Dear Peak Shrink,
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge that what you are attempting to do here, by allowing me and others to vent our deepest fears, is nothing more than a form of liberation.
Living with Peak Oil is like having HIV/AIDS, you know you’ve got it but your hopeful that with modern pharmaceuticals that maybe you can live a long and healthy…When it finally hits you that all comparisons to illness/disease are foolish because as personally devastating as this can be, it doesn’t have the truly global reach of PO, then something akin to transcendence occurs. It’s as if you have been living a version of George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ where all about you are simple carrion, waiting for their allotted time.
This smug suicidality soon passes, as you start looking, as I was forced to, at those around you that perhaps don’t deserve to be left to die. Having a grand-daughter was a primer for me.
I am 44 years old, was born and raised in London, UK and am a qualified graduate social worker. I discovered PO just after September 11th and it was a long slow process of self mis-education and knowledge. I have been a revolutionary socialist from about the age of 16, seeing clearly that Capitalism was illogical and potential, world destroying. But along the way, children, work and responsibilities took me further away from activism and into the safe arms of subscription whereby somebody else (preferably a younger version of me) does the activism and I get to read all the classic Marxist text’s and pontificate at large, sounding very profound and empty at the same time.
PO shook me out of my intellectual lethargy. At first, I went through the usual PO PTSD, but this was tempered by my politics, which looks firstly to the working class to lead and change and certainly not to the likes of Prime Minister Gordon Brown or his more powerful master, George Bush.
It is interesting that as a colony of the US, Britain waits to see what it’s formerly powerful master wants then decides how to agree to it; PO is going to really stretch that notion of imperial dependency and may force this small island to face up to its true historical role, which is, as a small island off Europe, to which the Romans frankly could hardly see a point in, other than to claim some real estate.
Anyway, I still look to the working class for leadership to both emerge and develop but then I realised that the time frame had changed and that I was now dealing with an energy catastrophe that meant that even in a successful socialist revolution, there would be massive shortfalls and potential mass die-offs. It has been a devastating realisation and it led me to start thinking about my own skin (and those around me) and how best to protect them.
Of course, I started to actively do the things that we all do. I started speaking to my then girlfriend, someone who still cares deeply for me but was starting to find it hard to look me in the eye without flinching, seeing in me a deep sadness that defied loving, attention and humour.
My anger was omni-directional and pathetically I tried to hide my sorrow for at least seven years with alcohol and drugs, hoping that when I woke up, that some ‘solution’ beyond geology and physics had miraculously appeared, saving me for another bout of revolutionary activity against a newly restored capitalism. In a tragic way, I wanted this way of life to continue so that I could destroy it. She, rightly couldn’t live with this ‘Remote Man’ and left me, which of course made me more hopeless and angry. Hadn’t my daily, weekly, monthly rants been enough? Why couldn’t she understand that this self-pitying character in the living room was the living embodiment of Noah and that I was trying to save her and all those other worthless people who didn’t have my incredible insight!
This must have been terrible to live with and of course it’s the ‘rear view mirror’ effect that I now employ to understand how to approach people around me. Having said that, I don’t say much to those around me. I have found that the nicknames that have attached to me do not help in the explanatory rubric: ‘Doom Baby’, ‘Noah’s Knob’, ‘Jeremiah Jackass’ are a few that I have been told are used when I am barely outside of the room.
Events though have a way of backing us Peakers up and now it appears that I have more friends in the room. It is much easier to talk to others about this now as people start to vaguely recognise that there is something structurally wrong and that the problems they face may not go away on an economic cycle. ‘The Interregnum’, as I chose to call the future is going to define the next half of my life, assuming my life expectancy is still 78, something which I don’t really hold to anymore.
In the UK, there are the nascent transition towns like Lampeter and others. These are brave efforts to deal with the universal shortfall of energy and food but I fear that the millions, who will be starving and hungry in the cities, will not sit still and wait for Tescoes or Marks and Spencers to deliver their daily bread and may find the idea of marching to agricultural lands, up the road, much more attractive. If you have your little ten acre’s of woodland, who is going to defend the land when the homeless and hungry come knocking? What will your gold and precious metals do for you then? It will come down the human connections that you made before Interregnum.
I also have a more immediate fear. Part of the reason that I became a revolutionary socialist was because of the racism that I personally saw and dealt with in the 1970′s, in East London. I grew in a part of London called Stratford (where the London Olympics is ironically hoping to be held) and Nazi’s openly organised in the neighbourhood around me; poisoning everything and making my life grim at times. My brother’s and I vowed that we would never be willing victims again and that when we had the tools to fight, we would.
Now I see my sometimes stressed but often banging along multicultural London is going to be potentially split as desperate people start blaming whoever they can for what’s happening. I often think that the Jews of Germany, Austria and France had been there for over a thousand years and they were almost wiped out by the Nazi’s. In the UK, there are currently less than 3% of the total population that describes itself as ‘black, asian or other denomination’. Now I’m sure that the British National Party know this and this explains why their leader, Nick Griffin is licking his lips, looking forward to the Interregnum because they can only grow in the medium of despair and inter-communal hate; look at the 1930′s if you don’t believe that. Unfortunately, some who should know better, have been paid to sit down and talk with these Nazi’s and this is depressing because with the emphasis on population theory and Malthusian numbers, this is heading us in a dangerous direction. A barrel of oil is equivalent to 200 energy slaves I have read and heard, well nobody I know is going to go back to slavery: unintended consequences indeed!
Anyway, for a while I started to seriously think about Jamaica (Mum and Dad land) and in the last six years begun ferociously to look at what opportunities it could offer. I personally love the place to bits but it is on the margins of the world economy and already the Great Credit Unwind is seriously affecting life expectancy there. Coupled with the growing instability in the weather system (Hurricanes, Tropical Storms) and the increasing salinity in the soil as the sea levels begin their inexorably upward climb, I have accepted that life there would be hard and unforgiving, as it will be everywhere but with added twists which I cannot even face in writing. Basically, there is no escape from this and you have to look to those around you to help in beating a terrible destiny.
About a year ago I began my ‘Cool Destiny Pose’ which basically is a form of stupour where everything is ok and what will be will be. Of course this was a form of defeatism but it made me feel like this was a new species of coping. But with a two month old grand-daughter my cosy dreaming has become, once again, redundant. Funny that, how children concentrate the mind.
Anyway I now think that the friendships and bonds formed from childhood and now, will form the basis of my personal survival. Ultimately I believe in humanity’s ability to adapt in the present circumstances and that really is the best you can hope for. That second home in the Caribbean is on permanent hold.
Once again, thank you for having the political and therapeutic foresight to create this wonderful site and I can only hope that others are lucky enough to be directed here or like me stumble blindly until they find some kind of light.
UK Revolutionary Socialist
You did a really wonderful job of tracing the many emotional changes you found yourself going through over the years, and people’s reactions to you, in response. I also deeply appreciate the fact that you gave yourself some “empathetic slack” as you looked back. The rage, the numbing through drugs and alcohol, the alienation, the remoteness, the “Cool Destiny Pose” as you say. How many of us have gone through many of those same stages? You clearly have a sense of humor, as well as perspective, and we can all use more of that.
In time of economic hardship, people look for scapegoats and easy answers. You are right on the mark about this. Would you be the “mark” in Jamaica, the “wealthy Brit” who was taking up resources, despite having Jamaican parents? Will you be the ‘non-Brit’ despite having grown up there your entire life, because of your skin color? Your politics? The movie “Life and Debt” did such a good job describing how the World Bank destroyed Jamaica’s economy, including its local agriculture. Such sociopathy, those WB policies.
Ultimately, you’ve reached the same conclusion that I have, which is to dig in your heels and create a community of people who will watch your back, and actually care whether you live or die. People who know you very well, and have learned to rely on you, trust you, find you funny or clever or handy or solid. People who find it well worth their time to spend a long evening engrossed in conversation with you, and believe they had a delightful time.
Those of you across the pond appear to have something we Americans lack: a sense of class consciousness, a realization that maybe those of a similar social class do have things in common. I’ve been struck by social research here in the US that said that as immigrants moved from their poorer, working-class enclaves out to the more prosperous suburbs in a later generation, they reported being wealthier but more often plagued by depression, isolation, and alienation. Those immigrant families may have been “restrictive” or “in your business,” but they were also there to have a cup of tea with you, give you a ride, watch your child (or their grandchild.) We may well see a future where those of us who pride ourselves on “not needing anybody,” will be in much worse shape than our working-class counterparts who never had the “privilege” to be so self-determined.
I thank you for your kind words about this site, as well as your willingness to examine yourself and share that insight with all of us.