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.


  1. Hello, fellow blogger with a science fiction theme! While people may be experiencing Future Shock when confronting the collapse of industrial civilization, they are coming to terms with it through their entertainment. Why do you suppose films about the zombie apocalypse are so popular?

  2. Good advice.

    Don't be so dogmatic and be a bit more pliable. I like it.

    I have tried to reset my own expectations around the idea of, "make do with less".


  3. Civilization is ending...have some sushi!!!??? If you think that the people with baby soft hands are going to survive what is coming, you may need to re-think things...GOOD

    1. Sushi is being used here as a metaphor for something different. Do something different than you are accustomed to doing.

      As I said before we DO need good luck as you point out. Luck is very important. But if destiny doesn't care a fig about luck, then lash yourself down to something because it is going to be a bumpy ride downhill.

      When the machine stops rolling and gets to the bottom then like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz we will get the chance to get off the ride and start to figure out where it is we have landed and where to go from here.

      It will be quite a show...

  4. Many people who have never had a stitch of trouble in their lives will start to become vulnerable too. They have played the game and made the right choices, and to a certain degree have been lucky. Don't underestimate the value of luck in a zero sum game.

    But many have a smug, sanctimonious sense of entitlement to the spoils of the "system" they have acted as minions and enablers for. Surely nobody serious thinks that 1,000 people out of 7 billion in the world can run things without lackeys and enablers who are smart enough to just take the money.

    When the proverbial writing on the wall becomes more and more obvious to even these people they will be some of the first to "freak out" as it were. Things like this happen to other people, not them. They did everything right and now it is all coming unhinged.

    As painful as it will be for these people who didn't see it coming, they too will have their opportunity to make their peace with the Gods of Circumstance and embrace the coming rebirth of the age of simplicity. When the enablers stop thwarting attempts for this rebirth to take shape then we can start to rebuild.

    It doesn't have to be as bad as we imagine, adaptation is a central meme to be found in all of creation, including humans. The clock is going to turn back to the energy availability of perhaps 100 years ago within the next 10 years I would say.

    The unenlightened will learn that paper is not money, but rather energy is money. When Nixon turned the US dollar away from the gold standard it became instead a "petro dollar" by becoming the default currency for barrels of internationally traded oil. This actually is more realistic than pegging it to gold quite frankly given the status of our world today.

    We live in very interesting times, and the show will be quite splendid. If we weren't actors in the show but rather could observe outside as the perspective of the audience then it would be worth the price of admission. But like a game of Monopoly we are both in the game and are observers of the game as it unfolds.

    Never a dull moment...

  5. Bush and his deputies have been convicted of war crimes in absentia:

    (This should shake things up a bit)

  6. Really? You believe that there is anything that can prepare anybody for the collapse of industrial human society? I am a doomer/prepper [whatever] of twelve.5 years and I seriously cannot concoct a realistic future scenario where my preparations will have prepared me for the apocalypse.

    "...some suggestions come to mind." Practice being among the 90+ percent of the population that is going to perish relatively quickly in the beginning.

    Damn, these doomer blogs get tedious.


  7. Steve,

    Murph writing

    Thanks for the comment on TCCF. I lurk about on your post but haven't commented yet.

    I also think being adaptable to changing circumstances is going to be crucial. However, it only goes so far. There are some potential circumstances on the horizon that we simply endure or die. The ironic part for us is that we have been prepping since the 70's. I really expected things to flat out fall apart a long time ago. Social inertia and cultural momentum I had not taken into account.

    Chuckle. Yup, when a couple dozen sites all talk about catastrophe it does get a bit tedious. About every single scenario of doom has been hashed and rehashed to death, We got to come up with some new material to keep people on edge.

    The collapse of industrial society in itself will not be that hard to get through. Except of course, for those folks that have been born raised and always lived in an urban setting. Most of them can't change the oil on their car or grow any of their own food.

    Dmitry Orlov's book The Five Stages of Collapse is a real good reference book on what to expect. Orlov was in Russia during that empires collapse. Many similarities and a whole lot of differences. Orlov does a good job of comparing the U.S. to the situation just previous to the Russian collapse and how the population adapted to it. I presume you have followed the Arcdruid's writing on collapse, maybe read his books?

    Humans have 5000 yrs of written history describing how we have always tried to predict the future. If enough predictions are made, eventually someone will be right, but overall, we have been damned poor at it. And yet, on an individual basis, all of our actions are based on our short term predictions that will directly impact us. Not often right there also. So adaptability to a disappointing future will be key, unless of course we get another huge comet smashing into us.

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