Things You Don’t Hope For
Good moroning gang, and good luck keeping your sanity during today’s second iteration of the opening day of the mad holiday shopping season. Hi to all who participated in the liveblog thingie :) and apologies for the way the connections kept dropping. This is what I get for using “municipal wifi”, err, borrowing bandwidth from whatever neighbor forgot to secure it that day.
By now you will have probably heard about the Wal*Mart temp worker who was trampled to death in a Long Island store, on Black Friday, as he attempted to secure the doors.
As expected, there’s no dearth of internet commentary about this event.
The comment that felt the most poignant to me was one from the Housing Bubble Blog, and it went something like this:
“If this is what folks do for $300 laptops, and in full view of the security cameras, what does it say about how they’ll behave when they’re broke and unable to buy food?”
Even worse, this was on Long Island, where people pay big money to live so that they supposedly don’t have to deal with the face-to-face brutality and crime of living in Brooklyn or one of the boroughs. Did any of the first 200 people through the door ride there on public transit? Did any of them not have single-family homes, mortgages, and personal automobiles?
There is this strange perception, on the part of new visitors to CFN & sometimes ZK, that just because we discuss various aspects of doom here we must secretly be wishing for said doom to manifest in real life. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we’re doing, instead, is discussing the likelihood of unwished-for events to take place.
For example I would only be too happy to ascribe good characteristics to everyone else and to think that, no, mob behavior such as the Black Friday trampling cannot take place in this sleepy, quiet little bedroom community outside Boston. But I can’t realistically do that, not after having already seen here manifestations of similar behaviors in different settings.
A friend recently told me about an encounter he had with a woman I suppose we’d call a stereotypical crazed soccer mom in an SUV. The friend was traveling on foot through an urban area. The soccer mom blew through a stop sign, and would have hit the guy if he’d been in the crosswalk. As fate would have it, her destination was nearby and his route took him there around the time she was getting out of the truck. When he told her there was a stop sign back there, she shrugged and ignored him.
My own local experience was safer but not much different. In the morning, here, the soccer moms make the streets a downright dangerous place to be as they form angry rolling flash mobs, each trying to deliver her precious little Bratleigh to school on time.
Whatever love these SUV drivers may be capable of feeling seems directed only to themselves and to their kids. The predominant attitude seems to be something like, “Fcuk everyone else – get out of my way!” And it’s by no means limited to SUV drivers either. Thus do these ostensibly “loving moms” (or dads) make the public streets hellishly dangerous to all others during certain hours.
There is a lesson here for us, only the lesson seems almost as invisible to most as were the simplest rules of common sense during the era of the dot-bomb stock bubble and the real estate bubble that followed. One of the most common of these rules is something like, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” There ya go, words to live by. Another one, less commonly-known in the present era, is to limit one’s rent or mortgage payment to no more than 1/3 of the household income. Accompanying that one is the old dictum about not purchasing property costing more than 2.5x~3x household income, and if you can do that, put 20% down and get the lowest fixed rate you can bargain out of them .. with its part2 being something about how if you can’t save the 20% down within 5 years, you’ve probably got no business buying property anyway.
On the good days, I like to think I could get active in local politics and perhaps campaign for some use of the otherwise excellent unused space here, in and around town, as community gardening space. Of course I would try to refrain from telling them about how our industrial way of life is fast approaching an end, and with it the cheap and easy access to distantly-grown staple foods, and with it the whole industrial-scale farming scheme, but then they’d probably just label me a kook of sorts. (Well, that’s not much harm, as folks around here certainly have no problem getting eccentric.) In fact there is some excellent open land right in the center of town, where a 100m-wide east-west boulevard-like space has excellent sun/rain exposure and only a few roads going through it or parking lots along it. Such would be a fantastic place for community gardens.
But then I stop and wonder how badly the Zombie Virus has infected the folks living here or passing through here on the way to homes further west. If the infection is already bad enough that the ostensibly “loving parent” types driving their kids to school act murderously to everyone else, and if folks out here engage in the same sort of mad shopping riots-in-all-but-name that took the life of that LI temp worker, who’s to say that community gardening is even an option here? What’s to stop any of the infected ones from climbing out of their cars, helping themselves to a hatful of tomatoes or a few ears of corn or that lovely squash, and motoring back home for supper? Even if there was anyone local on hand to witness the crime, would the perp even care?
I don’t want to fall into the consumerist trap of thinking that I’ve somehow “got” to purchase a private property large enough for my own gardening projects. It wouldn’t happen anyway at my income level, especially relative to the still-very-high cost of land around here. I’ve seen the stats on “home moanership”. Put it this way: in 1910 the home ownership rate was around 20%. Most people rented, while the well-to-do owned. Due to a series of unfortunately ill-conceived social programs, the home ownership rate has been vastly increased beyond any reasonable sustainability. But fine, even if we’re going back to lower home ownership rates and higher renting rates, how will most of us do our gardening? (I’m not against moving in with the right friends/relatives or into a co-op mobile home part or into an intentional community or whatever. It’s all good.)
I’ve got good friends who tell me weekly that the Mad Max future (aka Children of Men future for you younger folks) is bearing down on us with all the savage intensity of the Humongous and his legion of headbangers. Seeing as how the future hasn’t happened yet and is still subject to change, I can’t say they’re seeing things wrong or that they lack an appreciation for the cruder aspects of mob behavior under desperate circumstances. Again, if all it takes is the prospect of $300 laptops to trample a man to death, what’s going to happen when motor fuel is unavailable, paper money has become worthless, and the supermarkets can’t get regular food deliveries anymore?
We ain’t seen nothing yet.
But if you think anyone here actually wants this to happen, you’re deeply deluded.