I just love reading predictions. Economic. Political. Psychic. No matter. It’s amusing (and a good reminder not to get too cocky). ‘Cause they’re always wrong.
Economists have a special talent for being wrong; they’re right up there with psychics for how egregious they can be. (And just like psychics, they like to edit themselves after the fact to show how “right” they were. The guy who got 9 out of 10 predictions wrong will put up advertising banners touting the one he got sort of semi-correct.) But that’s another story.
Today the “everybody’s always wrong” topic is TEOTWAWKI.
Understand, this isn’t to knock anybody. I perfectly well understand why we need to think about future scenarios, even if our best predictions can only end up being approximations. In fact one of the two articles I’m highlighting below is quite well-thought-out.
It’s just that everybody who ever predicts the future is wrong. Period. Whatever happens always happens in a different way than we think it will. The future may “rhyme” with our predictions, but it will never match them — and it rarely, rarely even comes close to what we envision. That’s just life, not anybody’s fault. But the reason that matters is that, whatever happens, we’ll need flexibility to deal with it.
If we think TEOTWAWKI is inevitable (and we’re kinda secretly hopeful it is so we can haul out our Super-Duper Whizzwhacker cannon and start blasting away at zombies), then we may end up wasting a lot of money, energy, and emotion if zombies never come knocking. OTOH, if we’re sunnily convinced that things just aren’t going to get that bad, we may end up so stunned by reality that we stand there numb and dumb while the zombies run over us.
Anyhow, the two articles that got me thinking about this both arrived from jed earlier this week.
First up is “Why I Am Not a Doomsday Prepper” by Jon Stokes.
Stokes is witty and insightful and I’m sympathetic to his basic premise:
But this isn’t a treatise on prepping. Rather, it’s about why I don’t prep for The End Of The World As We Know It, TSHTF, the apocalypse, the collapse, or whatever else you want to call it. Yes, I do keep an excessive amount of long term storage food on hand–my urban-dwelling family of five is prepared for roughly three months of loss of access to basic services, but I’m not even remotely interested in doing any more. Of course, by most people’s standards, having three months of dehydrated food on hand is just completely insane, but by prepper standards I’ve basically given up and will just die in the second wave rather than the first.
I agree with him that having three months of preps is fantastic for most people. Would that all our neighbors were so well-prepared!
Expecting every prepper to be ready for TEOTWAWKI isn’t realistic and the expectation that everybody should have a year’s worth of lentils, an underground bunker, and two lifetimes’ supply of .308 or .50 ammo probably puts off more people than it encourages.
But Stokes then goes on to speculate about “well, what if it’s TEOTWAWKI after all?” and millions of people die? No big deal, he seems to say:
Wiping out two thirds of the population would bring us back to the opening decades of the 1900’s, the era of the early seasons of Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire. Neither of these two shows look anything like The Walking Dead to me.
Killing off a whopping 90% of the population would take us back to 1860, the year that Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States. I also saw the movie Lincoln, and it, too, did not look like The Walking Dead.
Losing 99% of our population would take us back to the post-Revolutionary War period of the 1780’s. At that point, Harvard University had already been operating for about 150 years. Again, Rick Grimes’ group of survivors would be out of place here.
My point is this: with only 1% of our present population, humanity had arts and letters, transatlantic trade, a thriving stock market (in London, at least, and a few years later in the US)–in short, we had civilization. It was not a Hobbesian “state of nature.”
And you’ve already spotted the catastrophic flaw in that logic, right? Losing X-percent of population in some catastrophe isn’t in any way the same as never having had that population around in the first place. Not even close, baby. Not even close.
If 90 days’ preps are all you can muster, then muster them. Just by being aware and ready to get through a few bad weeks, you’re ahead of the game. But don’t delude yourself that TEOTWAWKI, if it comes, would be a picnic.
The second article is by somebody who takes TEOTWAWKI much more seriously and has for years. Matt Bracken writes “When the Music Stops — How America’s Cities May Explode in Violence.”
This is a long read, but Bracken clearly knows whereof he speaks and has even provided his thought-provoking (and well-known, to some) diagram mapping the meta-terrain of Civil War 2.
Rather than quote extensively from the article, I’ll just say go read it. It’s worth your time. And again, I have to stress that I’m not knocking Bracken. I’m merely observing that all of us have foggy crystal balls.
Bracken is answering the rather obtuse, government-endorsed viewpoint that somehow terrorism and societal chaos will ultimately arise from the tired old Tea Party/militia/rural/gun-owner axis — a view so truly stupid it hardly merits serious consideration, let alone the very serious counter-argument Bracken gives it.
But both Bracken’s and the fedgov’s senarios contain (of course) their own biases. Big Government sees rural, gun-owning white people as its biggest threat a) because we’re noisy malcontents with blogs and b) because it views urban minorities as its friends. (It would also of course be highly politically incorrect, and would raise a media ruckus, if the U.S. Army or the F.B.I. were to name minorities as a problem. Everybody knows, OTOH, that it’s perfectly okay to despise flyover-country crackers.)
Bracken goes into great detail about his belief that any real chaos will start in the inner cities and spread outward from there. He envisions a scenario in which urban minorities, realizing that cops can’t stop them, fan out into the suburbs and beyond, terrorizing helpless, nearly unresisting (and mostly white) populations.
Well … maybe. My crystal ball is as cloudy as anybody else’s. But while I suspect Bracken is correct about the potential for widespread urban chaos, my guess is that the whole “hordes of dark people rampaging out of cities to attack helpless whites” vision arises more from Bracken’s fears and prejudices than from reality. He is quite invested in the idea of a new civil war and the related notion that this will, at least in part, be a race war.
I don’t know about that. Certainly the way academics and the media are stirring up class and race resentments, it could be.
However, even if resentment and desperation rose to catastrophic pitch, it would actually be very hard for masses of starving urban brown people to rampage very far beyond their own neighborhoods. And should such a thing ever happen … well, heck, aren’t all those suburbs and the rural areas beyond them filled with heavily armed “conservatives” ready and more-than-willing to defend themselves? I mean, according to government and media (and IMHO, reality), the people of the suburbs and hinterlands are … dangerous! Dangerous in a “don’t tread on me” way. Not looking for trouble. But ready to respond if trouble comes to them.
Nope, I just don’t see hordes rampaging from the ghettos to leafy suburbs and beyond. Not many of them, and not too successfully if they try. My crystal ball says any urban rampaging, however widespread, however driven, is likely to stay (mostly) urban. Oh, conditions in the suburbs and rural bergs could get very bad for many reasons. But probably not like that. (Where I live, for instance, I suspect we’re a lot more likely to have to shoot our own tweaker-and-deadbeat neighbors in a time of violent crisis than to fend off roaming urbanites. I also suspect it’s even more likely that the local tweakers and deadbeats will understand that fact perfectly well, and will tend to behave themselves, and that any real crisis will end up unifying us for our own well-being, rather than dividing us into crazed mobs.)
But as I say, my crystal ball doesn’t work any better than anybody else’s. Everybody is always wrong about the future. All we can do is remain aware, reasonably prepared, and ready to shift gears depending on what the future actually pitches at us.