Monday, January 14, 2013

Preparing For The Long Rains, Part 2

by Stephanie Osborn
Last week we read part 1 of Preparing For The Long Rains. Today we pick up with the rest.


Preparing For The Long Rains, Part 2

by Sarah Hoyt


So, what will the collapse look like?

I don’t know. And you don’t either. All we know, because we can feel it, like sand grains shifting on a dune in the first movements of something that is not even fully visible, but which will suddenly remake the landscape, is that we’re already in the process of collapsing. For a definition of collapsing.

What I’m betting on, of course, is a collapse that collides full-on with the catastrophic innovation of tech. What this will look like is like an accelerated version of what we have right now, and, to an extent, of what Portugal had in the seventies. The old ways and those in control of them at all levels – from education to production; from politics to news – will be collapsing but at the same time they’ll be each day less relevant, as they get replaced.

This is sort of – if you need a visual – like making a train into an airplane while it is running. It’s chaotic, very scary and not painless. Some people will get crushed as gears get moved, and some people will fall out by the wayside and die as the shell is changed. And some others will fall from great height, even, as the plane takes off.

Or, to leave the overstretched metaphor behind:

It won’t be pretty, and I advise to have prep stuff on hand – you know, guns and canned, and such. Whether to move to the city or rural is something else. Yes, I know what you guys hear – and the instinct to “go and hide.” But I’ve read accounts of Argentina’s collapse, and the worst stuff happened in the countryside, where isolated farmhouses were raided. If you were in the city, for the most part, you were all right. (Which I’d say was more likely if your city has military presence.)

But again, there is no way of KNOWING. All you can do is sort of guess and sort of prepare, and of course, ideally you’d have a town residence with a rural getaway, or vice versa, but not if you’re as broke as I am.

HOWEVER because you expect the new to emerge from the old, with preparing for the collapse of the old, for interruptions of supplies, for disruptions in electricity, etc., if you believe this is the sort of collapse that’s coming, you’ll be doing what you can to prepare your profession for the new order. In my case, this means getting up electronic as much as I can, so I might have at least some income should paper distribution collapse. I don’t know what it would be for your profession, but if I were a computer-person, I’d be trying to establish the ability to have different contracts on the side. (If your current employment contract allows it.) As we’ve spoken of before, what you should be trying for is as many and as varied streams of income as you can. If you’re a writer not making much, yet, married to someone in a traditional industry that’s going to get whacked, I urge you to do what I’m doing, and write like mad and put it up as much as you can, in as many genres as you can. (Though I’ll note, for me at least, bubblegum seems to sell best.)

I’m doing this because I don’t believe we’ll collapse totally. Can we? Well, sure. Again, as I said, we’ve never seen anything QUITE like what we’re starting on.

But here’s the thing – if we collapse totally…well…I can’t afford to buy a farm. I can’t afford to store enough food for the next fifty years. The best I can do is buy books on building log cabins and trapping animals, and supplying the kids with bows and arrows. Then if the unthinkable happens, we shall go and colonize the national forest. (No? Why not?) As long as I have some food to survive till a crop can be got in, well, it’s much like preparing for the catastrophic change – except that we never get to be civilized again and therefore all the ebooks count for nothing. Worth trying, anyway because you never know. And what else are you going to do if you’re not massively wealthy and able to prepare for the fall of civilization? Sit around knitting your total collapse blankie?

There is a third option, and for all I know it might be the most likely. It would be the most likely if we had an America to save us. It’s called the “modified hangout.” You slide and slide and slide, and there’s no ending to the slide. Africa has gone through this and Europe is heading into it (though we’re helping it by propping it up – yes, we’re still giving foreign aid to most of the world.) This is a world in which services become worse and worse starting with those the government provides, from supplemental income to mail to (where it does so) electricity. All of it becomes unreliable, untrustworthy, subject to the whims of bureaucrats and how much baksheesh you’re willing to pay. Every year is a little worse than the last. And you just…hang on.

At the end of this is the world of Heinlein’s Friday, with everyone in armored cars and people in guarded compounds, and the rest of it resembling what a total collapse would do, but crossed with the world of Mad Max.

I wouldn’t bet on this last one. It is unlikely. To get there, you need someone subsidizing you, because your society stops functioning long before this to the point where it keeps food and clothing available, much less keeping someone very wealthy. I don’t think America can keep itself on this path without outside help and – get this very carefully – there is no outside help.

At the same time, even if it happens, how do you prepare for it? Well, the best thing is to have some stuff laid by so you can protect yourself and yours and provide in case of shortages.

BUT most of all, the best thing is to be very wealthy and able to afford a private enclave.

My plan – though it’s unlikely it will bring me enough wealth – is to do exactly the same I would do in the first instances. Because if there’s any chance of my being wealthy it is to have a book (or more) hit.

So, right now, I’m very busy – which has the advantage of keeping me from fretting too much. (You should see me when I fret too much.)

The best thing to do when the rain starts falling and you don’t know if it’s just a severe shower or forty days and forty nights is build your ark.

Even if it’s just made of words and electrons.

Do go on with life – it might be important and your "peacetime activities" might yet be the most important thing in making the collapse non-permanent – but keep an eye on that rain. And prepare for any eventuality.
There is wisdom here if we choose to see it.
-Stephanie Osborn