Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Minorities and TEOTWAWKI

Demi W. commented on JMG's "Waking Up, Walking Away" post on The Archdruid Report blog. Demi claims that the poor, and especially minority poor, will face dire threats to survival as the collapse of peak oil and the end of the age of industry continues. She claims that the middle class will panic first, as they attempt to retain the trappings of privilege.

I am an African American female "prepper" who lives in a largely Hispanic area (urban Phoenix, AZ). My take on the whole peak oil issue is that the average ethnic minority in this country most likely sees the peak oil issue as less of a threat to their way of life. IMO, for whites, the peak oil issue and overarching sustainability movement is about trying to adjust to life in a way that allows them to minimize the impact to their standard of living as much as possible and there will be MUCH resistance.

On the other hand, for many ethnic minorities, their struggle has always been about survival on the most basic level. They are not bogged down on whether or not they can live with downsizing to a smaller hou[se] or going from two cars to one, as many do not and/or never have owned a vehicle or needed one for that matter, to get back and forth from their jobs to their suburban homes. Likewise, riding a bike or taking a bus wouldn't necessarily be a major transition for inner/urban city ethnic minorities, IMO.

In the end, I think that it is going to be hard for ethnic minorities to go off to some rural area or small town and feel accepted, especially during a crisis, because, from experience, I tried rural living in South Carolina,for a few years and I by no means felt "welcomed" at any point or time.

To Demi W.,

There is much truth in what you say.

If you look at Sharon Astyk's writing, and here from JMG, they both focus on survival being related to individuals making good choices.

Sharon discerns between the formal economy -- the fancy numbers that President Obama and Wall Street make up and throw around -- and an informal economy. The informal economy is a web of interlocking relationships within families and communities, where the "economy" cannot be measured in dollars, but in exchanges of work, of goods, and of assistance that have nothing to do with monetary value. A child doing chores, care for the sick and elderly, showing another to garden successfully, these are examples of "value" flowing through an informal economy.

I grew up on a farm in Iowa, when some farms were still the old agrarian model -- a family operation, a place to raise children (the Amish and Mennonites still adhere to this view) and live, depending more on what was raised on the farm than what could be purchased with the cash crops, and depending on skill and available resources than the pesticides, seeds, and fertilizers that could be bought.

What TV advertising and merchandising, so-called modern education, and local and federal governments have made of farming, today's agribusiness, is an entirely "formal" economy function.

I am not a part of a minority race, though growing up on a farm is, I contend, a minority culture. There are many of various races I respect and work with; also many I don't trust and avoid. I think of myself as more culturally aware than racially aware. There are those that are prone to violence, aggression, and hate, and I tend to avoid them, whatever culture or race in their background.

Walking Away

I think the observation Demi W makes about leaving urban existence for an economic environment less entrenched in the formal economy is reasonable, and applies to all people trying to "escape".
In the end, I think that it is going to be hard for ethnic minorities to go off to some rural area or small town and feel accepted, especially during a crisis, because, from experience, I tried rural living in South Carolina,for a few years and I by no means felt "welcomed" at any point or time.

Any community, like any family, is aware that some outsiders mean them harm. When their history of outsiders includes arrogance, disdain, disrespect for custom, or criminal acts -- they tend to regard outsiders as potential threats. Where the entire history is that outsiders have brought resources of help, growth of the community, and security -- they will be welcoming until the community notices problems.

Rural towns and areas have seen their share of predators, of government programs and marketing ploys that have cost people and families, sometimes dearly. In the South, the legacy of the post-Civil War era of occupation and exploitation by "Northerners" is still a potent force, especially in communities but lightly touched by the flows of cash and excess of modern education, modern marketing, and modern "development".

Walk away -- from cultural baggage

One big problem is cultural baggage. The way you have lived, the rules and preferences that have given one comfort and security. The rituals and celebrations you observe, the values of what is good and what is preferred, the shared history with your community. Culture. This is baggage that hinds you into a community.

What TV sitcoms and marketing, what government programs, what job offers and other reasons stories of relocating assume, at bedrock, is that there is one, single culture that is "America".

While much is made of racial tension, my own observation is that the real problem is cultural tension. I have known too many people of various races that live comfortably within the dominant American culture to believe otherwise. It is the cultural differences, the clinging to beliefs and values from "the old country" or imagined by demagogues that keep people apart.

In the traditional, historical form of marriage within the Christian community, where the husband is the head of the household and the wife is subservient to the leadership of her husband, each new bride will face this kind of cultural shock. She will face having to replace all she knows of right and wrong, of who is in authority, of her duties and loyalties, as she leaves life in her father's home and makes a new home for her husband. The wise and caring husband faces a dauntingly similar task, of reconsidering all of his own cultural identity in terms of being part of a family and no longer of his parent's family, of being responsible for nurturing his wife and children to come. Both assume new identities within their community, no longer just a mere adult, but now a family, a couple recognized in a community event, a wedding.

Physically moving to a new community is the simple part.

Becoming part of that community demands that the rituals and celebrations observed, the values of what is good and proper, and the shared history all come together; the newcomer must choose to live in the culture of the new community.

That means learning to act in ways that the community expects and respects. Learning to make choices and decisions based on values accepted and expected in the community. That means learning who is related to whom, who is who's relatives, who was neighbors in the past couple-ten decades, which members of the community are frowned upon, which are considered cherished burdens. It means that the culture of the new community must become the foundation of life at home, at work, and in your relationship to others.

In many communities with ties to older, Christian ways, definitions of "decent" attire can vary widely. The 1960s introduced the "Sexual Revolution" -- that conflicts direly with many family values, especially in smaller communities with a communal history in Puritanical or "conservative" Christian teachings.

Pride and identity

The resistance to accepting and adopting the culture of a new community, or changes in a community, might express itself as "pride". The belief that the values and preferences of one's youth, or past, or recent community, is good and right is expected. But it must take second place to learning to live in the new or changed community.

In modern America few talk about "identity". There is an assumed racial identity, but that I think is divisive, and diminishes us all.

Since the 1960s much has been said and evoked about sex between adults. It has been accepted by some that a marriage is between a man and woman (or some mix of genders), that there is little difference between a married couple and "living together".

I disagree. A marriage is a cultural event of the community, that happens to involve those getting married. A marriage re-defines the identity, permanently, of those getting married. Regardless of the religious recognition and component of a marriage rite, the community collectively recognizes and accepts that the individuals involve are no longer single, but part of a family. The community will make different opportunities, and express different expectations, of the new family members.

To many cultures with strong traditions of family and marriage there is a distrust of those that see no harm in cohabitation, in expressing an intimate relationship outside the bounds of marriage.


Some communities see those that work as being "regular" folk; those living without directly working for someone as being a burden on the community. Such a community, perhaps especially if there is a strong rural tradition, will view askance any newcomer that isn't accepted for work by someone respected in the community. Applying for work, after all, requires convincing an employer of one's worth to an enterprise, one's suitability in demeanor and temperament to be an assent in the workplace, and by extension, in the community.

Receiving funds from the government, from a trust fund, from a pension fund, does not carry the assumption that one has been approved. Think of getting a job in a new community as meeting a girl's father, and getting his agreement before being allowed to date the girl. It doesn't matter if it irritates (or scares) anyone. In many communities, some ritual of "acceptance" will be expected.


The End Of The World As We Know It. Where some see a violent and massive crumbling of civilization, others see a gradual overall decline in numbers of wealthy, both middle class and upper class, with a widening breech in culture between the poor and those not poor. Most foresee local and intermittent disruptions in availability of energy, of food, of security and comfort.

If one were to choose to move to a community less entangled in the formal economy, the time is when the choice is considered. Every day delayed spends another day of one's life in something that is to be abandoned, "walked away" from. And the later in the collapse you try to find a safer haven, the more stress will be on that haven, and the tougher the ordeal to get there and to be admitted. Getting physically relocated is the mere start of the effort. Once there, you have to make a new life, in the midst of a new culture that few are minded to help you learn.

Whether your race is an important part of your identity or not is a personal choice, just as all cultural perceptions and identifications are a personal choice.

Just be ready to walk away from your current culture.

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