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After The Oil Crash:
Evolution Of The Hill Folk

By Peter Goodchild

29 September, 2008

The decline in the world's oil suply is only one aspect of the fact that the civilized world is in a decline that will last for eternity. Politicians have no wish to address all the unpopular issues, and the voters are told nothing by the mainstream news media. Salvation therefore can only be on the level of the individual or the small group. What exactly is one to do? The most obvious proposal might be to walk away from that civilized world, to head for the hills, build a log cabin, plant corn, raise chickens, weave blankets, whatever. But that entails "property": buying land, putting money into a domicile, tools, and so on. Isn't there contradiction there, however? The entire concept of property depends on the substructure of a judicial system and police enforcement, and as civilization fades that substructure will not be there (and it is bad enough already).

In any case, that idyllic life is not easy to find in the early twenty-first century. No matter how deep in the bush we live, we are forced into the money economy. Taxes, insurance, mortgages, rent, and other forms of legalized extortion and usury ensure that we are chained to a cash-paying job. The problem is not that the world's economy is failing, the problem is that it has not yet failed completely.

So another thought, not unrelated to the first, is to put all one's energy into accumulating money, on the asssumption that one can buy one's way out of any troubles. Surely with enough cash one can buy a home in a more respectable neighborhood, walling oneself off from the "low-lifes." Well, yes, but that's assuming that the word "money" has any meaning ten years from now. The gold standard was abandoned years ago, and the bills we carry in our wallets are only a minor and rather obsolete form of money. Most of our money is just blips on a computer screen. Over the last few decades, several countries have found their money no longer respected by the rest of the world. Currency traders operate with the worst kind of herd mentality, and if a few of them decide the Mexican peso is an unsafe bet then the peso is suddently valueless. Over the last few decades there have been several currencies that turned into "pesos," and even the America dollar has an uncertain future.

As several people have said, one's best hope is to become part of a group, a band, a tribe. Friends and relatives need to step away from their TV sets and re-learn the ancient art of social bonding. But there is an odd contradiction in the choice of members. It seems that those who are most valued will be those who possess usable skills, yet it is equally certain that for people to get along depends very much on personality: if there is no chemistry, if there is an intangible but persistent clash of character traits, then any two people are simply wasting each other's time. Even if we find such comrades, however, they are unlikely to be dicovered in the same square mile; when I first started playing with this concept, some of the most likely candidates were liviing in England, Oregon, and Hawaii. Such are the contradictions in the evolution of the hill folk, yet it is in these enigmas that we must find the solutions.

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. He is now living in the Sultanate of Oman. He can be reached at

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