Everyone knows that certain things are assured. The Pacific Northwest of America will be ravaged by an earthquake. A nuclear conflagration will happen someday between warring countries, although the superpowers will probably not be involved, at least at first. Economic collapse when bubbles pop will affect stock markets and currency values will fluctuate wildly. We know this. Nobody knows when, but we know these things will happen.
When they do, daily life will become much more difficult for most people. Even if there is no such thing as a “World War” again, regional conflicts have a way of affecting other countries in and out of the region, in ways that are unpredictable and potentially catastrophic.
As I write this, Venezuela’s currency is almost worthless and Argentina has just suffered another devastating devaluation. Even if you don’t know anyone in either place, these things could affect you. If you’re the adventurous type, you could grab all the dollars you can get your hands on and go there looking for bargains. There’s no way of knowing if that’s a good idea or not. The people in those countries are as desperate as they are angry, and just because their currency is weak doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Chances are you won’t make out like a bandit, but you may meet several bandits during your stay.
If there is a disaster, no one will know what to do for a long while. “Experts” will expound, but they will just be making stuff up. Blowing smoke. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in 1914, no one could have had any idea it would lead to the deaths of almost twenty million people, nor that troop movements would spread influenza worldwide, killing another fifty to one hundred million, or three percent of the world’s population at the time.
Nobody had the slightest idea this chain of causality would come together, and we still can’t predict complex chains of events.
So what can we do?
I’m not going to suggest you stockpile gold, or food, or ammunition. I’m simply going to urge you to remain flexible and open. If you’re not where you want to be, doing what you want to do, make the changes now rather than later. Making changes later may be impossible. You may find yourself stuck.
I was in Argentina when the government secretly devalued the peso by removing its parity with the dollar. One day you could withdraw your choice of dollars or pesos from Argentine banks. Many of these banks had names that sounded foreign, like Bank of America or Hibernia. But they were really Argentine banks. When they changed the law without notice, all those in power knew it was coming and had safely withdrawn their dollars before hand and sent them overseas. People who trusted their government and their banks had a rude awakening.
Then the banks declared a “holiday.” By the time most people could get their money out, it had been devalued by 75%. There were long lines just to withdraw enough pesos to live on for one day.
Governments this unscrupulous usually don’t telegraph their actions ahead of time. The best way to win a fight or a war, for that matter, is to employ the element of surprise. There is a war going on all the time, between the rich and the poor. Usually the rich win, because they have all the options. But every once in a while, they are surprised by revolution. Nikolai Ceaucescu of Romania was giving a speech when the crowd started to boo him. A few days later he and his wife were executed by firing squad. These massive turnarounds can happen quite quickly and unexpectedly.
So none if us are safe, even if we think we are. There are many more nuclear weapons in more hands than ever before. India and Pakistan hate each other with a passion that is hard for other countries to comprehend. They are both nuclear powers, yet the Pakistani military recently told field commanders they no longer needed to seek approval when deciding to use tactical nuclear weapons along the disputed border of Kashmir. How would a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or Israel and Iran affect neighboring countries? A lot, I bet.
How would it affect International Banking? Travel? Trade? What would the costs be across the globe? What would martial law look like in America? I recently saw a recent amateur video of a train carrying tanks in Tennessee. The train was traveling at high speed, and at least three hundred tanks passed by during the length of the cellphone video. Where were they headed? Why were they in transit?
Governments are well aware of the risks they face and are not letting things slide towards chaos out of a desire to preserve liberty or individual rights. They are making plans. When the shit hits the fan, they will be ready, even if we aren’t.
So again, what can we do to prepare ourselves for fundamental shifts that may last for years? Today’s status quo may someday be but a fond memory. “Remember when you could buy an airplane ticket without travel permission and just go wherever you wanted? Remember when you could criticize the government and not lose your food allottment?”
If we want to be useful and relatively affluent, it would be good to master a skill for which there will be a demand, and then have needed tools on hand. Everybody wants to get paid for sitting in an air conditioned office and working nine to five, but there may not be much demand for that if the world’s economies are gutted. Far more employable would be a person who could fix needed things that are broken.
The ideas that came about during the Enlightenment are not shared universally. The idea that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights is not a popular one in most of Asia, for example. Here, people believe strongly in VIP status. If you criticize an elder or a powerful person, you should expect to be taken down.
In fact, the whole premise of democracy, that common people can hash things out through dialogue is quite rare over here. Debate is frowned upon. It’s considered disloyal. Even if what you say about someone else is proven to be true, you can still be prosecuted for slander. Many things here are the way they were in Europe during the Middle Ages. And those societies were relatively advanced compared to other parts of the world. I doubt if Genghis Khan appreciated lively debate about his policies.
When serious disruption occurs, one of the first things to evaporate will be the thin veneer of tolerance for anything less that total obedience to the State. Temporary States of Emergency will prove long-term. Your civil liberties will be returned once the State of Emergency has passed. Think of what’s happened to air travel in the last fifty years. It’s hard to imagine that you used to be able to show up at an airport and board a plane by simply handing a ticket to a person at the boarding gate.