Denial, Fear, Anger: The Real Depression Part II   (July 21, 2009)

Those of us who have long studied Peak Oil and other issues tend to underestimate the shock, denial, fear and anger of the newly exposed.

Correspondent D. recently submitted this startling (at least to me) report:

We received a huge disappointment from our next-door neighbor last week. Having been inspired and encouraged by your writings to try and "reach out" to begin to form a community of like-minded souls, and also to foment discourse about the Great Transformation, we loaned him the copy of Survival+ that we’d printed out.

We thought he’d appreciate the warning and the inspiration provided in your book. And so we were stunned the next day when we were walking down our street, and our neighbor, seeing us go by, raced down his driveway and practically threw your book at my husband, then turned and marched away. What the heck?!!

I was surprised and disturbed that Survival+ would evoke so violent a rejection, and wrote to D. that perhaps the book was "like straight gasoline," that is, full-strength and highly flammable. D. replied:

After I read your reply yesterday, I realized that it might have been unintentionally cruel of us to have dropped such a powerful book into our neighbor’s lap. Mea culpa! I should’ve remembered how panicky I felt when my husband asked me to start reading the various Peak Oil websites last summer, and how upset and shocked I felt at learning about the true state of affairs in this country.

Thank you, D., for sharing this first-hand report. When I recounted the story to my wife, she suggested that the gentleman's reaction showed there was some truth in the book, for if it had been without any truth the gent would have dismissed it with a shrug. I think there is something in that notion: when our world is threatened, we respond with shock, denial and then an anger which masks our fear.

This chain of thought leads back to Janet's statement from The Fluttering Pulse of Entitlement Nation: "I sensed (maybe this sounds crazy) a lot of anger and hostility in the crowd (at a diner)." Steve R. then suggested in Denial, Fear, Anger: The Real Depression Part I that "This undercurrent of anger may reflect a general feeling of betrayal by the system."

I think the hostility has multiple roots:

1. The sense of betrayal by a system which was presented by the Powers That Be as fair, sound, beneficial to everyone, etc.

2. The betrayal one feels when a "sure bet" goes bad and is lost.

3. The anger we feel toward ourselves for making poor judgments, but which we project onto others to spare ourselves the pain of responsibility.

4. The anger which humans use to cover a deep, abiding fear.

There may be more sources, but this list begins the process of parsing the complex emotions which are being unleashed by rising unemployment, the loss of homeownership, equity and the hope of easy wealth, and a fear that the future will not be as bright as we once assumed.

Frequent contributor Harun I. made these observations about self-delusion, greed and responsibility:

From the Mayans to the Romans, from Asia to Europe and now the U.S., all empires seem to experience a series of psychotic episodes that lead to their decline. It seems as if it is a necessary ingredient. What military might cannot bring down, self-delusion will.

However, I cannot accept that the idea that because we responded as encouraged, anger is now justifiable. What ever happened to that pithy adage, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"? This represented choice. After all the history (which can be easily "googled" today) of bubbles and manias, how did we fall for it again?

I can think of nothing more potentially damaging to the psychological well-being of an individual than telling him/her, "its not your fault, you had no choice." I'd like to think that humankind is smarter than horses and do not involuntarily salivate when they hear a dinner bell.

I told my seven-year-old daughter to hold her breath and that it was okay because I would be breathing. She looked at me quizzically but complied (she innately understood the absurdity of the proposition).After she could no longer hold her breath, she blew it out and did the obligatory gasping. I asked her why she let out her breath. She yelled at me angrily, "DADDY, YOU CAN'T BREATHE FOR ME. I HAD TO BREATHE OR I WOULD DIE!" I smiled and quietly told her, "Just as breathing is essential to life and can be done only by you for you, so is thinking. Do not ever believe that you can let someone else do your thinking."

What was this so called dream? Regardless of the different forms in which it is presented, the "dream" has been and will always be simply getting something for nothing. Personal greed is and always will be the lever. Greed resides within us all but not all of us interact with it.

What was this encouragement? It was, is and always will be nothing more than someone validating what we already believe.

A democratic republic cannot survive without self-responsibility in the majority of its citizens; the crumbling of our society and those before it should be proof enough. No society/empire fails because of money problems. They failed because the collective citizenry began to believe absurdities.

As Voltaire warned us: "Those who can get you to believe absurdities can get you to commit atrocities." Believe is the operative word. It requires that a choice be made. What is the absurdity we have chosen to believe since 1913? To what atrocity has it led?

If, instead of passively accepting bailouts and government-enforced charity, every voting age adult wrote or called his representatives and made it clear that the representative would lose his/her vote if they supported any legislation of this sort, and that he/she would actively organize and support tax revolts in their community, the outcome we are facing today would be different. Better yet, if every working age person had refused the debt trap, things would be radically different.

It is widely known that legislation is passed without being read, that our representatives often do not know on what they are voting but are told how they are going to vote. Let's face it, government is now combat ineffective. What is our response?

Yes, we have a right to be angry but only at ourselves. Every citizenry gets the government it deserves.

Well said, Harun. Pondering that, I am not angry, but I am afraid for the citizenry and the Republic; for we have the government we deserve, and it is heading off the cliff of insolvency. The citizenry is still in denial, holding fast to the fantasy that their government can magically print trillions of dollars to fund their private entitlements, as well squander additional trillions backstopping $13 trillion in evaporated bad bets and pay for a global empire to boot.

Denial, fear and anger will not take us forward, of that we can be sure.

As an endnote, here is correspondent Dave E.'s commentary on the prevalence of denial:

Now that "consumers" are played out (and played), the government is picking up where consumers left off, proposing outrageously irresponsible policies, such as the "health care" sham being shoved down our throats, which will neither lower health care costs nor increase health care availability, but will fiscally encumber the government, the taxpayers and businesses with the additional costs.

Furthermore, all this talk about “green shoots,” “recovery,” “stimulus,” and so forth is j ust a propaganda to help keep the game going a little longer by encouraging consumers to buy houses and automobiles, the two cornerstones of our consumer economy.

What perplexes me is how the powers-that-be seem to believe that the exponential growth con game can continue forever. It’s as if their insatiable greed has trumped their own powers of reason. Or maybe, as does occur, they have been bamboozled by their own propaganda!

And speaking of denial, I recently returned from a three week driving trip covering 3,800 miles. What amazed me more than anything was the "denial" evident in the other people on the road. People were driving huge, gas guzzling vehicles, many towing huge, gas guzzling "toys," such as boats and trailers containing other vehicles! They were paying exorbitant prices for hotel rooms, restaurant meals and attractions. I got the sense that people had a careless disregard for the future, as if they were partying with reckless abandon today because tomorrow looks too bleak to contemplate, as if ignoring the fiscal realities will somehow make them go away.

If denial precedes fear and anger, then we have a long way to go.

Excellent quotes submitted by readers:

from Kenneth R:

"Every effort under compulsion demands a sacrifice of life energy."
– Nikola Tesla, quoted in Waking Up: Freeing Ourselves from Work

from Angry Saver:

"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."
Eric Hoffer

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