As a peak oil pilgrim, the holidays are surely going to be different now.
The ways we celebrate the season, the parties and family get-togethers are forever changed for me: they’ve taken on a sort of surreal, over-the-top quality endemic to societies of excess. Perhaps it is the all-consuming nature of the barrel beast: that virtually everything we do, touch, watch, eat, drink, buy, and read is produced and/or propelled by oil.
No matter how you feel about peak this or that, we all crave family and connectedness, especially these days. Whether that family is one you’re born to or one you’ve created and pieced together, it’s natural to want to share thoughts of the past, present and future, collapse and all. Of course we want to discuss what’s shaping up to be the biggest plexus of our generation, thereby strengthening our relationships, tethering others to the possibility, or severing ties to those of dead-weight and denial.
But because these issues very much affect the social dynamic, use caution. Until collapse and transition become more mainstream, we must endure the garish rituals of the season, with their overindulgence, hypocrisy and guilt. Ironically, I think it best to tread lightly on this portion of the pilgrimage, modeling virtues of patience and hope and acceptance.
Here’s my plan for navigating the holidays this year – advice to myself on how to deal:
1. Don’t supplant the joy of the season with gloom and doom.
Joy’s BFF is Humor – make sure she’s invited to the party.
Nobody wants to hear warnings and criticisms from you all the time, especially when there are cookies! Sure, you want to plant the seed in the minds of those you love (and in those you don’t), so that others may wake up and smell the gingerbread spice cocoa. But the holiday hard-sell is probably not the best approach. The coming collapse can be a very divisive topic.
Your role as the agent of change has no place in the kindergarten Nativity Pageant or the line to see Santa. Don’t hijack the happiness and memories that others have developed through the generations just because they didn’t read your sustainability statement. Try not to be the provocateur until after the holidays, when relationships normalize to usual levels of dysfunction.
2. Don’t get caught up in the Mall Materialism Morass.
This one isn’t difficult for slightly-agoraphobic me. I despise crowds and find most public places and big retail stores creepier than ever. There seem to be so many aimless people (eg: unemployed), and many more men than in years past.
I always find myself scanning the fluorescent-lit scene and wondering, “How many of these people are on anti-depressant or anti-psychotic drugs? Who’s packing heat and what percentage haven’t taken their meds today?”
With their spiritually and physically trampled humans, frenzied events like Black Friday and the Big Box Doorbusters (what a great name for a band!) despoil the spirit of this or any other season. Such chaotic consumption reveals real moral madness and decay: the disease of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (Bk Currents). The more you shop, the more you want, even though we want for very little.
I’ve come to appreciate the efforts of the Reverend Billy Talen and his Church of Life After Shopping for perspective in this area.
3. Give comestibles, items of genuine utility, or handmade gifts.
If you can nail 2 out of 3, as in a knit afghan or loaf of homebaked bread, you get extra brownie points.
Since childhood, holidays basically mean special things to eat and drink (usually with some churchin’ thrown in, too.) All things timeless and tasty: local wines, cider, chocolate, baked goods, chutneys, meats, seasonal fruits, spices, cheeses: these are the stuff of memories. If you grew, raised, or made them yourself, they are even more special as gifts of your time and talents.
You are just gonna poo-poo it and make people upset, all the while stuck in the microcosmic confines of an SUV full of overfed frenemies and family.
Why drive substantial distances to places like “Stuckabee Trace” and “Kudzu Hills at Gopherton” to gawk at the vulgar displays of craven energy waste in the name of Jesus’ birth? It flies in the face of everything you believe now… (But if you do go, don’t be fooled by the inevitable LED rationalization espoused by the guy in the car. Sure, they’re great in a grain-of-sand kind of way, but if you spend your ducats on LED, invest in real bulbs, not just holiday lights.)
The Tacky Tour will only make you snotty, angry and depressed on so many levels: that few Americans exhibit any taste with regard to nature, decor, architecture or home-building; that sprawl has won and growth remains unchecked; that people really don’t care that tops are removed from mountains so that their snowmen can wave and their Santa-copters can spin into the night.
Nobody loves twinkly lights more than me. But my city’s Grand Illumination, for which the entire metropolitan skyline is lit by each building’s spectacular outline (including the Federal Reserve), seems mainly for the benefit of expressway drivers.
Who pays for all this?
Though it’s one of the few times families from the ‘burbs and counties venture into the urban area anymore, it hardly meets the merits of a standard cost/benefit analysis, much less one for sustainability.
Similarly, Virginia’s finest botanical garden hosts the Gardenfest of Lights, which outdoes all the lesser lightings, thereby contradicting the very culture it purports to preserve.
The American winter obsession with lights is simply anathema to our future. Boycott it in good conscience.
5. Let folks know that you’re thinking about them.
Most transition types have several groups of friends, and rarely do their worlds collide.
Those who know of the coming collapse undoubtedly sense the powerful ‘us/them’ dichotomy that has formed around the issue. Many feel like a pariah in their own families and workplaces, and seek like-minds online.
The Internet allows us steppenwolves to find each other, communicate, commiserate, educate and validate. In the spirit of the season, recognize their contributions to your worldview: it’s undeniable, and it’s based in a foundation of genuine concern for the planet, the civilization, and for you. Real people write those posts and blogs. Send them emails or messages, with greetings and gratitude if you are so moved.
It’s great to connect with sympaticos all over the world, but, as corny as it sounds, we need to link in with our own communities in the here and now. Participate in neighborhood holiday events. Get to know the folks who would be your cohorts in making it through the long emergency.
To friends and relations you actually know, send actual snail mail cards. Send something tangible that people in your real world can hold and keep if they choose. As the US Postal Service struggles, the opportunity to send letters and cards dwindles. The end of cheap oil (or a pony express) will surely mean that those 44 cent stamps are actually quite the bargain!
As far as family goes, take it slowly. I’ve been surprised by the interest my parents have shown in my peak politics, and equally surprised by their reticence to change. The transition worldview can cause a new generational divide, and sometimes a breakup or divorce. It’s a big deal for life as we know it, including our existing relationships.
But sometimes it strengthens families, who seem to bond in their activities of preparation. Watch ‘Apocalypse, PA’, which premiered on the History Channel in mid November, and you’ll be amazed by involvement of the almost-grown kids in their dad’s end-times experiment. (The mom, not so much…)
When families talk about it frequently and work transition into everyday life, even having fun planning for a radically different future, they mitigate the actual crisis. That’s love and good parenting. Also, kids love old-timey gadgets with cranks and levers. They make great gifts, and they teach about simple machines, which may just be the sort of ‘technology’ they’ll need.
6. Be thankful for your blessings, including your knowledge and acceptance of change.
That you are even reading this presupposes several amazing achievements:
That you can read, having been taught at either a private or public school, or at home. Blessing.
That you possess a computer with access to the Internet, the absolute miracle of worldwide communication and dissemination of ideas, information and opinion in increasingly rapid manner and vibrant form. Or that you are online at a local library or school, or using a friend’s device, or that you are walking around with a computer-cum-phone in your hands! Blessings, miracles, one and all!
My point is that these things all require personal and public bounty, time that you don’t have to devote exclusively to the basic needs of life (the growing and gathering of your own food, procurement of safe water, etc.), complex power generation and storage (electricity and batteries) and oil. In a post collapse world, we may not take any of these components for granted, as they may no longer exist.
Know that individually and societally, we are rich! Cherish your friends and family, your free time, your time to read and talk and learn. Weigh the future and envision how the holidays will be for your kids and grandchildren. Teach them your ways and traditions, your resilience and your gratitude.
Most important, have a HAPPY HOLIDAY!