Here Thar Be Monsters!

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17.10.10

Buddy Can You Spare A Roop?

Well, it's a foregone conclusion at this point. We are headed for the deep chasm of The Greater Depression. Them that run things (PTB) have spent decades piling fraud upon fraud, and now comes the time when the piper must be paid.

Some of us have parents or grandparents who remember the Great Depression of the 1930s. My parents were children, but certainly they had tales of doing without. For instance, my father didn't own a pair of shoes until he was in his teens, being the middle of eight children. My great aunt's stories were even more harrowing (she came to Texas in a covered wagon at the turn of the 20th century. Even in the 1960s, she was still saving newspaper for fuel and jelly jars for glasses. The people who survived that era learned to recycle, reuse and make do with less.

Today there are generations of Americans who have never known hardship. They expect electricity to always be available. They expect drinkable water to come out of the taps. They can't imagine walking further than the garage and gas pumps that always have fuel for their cars. They have been so spoiled by modern convenience that they have buried themselves in Facebook and video games to the point where they couldn't cook a meal that didn't need a microwave or grow a tomato plant to save their lives (literally). Can you imagine the panic the day the hairdries stop and the malls close?

Here in the "Third World," people are quite a bit smarter and better prepared for economic disaster. Here in Indonesia, many people over 30 have grown up with little or nothing, in much the same fashion as my parents. I have spent time in villages here where water is carried from a central well and the toilet is little more than a hole cut in the floor. Even in middle-class homes here, many people stil bathe with a bucket and ladle, and most take cold baths, as hot water heaters for an entire house are unheard of. In other words, people here live their daily lives ready for anything.

When it come to being prepared -- disasters, economic catastrophes, etc. -- Indonesians got it going on!

The average Indonesian, and by that I mean a very large number, live life well prepared for just about anything. Water storage, generators, food stores, patio gardens, and even small livestock are mainstays, even among city dwellers. Why, on my lane alone, I count five chickens and the occasional goat is not unusual right here in the middle of Jakarta.

My house alone has over 500 gallons of non-potable water in various tanks, with some connected to a rather ingenious gravity-fed system, with a roof-top reservoir that directly feeds the house, and a ground-level tank that acts both as back-up and overflow. Each bathroom has a 25-gallon cistern built-in, plus I have an additional 50-gallon tank. The kitchen has a tank, there is one under the stairs and another next to the washing machine on the second floor. None of that is unusual, although the design of the gravity system is pretty darned unique, from what I have seen so far.

Most Indonesian households have a bulk supply of rice, among other things. Of course, an Indonesian could starve to death with a full belly if they didn't get their daily rice fix. Most keep a substantial supply of soy sauce and cooking oil on hand. There is also a week or so of drinking water on hand, though some have filters and keep tanks full around the house.

There is no central gas lines to provide fuel for cooking, so every house has a stove that hooks up to a 75-liter propane tank, which in an average house is about a month's supply. Most households I have seen have at least two tanks on hand, while some I have seen have as many as siz at all times. With frugal use, even two could supply cooking gas for up to six months.

A good number of households have small generators, and the design of the electrical system here makes using them fairly straight-forward. Since a decent generator costs about US$300, many homes can't afford one, but many can. When the power goes out, as it frequently does here, the machines can be heard firing up all over the neighborhood. One simply plugs the generator output into any wall socket, and it will power that circuit as long as the gasoline supply holds out.

A great number of people I see have some sort of food growing around the house. Being the tropics, there are fruit trees, of course, but it's common for people to have chickens, goats and even fish farms on their front porches. Quite a few have edible plants and produce growing, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and spices. In normal times, these are simply side-businesses to make larder money for Momma's household needs, but in stressful times, they obviously become food sources and barter items.

Amost everyone here has some tradeable skill. Many folks I see are capable of making textiles or tailoring, others can do masonry or carpentry. Wiring and plumbing are good, but without electricity, that doesn't help much. I am always amazed at how many tools some folks can make out of materials lying around the place.

Indonesians are wizzes at recycling. Almost everything gets used at least twice, if not more times. Plastic containers, glass jars, scrap cloth, and any other usable material will get used and reused many times. Even many household items have multiple uses. It's not unusual to see a man picking through the trash every day to find items that can be reused or reconditioned. There's also someone who goes through the neighborhood regularly, buying junk and broken items that are then repaired and resold.

This is not to say that a city of 12 million people doesn't generate a mountain of trash, but the situation would be a lot worse, I think, if there weren't people making use of a good amount of the waste.

Indonesian homes are a marvel of aero-dynamic design. Using a system of vents and transoms, the average home 'breathes.' Just opening a window will cause a fairly good breeze to circulate through the house, generally from bottom to top to carry heat out. This is not unique to modern architecture, either. Even 1,000-year-old houses had a design that easily captured the tropical sea breezes and funneled them through the house for natural cooling.

When, not if, the current paradigm collapses, I will lay odds and Indonesians to be better survivors than the average American. Americans have become so spoiled and so trained to rely on centralized supplies of daily needs that they have forgotten how to make do without. It's a given that the average American couldn't forage for food. Most young folk today don't even know what a food plant looks like outside of the grocery store. Urban areas have long outlawed even small livestock like chickens. Most folks can't imagine trudging more than a couple of houses from their front door, much less walking up to a mile in one direction and carrying large loads back. Even in areas prone to earthquakes or hurricanes, many households have little more than a couple of extra batteries in the tool drawer by way of preparation.

It's a bit late now to start preparing, although buying tanks to store quantities of water is a viable option, even now. The problem is, that if the coming Depression is truly as bad as it appears, then preparation for weeks, even months, is insufficient. Having the ability to grow food and do things without electricity (or having a supply that is independent) requires careful planning. Even getting skills like being able to start a fire without matches takes practice, and is much easier to learn when you are not desperate.

Americans, for all their bluster and saber-rattling, are quite vulnerable. They have built a society that is intricately interdependent on multiple supply lines that, if cut, will leave many panicked.

There is a rather easy solution. Find a few friends and family that you trust implicitely and together buy some good farmland. Plenty available right now. Try to get a mix of people with various skills and talents. Pool resources to install a well and solar power. Look for land with trees, if possible, since that is a prime supply of fuel and building materials. Get some farm animals, not just for food, but for work. Place the whole thing in a perpetual trust, so there's no inheritance taxes and the trustees even serve as an ad hoc government. Buy things like looms and knitting needles (might have to bone up on the skills a bit).

Why people don't do this, I don't know, because even if the worst never comes and our house of cards never collapses, your group can share the place as a weekend get-away and place to teach the kids about things like farming and self-reliance. And who will argue with the biennial slaughter of a cow that stocks several freezers with good, organic, non-GM meat? What do you have to loose, right?

Whether you are prepared or not, the Greater Depression is coming. Americans can stand to take a few lessons from the "Third World."

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