How would you live? 39 replies

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The Body Popper


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14th February 2006

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#1 9 years ago

Ok. Its another one of those apocalypse threads. I was inspired by the last three days on earth thread. But I would like this to be a serious discussion.

So lets say that a large portion of humanity has been wiped out. Lets say it was a virus. I chose virus because it wouldnt irradiate the planet, cause a horrendous amount of destruction. Basically because it would leave the planet habitable, but civilzation would be in tatters. Grocery stores would no longer be a reliable source of food as it would spoil and any non parishables would be picked clean in a week. There would still be pleanty of destruction due to riots, desparate last minute wars and what have you. There are still millions, perhaps a billion or so humans left. These are people that were immune to the virus.

So now I ask the question. What role would you play in this new, shattered, society? Would you try to help your fellow man? Would you be a marauding raider? What would you do with your new life?

I'm expecting serious, well thought out answers, not more of those "just another one of these "armageddon threads."

Anyhoo. Unless I was forced to, I would attempt to make a small hunting and gathering party of my surviving friends and any other strong able bodied people. Perhaps eventually beginning something of a city. However should my hand be forced, I would be willing to live a life of violence and immorality to survive.

Nemmerle Forum Mod

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#2 9 years ago

The end is nigh, let the party begin.

And by party I mean let things continue as they have done for the last few thousand years. Big groups going around smashing other big groups in the head with increasingly sophisticated boomsticks. You see that’s the problem with people, they think the end is going to be a wave where everything falls apart, where all you need to face down to survive is the occasional fucktard who wants to raid your house or the disorganised mob; the country is the only organisational block they can see. It won’t and the country is not the only organisational block.

When collapse happens the first sign is that people’s dreams vanish .You start thinking the future is going to be worse than the present. You’ll see people walking around talking about the good old days, with pictures of old politicians. At that point a shit storm is imminent.

So what do you really need to survive in the new world? What would Nem do?

Item #1: An organised stable social network of people you can rely on.

If you look at countries that have fallen apart the main element to the survivalist is his networking skills. People with reasonable social networks have others who can stand watch at night, who can contribute their labour force to the group, who have special skills, etc. If you're in an urban environment having others to keep watch on things is pretty much a necessity, even outwith it's a great aid.

The problem is we’re used to the idea that you just get along mostly by yourself. The immediate social group is at best the few people you work closely with, at worst no-one at all; but there are certainly very few people you’d immediately step up to the bat for. What people don’t seem to get is that most of the people you meet within your society are strictly speak the enemy, and will be when society falls apart. Because you and they are different, or at least as far as you know you are.

I read an article a while back about someone having their eyes stabbed out at their school because they admitted to listening to metal. People asked, how could this be? What the hell is wrong with the world? But it makes perfect sense when you think about it from a survival position: They were different. If you’re different you can’t be predicted, or at least not as easily; if you can’t be predicted then you’re a threat because you might do something violent to the other person. So it’s a case of do as you might be done by and do it first.

If there’s one law you can draw from history it’s that people will kill over almost anything. Some of us like to tell ourselves otherwise, that people are all rational, but caring at its basest level isn’t a rational generalised thing. We live in highly concentrated groups; cities; and most of our society is built around not knowing the people we meet. The people you get on a bus with to go to work, the people you walk by in the street every day, most of them you don’t know. Our interactions become systemic, because we can no longer rely on all sharing the same values. Our degree of trust in the integrity of those systems to maintain the status quo largely determines the degree to which we tolerate that which is different from us. We don’t really trust the people, (how could we? We don’t know the people.) We trust the system.

A lot of this descends from limitations in your neocortex: you just physically can’t know all the people within such a large society even if you had time to meet them all. People and creatures in general can only really conceptualise so much, in part due to our brain structure. It determines the size of peer groups that can be supported before emotional integration breaks down, (in humans about 150 and then you’d be spending about half of every waking hour socialising and be under survival conditions which tend to promote group solidarity anyway.) More importantly your neocortex also determines the degree to which you can transfer your approximations of their emotions from one thing onto another. Beyond this group people become sort of two dimensional cut outs. You might know of the person who delivers your mail in the morning and you might even assign him the label of ‘human’ - but how do you think of him, in terms of his emotions and so on - as a human that is - or in terms of being the person who delivers your mail - as a functional machine?

The closer you can place a person to that group you're capable of conceptualising the more you're able to transfer that conception. This is why when any tribe wants to go a conquering it creates an ‘us and them’ separation, it’s why when people wear masks to deindividuate themselves from their society – and by extension the social rules of that society – the level of violence they are prepared to use goes up. And it’s also, unfortunately, why if someone chooses to show themselves to be different from you on a major issue it’s very easy to separate yourself from them to a degree where you can do nasty things to them. To each of us ourself is the centrally weighted average of humanity used in estimation.

Which isn’t to say you don’t care at all just that you’ll naturally care less. There are good reasons for our brain working that way. If you cared about every case of attack as much as you cared about the specifics that you become aware of you'd just be unable to function. If you really cared that much about people being hurt you'd be in a corner curled up crying all the time.

So people come up with socially acceptable ways to abstract the ideas away from themselves. They vest their care and their value systems in specific cases: a TV show, a book, music - and by that measure show them off to society; or at least sections of it; assure people that they work by similar moral codes and share the same kinds of value systems. This way you don't really need to think beyond that 150 to have a kind of integrated society.

Two problems with this really, not everyone shares the same interpretation of symbolism – which is tied up with its utility since people who are like you will be more likely to share the same interpretation. The other problem, and the reason this is such an unhealthy thing for a society in general to do, comes in terms of what it does to those individuals the abstraction concerns; because as we know from observing societies the world over: the more abstracted you become, away from being an individual to being a member of a group separate to the main body, the easier it is to do things to you. Both in terms of media manipulation and in terms of actual physical abuse. Developing an ‘us and them’ mentality is instrumental in nearly all cases of violence.

I suppose you could say, to a certain extent, people are just hardwired to be ready to attack anything different to themselves.

It’s not that these people who go around stabbing people’s eyes out over music are necessarily crazy, although some of them probably are; it’s that they’ve looked at the world in a certain way, maybe not even at a conscious level – perhaps for they never believed the world was any other way or perhaps they don’t realise they’ve stopped thinking of it in a certain way – and at some level or another realised that the rules don’t have to apply to them, or to anyone else. The trust in the system isn’t there anymore, if it ever was to begin with; and so they can’t aspire to the social harmony that others can. At best, depending on their self confidence, it sets them a little on edge - wakes them up a bit; it can even be a positive thing if you use your freedom that way; at worst you get varying degrees of violence over books and things.

So you want to be part of one of those groups of people, and that's not something you can do on the turn of the moment when that moment is bad. I’m not suggesting you be stupid enough to go around stabbing people’s eyes out. You want something a bit more organised than that, a bit more deep thinking. The sort of boring mother fuckers who sit around all day practicing one thing ad infinitum and manage to behave reasonably normally outside of that activity. You want a good martial arts club, or a church, or a reasonably sized gang, or something like an archery club; most gangs won’t do very well, they’re small and their organisation rarely goes above a handful of people; or a job where you rely on the person standing next to you to save your life. You want something organised. Don’t bother with anything on the internet; you also want something in your immediate physical location. In short: Find yourself a tribe of some description and snuggle into their warm militant embrace.

I might have made rather a meal of this point but it’s worth it because most people in a modern society think of people they don’t know very little at all. In the event of SHTF these people are rarely going to be your friends. Set it up beforehand when you notice things are going iffy.

Item #2: Strategically important resources.

When shit hits the fan the main thing that’s going to stop is food and water. Most of the other things in life are just luxuries; even firearms to an extent just make killing easier under certain conditions.

So the strategically important resources when things hit the fan are going to take the form of food and water. Primarily the second in more arid areas, you just can’t grow anything without a decent supply of water. The Chinese used to rule their empire with water and I suggest you do much the same. Stake out the water sources and control their distribution.

This will undoubtedly make you a target to people without water if they know about you; but they don’t have water, they’ll be dead within a week of the end, if that. So you want to wait for the die off; mass charges on your water source by a bunch of disorganised panicky twits is the last thing you want; or you want to be very careful in how you distribute the water so as to keep your source secret and or remote from the people you’re attempting to control. The young, the old, the crazy; the people who aren’t of immediate use to you will be the first to die, so watch they don’t do any worrying shit. They might not be organised but if they’ve got a common goal that contradicts your own you’re screwed. What you want to do is absorb the survivors. Introduce them to whatever sacrament it is that unites your group, hunting, martial arts, religion – whatever the common thread is; make them a part of the group. The Romans used to have the idea that a person could gain citizenship by participating in the armies; this is roughly the same thing. It’s an expansionist ideal.

The exact size of the eventual political body that you can form will be limited by the food production, essentially then by the climate you exist in and your control over the water resident in that climate to enable agriculture along with your access to crops and animals to farm. Your population density and size of that population will determine the labour force available for any projects or conquests that might be in mind. Ideally you want a series of high density separate communities supplied centrally through an irrigation system. Later on as production stabilises the size of your group will also be limited by the information infrastructure you have available, it's mostly for this reason that churches started to lose their control of the wide functions they performed in older societies as the complexity of those areas increased and the control lag multiplied in proportion to this. Which is another reason why you can have super churches now and not before. It's unlikely you'll live long enough to worry about this though.

Start by absorbing the people who can offer you something besides themselves, those who’ve stockpiled nice shizzle, people are a resource all of themselves but you may as well cherry pick while you’ve got the chance; as you increase your numbers you’re going to run into command and control difficulties in terms of people looting rather than leaving stockpiles under your control.

Item #3: The birth rate.

Sooner or later you’re going to bump into another group like your own and the issue of material resources and tactics asides it’s going to come down to whoever has more numbers. So I suggest setting up a patriarchal society with what essentially amounts to ritualised rape. Much as marriage was in parts of the Western world until a hundred years or so ago. Not nice but unless you’re in an extremely limited climate like the arctic circle there’s little of worth that women can trade in preference to men other than their wombs. A woman’s main value to a pre-industrial society is their ability to produce children. In the long run you want to be looking for a healthy birth rate to bolster your original intake of recruits so your society strengthens over time and there’s a group of people to take care of you when you’re older.

Which isn’t to say you should neglect their other skills, mind. I'm mean I'm not saying it's their only use, per-say. That's just be a waste of resources.

Still there are no better ways to kill/achieve dominance over people than with other people, there are only force multipliers that allow the people on your side to kill more of theirs for every one of yours they manage to kill. Even if you start out with a primarily female population, with a plethora of firearms and ammunition, you're going to be looking to create a patriarchy as time goes on and the population break becomes closer to the natural birth rate difference.

Gender differences in stress response are largely one of those distinctions constructed by primarily affluent psychologists for primarily affluent populations. The minute you step outside of comfortably modern societies the equation changes; so it's not like they'd be better leaders either. Not that it was a large difference anyway. Likewise with the stereotypical images of tribe protection; although I might note that the stereotypical image of the protector in Western society is the man in the role of the policeman, soldier or father figure.

It won't start off being thought of as ritualised rape of course. It will start with people just screwing a bit more and over time that will become just the way things are done, a sense of entitlement will come into being. Chances are most people won't even realise they don't get a choice until it's far too late to do anything about it. Enshrine the principle in a sacrament, make it a happy thing accompanied by celebration of a coupling, marry it with the control of violence inherent in all social systems and you’ve a means to govern reproduction through ritual without upsetting very many people.

That’s the interesting thing about rituals; from within a society they don’t look too bad.

Regardless of the actual number of people who survived you want them having as many children as possible to multiply your resources base, even if there are efficient ways to kill people. It's why Israel is ultimately going to lose; they're not having enough children. They can kill a hundred people for every Jew and it still comes out at a loss. The only way they’re ever going to win is to crack out the BIG force multipliers, nukes, chemicals, etc. Similarly for any small highly armed society. You need the numbers or a huge technological edge on your enemies and the will to use it, or it's just a matter of time.

Item #4: Skills.

Talking of the skills you’ll need post-collapse. Get some skillage. I don’t mean ‘go get yourself an education’ or ‘study one thing intensively’ I mean go get yourself a college level physics text book, a couple of books on military history, go learn carpentry and farming/game stalking, make a brief study of economics, see if you can get yourself apprenticed to a mechanic or something. These are skills that will be hard to come by in the days after TSHTF. Don’t bother with the bullshit; sociology, psychology, english lit, etc; as most commonly taught in university these are applicable at best to a small section of Western society; all the general truths they contain you can find within history with less effort.

Item #5: Fitness.

Most oil is spent on transport. This is going out the window when society is fubar. The main source of energy that humans had working for them for the majority of history was their own muscle power, (and that of animals,) though we’re much better at managing energy resources these days, even in the absence of fossil fuels, it’s the only thing you can really rely on.

Item #6: Heat.

The temperature of an environment generally correlates to its production of food, the easy access to water resources, the reproduction rate of its people, and the amount of food you have to eat in order to get by. Tibet used to be the centre of an empire when a climate shift briefly raised its temperature to make more intensive agriculture more practical.

Above all: Observe similar situations. Terrorist organisations that control their civilian support base by means of civil projects, and a provision of law and order within their areas of control. Societies that have responded well to their environments and ones that have responded poorly. Take note of what works and what doesn't and copy the best bits.

Junk angel

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29th January 2007

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#3 9 years ago

I remember this essay showing up on the rogue a while ago :P

Well anyway to build up on what was posted, as I agree with a large majority of what Nem wrote.

Let's say we're talking about a disease that wiped out most of the population in a very short time and you are one of those immune.

First things first. You need: Water, Food, Shelter, Fuel, Medicine, Defense - In this order. The best place to aquire such would be in the cities. There's a number of problems with that though. You generally want to get out of those as quickly as possible. The giant amount of corpses will mean a hygienic hellhole. So even if you weren't killed by the original disease, the chance of you getting struck by something like cholera is way too high. A second problem will be former pets. Many people are going to release them before they die, or those will get out. And however they are civilised to some extent, they'll turn into rabid packs very very quickly and re probably going to be dangerous. Same goes for wild pigs and other wildlife that will suddenly start overpopulating.

So your goals. Grab everything you need in the city, hopefully like-minded survivors. While being very of those who will use the situation just as an excuse. These individuals will probably try to hole up somewhere, generally kill male survivors and have fun with the females.

So now that you have priorities you have to find a place out of the city to spend the time in. The best place would be somewhere secluded, plenty of wildlife around and hopefully with solar panels, a small water generator or similar.

Still two things you ought to take with you from the city is a diesel generator and preferably those solar panels.

Those should be your short-term goals.

Crazy Wolf VIP Member

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#4 9 years ago

Get a group of maybe a dozen or a score of people together, try farming (both my college and my hometown are in good agricultural areas), try scavenging books and other written material, try rebuilding what I can with what I have. I'd try to avoid raiding, and stick to agriculture and trade, as raiding is good for short-term goals but it turns your neighbors hostile and doesn't let you live somewhere where there aren't other people to raid. Scavenging's good, but I might try the local dumps before heading into a (former) city, dumps are a good source of moderately-damaged goods, and if you're able to keep clean and avoid injury, you shouldn't get too sick. As a bonus, you might be able to trap rats or seagulls, and add some more protein to your diet.

Oh, and assuming that the loss of life was equal across the globe, the USA would still have like 50 million people in it (assuming 1 billion survived). We're nationalistic enough and stubborn enough that we could probably cobble together a new nation under the old flag, if for some reason the government fell.

Power source: try a small hydroelectric dam or wind power, they're simpler mechanically and thus easier to repair. I've got the feeling silicon and other solar-panel materials might be a bit uncommon, but steel, copper, and aluminum are very common, and steel and copper are relatively simple to extract from ore. As a bonus for the hydroelectric dam: you've just established yourself a water supply, and if you can stock it with any fish, then you've improved your food supply. Remember to boil your water before drinking, unless you want to try building a giardia resistance of something.


shaken - not stirred

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9th June 2009

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#5 9 years ago

Quick question: What would you do if this virus made zombies? Just wandering... Anyway... I'd build a huge farm surrounded by tall metal walls like in I Am Legend and use solar power and you'll be well off. If that doesn't work, maybe go live in the wilderness with a few people and hunt, gather, and grow to survive.

Serio VIP Member

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#6 9 years ago

If I knew an incurable virus was headed this way, and it was guaranteed to kill anyone infected, I'd get as many supplies as possible and head into the largest forest. For the first few years, the city might be safe but it'd eventually fall into decay after a few decades, so it wouldn't be a very safe place to be in the long run. A forest has got virtually none of those dangers, and if you know how to move in it you'll avoid predators(Although, in the case of my area, the greatest danger would be a crazed fox as there's neither wolves nor bears).

Maybe put up a fire in a clearing somewhere, and hope it attracts other people. I'm pretty sure it'd be possible to draw energy from wind mills on the land, so the biggest problem would be food. I'd stay away from the older buildings, as they're already in danger of collapse. Although, judging from what Junk Angel said, it'd probably be best to stay as far from the cities as possible for the first decade.

... I wouldn't survive for very long.

Junk angel

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#7 9 years ago
I'd build a huge farm surrounded by tall metal walls like in I Am Legend and use solar power and you'll be well off. If that doesn't work, maybe go live in the wilderness with a few people and hunt, gather, and grow to survive.

Again the further away from the city you are, the better. After a week or so, the smell itself would be nigh unbearable. Plus considering the largest populations of humans were there, the largest populations of the zombies would be there as well. The only problem would be the zombie animals.

The Body Popper


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14th February 2006

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#8 9 years ago

Well its a known fact that the Solanum virus only kills wild animals. It doesnt reanimate them. So you wouldnt have to worry about those.


Hallelujah! Glory to God!

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#9 9 years ago

I'd spread the gospel. By car if possible, if not by walking.


5.56 smoke Haji every day

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#10 9 years ago

I'd try to hook up with a society of hobos. People in the upper echelons of society have a long way to fall should it all go to pot. They wouldn't be able to cope with the drastic changes in their lives. Hobos, on the other hand, are already adept at scrounging and finding novel ways to survive.