Lemmings at the Cliff’s Edge

Preparation is a proudly held quality in people who are seeking to advance in their career. Think the man who desires promotion. Or the woman wishing to graduate. Both ambitions require commitment and dedication to accomplish. Their motivation to succeed comes from the promise of what awaits. The theory being that victory follows endeavour. Self gratification is then assured.

But the same ethos rarely applies when it boils down to our own personal survival. Whilst sustaining employment does to a certain degree maintain you and your family – a motivation in itself – it does not account for a sudden and unexpected collapse of your purchasing power.

Speaking from a UK standpoint, millions who are employed live one wage packet to the next. Once the money is spent, they fall back on credit cards and pay day loans. The commonality here is in how we are enslaved to a system that requires you to earn a salary to pay for a life that in the long run is unaffordable. Thus we are kept distracted – by running, scratching, clawing, all to stay afloat and honour our monetary obligations for the month.

As we do that, the financial system to which we are all in bondage to nears calamity. The spectre of Deutsche Bank close to failure, the unsustainable level of worldwide national debt, the over $500 trillion derivative market bubble. If the system fails, taking these and other liabilities with them, we fail with it. But what does failure of this scale look like? Not within the economic corridors of Wall Street or the city of London, but in the streets of towns and cities the nation over?

Too often a crisis penetrates the mainstream at the exact moment that people scramble to preserve what little wealth they possess. Imagine a family of four sleeping upstairs as a fire breaks out in the hallway. Preparation for such a catastrophe can be as simple as a set of smoke alarms, designed to alert you, to give you a chance of saving yourselves before becoming overwhelmed.

Applying this analogy to the financial system, countless numbers will have smoke alarms carrying drained batteries or those which are sounding the intermittent bleep warning of their demise. In such a scenario, there is no preparation for disaster. Or, worse, there is incredulity at the possibility of things going wrong. A belief that it won’t – couldn’t – happen.

When the system does suffer a collapse, to the point where people are left with no physical cash to hand, the outcome will be predictable. You will have troves of citizens all demanding their money from the bank, at a loss to fathom what is happening and why as they line up in front of ATM machines.

The incessant repetition of people reacting to events and not preparing for them is common place in society. It leads to panic, to confusion – a scene that plays out every Christmas on the high-street. People waiting until the last possible moment is a pervasive trait, exercised on the belief that the door will never close on their inertia.

Preparation for economic decline can take many forms – notably by holding physical amounts of gold and silver or taking the majority of your money out of the bank. But how many can afford to actually invest money when they are tied to a wage that struggles to cover the bare essentials? Repressed wages do not allow you to put significant capital aside. A minimum wage job disables you from making an investment that can withstand a collapse of national currencies. Hence the herd mentality when banks are unable to produce the money in your account. A herd who failed to believe it possible.

When this happens – when people lose their purchasing power and the parity of destitution is forced upon them – those who have already succumbed to bankruptcy and are existing out in the cold will barely blink an eye. It is the one occasion when those who have nothing lose nothing.

An entire population remains only an unexpected crisis away from this eventuality. But how many realise it? How many are preparing for it?

The numbers of people queuing up at ATM’s will provide the answer.

One comment

  1. You’ve given an accurate view of modernity, I think, complete with all its built-in anxieties!

    In the “developed” parts of the world, the only way people can obtain the things they need is to go shopping and that takes money. They depend on a complicated and fragile apparatus of supply and finance just to live from day to day. If this system should ever break down and fail in any way these people would be quite helpless.

    I live in a rural part of Southeast Asia where people still have the means and the skills to produce everything they need in a self-sufficient way independent of the money system. Living this way, they have to prepare for drought, flood and suchlike but they are not so vulnerable to economic collapse. Unfortunately, people here are striving to abandon their traditional ways in favor of jobs, wages, consumerism and, alas!, debt. They think it must be great to have all that dazzling stuff that the “lemmings at the cliff’s edge” have.

    My wife and I try to tell them that peace of mind, good health, a clean natural environment and warm relationships with family and friends are all much more valuable than this abundance of factory made bric-a-brac. Very few seem interested.

    From our perspective then, we see a general movement of people toward the cliff’s edge while we are slowly making our way against the flow, away from it. It’s our method of preparation.


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