Mon, October 20, 2008
I have been reading a series that Richard recommended these past few weeks- the "Dies the Fire" series by SM Stirling. It is about what would happen if in the space of a second we lost all our electricity and gadgets, all our higher physics in fact- no guns, no cars, no lights, no planes, phones, internet, nothing. Not even steam engines. No explosives. Rocketing human beings back to the bronze age, basically, without anyone being fit for truly surviving then. It's a grim thing, but eye opening... what would happen?
The things it makes me think about are how fragile our society really is, based as it is on the way we communicate, interact and commute. Hell, the *fact* that we commute is strange enough, really. What served to make life easier has only created a world where we are further and further apart, even when we live-literally- right on top of one another. I'd love to know some of my neighbors, to have a friend in this cold place, but everyone is immersed in their own lonely planet of schedules, work, tv shows and whatnot that it's easier to remain in your own shell rather than interact.
I've said this before and I still believe it; human beings are meant to be tribal. It's something we evolved to do and be, for so many reasons; safety, sharing of resources, raising of young, and so on. From a purely biological standpoint it makes sense. The way that things are now, though, we don't necessarily need to band together. Families are spread apart, people move around. The stress of working and needing money to function in this society means we spend long hours doing things we may or may not like, with people we may or may not like, and rarely see the families we try to provide for. It causes all sorts of rifts, odd behaviors and sociopaths...
Why is it that so many Americans are on mood altering drugs? Whether you talk about prescription drugs, like anti depressants, or ADD drugs, or self-medication like alcohol, food (sugar/ fat) and recreational drugs... it's all the same. It comes down to the same principle, the same reasons; we cannot cope in the way things are set up. It isn't natural, doesn't feel natural. This is not set up to make people feel relaxed and good, useful and healthy. We increasingly turn to outside things to make what we're doing OK, even if it isn't. What could be more alienating than coming home in your HumV to your solitary apartment, crack open a beer, order a pizza and watch TV until you fall asleep on the couch... only to get up, go to a 9 to 5 you hate, come home, do it again? Doesn't anyone else find this bizarre?
Anyway this series throws people back into the need to create clans, tribes, villages, and so on. They need each other to survive; they need each other's skills and knowledge, hands and minds. People are once again directly responsible for their own survival- the growing and acquiring of food, fighting to keep it (wish it wasn't that way), maintaining and building places to live and keep animals, and so on. Am I saying I'd love to be in the middle of all that hard work, which guarantees you die early? The lack of proper medicine? Not really... but the idea of a clan, a tribe, a village... that appeals to me. Maybe this is born out of the loneliness I've spoken of before, being stranded here in central Ohio with all my tribe far far away. I'd say that's the case except I've felt that way for a long time. Not that I don't appreciate my alone time, my solitude; I do. I just like having the people I admire, care about, and love close at hand. I enjoy seeing people I love, seeing them happy, looking at the things they've made and accomplished. It means a lot to me, since I'm so social. This isolation, this stark contrast to what we are meant to do is torture for me. A special kind of hell.
The other thing the series brings to light is that something not unlike that situation could very well happen. Perhaps not to that degree, not to that severity, but I can't see things continuing as they are. The ideas like Mad Max could certainly happen- ownership of resources like water, or the shortage of oil which will come to pass eventually. What will people do? People can all too easily collapse into violence and chaos, rather than the spirit of community... because of how things are now. Each for his own. What do I possibly owe my neighbor? Or anyone here? There is no feeling of allegiance, of any kind of kinship really. We live on the same soil, and there it ends. Odd. So, damn, odd.