Last night was spent catching up with a journalist friend who is rather involved in the whole UKUncut movement.
We were joking about how neither of us expected the End of Days to be quite so entertaining. Now, that's being a bit glib but there is no avoiding the terrifying dark side of those OAT numbers.
Which is rather well covered in this article. (You need to go and read it for the rest of this post to make sense.)
I want you to bear in mind that this is written by a Dow Jones/Newscorp employee. It would be difficult to find a company that more closely resembles Archon Inc.
The fact that predictions of societal collapse came from there of all places were what fascinated my journalist friend. He saw it as proof that his cause was right. I, on the other hand, because I know quite a few people at Archon Inc on both sides of the Atlantic, saw it as direct proof of an imminent apocalypse.
Sure it's hyperbolic (I'm one to talk) and even though the article reads like one of those deranged, Lovecraftian diary entries that doesn't really end but instead... just... trails... off... this doesn't strictly mean he's wrong, per se... he's simply at the pessimistic end of what we might call the apocalypse continuum.
Thing is... the socioeconomic disruption he's talking about is more or less guaranteed. What is unknown is precisely what form this will take. I'm crossing my fingers for the best case scenario -the election of proper left wing world leaders with enough of a mandate to correct what needs to be corrected. (Americans can call that socialism if they like. It's actually just the return of stolen property as far as the rest of the world sees it.)
And here's where my journalist friend and I differ. What I said about chaos magic being the realpolitik of the gods... well, I mean it. You can only play the hand you are dealt. If you and I are alive during the apocalypse then so be it... I will still hustle. I hustled when I was poor, I hustle now that I'm less poor. It's my life and that's how I'm wired.
Also I don't think the top 1% are evil. I think they're broken. It turns out thinking about luxury items like caviar or private jets reduces your empathy. Somebody do a PhD on this please, because somewhere here might just be the super-secret key to understanding the whole history of civilisation.
But it's still an ethical question, isn't it?
You know that scene in Schindler's List where he's on the dance floor talking about the thing that was missing from all his previous businesses and the woman he is dancing with asks "luck?" And he kisses her hand and says "war". Sure he was directly profiting off the misery of others but if we live and work in the west can we honestly say that we aren't?
It's something that needs to roll around in your head as well. Personally, I have settled on being politically active while still going after what I want in life. Luckily for me what I want in life isn't to be a slumlord or an ivory hunter so my beliefs and desires rarely directly contradict each other.
I can't stress enough that this economic disruption is severe and very real. If you have settled on a similar politics/hustle combination then allow me to share a few pointers. I was about to type "these aren't strictly magical hacks" and then caught myself. Instead, let's say "these hacks don't strictly involve direct enchantment." Use any of them as jumping off points for magic. This is the end of the industrial age, after all. It's not like there are any rules.
Apocalypse life hacks
- Spending money is a distraction. The mental energy required to accumulate and then spend 'surplus' money is distracting and tiring. Buy the things you need. Bank the rest. And besides, there is no such thing as surplus money in the twenty first century.
- Double your divinatory skills. Written about this before. Still stand by it.
- Downsize and cut costs like you are your own business. Know your weak points. Restriction is key. Example: We only have one copy of our joint credit card and my partner keeps it in his wallet. When I am 'in-market' (technical term) I can only spend money I actually have. This is not because I am worse with spending (though I probably am) but because I drink more often during the day than him. Three days a week of impaired judgement as you walk back to the office from a client lunch down the busiest shopping street in the world is a risk. If you are in a relationship, make a decision that any purchase involving credit is a joint one. It is faster and more effective to cut your costs by 15% than it is to increase your earnings by 15%.
- If you have savings and debt then you don't have savings. You know those 'financial advice' programmes where some pushy white nerds harrass a struggling family and then judge them for not being able to afford the economics degree required to run a modern household? Firstly these shows disgust me because they are class tourism of the worst kind. Secondly, I am terrified by the amount of people who will have debt but still put money into savings for "emergencies". Your debt is an emergency. It means you are paying, on average, triple the cost of whatever you thought the price of the original item was. Get debt free (high probability event because you go to jail if you don't do it) and magically protect your kids teeth from damage (low probability event) until you have accrued some savings. The reverse is bad magic.
- This one is much easier for magical folk: live weirdly. The nuclear family is an abberation of the industrial age. I would genuinely like to live in a giant house with extended family and friends, raising other people's brats and cooking large communal meals. Forever. Like a village but all in the one house. As a hypothetical, you could probably think of three ways right now to drastically reduce your debts and living costs by thinking beyond the (literally) Mad Men-invented trajectory of coupling up -> buying a house -> breeding. It's a post-war advertising fantasy concocted to sell the maximum amount of home appliances. Italians don't even live like that today. Politicians "protecting the family" might as well be protecting the abacus.
- Sell your house and go renting in a crazy giant group some place there are jobs. It's only an asset if someone wants to buy it anyway and nobody is doing that at the moment. (Because the banks, after tricking you into buying a house, will now not trick anyone else into buying yours because it's no longer in their interest. They will still take it off you, however. It may have been a worthwhile economic strategy in the past but it just isn't now.) Living with others will annhiliate your cost of living... which is only going to explode upwards in the next few years anyway.
- On a related matter: rent. you already know I don't think homeownership is the best wealth generation strategy -and especially not for young people. Moving to London cost me about a third of a house all up but now I'm not in debt, making substantially more and I haven't overpaid for a depreciating asset that the banks (who started this whole thing) could take off me in a matter of weeks. In New Zealand I was working in newspapers (on the digital side, but still). This would have happened to me eventually. I would have got canned and not been able to make my payments. Instead I have something I much prefer in a severely disrupted global economy: a career in a growing field with negative unemployment. (For now.)
- Only live in big cities if you like them. Obviously I do, but there is a reason London is considered a 'young' city -it doesn't offer a popular long-term way of life for Londoners. That's why they leave eventually. Also, it's not a given that the best jobs will be in the major cities in our disrupted global economy. Rather than aiming for getting paid more money, aim for a happier ratio: Example, I want to move back to Bristol one day because living costs are 30% lower than London but top-end salaries are only around 15% lower than the capital. Go for profit, not revenue... in everything.
- Marry someone with boomer parents and don't sign a pre-nup. This one's just for the kids out there. When the boomers die it will instigate the biggest wealth transfer in the history of mankind. $4 trillion. That's how much you make if you spend an entire lifetime trying your hardest to rape the earth of every single thing you deem valuable. (Sorry boomers, history will not be kind to you when you're gone.) Might as well be positioned out with the other inheritance surfers when that money wave comes back to shore. Don't feel bad. Your house cost as much as it did because boomers used cheap credit to buy multiple properties and drive demand/price out of reach of first time buyers. We are re-entering an era when property ownership is more likely to occur through inheritance than your hard work.
- Pick a growing or in-demand field. The most in-demand jobs in this new economy are ones that don't require years of experience. This is a very disruptive idea for an ageing workforce. Here are 20 of them. If you're unemployed; or even at risk of it; why not say fuck it, train up, sell your house, move somewhere cheaper with lots of people and start a new career in a rapidly growing field? PS - it's arguable that kids require geographic stability. They require home stability, sure, but don't forget we're actually all nomads. Geographic stability is a boomer cultural preference when it comes to raising kids. Historically kids were packed off to relatives or schools all the time. You worried about school? School isn't all that helpful anymore. Ask Seth or Penelope.
I know quite a number of you -and one in particular- aren't going to like these hacks. But our world isn't going to self-correct. And I'm not yet thirty. From an actuarial standpoint I have around fifty years left in this incarnation so these things concern me.
Not that concern is the primary motivator here -all evidence to the contrary my forward planning skills suck. My primary motivator here is fascination. It may well be one of the few universal chaos magic traits but chaos and disruption draw me like cake draws fat kids. We're all off the map here. In my mind that's not the worst place to be.
So... What's actually stopping you if all the rules have been suspended?
As the Sun Tzu teaches:
"Opportunities multiply as they are seized."