The full ten stories are available from over here:
Working to improve your own life was a pipe dream for most young people back then. Of course you were only young until you were 8 or 12 at the most. No school. Why ? And after that work on the field, or if you were lucky in the factory. Work was hard and dangerous, on the field as well as the factory, and if you were severely hurt, you'd essentially be left to die.
And it wouldn't be a system of government working against you. It wouldn't (for the most part) be people. It'd just be cold, hard reality. You could work, or not work, but if you didn't you'd starve to death in a few months. If you had a good community around you, you'd still starve, just not to death.
And the only ways out, without money, were few and far between. Becoming a monk. Becoming a soldier. And even those were absurdly hard to get. Monk was by far the best. Still hard labour, but you'd be protected from most of the environment. A chance to become a priest, maybe even a learned priest or a scientist. The only real way to a position of some limited power open to the lower class. Actual books, and plenty of people around you who not only could read, but cared about reading and usually cared about teaching others to read as well. As a soldier your main job was to make sure rich-born kids could rape young girls on the countryside, protecting them from the obvious consequences. To keep starved people away from food.
Personally I don't buy the "things were worse back then" argument, because I travel between many societies and live longer term in quite a few of them. It's clear to me that before the industrial revolution the quality of life in many societies was excellent as attested by their art, oral or written literature, numerous annual festivals, etc. They weren't doing 9-5 with an hour commute either side and numerous government, insurance, bank, and other related chores. Sure, their diets were less sophisticated and closer to the seasons. Sure, the products available were limited. But there was freshness and quality, social security, time and freedom!
I do see the argument being accepted by many westerners, though. Perhaps understandably if we are sort of taught in a way (IMHO) that skips over the great evils of the industrial revolution (and subsequent wars) like they never happened and asked to be happy and complacent in our modern consumer/automobile culture: great things that have liberated us from the dark ages of times past!
It is said that the Dark Ages followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. What shall follow peak oil and the global neocolonial consumer culture?
Because we have the internet, are we educated? Perhaps less so: at least in those times, the people could live from the land, perhaps even move if the situation warranted it. No longer: there is a global conspiracy of governments seeking to monitor and control our movement.
And yes they had time. They had space. That's about all they had though. Sex. With the kids that came of it of course.
What will (eventually) follow the energy glut ? In some ways that's easy to predict and in some ways really hard.
1) cities will operate independently from states
2) there will be some group (ethnic maybe, or religious, or ideological) that will play robbers. Kill and rob, along the roads between cities
3) vast majority of people move back into agriculture
4) at least 80% of the population starve
5) wars about the remaining resources before it runs out, for a century or two before 1-4 start to really happen
Of course this only needs to happen if we do run out of energy, which frankly seems unlikely.
Re: end of empire energy failure - yeah, I agree a doomsday situation is far-fetched (but don't tell the deep Americans digging bunkers and stocking up on ammo! We may need them yet! ;). Serious systemic reform, on the other hand, is but a certainty... purely a matter of time.
(PS. I love threads like this!)