When the shit hit the fan, it wasn’t due to one large cataclysm. It wasn’t just an economic crash or an environmental disaster, or a war, or a viral epidemic. It was a combination of all of those factors, building up, compiling. Collapse by attrition. It was like everything humanity had built was employing guerrilla warfare tactics on its creators.
The bankers and CEO’s of the world were finally beginning to understand that their rapacious tactics were affecting them as well, but by the time they started to reluctantly allow a few reforms to take place, it was already too late. The multitude of ways that they had raped the world were all backlashing simultaneously.
Rapidly increasing weather aberrations were destroying crops, as well as the decline of bees and other creatures that the growing of crops depended on. The lack of diversity in the agriculture industry made the crops more and more susceptible to pests and the genetic homogenization created a situation where when a type of crop was affected by a pest or disease, the whole crop was lost. It wasn’t that the genetic modifications were toxic to people as much as it simply made the crops themselves too specialized to survive what nature would continue to throw at them, no matter how much humanity tried to control the environment. Wildly fluctuating weather patterns and swaths of extremely intense storms ravaged commercial crops as well as people’s home gardens.
This caused massive food shortages, which was the one thing that could cause unrest in affluent countries, whose citizens were otherwise too myopic and distracted to care. This led to increasing militarization and corruption of the police, which created more resistance, which brought ever heavier tactics and resulted in a downward spiral of violence.
With the advent of the anti-vaccination movement, diseases that were once under control began to reappear, popping up in various places and as they spread, they were able to mutate to the point that new strains of measles, rubella and other diseases were forming all over the place, which made the old vaccines obsolete and made it nearly impossible to catch up enough to create new ones. The lack of containment meant that scientists would constantly be playing catch up, and when they created a vaccine for one strain, several others had already sprung up. Like the flu, superstrains eventually appeared which were far more lethal and mutations were happening at an increasingly rapid pace.
Instead of an outbreak of one megavirus, there were countless localized epidemics which bled into each other, creating a miasma of various maladies that overflowed all medical facilities.
All of these events made fundamentalist religious groups even more active and paranoid, and each trying to vie for control of hearts and minds exploded into massive violent zealotry, to the point of trying to kill “unbelievers” and “heretics” however they could. Some trying to hasten armageddon.
Although it realized, on some level, that its collapse was inevitable, the government tried to maintain its ebbing power and control through any means necessary. Martial law, this time without much pretense, had become the norm and armed patrols blanketed all major cities. However, various factions created much infighting and they often shot at each other as well as civilians. Many defected and fought against their previous military groups. Military, militias, cops and civilians were all clashing with each other.
All of the myriad ways that these multiple factors impacted the economy caused the entire global economic infrastructure to finally give way, at first piecemeal, and eventually it simply crumbled.
There was widespread suicide and gangs formed to ransack and pillage everything, roving around killing, stealing, raping and consuming all they could find.
Others banded together to create hidden communities in the wilderness to live sustainably and peacefully. Many were slaughtered, and some managed to eke out a living by being small, diverse and very resourceful, as well as rather lucky.
Many wandered alone, scavenging what they could, sometimes banding together with a handful of others, people coming and going in and out of each others lives and simply doing what they could to survive without losing their humanity.
It took a long time, but things began to heal. The roving gangs eventually had to face the reality that they’d cleared out all the easy pickings, and in order to continue to survive, they had to learn how to cooperate. They’d picked the cities clean and destroyed what communities they could find, and there was a finite amount of bullets which eventually ran out. They had to grow food, and that meant having to stop killing and start learning. Pillaging was not indefinitely sustainable.
Things like weather and disease were still factors, and the few communities which had survived had learned that there was a balance, and sometimes they had to refuse people in order to keeps their groups small enough to be sustainable, and to not accept just anyone, because they might be sick with something communicable or might be unwilling or unable to live in the ways which were required by these communities. They had to get a bit ruthless, or they didn’t make it. The groups that survived were the ones that learned to place practicality first, even if it pained them considerably to have to turn people away, and even kill those who had left them no other choice.
People had to learn a lot of primitive skills and learned through painful trial and error that neither democracy nor consensus was very effective, and went to the human roots of tribalism. It was the only type of human management which could survive indefinitely. Currency was a memory and in order to thrive, communities had to start seeking each other out, developing trust, and networking in order to trade with each other. It was exceptionally risky, but necessity demanded it.
However, many new and inventive ways of doing things were created out of sheer necessity and survival. It was a combination of learning ancient ways of doing things along with various methods learned through modern technology. This time, though, sustainability was an imperative. Waste was no longer an option. Neither was greed, selfishness, laziness or short-sightedness. People had to learn to plan things out so they would last. To repair what they had until the things could be repaired no more. To repurpose things to make them useful for multiple tasks, and to set personal biases and beliefs aside in order to work together to survive. The hardships of the collapse forced people to figure out how to cooperate effectively, or perish. Those who only looked out for number one tended to not last very long.
Everything had to be simplified. No longer were people focused on politics, sports, ads, tv shows, or any of that. The focus now was on learning and working together. On simple entertainment where people got together to play some music, or create art from the remnants of the old world which no longer had purpose, or through stories and plays. The quality was better because no one was looking to get rich from it.
Health began to improve as everyone was forced to be more active and had to eat what they could grow, hunt, forage or catch. There was no more fast food or processed food. This also was beneficial psychologically with less depression and social anxiety, and less useless stress. Things were still stressful, but people were no longer alone with their stress, and it wasn’t due to living a life of being a useless cog without purpose. Everyone who contributed had a very visible purpose.
As time went on, nature began to reclaim the cities and they eventually were seen as part of humanity’s more primitive past. Roles had reversed, and concepts of things like profit, lawsuits, marketing and politics were no longer seen as a normal part of modern civilization, but as part of a more barbaric era. It was that kind of civilization that nearly made humanity extinct.
Humanity was coming full circle, but this time with less superstition and more reason. The wisdom gained from experience and bad decisions was now part of human history and those who survived were those who had learned from it. Perhaps it might forget again someday and go through another cycle of self-destruction, but hopefully the lessons would remain engrained in our collective memory enough that we retain our humanity.
© 2015 William Suphan
- Symbiotic Economy
- Future History