Have you been watching the continued second season of AMC’s Walking Dead?
That is some serious drama. It’s not just about zombies and avoiding them. It’s about negotiating and creating new social and cultural rules in a world that no longer has any. Humans are a remarkably drama-laden species and sure enough, we’re bound to bring that into the post-apocalyptic landscape. In crisis situations, I think the true essence of people starts to emerge and adjust to the new conditions. Issues that we had prior to the apocalypse might be exacerbated, which might also create problems if we try to make a go of it in a group situation.
But as I’ve noted in many of my end of the world spiels, other surviving humans are probably going to be the worst thing to deal with. No rules means your life isn’t worth the energy it takes to work up a spit, so don’t rely on appealing to anybody’s higher angels. You are a potential threat to their limited resources, a potential threat to their safety, and a potential threat to the delicate dynamic they’ve already worked out with whatever group (or not) they’re running with. So do no expect help from other survivors. Chances are, you won’t get it. And the longer a post-apocalyptic situation goes on, the more likely that survivors will continue to descend into more feral behaviors.
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Not all apocalyptic situations are predicated on zombies or natural disasters. I just watched the movie Contagion, and if that doesn’t make you want to walk around in hazmat suits with giant bottles of hand sanitizer, well, you’re a bad-ass. Anyway, the premise (if you haven’t seen it) is that a virus jumps from animal to human, and basically kills millions because we as a species don’t have immunity to it. At least, bunches of people don’t. It’s happened many times in the past (think flu pandemic, 1918), and no doubt it will happen again.
If you watch this movie, note how cleverly it brings in several aspects of our political and social systems. Conspiracy theories abound about the disease, and accusations that the CDC has a vaccination (when it doesn’t) leads to anger and fear. More conspiracy-laden websites spread rumors about homeopathic “cures” that cause violent runs on stores, fueling more riots and looting. The National Guard is called in to keep people from traveling; violence spreads into neighborhoods as gangs of looters looking for food and whatever else break into houses. People hold medical officials hostage in exchange for vaccinations; jockeying between government and pharmaceuticals develops and finally, a lottery system for vaccinations goes into effect. People who are vaccinated or are immune (like one of the lead characters) are given wristbands with bar codes and they’re checked at various checkpoints throughout the cities.
It’s not a stretch to see how martial law could result in a chaotic and scary situation like this (every conspiracy theorist’s nightmare and “told you so” moment). And you’ll notice, that when fear drives us as a species, it doesn’t take much for even residents of a First World country to descend into basic primal action and reaction. Remember War of the Worlds, with Tom Cruise? How even in the face of an alien attack, humans also ended up being our own worst enemies?
So, my friends, in a crisis situation, try not to succumb to rumors and fear-mongering. Do not become your own worst enemy. It’s difficult, I know, but if we still have power, the interwebs will be filled with all manner of crazy ideas and rumors and the more you try to figure out what’s true and what’s not, the more scared you’re going to get. I’d recommend sticking with local news channels (they’re just as freaked as you are and don’t benefit from spreading crazy ideas) for updates. Try to check in with friends and family in other parts of the country (or world) to see what’s going on there, to help you get a bigger picture and a sense of what’s true and what’s not.
If it’s a disease situation, your best bet is to stay put in your house. Don’t order anything, don’t go out. You’ll probably be better off in a rural area, but there are drawbacks to rural areas in a disease crisis because you’re farther from medical care. So hunker. And make your living space secure. After all, your fellow survivors are not going to be amenable to treating you with respect during these crazy times.
And remember, there will be drama. If you’re with other survivors, the drama won’t always be about what’s going on in the bigger world. It’ll also be about who we are at our cores, and how that plays in the new world.
Happy reading, happy writing, happy weekend, happy hazmat suits!