Earlier this week, we learned from Salon.com that the head of the Food Bank for New York City raised the specter of riots stemming from the upcoming cuts to the food stamp program, set to go into effect on Friday. I bring up the Salon story because a) Salon is not your typical purveyor of doom news, and b) the article reflects my belief that a nation with so many on public assistance will face tremendous challenge for economic growth and for its well being. In response to this threat, the Department of Homeland Security is spending $80 million dollars to prepare for the possibility of food stamp riots in New York:
Couple that with this piece in the New York Times, cheering on, of all things, inflation:
“Weighed against the political, social and economic risks of continued slow growth after a once-in-a-century financial crisis, a sustained burst of moderate inflation is not something to worry about,” Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard economist, wrote recently. “It should be embraced.”
Juxtapose those stories - and their implications for society - to the other branch of the "Should I Be Concerned About What's Going On In American And Getting Prepared For Same?" flowchart. I've spent a lot of mental bandwidth the last couple of days on this subject, after a lengthy discussion with my wife about the articles to which I linked here on Monday. Her comments have really helped shape my thoughts on the reasons why people don't buy into the argument that our nation faces significant challenges and our need to be prepared for them.
I'd like to share with you three distinct mindsets I believe permeate the collective thinking of those on the other side of this issue. Before I get into this, I should disclose I've never taken a psychology course in my life. I hold no special training or skill set to speak with authority on matters of the mind. I'm sharing my observations, and nothing more.
First, there's the I have no idea what you're talking about crowd. Many in this crowd are just clueless or apathetic. Others are very bright but lack any interest in following the news or current events for whatever reason. Many times, these people can tell you who is on American Idol or the current win/loss record of their favorite sports team. They can't name their U.S. Senators or provide insight to any current news story beyond something they saw on TMZ.
Next, there's the I don't trust the media; I only trust what people whom I know and respect have seen with their own eyes crowd. This section of the Venn diagram puts MSNBC, Fox News, the New York Times, Breitbart, Bill Moyers and Rush Limbaugh into the same Jeopardy trivia category of "What are news sources that lie constantly and thus should not be trusted?" This amalgamation of skeptics consumes little to no news, other than to be on the lookout for possible trends and discussion topics at work.
That brings us to our third category: Yeah, I know things are troublesome but I don't want to think about it team. These folks consume a fair amount of news and information from a variety of sources, but the prospect of our society declining keeps them from focusing on the issues and making any meaningful preparations for that possibility.
At this point in my mental gymnastics on this subject, I have two questions with which I am wrestling:
- How do we convince these people they should be more concerned about the issues we've identified?
- Should we even spend our time doing so?
Let's start with the first question. I've addressed this in the past, but just as a refresher, there are some strategies you can use when urging others to prepare. Some of these include:
- Sharing news stories with them from the main stream media. The strategy I like to employ is to share an article and then ask the person "What do you make of this?" or "I'm seeing more articles like this lately; are you?" By asking the person a question, rather than telling them what you think, you are a) giving them permission to share their opinions with you, b) demonstrating to them that you value their insights, and c) encouraging them to read a news article they might not have read on their own.
In order to get someone thinking about this stuff, it's imperative that the individual be the one to connect the dots on their own, at their own speed, and in their own way. I can't tell you how many times people have dismissed news stories I've shared with them, only to have those same people come back to me a year later and ask me questions about the same exact subject matter. You telling them the news often won't work; you sharing news articles with them and asking them to draw their own inferences and conclusions allows the individual to come to terms with what is admittedly disturbing information in their own way.
On a side note, I tend to shy away from sharing alternative media reports. Many times they are not well written or sourced. That's not so say they aren't accurate (they often are), but if you have the opportunity to use a household name media outlet, by all means do it.
- Using social media to report what you're seeing and experiencing. If a friend I trusted told me they'd experienced something troubling, I would tend to believe them. You need to be reporting what you're seeing and hearing. Media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter enable you to share your experiences widely and quickly. You never know when your observation or experience confirms something a friend heard or motivates them to take action.
- Work your preparedness efforts - and your reasons for preparing - into your daily conversation. Right now, there are many of you shaking your head or even talking into your monitor, telling me what a horrible idea this is. If you're not comfortable doing this, then don't. I make it no secret (obviously) that I am doing this; I do so in large part because I feel called to share my experiences with the hope that it helps someone else who is thinking along the same lines.
Many of you are change leaders, whether you know it or not. There are folks who respect you, your family, and your opinions. If they hear that you're concerned and are taking steps to address the possible perils we face, they may take that as validation of their own concerns and decide to take action, too. Never underestimate the sphere of your own influence. (The corollary to that is never overestimate your own importance.)
The second question above is more difficult for me. I must admit there are many days I think I should stop blogging, stop Facebooking about this stuff, and just prepare on my own, giving nothing back to the body of prepper knowledge. There's plenty of information out there for you. You don't need me telling you what or where it is.
I don't have any good answers for this question. I do, however, have some thoughts for those of you (or your spouses) who think my concern about the future is unwarranted.
For starters, don't be fooled into thinking things will always turn out well for our country. Yes, we survived the Great Depression and a Civil War and World Wars 1 and 2. But there are two interesting phenomena that applied to all of those milestones in our nation's history.
Notice that GDP growth preceded these events. Look how unemployment can be really low before an event (the Great Depression) or really high (World War 2). In other words, the current economic conditions we're experiencing may or may not be good indicators of what's to come. Simply because we are in a period of relative peace, improving unemployment figures, and climbing stock market does not mean we'll remain on that course or avoid future world wars, depressions or civil unrest.
Perhaps more importantly is the human toll these events had on our nation. How many died during:
- the Civil War? Between 650,000 and 850,000 people. That's about 2.7% of the 1860 population according the U.S. Census, using the 850,000 figure as the numerator.
- World War I? Around 5.1 million world wide. The total casualty count for the war is over 22 million, which is just over 50% of the total number of mobilized forces.
- the Great Depression? One Russian researcher puts the death toll stemming from disease and malnutrition around 3.5 million.
- World War II? U.S. servicemen deaths came in around 415,000; the world wide figures for both military and civilian deaths from this conflict is staggering. I've seen some numbers north of 60 million.
These events from which we "recovered" came at a extraordinarily high human cost. And so I don't know that it's wise for us to look back and say "Well, we overcame X, Y and Z, so anything we face in the future is manageable as well." While the U.S. may very well survive such events in the future, the financial and human cost will be astronomical. Just for some scale, note that 2.7% of our current population - the same percentage of people who died during the Civil War - is 8.5 million people (using today's Census numbers). That's roughly the entire population of New Jersey.
In short, just because we will eventually recover doesn't mean we shouldn't take steps now to help soften the blow we might face in the future.
I may look back one day and say my blogging and preparing were a colossal waste of time and money. I freely admit I am taking that risk, and that the fear of being wrong about all of this isn't squelched by even the most dire predictions of doom and gloom in the main stream media.
Yet when I look at the data - not each point individually - but as a whole, I see:
- A powerful nation with an ever growing debt to GDP ratio;
- Which relies on a fiat currency;
- To fund massive entitlement programs which are unsustainable by any calculation;
- Resulting in class warfare;
- Fueled by an ever encroaching government telling those who shoulder the lion's share of the tax burden that "they aren't paying their fair share;"
- Prompting our law enforcement agencies to purchase massive amounts of ammunition and military-style equipment;
- In order to provide public safety of citizens whose civil liberties continue to erode at alarming rates;
- Leading to a movement to brand Christian evangelicals, Libertarians, Ron Paul supporters, and the nation's founding fathers as terrorists.
I don't know how anyone looks at this and doesn't walk away saying "what the hell?" And yet that's the situation in which we find ourselves.
Here's the good news. And yes, I mean that sincerely. Do you know how this story turns out in the end? No, you don't. And nor do I. Because we are writing the story's ending every day. The pages of the Book of The Future remain blank. We get to decide how this ends. It's not pre-determined for us.
And that, friends, is why we must push on. We must continue to alarm others and equip them with the information and knowledge they need to join us in our efforts. We must continue to prepare for hard times with the hope they never come. We must continue to engage our political leaders and insist they set us on a better course than the one we're on now - a course that maximizes freedom and liberty. And dare I say it - we must continue to seek God's wisdom and guidance in our efforts to do so.
Be the leader you want others to read about in the future. That is our calling.