Friday, 31 May 2013

I Need To Think About My Future

What? What sort of future does a 68 year old man expect?

You may well ask. And I may well answer, because I am continually evaluating my position in life, what is going on around me, where the world is heading.  This is something that I recollect doing as far back as I can remember.  It is second nature to me.  Am I unusual in that regard?  I don't know but I suspect that a majority of people's thinking and outlook are shaped by events of their past, by what is happening to them today, just perhaps by things they need to do tomorrow and, only if they are pushed from a driving necessity to do so, by what they may have to face any further ahead than that.

So, I isolate myself to be among a select group of people, perhaps self-selected, who have an interest in the far future.  I tend to think that this self-selected group of forward thinkers are also members of that sub-group of humanity who could be described as self-educated. Having taught themselves to think outside of the normal and limiting range of thought patterns that a standard formal education would influence folk to use.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am not normal.  This does not influence me to think that I am better or superior to other people, just different.  ...but I digress.

I repeat, what sort of future does a 68 year old man expect?  Only a few generations back in the past I would expect to have been physically dead for some time by now and this holds true even today in many areas of our modern world.  As it is, I have a Mother who in about a month will reach the age of 99 years.  She is still living independently in her own home, with some outside assistance, far away in my original home city of Lincoln, England. It could be said that I have some long life genes in my physical make-up and potentially around another thirty years of good living ahead of me.  I do not indulge in any dangerous sports such as paragliding.  Never have as a matter of fact.  I stay well away from large, fast flowing or deep bodies of water to minimise my chances of drowning. I have never suffered a major accident causing physical harm nor any debilitating disease or illness except for one situation that I will explain in a moment.  In the last decade or more I have not even had a runny nose or severe headache.  I put a lot of my fortunate physical health down to a mostly healthy lifestyle, (generally) good eating habits (I am a vegetarian) and also to avoiding hospitals, doctors and any form of medication as far as possible.  I have also practised for some years Qi Gong and Reiki for the personal health benefits that they can bring (until recently that is, something that I must get back in to as a more regular practise).

My Setback

There has been an exception to my generally rude good health, as I mentioned earlier, which has put a cloud and possibly a limiting factor on my future expectations of maintaining that state.  This is how that came about.

For a number of years I consumed, as an exclusive substitute for dairy milk (as I consider it to be not healthy for human consumption), a particular brand of soy milk which I will not name here.  For some of those later years the manufacturer of that soy milk (allegedly) altered (drastically increased) the iodine content of the product (also allegedly at the request of an Australian importer of the product, purely for marketing purposes).  The (alleged) result of this action was that a large number of consumers in Australia suffered various conditions, mostly involving Thyroid Toxicosis in some form.  I was, am, one of those alleged victims.  The matter is currently before the courts as a Class Action.

I was hospitalised for a couple of days with this condition which manifested with the symptoms of Rapid Atrial Fibrillation (wildly fluctuating heartbeat) until the cause was diagnosed and medical action taken to control the situation.  I was to remain on various medications for the rest of my life I was told.  Fuck that, I thought and determined to get myself out of that untenable situation as quickly as possible.  Two steps I took.  Gradually, over a period of several months, I reduced the dosage of each of the four medications I was prescribed, replacing Warfarin by Low Dose Aspirin, until I was eventually left with only the regular daily Aspirin.  I didn't mind that and continue to take it daily as a blood thinner.  Because my system was at a very low ebb as a result of this condition I consulted a master of medical Qi Gong and after only a few clinic sessions was back on my feet.  The situation has however left me still with an irregular heartbeat, low stamina and a tendency to perspire profusely from even minor physical effort. I have learned to live with that as being much preferable to any alternative.

This all happened three years ago.  I still expect that with a positive attitude and getting back into regular Qi Gong practise and Reiki self-treatment I will gradually improve my health to something like normal or better than may be expected for a person of my age.  I retired from work within six months of these events because I had lost the appetite, desire and to some extent the physical ability to manage a full time occupation.  Overall I am very happy with my situation.  Let's talk about that.

My Current Situation

So, I am: 
  • retired  -  happily
  • healthy  -  reasonably, and better than could be expected
  • independent  -  I have lived alone for the last ten years
  • prepared  -  visualising possible futures has led me to equip myself for various eventualities
  • isolated  -  I live rurally, 'far from the madding crowd' (Thomas Hardy), by choice
  • saddened  -  by what my generation has inflicted on itself, its environment and its descendants
  • heartened   -  by the beauty of nature and its cycles of renewal
  • uplifted  -  by life and the eventual prospect of its continuity in whatever form in the boundless universe of endless possibilities
But before we get too carried away, I need to deal with the here and now and the immediate future, whatever it may hold.

My current situation is generally very satisfying.  I own no land or property, by choice and partly by necessity.  As a by-product of that, I also have no debt, which is a comforting thought.  Yes, I have a credit card which I am usually in a position to pay off immediately on those few occasions that I need to use it.  

I live an increasingly simple life, travelling little and infrequently.  I still own a petrol driven motor vehicle, necessary due to my remote living and inability so far to fully feed myself from my immediate surroundings but aware that such luxuries may not be available or affordable to rely on in the near future.

I am in receipt of a government aged pension, partly from Australia and partly from the United Kingdom.  I also receive some allowance for previous military service in the UK so all in all I am comfortable enough to say that life is not usually too much of a struggle to make ends meet.  Conversely, I am by no means living in a state of wealthy extravagance either.

For the last two years I have lived happily as a tenant in a rented property situated near the bottom of a deep gully with a dirt road and just enough spare land for me, with my recently acquired limited capacity for hard labour, to play with experimentally using knowledge that I picked up on a permaculture design course just before I retired.  That has been a useful and beneficial experience, enabling me to some extent feed myself from the land though the full fruit of my labours will not mature for some years yet.  The setting is ideal for me.

"So, what's the problem?"  I hear you ask.  "Sounds like you got it made".

Yes, I could live like this happily for a long time, perhaps for as long as I've got.  But there is nothing so certain as change and there is a great deal of uncertainty from living year by year on a 12 month lease as a tenant. The owner of the property I rent has recently suffered a health issue that prevents her from continuing her chosen career and consequently needs to sell the house.  She has been good enough to advertise it as an investment property with a ready income source.  But of course there are no guarantees as to who may eventually buy it or what their intentions may be as to its use.

This gives me cause (one of several, which I will discuss shortly) to start to think about my future.  I still have almost a full year of lease to run as some sort of security of tenure for that time so there is no immediate rush to act.  All may be well for me to continue living here for many years yet but I don't wish to arrive at that end of lease point and face the prospect of living with a month to month prospect of needing to up sticks and move on at short notice. That is the basic situation.

Reasons To...

Aaaaaagghh!  Sometimes memories are best left forgotten.  Typing the above sub-heading suddenly brought this dreadful dirge from the late '70s to mind.  If you have 5 minutes to waste you could still find something more useful to do than listen to it.  (Icy-y ss-shudd-d-er-rr. Exit, stage left.)

Perhaps it would have been better for me to have titled this section 'What If...'.  No, I will leave it as it is.

Back to the subject. I have outlined my basic situation and mentioned that there are other reasons (causes) for me to consider the future.  Here are some of them.

At the time I retired from work, apart from my recent illness, the world was deep in the throes of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and  I was acutely aware (still am) of the fragility of the banking and finance sector of the economy.  Nothing has changed to alter that situation. In fact as time goes by it only becomes clearer that the world economy is operating literally on borrowed time. Debt time. More debt that can ever be repaid except by more and more debt.  That would not have mattered at an earlier time but in a system that relies on economic growth to sustain its operations, when that growth falters or stops, the whole unstable house of cards will tumble.  We are now irreversibly entering such a period.  

Why irreversibly? You surely can't have failed to notice the earth resource constraints that are looming ever larger as time goes by? Can you? Or the growing concerns that we have already overstepped our use of such resources to our peril from uncontrollable climate effects? Can you? You can't have failed to notice that global economies are struggling to maintain even a small amount of economic growth and in fact many national economies are going backwards? Can you?  You can't have failed to notice the high rates of unemployment around the world? Can you? You can't have failed to see the cut-backs in business investment and business failures due to people not spending and having to cut their margins to the bone in order to make a sale? Can you? Well, those are just some of the reasons why the era of economic growth is rapidly coming to an end.  Oh, I forgot to mention two extra billion mouths to feed in the next twenty years, assuming we last that long.  
What concern was all of that to me?  Simple.  I was on a daily basis watching my mainly equity based superannuation nest-egg shrinking.  To counter this, two years earlier I had stopped adding to my equity accounts and put all further contributions, both government and personal, into a cash account.  This didn't gain me very much in terms of interest but at least it was not shrinking.  I quickly determined that if I was to have anything worth saving I needed to get my money out of the superannuation system as quickly as possible. The only way to do that was to retire. So I did and instead of rolling my savings over into some other investment I banked it into a high interest, internet based, instantly accessible savings account where it has been earning me reasonable interest ever since and from where I can easily withdraw it if needed ie. when the banking system takes a dive or if I need to convert it to precious metals or something like that.

Having taken that action, I knew that I had secured my future as best I could.  While receiving government payments in terms of aged pensions, I was not totally reliant on those handouts. This is important because even with the best of intentions (and when we talk about governments, that can't be guaranteed), when a government has no money, because it has no income, because its tax base has disintegrated, because there are no jobs, because trade and industry has collapsed, because there is zero growth in the economy, there will be no government handouts. This week. Next week. Next month. Next year. Period.

Of course, when things get that bad, money will very quickly become worthless anyway. But for a time, those with cash, and only cash, will be able to eat.  Until the food runs out, that is. And with the just-in-time delivery system of operation that is in effect now, in three days, a week max, there will be no food to buy, no matter how much money you have. Scary? Damn right. Cause to think about the future? Even if only part of this occurs? Damn right.

That is just one major reason/cause to think ahead. Some preparation for these possibilities is obviously called for. The wise will take heed.

You may begin to see the reasoning behind some of the life choices I have made in recent years.

What else?  As if that isn't enough to be going on with.

I have decided to continue this discourse in one or more separate posts.  That way I can publish my meandering thoughts whenever I run out of fresh ideas or I am forced to take a break for some reason.


  1. Except for the health issues and renting, you could be talking about me! Interesting that, about the iodine in soy. I wasn't aware of it and Will explore further.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thanks Bev. I have just published Part 2 of this series. More to come.