Viral Implosion - chapter 11
Not all people became desperately poor or disgustingly rich. People who had their houses paid off had younger generations move in and returned to the pre-World War Two non-nuclear family model. Babies were watched by older siblings or grandparents. People created Victory Gardens which could not only feed a family but supply frozen vegetables and fruit over the winter. Some even defied zoning laws to keep chickens for eggs and possibly a goat for milk. Meat was the only thing they needed to buy, and with no mortgage to pay, multiple incomes, and no vegetables to buy, prudent grocery shopping was possible. Processed food was avoided because of its cost. ‘Cooking from scratch’ enjoyed renewed popularity. With so many hands available in the home, cooking, cleaning and repairs were easily achieved. This only worked if they were within commuting distance of work, of course.
Since the 1950s there have been “Preppers” – people who foresaw nuclear war, a military takeover of the country, a terrorist atack, or an apocalyptic natural disaster. These people started out building bomb shelters, but eventually the underground aspect was deemed unnecessary, but convenient. They hoarded guns, ammunition, food, water, battery-operated communications, first aid kits, oil lanterns and pharmaceuticals they could get via the black market or veterinarian supplies. On the assumption that they might not have electricity, all food was dried, salted or smoked rather than frozen. Water was boiled and sealed. Batteries of all sizes were amassed. Jeeps, Humvees, and trucks were kept well-tuned; spare parts were stored, and there were entire garages of gas tanks.
As the economy started to falter, many people became ‘homesteaders’, living on public land and living off that land. By reverting to practices of the native Americans and original settlers, they built rough homes, fished, trapped and hunted for meat, grew vegetables and fruit, made their own clothing and cooked over an open fire. They evaporated ocean water for salt, smoked winter meat, set up water sources and bartered skills and skins for those things they couldn’t manufacture themselves. Transportation was homemade sleds and wagons, pulled by horses or mules. They kept sheep, chickens, goats and cows, but rather than a large farm, they only raised what they needed for milk, eggs and meat. Homesteaders could be found all over the country, from Florida to Alaska.
Hollywood still flourished. It was already on the value system now developing across the country. People still need entertainment, and movies and movie systems were replacing television. Corporate headquarter sites, with their built-in movie rooms, ordered movies on demand. Conglomerate hubs built old-fashioned movie houses for single movies that were changed weekly. The hubs subsidized the movie house costs for distribution, so tickets were within reach for the employees. People within commuting distance also came in for the diversion.
As things settled into a pattern, residents in hub communities found old-fashioned ways to entertain themselves. With a 37-hour work week, there was time to build community parks. While the hub company owned the land, it was a lot easier to get permission to build from a corporation than through a local government. And the building itself became a community project. Since the parks ‘belonged’ to the residents, these residents were empowered to oversee safety and quality without a host of regulations. Of course, this meant that if there was an injury, either when building a project or enjoying it, it was the residents’ responsibility; there was no one to sue. With no profit to be made and an investment of their own money and labor, residents tended to make quality parks. In the north, an ice skating rink might be added. In the south, a wading pond. All kinds of family entertainment cropped up from picnic areas to skateboard parks. Liquor, wine and beer were fully legal, but bars were banned. There were usually two to three restaurants in the hub mall and they could serve liquor, but not have a bar.
The hub malls were all stocked by the same stores, but if a resident showed a talent for an enterprise, such as an ice cream shop, the hub business might remove one of the standing businesses and allow the resident to give it a try.
When people have enough income to meet their needs and limited discretionary funds, priorities are made and accepted. This lowers crime by keeping them from feeling desperate. Add the promise of job security and one can see how the hub communities flourished.
Silicon Valley was booming. Corporations had learned that you want to have tech-savvy people on your side rather than on the outside hacking in. So they were well-paid and projects to further corporate invasion and analysis of user information were well funded. There was a huge market for computerized automation. High school students showing exceptional expertise in computing were given full-tuition-and-cost scholarships, regardless of their family status. Schools that discovered these geniuses were given a bonus. It was deemed near impossible to enforce sales tax laws over the World Wide Web, so these laws were either repealed or ignored. Google perfected their balloons which beamed the Internet from the sky, bringing the World Wide Web wirelessly to everyone.
The Internet face altered. Web servers housed by small companies and individuals often closed up, as federal agencies started monitoring and managing them. The larger Web servers, mail servers and data servers came under federal agency control, mainly for data mining. There wasn’t a lot of regulation, but the advertising funds controlled a lot of what would be aired. If a person lodged a complaint, even on a personal Facebook page, the company accused would sue the complainer and win, since courts did not want to waste a lot of time on such matters.
Small towns that survived followed the trend of the hub communities. There were village gardens for vegetables and fruit. If there was a mall in the town, it was ‘stocked’ with the same stores as in the hub community malls. All malls were enclosed, with indoor parking, to limit the amount of plowing and landscaping required. If the town did not have a mall, the shopping area was ‘stocked’ with the same stores. Unused store fronts became town property and were used for town meetings and community projects or entertainment. Town meetings were well-populated because the government was tiny and most decisions would have to be implemented by the town citizens themselves. This was also an information center to find the nearest medical facilities, entertainment, and whatever services were not available in the town.
Where there were defunct agriculture universities, entire communities sprang up. They had the equipment and resources to raise food and ranch cattle, and often horses for transportation. The existence of dormitories and cafeterias made it perfect for a commune. There was a ready infirmary which could be expanded if necessary. They usually had a ready-made stage for commune meetings as well as home-made entertainment. Most universities had emergency generators, so residents hoarded gasoline, including pumping it into 55-gallon barrels from closed gas stations. Classrooms were converted into apartments. Gyms and fields were available for sports. Labs were left intact and used for research, especially for alternate fuel for the generator. Great minds filled the faculty housing, and they had great libraries to feed their curiosity. The computer labs were open to all, but any exchange of information did not use the World Wide Web. Instead, researchers used UseNet groups, as on the original Internet, to protect the information. Propane energy was used whenever possible.
Garbage management became a new industry. Hub communities had garbage removal handled by the hub company. Everywhere else, recycling became the byword. Towns would compost all organic material, then make the mulch available for free to anyone who had contributed. Inorganic trash was separated by the contributor (everyone removed his/her own trash), and the trash piles were then open to the public for scavenging. People could find wood, siding and shingles to do home repairs, containers for planting or decorating, and imaginations were allowed to soar.
The construction industry was a favorite choice for young people. There always seemed to be more hub community structures to add, and once a person got the knowledge, there was an endless supply of renovation projects in university communities, small towns and cities. Some people created traveling construction companies, wandering around the country like the old circuses, settling into an area for a while to take care of all the current needs.
In many ways it appeared as if society was devolving. But most people saw it as two steps back to make three steps forward. No matter how it was envisioned, the new societies met the current survival needs.