Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Collapse XL: Death

13 October 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Sad news – we have had our first local death.

Young Xerxes stopped by and gave me the news. An older couple, one I do not recall meeting except perhaps at the July Fourth Celebration, who apparently – simply – gave up. He was, apparently, a diabetic with limited insulin. Not many other details from young Xerxes except that they simply “Gave up.” At their request, their things are to parceled out to the community as needed.

There are the usual issues, of course: the practical issue of burial (the ground here is not precisely easy to turn at this time of year), how their possessions are to be distributed (someone suggested creating a depot of sorts at the building that has become a sort of community center), and of course the lingering thought on the back of everyone’s mind (and now undoubtedly at the forefront): the reality of death.

I wonder, Lucilius, even in the short period since the official “Holiday”, how many have died. For me, it seems an abstract thought in a way: I am hundreds of miles from a major metropolis, but surely some have. How many? Scores? Hundreds? Thousands? Unless things rapidly return to normal – and how unlikely that seems today – it will be millions.

But even in that, there are two issues. On the one hand, there are those who will die from privation and lack of food, of shelter, of warmth, of medical care – of basic needs. The others – like those here – are those that will die from lack of hope.

A lack of hope? It seems like such an odd thing to die from, does it not? Yet for other thousands – or perhaps millions – there has been a passing away of the old order that is perhaps not likely to ever return. It is one thing – even where we live – to live through a harsh week of Winter or a power outage that lasts a few days. We have done that before. But to look forward into the future and see…. Chaos. Disruption. No sense of things ever returning to the way the were before. That, my friend, is a gap that so many have never considered at length.

The cynical side of me asks if this has always been the case, or really just the last 10-15 years. Our national spending out of control, our deficits beyond what we could repay in three lifetimes, the personal finances of so many financed by debt, a society where the ability to live without working was almost as profitable as working.

Perhaps, in that sense, we were always staring at this abyss. It is just that the view has finally been revealed.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Interesting chapter. In his Surviving Off Off-Grid: Decolonizing the Industrial Mind, Michael Bunker believes that many, many people would die during a collapse simply because they couldn't cope with the loss of lifestyle. I used to think that was far-fetched, but anymore I wonder if it isn't true. Losing hope would certainly be a contributing factor.

  2. Thank you Leigh. I think I agree with Mr. Bunker - it is not just that things become scarce, but that the shape of the world (as it were) has changed. Just think of the (relatively benign) tragedy of a cell phone network going down. Now imagine an entire generation realizing that there will never be cell phones or social networks again.

    The other category of people will be the people that just refuse to learn, even though they give up hope. Pat Frank's Alas Babylon speaks of those people - mostly living in a retirement home, trying to live exactly as they had lived before and not prepared to adapt to the new world. In that book, an accidental fire from a hot plate burns the home down. I suspect that many people would simply refuse to adapt, even if shown how.

    Oddly enough, it is an area not really touched by the few survival works I have read. I wonder if that is because of the nature of the book (after all, reading about people dying relatively early makes for a short book) or that subconsciously, authors steer away from the horror.


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