Wow, has it been an interesting year so far. I feel like 2020 has been a roller coaster that is still going uphill. My struggle with the events that have taken place is that I just don’t know what to believe. And if you are reading this post for answers, let me save you some time, I don’t have the answers for you on anything medical. But I am VERY qualified on talking about how to cope with the mindset of a financial catastrophe, poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity, etc. And that is the angle of which I am writing today.
I could always tell you a sad story of how I was oppressed by poverty, born with one leg, and am a marginalized individual the list goes on… And since this is the internet, immediately after my sad story, someone will come out of the woodwork and attempt to steal my gold medal by telling a sadder story to one-up me. So instead of playing the oppression Olympics with my plight, let’s just acknowledge that life is unfair, and we all face adversity, some worse than others. Either way, if you have a pulse, you have the opportunity to engineer better solutions. And from there, you be the judge of what to attack first.
Survival in the 21st century
The media bias didn’t protect me. Social media didn’t protect me. Arguing with my cohorts about the origin of the virus didn’t protect me. And this one is controversial, NO politician helped me. The only people who helped me were the truck driver delivering goods, the farmer out there harvesting, the grocery store worker stocking the shelves the warehouse workers facilitating grocery and widget delivery from the websites we use to buy things. And obviously, the front-line/medical workers that kept society moving played a pivotal role and are still working around the clock as this COVID virus ruminates throughout society. Oddly enough, all of these entities just mentioned didn’t stay-at-home. And in most cases, these folks didn’t have the privileged life to have such a luxury. And yet, sadly, these folks will be forsaken.
Companies will get millions in bailouts, politicians will earn six-figures for spewing divisive rhetoric enhancing their punditry careers (today’s politician will be tomorrows news contributor), in fear of a looming food shortage some politicians will, for whatever reason, block your ability to plant your own food. You can come to your own conclusions on why growing your own food when there are concerns of a food shortage is not considered “essential”, I will focus on survival here with this post.
So to answer the question of who was our knight in shining armor, the laborer was the superhero. And by “laborer” I mean anyone who works with their hands for a living. Of course, there are always exceptions to any statement, only a Sith deals in absolutes. But generally speaking, the person who left-their-home kept things moving. With this in mind, we have a new challenge ahead. Specifically, how do we survive when the economy collapses?
Sure, we had a rough time back in 2008, but not since the great depression have we seen these current unemployment numbers with millions out of a job, or entire retail mall chains closed until further notice. Back then, I could at least get a job as a bartender to pay rent. Now I am aghast, because I don’t know I would do if I weren’t able to work in my cushy home office, or buy groceries with the click of a button. This virus reminded me, American consumerist goods don’t just come out of thin air, it’s being produced every day, by people who go to work. And this monumental act of society is frail. If I remain reliant on it, my livelihood is weak. After all Napoleon Bonaparte taught us, the antidote to attrition relies on a solid supply chain.
Figure 1. Napoleon’s March
In Figure 1, study that thick tan line, that was Napoleon’s military Marching East towards Russia. Now, and here is where things get real interesting, that tiny black slither depicted on the photo is the same military traveling back home in defeat. Defeat not from another military foe, but attrition. The supply chain from France to Russia spans thousands of miles and relies on millions of individuals to maintain the inventory of food, winter clothes, ammunition, etc. One breakage to said chain, and it all crumbles. How does this affect us?
Figure 2. US Imports to Exports
As shown in figure 2, we are reliant on a lot of foreign entities for imports. Perhaps that is why we don’t really see that sign that says, “made in the USA” anymore. Now, I am not a nationalist, but reliance on foreign supply chains concerns me. I have small children to feed after all. And to a certain extent, I will always be reliant on some entity outside of my control, good weather, random friendliness of strangers when I leave my home etc. But the broader question is, what can I produce? The more things I can produce, the less reliant I am on others, the less pain I will feel when there is a hiccup in our global supply chain. Here is an example, you learn the Heimlich maneuver so you can save someone’s life. Technically, you could rely on someone else to save your choking child. But would that “someone” else be around in the time of need? Luckily, you don’t have to gamble, it’s pretty easy to learn CPR.
Now let’s take this to another level. What can we grow, to sustain life? You’d be surprised to learn how easy it is to grow sweet potatoes and they are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Why not cabbage? Why not tomatoes? The upfront investment for these veggies is minimal and could be life-saving in terms of a food shortage. Disclaimer, I am not saying that we are in the midst of a global food shortage. All I am saying is that we have a lot of power to reduce misery, and it took a pandemic for me to realize it.
Happy Post-Pandemic thinking all!
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