I have been doing a lot of reading lately about life during the great depression. There are two completely different perspectives. In some books, The Grapes Of Wrath for example, the depression is depicted as a horrible time with the hunger, the loss and the deprivation given the face of real people. In other books like The Worst Hard Time, it is portrayed much more as a time of hardship but also one of good times, a time many people consider the best of the lives. I expect both perspectives are accurate based on individual experience. No one event is the same for all people at all times.
This led to a conversation with my husband about the future, what we expect to happen and how it is likely to impact us and more importantly, how it will impact our children and their children. Neither of us expect the the end of the world tomorrow. We do expect a gradual, or maybe not so gradual, reduction in our standard of living. We expect energy to get dramatically more expensive and food to tag along. We expect jobs to become harder to find and benefits like retirement and healthcare to no longer be a given. We believe we are dreadfully vulnerable to a great many scenarios that would change the trajectory of collapse to a far more dramatic shift from one life style to another. Any international conflict that interrupts our energy supplies is a game changer for food and heat for the average family. Rationing may be achieved by price with a lot of people faced with the choice between food and gas, mortgage or health care for the first time in their lives. That is already happening to many but it could easily become the norm. We prepared so we are able to feed our children while we transition from the life we now enjoy to one that is very different.
One of the major differences between the way Bruce and I think about these changes and that of some of our friends and even our own kids is our histories. Bruce and I both grew up poor. Not poor like I didn’t get a car for graduation but poor like no electricity or running water. Poor as in a true problem putting food on the table. Bruce was country poor and while young, I was city poor but we both come from families that knew how to make do and do without. It was not always fun but it was an education that has served us well.
We can envision a life without so much stuff and not be frightened by it. It isn’t necessarily worse, just different. If our lives had been defined by excess, that might not be the case. Sometimes I look around and marvel at all I have been blessed with and I could weep with gratitude. Most of the world would consider me wealthy. I have a lovely home in a safe community. I have water that gushes from the tap, heat that comes with a flick of my wrist. If I get sick, health care is a phone call away. My pantry is full. My land produces. My kids are safe. No one in my family is fighting in a war. I can go to church if I wish, vote as I please, say nasty things about elected officials and the police will not come bashing in my door in the night. My life is charmed.
I am not sure where I am heading with this rant. I love my life. I love sitting on my deck, watching my kids splash in the pool but I know the pool is luxury I could live without. I love lots of luxuries but my life is not dependant upon them. Being poor, even for a while, helps make clear what is necessity and what is luxury. In a different world, a peak oil world, this is a lesson that will be learned by all.