No Power

We have no power, no telephone (but cell works) no water. A transformer went last night. DH is grateful for the solar power that is allowing me to make a new blog post; I’m grateful for the kerosene lanterns, the candles, the pressure cooker, the rain barrels (for flushing) and the Berkey filter system for drinking water, as well as for our food storage.

Lesson learned. We definitely still need a wood stove. It’s about 58 in here, and sure to drop lower tonight; we need lanterns with better light than the kerosene lanterns so rechargeable solar lanterns are definitely in our future; we need drinking water storage. And a toilet seat for the bucket that is in the bathroom so that we can just take the urine out to the garden on a daily basis.

All in all, not so bad. We’ll be playing guitar, I’ll be going to bed early (I work tomorrow anyway) and I have a propane camp heater for the bathroom so I can get around in more than 45 degree temps.

Supposedly they’ll have the power back up by tonight; I’m not holding my breath. We’ll be OK if it doesn’t come back right away.

After all, with a failing infrastructure it’s the wave of the future.

My favorite kitchen tool


Originally uploaded by susancoyotesfan

This is one of my favorite kitchen items. It is my Presto pressure cooker, circa sometime mid twentieth century. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and we inherited it when Oscar, my husband’s grandfather died at the ripe age of 97. Yes, it’s dirty on the top because it’s cooking our dinner.

This is a life saver for days like today, when we both were busy studying and taking tests for our on line classes. Neither of us came up for air or remembered about dinner until 6 pm; so, there’s a ham hock with veggies and rice in there cooking. In less than an hour we’ll have dinner (plus prep time, about 45 min).

Wow, you say. Nearly two hours to make dinner??? Well, it beats the hell out of a frozen meal, made with God only knows what for ingredient sources, and preservatives to boot. Everything came from our freezer or our storage. And it surely beats the hell out of spending money on a take out meal.

Believe it or not, a pressure cooker can use less power than a crockpot or regular cooking. That’s because the pressure makes the food cook faster. I could make it even more efficient by cooking on my rocket stove, or by bringing it to pressure and then putting it into my haybox cooker to finish coming back down to atmospheric pressure. In the summer this may well be cooking on my firepit outside, or on my campstove.

My haybox cooker is a wine case with styrofoam glued to the outside, and nested in a cardboard box.  I use an old felted wool blanket folded in it as the ‘hay’ because it’s neater and holds heat really well.

All in all, this has been a lifesaver for two college students trying to maintain honors gpa’s while still working. If only I could find a lifesaver that would help us out that much with laundry and housekeeping.

What’s up lately?

My husband commented the other day that my blog isn’t devoted to much of the Tin Foil Hat stuff any more.  I realized he is right.  And there’s really a simple reason for that.  I can comment on whatever’s going on, but it doesn’t change anything.  Or.  I can talk about what I’m doing to make the best of our situation, to make sure we’re ahead of the curve with declining resources, and making due with less.  I can post a long diatribe about the price of food commodities, or I can post what works in our area and climate, and how best to preserve that harvest so others can make use of the information.  I can basically be a cynic, a Cassandra, or I can talk about what I’m doing to work around the obstacles.

So, if you find weaving, spinning, canning, etc boring, I apologize.  They’re simply my answers to thorny problems with no simple solutions.  And I’m finding that with spinning, weaving, and the rest of the fiber arts/home maker arts that the quality is simply so superior to what I can buy (except from other fiber artists of course) that I would rather spend my time making towels, washcloths, clothing, rugs, yarn, and so on.  If the choice is that or spend my money, I’ll spend the time ninety nine times out of one hundred.

Am I as prepared as I would like to be?  Hell no.  But, we won’t starve and we won’t go without proper clothing.  Hopefully we won’t live in a tent but that’s one of those eventualities I simply can’t plan for.  So I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.  After all, there are literally hundreds of homes with more land than I have I can move into with little or no rent.  So why worry?

The viability of the crafts industry

Once upon a time, all over the world, there was a thriving textiles industry — or rather, many, defined by geography and the availability of raw materials with which to produce textiles.  Thousands upon thousands of workers, toiling each and every day to produce what little they could due to the lack of fossil fuels to assist in their labors.  Guilds sprung up in many areas, both to assist members in receiving a fair price for their goods and also to regulate what, how much, and by what process goods could be produced.  This both limited and protected those who belonged; it was a fair trade off and one that worked for many hundreds of years.  Then came the industrial revolution and these antiquated ways went on the trash pile of history.  Or so it seems.

It should be noted that many of the textiles of the past cannot — let me repeat that, CANNOT be reproduced by industrial methods.  And that many of the techniques are lost to history, thanks to the advent of industrialized textile production and the accompanying slave labor market it produced.

Now, when I say ‘industry’ in the context of pre-industrial world production, I don’t mean it in the sense that we think of it now.  When I say industry, it conjures up the image of people going to a centralized area, working their allotted hours for someone else, trading their time for money.  That isn’t the reality that was before the advent of the Industrial Age in the early 1700’s. And that’s what I think puts people off the idea of making money at a crafting business.  Below is posted a comment from The Archdruid Report of The Ways of the Force

It’s interesting how people jump to spinning and weaving as a response to the threat of energy decline. Both seem poor investments to me (I should speak softly here, my wife is currently away at a fibre crafts fair). They are fun, but are only ever going to be hobbies.

Consider that a spinning machine (that draws the fibre and spins into even thickness multi-ply yarns) is something that can be built by a knowledgeable blacksmith or carpenter in a day or two. A mechanised weaving loom can be built with 18th century technology. Automated knitting is 19th century as are sewing machines. But what we still haven’t made machines to efficiently do is make clothes.

So it would seem prudent, while we have a supply of cheap fabric, to learn how to efficiently make efficient clothing. And it’s actually fun. What got me started is the fact that I am very long in the body, so off the shelf clothing is either baggy or midriff. I’ve made tee-shirts, underwear, polar fleece tops and bike riding clothes using nothing more than a bottom of the range sewing machine and some simple long life low tech tools such as the humble stitch unpicker.

There are some major problems with this point of view.  One is that it isn’t cost effective to make one’s own clothing, and one should make clothing out of other clothes.  The other is implicitly contained in this comment and is that producing textiles isn’t worthwhile enough to bother with and shouldn’t be considered by anyone contemplating energy descent.  Another is that machines can be more efficient than a human being.  And a final, not insignificant one is the assumption that these fabrics he plays around with making his own clothes are going to continue to be readily available in the future.

Now, from the point of view of modern industrial textile production, this gentleman is right.  It’s NOT cost effective, not by a long shot, to spin the yarn/thread and weave one’s own fabric.  Nor, in the long run, is making one’s own clothes.  But there is a hidden cost involved in buying textiles produced by the industrial method, and that is that there is a family caught up in the slave labor market, weaving for 16 hours a day or longer, usually by kerosene lantern in poorly ventilated areas, making that cheap textile that is the raw material for your clothes.  Those fancy spinning and weaving machines are too expensive for use by these families in India, Pakistan, etc.  so guess what they weave on?  You guessed it, a hand loom.

Back to my introductory paragraph.  This idea that people ‘toiled’ making the raw goods into usable product I think it mostly wrong.  And the idea that these people only did this, is very wrong.  You see, the industrialized idea that all things should be made as a thing unto themselves, away from all other activities of living, is the problem.  That’s a new idea.  It’s really less than 300 years old, and violates the entire path of human history.  The reality is that most of those textiles were produced in neighborhoods, if not homes, in the context of daily life, with the ability for the makers to interrupt their processes for things like children crying, daily chores, cooking, cleaning, and so on.  If a weaver had a shop, it was usually connected with his workshop, which was usually close to his/her home.  The spinners worked at home, in snatches of time as it was available; children learned to spin at the ripe old age of four or five.  Now, for the most part, prior to the advent of the industrial mindset, this was a skill they did NOT spend their entire day doing, but they would have a certain amount of work to be done before they could play, just as modern children should have chores they must complete, along with homework, before they are free to play.  Work was integrated into the home.  All work was integrated into the home.  And the home was integrated into the work life.  Yes, of course, there were markets.  But the merchants purveying goods at these markets did so while buying from recognized traders, or from local craftspeople. And because the products were produced at home, as part of the production of a home, the idea that they should be monetized and made ‘efficient’ by modern standards would have been ludicrous to those ancestral textile producers.  Yes, people made their livings from these things, but in the context of all the other things they did to live, not separately.  Just as a farmer traditionally sold the extra he had after making sure the family was fed and possibly raising a cash crop on the side, most textile workers worked from home, producing for their own families’ needs first, then producing the luxury textiles that were sold.

There is an idea contained here in his statements, I believe, that conveys the perception that these crafts can only ever be hobbies because they are done from the home — that ‘real’ work involves going somewhere else.  I believe, on the contrary, that what makes these viable livelihoods IS the fact that they are produced from home, in the context of daily life.  If one doesn’t need to calculate the costs of commuting, renting a shop, etc. but calculates instead a price based on time to produce, and costs of materials, the analysis changes into something more resembling the history of the textile trade.

The idea the gentleman proposes, that these machines can be made simply (and probably cheaply) by a skilled blacksmith or wood worker, betrays his ignorance of the level of technology that goes into a spinning wheel or loom.  In fact, they are high technology items, and you are not going to get one made cheaply by anyone who values their time and skill.  I think buried somewhere in his statement is the idea that these machines somehow do their work without the input of the human being running the machine — which doesn’t happen in the home setting(or in the areas of high textile production like India or Pakistan), and which uses fossil fuels to boot.  A spinning wheel doesn’t make yarn without the human to appropriately feed the fiber in, to treadle the wheel, and to ply and finish the yarn after it’s spun.  A loom doesn’t warp itself (even big industrial ones!), doesn’t choose the pattern, doesn’t feed the shuttle across the warp, and decide if it’s appropriate for this or that use when it’s done.  These things take human beings.  My loom is nice, but it isn’t necessary to weave beautiful, practical items.  A backstrap loom, or foot loom, where the weaver’s body is what keeps the tension, have been in use for literally thousands of years — the Egyptians wove linen at a fineness that simply can’t be duplicated now — using nothing more than a foot loom.  They spun their linen at a thinness so fine that it was one fiber thick using a glue to piece it together at each end of the fiber, on a drop spindle, that can’t be reproduced now because we no longer know what they used to glue the pieces together.  The Indians spun silk at a similar fineness, also using nothing more than a drop spindle, at a fineness that one cocoon could literally make a mile or more of thread.

Where does this gentleman think the raw materials come from?  They come from farmers and herdsman.  When you get right down to it, these are activities that require human input.  In the case of herding, a lot of human input.  There is no machine ever made that will shear a sheep by itself, nor an alpaca.  There is no replacement for the hand work of the Irish flax farmers who produce the world’s finest linen.  Now, admittedly, there are machines made that do use fossil fuels in order to make certain processes more efficient — the cotton gin comes to mind for one — that are a godsend to those in the fiber industry, both craft scale and large scale.  Cotton, now ubiquitous in everyday life, was once a luxury fiber due to the heavy human involvement in the time consuming process of removing the seeds from the boll before it could be used.  In fact, the cotton gin is one of the reasons that the Civil War was able to be won by the North — thousands of slaves were no longer needed to process the cotton by hand.

Polar fleece is a fiber that is completely dependent on fossil fuel production.  I can think of many more that are also completely dependent on fossil fuel production.  From raw material to finished product, they are a child of the Industrial Age.  As fuel becomes more expensive, these fibers, and the items made from them, will also become more expensive.  In fact, all textiles will become more expensive; there isn’t going to be the money to pay for textiles to be made in one third world country, shipped to another for the manufacture of cheap clothing, and then shipped to Western nations for consumption.  I worry for the poor providers of the cloth; what will happen to their livelihoods as the demand drops?

So to his idea that the skills of weaving and spinning and making clothing (couturier) will never be anything more than hobbies, I have to take issue.  Admittedly, in the next ten or twenty years they may never be anything more than hobbies to those of us in the comfortable West, but in the nearer rather than farther future, these ‘hobbies’ will become once again integral to daily life.  The supply of used clothing will run down, and the need for these skills will ramp up.  Guilds, revived in the middle of the 20th century as a way to share knowledge and skills, will once again become necessary to regulate the commerce in textiles.  I consider myself one of the keepers of (mostly) lost arts/skills for the future generations.  And I spin, knit, crochet, sew, dye, and weave much as my ancestors did — in between other activities of daily life.  If only my paying job was at home as well.

One more step taken on my preparedness TSHTF list

I passed my Ham Technician test yesterday.

Those who are reading this blog, who know me in person, are probably incredulous right now that I did this, as I’m not a fan of the telephone.  I would literally rather drive miles to see someone in person rather than talk to them on the phone, even if that means waiting until I have other errands to run and making a marathon day out of it.

As I was studying, and indeed even as I was waiting in line (!) to pay my fee for testing, I was very much of two minds about this:  1. that this is an incredibly ‘geeky’ thing to do, which while I AM a geek, is not in my list of geeky things to accomplish.  I’m not tech savvy, my husband had to set up this blog site for me, and I still need his help on a regular basis for anything technology related.  And 2.  This is absolutely something I need to have and to upgrade, whether I want to or not, because the time is coming when I’ll need it.

Why will I need it?  Well, for one thing, I live in a part of the country with patchy cell phone coverage.  Mountains tend to disrupt cell signals pretty well it turns out.  Add to that the fact that I live less than 3 miles from my ‘home’ cell tower, I can see it from my living room, yet on most days I can’t get a steady signal from it, tells me that cell phone companies are having hard times too, and who knows how much longer my company will continue to invest in maintenance of every tower they have?  Especially the ones in the rural areas, as mine most definitely is?  In fact, if the economy gets worse as many are predicting, how much longer will my cell provider even be in business?

That is why I need to have a Ham license.  Whether or not the repeaters are running, there are, literally, Hams EVERYWHERE.  And nearly all of them have radios with them at all times.  Which means that even if the repeaters for the radio towers go down, there will still be relay of messages via line-of-site.  Which means I will be able to keep in contact with my spouse and loved ones if I get into trouble on the road or something.

National Field day, which is probably one of the biggest Ham events in the country, is at the end of this month.  Mr. TF and I plan to attend; him because he’s the president of the club and he loves Ham radio; me because I never pass up the chance to eat brats* with mustard — and it will be a good way to get practice with lots of other ‘geeks’ who know a LOT more than I do.  I will, however, also be bringing my folding chair and my spinning wheel with me….there’s only so much modern technology I can deal with in a day that I’m not working.

Surprisingly, there is a large contingent of Hams who also suspect things may be going in a …. not positive direction in our country, and who are aware of the potential for Ham to be a vital communications link.  And that contingent is growing by leaps and bounds — I don’t know statistics, but based on listening to the club members who are or have been examiners, I would have to say that the ‘hobby’ is growing in popularity spectacularly quickly these days.  There were eleven people who tested with me, and two of them drove for about 80 miles to test.  In a community that still is listed as a rural community according to the census, no less.

Next on the list is getting a small solar set up, and getting a bank of batteries together.  Doesn’t do much good to have radio capability in the ‘long emergency’ if one doesn’t have power for the radios.

*disclaimer* Brats are food of the gods.  I may go to hell, and I may die of cancer, but they are one of the few meats I eat without checking to see that they’re sustainably raised.  Especially when they’re provided as part of a potluck.

So, why is an English paper covering this but not any American outlets??

The Guardian has this happy article posted that has been linked to by many in the Peak Oil movement.  I haven’t seen a single American news outlet cover this yet though.  Why not?  It’s research done by our own military, for cripes sake, and it affects national security in a big way!

What does this mean for me?  Well, for one thing I think it means I’m screwed no matter what I do.  Get out of debt?  Not a chance.

And I’m still fighting with Mr. Tin Foil about getting a wood stove.  He’s worried that putting the pipe through the roof might make it leak.  I’m worried that I might not be able to cook!  Let alone heat; we have done without central heating for two years now, but we do still use space heaters in places like the bathroom, and a heated mattress pad on the bed.  We are signed up for the program with our utility company that gives us 100% of our electricity from wind and solar, but if they have problems we’ll have no electricity regardless.

Water.  Still our biggest concern.  I don’t have nearly the storage capacity I need, nor do I have the solar pump or hand powered pump I need to use it.

I drive 60 miles one way to work; getting a job closer isn’t really an option at this time.  DH drives 75 miles one way.  We have a Prius, but only one of us can use it, and it still uses gas.  Big problem no matter how you look at it.  No gas = no money.  And no house ultimately.

It seems I’m always a day late and a dollar short, no matter what I do.  Guess I’ll go finish knitting my sock.  At least that I can accomplish.

New year, new goals, new chance to mess it all up :)

I decided to go back to school for my bachelor’s.  Today in fact was my first day of class.   I don’t care so much about having it, but it means a little more money. Most importantly, it opens many doors for future advancement. Whether or not the world comes to an end financially this year, I plan to continue on this journey as long as I am able.  I am really starting to realize that my special interest lies more in preventative health care.  Especially since nearly everything I see in the ED is due to preventable illness or lack of forethought.  I like my job but I leave my job many more days than I would like with a little sadness that so many things are so messed up for so many people.

I made nearly all of our holiday gifts we gave this year, with a few exceptions; some things I just can’t knit, spin, sew, or cook!

We also made nearly all the food for the holidays from stores, and from scratch, other than the free range turkey for the big family get together.

We had a wonderful Solstice get together with friends, and even though we had to leave early so I could get to bed and go to work the next day it was worth being kind of tired.

Lots of stuff has happened at work recently that has been fodder for blogging but I have to sit down long enough to sort it out first.

I believe the first signs of the collapse are visible. I couldn’t get mantles for my Aladdin lamp because there was a problem with the manufacturer…in China I assume as most things are made there now a days. My thyroid medication is back ordered due to supply issues with the manufacturer and I have found a compounding pharmacy that makes a bio-identical product but at a much higher price. Which I’ll happily pay versus not having. Much fewer cars on the freeway on most days that I go to work than there were even last year. Many more people in the ER who don’t have insurance of any kind. Organic chicken feed being chronically out of stock at my local feed store. The local Home Depot being so empty that I can get not one, but three employees to help when I go.

We got a used cage to rehome the bunnies in, and are in the process of getting it habitable for them. As is typical for me, it has turned into a much more complicated project than I first envisioned — I’m not sure if I just overly simplify everything, think I’m a lot faster at stuff than I am, or if I just attract Murphy and his law since it was my birth name.

New blog links

I finally decided to add the blogs that I read that don’t have a lot to do with peak oil, financial collapse, doom and gloom.  And some that do, but are funny in a guffaw, laugh out loud sort of way.

As you might be able to tell, I’m a fiber nut as well…I literally have a room full of alpaca fiber, angora,  unwashed wool from various breeds, nice roving, silk fiber, yarns of all sorts in bins boxes, and bags, cloth scraps saved from previous projects as well as cloth purchased for future ones, embroidery thread, …well you get the idea. Some people collect shoes or purses.  I collect fiber.  Scrooge had his vault of gold coins; I have my bags of alpaca.  We both feel wealthy when we spend time with our loot.

Anyway, if you click on any of the links for crafting type stuff, I think you’ll find that they are a good read even if you’re not a fiber junkie like me.  And the photos are luscious.  Some people dream of flat screen TV’s.  I dream of silly things like spinning wheels, time to use them, faster knitting, the pure sensuous pleasure of natural fibers sliding through my hands and the beauty of the colors as they form the finished product.

Overtime and Spending my pay

Overtime in the last two weeks: nearly 30 hours. I’m exhausted and sick of my job. But I am putting the money to good use: new 15 cubic foot freezer and an electric rototiller I bought from a coworker.

Next purchase next payday with my overtime: pergola for the back patio area; I was going to build one but I found one at Sears that is similar dimensions to what I was going to build for just about what I would spend in materials. Yes, it will be slightly less sturdy, but I am OK with that vs. possibly not getting around to building one at all this year.

I agonized over the freezer purchase but I do plan to buy a small solar array and have the freezer ultimately run off that exclusively. That way I can be assured that even with power outages or shutoffs (Gods forbid) we will have our food supply secured.

The rototiller is for getting rid of all the bermuda; I’m planning to sow red clover in the side yard before I till it under and plant amaranth for the chickens next year. I could just let them loose and let them pick it down to the ground this year as well.

Next big purchase after the pergola/arbor: wood stove, one of the 85% efficient ones that we can get a tax rebate for. And the permit. And the installation. As soon as I call our insurance company and make sure they won’t cancel our homeowner’s insurance if we get one (we live in a modular/mobile on a foundation).

Grain mill update:  love love LOVE my new nutrimill grain mill…7 cups of flour in about 5 minutes.  My only gripe is that it is LOUD.  Like have to wear earplugs kind of loud.

Of burkhas, veils, trade goods, and the future

I belong to which is a social networking site.  Pretty much any kind of tribe you might be interested in, up to and including sexual ones, are there (or used to be, anyway).

Given that I have a wide variety of interests, I belong to tribes about bellydance and several subdivisions of that such as Egyptian bellydance, American style, Turkish style, and of course my locally based tribes.  I also belong to handspinning tribes, gardening tribes, natural health tribes, and one post apocolyptic tribe.  This is the one I’m blogging about today.

One of the topics posted on Saturday which I replied to on Sunday, was titled Post Apocolyptic Trade Goods.  One of the posters brought up women as a trade good.  Several men replied joking about an appropriate price.  I replied because I was offended by that…my post was simple, to the point, and without hatred.  I of course got completely flamed, quite viciously, and was told to ‘go make me a sandwich, woman’ along with other more vile comments including accusing me of being a typical manipulative woman who is not capable of actually doing anything myself so I have to use my sex as a weapon.

I have as my avatar there, the same picture I have of myself on my blog.  That of course was also brought up as an issue.  I know that ignorance is bliss, but people really shouldn’t comment on stuff they don’t actually know anything about.  Comparing my colorful silk veil to a hijab, and making cartoon caricaturish comments about Islam while accusing me of being  a Muslim hypocrite who wears the veil yet accuses them of sexism doesn’t place them in a positive light in my view.  It only proves my point.

Here is my reply to them:

First of all, you are displaying your ignorance by comparing a silk veil, used in AMERICAN STYLE bellydance, to a hijab or to a burkha. A hijab being a traditional religious and cultural modesty artifact, and a burkha being a male imposed means of control and dehumanization.  I do happen to be a bellydancer.  I have MANY friends who are from the Middle East, and yes I DO speak some Arabic. The fact that women dance in the Middle East, which to the average American male is ‘stripper lite’ while in the Middle East it’s just a dance, and some women make money at it (and some use it as a front for other things), is typical of the misunderstanding. Women dance there as a rebellion against their culture.  They dance for themselves.  Just as those of us who truly fall in love with the artform here do.  We share our love with the audience if there is one, but we don’t do it for them.

I am well aware of what goes on in some parts of the Middle East.  That was exactly my point.  So are men just basically, secretly, waiting for TEOTWAWKI so they can go back to being chauvinistic jerks like most of the rest of the world?  To be ‘real men’?  Oh, you poor put upon men, that can’t just do and say whatever they want.  So oppressed.  That’s the feeling I get from many of the survivalists I know, and I have corresponded with.

Thousand, I am the very LAST person you should accuse of being a whiney manipulative woman trying to use her sex as a weapon or a reason not to do something.   My husband would laugh to hear you accuse me of using my sex.  I would never ask my husband or any other man to do something I am capable of doing myself, unless I was planning to pay him to do something I didn’t want to do myself.  So sure, I’ll make you a sandwich…on my own time…and you might want to think twice about eating it if you want to live to eat another, if you keep talking like that.  My, my…such sensitive men we have here…almost as though you are just as easily offended….

My point was, and is, that this is one of the things that I wonder and worry about — my ability to be in a place, and just be looked at as a person, with skills and knowledge to share, and be treated as an equal, is something I fear will be lost in a TSHTF situation.  I truly do fear this for women generally.  Equality as something closer to reality is something that seems to have been made possible only by cheap oil and lightning fast communication.  What will happen when those go away?

This is perhaps the crux of my post.  Sharon Astyk puts it much more elegantly than I ever could in her blog post Peak Oil, Gender, and Power what it is that I am talking about, and why I found it so offensive.

Women historically, have not been considered equal to men.  This is not opinion.  It is fact.   Sharon points out that “…Most of those weird, queasy moments that don’t quite fall into any category, but where some man makes a woman know that they are only safe because the man chooses it to be that way…”  I’ve been there.  While I was on duty, no less.

The thing is, that my avatar photo is kind of offensive to some in the ME community, and I chose it deliberately because of that.  I do see the double standards, the fact that women are supposedly on a pedestal but that the reality in many cases is that women are seen and treated as objects. It’s a controversial subject.  Although if you are a man you probably don’t even realize it, here in America sexism is alive and well.  However, over there it’s much more overt.  How do women maneuver successfully?  How can I learn from them?

I probably would not even realize the extent of sexism in the US today if I had not chosen a traditionally male profession as my first career.  I was a firefighter for 10 years.  Believe you me, sexism IS alive and well.  As is racism.  I got out of the business because I became so disillusioned with our ‘public servants’ who are not any such thing in many, if not most cases.

So.  As the depression worsens, what will happen to us as a society?  What will happen if the federal govt and its ‘protections’ for women and minorities are no longer enforced, due to either lack of money/staff or due to the breakup of the US?  What will happen to worker protections generally?  The prohibition against children working?