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Is the "Benedict Option" an Option?
Is hiding out and holing up enough?
Right now, I’m struggling with what the kids call “black pilled,” which is just newspeak for “despair.”
So I hope you’ll forgive me a bit of a rant as I air these thoughts. Maybe you share similar ones.
It was about ten years ago that I spotted the direction of the world and grew determined to become more self-sufficient and try to shield my family from the downward direction of contemporary civilization.
But I’ve recently started to think that things are much worse than even I originally realized. Two recent things in particular have highlighted that.
That stupid balloon
One is this stupid balloon that you’re probably sick of hearing about. To be clear, it’s not the Chinese spy balloon that frightens me. In the overall picture of the many ways China—and our own government—spies on us, it’s pretty benign. Almost quaint.
Some have postulated that the balloon might be a vehicle for an EMP device. Spooky thought, but the most practical EMP delivery device is a nuke, and there are much better ways to deploy one than hanging it from a hot air balloon.
So I’m not scared of the balloon. What frightens me is the utterly apathetic response from our oh-so-expensive Defense Department. How did it even cross into our airspace? It wasn’t spotted by our military, but by civilians looking out a plane window.
Now the response seems to be, “Well, what can you do?” It’s absolutely astounding to me that the federal government would let a spy device from a foreign adversary simply wander around in our airspace. It’s the military equivalent of a man sitting around watching sportsball while his wife cavorts with her lover in the martial bed.
Maybe the balloon itself isn’t a threat, but optics matter. And right now the world is watching the supposedly most powerful military in the world shrug as it floats around the continental United States.
Can you imagine Truman allowing that? JFK? In fact, I can’t think of a single other American president—Republican or Democrat—who would have let that slide, not even poor besmirched Jimmy Carter.
Meanwhile, our military has exhausted itself arming Ukraine to the point that it may have disarmed itself. The primary justification for The State is mutual defense—it’s right there in the Constitution. If The State can’t even provide that anymore, what are our taxes for?
I’ve spent the last year listening to people say how the United States would rock the Russians in a direct fight. Are you sure about that? Since World War II, we’ve been humiliated by rice farmers, goat herders, and now a hot-air balloon. I dread to think how we’d fare against a mechanized military.
Poison chicken feed?
When I set out on this path about a decade ago, I decided we needed chickens. Then our (rural, agrarian) city decided that we shouldn’t be allowed to have any animal that isn’t a cat or a dog. A chicken plant was moving in and it was one of their demands, and the money gets what it wants.
So we moved out of the city. I wasted no time getting chickens.
But I have received very few eggs this winter—when I needed them the most thanks to absurdly high egg prices. I didn’t think too much of it, because you don’t tend to get a lot of eggs in the winter, and I’ve admittedly done a poor job of managing my flock recently.
Then I saw this.
Normally I would disregard conspiracy-laden tweets like this. Except I wasn’t getting eggs. And I was feeding my chickens that Producers Pride feed from Tractor Supply.
Turns out, this has been a really common problem. My friend The Homestead Padre recently switched feeds and started getting eggs again.
There are many possible reasons for this. But it doesn’t really matter if the World Economic Forum is poisoning the feed or if producers have rejiggered the formula to cut costs or deal with supply chain issues.
Bottom line: you can’t even trust animal feed. It’s really hard to get enough protein from your own land to have a hen lay an egg every day. So in terms of dependency loops, owning chickens isn’t that much better than buying eggs at the store.
That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Part of the fault lies with me for not taking my own advice. We used to buy feed from a local Mennonite grain mill. Localizing your supply chain is something I preach. But, like everyone else, I get lazy. The grain mill is a 30-minute drive while Tractor Supply is right in town.
But still, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
And it’s hard to not be conspiratorial. One of my rules here at Unprepared is “no conspiracy theories,” and I’ve come to regret that somewhat lately. Just look at this chain of events:
The WEF starts pitching the narrative of eating bugs for protein, which doesn’t even make much sense given that there are many better low-impact protein sources like eggs and rabbits.
Around the same time, this Raw Egg Nationalist character hits the scene, promoting (then) cheap eggs as a superior protein source to “ze bugs.”
Avian Flu appears out of nowhere, killing off millions of birds.
Egg prices soar through the roof.
Commercial chicken feed no longer gives chickens what they need to lay eggs.
One of the country’s top egg producers burns down.
As we’ve pointed out before, warehouse and factory fires are incredibly common and have been for decades. But if you look at the overall picture, it’s hard not to imagine an evil German man in some castle chuckling and whispering softly, “No, I am afraid you will eat ze bugs.” Possibly just my imagination.
In terms of agendas, trying to get people to eat insects is a bizarre one. Even Robert Downey Jr. is promoting it on late-night talk shows, happily wolfing down insects like a frog. Come on dude, you made hundreds of millions pretending to be Iron Man, do you really have to do this?
Why are Hollywood celebrities doing this? It’s just bizarre.
Why can’t they just be normal? If you’re that worried about the environment, become a vegetarian.
The Benedict Option
A few years ago, Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option, with the thesis that things were going to get progressively worse—especially for Christians—and the solution is to hole up in citadels in the wilderness like St. Benedict after the collapse of the Roman Empire.
I have to admit, I’ve never finished the book, for two reasons:
It seemed overly obvious to me.
Apparently, Dreher’s idea of The Benedict Option was to get a divorce and move to Hungary.
I don’t mean to be cruel—life is what happens while you’re making other plans—but at the same time, I’m not terribly interested in taking advice from those who have no skin in the game. Building a monastery might be a fine idea, but I want to hear about it from someone who actually built one.
But is the Benedict Option even an option? It was feasible to wall yourself off from the barbarians, but how do you overcome an unreliable supply chain? And the barbarians didn’t have drones or even hot-air balloons.
Again, it all comes back to Dependency Loops. If we truly want to be self-sufficient, we have to close those loops and eliminate outside inputs. And that's a near-impossible task for one person or even one family to take on.
So maybe Dreher is correct in that we have to form tight-knit communities. But there are a lot of potential pitfalls there too. For instance, how do you keep one from becoming a cult? Or at least an overbearing HOA.
Gardening and animal husbandry aren’t enough, as long as you’re dependent on the industrial system to feed them. The problem is industrialization insists upon itself. Much of the land has been depleted or poisoned. Chickens have been so thoroughly domesticated that they practically need an industrial supply chain to function, like electric incubators to incubate eggs and high-protein industrial feed to lay.
I don’t mean to sound hopeless—there are solutions to all of these problems, but they won’t come easy. The deck is stacked against us.