Don’t you think a little family of tiny beings feels shock, pain, and fear, too? If your dog or cat does, then…you see my point.
Then there’s the ways we don’t think about suffering, but should. Nobody — and I mean nobody — can stand in front of an old, old tree, and not think: “This ancient, beautiful thing possess a consciousness, too. It feels something. I can feel it’s wisdom and truth, just standing in its shadow.” You can tell yourself that trees are just dumb, inanimate objects, but you’re only lying to yourself, and being unscientific while you’re at it. In the same way, I don’t think anyone can stand before a river, ocean, or night sky, and feel that the universe pulses with consciousness, on some deep and vast level.
That is precisely, by the way, the implication of quantum physics. The only way to explain paradoxes which are now lab-proven, like retrocausality and faster-than-light action, is that consciousness itself is the primordial stuff of being, and that “time” and “space” are just figments of our particular, bounded state of consciousness. I say that our intellectuals are fools, mostly, because they refuse to grapple with the literally earth-shaking implications of such a finding. They go on pretending as if the universe is dead and inanimate, instead of asking: “if the whole universe is alive, what does that means for us? Economics, ethics, morality, society, politics?” You see my point a little bit — but let me clarify it.
You can draw the the line of “alive” where you like. But wherever you draw it — like me, at “the universe”, or like a sensible person, maybe at “animals” — you will have to admit the following. The amount of needless suffering is at its peak in all of history at this precise moment. No greater number of beings have ever died before than now. We are living through a kind of terrible explosion in needless suffering.
Worse, it’s our fault. Us walking naked apes. We’re the ones responsible for this age of suffering. The bees and insects and fish wouldn’t be dying off if it wasn’t for us. But not “us” in the naive way. “Us” as a system, as an ideology.
Capital tells us to exploit the planet and all life on it. We do, without really examining or thinking through the consequences of our actions. What are the consequences of being a race of ruthless predators who’s bizarre, perverse ideology of capitalism have caused the most suffering in deep history? Don’t all those beings dying in terrible ways feel fear and pain, too?
The consequences of causing mass suffering are what the ancients might have called “karmic” — or what modern day economists call “externalities.” We make the world suffer terribly. It dies off, tree by tree, insect by insect, bird by bird, fish by fish. But we are part of that very world. Those fish cleanse our rivers. Those insects turn our topsoil. The trees give us air to breathe. Ecologists call these “support services.” I don’t like that phrase. They’re not our servants. We are in it together. The “we” in that phrase, though, is bigger than we imagine. It’s not just us — my tribe, my nation, my country, even my continent, or even the human race. It’s all of us. Every being.
Who matters more in my family, me or Snowy? We’re equals, is the truth. Just like your dog or cat and you are. You understand the point immediately and intuitively. It’s a funny one, too. Being equal to a tiny little furball is exasperating, idiotic, ludicrous. And yet it’s also liberating, joyful, true.
When we create systems that add to the needless suffering in the world, the only result is that those systems eventually collapse. They eat through themselves. When we create exploitative, abusive systems, those systems collapse. They eventually run out of things to break, shatter, deplete, and discard.
I’m not just talking about nature. I’m also taking about you and me. Take America. It’s a collapsing society — so badly collapsing it’s President tells people to inject Lysol, while cutting funding during a literal pandemic. What the? America abused itself to death. That is the story Americans don’t want to hear, and still don’t understand. Denying each other healthcare, retirement, education, income, savings, dignity, purpose, meaning — it only left America a society without all those things for anyone. But a society like that could only implode into poverty, fear, despair, hate, and violence.
America exploited and abused itself to death. It’s a lesson. Every system needs to renew itself, invest in itself, nourish its young bits, nurture its vulnerable parts. America was too buys obeying the law of the predator to ever understand the wisdom in the law of the nurturer.
The law of the nurturer. Our task, our challenge, our responsibility is this: to build systems and ideas and ways and avenues which fulfill this great and timeless challenge — to reduce the needless suffering in the world.
That’s always been our challenge. In the age of slavery, we forgot it. The age of slavery became the age of segregation became the age of capital. A long forgetting sunk upon us. We stopped remembering how timeless and great and beautiful and wise this challenge was.
We internalized, accepted, even celebrated the law of the predator. He who exploits and abuses best and most should be rewarded best and most. With money, power, status. With fear. All the currencies of patriarchy. How else do you think we got to Trumps and Farages and Modis ruling our world? They’re stark evidence that too many of us accepted the predator’s law. Hoping to become predators ourselves, we cheered on the predatory being showered with all of a society’s rewards. What we didn’t understand was that we were only really setting the stage for our exploitation.
When we build systems which minimize needless suffering, what are we really doing? We are building things which are strong and robust. Which can withstand shocks and impacts. Which are to last and endure for the ages. That is because such systems nourish and nurture and protect and invest.
If we were all to say, for example, the suffering of the poorest person with Coronavirus counts just as much as any other, soon enough, we’d have a planet with healthcare for all — and be far, far less vulnerable to pandemics, ever again. If we were to say, for instance, that every little fish and insect suffers, too — then soon enough, we’d have clean rivers and abundant topsoil, because we’d have to invest in the tiny lives which nourish it. If we said the suffering of the trees matters, then we’d have cleaner air. And if we said the suffering of every being counts, then we wouldn’t think ourselves allowed to trash the planet on it to begin with, and imagine economies capable of cleaning it up. Do you see how the nurturer’s law builds systems which are strong and robust, precisely because they are not fragile to shocks and catastrophes?
The economist in me can reduce all that to an anodyne phrase. Minimizing suffering minimizes risk. Me minimizing your suffering by giving you decent healthcare too minimizes my risk of disease, infection, illness. Me minimizing your anxiety and fear by giving you education, retirement, income, minimizes my risk of extremism, superstition, ignorance, folly, and ultimately, poverty.
Make sense? Extend it outward. Us — humans — minimizing their suffering, fish, bees, insects, minimizes our risk of food chains, supply chains, water tables, resource chains, raw materials, all collapsing. Us — humans — minimizing their suffering, oceans, trees, rivers, minimizes our risk of socioeconomic catastrophes, like decades-long depressions, and political implosions, like the authoritarianism which follows in the wake of depressions.
All those years ago, when we were young, and our hearts were on fire. We sat around the bar, our eyes blazing, our hands in motion. We weren’t wrong. The only point of it all was to reduce suffering. We were right then, because we understood life at a simpler and truer and more beautiful level than all the pundits and thinkers and so forth.
That has always been the great challenge of existence — not just a moral one, but the economic and social and political one, too. Only when we nurture the littlest tree can the forest rise. The chain is as strong as its weakest link, even if the steel is tempered in fire. The fish who cleanse the rivers and trees who purify the air do it just by breathing. Is there anything more basic than that? Is there any kind of suffering simpler and truer than not being able to breathe?
And that brings me right back to Coronavirus.
What is it really trying to teach us (and spare me, David Brooks, from the sophomoric point that a virus doesn’t have an “intention!”, thanks.) Isn’t the lesson simple? We’re going to have to build a world now where everything can breathe again. Free and true and clear. From us, to…everyone else. Where the tree and fish too, can take a breath.
Why? Their breath gives us life. Not metaphorically — quite literally. All those trees and fish and insects and clouds and skies breathing are the only reason we are able to be here at all. It sounds poetic, and I suppose it is, but what it really is is true. Because we have built systems which don’t recognize this fact, and they kill off everything else for another penny in profit this nanosecond, and the result is that we’re suffocating. Economically, socially, mentally, ecologically — and now, quite literally, too. That’s not a coincidence, or an allusion — it’s a relationship.
Do you see how beautiful the implication of that thought — their breath is literally our breath — is? We are not competing. We depend on each other for this most basic act of all, breathing. We are not apex predators. We’re dumb apes who wanted to think we’re apex predators, so we can feel might and strong and proud, instead of little and scared and lost. But the truth of us is that if their breath is our breath, then our challenge has always — always been to reduce the needless suffering in the world.
For me, the future boils down to one momentous choice. The predator’s law versus the nurturer’s law. We can’t breathe these days because we’ve broken our world. We’ll run shorter and shorter of breath, as the fires fill the skies, as the air turns to soot, as the pandemics strike. Until there’s nothing left to breathe at all. Until we choke on our despair, fear, and impotent rage.
Their breath is our breath is their breath. It goes on, in a circle. Can we build a world like that, where because their breath is our breath, and so we protect and nourish and nurture every single being we can? From the littlest and poorest among us, the walking apes, to the littlest of all, period? I wonder.
What I do know is this. If we don’t — it’s lights out, for our civilization. The next one that rises will be the one that meets this challenge. Until then, it’s a dark age. Because, like I said, we’re all choking now, on the fumes of the human race’s own predatory collapse.
We are all in it together. It’s something we say a lot these days. But do we really understand it?
I think back to that night. Here’s how I suddenly saw us — all of us, life — then. Like a circle of children, holding hands, staring up at the endless stars. And in that circle, a fire of truth burned bright. The question is when we rediscover all that.
Little by little, Americans are understanding just how badly our government has let us down by its belated and disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and how thousands more people are dying as a result. But there are two other crises we face that our government is totally unprepared for and incapable of dealing with: the climate crisis and the danger of nuclear war.
Since 1947, a group of scientists with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have warned us about the danger of nuclear war—using their Doomsday Clock to symbolize just how close we are to destroying human civilization on Earth. Over the years, the minute hand on the clock has gone back and forth, measuring the rising and falling risks.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, in January 2020, just before the Covid-19 crisis broke, the Atomic Scientists, who include 13 Nobel Prize winners and dozens of scientists and other experts, sounded the alarm that the double risks of nuclear war and climate change have now brought us closer to self-destruction than at the most dangerous moments of the Cold War. For the first time ever, they moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock beyond the 2-minute mark to 100 seconds to midnight.
“The world is sleepwalking its way through a newly unstable nuclear landscape,” they wrote, highlighting the New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, plans to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals and “lowered barriers to nuclear war” as a result of new “low-yield” nuclear weapons. Arms control treaties between the U.S. and Russia that took decades to negotiate are being abandoned, removing restraints that were carefully calibrated to prevent either side from upsetting the balance of terror that made it suicidal to use nuclear weapons. What is now to prevent a conventional war from escalating to the use of “low-yield” nuclear weapons, or a low yield nuclear war in turn escalating to Armageddon?
On the climate crisis, the annual UN Conference of Parties (COP) in Madrid in December 2019 failed to agree on any new steps to cut carbon emissions, despite record heat, unprecedented wildfires, faster melting of glacial ice, and a scientific consensus that the commitments countries made in Paris in 2015 are not sufficient to avert catastrophe. Most countries are falling short of even those insufficient pledges, while U.S. CO2 emissions actually rose by 2.6% in 2018, after falling by only 11% under the Obama administration. Obama’s policy of using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” for U.S. power plants fueled a huge expansion in the fracking industry, and the U.S. is now producing more oil and more gas than ever before in our history.
Now the next COP in Glasgow has been postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic, further delaying any chance of decisive action. Covid-19 is temporarily restraining our destruction of our own life support system. But this will be only a temporary respite unless we pivot from lockdowns to a COP in Glasgow that launches a global program to very quickly convert our energy systems from fossil fuels to green energy.
The Atomic Scientists wrote that both these existential dangers are severely compounded by political leaders who “denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats – international agreements with strong verification regimes – in favor of their own narrow interest and domestic political gain… these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe sooner rather than later.”
It is the political leaders of the United States, not Russia or China, who have withdrawn from nuclear arms agreements, undermined the Kyoto Protocol (the only binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gases), rejected the jurisdiction of international courts, failed to ratify 46 multilateral treaties and systematically violated the UN Charter‘s prohibition against the threat or use of force.
The Republicans have been more aggressive in many of these policies, but Democratic leaders have also gone along with them, consolidating U.S. imperialism and disdain for international law as bipartisan U.S. policy. When UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal under the UN Charter, Senator Joe Biden, then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dismissed that out of hand. “Nobody in the Senate agrees with that,” Biden sneered. “There is nothing to debate. He is dead, flat, unequivocally wrong.”
The Democratic Party has now closed ranks behind Joe Biden as its presidential candidate, presenting Americans with a choice between two leaders from the two administrations that have governed the U.S. since 2009 and therefore bear the greatest responsibility for the current state of the nation. Biden has based his candidacy on the premise that everything was just fine in America until Trump came along, just as Trump based his 2016 candidacy on the idea that everything was great until Obama came on the scene.
Most Americans understand that our problems are more entrenched and systemic than that, but we remain trapped in a closed political system that presents us with limited choices between leaders who have already proved unable to solve our problems, even when the solutions are well-known or obvious and have broad public support, like Medicare For All.
When it comes to war and peace, the American public wants to keep the U.S. out of wars, but leaders of both parties keep fueling the war machine and stoking dangerous tensions with other countries. The Russiagate fiasco failed to bring down Trump, but it succeeded in unleashing a propaganda blitz to convince millions of Americans, from MSNBC viewers to Members of Congress, that Russia is once again an irreconcilable enemy of the United States and a threat to everything Americans believe in. In the hall of mirrors that is American politics, Democrats now hate Russia more than China, while Republicans hate China more than Russia—although the Biden campaign is now vying with Trump to see who can be more hostile to China.
Bipartisan hostility to Russia and China is only helping to justify the Pentagon’s pivot from “counterterrorism” to its New Cold War with our nuclear-armed neighbors and trillions of dollars in spending on new weapons that make the world more dangerous for all of us.
With almost no public debate, Members of Congress from both parties quietly rubber-stamp every record military budget placed in front of them. Only 8 Senators (4D, 4R) and 48 House Members (41D, 6R, 1I) dared to vote against final passage of the outrageous $712 billion 2020 Pentagon budget. The Trump administration is fully committed to Obama’s plan to spend at least a trillion dollars to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which the Atomic Scientists warn is taking us closer to nuclear catastrophe than ever. Of this year’s Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the only one who routinely votes against record military budgets, approving only 16% of military spending bills since 2013.
On this and many other issues, Sanders has dared to say what Americans know but no major party candidate would say before: that our neoliberal emperors sit stark naked on their thrones, tossing sacks of money to their friends as they rule over an obscene empire of corruption, inequality, war, poverty and racism.
In dogged defiance of American conventional wisdom, Sanders built a political movement based on real solutions to the structural problems of American society, directly challenging the powerful interests who control and profit from the corrupt status quo: the military-industrial complex; the prison-industrial complex; the medical-industrial complex; and the Wall Street financial complex at the heart of it all.
Sanders may have lost the Democratic nomination, but he successfully demonstrated that Americans don’t have to be passive in the face of a corrupt political system that is leading us down a path to self-destruction. We do not have to accept a dysfunctional for-profit healthcare system; ever-worsening inequality and poverty; structural racism and mass incarceration; an overheated, dying natural world; or a military-industrial complex that fears peace more than a nuclear apocalypse.
A political system that is structurally incapable of acting for the common good, even when millions of lives are at stake, is not just failing to solve our problems. It is the problem. Hopefully, as we struggle to emerge from today’s tragic pandemic, more and more Americans are understanding that healing our sick, corrupt political system is the vital key to a healthy and peaceful future.
For all the doomsday and apocalyptic posts available to pore over in the age of coronavirus, the following read is not one of them. Instead, this is a post about pattern recognition and mean reversion, but as it relates to human behavior, and cycles; a view on how things will look going forward ranging from the economy to sports to healthcare and beyond. Please note, I am not an expert in cognitive sciences, history, or alethiology, just an armchair epistemologist, not to be confused with an armchair epidemiologist.
Most of the topics below appear as predictions, however, without any skin in the game, predictions are largely useless, as the predictor has nothing to lose by simply asserting a prediction and it turning out to be wrong, especially in a time where fact-checking or accountability is less important than the next tweet or viral meme.
“Those who have knowledge don’t predict. Those who predict don’t have knowledge.”
− Lao Tzu
Instead of predicting what’s next, I attempt to map patterns from the past into the present tense to have a shot at what is likely to come in the near future, admitting there is simply no way to know with absolute certainty but patterns, by definition, repeat themselves and history tends to rhyme.
For the more visual learners out there, imagine a pendulum swinging back and forth over time. One of the assertions I make below is that we’ve reached “peak cities” and that the beginning of an exodus outside of large metropolitan areas to houses in the suburbs and even some rural areas is likely upon us. The pendulum swung over the past 25 years from suburban living, into largely gentrified condos within major cities. The pendulum is likely going to start swinging back the other direction.
The beginning of the end of globalization has begun.
For 40 years now the United States has dismantled international trade barriers and businesses have focused more on the financialization of their businesses through accounting wizardry, the legalization of stock buybacks in 1982 (thus supporting one of the first of many mispriced asset bubbles), and the heralding of CEOs like Jack Welch as a Wall Street darling by inflating the company’s stock price at all costs but largely sinking the company’s long term hopes of remaining competitive. Welch closed factories, reduced R&D and terminated 112,000 employees from 1980 to 1985. 40% of GE’s market capitalization at its peak came from its financial services arm, GE Capital.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for them.
“Financialization has polluted the entire physical investment process, the labor markets, and the innovation cycle of firms. The damage it inflicts on investments in physical and human capital is hugely important, because that’s what slows down growth.”
− Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England
Companies have largely focused on developing the cheapest possible product for the largest consumer base while hiring MBAs and consultants to help drum up additional alpha to prop up their share price. The result? Fewer manufacturing plants stayed open in the United States and supply chain innovation largely moved offshore. The U.S. is still a major manufacturer of industrial goods like petroleum and steel, but the factory worker assembling desks or sewing clothing is mostly nonexistent.
Given the stranglehold on the global supply chain the coronavirus has created, self-sufficiency and domestic manufacturing is now a national security interest. The pendulum of cheap labor and goods outside of the country is now swinging back towards the homeland.
“Made in America” is an appropriate meme for the recent rise in populism spearheaded by Steve Bannon and the Trump administration. The populist momentum will likely act as a tailwind to making in America. In fact, one of Trump’s economic advisors, Larry Kudlow, recently floated the idea of “paying the moving costs” for companies to leave China and come home. This is not a partisan issue. Matthew Stoller, a Liberal Democrat, shares a similar view on securing our supply chain, bringing manufacturing home, and decoupling from China.
Therefore, it is very likely domestic manufacturing is set to return to the US, which means prices of goods will go up, or commonly known as inflation.
The Roaring 20s of Inflation
Assuming domestic manufacturing picks up, prices will be going up along with it. Why? Well, a factory worker in Shenzhen is less expensive than a factory worker in say Columbus, Ohio. That’s the simple reason.
Monetary policymakers have been enjoying a steady decline in inflation since, you guessed it, the beginning of the Reagan era.
For 40 years, inflation has been dropping and consumers have rejoiced. Prices for goods have remained incredibly cheap, but risky assets, like houses and stocks, not so much.
You may be thinking, if prices go up and the consumer has less money because of a fractured economy, how do people afford to buy anything?
Let me tell you about Universal Basic Income or UBI.
In the short term, UBI will be the backstop for the initial consumer “sticker shock” from higher prices as well as the impact of automation managing the majority of manufacturing jobs. Yes, manufacturing will likely be coming back to the United States, but most of those jobs will be automated.
Once the UBI ball gets rolling, there is no stopping it, no takebacks. It would be political suicide for a politician to stop paying people to feed their families with their “stimulus checks”. Nearly overnight, the “fiscally responsible” party and current administration went from fighting anything remotely associated with socialism to directly depositing money into citizens’ bank accounts. The about-face is striking, but let’s be clear once you turn on the socialism spigot, it does not get turned off and in fact, only gushes. Quantitative easing (QE) is the canonical example, but it is socialism for the wealthy, not everyone else. Socialism for the rich leads to socialism for all and here we are.
In 2008, the Federal Reserve, aka “the Fed”, enacted its first round, QE1, of quantitative easing by purchasing government bonds, mortgage-backed securities, and other assets to add money directly into the economy. By June 2010, the Fed held $2.1 trillion worth of assets on its balance sheet.
Ben Bernanke, the Fed Chairman during the global financial crisis, was convinced that over the long term, his policy would be net-positive for easing the strain on the financial system and would become a tool beyond cutting interest rates to stimulate the economy either in crisis or post-crisis. However, QE was still an experiment that we are now seeing play out quite differently than expected.
QE coupled with the bank bailouts (and eventually General Motors) were deemed necessary at the time to bring order back to markets and instill confidence in the banks and ultimately, consumers. However, cheap money now flooded the markets and with interest rates at zero, the goal of money was not to save it (you earn nothing at 0%) but to spend it, to stimulate the economy. Recall, more than ⅔’s of the country’s GDP is based on consumer spending.
The problem with artificially stimulating the economy by expanding the money supply is that savers can’t save for retirement safely or with little to no risk — they must invest in riskier assets to get a return, hence the meteoric rise seen over the past decade in the housing market, stock markets, venture-backed startups, etc.
And our multi-asset bubble is now growing…
In late February 2020, after 11 years of bidding up risk assets, we began to witness the unraveling of markets that were radically and resoundingly mispriced. The fastest 30%+ drop in the stock market ever recorded as well as one of the most extreme moves in the bond markets ever both occurred, rattling global markets and nearly nuking a number of prominent “risk parity” hedge funds in the process. Don’t fret, they were bailed out first.
Since then, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, took what Bernanke started and injected it with steroids. Not only has Powell dramatically increased the Fed’s balance sheet, but he is also expanding the types of assets the Fed can purchase, including, junk-rated bonds. That’s right, junk.
The Fed also announced it would purchase an “unlimited amount” of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities in order to support the financial market. Once you put QE in motion, it doesn’t stop and it requires more and more to satisfy its needs.
QE infinity is the logical conclusion of QE1.
This same pattern applies to UBI.
UBI1 leads to UBI infinity.
The Fed’s aggressive monetary policy now completely eliminates accurate price discovery/valuation models for businesses. It is clear: The Fed will simply backstop anything they deem risky to economic growth. They will go further down the capital structure, junk bonds, to bailout these businesses. All those economic formulas for valuing companies taught in business school are now meaningless.
To put another way, the Fed is juicing socialism for the rich by propping up and rewarding CEOs of publicly traded companies for poorly managing risk and not allowing them to fail.
By moving further down the capital structure, the Fed is backstopping preferred investors in private businesses and thus ultimately propping up their share prices. Why? Here’s a simple example.
Let’s assume Boeing is headed for bankruptcy. In a restructuring, equity shareholders get wiped out first as they are at the bottom of the capital structure. Those higher up the structure lose less, if at all. So let’s say you’re a Boeing 2030 (that’s the year) bondholder and you’re worried about losing money on your investment if the company fails. What will you do? You’ll sell the bond to cut your losses.
Now, imagine the Federal Reserve is there to catch you by purchasing those bonds. You got bailed out.
Guess who owns those bonds today? The wealthy (for the most part).
But since credit holders are more or less guaranteed their Boeing bonds will be worth money, the likelihood of the company failing drops and then this is reflected in the share price. So equity holders rejoice! The value of their Boeing stock will continue to rise.
Unfortunately, 92% of all stocks are owned by only 20% of Americans, and the chasm between the rich and poor widens even further.
Nationalization by Proxy
In France, the national airline, Air France, is, well, a nationalized airline. How un-American that would be to do here at home! We would never do that to our industry titans as that would be socialist and anti-capitalist, right? Yet given the Fed’s new, expanded QE policy, we now have “nationalization by proxy”.
Take airlines, for example. Over the past 40 years, the airline industry has seen an extreme level of consolidation amongst the large carriers. Consumers now mostly have a choice of three major airlines to choose from when flying: United, Delta, and American Airlines.
Now, what if all of those airlines were to fail at the same time? This would have a devastating effect on the economy so it is only natural to act in order to support them.
But politicians can’t sleep well at night if they simply nationalized an entire industry or a set of companies within an industry. How un-American?!
So instead of directly nationalizing them, let’s indirectly do so by propping them up financially by having the Fed purchase deeper down the capital structure (junk bonds). Instead of the companies failing or going into bankruptcy, the business can continue, as usual, knowing the Federal government is backstopping them at the capital level with no restrictions or recourse for bad actors or poor management. These airlines remain “American” in a sense that we don’t directly nationalize them, and politicians can save face that we “aren’t France.”
What companies get bailed out? Companies that an entire industry depends on (Boeing).
What industries get bailed out? Industries that other industries depend on (Airlines).
National Healthcare Is National Security
Let’s recap. We have UBI. We have nationalization of companies, by proxy. The only item missing is universal healthcare.
But how can we spin this so that the past 40 years of political talking points rallying against a national healthcare system actually hold up? Political donors are not going to die from an invisible enemy because they want to toe the party line. Instead, just make it a national security interest.
Yet an invisible enemy that can’t be shot or drone-bombed is what has brought the country to its knees.
How do we defend against this going forward? Universal immunity.
The United States will finally have to create a national healthcare plan that will still appear driven by for-profit, private companies (nationalization by proxy) to protect our nation from a viral attack in the future. Microbes are this decade’s terrorists.
Healthcare and medical regulations will be razed. Privacy will be stripped, but all in the name of national security. We’ve seen this pattern before.
Recall the US over-indexed on the 9/11 attacks by starting two wars in two foreign countries, but Congress also passed the Patriot Act at home.
Many medical facilities today are completely ill-equipped to respond to a massive healthcare crisis, be it a virus or not. Imagine our troops at a base in Afghanistan not having enough ammunition to fire from their guns. We would never allow that to happen. How can we allow our doctors and nurses to not have their “ammunition” to fight our latest threat here at home?
The coronavirus has pinpointed a major weakness in the United States’ national defense: its healthcare system. Every terrorist organization on Earth now has the playbook for how to successfully attack the United States — unleash a virus.
You may be thinking it is not that simple to just “unleash a virus” yet that’s exactly what likely happened, albeit indirectly, as the odds of President Xi of China intentionally releasing the coronavirus and subsequently nuking the global economy while bringing instability to his country, a country that craves stability, is highly unlikely.
How could a rogue state or terrorist organization create a deadly virus? Publicly available, scientific research provides all the information necessary. In fact, in 2015, research specific to what is now known as the SARS-CoV-2 virus was published by Ralph Baric and concerns from industry peers were raised about the virus’s potentially catastrophic potential.
“If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory.”
− Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris
Since there is no way to halt academic research entirely or retract research that has already been published, the United States must play defense as opposed to offense. And the defense, in this case, is an immune population and a well-stocked, highly organized and logistically efficient healthcare system.
National Healthcare is National Security.
When a vaccine for coronavirus is finally available, and testing procedures are rolled out en masse, the next question asked by your employer, your TSA agent, or restaurant owner is “are you immune”? But talk is cheap. You need to prove it.
Proof of Health
Today, if you want to fly on an airplane (beyond one’s own private jet), you have to prove your identity — a passport or driver’s license is usually sufficient. But if your name is on a terrorist watch list, you can’t board the plane.
So how do we know passengers flying into JFK from Paris are not hosting a “terrorist microbe” — a virus?
I suspect a “proof of immunity” or “proof of health” will be required by not just all passengers looking to board a flight, but sports fans entering an arena, attendees of technology conferences, cruise ship voyagers, etc. Much like how a metal detector disables and dissuades gun-toting folks from entering a music venue, body temperature, and thermal screening and eventually, nearly instantaneous serological testing may become the norm. In Wuhan, these types of testing procedures are already underway for workers looking to head back to the office or factory.
Eventually, the likely best case for validating immunity to the COVID-19 disease is to confirm or deny someone has received the vaccine (after it has been developed and deployed at scale).
As an extension of your proof of identity, your proof of health likely becomes even more important than proving who you are. Yet just like fake I.D.’s, fraudulent claims of wellness or vaccination will be rampant and since there currently exists no globally recognized standard for proof of health, one must be created.
Trust Less and Verify
There’s an inside joke in open source software development that the challenge with any open standard is there are so many to choose from. Take USB, you know, the Universal Serial Bus. Why do we have so many types of universal solutions? USB micro, mini, A, B, and C?
Now, imagine trying to get every country’s head of state and healthcare leadership to all align on a universal standard for proving one’s immunity.
Now try to imagine ensuring every country will implement according to this agreed-upon standard.
Piece of cake.
Now try to imagine every country trusting every other country.
If the proof of a citizen’s healthcare data is stored within a nation-state’s data center or even a for-profit cloud provider like Amazon’s AWS or Microsoft’s Azure, how can the border patrol agent know for certain that the scan of a person’s proof of health certificate is valid? They can’t.
Instead of relying on a centralized authority to ensure that someone’s health data has not been modified, tampered with or even reliably available, the proof of one’s health must remain on a decentralized, peer-to-peer distributed ledger, also known as a public blockchain.
Posit: your proof of immunity is hashed and stored as a valid transaction on a public chain. These chains are fault-tolerant, globally redundant, tamper-proof and peer-to-peer, meaning, no centralized authority or regime can coerce or destroy them. Proof of health may be the first real-world use case backed by proof of stake.
Recently, I needed an MRI to either confirm or deny I had re-torn my ACL in my right knee. The process was mind-numbingly archaic. I’ll spare you the details, but what struck me as entirely backward was that I was given the MRI images on a CD-ROM. I haven’t had an optical drive in my computer in at least a decade so I asked if they could simply email them to me. They could not. By the way, this occurred in San Francisco, the epicenter of technological innovation.
Medical facilities have been left behind technologically as nearly every other industry has gone through its own digital transformation. Even finance, typically one of the most conservative industries as it relates to change, has dramatically improved its technological prowess as evidenced by its ability to adapt to a remote and isolated work environment nearly overnight since coronavirus struck the U.S. Goldman Sachs noted that 98% of their entire workforce is now working remotely. The CEO of Morgan Stanley is even reconsidering their office real estate portfolio as he states “We’ve proven we can operate with effectively no footprint.” More on this later.
Yet medical practitioners and supporting staff workers can’t simply work from home (yet), but there is no reason facilities don’t need to resemble an old episode of ER. How is it that we know the number of available parking spots in a Whole Foods parking lot but we don’t know how many ICU beds are in a hospital?
By prioritizing national health as a national security issue, existing businesses and new startups can serve the digital transformation and reinforcement efforts of our nation’s medical facilities. Unlike the aftermath of the global financial crisis where more regulation was added to the financial sector, decades of regulation will get stripped, enticing even more investment dollars to flow to this modernization work.
The task will be herculean, but if Americans share the common interest of defeating the enemy (the virus and future viruses), we will likely see a rally around the fortification of our hospitals which likely enables many folks to go back to work or get a new job altogether in “healthcare defense”.
Working Class Division — Cloud vs. Land
The effects of the nearly national shutdown of the U.S. economy has exposed the fragility of the labor market as over 20 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits within the first four weeks of the shelter-in-place or stay-at-home ordinances, a breathtaking number. Estimates place the unemployment rate between 18 and 20%, a rate unfathomable just a couple months ago.
What’s more telling though is the folks that have remained employed and namely, the types of jobs they have.
The majority of “white-collar” jobs have largely moved from an office to a work-from-home environment as normally in-person meetings can actually be conducted over video conference using products like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams. Email and messaging has always been asynchronous. A phone call is a last resort. The majority of these workers’ day-to-day tasks are facilitated and managed in the cloud.
On the other hand, “essential businesses” that have remained open are largely “blue-collar” jobs, particularly delivery people. Instacart, Walmart, and Amazon are all hiring in the hundreds of thousands to support overwhelming demand for delivery of goods ranging from kids’ puzzles to groceries. The majority of these workers’ day-to-day tasks happen on land.
And there you have it. The latest iteration of the workforce dividing line; what was once the color of your collar is now whether or not you work on land.
The virus has forced companies to react quickly to the demands of their employees and/or contractors. Workers at Amazon and gig workers for Instacart have staged strikes, requesting personal protective equipment while on the job and health and financial support if they were to get infected with the virus. In fact, a new labor union altogether, Gig Workers Collective, is seeking 501(c)(3) non-profit status and aims to be the “focus to the fight for fair pay and better treatment for all gig economy workers, from Instacart Shoppers to Lyft Drivers.” The pendulum towards labor rights appears to be swinging back.
Over the past 12+ years, we’ve seen a desire by consumers and eventually businesses to reduce the need for idle, or excess capacity of goods or services and move more towards greater efficiency through on-demand usage.
Take Uber. Or Airbnb. Or even cloud computing. Or even one step further, ephemeral or serverless computing. This major shift has completely disrupted entire industries (e.g. taxis) while also training consumers to expect an on-demand, “lease-able” lifestyle.
Yet this trend hasn’t been adopted by the commercial real estate and office space sector. WeWork attempted to create cheaper office space, but their model didn’t necessarily pan out as their business was less about utilizing excess capacity and more about abstracting away the pain of leasing office space. Breather, on the other hand, has been thriving riding the trend of on-demand workspaces, available by the hour.
However, Breather’s target audience isn’t Morgan Stanley or AT&T. And now that so many of these businesses’ employees work “in the cloud” the leadership teams are starting to take a hard look at the need for idle capacity — dedicated desks and offices are not only wasteful but a liability.
Imagine a company’s current work-from-home requirement is rescinded and everyone is requested to come back to work only to have someone infect one or dozens of other employees with a deadly virus. The legal risks here are enormous and likely precedent-setting.
I suspect we see many businesses that have cloud workers meet only on an as-needed basis, which will still without a doubt occur, but the days of white-collar workers being required to go to the office from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday are long gone.
What’s the impact on commercial real estate? It’s anyone’s guess but if the shopping malls are a leading indicator of what happens when a “bricks and mortar” core business moves to the cloud, the outlook is not rosy.
Vocational Training Thrives, Universities Unwind
Forcing workers to come back to the office is not just a legal liability for businesses, but it’s a huge risk for colleges and universities as well. Imagine requiring students to sit in a lecture hall surrounded by potential hosts of a lethal pathogen: fellow students. But the virus is only the first of many issues facing traditional higher education.
First, the cost of a college education continues to rise and is largely unaffordable for most students, forcing many of them to take on substantial debt to obtain even a bachelor’s degree. The student loan debt itself is now a monster bubble eclipsing $1.641 trillion as of the end of 2019.
Moreover, “prestigious universities” have recently been held accountable by the Federal government as many well-to-do parents have been indicted and prosecuted for bribing their kids into these exclusive schools.
The shine reflecting from a student’s degree from Stanford or Yale is still bright but it has certainly lost a bit of its luster given the negative press and high cost of attendance.
As more and more students recognize the new division of labor spectrum (cloud versus land) and look at the option of entering the newly revived domestic manufacturing industry or even the healthcare defense sector, will a journalism degree from NYU with over $150,000 in debt be nearly as attractive?
MOOC attendance will only accelerate post-coronavirus as more and more remote learning takes place at the primary education level but more importantly, these MOOCs can reach a much wider audience for a fraction of the cost and entirely eliminate the healthcare risks associated with students corralling in a lecture hall. As a bonus, MOOCs can leverage the benefits of modern technology including artificial intelligence services like automatic language translation and improved accessibility features for visually and/or dexterity impaired individuals.
Yet higher education is only one half of the puzzle — re-training our workforce on modern manufacturing techniques and machinery and robotics operation is a vocational skill that will be desperately needed.
Imagine trying to build an iPhone at home. The requirements are not just the will to manufacture at home and also obtaining the raw materials like rare earth elements, but factory workers need to understand how to assemble using state-of-the-art machinery. The U.S. is way behind here.
If the U.S. is serious about securing its supply chain via domestic manufacturing, workers need to be trained and re-trained at a massive scale using the latest technologies and techniques. China has mastered the modern factory automation line. It’s as if the U.S. would need to conduct industrial espionage on the Chinese to even understand how to efficiently manufacture! An interim solution? Invest in community and vocational colleges to educate and train this new legion of factory workers.
To be clear, the upper echelon of education, the Ivy League, and the more affordable and scalable community colleges and vocational schools will still continue to thrive in the near term, but it’s the middle that will suffer, as already evidenced by the fall of Hampshire College and the closing of Concordia University.
These universities have smaller endowments but worse, many have decided to focus on vanity over a longer-term sustainable business strategy. LSU built a lazy river. The University of Akron built a lazy river as well as a 56-foot rock-climbing wall and leisure spa. Gourmet food in cafeterias is now table stakes. As a result, many more of these universities will be closing their doors as this level of excess begins to unwind.
(e)Sports and (d)Entertainment
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to attend the NBA All-Star game. It was emotional (the Kobe Bryant tribute), gaudy (examples of excess abound) and invigorating, given the new all-star game format. Little did I know it may be the last NBA All-Star game for quite some time. I definitely want to be wrong about this. Trust me.
But once again the legal and health risks associated with large gatherings don’t stop at the entryway to an arena or stadium. A virus doesn’t care if your team is destined to win the Super Bowl. Without thermal imaging, proof of health and/or instantaneous serological testing, I find it hard to believe thousands of people will gather in arenas to watch someone catch a ball.
The obvious solution is just to have them play their games but without spectators.
Can you imagine Game 7 of the World Series, it’s the bottom of the 9th inning, with 2 outs, the home team is down by 1 run with a runner in scoring position, the count is full and the batter is ready and able to make history…to a silent stadium? The sports industry is inherently spectator driven. Even esports (video games) championships draw tens of thousands of people to arenas to watch a giant screen.
U.S. football itself may be kicking off (no pun intended) the beginning of its secular decline in popularity similar to a pattern witnessed by boxing in the 1920s when boxing as a sport peaked. The Great Depression, as well as calls against the barbarism associated with the sport, ultimately pushed boxing out of the spotlight. We’ve seen this pattern before. With the raising of awareness around the impact of smashing one’s helmet into another’s over and over again (CTE) coupled with a recession might be what it takes to reduce the demand for the nation’s favorite sport over the coming decades. I’m sure many of you will violently disagree, but secular declines take decades, not years.
Live sports was the last remaining anchor for broadcast television. 24/7 news is the only live event left and like sugar, should only be consumed in very small doses. With the cancellation of sports, we are likely to see the end of broadcast television as we know it. This is not a new concept as cord-cutters and over-the-top streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu have been gaining steam for years now. The ramifications for the advertising industry are also bleak.
Movie theaters may become relics of the past similar to what drive-ins were many years ago. The idea of sitting in the dark amongst strangers and not knowing their level of immunity is likely not going to change overnight. Are you bringing your children to a theater to watch the latest version of Frozen?
Ironically, drive-ins have been thriving in the age of coronavirus while movie theaters remain entirely shut. The pendulum is swinging back.
But what about films? All production in Hollywood has been at a standstill for over a month now, which means, no new films or television shows are being produced. Historically, in times of recession, investment dollars flow into “concept development” like screenplays, but writers tend to only make up a fraction of the staff that is employed by the movie industry.
What happens if Netflix and Amazon no longer have new releases to keep their audiences hooked? The people themselves become the content creators.
It should be no surprise that we are seeing an explosion in Tik-Tok dance challenges and live streams of celebrities on Instagram in a world where there is no live TV. Tik-Tok is nearing 2 billion app installations worldwide. The number of podcast subscriptions available has doubled from 500,000 to 1M in less than two years.
For better or worse, content creation is moving away from centralized studios like Hollywood and into the hands of the citizens. Will a teenager in Seoul be able to create a masterpiece like Parasite on their mobile phone? I doubt it. But the attention will shift for the short term and Hollywood will need a strategy as more and more technology companies commoditize the production tools like special effects and sound design for the layperson.
Last but not least, music. With the cancellation of SXSW this year, the live music industry has simply imploded overnight. There is no other way to describe it as every tour, every show, and every festival is now canceled. Most promoters will never recover. Famous music venues are closingtheir doorsfor good. Maybe ravers were always one step ahead with their infamous masks.
Live Nation, a publicly-traded events promoter and venue operator, has seen its stock plunge by 40% and has cut executives’ salaries while borrowing $150M to weather the storm. It’s very difficult to see the live music industry recovering quickly and when it does, it will never look the same.
However, there is a common thread amongst all three of these major areas of entertainment — streaming.
eSports will continue to outperform relative to traditional sports as more and more “live sports” become digitally enabled. XBOX Live suffered an outage due to a massive surge in users just a few weeks ago and continues to have to throttle new registrations for certain games and experiences. With livestream networks like Twitch and Mixer, more and more players and ultimately spectators will watch gamers compete live. In fact, actual NBA players recently went head-to-head playing NBA 2K live to their fans on ESPN. The blurring of these worlds is surreal.
For film and television shows (if that’s even what they are called these days), streaming providers will continue to thrive while broadcast suffers. Video streaming providers are abundant: Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Quibi, Roku, HBO Max, YouTube, etc. The days of owning either content or distribution are over — you must have both to compete.
Given the surge in usage of video streaming applications and the expansion of their use cases, ranging from doctor appointments to happy hours, video will become the next major technology platform. We’ve seen this pattern before most recently with mobile phones.
For the next decade, video will be that battleground. It should be evident as to why this likely plays out if you’ve read this far, but video as a platform is still in its infancy. Zoom has an SDK for developers. So does Slack, Skype, Hangouts, and Teams.
Remote learning is in its infancy as educators will need to completely revamp their process from lecturing, testing, grading, and reporting. Video is the medium, not a classroom.
Imagine using machine-learning to block out the sound of your dog barking in the background when the delivery person shows up or using AI to generate dropped packets and filling in the missing audio when your connection is flaky. The future is already here, it’s, as usual, not evenly distributed.
The ushering in of the iPhone and broader smartphone industry created not only the next major computing platform for technologists and those on the periphery, but it brought with it fundamental changes in human behavior that has changed the course of history.
For example, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time before the selfie existed. In 2006, the idea of using a camera to take a picture of yourself was rare. However, the iPhone changed that.
Take the front-facing camera of an iPhone and couple it with Instagram, an app that rewards you for what would normally be considered narcissistic behavior via likes and comments, and a global explosion of self-documenting behavior occurs seemingly overnight. What stemmed from such a seemingly innocent behavioral change? A lot.
Influencer culture was born. Teenage depression spiked. Smartphone addiction increased. Magazines largely shut down as Instagram became your endless, highly personalized and targeted digital Vogue, GQ, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, Economist and Playboy all wrapped in one.
Did the selfie itself cause this? Of course not, but human behavioral changes like the selfie are what I tend to look for as technology platforms materialize and expand as evidence of larger societal changes due on the horizon.
The global society changed dramatically due to what appears to be a harmless change in human behavior. What behavioral changes are coming post-coronavirus?
Our Collective Global Behavioral Change
Humans that have been in constant motion for decades have been forced to a grinding halt due to an invisible enemy that builds distrust amongst anyone who sneezes nearby. The ramifications extending from this are profound.
Have you found your stress elevated when you go to a grocery store? Did you bring your kids along?
Do you judge people if they aren’t wearing a mask?
Have you cheated a bit and driven somewhere that wasn’t essential?
Have you worked, worked out and relaxed all in the same room in your apartment?
Did you build a makeshift office or actually use your home office?
When we observe major behavioral changes as a global society it creates enormous opportunity and potential as well as the end of excess and fragile ideologies, customs, and businesses.
Take influencer culture, a wildly popular industry that evolved out of the smartphone platform. Is that entire industry now dead? A very popular and affluent blogger was recently eviscerated by her followers and the media for documenting her COVID-19 testing experience and retreating to her home in the Hamptons, leaving her Manhattan residence. Another influencer simply “ran out of things to say.”
What about fashion? Given the potential for severe supply chain disruption, do “fast-fashion” outlets such as Zara and H&M survive? Do humans become more industrious or do the masses continue to follow wildly overpriced fashion houses? Do athleisure lines evolve to a “WFH-leisure” line? What does your mask say about you? Are you representing your favorite sports team or Louis Vuitton? What tribe do you belong to anyway?
And speaking of tribes, another outcome of the coronavirus is that the United States’ aircraft carriers are currently immobilized. Will we experience our first mechanized war? Why put your troops in a submarine or tank when a drone can do the work for you. Besides, we have been training our youth for years with our esports competitions after all.
Last but not least, we’ve reached “peak city”. San Francisco is likely the poster child for why we will begin to see the pendulum swing away from humans migrating to densely packed cities towards migrating just outside of them, close enough to still gain some of the benefits from the city but without the extreme cost and health risks densely populated areas provide.
San Francisco is by far the most expensive city to live in the United States and yet, it is covered in feces (which is known to enable coronavirus transmission) and littered with used syringes. With the majority of jobs in SF being those “in the cloud”, why would one choose to live in a place like this?
The pendulum is likely swinging back home, home on the range.
The behavioral changes stemming from the current and post-coronavirus will dramatically shape a number of facets of our everyday life, from work to entertainment to healthcare. There is no going back to normal. We are way past that now.
I am wildly optimistic about our future as the opportunity set now presenting itself from this crisis is a once in a lifetime opportunity, not just for business, but the arts, creativity, and humanity in general.
See that chart above? It’s every bit as shocking as it looks. Let me explain.
Not so long ago, watching the way America’s government and leadership class failed to respond to Coronavirus, I wrote a little essay called America is Committing Economic Suicide. It’s just a few days later, and already, my friends, you can see vivid proof of what I was talking about.
Another week — and by now, 17 million people or so in total have filed unemployment claims. How big is that number? The US labour force is about 165 million people. So about 10% of the labour force has filed for unemployment. Ten percent.
Worse, all that has happened In just three weeks. That’s a rate of about 3.3 percent per week. At that rate, a quarter of the economy is unemployed in another three and a half weeks or so. What happens when a society reaches about 25% unemployment? Usually, it tips into chaos and upheaval. 40%? It implodes into autocracy.
That’s stark proof of a simple, grim fact. Coronavirus is a shock the likes of which modern economies have never seen. Never is a big word — but in this case, it’s true. Even wars and earthquakes don’t crater a whole labour force in weeks. We have no experience of such an event, really, in modern history.
And so — crucially — the old rulebook isn’t and wasn’t going to work, either. We are way outside the boundaries of yesterday’s placid normal now — and so playing by yesterday’s rules is a recipe for adding disaster to catastrophe. And yet…that’s exactly what the American government did.
This presentation PROOVES WITHOUT DOUBT that America is in for a major fight that will put you and your family in the firing line, literally… So make sure you watch this presentation while it’s still online…
The stimulus that was passed supported businesses and households for just one week. Furthermore, it was badly designed: so opaque, nobody really knew how to get their hands on what meagre funds were offered, full of conditions, which made getting funds hard. It should have been easy to be supported, instead it was hard, it should have been simple, instead it was complicated, it should have been straightforward for everyone — instead, everybody was left in a haze of confusion. The result of all that?
A massive loss of confidence — yet confidence is the key to staving off a depression, as Keynes discovered nearly a century ago. Hence, uncertain, unsure, afraid, businesses are laying off employees en masse. A tidal wave of people therefore filed for unemployment. And we are barely seeing the tip of this tidal wave. Why?
Because Coronavirus hasn’t even peaked yet. And already 10% of the labour force has filed for unemployment. What’s the final tally likely to be? 20%? 30% Those numbers are now well within the realm of possibility.
What do they really mean? As people lose their incomes, so they have to dip into their savings to survive. But the vast majority of Americans have no effective savings. So then people are forced to sell assets. The net result of a tidal wave of unemployment is that people are going to lose their incomes, then savings, then homes. Americans — many of them — will be left not just temporarily broke, but genuinely destitute over the long-term. What assets they’ve worked hard to build up will vanish seemingly overnight. (Knowing American capitalism, predatory lenders will probably swoop in, and offer them a lifeline in disguise — more of a noose, which is endless unpayable, debt at a crippling price.)
As people become permanently poorer, of course, they have less to spend, and a vicious cycle of contraction kicks off — bang! Depression. Until, perhaps, a new equilibrium is reached — one where there’s less work, fewer jobs, lower incomes, less opportunities, and massive reduction in human potential.
And that is what an economy is really about: not stocks, bonds, or corporate profits — but human potential. If you really want to think well about Coronavirus — or any other shock — that is how to do it. So let’s discuss it for a second.
Bang! Coronavirus will finish a job that began in earnest about two decades ago: the death of the American middle class. It began shrinking as a result of bad economic choices — and around the 2010s, for the first time in history, the American middle class became a minority. The likely long-term effect of Coronavirus is going to be to wipe out America’s middle class. Why?
Not just because people will lose their incomes, then, savings, then assets. But because a lot of the jobs that are being destroyed right now are probably not going to come back. There’s a fantasy that American economists have, which is that once this is over, business will suddenly bounce back. Having no real-world experience of how mega-capitalism’s boardrooms operate, they’re sorely mistaken.
Many of the small and medium sized businesses that are shuttering their doors right about now are probably gone for good. Their owners are going to have declare bankruptcy. Do you think they’re suddenly going to be able to start new businesses, the moment all this chaos ends? Of course not. Not only will they be trapped, liquidating assets, for months or years, struggling to make ends meet — a lot of them will simply throw in the towel, and decide that the risk of entrepreneurship is too great to take.
At the same time, megacorporations will have a field day once all this is over. They’ve got plenty of cash stockpiled — so much they don’t know what to do with. Here’s a golden opportunity for them to buy assets on the cheap. Whether they’re shops or plants or machinery and so on. Take, for example, the grim and weird trend of America’s housing market being controlled more and more every year by gigantic real-estate companies, who buy up homes during bad times, and lease them right back to the people who used to own them. How much better off are they going to be at the end of all this?
You can already see Coronavirus boosting megacapitalism’s fortunes, in fact. Amazon and Google don’t need bailouts — they’re going to rake it in. Healthcare stocks are booming — and so are financial ones. Why is that? All these corporations have effectively privatized public goods — and so in times of crisis, they make huge amounts of money, charging Americans through the nose for things that should be public. Amazon, for example, is effectively subsidized by the postal service — which, meanwhile, is “going broke.”
The trend of mega capitalists building huge, economy-controlling monopolies is likely to be sped along greatly by Coronavirus — as a huge wave of small and medium sized businesses go extinct. Think about it simply. Today, you’re probably spending the bulk of your household income at Amazon — a trend that was increasing, but then went thermonuclear. Meanwhile, because of Coronavirus, your local butcher, baker, and brewer are going bankrupt. See those two lines converging?
In the end, what will be left in the wreckage of such an economy is just a handful of mega corporations controlling most of the economy. That’s already true in America, yes. But it will be even truer tomorrow.
Such an economy isn’t really a functional one — it’s a Soviet one. Why? Just as in the Soviet Union, huge monopolies have no real incentive to provide goods or services of any real quality — or even at all. As a result, Americans, like Soviets before them, face persistent, chronic shortages: of medicine, of healthcare, of decent food, of money itself, even of drinkable water now in many places. That trend will accelerate too, as a result of Coronavirus — the economy will go from broken, to completely dysfunctional.
What kinds of jobs do today’s mega corporations offer? Yesterday, they offered the ones the American middle class was famous for (at least for a certain kind of white person with the right pedigree, I suppose.) Ones of lifelong stability, with generous benefits, and expansive guarantees. Today, that’s a cruel joke. Americans work like neoserfs — and that trend, too, is accelerating. Jobs — if you’re luck enough to even have one — come with no real benefits, healthcare that barely works, incomes that never really grow much, a retirement package on which you can never retire. But even those McJobs have been becoming, over the last decade or so, something even more dystopian: gigs.
So now legions of Americans who used to be something approaching middle class are effectively glorified servants to the rich: they deliver their food and care for their pets and clean their homes and drive them from the sleek office to the glamorous club. And they earn a pittance for doing so. This is the face of a downwardly mobile society — a once prosperous middle class, a once healthy working class, now reduced to being serfs to their technocapitalist overlords, doing their menial and household labour, their everyday chores.
Think of how Coronavirus is likely to accelerate that trend. There’s the guy who was brave enough to try and do something interesting and worthy with his life — maybe he went into steep debt, to open a little microbrewery. He was beginning to do OK, just — then the virus hit. The economy went into freefall. His order books dried up, as his customers — restaurants, bars, pubs — all closed. The government offered him barely any support, as a business owner, or as father and husband. In desperation, he began to deliver packages for Amazon and Instacart during the day, and Uber at night. Someone had to pay off all that debt, after all. He’d put a lot of it on his own credit cards — foolish, but such is the price of being an entrepreneur, sometimes.
It’s three months later. The virus has finally passed. But he’s still working gigs, to pay off that debt. His microbrewery went bankrupt — because a lot of his customers simply didn’t exist anymore. He tried to keep it going — but the debt became insurmountable. It felt like it was driving him to despair. He couldn’t sleep, eat, think. He panicked all the time. So he decided enough was enough. There he is now — once a proud entrepreneur, a creative person, a life fulfilling it’s potential. Today…he’s delivering stuff for Amazon and Instacart and chauffeuring for Uber. He doesn’t have a “job” — or a business — anymore, and probably never will.
See all that human potential going to waste? Now multiply it by all the lives which will be affected. Think of how much we will all lose. Whether it’s art or literature or science or just the simple creativity of my example above. Think of how many lives will be reduced to penury, unable to fulfill themselves and reach for their dreams now — forced by the coming depression into doing what they must to survive now, which, in this dystopian economy of rich and poor, of predator and prey, means something very muck like algorithmic neoserfdom — being essentially a servant to the super rich. Think of what that makes of a once healthy middle class and working class. What do we call whole social classes…of glorified servants? What do we all lose when they’re busy cleaning and driving and delivering — instead of perhaps discovering cures for the very diseases which afflict us?
Human possibility. Poof. Up in smoke. That is what has really happened now, as a result of the American government’s stunning failure to support it’s people or economy well enough — at all, really — during a global pandemic.
It’s a sad tale I’ve told. And yet it will be played out by the millions in the coming weeks. As average Americans who worked hard all their lives to just have the tiniest glimmer at their dreams find their lives suddenly wrecked and shattered. But it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of their government and leadership class. Who did far too little to help them — offering them just one week of support, during a crisis which lasted months.
What happens, by the way, when people finds their hopes dashed, and their dreams shattered? When they live lives of fresh — but seemingly now permanent — poverty? They turn to demagogues and strongmen, in rage, frustration, despair, anger, pain. The demagogues point their fingers at the powerless — and blame all the problems of an economy and a society on them. “They are the reason you’re poor!”, shout the strongmen. In America, “they” are Mexicans and Latinos and Jews, in Britain, Europeans, in India, Muslims, and so on across the world.
When societies go through shocks which are allowed, through negligence and folly and failure, to leave entire classes of people suddenly, permanently poorer — then democracy tends to die, too. Think of the Weimar Republic. Think of Soviet Russia becoming Putinist Russia. Think of…modern day America. Trumpism was a direct, predictable consequence of the implosion of the American middle class. Coronavirus is likely to accelerate America’s implosion into autocracy.
This is how an economy dies, my friends. And when an economy dies, a healthy, sane, civilized society tends to go with it. Is that America’s future? Is that already America’s present? I’ll leave that part to you to judge.
The physical book has 300 pages, with 3 colored pictures for every plant and for every medicine.It was written by Claude Davis, whose grandfather was one of the greatest healers in America. Claude took his grandfather’s lifelong plant journal, which he used to treat thousands of people, and adapted it into this book.
We have literally never experienced such a thing before. A whole world…in lockdown? Economies literally…suddenly dying? What the?
The problem, though, is that we are likely to experience much, much more of the same. No, not unemployment claims. Shock. Harder, faster. Impossibly sudden. We’re used to living amidst a golden age of slow, steady lines, which gave us relatively stable lives — this much unemployment, that much growth, which means that much income for the average person, which meant you could buy this much, have this family, have such a life. But now we are beginning to live in a time where slow upwards trends, one after the other, are going to be shattered and broken, overnight — and left cratering, plummeting, falling.
This is now the age of shock. The age of stability is over. And you knew that much, because life over the last decade got a little turbulent, didn’t it? But that was just the beginning, something like the waters receding before the tsunami.
Coronavirus is the first of the Great Shocks — just the first. It should be a warning. A wake-up call. A much needed alarm bell to rouse us from the slumber of a quiescent industrial-capitalist civilization in decline, utterly unprepared for this new century.
Because there are many, many more shocks to come. Bigger, harder, faster. Shock: a sudden, ruinous, catastrophic change. In economic terms, to supply or demand, to prices, to resources and their availability. In simpler terms, to life as we know it. One chapter of human history — the predatory age — is now coming to an end, one titanic shock at a time.
The next one on the way, of course, is Climate Shock. Like Coronavirus, it won’t be just one shock. Coronavirus, like any good shock, will echo and resonate, reverberate and ripple — it will subside, and then return, ebb and flow. The same is true of climate change. It will be felt in increasing levels of calamity. Do you even remember, at this grim juncture, that just a few weeks ago, Australia burned with megafires? And a few weeks before that, the Amazon did? Those are little warnings of what climate change is to bring.
By the end of this decade or so, the megafires and megafloods will begin to rage out of control. The world’s great cities will find themselves at the mercy of rising tides. The seasons will change. Stability as we know it, which has been based on climactic certainty, will fall apart with it. Today, the world is locked down at home because of a virus. What happens when the megafires ravage a whole continent — and this time, they don’t burn themselves out? What happens when half a continent is flooded — every summer, so the waters don’t ever really recede? Here we are, today, sitting comfortably at home, even in our anxiety. Tomorrow, many of us won’t have homes to return to. Or the jobs, work, lives, families that go with them.
Climate Shock intensifying is going to look like this. This year’s fires and floods are discontinuously — unimaginably, unthinkably, impossibly — worse than the last. They last longer and spread wider and burn hotter and flow faster. Think of it as a plane crash. Turbulence, and then…freefall.
As a result, our economies and financial systems are going to seize up just like they are today — but much, much more badly. Insurers and banks and funds of all kinds will simply go bankrupt. Where will that money have gone — which, in the end, simply represents a populace’s pooled savings? The answer is that it will have gone up, literally, in smoke. Society will be plunged into a vicious cycle of trying to rebuild old resources — homes, hospitals, school, universities. As a result, few new resources will be built. As the financial infrastructure of a society implodes, so too the backbone of an economy — small and medium sized businesses — will go with it. Who will provide the credit and debt they need — especially as prices spike, amidst sudden scarcity? Where will their working capital come from? Bang!
As Climate Shock tears the backbone of economies apart, people will become something much more like nomadic traders eking out a living, traveling market traders of yore, than middle-class folks with stable, simple lives of jobs fixed in time and space with fixed salaries and so forth. Today, you might be able to get this gig in that city. Tomorrow, you might be able to sell a pallet of that on Amazon, to that town. Life becomes a game of survival — scavenging for dwindling resources atop the landfill of industrial society, to be sold on to those who need them even more desperately. This is what most “gig work” already really is.
Of course, mega-corporations will do very well out of all this. Provide the market to trade these scarce goods, like Amazon? Here’s a trillion. Own the world’s water? Here’s a trillion. And so forth. But for the average person, Climate Shock’s economic effects will be life-sundering.
As people become poor, as they lose their homes, savings, incomes, jobs, and have to turn to nomadic lives based on scavenging and gigging to simply make ends meet, the effect on social institutions will be ruinous. Would you want to have kids? How would you feed them? How often would you see them? We already see hints of this at work in America, as millennials simply forego sex, relationships, and families — because they have to.They can’t afford the most basic thing in life: sociality itself. What they do have is capitalism’s counterfeit: Fakebook friends and WhatsApp. They’ve settled for that — but as their true sociality declines, so too does their happiness and trust and meaning and purpose, because human beings are inherently social beings, who aren’t fulfilled without strong and genuine social bonds, not just avatars and online chit chat.
As social bonds are torn apart, societies, too, will simply stop working as democracies. Who has time for democracy when you’re trying to scavenge a living by selling this or gigging that? Who has the energy or room or passion for it? Who even cares about the hard work of self-governance and self-determination when you’re just fighting for self-preservation? Nobody, really. In fact, what you probably feel is a sense of resentment. If you’re being made to fight bitterly for self-preservation, so should everyone else. And so a kind of hardcore individualism is likely to permeate politics. As is authoritarian-fascism, because in times of trouble, people turn to strongmen for safety and security and strength, while looking for groups to demonize and dehumanize as weak and impure and parasitic. It’s a near-certainty, at this juncture, that the Climate Shock will take what’s left democracy with it.
Soon after the Climate Shock will come the Great Annihilation. Not human — don’t worry, this isn’t a movie. We live in the sixth mass extinction in history, the first human-made one. We are busy exterminating the very forms of life that we depend most on, in a particular way: the most vulnerable things go first. Insects, reefs, butterflies, bees. But those things make up the bottoms of ecological chains, and so ecologies are going to collapse like great towers whose foundations have suddenly been ripped out. The fish clean the rivers which feed the seas, the bees pollinate the flowers which nourish the rest, the insects turn the soil which grows the wheat. Do you see how all this Is connected? So what happens when it topples over? Bang!
Then the future will be truly catastrophic.
What happens when this harvest suddenly fails — the one a whole continent depended on? When this river — the one that a whole set of countries depended on — runs dry? When the topsoil’s turned barren, and there’s no way to easily replenish it? When the shore of a whole continent is suddenly invaded by a new species, because the fish have all gone? Bang!
By this point — about 2050ish, if we’re lucky, 2040 if we’re not — what happens is that humanity’s last and most crucial systems fail, catastrophically, finally, permanently. Food chains implode. Water tables turn to salt. Medicine can no longer be made. Chemicals are no longer available. Basic resources can no longer be mined. Here’s a small list of things that can’t be made without “ecological support services”, as the jargon goes, which just means “without using ecosystems as a whole as a vital resource”: insulin, antibiotics, milk, eggs, bread, vegetables, fruit, computers, cars, furniture. All these things depend critically on ecosystems functioning as wholes, to provide resources as basic as air, wood, water, and metal. But as the animals die off, none of those things are going to be easily available anymore. The resources we all take for granted and depend on are going to be either poisoned, dead, inaccessible, or gone.
What happens as a consequence? What little industry there is left shuts down. Economies die — and they don’t come back. Societies turn to violence to claim what’s left. Cities and regions turn on one another. Aggressive nations like America and Russia start big wars, ruled by lunatics and demagogues. People huddle in terror and fright and fear — or worse, robotically do the jobs authoritarians command them to do, which involved taking what’s left by force to give to a lucky few. Freedom, justice, equality, truth — all these things are distant memories by now, as is an age where people took such things for granted. The idea of civilization as we know it has come to an end.
That’s where the Age of Shock finishes. It isn’t a debate I’m trying to start by the way — instead, I want you to note a simple enough point. You can see how our civilization begins to ends from…right here.
Think of right here and now as a place — a strange peak to find yourself trapped on. From it, you can see the horizon of the end of a civilization. You can look back, and see the climb upwards, to. You can look across, also, and see a gentle plateau. A place you might, just might be able to reach — if only you had a little more rope.
We can still weave that rope. We can still save ourselves from the certain disaster ahead — but only over the next 3000 days or so. If we invest, massively, at a global scale, right now. In what? In everything. In healthcare, research, education, income, in nature, in life on earth. But our window is very, very short. If we don’t invest now, on a massive scale — a Marshall Plan for the world — in the next decade, then our path is inevitable: it ends in a shock so great civilization itself winks out. Not with a bang, nor even with a whimper. Pummeled to death, one shock at a time, until the heart and soul of civilization go out. Until people themselves are too weary and bruised to even remember the ideas of decency, of gentleness, of knowledge, of truth, of beauty, of freedom — of caring for one another in a world where self-preservation has become a desperate daily struggle.
You can see the beginning of the end of the world as we know it from right here, right now, in the surreality of everyday life in 2020: the shocks that will almost certainly bring our civilization to an end are now clearly visible. You — meaning each and every one of us capable of thinking clearly — can see them as clearly as rain on a summer day. They are not a mystery. Like I said, we can all see how it happens from here, right now, with chilling clarity. It isn’t some kind of sci-fi scenario anymore: it’s just simple, cold, brutal logic. What we lack, therefore, is something as simple as it is crucial. Will. The courage, grace, strength, to do anything about it. But “it”, this time, is the end of the world as we know it.
Maybe, then, this is what we deserve. Maybe this is the only destiny we ever had, as a civilization with roots in slavery and genocide and violence. Maybe the next civilization will do better, and that is the only way that the strange and twisted mess called human history can ever have worked. Maybe we have to start again, because the seed always contains the tree, and the whole forest, too.