Depression 2.0

Sunday in Kerouac Alley

by Rodger Jacobs

28 May 2009

Photo of Jack Kerouac (partial) by
Allen Ginsberg (1953) 

A Deep Sense of Regret

From William Wellman's Heroes for Sale

From William Wellman’s Heroes for Sale

A Deep Sense of Regret

Depression 2.0—with chapters on everything from the perils of bankruptcy to home energy solutions to tips for living on the street when you have no shelter—is consistent with his unshakeable belief that government is not our friend, especially in these trying times.

Depression 2.0 is the fourth book in Process Media’s Self-Reliance series, “created to help urbanites make smart choices to live sustainably in the twenty-first century.” From the introduction by Cletus Nelson:

It’s hard not to look back on the last few years without a deep sense of regret. As both a nation and a people, we’ve maxed out our credit cards, mortgaged ourselves to the hilt, and never quite gotten around to saving any money. And there was no shortage of willing enablers. When our mailboxes weren’t stuffed with credit card offers, shady mortgage brokers were cold-calling us at dinner time, offering us six-figure loans with no money down, or a tantalizing home equity line of credit. In this gilded, get-it-now atmosphere, recessions were never an option; Wall Street bankers could always count on the Federal Reserve to open up the money spigots and keep the party going … In short, we’ve been living beyond our means far too long, and now the bubble has burst. This book concerns itself with how we can cope with the painful national hangover that we can call Depression 2.0.

cover art

The Future is Now!: An Illustrated History of the MC5

Michael Simmons, Cletus Nelson

US: Sep 2003

At first blush, a book on “creative strategies for tough economic times” seems like an odd choice for an L.A.-based journalist as iconoclastic as Nelson; he has written extensively for the political journal, which supports an “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market” school of thought. and are also frequent depositories of Nelson’s free-thinking journalism, and in 2004 he wrote (with Michael Simmons) the book, The Future is Now, a short illustrated history of the trailblazing Detroit rock firebrands, the MC5.

At its core, however, Depression 2.0—with chapters on everything from the perils of bankruptcy to home energy solutions to tips for living on the street when you have no shelter—is consistent with his unshakeable belief that government is not our friend, especially in these trying times.

“I hope Depression 2.0 provides readers with the knowledge and the inspiration to become more creative and self-reliant,” Nelson tells me. “The current financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, and other recent events show that we can’t always depend on large government agencies and financial institutions to ensure our safety or to safeguard our wealth. Yet we can each develop the survival skills and build the vital social networks that allowed previous generations to surmount periods of economic uncertainty.”

A point Nelson relentlessly brings home in the book is that America’s most valuable resource is our creativity.

“We have an almost inborn tendency to tinker and innovate when we grow dissatisfied with outdated systems,” Nelson explains. “I have to say that Adam (Parfrey) and Jodi (Wille) at Process Media have been really out front on this issue. The Self-Reliance series of books is a great resource for people interested in becoming more resilient and moving towards a more sustainable way of living.”

Nelson completed his book in March 2009, a mere four months after it was acknowledged by leading economists that the U.S. and much of the world were in the grip of a crippling recession. I asked Nelson what makes him so prescient, what were the economic indicators he was observing that told him a book such as Depression 2.0 was sorely needed right now? Nelson shifts the credit for “Nostradamus-like powers” to publisher Adam Parfrey, whose Apocalypse Culture anthologies for Feral House and Amok Press have enjoyed popular fringe success.

“Believe it or not,” Nelson says with a laugh, “Adam suggested the book to me in December of 2007. The Northern Rock fiasco (a British bank taken into state ownership in 2008) really shook his faith in the global financial system, and his assumption that the U.S. was on the brink of a serious meltdown proved eerily correct.” 

“I’d like to tell you that there was one single revelatory moment when I said ‘That’s it, we’re screwed’ but it was more of a cumulative process,” Nelson continues. “Reading a great deal of world history did provide some insights. Empires that launch costly wars, go deeply into debt, and debase the currency generally don’t have a very long shelf life.”

In terms of Depression 2.0 finding a niche in the marketplace, Nelson points out that the vast majority of books that deal with surviving a financial crisis are often fixated on how the reader can “cash in” by following some “crash-proof” investment strategy.

“While these titles are certainly helpful,” Nelson says, “they often neglect to address the day-to-day crises that the average consumer might face. Going long on Canadian Natural Gas isn’t exactly pertinent to someone who has just been laid off and can’t pay his or her rent. We really wanted to try a new approach that addresses some of these more realistic challenges. While we do discuss investment possibilities, it’s not the focus of the book. I like to think that people of all income levels will run across some useful information in the book.”

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