"I've been reading your blog for several years now and have a favor to ask: if your schedule permits, would you do a post on what you would advise young people if you could? If you were in your twenties/early thirties, knowing what you know, would you choose this life, in this country, all over again? Husband, baby and I are trying to quit the big-city rat race, buy some property cheap (no mortgage if possible) and transition to as self-sufficient a lifestyle as possible. But as my awareness has grown of the depth and breadth of the problems in the country, I truly wonder whether it is even worth trying to stay here to do so. I am appalled by the way we truly seem to be going to hell in a handbasket environmentally, economically, societally and otherwise, and disheartened that most people seem too zombiefied to care. Surely there are other places in the world where sanity and humanity and common sense hold more sway? Or is that just the idealism talking? Your wise insights much appreciated. Many thanks."
Ouch. Was my first thought. And "scary." Do I dare give advice? Do I have any I'd give? You'll be glad to know, Gingeranne, that you spooked me good with that one.
Particularly since I gleaned this following bit from J.R.R.Tolkien, decades ago. It struck me hard, the first time I ever read it, and still does with each re-reading. The reason we love Tolkien is because he speaks the truth; and his truth comes from genuine ancient wisdom, gleaned from ancient stories. (You know, of course, that he was a scholar of ancient language and myth, specializing for years in the academic dissection of Beowulf, in its original and successive languages.)
This is from The Fellowship Of The Ring; before Frodo has even left the Shire; Frodo speaks:
" 'I have been expecting Gandalf for many days. He was to have come to Hobbiton at the latest two nights ago: but he has never appeared. Now I am wondering what can have happened. Should I wait for him?'Gildor was silent for a moment. 'I do not like this news,' he said at last. 'That Gandalf should be late, does not bode well. But it is said: Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. The choice is yours; to go or to wait.''And it is also said,' answered Frodo: 'Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.''Is it indeed?' laughed Gildor. 'Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill. But what would you? You have not told me all concerning yourself; and how then shall I choose better than you? But if you demand advice, I will for friendship's sake give it. I think you should now go at once, without delay; and if Gandalf does not come before you set out, then I also advise this: do not go alone. Take such friends as are trusty and willing.'
My italics. With one exception, I think I cannot do better. Every word of that tiny bit rings true for me.
The one exception comes from whether you should "go", and what that really might mean. Leave your country, to seek a more sane, safer one? Or find a way in the country and culture you know?
Sharon Astyk had a post on this topic just recently, I do recommend you take a look. And, I commented on it, with views others there found compelling.
My answer there was really oversimplified, for debate purposes. My true answer would be exactly Gildor's; the choice is yours, to go or stay. And while my own answer is "stay"; yours might very well be "go". It depends.
I'm staying because I have roots here, and family, and friends; here.
The case for going, sometimes, though, is very strong. If you were a Jew in 1929 Germany - you definitely should have decided to leave, if at all possible. That entire situation was utterly out of control.
There are places in the US at the moment, which have very high potential for getting out of control. And if you are possibly a target for such hatefulness - leaving might be by far the sanest thing you can do. Only you can know.
Changing cultures and countries is a non-trivial decision, though; and I do happen to personally know a very smart and highly educated couple who emigrated to Australia some decades ago, primarily in disgust at US political and social trends (Reagan, at the time). Five years later- it was clear to them that the social realities in Australia were truly no better; nasty people exist everywhere, always. And they did indeed regret making the move, though they have not moved back, either.
So. What if you have some roots here, and no good reason to leave?
It took me a full day, and sleeping on it overnight; but it finally dawned on me: I do have a bit of specific and useful advice to offer. I hope it helps.
Find a Transition Towns group, and start going to their meetings.
Find out if you fit that group. Not everyone fits everywhere, and Transition groups are not different from other human endeavors; some are wonderful, some suffer from abrasive egos- etc.
Find a fit. Find friends. Join that community.
The general consensus, among thinkers I respect, is that no one is going to make it through any of the serious collapse scenarios - alone. Only well-knit communities, well planned, well prepared, are likely to come out the other side.
And, in my serious opinion, the Transition movement is simply the best thing going; anywhere.
Take such friends as are trusty and willing. Hard to beat advice straight from an Eldar Lord.
I'm going to add one more thing to this post; and I don't know why.
All I know is; this particular song has been running through my mind for 2 days. Somehow; it seems relevant to this discussion. This is MacPherson's Rant (or Lament). There are many versions to the lyrics; and many versions of the legend. What seems clear though is; he was a real man; living in very bad times; who was eventually hanged, legally - for being - half Gypsy.