Monday, 3 June 2013

I Need To Think About My Future (Part 4)

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Read Part 3 here.

Without Civilisation

The veneer of civilisation surrounding human beings is exceedingly thin. Beneath that veneer we are still basically animals, though animals with a conscience and an innate knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Yet it never ceases to amaze me the depth of cruelty we are capable of inflicting on fellow humans and other living things around us, given the appropriate circumstances.

I think of myself as a sensitive person, never seeking conflict with others.  In fact I will normally go out of my way to avoid conflict of any sort, even verbal conflict, if it is at all possible. Yet I know that I am capable of killing, given sufficient reason.  Self preservation or the protection of loved ones or other defenceless people would be sufficient reason.  While I don't like to think about it, so would extreme hunger or thirst or the need for shelter.  I hope never to be put to the test over those things but I fear such days will come.

Behind me I have 9 years of military service and I was proud to qualify as a marksman on the FN rifle, known as the SLR Self Loading Rifle when it was the standard infantry weapon of the British armed forces throughout the 1970s.  A fine weapon, capable of removing arms and legs or taking out multiple hostiles with a single 7.62mm NATO round if lined up correctly.  At the time I was capable of putting 20 out of 20 rounds inside a 2 inch grouping in the middle of a man shaped and sized target at 50 metres even though disadvantaged by being left-handed and left-eyed with a weapon that was made only for right handed use. While my focal capabilities may be diminished today, my eyesight is still healthy and given a modern rifle I am positive that I could cause havoc on any group of hostiles at medium to long range even though I have not handled a firearm in the intervening years. I have never been involved in close combat and at my age I guess I would last no more than a few seconds if that became necessary though I have now equipped myself with certain survival gear and I am confident that I am capable of slitting a throat or two given the element of surprise, if the need arose.

If I have those capabilities and a recognition, as a rational person, that I would be willing to use them in need, then I know that other folk are at least equally as capable of doing so as myself, given the right conditions.  In a crumbling, decaying society at the point of collapse, with most normal services of civilisation gone, perhaps for ever, and a driving need to survive, eat, drink and obtain shelter, those conditions would be rife.

The lack of respect for, and the apparent lack of fear of law enforcement these days, particularly among the younger generation, is I think a sure sign of a decaying society.

I could provide esoteric reasons for why I believe this is happening at this particular juncture in our history but this is not the time or place for that.

I struggled with these thoughts running through my head during what turned out to be a difficult and restless night's sleep and rose early to get them written down before they dissipated as many of my night-time thoughts do. This was not an  easy thing for me to do and I am aware that I may regret doing so at a later time. I do however attach a great deal of importance to these thoughts because I think that most people living relatively comfortable lives in the modern world would give little thought to how thin the line is between the human and animal sides of our nature and how easily what may be relatively minor changes in our material circumstances may cause us communally or individually to flick from one to the other, from normal life to survival mode with little warning.

Many of us may well have have cause to live out this experience in days to come as many of our predecessors have done in times past. We, in the developed nations have enjoyed decades of relative peace and prosperity, lulling us into a false sense of security that it will always be thus.  History teaches us, if we care to examine it, that for almost all of mankind's sojourn on this planet, we have lived through times of turmoil and peril, threatened by invasion, barbarism and terror with relatively short periods of calm and peaceful existence. Empires and civilisations have risen and fallen, rarely (if ever) peacefully. Our own civilisation, be assured, is not immune from the same process.

While I speak of civilisation, let me make it clear that I speak not of individual nations, countries or regions as the term might have indicated in past centuries or millennia. No, I am referring to the global community of mankind, united as at no other time in our history prior to the last few decades or so.  Yes, we still recognise individual nations, continental groupings, even tribal boundaries still. There are however, no communities on Earth that are now unaffected by what transpires in other communities, anywhere on the globe. One global civilisation, no part of which is not affected in some way by the successes or failures of some other part. Of course this unification is not in any way set in concrete and when the global collapse is in full swing, as it inevitably must be at some point, national and regional boundaries will again fracture and close ranks for what they see as reasons of self-protection.  But none will ever again achieve the prosperity (so called, but tragically based on unsupported mountains of debt) that they enjoyed for such a little while in this current period of globalisation.

~ : ~    

I thought of finishing this post here and perhaps I should, but I keep promising to get on to something a little more immediate and so I will keep on going for a little while, changing the subject matter.

The need for vigilance

Our major concern now should be how to place ourselves to give the best prospect of getting through any ensuing period of turmoil that might arise.

To my mind there are two basic principles for retaining personal safety during a collapse of modern society which are corollaries to each other.

  1. The further away from living and/or working in an urban environment and even more so for a metropolitan environment, the better chance you have to survive a societal collapse situation.
  2. The closer in to a metropolitan environment and to a lesser extent an urban environment that you live and/or work, the lower the chance you have to survive a societal collapse situation.
I should not need to state the following as it is quite obvious, but I will.  By far, most of the world's population now live in cities. Cities mostly consist of densely saturated urban areas grouped around even more densely saturated metropolitan centres where people are literally sitting or standing on top of one another in high rise buildings. Every day there is a mass migration from the perimeters of such conglomerations to the centre and back again at the end of the day.  Even so, the centres more and more tend to retain a more dense population that the urban extremities, even overnight. 

Imagine, if you will, the following sample situations that may one day confront you.

You work in a city hub within a large metropolis.  You take public transport to work in the morning and return in the evening to your home in an outer suburb. A journey of perhaps 40-50 minutes.

What would you do if you hear on the evening news or even the morning news before your walk or ride to the commuter station that there are planned demonstrations in the city for around mid-day against job losses at a major industry.  There may be severe delays on the commuter lines during the day. This, amid a period of growing community tension over wide ranging government cutbacks.  The share markets have been rising faster than at any time previously but this is of little concern to you as you have no share portfolio.

Do you shrug your shoulders and set off for work as normal? Risking enduring an extended working day as a result of transport delays?  Or do you say 'This looks bad, and could get worse. I will ride it out at home just in case.'

You decide to go to work anyway since you have a season ticket (and a very important job which you can't afford to lose).  Can't be as bad as it sounds.  You buy your normal coffee-to-go before starting work but the outlet is not accepting plastic cards for some reason.  No problem, you have just enough cash to pay for it.  Lunch time you go down to the bank because you now don't have cash to buy lunch, but get caught up in the crowds attending the demonstration.  This merely delays you, wasting your precious lunch period but you see and hear things that indicate this could get ugly later on.  At the ATM you notice it is out of order for some reason and a lot of people are milling around outside the bank, which has armed guards allowing only a few people inside at a time.
Your lunch time almost gone, do you:
  • Go back to work hungry, to see if anyone will lend you cash for the snack bar?
  • Take stock of the situation, realise this is going downhill fast and leave for home while transport is still running?
You return to work.  On the grapevine, sometime later you learn that the demonstration has turned into a riot and the city is in gridlock.  Do you immediately leave for home hoping to catch transport?  Or, do you wait until normal end of work, chancing it to luck?
You have important stuff to finish and stay on even later than normal knowing that the public transport timetable has regular scheduled times well into the evening. You pack up and head out to the station to find that all services have ceased until further notice. On the street you hear that the share market has crashed and to prevent further runs all banks have closed until further notice.
You have no cash and no alternative but to walk home, tired and hungry, a journey prospect of some some 9-10 hours making your way through darkened streets that you may never have travelled before, lit by many fires from the rioting which is sporadically still going on in some areas and while most shops are closed, there are already signs of looting and muggings.
Luck being on your side, you eventually make it home to a frantic and worried family in the early hours of the morning. That is when your problems really start. What do you do next?

If you have been following this story, at what point would you have pulled the plug and said 'Enough, I'm outta here'?  

Let's change the scenario a little. Your job is the same but now you live in an inner-city apartment. Do you still go to work as normal?  If so, do you still work a full day?  I suggest that a lot of people would be more prepared to do so than our commuter friend, because you do not face a 10 hour walk home. But are you any safer? You are now stuck in the centre of a riot torn, traffic disrupted metropolis. You still face at least a 10 hour walk to get out of the city and away from the dangers that it holds, but you would be more likely to delay your departure, feeling relatively safe in your apartment. Every day, every hour that you delay, decreases your opportunities to make a safe exit from the turmoil.  Within two days there would be widespread looting.  Within three days there would be no more food left in the centre. By the fourth day, one week at the outside, the desperate people from the centre would start fanning out in an ever increasing circle to the city limits over time, taking what ever they could find to try to meet their needs.  Of course, it wouldn't end there.

What would you do?

This may all sound a bit extreme and contrived. Something out of a zombie movie. But there are many ways that something like this could start, not just the few triggering events that I mentioned.  Think about it for a while. Such scenarios are possible and they may arise quickly like this case, perhaps even faster than that. They may also play out over extended periods and that perhaps is more dangerous because the changes may not be as perceptible.

Many of us are so caught up in the minutiae of life that we also would fail to notice the signs of trouble brewing into situations similar to what I have described. The first important lesson to learn from this I think is vigilance. Develop the habit, if you do not do so already, of noticing what is going on around you, in your city or region and in the world in general. Read widely, not just here, about events that could trigger periods of trouble, for your own sake and for those you love.

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