Tips for Enjoying the End of Civilization
The End is Near
Sure as you're sitting in front of your computer, the apocalypse is creeping up on us like a coyote after your neighbors cat. Our supply of oil is already controlled by global corporations as soon will be water. Both resources are finite, and they're running out. The great wars for the world's supplies of fuel and water lie ahead like an extended stay in a demented, sadistic dentist's chair, and there you still are, sitting in front of your computer. You better get a move on, bucko, because your lifestyle's gonna be a-changin'! But the end of civilization as we know it is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if you think about it, it might be fun!
Camping and Hunting
Remember when you were a kid and you went camping with friends or family, and you had such a great time that you wished it would never end? See, all this is your fault! Didn't anybody ever tell you to be careful what you wished for? Now we're all going to have to go on a permanent camping trip.
But it is all in the attitude. Personally, I like camping. I used to like hunting, too. Seems to me, camping and hunting are what it's going to be all about after the apocalypse. That's why I'm going to get myself a nice, compound bow and about a thousand razor head arrows, and I'm going to learn to fashion arrowheads out of srap metal and sharpen them on a rock.
Of course, what I'll be hunting, I'm not sure.
However, if our civilization goes out with a BANG of the "nucular" variety, cockroaches might be the only game left to hunt. Therefore it might be a good idea to develop a taste for the little critters.
The Barbarian Life
If hunter / gatherer is just not your style, you could look into becoming a barbarian. Barbarians did very well during and after the last fall of civilization, as the might of Rome crumbled at their hands and the glorious Dark Ages were ushured in. After that it was the survival of the fittest until civilization took root again. Barbarian warlords became kings and knights, feudalism morphed into a kind of pseudo-democracy such as we have today, and the warrior class has done very well from way back then until the present time. Today they still own most of us.
To prepare to be a barbarian, in addition to doing away with hygiene and table manners, you would want to be well grounded in marksmanship with an extensive knowledge of conventional weaponry and compatible ammunition; for hand to hand combat you should be skilled in asian sword, kick boxing and assorted exotic, less well known martial arts so as to be unpredictable in battle. You should also develop skills in archery for a silent-but-deadly ambush technique that will make you the envy of all the other barbarians.
If you are, like me, rather slight of build, but good at math, you could excel in the area of catapults and siege engines, as city-states rise to defend themselves against constant barbaric raids. Proving yourself handy and loyal might be a way to survive among barbarians of greater skill, ruthlessness and brutality. On the other hand, the bigger barbarians might get drunk and kill you for sport. Best stay sober, I think.
Magic and Religion
When the Dark Ages fell like a cozy, wooly blanket on Western Europe, two forces kept the candle of civilization burning: local magic and imported religion. In every village, the old wise woman, known as the hag or witch, dispensed wisdom and herbal remedies handed down from generation to generation. Meanwhile, in defensively placed strongholds, religion imported from the Middle East preserved the art of writing and belief in the Almighty. Of course, legend has it that eventually the religious ones hunted all the witches down and burned them at the stake, so you might take that into consideration before embarking on one path or the other.
However, it might go differently this time if the witches anticipate that the priests and friars will be eventually approaching with torches and pitchforks. I would think someone well-versed in herbology would be quite adept at, say, poisoning the well at few abbeys and monasteries.
As a monk or nun, you would enjoy solitude, safety, hard work, and no sex whatsoever. As a hag, witch, or wizard, you might raise a family and acquire your knowledge on the way, only assuming your role as hag (or wizard) when your appearance is grizzled enough to make you credible as such. However, since as a wizard or witch you will have to go off and live by yourself, you will be more vulnerable to attack in your golden years. So a monk or nun has no sex or fun but a life free from fear, whereas a witch or warlock has a lot of fun but a fearful old age. A hard choice, but choices may be limited, so order now, while you still have time.
Back to the Land
If you don't want to be a hunter / gatherer, a barbarian, a monk or a hag, you could be a peasant. You could grow crops and raise livestock, and when these things aren't being pilfered by hunters, gatherers, or barbarians, or your land taken by the church, you might have enough left over to donate a little to the local wizard and still feed your family.
On the other hand, your existance at the bottom of the food chain is not going to be all that pleasant, as you will be victim to every brute who wants a haunch of beef or a go at your daughter. Nope, peasantry is not pleasantry. But at least you won't have to be an agressor until such time as the excesses of the warrior, clergy, and other upper classes stir the slow anger of the peasant multitudes to frenzy, and the guillotine rings like a bell in the village square as it did in revolutionary France, when freedom ran red in the gutters of Paris, and the chateaus fell amid the flames.
Or perhaps we are too smart to let ourselves be victimized now. Hmm. Eight years of George W. Bush. Yet in the end we didn't vote for four more years, did we? Perhaps there's hope after all.
The Final Alternative
If all of this sounds unattractive to you, perhaps you'd rather die. Only one person has come back to tell us about death, so some people say, and according to his tale, it really isn't all that bad. However, it is unlikely that in the afterlife they have sex, or wide screen TV's, or computers, or rock and roll, or really good food, or anything that we really seem to like in our current culture of consumption and general laziness. But on the other hand, you wouldn't have to choose whether to be a barbarian, or a hunter, a farmer or a priest or a witch. And if you're really indecisive, death may be your only alternative.
Death is actually the friend of life, if you think about it.
I don't want to neglect one more, quiite implausible possibility: that we could avoid the collapse of civilization. Although we are still using up all the resources and then fighting over the crumbs like rats, maybe we have it in us to rise above our nature. Maybe we, as a species, could all agree for one generation to have no more than one child per family, and cut the population of the planet by thirty or forty percent, and thereafter stabilize our population at the ideal level that lets us have an ecosystem and still feed everyone. Maybe we could all agree to use less, and to have less, so that the earth can continue to sustain us.
Just a thought.
© 2008 Tom rubenoff