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Taken to Its Illogical Extreme

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

Let’s conduct a little thought experiment, shall we? Using life here on Saipan as a model, let’s think about how things might change if the economy continues its trends—taking things to a somewhat illogical extreme—just as an experiment, mind you.

We know the trends. As factories close, jobs disappear, unemployment increases both here and around the world, let’s ask ourselves how—if these trends continued to their illogical extreme—yes, how would we survive?

Think about it. I mean really think about it. Let’s suppose that ALL the businesses on island closed. Imports ceased, causing every business that relied on stuff from the outside to shut down. There were no more tourists. Everyone lost their jobs. There were no supermarkets to buy the things you’ve gotten accustomed to. No toilet paper. No canned goods. No frozen vegetables. No TV dinners. No gas stations. No clothing stores. No bars relying on imported alcohol and sodas!

In addition, you couldn’t leave the island, and starting tomorrow morning, therefore, you would face the challenge of living without a few of your familiar crutches. The question is: How would you survive?

Now, taken to its true illogical extreme, the scenario in an experiment like this might attain massive proportions, affecting every aspect of our lives, and might spell the end of civilization as we know it. So, let’s put a few restrictions in place.

First, let’s agree, just for our experiment, on the following:

1. Let’s assume that people would not resort to stealing what they needed.

2. You haven’t stored anything (no gas, no cash, no foodstuffs), so you are starting completely from scratch on the morning of the experiment.

3. You still have electricity and running water (at least for now), and

4. You will be allowed to live, rent-free in the property you now occupy.

With that in place, when you wake up tomorrow, what would your day look like? What would you do first? How would you feed yourself and your family? How would you clean your clothes? With no money in your wallet or bank account, nothing in the refrigerator or cupboard, and nothing in cans, boxes or bottles available for purchase islandwide, what would you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner? With no gasoline for your car, how would you get around? Think seriously about how having no stores available would affect your current lifestyle. Have you become the ideal consumer?

Everyone’s lifestyle and habits are different, so the list of changes in your life are bound to be different than mine. However, here are some of the things I’ve thought about (along with some important questions) by taking things to their illogical extreme:

* A new class would emerge: Power would shift. People would recognize the need to control their food supply more directly. Those who were not so inclined would be at the mercy of those who did. So, who would become more important in this new terrain? I suggest that those who had food growing on their land and/or those who knew how to grow food would become more important and more valued in the new paradigm.

* New skill sets would emerge: Additionally, people who had basic survival skills for the new paradigm would become more valued.

With no new cars, boats or appliances to purchase, people who could fix things would also become more valued.

In phase II*, people who knew how to prepare food naturally, and/or without electricity would become more valued.

People who knew how to stay healthy given the absence of imported medicine would become more important.

People would walk or use bicycles for transportation.

* A new market and lifestyle might emerge: People would still trade, but they would trade in the things that are of utmost importance. At the very basic level, people would still need food. Here on Saipan, with no stores to get frozen dinners, canned goods and bottled drinks and sodas, people would have to eat what was available locally, and trade what they had for things that they really needed.

* A new currency might develop: Economists might disagree, but eventually, money would have no value. (Of course, there are those who argue it has no value even now). But think about it: What good would a stash of hundred dollar bills do you if there was nowhere to spend it? Similar to what happens in prisons where the inmate population is cut off from the wider population whose agreement and consensus gives money its value, other things become the currency.

Things other than money might become more in demand, of greater perceived value, and thus replace money as currency. It wouldn’t be hard to conceive that direct labor, light bulbs that last forever, fuses or other hard-to-get items from the outside might take on much higher value in the new paradigm. (We would have more options than inmates in prison, since we would have access to more raw materials with which to fashion things of true value)


This is just the tip of the iceberg of any “what happens if…” discussion which takes things to their illogical extreme. You can apply it to any observable trend—rising gas prices, decreasing tourist numbers, lessening population, business closures, etc.

The point is this: In the absence of the familiar trappings of society and changes in lifestyle, people, by necessity are forced to adapt and change. Those changes and adaptations are already being acted out to various degrees ranging from minor to extreme. As the trends causing such absences, and deprivations continue, it can be said of this particular experiment (among other consequences) that

People would live simpler lives.
People would live closer to nature.
People would become more self-sufficient.
New skills would become tradable.
Great. Now what do we do with this information?

Will you make the grade?

When I was in high school, our social studies teacher gave us an assignment to describe in detail how we would start a new society on a deserted island, and exactly what would be involved in doing so. We, in effect, had to become project managers having to think about construction costs, supplies, importing lumber, machinery, materials, setting salaries, drainage, electricity, urban planning, schools, and everything else that our 10th grade minds could conceive would be required to start our own little world from scratch.

The highest grades in the assignment went to those who, better than most, could see the bigger picture, recognize the workings of our present world, ask the right questions, plan for every contingency, and execute the best strategy for the seamless transition from non-existence to affluence for our little desert island society.

Now, the purpose of my experiment in today’s column is not to forecast doom and gloom, but to harness your creativity, so that you—using the same skills encouraged by my high school assignment—might anticipate change, prepare for different possible scenarios and, most importantly recognize opportunity when it knocks. Will you make the grade?

I think this experiment would make a great class project or even a brainstorming session for enterprising adults. If you decide to conduct such a session, please do invite me!

*p.s. In PHASE II of the experiment, you might remove the availability of electricity from the experiment and see how that affects your ideas for new sources and methods of power generation, air conditioning and refrigeration, health care, and other related aspects of current society.


Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that said good things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to!

Note: Fans and followers of Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan may now find copies at Bookseller Bookstore in the Joe-Ten Plaza in Susupe or on Hurry, there’s a limited supply!

Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit!


Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

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