Dystopia 10: The Desert


The Bene Gesserit Littainy against Fear.

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

Dystopia 10:  The Desert

 The smell of blood filled Jack’s nostrils and sent him back to the refinery battle for the second time that day. He took a brief moment to assess his well being. He could detect no injury. He turned to Laissi, “Are you hurt?”

“I am fine.”

“Are you bleeding?”

“I am fine.”

He reached out in the gloom and she shied away from his touch, but not before he felt the sticky, wetness on her arm.

“It will be fine.”

They heard heavy foot steps outside their hiding place and they quieted immediately. Jack held his breath and crouch lower but he could hear Laissi breathing hard and fast. The footsteps passed by the mouth of their cave and receded up the ravine. Jack waited for some time. Then he grouped for the pack at his feet. His hands found the candle and the matches.

As he struck the light she hissed, “Dey will find us!”

“I’ll be quick.”

He held the light up to her and saw with some relief that the wound was in the muscle of her left arm. A ragged gash was cut in the muscle of her upper arm. Probably from the rock fragments that had been sheered off by the bullets the drunken guard had fired at them. Blood streaked down her arm and dripped off of her bent elbow. Not a fatal injury but she was losing blood and that translated to lost water. He would need to quell the flow if they were to escape.

With the aide of the light he could work quickly. He tilted the candle over a relatively flat rock and let the wax pool there. Then he planted the candle in the hot wax. He reached back into the pack. He took out a canteen and sparingly washed the wound. She scowled at him but did not move. He considered his supplies and then tore off two strips of cloth from the hem of his shirt. He rolled one into a ball and pressed it into her wound. She stiffened and sucked in her breath past clenched teeth. Jack tied the second strip around her arm to hold the roll in place.

He offered her a drink out of the canteen. She considered it a moment and then took it. She drank two swallows and passed it back. Jack regarded the canteen but remembered his last trek into the desert and put the cap back on to stow it. Then he extinguished the light. A few minutes later they heard voices and several pairs of feet. There would be no leaving the safety of their hiding place with dawn quickly approaching. They would have to wait until the next nightfall.

“We should rest now.” Jack whispered.

Laissi nodded her understanding and when it was quiet again she crawled to the far edge of the cave away from Jack. For Jack’s part, he curled up where he was and he pulled the pack under his head to wait for sleep to come. In the dim light that was seeping in from outside he contemplated the woman curled in the corner ruefully. He wondered again what had possessed him. He should be in a truck headed for Fort Jenna right now. Not cowering in a cave with “the scorpion woman”. He should be the center of the soldiers’ attention with his stories of capture and rescue. He should be having a hot meal and a comfortable cot this evening. And yet he did not get up and leave the cave. She was wounded he rationalized. He would be shot before his allegiance could be discovered, he told himself.

*****

It had been hours since they had heard the soldiers searching for them. But in the growing gloom of the cave the imagination ran wild. Jack pictured them outside their cave waiting in ambush. His rational mind chased away the image but the insecurity remained, making it difficult to decide to leave even though it was night again. He knew the Blackwaters had abandoned the search but he continued his indecision. In reality he had no idea where to go or what he should do now.

“Is there somewhere I can take you that you will be safe?”

“You take me? It looks like I will be taking you.”

He looked in her direction with an incredulous expression, but in the absolute black of the cave could not see her. “Taking me where?”

“Der is another camp. A bigger camp. We must head dere and tell dem what happened here.”

Jack mentally inventoried his pack for a moment. “How far?”

“Four days.”

That would be a stretch. Perhaps if they drank nothing on the fourth day they might make it.

“Will they have food and water?…For both of us?”

Laissi took his meaning immediately, “Yes…I tink so…If you are wit me.”

He looked at her for a moment. He should give her his pack and walk back toward the camp. But what if the Blackwaters were no longer there. He would die there alone. Or they might shoot him as he approached.

No. He knew he had missed his opportunity. He was a fugitive. Plain and simple. Now he had little choice but to follow her to whatever end she had in mind.

*****

Jack woke on the morning of the forth day hungry, sore and thirsty, but his body had had worse treatment in the past. His internal clock told him the sun would be up soon. He walked over to Laissi. They had covered much ground during the first night but Laissi had soon been unable to recognize landmarks in the dark. After the first night they walked in the morning and the evening and slept during the hot part of the day and at night to conserve their bodies’ moisture. Now they were out of food and nearly out of water.

As he bent to shake her awake he could feel heat radiating up from her body despite the chilled desert night air. He moved his hand from its position above her shoulder to her cheek. His finger tips confirmed his suspicions. Fever.

Her eyes snapped open and her hand came up to push his away as she rolled to her knees. She looked at him accusingly.

“How long have you had the fever?” he asked calmly, too tired for any of her scorpion woman antics.

She relaxed, “Since yesterday afternoon.”

He knelt in front of her and took her arm. He inspected the bandage he had placed 4 days ago. She had stopped bleeding the day after their night in the cave and she had not complained of pain. Now he could see the dull red appearance of the skin on either side of the bandage. He untied the scrap of cloth and began to remove the compress. A sickly scratching noise reached his ears as the compress pulled away some of her newly healed flesh. She tensed and sucked in her breath. The wound began to ooze but not to bleed outright. He could see a yellow slime around the edges and there was a faint burned smell. Infection.

Jack fought down a sense of dread and kept his face stony. Without her he was lost in the desert without food or water. Even if he did manage to find the camp, they would likely kill him without her intervention. Fever and infection would make her burn through her bodies resources faster. Just when they needed speed and endurance she was likely to have neither.

He looked at the wound and sighed. He did not dare clean it with the water they had left. Instead he reached in the bag and gave her the canteen.

“Drink.” He commanded.

She took two swallows and handed the canteen back to him.

“Finish it.” He said taking another canteen out of the bag. She looked at the second canteen in his hand and then did as he told her. As soon as she was done Jack dropped the already empty canteen in the dirt. She glared at him with the realization that she had been tricked into drinking the last of their water. He took out the field hat they had shared the last 3 days and gave it to her. She took it in trembling hands and stared at it, still thinking about the water.

“Put it on.” He said. Then he stood, leaving the now useless backpack and canteens in the dust. He starting to walk in the direction they had been going the night before. She looked after him for a second and then put the hat on. She dropped the forgotten canteen she still held and walked after him.

“How far do you think?”

“We will reach it today.”

He looked at her. “We have to reach it today.”

She met his eyes and nodded.

And they walked. The sun crested in the sky and began its descent. The temperature rose. Jack put a smooth desert stone in his mouth and sucked to quell some of the thirst. It was only marginally successful. Jack was weighing continuing their walk through the worst of the day’s heat when he heard Laissi grunt behind him. He turned to find her on her hands and knees. He spit out the stone and returned to her.

“I am alright. I just had a leg pain and tripped.”

Leg cramps. Jack had made treks through the desert before when he moved from fort to fort. He knew that leg cramps were a bad sign. A sign that the body needed water desperately. He suppressed his trepidation and put on his best gambler’s face. He reached down to pull her up by her good shoulder. She was as hot as the desert sand at their feet. He smelled the burned flesh smell again…stronger now. They were losing their battle against the desert.

“We’ll find somewhere to rest.”

He pulled her arm up over his shoulder and put his arm around her waist. He scanned the immediate environment and made for the largest bush he could find. He deposited her in its shade. She flopped to the ground panting. He scanned the horizon again hoping to see any sign of civilization. Finding none he sat next to her.

“Where are we going next?”

“Dere.” She pointed to the base of a mountain without opening her eyes.

He looked at her. “We aren’t climbing?”

“Yes. We must climb. Dey live in the hills.” The last of her words came out a sigh as she drifted off to sleep.

Jack sat and monitored the sun. When it was low in the horizon, he reached out to wake her again. Her temperature was somewhat cooler and she seemed more alert after the rest. She got up on her own and followed his lead although at a slower pace than she had achieved in the morning.

They entered the base of the hill and she took the lead long enough to locate a trail. Much to Jack’s relief. They climbed for several hours at the same plodding pace.

As the ground became steeper, Laissi was not even able to maintain the slow pace she had set that afternoon. She was drifting behind him further and panting. Her hair was stuck to her face and under her normally brown complexion, Jack could see the ruddy glow of her fever. He walked back to her and as he had done that afternoon he positioned her good arm over his shoulder and put his arm around her waist. If need be he would carry this damn scorpion woman the last mile of their journey.

They continued on until the night. The night was clear and lit by at least a half moon. That was good because there was no stopping if they were to survive. He continued to pull Laissi up the mountain trail as she provided less and less effort on her own. Finally her head lolled against his chest and he was more or less carrying her. In short order his arms and back ached but he continued. His legs began to ache. His mouth was cotton but he continued. He fought the fatigue that kept whispering to him, put her down and rest. You can continue in the morning. He knew morning would never come. He was desperate and without hope but he continued carrying the scorpion woman through the night.

He continued to plod up the mountain with his charge dragging her feet behind them in a useless imitation of walking until he heard a commanding voice pierce the night air. Jack’s heart went to his throat. He tried to shake Laissi awake but her head only bobbed on his chest. Panic filled his mind and he shook her and spoke her name in her ear.

“Ha up├ępe!” The voice commanded in Guarani again.

The Concepts behind the Fiction:

1.  Sometimes a Story is just a Story

I’ve already covered desertification, soil erosion, water scarcity, resource wars, alternative energy, and militarism in other blog entries.  All the things that might go with what is happening in this chapter.  So this week, while Jack and Laissi make it to their next destination, I wanted to get something off my chest that has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now.

I was watching television with my husband…OK he was watching and I was falling asleep on the couch…when something penetrated the mind fog I was in and raised goose-flesh on my arms.  I sat up and asked him to rewind theTivo, something I almost never do, and listened to the statement again in horror and disbelief…

2.  Bernanke, Geitner and a Trillion

The Fantasy:

“It’s not tax money. The banks have accounts with the Fed, much the same way that you have an account in a commercial bank. So, to lend to a bank, we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account that they have with the Fed. It’s much more akin to printing money than it is to borrowing.”

“You’ve been printing money?” Pelley asked.

“Well, effectively,” Bernanke said. “And we need to do that, because our economy is very weak and inflation is very low. When the economy begins to recover, that will be the time that we need to unwind those programs, raise interest rates, reduce the money supply, and make sure that we have a recovery that does not involve inflation.”–60 Minutes

 


Translation:

The Fed will print money and give it to American Banks so they can pay off the outrageous debts that they owe to each other and to foreign countries.  When the banks have paid off their debt and before this unconscionable amount of money printing (1 Trillion in the last 6 mos) is noticed by those who invested in the American economy (ie China) the Fed will lift its magic wand. The economy will shrink by some magical formula that has yet to be disclosed that involves increasing interest rates without creating depression.  Presto,chango the extra dollars vanish.  The banks are made whole. The US debt becomes manageable.  The American economy begins to recover like green shoot pressing up through the ground after a hard winter…and unicorns dance theMacarana.

The Reality:

And the federal budget he [Obama] unveiled last month projects even faster increases in the National Debt. It’ll hit $12.7-trillion by the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. The Administration’s four year estimate shows that by the end of September 2012, the Debt will have soared to $16.2-trillion – which amounts to nearly 100% of the projected Gross Domestic Product that year.  CBS

The United States debt clock clicked over to $11 trillion in March.  That is $38,500 for every man, woman and child in the US.  But that number is dwarfed by the $30 trillion in debt in the credit default swap (insurance for bankers) market.  That is $105,000 for each of us.

Bernanke and Geitner both admit that the way they have picked to get out of this pickle is to “print money”.  In fact the Federal Reserve (The Fed) can do this without the consent of Congress or the President and the Fed does not even have to tell Congress how much it is printing.  The debt is too big to be paid off by the dollar at the dollar’s current value so make the value of the dollar smaller by printing more of them and the debt stays the same.  Viola! You cure the debt problem.  Problem is that the dollar in your pocket also shrinks.  That is inflation.  We have lived with inflation for a long time.  In fact the dollar has lost 98% of its value over the last 100 years.  We are used to inflation, at a slow pace.  That is not what worried me as I sat on my couch that day.  What I am worried about is hyperinflation.  When the dollar in your pocket shrinks to the point that you can not buy food that is hyperinflation.  Hyperinflation is fast and furious.  Hyperinflation destroys livelihoods, lives and countries.

Turns out the Chinese watch 60 Minutes too.  Who knew?  They were apparently no more reassured by Bernanke’s conversation with Pelley than I was.  When China, the US’s biggest investor, started to sound worried about the health of the dollar and threatened to unload its investments, Tim Geitner was sent to China to make them feel better.  On June 1, an auditorium full of students from Peking U actually laughed at him when he told them not to worry.

Now I am not an economist.  I approach this purely from a historic perspective.  Many countries have decreased their debt by printing money (Germany 1920’s, Argentina 1990’s, Zimbabwe now).  I can not recall a single nation that has done this and walked away unscathed.  Most, if not all, of the countries who have attempted this have suffered hyperinflation.  No country has achieved a contraction of the capital without what most of us would consider economic collapse.  Undoing hyperinflation is not that easy.  In fact I do not think it has ever been successfully done without at least a generation’s worth of severe hardship and frequently a significant amount of state violence to boot.

The Conspiracy Theory:

Needless to say I think the Peking students were right to laugh. I think that the public appearances of Geitner and Bernanke, telling us not to worry and that they see the green shoots of Spring, are nothing more than propaganda to help prop up the economy a little longer.  And at least forBernanke, I think he knows it.  Watch the  60 Minutes interview.  Look around his eyes.  His eyes betray him.  He knows he is lying.

These men are smart men.  They know that this will likely put the last nail in the economy’s coffin.   Why do this?  Why deliberately destroy the economy?  For one thing there is no other way out.  Capitalism demands ever increasing consumption and we have hit a limit–Debt.  There is no nonpainful way to “unwind” the economy.

So if the US is the economic equivalent of the Titanic, who do you save as it sinks?  The answer is the same as in the real Titanic.  The rich of course.  Flood the banks with money which they reinvest in stable commodities.  Devalue the dollar to nothing.  Foreign investors are paid off in worthless dollars.  American working class are left to manage as best they can without any real money but they have survived that before.  The rich have stores of money that is not worth as much as it was, and they had time to take some of the money and put it in stable commodities so its value did not shrink.  They weather the storm.  And on the other side, the economy is reset and they will still be on top.

That is a grim picture, I admit.  There is little that you can do at this point to change that.  The economy will stabilize for a while.  Who knows maybeBernanke is a genius and has a secret plan that all the countries in history in this situation did not consider.  Perhaps the Chinese will stop laughing and continue to invest in the US…or at least not pull out.  Its possible.  And its not like there is not a bright side to this.  Most of this blog has been about global warming.  Economic collapse would slow our green house gas emissions.  You’ll probably get to know your neighbor better.

But in case the unicorns don’t show up, you can do some things to help yourself out.  I spent a little time searching the web for down to Earth advise–quite literally.  What The Crash Proof Mom calls “Bensurance”. Also the reading list on my blog has some very helpful books.  Forgive the You Tube films.  Remember, these are amateur film makers who took the time to give you their advise.  They are not Hollywood producers.  RadioEcoshock consistently has advice for “living without” in many of his episode.  I put a link to some of the episodes that I know have advise but he gives you a pearl in almost every episode so I recommend subscribing to his podcast.

 

Good Luck!

Economic Collapse Prep Part 1

The Crash Proof Mom 1

Survival Gardening Part 1/7

Quick and Dirty advice to protect yourself

Radio Ecoshock survival guides

“Quantitative Easing”