Social Collapse Best Practices

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sat, 21 Feb 2009 07:30:16 GMT  <== Politics ==> 

Dmitri Orlov shares what he learned from Russia's collapse in a long speech to the Long Now Foundation. It could be worse here, since America has been so much better at providing the necessities of life, so people are not nearly as accustomed to making do locally. But it's coming, and there's bloody little any of us can do about it, except to get ready. [gsc]

A video of this talk will likely appear soon here.

The hard thing for me is going to be when the electricity becomes unreliable and it gets difficult, if not impossible, to keep a computer running. I've become so accustomed to living inside the computer that I'm not entirely sure I want to live in the "real" world. It's possible that I could switch to metal-working, and have a reasonably good time of it, but I haven't been motivated enough to actually DO anything about learning that. I suppose I could switch to freelance security services, but that's basically just a long-winded way of eating my shotgun: suicide by competing security provider. I sure as hell am not going to farm for a living. But my wife might.

The mid-1990s did not seem to me as the right time to voice such ideas. The United States was celebrating its so-called Cold War victory, getting over its Vietnam syndrome by bombing Iraq back to the Stone Age, and the foreign policy wonks coined the term "hyperpower" and were jabbering on about full-spectrum dominance. All sorts of silly things were happening. Professor Fukuyama told us that history had ended, and so we were building a brave new world where the Chinese made things out of plastic for us, the Indians provided customer support when these Chinese-made things broke, and we paid for it all just by flipping houses, pretending that they were worth a lot of money whereas they are really just useless bits of ticky-tacky. Alan Greenspan chided us about "irrational exuberance" while consistently low-balling interest rates. It was the "Goldilocks economy" -- not to hot, not too cold. Remember that? And now it turns out that it was actually more of a "Tinker-bell" economy, because the last five or so years of economic growth was more or less a hallucination, based on various debt pyramids, the "whole house of cards" as President Bush once referred to it during one of his lucid moments. And now we can look back on all of that with a funny, queasy feeling, or we can look forward and feel nothing but vertigo.


Right now the Washington economic stimulus team is putting on their Scuba gear and diving down to the engine room to try to invent a way to get a diesel engine to run on seawater. They spoke of change, but in reality they are terrified of change and want to cling with all their might to the status quo. But this game will soon be over, and they don't have any idea what to do next.

So, what is there for them to do? Forget "growth," forget "jobs," forget "financial stability." What should their realistic new objectives be? Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless. If successful, society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified. If unsuccessful, society will be gradually destroyed in a series of convulsions that will leave a defunct nation composed of many wretched little fiefdoms. Given its largely depleted resource base, a dysfunctional, collapsing infrastructure, and its history of unresolved social conflicts, the territory of the Former United States will undergo a process of steady degeneration punctuated by natural and man-made cataclysms.

Food. Shelter. Transportation. Security. When it comes to supplying these survival necessities, the Soviet example offers many valuable lessons. As I already mentioned, in a collapse many economic negatives become positives, and vice versa. Let us consider each one of these in turn.


I've covered what I think are basics, based on what I saw work and what I think might work reasonably well here. I assume that a lot of you are thinking that this is all quite far into the future, if in fact it ever gets that bad. You should certainly feel free to think that way. The danger there is that you will miss the opportunity to adapt to the new reality ahead of time, and then you will get trapped. As I see it, there is a choice to be made: you can accept the failure of the system now and change your course accordingly, or you can decide that you must try to stay the course, and then you will probably have to accept your own individual failure later.

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Comments (1):

I live in/near some of the

Submitted by Warren on Sun, 22 Feb 2009 21:16:46 GMT

I live in/near some of the richest gold fields ever discovered.
If things go all obama I'm sure I can make do with either mining the ground or mining the miners.

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