Monday, July 1, 2013

Culture Shock

There's not a lot in the news to write about lately, to be honest. The financial markets are staggering again, people are rushing to embrace any social fad they can to try to find meaning, the attempts by the governments of the world to hang on to some sort of normalcy are getting ever shriller and desperate. Something's happening with gays and immigration and temperatures are really high. Twenty years ago, bad news was news. Now, it's the norm. Nothing to see, just go look at the celebs.

One of the things that will become crucial for people to understand about our ongoing collapse is that they need to be able to adapt their expectations and ways of living to the reality around them. I'm reminded of the old trope of the rich woman who is standing on a sinking boat and wondering where her butler or maid is at (there are a hundred different variations of this). Yes, humans are adaptable, but I think adaptability is like a muscle -- you need to exercise it on a regular basis or it's too weak to help you much.

Culture can change very quickly, but our expectations sometimes remain the same. I wrote a while back about subcultures, but I think those who try to cling to the past are eventually going to be in their own subculture while the rest of the world has moved on to something more realistic. Getting stuck in the past is going to be a little like Jews in the 30s who assumed that because Germany had always been relatively decent to Jews (unlike the rest of Europe), that things were going to continue to be the same, even with the fellow with the funny moustache in change.

"Culture shock" is a real phenomenon, for a variety of reasons. We are wired to be familiar with things, with our brains only being able to process so much change in a new environment. It's expected when we move to another part of the country, or to another nation, but do we expect it when our environment changes around us? In the modern, cheap energy age, it's really not a huge problem. In a time and place where food is scarce and energy expensive, it can be a potentially lethal problem. Imagine still having the idea stuck in the back of your head that you can go to the store and buy food...even though the store is no longer there.

For people living in modern industrial civilization, there are a number of ways we can begin to prepare ourselves for the culture shock of industrial civilization ending. While people can assimilate, given time, we may well be in a situation where things happen very rapidly and we are trying to make a transition overnight (maybe even literally). Therefore, it's essential to start making at least a bridge to a different way of life while we have the time and resources to learn how to adapt.

Everyone has different circumstances and abilities, but some suggestions come to mind. First, try living a way or even a week, without using electrical lights in your home. Likewise, try preparing all of your food outside. And, if possible, don't drive anywhere for a week as well. If you are a picky eater, or even a normal eater, try doing some eating outside of your comfort zone -- go get some sushi or spicy food. Go to a foreign language learning group and learn how to communicate in a different language, especially if there are native speakers. If you're a religious person, go to a church of a different denomination. If you're not religious, go to a church.

The idea here is not to take up a new way of life or get a taste for caviar, but to get out of your "groove," so to speak. People who are not accustomed to doing so will be paralyzed in an emergency as they try to find a familiar model of how to behave and what to expect. Our civilization is on the cusp of entering a very long emergency, and there is not going to be anything familiar about it to people who have grown up in a society of excess. This is the time to learn a new mode of behavior, not when the first power grid goes down for good.