Ok, Now What?

Sharon October 5th, 2008

There are certain things in my life that fall in the category of “hideously unpleasant things I am pretty certain I can’t do jack about.”  Among them are drilling in ANWR and the fact that everyone on earth wants to talk about the unbelievably boring Sarah Palin.  I know many of you devote a lot of passion to protesting these things, and I’m sorry I just can’t do it - that is, I don’t think that people who are cold and without energy are ever going to turn down oil from environmentally sensitive places - in fact, I think they’d be willing to power their cars with baby harp seals (and not in a nice way) if that would work.  I recognize that most people simply have to say what they think about Sarah Palin, and her hominess/titillating family gossip/experience holding off Russia with her bare hands and I might as well just listen to the 9,000 description of Tina Fay’s impression.  And I knew we were going to pass a bailout bill, no matter how much it made my stomach clench up with horror.  All of these things are bad, bad things that it is good to protest - but protest so that you can say you tried, not with the expectation that the laws of nature will somehow be refuted.

Why was the bailout destined to pass?  Well, the most obvious reason is this - shockingly (and apparently a lot of very dim people in Washington did find this shocking), the stock market reacted to the news that they weren’t getting 700+billion dollars worth of free money pretty much like toddlers not getting lollipops.  From what I’ve heard of the reaction on the House floor on Monday, the fact that the markets had their heart set on their lollipops was news.  Meanwhile, it seems like foreign governments were also unhappy at the lack of lollipops, and exerted some pressure. Apparently that was pretty shocking too.  And like the absentee upper class parents most congresspeople probably were, they gave in to pressure.  We do not elect our government for their courage, but for their willingness to dance to the flutes of power - we want them to reflect the will of the people.  And they do - the will of the people with the power to undercut their wealth and power.  Unfortunately, neither you nor I are one of them.

 More importantly, we’re having an election.  Now the US has been afflicted with the current campaign season since, if I recall correctly, 1066, when the Normans invaded England and Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy.  But pretty soon we’re actually going to have an election.  And even though the bailout is not going to do jack to spare us economic disaster, if they hadn’t passed one, it would have been far to easy to hold those who did not pass it responsible for whatever comes down the pike.  Now everyone gets to hold up their hands and say they tried their very hardest, really truly they did, but they just couldn’t save everyone.   Central among the people who they couldn’t save (because they tried so hard) will be widows and orphans, single parents and kids, and you and me.  It turns out they were so busy rescuing the rich that the fact that they let the much larger group of poor drown was just an accident.

Oh, and raping and pillaging is fun.  One doesn’t just quit a hobby like that cold turkey.  Shock doctrine capitalism is the name of the game, and the perpetrators aren’t ready to admit that the game is over - and of course, with Congress in their pockets, it isn’t.

There are other reasons, of course, and you can read more about them in lots of the usual spots.  But the truth is that despite the mass outpouring of anger at the bailout, despite the fact that the people spoke, not because they were too stupid to understand that the economy was tanking, but because they didn’t want to throw good money after bad - despite all that, the bailout was inevitable and it happened.  And the only good thing I can say about this is that when the economy tanks anyway, that anger may actually be a useful tool in making some change.  I hope everyone out there will remember this week not only when it comes time to vote this round, but the next and the next.  Some things you may not be able to stop, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgive.

So now what?  What comes next in ordinary people’s lives?  Well, what comes next is another series of crises.  The stock market didn’t even get a bounce out of the bailout package.  Sure, some things will do a little better for a short while, maybe even enough to get through the election.  But don’t count on it - things are falling apart faster than anyone can glue them back together.  Which means that Paulson and Bernanke are going to be back again and again and again - next to prop up the FDIC or bail out some other organization that they swear is too big to fail.  And then, when the money runs out and there’s no more on offer, they will explain to us that if we’d just authorized that last print run of cash, or if we had just been better people, or hadn’t taken so much debt, or had listened to them sooner, it would all be alright, but now, well, the money’s all gone, so no point in trying to relieve the plight of ordinary people who didn’t want to give them money anyway. You can bet that the cause of the problem will be you - your failures, your credit card debt, your wanting a house, as though you (collectively, in the millions) all acted alone to take down the economy on our own private grassy knolls.

What can we do about it?  Protest - because it came closer to working here than I think anyone expected it to, and it may well work sooner or later.  Call and fight and be angry - don’t let them wear your anger out.  Clarify - make sure that the message gets out whose fault this really is.  Vote, of course, because even the lesser of two evils can be quite lesser. 

 But more importantly, to the extent it is possible, we need to build redundancies into the systems we depend on that don’t depend on wall street, or the stuff we shortly won’t have any money for anyway.  That means everyone out there needs to look around them and ask what small piece of the infrastructure of their lives (and the lives of their community members) they can take some responsibility for.  We need to all look and ask “what is my job in this new world we’re awakening to?”  What the heck can I do to help mitigate this disaster?

Maybe you already know your job - it is the thing you care about, the work you do already for free or for money, in every second of spare time or 10 hours a day.  You do something that matters - you provide health care, grow food, teach, mend what’s broken,  feed the hungry, fight for justice - you do good work, and now you have to figure out a way to keep the work going without as much money or energy. 

Or maybe you are head down in a health care crisis, a new baby, a family shift - and all you can do is prepare and protect yourselves and your families as best you can.  You haven’t the time and energy to do much more than that - and your job is to get through this, so that later, you can do the work that needs doing.  That’s ok - but as soon as you can, make a little time, even if it is just to check in on your neighbors or start carpooling to the grocery store. 

Maybe you don’t know what your role is. Maybe you do have a little time or energy that could be used to build community, fix things, help others, but you are shy, and you don’t know what to do.  And I can’t tell you exactly what you should do - you know your talents and skills best.  Maybe you are a natural organizer and leader, and you should get started with your community’s victory garden movement, building the community health center or getting neighbors to pool their resources to get a shared transport network up.  Maybe you are more comfortable following, in some already existing role - and it is time to get out to the local food pantry and start figuring out where they are going to get enough food to help all the hungry.  Maybe you care most about kids, or elders or women or the hispanic or black or asian community, and that’s where you should concentrate your energies.  Maybe you want to work with members of your faith, your family or your friends.  Great - do it.  But do it now.

We’re all going to need reliable sources of food.  We’re all going to need some transportation.  We’re going to need health care, and emergency services.  We’re all going to need good work - even if it is only for food.  We’re going to need ways to keep people housed, to connect folks who need homes with those who can’t keep them unless they rent some space.  A lot of people are going to need warm clothes and blankets.   A lot of people are going to need a meal, a helping hand, help with disabled family members and elders. And folks, when the formal economy falls away, when we cannot trust our government to act in our interests, all of us have to get acting to compensate, to keep the wolf from the door.  The truth is that the bailout, on one level, was the final reminder of what Hurricane Katrina taught us,  that no one is coming with a helicopter to rescue us.  Fortunately, some of us have boats, and the rest of us can build life rafts, and there’s a lot we can do to rescue ourselves.

 What now?  It is all hands on deck, folks.


20 Responses to “Ok, Now What?”

  1. Anna says:

    Excellent rally-the-People post! We (husband and I) are fixing to move onto an established farm within 60 days to help with the food growing and elder caring. My mother, dismayed at her daughter’s willingness to so easily toss a “promising future”, asked, “You want to go shovel goat poop?!?”

    Yes, and I couldn’t be happier at the prospect.

  2. Shamba says:

    Hey, Anna, I live in a townhouse, in an association community, in the middle of an urban area. We have a nice yard common area and we all have pets, feline or canine and there are feral cats around, too. I shovel, or scoop, cat poop-sometimes canine poop! There’s somebody’s poop everywhere that needs shoveling! :) Might as well be goats if that’s what you like! LOL

    Sharon, all hands on deck it is, maybe especially this coming week, I’ll let you know in a day or two how I feel about that.

    I know that I’m going to be sharing meals with friends and passing on recipe and food info.

    Peace to all of us for the coming week, whatever happens,

  3. Kate in CT says:

    Thanks yet again, Sharon for focusing on what we have control over instead of the opposite. We listen to NPR alot and this week has been so freaky with one report talking about the extreme nature of these events this week and the coming lonnnggg recession and what if Sarah Palin becomes VP/P, and the next, someone saying it’s just like all other “downturns”, keep putting money in your 401k and go buy this new album. It all helps create a state of dizzying anxiety. I read your post and felt a deep breath come, a sigh and thought of a couple useful things to do. Thank you.
    Warm wishes

  4. Ani says:

    Well- just what I was thinking about Sharon- what now???A friend called me up all upset last night, trying to figure out what to do now. We had, like so many of our friends, really tried with this bailout bill- we sent e-mails,wrote letters to the editor, the works- but to no avail…. So now what he was wondering?

    I really don’t know either- I think that I mostly have given up on any sort of political solution- I’ll vote in November-for what it’s worth- but have little faith that Washington will be responsive.

    I told my friend(and another who called today with the same frustration) that I was going to concentrate on the farm, my home and community. That I had plenty to do with the fall harvest, work on the house(that didn’t happen due to the summer of constant rain), and doing what I can in my community. I don’t see any other way to be useful so I will do what I know how to do. I will also make sure to enjoy myself as much as possible- play music with friends, get together with my neighbors for ‘kniting night”-at my house this week- and cook good food.

    I have been thinking that I do believe we are at the end of one particular way of life and the beginning of another- that some day historians will look back and see this period clearly- but it is hard to do that when one is living it- did the people at the beginning of the dark ages or the industrial revolution know what was happening?? I don’t think so- it is only clearly visible in hindsight- and so I think it will be with this period- I do think though that we will be living the rest of our lives with the changes happening- that much as we might like, it is not going to resolve itself quickly- and we need to get used to the idea that we will be living different lives in the future and it will be some sort of evolving change, not to fully emerge from the cocoon for many years down the road…….. So I guess I figure I may as well get used to it and resigned to the fact that change is happening and it’s going to be a bumpy ride and I may as well hang on and enjoy the view…..

  5. Oldnovice says:

    Last Wednesday afternoon, we were driving home from Oklahoma and NPR aired an interview with you, Sharon. I told my husband, “That’s the weirdo who’s filling the heads of environmentalists with fear of peak oil.” Heh.

    Seriously, sounded like a good interview even though I couldn’t hear much except road noise and the sing-song of the pitch of your voice. The interviewer (reception of whom came in despite the road noises) seemed to enjoy your responses.

    If you have a transcript laying around, I’d appreciate a copy to learn what you said.

    My oldest daughter is in her senior year of undergraduate work in Social Work at UTA, doing her internship at a homeless shelter in Fort Worth. There are 7,000 homeless in FW. It doesn’t help that Ike refugees end up in Fort Worth, as well. Her shelter could only take men from the Ike refugees, as the women and children quarters were full. Sad stuff and bound to get worse.

  6. Erika says:

    I’m really trying to prepare my family for rougher times, but all this economic news scares the living daylights out of me… Then I read your post(s), and you start with the scary news… and logically go on… and then you remind us what to do - which is all we can - we can’t preform magic and fix everything, but you remind us (me) to simply do what we can, speak to our friends and neighbors (I can do that!), focus on enduring skills (I can do that!), and work together (I can do that too!). Now that I have a constructive direction to aim towards… it’s not so scary anymore! You’re so calming and refreshing! Thanks, Sharon!


  7. greentangle says:

    I agree that people would be willing to power their cars with baby harp seals, and that every environmental protection law will be thrown out and every place of beauty ruined if it means one more day of continuing our lifestyle. That’s exactly why I’m so pleased about the collapse of industrial civilization, and the more humans it takes with it the better it will be for every creature who is left.

  8. Shelley says:

    Dear Sharon,
    This is my first time at your site. I live in Alaska and Sarah Palin is my governor. She’s great governor. But I am quite uncertain about her ability for VP. But that isn’t why I’m writing.

    I think you are absolutley right about the bail out not working and a coming deep dive in the economy. Living here in Alaska, our options for food are severly limited. We are totally dependent on shipped in food. As a state, we grow a few potatoes, carrots and cabbage. There are a few local guys you can buy a side of beef from. There’s moose if you can get one. The prospects of problem with supply lines scares me to death.

    We have strong community up here in AK. Most people don’t have family so we try to be family to each other. Everyone lends a helping hand. I don’t fear the lack of community because the advice to reach out and do what you can is a way of life up here already.

    But food and supplies is worrisome…..

  9. homebrewlibrarian says:


    There are several other Alaskans who read Sharon’s blog and we are all doing what we can to prepare for future changes. It may be different things and for different reasons but I think all of us could agree that being at the end of the road is worrisome in terms of food and supplies.

    I don’t know where you live but if you’re in the Matsu Borough or near/in Anchorage or up around Fairbanks, there’s quite a bit of local food you can take advantage of. I’d be happy to provide some suggestions if you’d like. If you need food storage ideas, check the archives for this blog and/or look into joining Sharon’s food storage or adapting in place yahoo groups.

    You’re not alone! There are other Alaskans who share your concerns.

    Kerri in AK (Anchorage in particular)

  10. aurorab says:

    The Bailout: it’s billed as the TARP program (Troubled Asset Relief Program) but in fact it’s a TRAP (Taxpayer Rape And Pillage). I’m more disgusted than angry at this point. I wrote repeatedly to my Congressfolk to vote NO. Two did, one didn’t. I even wrote to the Presidential candidates to vote NO. Neither did (but I get email from the Obama campaign now at least three times a day, nothing from McCain). What now? I’ve sent a parting salvo to urge my Congressfolk to repeal the bill. Now I’ll get back to my preps.

    I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s not quite as far north as Alaska, but it’s at the end of the road in a lot of ways. When I first heard about PO last fall, the aspect that really got my attention was: no oil, no food. As has often been said on this blog, holy crap!

    I started researching this thing called “peak oil” online and I found the doomers, the folks who think technology will save us, the scientists and economists, the gold bugs, and a Druid with a long historical perspective. A lot of it scared me witless. None of it seemed to help much. Then, after about six months of serious reading online, I finally found this blog. At last some practical suggestions for getting ready, along with encouragement to take a deep breath! Now, more often than not, I can acknowledge how scary it all is, and then get back to work.

    Sharon, you’ve started something that I can only hope will grow. This online community is invaluable. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  11. Hummingbird says:

    Yes. Predictions are increasingly dire. Everyone is scared. Peak oilers are amazed to see their predictions hurtling toward us. Yours is the only voice saying, “Yes, we told you so. Now here’s what we need to do about it.” Thank you.

  12. Rachel M. says:

    Sharon, I really appreciate this post. I am inspired by your call to generosity of heart, purse and pantry even in hard times (whether they are now or soon to come). A life lived solely for self falls completely short of what true riches are. On top of all of us thinking about how we can prepare for hard times and make provisions for our own families, we absolutely need to also be thinking about how we can equip ourselves to assist others in need and to take positive action in our churches, communities, etc. for the greater good. There really is strength in numbers and one heart warming aspect of all this, is we may see our very autonomous society get back to a more community/familial based way of life where people truly look out for each other and whose minds, resources and even hearts become more connected.

  13. Jill says:

    Things in this country seem to get scarier by the minute. We’re trying do our small part and help by working on local food systems through our community, church and our family. (something I never considered prior to finding your blog months ago) Yesterday I found out we have a pear tree on the church property. I’ve been actively involved with our church for over 7 years and I never knew. One of the deacons told me they pears often go to waste, so I’m hoping to pick some on Wednesday and Sunday to pass out at church. My husband and I are the volunteer youth ministers and we hope to get the kids involved as a way to give back to the church and community. I would like to start a garden project at our church in the spring also. We have a large plot and it just gets mowed. I look forward to planting beans, potatoes, onions, and few other basics that store well. We can give them away as we harvest or keep them in the food pantry until the need arises. I’ll be working with the town community group to start a farmer’s market next year. It’s encouraging news in our small town of less than 400 people.

    My husband and I are doing what we can as family using the skills we have. We shared the harvest from our garden with family and are saving seeds to share for the spring planting. Each week my husband repairs one thing at my folks’ home to help keep things running along (usually it’s more efficient and uses less energy). This summer it’s been the washer, dryer, well pump, and old electrical outlets. All of his work has cut their electric bill in half. Currently they will be unable to afford heat for the winter and we’re trying to find a solution. Buying new, or even used, is out of the question for them since my father is unemployed. If things continue to progress along the same course, they may end up living with us before long.

    Thanks again for the encouragement. Having a course of action makes us feel much better than sitting around wringing our hands. :)

    Jill in Michigan (the Lower Peninsula)

  14. MEA says:

    I certainly don’t want to put too postitive a spin on what I’m about to write. A situtation in which some 1,117,000 died was hardly one which had a happy outcome. And obviously, had relief not come, there would have been no survivors.

    What the heck is MEA rambling about?

    Leningrad: State of Siege by Michael Jones — my latest bedtime reading.

    So far, I’ve take away three things which seem germain to my reaction to and action regarding PO and the general mess that surrounds us now.

    1) I have stored an obseen amount of food — frankly, the amount of food my household of four comsumes in a week seems unreal — comared to what most people would have consumed in the entire 874 days.

    2) People did better (by and large) if they banded together. Even if they didn’t surive, diaries suggest they found life less unbearable than those who didn’t.

    3) Extreme times brings out extraordinary actions of courage, horror and personal choice. I’m not about to judge what anyone else did, but being aware of what other people did (which since I’m human, too, are all things for good and ill that I could do) gives me somethings to apsire to and others to try to avoid.

    4) Even in the hardest times, most people need to be able to do things to help others and to feed their souls (I’m using the word here only to mean that part of us that responds to things of beauty).

    There are, sadly, lots of times in history that teach us these lesson. The siege seems to resonate with me becuase once the storehouses were bombed and it was clear no relieve was coming, people could see what was ahead just as clearly as we can see it now. Actually, in someways they could see it more clearly becuase there weren’t that many options beyond freeze and starve, were as we don’t know excatly how things will playout over the next few months.

  15. Robert Roth says:

    I came to this site this evening for some warmth & consolation, & once more Sharon & her correspondents have come through. But about the bailout/heist, & what now, if you have any time & energy for politics apart from planning for community & survival, I have two suggestions: First, 171 Members of Congress & 24 Senators voted against this Wall Street giveaway. It would be useful to identify & thank them, esp. if one or more of them represents you, & possibly — through a letter to the editor, whatever form of public expression you can manage — to keep an eye on the spin, & facilitate the right lessons being drawn when & as (as seems already to be happening) the futility of this nominally $700 B. scam becomes apparent. I’m happy to say my own Congressman, Peter DeFazio, not only voted NO twice but during the week introduced alternative legislation (incl. one bill titled the No BAILOUTS Act) that might actually have helped alleviate the crisis; see DeFazio’s website for details if you’re interested. Also, for more detailed critiques & analysis of where this leaves us & where we’re going in terms of the formal economy, there has been good material almost daily for some time now on the CounterPunch website; esp. articles by Michael Hudson, Mike Whitney, & Pam Martens, that you can find by googling on the site, & others you can just browse for.

  16. Noah says:


    If anyone needs more grist, visit http://tinyurl.com/consumptiongospel, an article published in Orion magazine by Jeffrey Kaplan. It could start a riot for frugality, if not austerity.

    For anyone interested in a deconstruction of the corporate (Wall Street) role in government, you could visit poclad.org (Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy).

    For more general information, there’s always thecorporation.org. Their list of links is useful for further exploration.

    Myself, I am still trying to figure out what the implications are of an economic downturn over the next two years. Economic downturns are not a requirement of a poorly-lived life, but economic upswings could create mine. Business hiring could slow, consumer discretionary spending could decrease, but consumerism is not being discouraged at all. Just spending is being discouraged. I could be OK without a downturn making me too poor to pay for rent and food, but that will not happen anyway. Instead, this time of relative poverty could revamp my consumerism ahead of when my earning power increases. Yikes!

    Increasing my productivity to reduce my work-hours forces me to reduce my consumption because I make less, but that is exactly what I would rather do. Hopefully this economic downturn, slight as it might be, will highlight a path to happiness that doesn’t require me to overwork and overspend for a sense of artificial ease. I am already too tired, and I barely earn a living, and I am not choking on my bad credit yet, even if the economy is choking on it.


  17. Noah says:

    Sorry, that’s http://www.tinyurl.com/consumptiongospel , without the comma. -Noah

  18. Crunchy Reading « Stony Creek Digest says:

    [...] OK, Now What? [...]

  19. Paul says:

    We need to make a clean sweep of both the House and Senate and start with new people. Many of the current politicians were on watch while our country was being destroyed. It’s time to clean house.

  20. relational modeling says:

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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