I've written a number of articles on various aspects of emergency preparedness. I'm by no means an over-the-top zombie-apocalypse "prepper", but I believe that a certain amount of common-sense planning and basic preparations for an emergency should be part of everyone's lifestyle. Nevertheless, I don't think most of us seriously expect the society within which we live to collapse, or even to suddenly degrade, to such an extent that it can be described as "the end of the world as we know it".
Two recent articles propose different, and rather more worrying, ways of looking at that possibility. They certainly made me think twice - and I'm still thinking about them. What's more, they appear to be from different areas of the ideological spectrum, yet come to alarmingly similar conclusions. As an exercise in "WHAT IF?", I recommend them to you, too.
The first article is titled "Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse: The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State". Here's an excerpt. Bold print is my emphasis.
When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.
Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.
America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.
Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.
So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America — especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.
There's more at the link.
The second article, courtesy of a link sent to me by Old NFO, is titled "The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper".
While we don’t have any good sources of data on how often zombies take over the world, we definitely have good sources of data on when the group of people on the piece of dirt we currently call the USA attempt to overthrow the ruling government. It’s happened twice since colonization. The first one, the American Revolution, succeeded. The second one, the Civil War, failed. But they are both qualifying events.
. . .
Two instances in 340 years is not a great data pool to work with, I will grant, but if you take a grab sample of other countries around the world you’ll see this could be much worse. Since our 1678 benchmark, Russia has had a two world wars, a civil war, a revolution, and at least half a dozen uprisings, depending on how you want to count them. Depending on when you start the clock, France had a 30-year war, a seven-year war, a particularly nasty revolution, a counter-revolution, that Napoleon thing, and a couple of world wars tacked on the end. China, North Korea, Vietnam, and basically most of the Pacific Rim has had some flavor of violent revolution in the last 100 years, sometimes more than one. With Africa, it’s hard to even conceive where to start and end the data points. Most Central and South American countries have had significant qualifying events in the time span. And honestly, if we were to widen our analysis to not only include nationwide violent civil wars, but also instances of slavery, internment, and taking of native lands, our own numbers go way up.
Or we could look at a modern snapshot. Counting places like the Vatican, we have 195 countries on the planet today. Somalia is basically in perpetual war, Syria is a hot mess with no signs of mitigation any time soon, Iraq is sketchy, Afghanistan has been in some flavor of civil war or occupation my entire life outside the salad days of the Taliban, and Libya is in such deep throes of anarchy that they’ve reinvented the African slave trade. Venezuela. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be a qualifying event depending on how you define it. And again, Africa is ... hard to even conceive of where to start. Spitballing, perhaps 3% of the nations in the modern world are in some version of violent revolt against the ruling government, some worse than others. There’s at least some case to be made that our 0.5% annual chance estimate may be low, if we’re looking at comps.
Or we could look at a broader historical brush. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there have been 465 sovereign nations which no longer exist, and that doesn’t even count colonies, secessionist states, or annexed countries. Even if we presume that half of these nation-state transitions were peaceful, which is probably a vast over-estimation, that’s still an average of one violent state transition every 2.43 years.
If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.”
. . .
Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy. Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon.
Again, more at the link.
I'm not a TEOTWAWKI alarmist - far from it, as regular readers will be aware. Nevertheless, these two articles, particularly taken in combination, provide a different and very thought-provoking perspective on our American way of life. What does the future hold in store for us? No-one can be sure . . . but it's possible that it may be more "interesting", in the sense of the purported Chinese curse, than most of us would like it to be.
(If you haven't already read them, "Selco's" experiences during the Bosnian civil war of 1992-1995 are worth studying. That's an extreme, admittedly . . . but even a year before it happened, I'm sure he and his family and friends would have absolutely refused to believe that such things were possible. I've personally seen and lived through some similar circumstances in parts of Africa - and, right now, they're happening in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America. Don't think, "They can't happen here!" I agree they're very unlikely in the USA, on the face of it, but . . . I've been unpleasantly surprised before. In particular, if you're among the more vulnerable sections of the population - e.g. older, less fit, less healthy, etc. [all of which descriptions apply to me] - then you need to be more prepared than those in better condition, who will have a better physical chance to make it through an emergency. For people in such circumstances, the above articles are even more thought-provoking.)