Americans know something is wrong. It is easy to place blame; there is plenty to find fault with. But, many sense that something unusual is unfolding, something that goes deeper than the headlines, something that has been a long time coming.
For the majority of Americans, social and economic conditions have been deteriorating for decades. Civil order is crumbling. Staggering numbers of jobs have disappeared. Financial disruptions come one after another.
Some threats are obvious, but others lie hidden in the complexity of geopolitical stress, interlocking financial institutions, and a debt-based monetary system.
Our vulnerability is exacerbated by apathy and an inability to understand the choices that now confront us. We accept the present as normal, even when it is dangerous. Most of us expect every day to be like the last.
To recognize that circumstances could lead to pain requires imagination and foresight. Imagination based on fear can be get us in trouble, but so too can carelessness.
Imagination applied rationally is a survival skill. Let me offer an example.
James Rickards is a monetary economist who has advised the Department of Defense and the CIA concerning terrorist threats to the monetary system and financial markets.
Writing about our well-equipped intelligence agencies, staffed by smart people who are intent on protecting the United States, he tells us that these agencies were actually monitoring most of the individuals who subsequently carried out the 9/11 attacks. Analysts were aware that several were being trained to fly airplanes. In short, the intelligence community had the information it needed to warn of the impending attack.
The only thing missing, says Rickards, was imagination.
It is easy to understand why our families and friends might think we are being alarmist when we express concerns about the future. They are human. But, the time may come when they will depend on us. We must trust our perceptions and think through the implications.
There are numerous resources available in bookstores and on the web, which can help us prepare for a long crisis. This blog (and book project) is focused specifically on the personal, social, and relational challenges involved: the effort to build dependable communities, and to accept moral responsibility in an increasingly disrupted and desperate world.
Local communities can organize around felt-needs – if we are ready to rise above our differences. But, having little positive experience working with groups of dissimilar people will lead to challenges when trouble strikes.
We may have experienced community in a church group, club, or sporting pastime, but not usually in the immediate neighborhood where we live, and not in the face of threats to our safety and well-being.
A dependable bond among neighbors will be necessary to address food security and other essential needs. But, most of us do not know our neighbors and cannot now depend on them. We might not even have introduced ourselves to those we see regularly on the street or in the grocery store.
Our natural inclination to be independent and avoid troublesome arrangements has led to the widespread loss of civil society and trustworthy relationships. There have been few compelling reasons for Americans to seek meaningful community with our neighbors. Yet, when things stop working we will have no one to depend on except each other.
If we are to find security in a crisis, it will be necessary to learn patience, and a range of practical interpersonal, organizational, and technical skills.
Most of us can learn how to grow food, or at least to work with others who do. But, as the crisis deepens we will discover necessities we did not see coming. Organizing our lives without electricity or safe drinking water or a functional sewage system will require that we cooperate to solve problems, and sometimes solve them quickly.
It will be this personal engagement with one another, forced by hard realities, which will bring Americans together where we belong – as responsible citizens and dependable neighbors.
Hiding under a rock might feel like a good idea in a shooting war, but it will not lead to the kind of world most of us want to live in.
Dear readers, please look for the next post on or about May 2.