Energy & Sustainability
“The Greater Depression”  – The Renaissance – Finding A Place

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Wendy and/or Mikey one up’ed me, here’s a wonderful post about what might be the next renaissance, I think so too! What an interesting Friday this turned out to be…

In 2000 when I quit my job and reoriented myself away from money and towards the gathering of skills: welding, sewing, building, growing food, many of my friends thought I was nuts. I did not make these changes with a doomy perspective. The epiphany that inspired me was one of a better world that followed a great collapse. So here we are. Some of my friends no longer think I’m nuts. The nearing end of oil and the collapse of the monetary system have set rapid change in motion. Oil had enabled us to fraction ourselves off from the natural world and build an artificial one on top of it, a poor and unsustainable mimic. Yet the natural world we started off with actually perpetuates life, it is life, needs no caretakers and naturally provides. We replaced it with a dependent machine. Without oil the machine grinds to a halt and leaves us where we started, with the only task we’ve ever been given, to live on earth. Our monetary system enabled greed to be the road to wealth. Wealth was not measured by generosity, creativity or love. When I look at what’s dying I see things that never had life in the first place. The lifelessness of our way of living is just becoming more evident. But remember we are life, and life has always existed. And so I feel no reminiscence towards what’s passing away now.

So I made my choice a few years ago. I left NYC for Truth or Consequences, NM, a tiny desert town that was never fully dependent on the national economy. Folks here have skills: welding, sewing, woodworking, canning, growing etc. The domestic economy is vibrant, in fact barter is more respected than the dollar which says so little of one’s character. When a developer came here with big plans to “help us” I realized that he could not see that poverty is being redefined. While one in four American homes are empty, here in T or C we have a nearly full occupancy. He sees trailers and mobiles, “poor folks!” I see balance, living within one’s means. This is wealth! This is a place that skirted through the great depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Here locals grew food and stocked the supermarket for those who could not grow. That supermarket is still here.

In Truth or Consequences one must bring their work or create it here. You could say that it’s a perfect place for folks who attend Burning Man. Like the desert utopian experiment T or C is pioneering, it asks you what your made of and what your skills are. You can still buy a home here for $50k, taxes average at a couple hundred bucks a year. What’s here? Whatever you bring here. Like Burning Man it asks you to manifest and share what matters most to you. This place highlights my own belief that in this time the maker is the revolutionary.

We’ll all find our place soon enough. As we slide deeper into what’s being now called the ‘greater depression’ I suggest we consider this collapse is also the renaissance in disguise. If your tempted to savor what was: money, consumerism and greed, consider how little life it contained. Mystics over the ages have told us that we fell from paradise, from the garden. Religious texts speak of man’s fall into idolatry. These concepts need not be filed under religious thinking. When we built a world on top of one that was given to us and we thanked ourselves for it we parted ways with the natural world and we made gods of ourselves for the doing of it. What do we have to gain from this collapse? Only paradise and the rediscovery of our humanity. And perhaps wealth will finally move to the hands of those most capable of holding it, those who know how to live in the real world a world that teaches us through our ability to live in it that the health of the individual is dependent on the health of the whole.

24 thoughts on ““The Greater Depression” – The Renaissance – Finding A Place

  1. Yes, and there you are with your sandwich board saying the world will end tomorrow. Will people never stop thinking the world will come to an end?

    I applaud the author’s efforts to find a life for himself but I don’t applaud the effort to tell us all, “the world will come to an end and all of you are dooooommmmmed.”

    Every turn of a new century, celestial event or big storm people start to think the end is near. When the US invaded Iraq the second time I actually had someone turn to me and ask if I thought this was the beginning of Armagedon.

    So, here’s you sign and your ID-ten-T award, go and ‘git-r-done’

  2. Oh joy, another Gothamite who’s discovered the great remote beyond — conveniently on the freeway between Albuquerque and Las Cruces, and next to Elephant Butte State Park with its substantial lake. I’m sure that the WalMart bags are locally made as well.

    The author clearly has never been to any kind of rural or agricultural community, all of which will have this kind of economy and self-sufficiency to a certain extent, and probably can’t distinguish between any of the states that begin with “I”.

    Of course most of those rural/agricultural areas are dedicated to people who make a living growing things in the dirt rather than becoming one with the cosmic vortex just off the interstate, which I’m sure makes them beneath consideration.

  3. Just because someone is paranoid doesn’t mean they are not being followed. Just because the boy cried wolf when there was no wolf, doesn’t mean a wolf isn’t coming. The moral of that story shouldn’t be “never cry wolf,” it ought to be “always look out for the wolf.” The world doesn’t have to completely end to become utterly unusable. A puppy that dies whimpering is no less dead than one that dies “splat!”

    Faith in a tenuous structure built to serve the whims and needs of a few is stupid at best. Under its auspices, for decades the visible world has degenerated, continually, measurably. Sometimes irreversibly. It is not so much of a stretch to extrapolate and conclude, at least, that it just can’t go on like this. Something has to give. This isn’t easily dismissible kooky doomsday prophecy, it is the truth. Disconnecting and distancing oneself from the processes that are bringing about this state of affairs isn’t kooky survivalism, it is our moral imperative.

  4. As someone who has recently made the same move, from NYC to TrC, I admit there is some truth to what hes saying here. There is something wonderful about paying for a new well pump by agreeing to help repair a section of fence, or the like. Njmalhq is right though, walmart is even now moving in, and TrC is far from some of the more … communal living situations around. But hey, learning a wide range of skills? Working towards being able to live self sufficently, even if only in part? Isn’t that really one of the better things you could be doing with your time? I mean, that seems in line with the maker spirit as I see it.

  5. If the author had left the disparaging comments about the collapse of the society and life as we know it out of his story, I’d have been interested. Instead, what was intended to be a story of alternative living turned into a, “Everyone else is doing it wrong because the world is coming to an end and I’m going to live better off than the rest of you because you don’t know what you’re doing.”

    Alternative living or living off the land versus being a crack pot is a fine line. This is a crack pot rather than a productive member of society. Let’s push him one step further.

    Have you built the fence and towers yet? When society collapses we will still be able to find your little town on a map. Hope you have enough to share.

    Seriously, the author has many good points about learning more skills rather than leaning on others as much as we currently do. I just feel he lost his point due to a lofty attitude toward all the rest of the world and a misguided view or the economic state. Even if the economy ‘collapses’ it will recover. It always has.

  6. It’s a little strange to use T or C as an example of some sort of back-to-the-lander’s paradise, divorced from the web of global capitalism.

    I mean, Truth or Consequences got its name, and generated what I’m sure were considerable revenues for the town at the time, through a grand publicity stunt in partnership with a radio show (“Truth or Consequences”).

    “Originally called “Hot Springs”, it took the name of a popular radio program in 1950, when Truth or Consequences host Ralph Edwards announced that he would do the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Ralph Edwards came to the town during the first weekend of May for the next fifty years. This event was called the “Fiesta” and included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show.”

    That is like the most post-modern information economy move ever. And fifty-plus years before the rise of MMORPG economies! All in all it sounds quite a bit more Bruce Sterling than Wendell Berry.

  7. I resent the implication that if we don’t know how to be self-sufficient, then we are somehow money grubbing materialists.

    Civilization got it’s start when people learned how to specialize. That doctor who discovered how to treat illnesses might not have saved your life if he had to spend all his time growing his own food and sewing his own clothes.

    If you want to go live like a hermit, that’s fine. Just don’t tell the rest of us that we are shallow capitalist pigs.

  8. I live in a house and use money. I drive a car. I use a computer. I know how to weld, plant/grow food, build stuff,mechanics/woodworking etc. and take care of myself. Just because you lived in NYC and had no interest in those things when you lived there doesn’t mean everyone is like you some of use are interested in those things and like being self sufficient without having to move to some commune in the desert.(BTW I live in the desert) And being part of society whether good or evil living within I am able to make change instead of just escaping and letting evil happen.
    If all you superior people live there in the desert. How are others to learn of your superior ways?
    What if you were to just move back to NYC or wherever your family is and not be materialistic. Be a kind generous person and try to make a difference instead of escaping.

  9. “As we slide deeper into what’s being now called the ‘greater depression’ I suggest we consider this collapse is also the renaissance in disguise.”

    Yesterday we saw huge drops in the global stock markets. If this was a trend we certainly could be in trouble with the risk of money becoming as worthless as the government that prints it.

    But governement doesn’t control the economy. Oh it might guide it some but it doesn’t control it. People, investors do. That was shown today with a bounce back of around 50%+ of what was lost. All without the help of $700B from the US government. Certainly it would help but it isn’t needed.

    I think this is just the market resetting itself from the greed of the speculators that have caused these high gas prices. As the market becomes more volitile the speculators back off.

    Doom saying only adds to the fears with no founding, something the US history is full of. Just look at the history prior to any election or foreign invasion.

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