from 09 oct 2005|
blue vol IV, #24
(Advice for Newcomers)
by Robert Denner
So, why all of a sudden isn't it our God given right to inherit and in turn leave behind a better country?
As most on this list will have figured out by now, it's because for the past 60 years or more, the American paradigm has been slowly shifted on us. What a "better life" used to be is vastly different than it is now. A better life was saving and prudence, and forbearance. You did this so that those that come after you would have more. I don't know if it's human nature that seems to dictate that when humans have too much, they squander it? Kind of like the saying "the surest way to be late, is to have too much time on your hands". The post peak oil saying may go like this - "the surest way to destroy a society is to have too good of a society".
But I digress. The point is, is that we have all been sold a bill of goods that says, a better life is a bigger, nicer car. A better life is a 3500sqft home in the "burbs". A better life is 10 credit cards and a 100k line of credit at the bank.
And on and on it goes.
The paradigm shift that has occurred is that we have become programmed to think that savings and prudence are boring and stupid, and immediate gratification is everything.
To those thinking about college, I would never dissuade a person from attaining knowledge, but how you gain this knowledge is of the utmost importance. In days gone by, it was very costly to attend a University, and it was meant to be that way. Most "smart" people in the old days learned it the hard way. They went to libraries and sought out those with knowledge and became their pupils of sorts. If you were lucky and had the money, you saved and went to a University. Now it's everyone's God given right to go to a University. And the price of admission for this newest generation is economic slavery. We have kids coming out of college with 50k of student loan debt and 20k in credit card debt. All of this for a degree that will, in most cases, net them at best 35k a year for the first 5 years of employment. Now here is the paradigm shift as it pertains to you. That 35k may have been enough 5 years ago, but it isn't anymore. With costs rising, that 50k in loan debt and the racked up Visa is a noose around your neck. The paradigm shift for you means to use your youth and energy to rethink your way out of this box. I can't tell you what the effect on you personally will be, but I can tell you that 75% of college graduates (or more) are graduating with record debt levels and record employment opportunities (in the bad direction). This is as plain to see as the nose on your face, yet the paradigm tells you, YOU MUST DO THIS!! Go to college, go into debt, and you will be rewarded.
Well the paradigm changed on you, and no one decided to tell you.
My advice is this: If you haven't already started college, don't!! Unless you can, with very good odds, predict that you can do it with cash only, and will end up with great employment opportunities at the end.
My advice would be, put your efforts towards something else. There is a huge need for those who can DO, in this society. Machinist, carpenters, and mechanics are needed in this society also. These are considered menial and beneath a lot of college bound people. But, they are well paid, and require a minimal amount of money to learn (compared to a University). If you are in the fourth year of your degree and have already racked up 50k in school debt, and have maxed out the Visa's my advice is to go ahead and finish, but realize what has happened to your paradigm.
Stop your bleeding. Stop using any form of debt to finish your degree, even if this means adding a few more semesters to your finish time. Find a job now, to help pay your way through. Swallow your pride now, so that you will have some food to swallow later. Get a couple jobs at the local burger joint, and taco stand. Halve your classes and slash your lifestyle (what little you probably had).
If you can't do this now, while you are only answerable to yourself, think about how hard it will be in two years? Think about following the paradigm to the next level. Because it is telling you to get married and buy a house, get a new car, have a few kids, etc, etc. Think about how hard it will be to change then?? By paying your way through to the end, it will teach you a valuable lesson about a future of dwindling resources. Because the first casualty of peak- oil will be the economy. And having to do with a lot less money and no credit cards is in everyone's future, so get used to it now, while it's still a choice.
Once you graduate, it's up to you, not the paradigm, to choose where you go from there. A year from now, things may not be that bad yet (but assuredly getting harder). Set your goals a little more realistically. Try and use your paid for knowledge to get a job of course, but understand that the market for a Communications major or a Psychology degree is getting pretty thin. You may have to accept the fact that you just blew 50k on a major you won't ever use. Prepare mentally now for that fact. If you land a great job at your dream firm, DOUBLE BONUS!! But if not, don't sit with your thumb you know where. Get over it, and start thinking outside the box.
What else are you good at, that you can start making money now?
The point is to start getting your head around all of this. That is where the change must come. Once you accept the loss of everything you thought was going to happen, it gets much easier to adapt (last stage of Lise's stages of peak oil mourning).
For the older peak oil learner, things are a lot harder.
You were made a promise in a time when the paradigm told you that if you work hard, save, put money in the bank and payoff your house you will be OK. Well it turns out the paradigm lied to you also. And this lie is way worse for you. You may have been promised a pension from your big company (and still may be receiving it). Prepare yourself mentally now, that the pension is gone. Because as companies find it harder and harder to maintain current operations, pensions will be the first casualty. I can't imagine the fear that one statement must provoke for some people. You have saved and persevered all these years, with the thought that this would be your payoff. And to have it so cruelly pulled away at the end, has to be hard to swallow.
Like the above college person, you must prepare for a complete change in paradigms. If 10 years from now, your company is still paying your pension and health care, that's double bonus time!! But, you must get your head around the fact, that statistically speaking, this won't happen. The only way that the big companies are going to survive through this stage of extreme prices and energy shortages, is to dump its pension liability (among a lot of other drastic things). Like your younger college counterparts, you have a few things going for you, that a lot of others don't. You have physical freedom and you have independence. You may be wheelchair bound, or have other physical problems, but you answer to yourselves and yourselves only. Children are probably grown and gone, and will probably fight you, if you take any of the advice I'm about to give. But, you are your own PERSON... What your kids think of you is of little consequence. You are free.
If you are elderly and are counting on getting your pension till you die, consider going to your company now, and asking for a buyout of your pension, while the money is still there. Something drastic like a 50 cent on the dollar buyout of your likely pension, may be accepted as a way to cut their future liability to you. Consider selling your house and moving closer to relatives you think you could count on in the future. Consider this, if you know relatives who are struggling financially who have kids - see about becoming a sitter for them. Trust me on this, if they have two kids, and both of them are working, they are paying somewhere north of $900 a month in child care costs.
Use your free time to learn skills that maybe useful in the future. Sewing and stitching seem like good bets. Or for the men, small home repairs. Young whipper snappers such as myself, don't have a clue as to most small home repairs. Like getting a door to stop sticking. Or the proper way to join two water pipes together. Or a thousand other little pieces of knowledge that one acquires from 75 years of living. In the old days, the elderly were highly respected and valuable. I see absolutely no reason why this won't be the case in the future.
Oil has substituted for the knowledge of our peers for over 60 years. We were able to throw away the wisdom of that generation. Why fix this or that, when you can run down to Home Depot and replace it. My father-in-law is a goldmine of now 'useless' information - but his ability to fix things, and think of new ways to compensate for his disability (he had polio as a boy), is truly heartening. There are a hundred other ways to compensate for your perceived weaknesses.
The point for all, is get out there and try.
The old paradigm is dying, and a new one is being forming. What the new paradigm will tell us? I'm not sure. But I know it will be formed by both young and old alike. As the saying goes "power hates a vacuum", and make no mistake, a world without a paradigm is a vacuum. What rushes in to fill that vacuum is up to all of us. Does that vacuum get filled by our worst daemons or our best angels? Don't know the answer to that obviously. But I am hopeful. The people I read on so many of these boards gives me heart.
Individually we don't have all the answers, but as a group, we can hopefully fill the coming void with a hopeful future.
If you actually read this far, thanks for reading
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