Addressing the Shutdown and Other Current Events

I’m reluctant to wade into politics and current affairs on this blog, but both of my primary topics this evening are somewhat related to its themes, so here we go…

I Made It!!

A year ago, early in 2018, I had – for lack of a better word – a premonition. It was as though I was holding a book about my life in my hands and although I hadn’t read all the way through to the end, someone had spoiled the ending for me and I knew for certain how it would end. I had a strong feeling – a certainty, really – that I would not live to see 2019.

It just occurred to me that I did, in fact, survive 2018. I came close to not surviving it. Can’t forget that I nearly bought the farm last fall. But I survived that accident and survived the year. Yay me!

I confess to being a little bit disappointed. I don’t have a death wish or anything, it’s just that I don’t like being wrong in general. Not that I would have been around to brag about it if I had been right.

Why do I mention this? Well, I’m about to make some more predictions later in this post. I want to demonstrate that I am willing to hold myself accountable if I make a prediction that turns out to be wrong. Since I was wrong about my 2018 prediction, you might be inclined to ignore my prediction for 2019. But this year’s prediction affects everyone, not just me. And I’m a lot more certain about this prediction. Disregard my warning at your own peril.

The Government Shut-Down

I think Donald Trump was right about one thing… The shut-down that we’re experiencing right now is likely to go on for several months, if not years.

Shutdown
Dumbass.

Trump is stubborn and narcissistic. He’d let the country burn around him if it served his own personal benefit. Mitch McConnell seems a willing accomplice, so don’t count on the Congress to persuade Trump to change his mind.

The Democrats are equally stubborn, and – I believe – rightly so. They have no political incentive to negotiate with the President. He owned the government shut-down on live television and the overwhelming majority of Americans took him at his word. Even if the nightmare scenario that I’m about to describe takes place, it won’t change anything politically. It will change things in other ways, but the blame won’t shift.

Ironically, there are strategic political maneuvers that the President could employ to put Democrats on the defensive and change public opinion about which side is to blame for the shut-down. Trump (supposedly the master negotiator) is too stupid to know how to do it on his own. What I find truly remarkable is that none of the more politically-savvy members of the Republican party have yet told him how to do it.

For Your Consideration

This first video contains a gut-wrenching interview with an unpaid TSA worker, and I encourage you to watch the video the whole way through. But pay particular attention to the conversation Velshi & Ruhle have after the interview.

Next, watch this video.

Global Catastrophe Imminent

I have long predicted that humanity would be faced with a global catastrophe that would bring the way of life we know and are familiar with to an end.

For all of our strengths, our civilization has a number of vulnerabilities and weak spots. We don’t generally think of our society as being fragile because it has endured for as long as it has. But when you consider the number of ways we could be brought down, it’s sort of astonishing that something big hasn’t happened already.

We could be undone by nuclear war or a viral pandemic. A coronal mass ejection has the potential to fry our electronic infrastructure.

But I think the two most likely candidates are a catastrophe resulting from climate change or a catastrophe resulting from a collapse of the global economy. I’ve just never been sure which one would affect us first.

Now, I think there’s pretty strong evidence to suggest that it will be the economic collapse that hits us first.

Collapse Inevitable

I’m not an economist, but it seems self-evident that a collapse is inevitable. The global economy is based on debt. Countries owe debts to other countries. Corporations and banks owe debts to other corporations and banks. Individuals owe debts to all of the above. It’s a messy and intricate web of debt.

A break in this web has a ripple effect. When a debtor fails to pay their debt, they make it harder for the entity/entities that were expecting to be paid to pay back their own debts. Defaults on debts happen all the time, and the reason we haven’t seen a global economic collapse is because the system has a form of insurance against defaults called “interest”. Interest is the mechanism by which lenders earn a profit for their lending practices, and it is also the mechanism by which lenders build capital and accumulate so that they are not reliant on 100% repayment of debt to meet their own financial obligations.

However, this model is not sustainable in the long term. As more entities default on their debt payments, interest rates will continue to rise to alleviate the pain felt by defaults. Higher interest rates, in turn, cause more entities to default. Eventually, no amount of interest will be sufficient to counter all of the defaults. When a large enough section of the economy falters, the whole thing falls apart.

Shutdown-Induced Collapse

A prolonged government shutdown is not necessary to cause a collapse of the global economy. The global economy could collapse by some other triggering event, or it could collapse on its own, under the weight of this unsustainable model.

But a prolonged government shutdown is a pretty good way to induce a global economic collapse. 800,000 federal workers are not being paid right now. That’s only about 0.2% of the American population.

But as Velshi and Ruhle pointed out after the interview, the federal workers are not the only ones being affected by the shutdown. Their landlords will stop receiving rent money. Utility companies will stop receiving money for their bills. Credit card companies will face even more defaults and more customers declaring bankruptcy. Local businesses will see a decline in sales as people pinch pennies to survive. Those businesses will start laying off their workers to match the decrease in business. That’s more people who can’t pay their landlords, utilities, and credit cards. Those people will also shop less, causing even further layoffs.

In normal times, we wouldn’t have to worry about this. Political pressure would induce one party to cave and end the government shutdown. But these are not ordinary times. Trump is stubborn. The Democrats lack incentive. This government shutdown could very well last months or even years. And as more and more of the economy begins to buckle, the more and more likely it becomes that the ripple effect will induce a global economic collapse.

I’ve long suspected that the global economy will collapse. With each passing day of this shutdown with no end in sight, I become increasingly convinced that this is how it happens. We may very well be witnessing the beginning of the end of our way of life.

If I’m right, a global economic collapse is going to make the Great Depression of 1929 look mild by comparison.

Depending on the Economy

In spite of my predictions, I am not a survivalist. I don’t spend my waking hours paranoid about apocalyptic events. I don’t stockpile provisions or horde weapons.

My reasons for wanting to get off the grid and become a legitimate drifter have nothing to do with my fears for our future or a desire to prepare for the worst. I’m just sick of living up to everyone else’s expectations for how to live my life. I’ve found a lifestyle that I enjoy living, and I want to live that lifestyle indefinitely. Simple as that.

Wake me up when this nonsense is over.

But a minimalist lifestyle does have its perks. The more distance I can put between myself and traditional society, the less I have to depend on our economic structure. By living a very basic, simple life, things like a recession, a depression, or an economic collapse won’t have as big of an impact on my life because I will have weaned myself off of depending on the economy to function.

If I don’t have a car, then the erratic price of gas will mean nothing to me. If I don’t have a home, then rent hikes will mean nothing to me. If the global economy collapses, I’ll have an easier time coping with the new reality because I will have become less dependent on the economy.

I didn’t set out to become a minimalist or a drifter to prepare for an economic collapse or any other global catastrophe. It’s just a perk.

Marie Kondo

Maybe you are a survivalist. Maybe you are paranoid about zombies or some other global catastrophe. Maybe you’re wondering if minimalism is right for you.

Then along comes someone like Marie Kondo saying that you should “ideally keep fewer than 30 books”, and you completely disregard minimalism as some sort of radical lifestyle or fringe quackery.

I never heard of Marie Kondo before this week, but her comments about 30 books sparked outrage and her quote appeared as a meme that flooded my Facebook timeline.

I still don’t know who Marie Kondo is or what her deal is, nor do I care. I have no interest in attacking her. I only care that this quote has been used to give minimalism a bad name, and as a minimalist, I feel it is important that I speak up and set the record straight.

Minimalism, Clarified

If you think that minimalism is a radical lifestyle, then you have rather missed the point of minimalism entirely. It is not a lifestyle. It is not an achievement. It is not a goal. It is not something to aspire to.

Minimalism is a tool.

Let me repeat that, because this is important… Minimalism is a tool.

Minimalism is NOT about counting the number of things you own. Minimalism is NOT a contest to see who can own the least number of things.

Minimalism is about de-cluttering your life to make room for “important things” and “things of value”. Things are important or have value when they serve a utilitarian purpose or when they bring us joy.

The things that serve utilitarian function in my life or bring me joy will be different from the things that serve utilitarian function inf your life or bring you joy. These differences will emerge from our unique values and passions. Therefore, minimalism for me will look very different from minimalism for you.

When minimalists talk about getting rid of useless things to make room for important things, the “useless things” are usually material possessions and the “important things” are usually intangibles like health, relationships, saving time, and saving money. This is what leads to the common perception that minimalism is akin to a Spartan lifestyle.

This is not necessarily the case. Sometimes, minimalists get rid of material possessions to make room for other material possessions.

Some minimalists – by their own decision – choose to live a Spartan lifestyle because that lifestyle happens to align with their values and passions. Some people are minimalists, but still own a lot of stuff. Again, because that stuff happens to align with their values and passions.

Let me give you an example. As you know, I am – above all else – a haunter and nomad.

Minimalism as a haunter means that I get rid of stuff (and avoid buying new stuff) that diverts space and money away from buying and possessing the tools, materials, and supplies that I need for my craft. There is nothing Spartan about my workshop! My tools and supplies align with my passion as a haunter.

As a nomad, however, I do crave a Spartan lifestyle. My material possessions (including my haunt craft supplies) physically weigh me down and interfere with my mobility. A significant lack of material possessions aligns with my values and passions as a nomad.

Now, my particular situation is unusual. My desires as a nomad are in conflict with my desires as a haunter. That’s a conflict that I am forced to contend with, and as regular readers of this blog know – I’ve already chosen to proceed down a path that favors one over the other. I didn’t share this with you to

The reason I illustrated the contrasts between minimalism as a nomad and minimalism as a haunter was not to showcase my own conflict, but to demonstrate how minimalism is different for every person.

So don’t let anyone tell you that you need to own fewer than 30 books. That’s ridiculous. If you get utility or joy out of books, then own 40. Own 60. Own a thousand.

The same is true of any other possession of yours. Keep what has value. Get rid of what doesn’t.

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