I am a firm believer that many things in life and in the natural world go through cycles, usually swinging from one extreme to the other.
Sometimes those swings are very slow and take thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. For example, scientists estimate that there have been at least a dozen periods in the past million years in which glaciers covered much of the globe. The most recent, which we know simply as “the ice age,” peaked some 18,000 years ago and ended less than 12,000 years ago. Eventually, there will be another ice age, we don’t know when and we won’t be alive to see it, but some temperature variation is to be expected as the pendulum swings from one extreme to another.
Sometimes these swings take place over every generation. Think about style and fashion, where trends seem to repeat themselves, or at least elements, every 20 to 30 years. (I’m just hoping those big shoulder pads from the 1980s don’t come back.)
Sometimes things swing every few years. Every decade since the Great Depression has seen a recession and a period of growth, a cycle that repeats as the pendulum swings back and forth.
We see it in society also: Cocaine was once an ingredient in soft drinks. Then it was illegal for decades. Now it is being de-criminalized, following in the footsteps of marijuana. Crime soared in our inner cities, the cops cracked down with “broken windows” policies and crime dropped. Now justice reform and defund the police have reversed that trend and crime is rising again. I expect that pendulum to swing back pretty quickly.
Natural Swings Self Correct
In nature, many swings are self-correcting. We often see this in animal populations. When an animal over-breeds and the population grows out of control, they consume all their food, and then many starve or are too weak to make it through the winter, leading to a much lower population the following year. We can see this in everything from deer herds to squirrel populations.
It’s the same with natural forests. As forests grow too dense and develop too much underbrush, lighting strikes start a fire which burn it up. Many natural wildfires leave the large trees but thin the brush. This is such a constant a part of nature that there are plants that cannot breed without fires. The problem with forest fires isn’t the destruction of forests, fires can lead to rebirth, but the destruction of homes and other manmade infrastructure built in and around the forest.
Humans Tend to Overcorrect
The problem with swings is when humans intervene to stop them. Environmentalists in California have actually made wildfires worse because they intervened in the natural cycle. Restrictions on the hunting of deer has led to overpopulation and more deer starve or are killed by cars.
I like to use the following analogy: If you are driving and a pothole or other road defect makes your car start to run off the road to the right, you can turn the wheel to the left and get back on track, usually before your wheel leaves the pavement.
However, if you are distracted and don’t notice you are heading off the road until you have one wheel on the shoulder heading towards the guide rail, you might panic and jerk the wheel to the left. This could send you across your lane and into the opposing lane. At that point, one of two things can happen: If you are lucky and good, you will correct a few more times and your car may skid and sway, but you will end up back on track. If the road is crowded or you are not a skilled driver, you could crash into oncoming traffic or end up against the guard rail.
That’s what’s happened to our economy: We over-corrected and are swinging wildly back and forth. Each time we yank the wheel, we get further from the nice even path we want to be on.
Too Many Extremes
Just like the car, we need our country to get back to the middle rather than swinging from one extreme to the other.
Extreme over reaction is also taking place in politics. Too many people are yanking the wheel away from something with no clarity about what they are heading towards. We used to spend most of our time in the middle with small swings to either side. Now we are swinging so far from center, we spend less and less time in the middle.
You could argue that Trump was a reaction to Obama and his policies. Socialism is an even more extreme reaction to Trump and his policies.
Many of the policies of leniency such as the catch-and-release of petty criminals and allowing the homeless to camp and defecate wherever they want, will eventually self-correct, but how much damage has to be done to neighborhoods, to our cities and to our country first? Do we need to drain our cities of jobs and money again and then wait 40 years for another renaissance? Or will we see the impending crash and pull out in time?
I think it probably depends on whether you live in a red stat or a blue state.
The Biggest Danger
My fear is that our society will not settle back into the middle of the road but will fly off of it and crash. The extremes keep getting more extreme. As the amplitude of the sine wave grows, the highs and lows get greater and greater. We’re seeing that all around us as people at the extremes have less and less in common and less empathy and understanding for each other. At some point, no matter how hard we yank on the wheel, we won’t be able to correct in time. We may already be at the point where it is too late.
Maybe it will be the economy that implodes and sends us in a death spiral. Maybe it will be the liberals packing the court to override our constitutional rights that ignites civil war two. Perhaps it will be China thinking we are weak and distracted and attacking Taiwan, leading to a new war in the Pacific.
We Going to Need Airbags
As preppers, we can vote, but we can’t control what happens in Washington or in the Pacific. All we can do is prepare our families and our little corner of the world.
People have often compared prepping to carrying a spare tire or having insurance. You hope you never need it, but you feel better knowing it’s there.
Today, as the country careens from one extreme to another, I think we need an airbag. Not just a front-end collision airbag. When things go off the rails, we’ll need side curtain air bags, knee air bags and every other safety feature we can find. This isn’t going to be a fender bender, this is going to be a tumbling crash in which those who are not prepared will get ejected from the car.
So don’t stop prepping. Buy and store food. Get livestock and grow food. Buy and store gear, tools, and other supplies. Team up with friends and family. Train. Prepare yourself to repel boarders.