Feel Like You're the Cuckoo in the Coal Mine?


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    I decided to post this comment under the “Community category”–hope that’s okay. Actually, if there were a “Family” category, I would have lodged it under that instead. Or maybe the “My Sisters Think I’m Crazy” category.

    I wanted to post this story for the same reason many of you probably come to TAE on a regular basis: we come not just to expand our understanding of finance, but to connect with like-minded individuals and not feel so utterly alone. Because honestly, there aren’t that many of us. Sure, one might believe everyone’s a “doomer” after spending a bit too much time reading finance blogs. But the truth of the matter is, almost no one I meet anywhere, no matter what level of intellect or education, no matter what occupation, from finance to oceanography, not a one that I encounter in the real-rather-than-the-virtual world seems to be remotely aware of the risks inherent in the current system. Like my sisters.

    Now, the first time I tried to raise a few alarm bells with my loved ones was when Dad sold off the family ranch to my youngest sister. It’s not a particularly productive ranch. It’s in a cold, rugged and beautiful part of Canada. I love it with all my heart. But at the time of the sale, it was grossly inflated in value, along with the rest of the real estate bubble. At the time, I had only recently become aware of just how precarious our world’s financial ponzi scheme had become. So, I tried to persuade my family that we should take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to make out like bandits and preserve some capital for a torentially rainy day. Bad move on my part, apparently. Somehow it all came off looking to them like I was some heartless profiteer who didn’t care about family history or the desires of my siblings. My warnings went unheeded, and my father sold my sister the home for a bargain according to the going rate of the day but clearly far too much considering my view of the future. That sister, sadly, has hardly spoken to me since. Nevertheless, I’ve told myself that when the day comes and she has to leave the house behind (it’s hard to imagine the place as anything but a ghost-town-in-the-making), I will be there for her however I can.

    I thought I might have better luck with my older sister. She’s a single mom with a baby, living an over-extended lifestyle in the Big City. I feel she has even more to worry about. It’s hard to be very adaptable when you’re raising an infant in a concrete jungle–the thought that fragile supply chains suddenly make life difficult for her haunts me. So, I try to gently raise my concerns again. Very cautiously mind you–I know my reputation in the family now seriously colours my advice. In fact, I hate bringing it up. But I tell myself it’s my moral obligation. I love her little boy like he’s my own (weirdly! as a gay guy without any intention of having children, I avoid the sticky creatures on the bus like they’re infectious!). I start by talking a bit about how weird everything is in Europe, eh. And how I’ve read things might even get worse. Yes, yes, my sister agrees–poor Greece is really screwed! Aha, that’s an opening, and I try to pry it wider–I continue: you know, it really does concern me, I mean how we’re facing the possibility of some catastrophic failure in the financial system like nothing we’ve faced in our or even our parents’ lifetimes. If ever there were a good time to put some food and cash away, this is it, I say. Her response is downright curt. “I’m starting to get very concerned about you Skip. You seem obsessed. You can’t stop talking about the end of the world.” I go quiet for a moment. To be honest, I feel downright embarrassed, I really do. Is that how I sound? Like a raving lunatic? I realize that’s exactly how I sound to someone who hasn’t even begun to understand that the things we thought we knew about money and the state of our world are really, really quite wrong.

    You see, it isn’t that we’re not on the same page–we’re actually in completely different books. I try to back-pedal: I reiterate that I’m just very concerned, and there’s no harm in taking a few precautions. I tell her I’m actually still having a great time in life (essentially true). And that I think that it could all turn out for the best (maybe the environment will be saved and we’ll have a healthy reassessment of our societal values). But I’m now fully aware of the fact that she can’t hear me. I’m trying to be the canary in the coal mine, but my sister thinks I’m just plain cuckoo. I hang up the telephone feeling a million miles away (maybe because I am–I moved to the South Pacific a few years ago). I’m afraid I’m too far away from her to help, not just in physical distance but in point-of-view. There’s just no bridging that gap, and it breaks my heart.

    I don’t try to bring this stuff up with friends anymore either. It seems to have no impact at all, even though I think of myself as being a fairly persuasive advocate when I believe in something. The gulf is plainly too wide. Maybe my words to my sister will help her react faster once things start falling apart in earnest. Just maybe she won’t be as in denial as her neighbors and friends, because I helped plant a seed. I hope so, for her sake. I feel helpless to do much more than be there for her when the time comes. But I’m just not going to talk about it anymore. Not with anyone, I don’t think.


    SB, I would like to put this up as a Feature Article on the Diner Blog. Are you OK with that?



    skipbreakfast -That essay could have been written by me. My family and friends act exactly the same way. By now, people either understand our financial peril, or they don’t. Unfortunately, most don’t, and it is impossible to open their eyes, ears and mind for them. They have to do it themselves.

    When this Ponzi implodes, it will be epic. I only hope I can be of help to my family and friends when that time comes.


    I have heard that canaries were actually valued by miners, they didn’t wait ’til the canary was dead or leave it behind when they evacuated. It would be nice to be seen as a canary, but I’m the family flake instead.

    My oldest sister is convinced that if we just had more scientists/leaders like Neil deGrasse Tyson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_deGrasse_Tyson) we would travel to mars. My middle sister actually watched Stoneliegh’s “Century of Challenges” DVD with me. But my she, my niece, my brother-in-law, and my oldest sister have signed on to more student loans so she can go to college in the fall. So my middle sister thinks that things will get difficult, but not enough to buck the herd as far as sending my niece to college or taking on student debt.

    It is hard to buck the herd. The few strangers I’ve spoken to about the economy just talk about “business cycles”.

    I volunteer at a local animal shelter. They have been trying to raise money for a new shelter for many years. They are talking about getting the financing completed and breaking ground this fall. I don’t even try to bring up concerns about how long people will be able to continue to donate if things get much worse. People just don’t believe it could happen here.

    I do run into a few people who are more interested in gardening and things, but I work at a food shelf, so I’m more likely to meet people who are already falling off the back of the truck.

    I wish Stoneleigh could get out a DVD that works in stand alone players. At a lower cost. I’d send one to everyone in my family and even see if I could get my library to take some. Considering the number of spammers that show up here, surely there must be some merit to leaving the information every where. 🙂


    I feel in a “thank you” mood today. I’m sprinkling on comments that are hitting the nail on the head.

    My entourage are aware of what is happening, world wide.

    Until some of their friends fall off the treadmill, (impossible), and come to them in tears, (unlikely), with their sob stories, (blaming the system, (unlikely)), they will not change their habits or lifestyle.

    How can you blame your entourage for not believing you?

    They followed the script and are entitled to the rewards and lifestyle for doing the right thing.

    Remember, you cannot go to the next valley.
    There is no other game in town.


    Hello Fellow-travelers…. I read much (for years now) on here and comment little. Most of you say it better than I can. We left the US almost 7 years ago to live a life with more integrity. Sick of paying for war although almost everywhere you go there are dues to be paid – and war often ends up with the kitty.
    We continue to try from outside the country to speak to these facts and inform our loved ones of major change coming. Even those who have been affected by bank and investment fraud, do not want to hear any more analysis from us. I have always sought out the truth (even when it hurts) and unwittingly played the role of Cassandra to those around me. If you can keep your ego out of the equation and not get too heartbroken, this is still a valuable role to play. Someone has to do it. We ARE responsible for spreading the word because we KNOW what’s up. With the knowledge comes the responsibility. I am not saying that SB and Bluebird have to go confront their families with truth… you have already done that, as I have. And I am heartbroken too. My last family member is estranged (somewhere between Vietnam and all the Ponzi’s) and we don’t talk. Many of my friends in the (VERY liberal) SF Bay area glaze-over when I talk about these things and some are actually angry that we left the country as though it was a slap in THEIR faces! Even my (grateful) deadhead friends are trying not to hear. I DO feel very alone most of the time. Can’t change what I know though. Move forward. I go through a lot of kleenex but do not want to lose my ability to mourn for the losses which are mounting. The worst thing to lose is your soul and your love for all this creation – however it got here!
    Someone on another thread had a link to the Guy McPherson article “Extinction Event” (which actually gives a time-frame for die-off) puts a whole new spin on things. I think a lot of us post-Hiroshima cohort (educated in the 1950’s) have had a nasty feeling for a long time that this will not end well. Even as a kid I asked about how can this end OK.. we killed all the Indians in some of the cruelest ways and stole their land, we dropped a piece of the Sun on 2 Japanese cities – WE seem to be the problem here…. and WE are on the top of the heap. Can’t end well. Too bad we were right. Now it looks like the best advice we can give our loved ones is – STOP BREEDING. I have been on that kick since the 1970’s but now it is really critical. Lessen the suffering. That’s what we can do now. Grow food, help each other make whatever transition is coming and lessen the suffering of those around us. And keep your heart open and loving no matter the reception your words have.
    Sending you all strength and love,


    Here is a letter recently published by the FT from a Western guy in Tokyo:


    I know it is not exactly the same as skipbreakfast’s lament, however, it does bear some similarities. People are creatures of habit and they are programmed to be optimistic – like Dickens’ Mr Micawber (“something will turn up”)


    From Mr Tim Marrable.

    Sir, I am at a loss to understand why the FT thinks that reviving nuclear power will lead to greater energy security for Japan (“Japan turns the power back on”, editorial June 22).

    Japan imports uranium fuel for its nuclear reactors from some politically highly unstable regions of the world, such as central Asia. It also has to ship the resulting nuclear waste past the coasts of other unstable areas of the globe for reprocessing in Europe because it has failed so far to establish a reprocessing capability of its own. Being seismically active and geologically unstable, neither is Japan able to provide safe long-term storage for the 1,000 tonnes or so of waste, dangerous for centuries afterwards, that its reactors produce each year when operating.

    Rather than simply throwing the nuclear switch back on, surely Japan’s first priority should be to cut wasteful electricity consumption. Despite being almost devoid of natural energy resources (except for its barely exploited geothermal riches), Japan has developed an unhealthy addiction to electricity it can ill afford. Even after the Fukushima meltdown, the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster to date, there is a palpable lack of a sense of urgency here about seriously cutting back. Toilet seats are still being heated across the nation for delicate derrieres, irritating chimes and unnecessary electronic beeping and buzzing noises are as ubiquitous as ever and, mystifyingly, pharmacies and convenience stores across Japan are all so brightly lit that shoppers’ retinas hurt. Even more of a conundrum, hardly any buildings in Japan, even modern ones, are insulated, meaning vast amounts of energy are pointlessly wasted every season in heating them and then cooling them.

    On the eve of the end of its long self-imposed isolation in 1868, Japan was entirely self-sufficient in energy and food, and it had a tiny carbon footprint. Admittedly, life expectancy was low, women were mere chattels, and there were no mobile phones, nor convenience stores nor comfortable transport, so no sensible person would wish for a return to that era. But with a dwindling population and with considerable energy savings within reach, Japan should recognise that it now has a unique opportunity to claw back a good deal of the independence it once had without turning to the facile and beguiling, but deeply flawed, nuclear option.

    Tim Marrable, Tokyo, Japan


    Oh does this ever resonate with my experience. Even worse, those we thought ‘got it’ have backed away from the topic and the messenger. We brought Nicole and Guy McPherson to speak; folks got it at the time, but the buzz later determined this was just too dangerous and they backed away.
    As for our family, none want to listen, much less make changes or prepare. The best I can do is encourage folks to “stay out of debt, stay out of debt, stay out of debt.” Our kids just change the subject and refuse to engage. We’ve bought them Sharon Astyk’s book “Independence Days” in hopes some might resonate in a soft sell way. In the meantime, we prepare not only for ourselves but them in hopes they’ll be able to get here if needed.
    It feels like we live in a parallel universe. When we’re in our own truth, we can share with only a select few. When we step out into what others would call ‘polite society’ and have the good manners not to mention our own truth, we can fit it. Very sad and more than a bit stressful as we know what they’re headed for.


    Sarah and others,

    Skip’s article has moved to the front page. Please submit your comments there.


    ilargi post=4042 wrote: Sarah and others,

    Skip’s article has moved to the front page. Please submit your comments there.

    Merge the topics Ilargi.



    Would if I knew how. theautomaticearth • at • gmail


    ilargi post=4053 wrote: Would if I knew how. theautomaticearth • at • gmail

    Kunen I am pretty sure has a Merge function in the Admin menu. May not be easy to find though, dunno. We run SMF, so its not precisely the same.

    Next best option I would do is Copy/Paste the responses in the original thread here into the new one, then delete the original thread. Not too many yet so not to difficult to do. This would keep it all together in the future.



    Hi Skip,

    I totally understand how you feel. I too feel the same way while trying to communicate on the global financial crises with my friends and family in India.

    I tried to explain the crises logically to willing readers by writing articles on it since last three years. I am grateful to Marketoracle.co.uk for publishing my articles.


    I also made a successful attempt to write a book “Lets Talk Money” to warn the average investor regarding the risks to their savings and future income generation potential due to this crises, which has hit the stands last month in India.


    Just because people look at me as if I have just landed from Mars and are not willing to see what I believe is a rational opinion on the global financial crises, I would not stop trying to get as many people as I can to be aware of what is going on in the financial world so that they can take better decisions about their assets and savings to enjoy a better quality of life in a stress free manner.

    Keep up the good work.
    Take care


    Wow, I have a similar experience but the relatives are slightly different. I live in New Zealand and also have not met anyone who takes what I say seriously, though many at least have the thought planted.

    As we are constantly told that building community is key, I find this extremely difficult to do. I’m not a natural organiser or leader but the neighbours I’ve talked to about this have smiled and gone on with their lives. Luckily, I still get to talk to them.

    I sometimes think I’m chipping away at my family, though there has been so much family heartache there that it’s hard to get the message through. However, they are half the world away so I haven’t been ostracised yet! I just had my saddest moment with my own family; my son has probably read as much about this stuff as anyone except myself and should be starting to approach life differently but he has just bought a 55 inch 3D TV for the rental he is sharing (and they already had a big TV). Not much more needs to be said there. I just shake my head.

    Not sure where to go from here.


    Lucky you, I have five siblings & spouses, and four children & spouses, plus the whole town I live in, that refuse to see a problem – much easier to see a crazy old man who thinks it cool to live simply, than to see a problem with their high tech futures!!!!

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