Depending on the mechanism of the apocalypse, the end of civilization would occur in vastly different ways.
Here’s a recent video sponsored by the Royal Institution and conducted by Dr. Lewis Dartnell (of The Knowledge fame).
It’s of pretty standard apocalyptic fare, but there are a few standout notions posed by the panel and audience.
The first is asked by the astrophysicist: How would society change, today, if we discovered that in thirty years an unavoidable asteroid (of ELE size) was destined for Earth? That delay, thirty years, really made me think. Obviously, everybody 70 and older wouldn’t really care, personally. They would, though, work to save their descendants. But aside from who would care, and for what reason, what, if any change would occur in society — tomorrow? What would you change in your life, right now, knowing in thirty years the end of the world was guaranteed?
Another notion, proposed by the generalist, was that in a catastrophic event, like my favorite topic, a CME (coronal mass ejection – and the end of the electrical grid), that there are billions of food animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys) that would be available for months after the “end of food.” His theory, which sounded silly, but he confessed it was considered by those who plan for such things, was that humans would be eating burgers for months, but that the lack of ketchup would be part of the critical path of survival. He quipped that there was a National Strategic Condiment Reserve created to store enough ketchup and mustard to ensure that people could continue to enjoy their quarter-pounders.
The third notion that I thought curious was the topic of what goes first? Do people die out quickly (a pandemic, or nuclear, volcanic or asteroid induced winter) or do people survive and their infrastructure fails them (a CME or a nano bot revolt or AI take over).
Generally speaking, civilizations don’t collapse quickly. Jared Diamond’s Collapse, explored the various failures over the last few millennia and, for the most part, things come apart slowly but determinedly. Politics, food, resources, strife, elitists vs plebes, all contribute, over tens if not hundreds of years, to destroy a civilization.
The apocalypse, however, would tend to speed things up.
Mentioned in the second half of the video, is the book Paradise built in Hell, which explores the altruistic fallout during specific calamitous occurrences. That — we are our brother’s keeper — that people, over all, tend to jump in to save each other in times of catastrophe.
This may be true for localized events; single areas, nations or even regions (Hurricane Katrina, the 2011 Sendai earthquake, or the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004). But where I think this fails us, and this is the base theory for this post, is the following:
When we feel secure in our own lives we feel empowered to help others. Even if we ourselves are inundated by chaos, if we know that the province, country or world remains stable — outside of our ongoing criticality — then extending ourselves to our neighbors can be substantiated; we know others will be there to pickup the slack. That, knowing we do not risk everything, we feel empowered to help those in need.
But what happens when, deep in our souls, we know no one else will be there to help us out of our own disastrous situation? When we know that the entire world is under siege? That we know that help IS-NOT-COMING. How will we react then?
Does civilization fail when the realization that THIS-IS-IT penetrates our thinking? Do we resort then to protecting our own, abandoning our neighbors, our jobs of assistance? What would you do if you knew your family, your loved ones were also under attack — but your job, your duty, was to stay here and fight for and protect these folks? Would you stay? Or would you admit that, “hey, I have to get back to my OWN family who needs me.”?
Humans need water, food, clothing, housing to survive. But today, for some reason, (Boredom? Compressed competition? Neurosis?) society has fixated on the most absurd quasi-competitions. And I’m assuming it is a competition of sorts. And all of it results in the most absurd behavior.
Cuisine is absurd.
Home decor, absurd.
Rarefied water, absurd.
When an entire media network has dedicated itself to absurd food fetishes (Food Network) society must have devolved into some backwards image of itself, some alt-universe, twisted mirror vision where Bobby Flay must pull the hair from Guy Fieri’s head while stirring a omelet made from Rachael Rae’s and Giada De Laurentiis’ peeled facial masks. (Eww!)
Here’s a suck omelet. It’s food. Eat it for cripes sake!
No, no, no. It must be a savory, delicate fold of creamy eggs and chives. To eat an omelet any other way would be barbarous! Heathens! Ovum Infidels!
Fashion? Hell, this has been absurd for centuries. Why? It must have to do with $$$ (but certainly not MY $$$ — I haven’t spent money on clothing for years). Maybe it’s what the Absurdly Rich do with their Absurd Billions.
What are we now, New Guinea Birds of Paradise competing for the three remaining females (or males) on the island?
Home decor — oy vey! Like the world needs more bizarre sculpture, furniture, fixtures, lighting, stairways, fireplaces, brickwork, aluminum windows and indoor topiaries. If it’s art — that’s OK. But if it’s edgy for the sake of being edgy…
Sheesh! Would you want to try and relax in this prison?
Water. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?
Society has become absurd has it not?
What is the cure for this absurdity? I know, but I’m not telling. Alright, ow, that hurt! Society needs to have its priorities reset. How? GLOBAL CATACLYSMIC DISASTER of course.