Wednesday, August 1, 2012

we don't need no stinking reality

“As societies become more complex they inevitably become more precarious and vulnerable.  As they begin to break down, the terrified and confused population withdraws from reality, unable to acknowledge their fragility and impending collapse.  The elites retreat into isolated compounds, whether at Versailles, the Forbidden City or modern palatial estates.  They indulge in unchecked hedonism, the accumulation of wealth, and extravagant consumption.  The suffering masses are repressed with greater and greater ferocity.  Resources are depleted until they are exhausted.  And then the hollowed out edifice collapses.”
Days Of Destruction Days Of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco.
Wow.  Now that you put it that way, we really are all doomed.  But seriously, I’ve rarely heard it put so well.  The book quoted above is pretty darn good ( although, I’d say it was “library” good rather than “purchase” good ).  It covers the American Indians drunken reservation residence, the ghetto residence of Camden New Jersey ( which evidently is the entire city as there is no reclamation parts ) dreary existence, the poor bastards in West Virginia trying to live somewhere that isn’t getting leveled into the coal mining maw, and the illegals held in virtual slavery in Florida farm labor camps.  The book then finished up with covering the Occupy Wall Street movement but I skipped that part.  Boil it all down, and despite any good intentions ( although boiling that down farther just uncovers the greedy grasping for free government money ) it ( the occupy movement ) is just good theatre on the way to Hell.   To me, the book just highlighted the way the rest of us are going to be living very shortly.  Although perhaps without the welfare handout parts since the economy is racing into the toilet faster than our civilization. 
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I guess none of us should be surprised when the end is so clearly barreling down on us and yet no one moves to prepare to survive it.  Most folks, when confronted with imminent destruction as the two superpowers threatened to blast each other into radioactive dust, merely planned on going as quick as possible ( “the unlucky ones survived” ).  Living in a targeted city was just the ticket.  You’d never know what hit you.  Of course, people have no earthly idea what they hell they are talking about.  Back then, perhaps they would get lucky.  Or perhaps their city wasn’t on the first strike list, or the bomb malfunctioned and they got a faraway hit, lethal enough to kill them after weeks of suffering.  Or perhaps you were left to starve as you were unbombed but the areas supplying you were.  But as bad as any of that would have been, I’d wager things as they are regressing now will be far worse.  Now you won’t get much of the population killed before they become a threat to you.  But still, you can’t deny reality avoidance is the name of the game.  We are all going to die from famine, pestilence and war, so I might as well eat, drink and be merry today. 
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Of course, doing so will speed the collapse as we mine the last ores to make yet another luxury motor vehicle, use the last of the oil to make shrink wrap for yet another plastic novelty item such as a trout with a giant penis we hang on the wall, eat the last of the caviar from the last fish in the dying Russian river and in general party like it’s 1999.   I can see most folks point.  Why hang around for the “fun” part, like when we use rat pelt furs infested with vermin to scratch out another winter in our cave, the human feces pile in the corner tall enough to make a table base, our dwindling supple of tree bark making mostly unsatisfying meals, carrying around a sharpened rebar spear to defend ourselves from wolf packs?  You thought that the human will to survive was strong?  Look at reality.  Even amongst survivalists the mad stampede to avoid reality is dangerous to the bystanders.  We train in tactics that call for an unlimited supply of ammunition, live too close to cities to bribe the wife to stay around, think a six month supply of freeze dried food is enough to live through the collapse of civilization and in general think the luxurious Oil Age need never end. 
I would stipulate that the avoidance of reality is indeed a survival trait.  Look at old people that just will themselves to die ( say, after the spouse dies ).  I think that overcrowded societies running out of resources form a collective reality avoidance that in the end ensures the survival of a stronger emerging, smaller replacement.  Most people die off without much of a fight as they never planned to survive past the collapse.  So, in effect, a smaller group of much stronger willed folks with superior mental strength must fight a lot less people to survive the whole ordeal.  It gives the genetic material that is superior a better change of forming the nucleus of the new society.  We collectively suicide and leave a better pool of survivors.  And the behavior of the rich?  Just as suicidal.  This ensures that it will take more generations for the next parasitic class to emerge.  It is like revolts against the kings.  Purge the bloodline of all those sickly, inbred, mental and medical deficient folks and start out fresh.   
The only thing a larger pool of survivalist means is greater profits for the writers and purveyors of gadgets.  Don’t try to actively recruit TOO many new survivalists.  They might be a threat after the collapse, as the resource base will be drastically reduced and unable to support but a fraction.  If someone is naturally predisposed to suicide come collapse, they are not natural stock for the new society.  Let them pass gently into the night.
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  1. "we use rat pelt furs infested with vermin to scratch out another winter in our cave, the human feces pile in the corner tall enough to make a table base, our dwindling supple of tree bark making mostly unsatisfying meals"

    Too funny, I enjoyed that.

    Sometimes it feels like straddling two worlds, living in this one and playing in the collapse world on the weekends. This world is fairly comfortable but sometimes I hate it and look forward to the collapse, then I wouldn't have to spend all day in an office making money to pay taxes, could be spending the days gathering edible weeds, roots, and bugs in the woods. Solving various problems as they arise and planning for the seasons. Life would be shorter and more brutish but I think I would enjoy it and maybe my mild depression would lift. The constant mental strain of long term worries would be replaced by more immediate concerns wiping away all the foolish things which stress me out now like my bosses, bills, and quarterly performance appraisals.

  2. The Chinese don't have a lot of nukes that can reach us, so it is almost guaranteed they will go for a city busting strategy to at least put us back into the stone age. On the plus side, they have just few enough that can reach us that it might not kill everyone on the planet, or even the U.S.

    Historical collapses (which of course didn't have nukes, but did have weather events that look a lot like global warming) have never been complete, there have always been areas that went earliest, and some that were hardly effected at all. They usually are not the superpowers of their time (think of the Phoenicians, or King David’s Judea-Israel), but they do add an interesting twist to the mix. A modern interpretation would have Chileans setting up trading posts on our west coast, exchanging food for high dollar scrap.

    I think one other item you might want to factor in is the typical age of a survivalist/prepper. From what I have been able to gather, the typical age is 55+. It limits some of the physical options, and the timeline.

    As an aside. Read Jack Goldstones (out of print)The Problem of the Early Modern World, or the forward to Peter Turchin's book Secular Cycles (because it is free)

    Either is far superior to Tainter, because they actually give you the expected mechanics of a population crunch.

  3. I'm 29 and have been prepping since 19, sometimes I wonder if this thing will ever collapse or if it's just going to be a 'long emergency' which grinds us down year after year into abject poverty.

    Most of my prepping has been learning skills and stocking up on cheap reliable things like hand tools, grains, solar panels, and alike.

    I figure if the electric grid goes down permanently then we have collapsed, that's my benchmark.

  4. Anon at 3:08pm

    If it goes down in some neighboring vicinit, or in all of India, it is a disaster. If it goes down where you are, its a collapse.