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Perhaps you're familiar with the post-apocalyptic television series, Jericho, which originally aired on CBS.
The show's premise is that several of America's major cities have been devastated by nuclear weapons.
Repeats of the show are all you'll find nowadays -- but it's still compelling television -- maybe even more compelling today simply because America just might get nuked by terrorists and rogue nations that support them.
In Jericho the world -- as we all know it -- has in essence broken down.
Society has collapsedCommunication with other towns and our own government is lost; heat and electricity are at a minimum; and food sources are a problem.
With all of that going on, Jericho, Kansas is on its own. A small town left to fend for itself. And with the social structure of the United States completely broken down, there are many both inside and outside of the town that would do harm to their fellow man in order to better their own lives.
So what should those living in Jericho, Kansas do?
ABC LostFor a different reason, the survivors of a plane crash on ABC's hit show Lost find themselves without any contact with the outside world. With little food, no social structure or shelter, and concerns regarding their safety, the survivors at first find themselves grasping at straws.
What Lost and Jericho revealWhy bring up two fictional shows? Simply because there is always at least a shred of truth to be found in fiction. Heck, some of humanity's greatest inventions and discoveries actually emanated from science fiction stories (cloning, for example). Thus, television shows like Jericho and Lost can help shed some light on how we might best react to such a situation.
Still, television shows will hardly tell us everything. In fact, no one can. Why? Simply because when it comes to total social breakdown, the variables are so numerous that a one size fits all approach just doesn't work. Therefore, it might be best to break things down according to the factors people in such a situation might have to consider.
First, though, remember that total social breakdown is defined by instabilityAfter a woman broke into a Japanese kindergarten back in 2001 and injured a female teacher with a knife, there was a public outcry. Simply put, the kinds of violence that have become, unfortunately, somewhat commonplace in the United States had never been so in Japan. Along with this, Masao Omura, a criminal psychiatrist at Nihon University in Tokyo, said the following after the event.
"Socio-political and economic instability trigger psychological instability or uncertainty, and all this, I believe, is contributing a great deal to the rising brutal crime (in Japan)."
Unfortunately, if daily stresses and events of the world today can set off psychological instability, so, certainly, can a mass issue that causes our social networking and power structure to collapse.
Understatement of the century, right?
Thus, in order to keep civilization civilized, people would need to do everything in their power to bring stability back. That would involve some priority considerations.
Priorities considerations in the event of total social breakdown(the order here doesn't matter, as it could conceivably change greatly depending on the situation)
Find food and water - If you are someone that believes the world is on the doorstep of Armageddon or could be in for some tough years ahead, you may want to plan for this one in advance. If everything breaks down, one of the first things you'll need is an immediate supply of food and water.
Best case scenario: you thought about this before the problem and have emergency supplies on hand at your home and / or office. This will help you get through that first week or two.
If not, this could conceivably become the first order of business. Sustain yourself for long enough to come up with a plan. By the way, in speaking of a long term plan...
Find a group ( if there is one available to you )- Under circumstances where complete social chaos is reigning, you might not want to be by yourself. First, there's physical safety in numbers (on Jericho there have been several situations where outsiders have come to the town intent on doing folks harm; on Lost, of course, there's the Others).
Regardless, a group will help you protect your family and yourself when and if further danger arises.
Beyond that, group membership will help to meet your need to belong later. That's right, like the world famous psychologist Abraham Maslow has indicated, all human beings need to feel as if they belong and are safe.
Regardless, look to those you can trust: people within your own neighborhood, for example. Further, if the availability is there - as in the case of Jericho, Kansas - look to your town.
Pick a leader - Football teams need a head coach and some assistants. Without this, any player or coach will tell you that chaos would reign. Every form of government also has a set of leaders. Don't believe - even for a second - that you can survive chaos without installing some kind of power structure. Everything that is civilization tells us different. Further, by implementing a power structure of sorts, you'll have in essence brought some order to the chaos, even if only within your own group.
Therefore, small groups would be wise to elect a leader early on (this will be easier within groups that truly know one another). Further, plans regarding the future power structure should be made at this time ( will there be voting?). Such discussions might serve to quell the jealousy of those who are not elected to lead.
Bigger groups could go the democratic route and have mini parliament of sorts, if they chose. Or perhaps an elected official might serve the purpose (like a town mayor).
Protect yourself from the elements with a shelter - Do you still have a house? If so, great! If not, look for natural shelters (like the caves in Lost). Or if no man made or natural shelters are available, consider building some (like the contestants always do on the hit CBS show Survivor).
By the way, do this quickly. Further, if total social breakdown occurs in an area where the elements are a big problem, this may need to be your first order of business.
Heating and cooling - Is the electricity working (not in Jericho, Kansas, it isn't)? Are there any heat sources available? If not, we're talking fire. Which of course requires something to burn.
It would be smart to have a plan for dealing with this.
Can you defend yourself?Are you in danger? - In other words, are people walking down your road with guns intent on stealing or otherwise doing harm to you? Obviously, if this is the case, then defending yourself becomes first priority.
Perhaps it's an opposing military; perhaps it's our own citizens trying to better their own situation. Regardless, here are some ideas to consider.
Fortify your area - There are all types of things you could try. You could line cars, busses, or trucks around you for protection. You could try to build a wall if time permits. You could even attempt to build a fort of sorts. Here's the problem with all of those ideas.
They let people know where you are.
Thus, the best course of action would likely depend on the situation. If you're a relatively large group that has weapons and capability, doing some fortification work may not be a bad idea. However, if you're a small group that wants to remain nameless, the last thing you may want to do is line a bunch of trucks around four houses, particularly if there are groups out there to fear. After all, fortification strategies like that tend to scream, here we are!
In such situations, search for natural barriers to live near (lakes, mountains). These won't bring any obvious unwanted notoriety. However, keep in mind that if you live near fresh water, expect others to eventually come calling (food and water would, of course, be of paramount important to survivors of social breakdown).
Collect weapons - This is an obvious one. Just remember that if someone wants to be a part of your group, their weapons are too. It can't just be a band of individuals.
Remember the power structure - When it comes to military maneuvers, a power structure is absolutely of paramount importance. In fact, when you're electing or deciding on a group leader, their ability to lead you in a military sense should be high on the list.
This leader, if they're worth a grain of salt, will devise a guard schedule. If there is any truly conceivable danger at all, a watch should always be put into place along with a way for the guard to contact others without alerting attention to him or herself.
Finally, think long term when it comes to food - How are you going to sustain yourselves in the long term? If there is true social chaos that could go on indefinitely, this needs to be considered in great detail. Some things to think about are:
A. Rationing the food you have.
B. Freezing food that might go bad (if you have the means). If not, then eat that first.
C. Farming possibilities (present and future).
D. Cattle availability.
E. Winter rations.
In sum, total social breakdown has never happened in the United States. During periods of specific social unrest, this country has always been able to recover. Regardless, there could be any number of situations that could change America's luck.
Terrorists, a nuclear war, the consequences of global warming, etc.
Further, total social breakdown can occur in other ways (think Lost). So are you ready? Would you know what to do? Here's what's certain.
This article is only meant to get you thinking in the right direction. If the real thing were to ever hit, survivors would have to do a lot of thinking on their feet. Of course, if you thought some of this through before the event, that might save some time and effort...
Key Survival Supplies for Surviving A CollapseKnowledge: Which remote regions of North America miles away from dying cities (or whatever continent you live on) have the right ecosystem to support multiple sources of food and fresh water? One of these may make a great location for you to flee to.
Self Defense: Firearms will go a long way in this regard.
Maps: You need to have alternative routes planned to get you from the area you live, in the event of a collapse, and passed nation-state boundaries that may be policed by military forces (for example, if fleeing to Canada from the U.S., Canada may turn away American survivors if a major catastrophic disaster takes place and Canada is now afraid of being overrun by a fleeing American population.)
You also need maps to plan alternative routes to get you passed areas that may be policed by local militias or even passed large cities that have collapsed, but are now controlled by violent gangs that have seized power. For example, people in the Southern California suburbs fleeing north may run into gangs from Central California cities, that have banded together to seize neighborhoods and tracts of land. How do you get past these gang controlled zones?
Seeds and knowledge of alternative grow methods (survival gardening): The days of open farming will be a thing of the past. You'll need to learn ways to disguise your growing operations, a lot like the way drug cartels grow illegal drugs in South America and even in the United States currently. New techniques in survival gardening are teaching people ways to grow a variety of plants, that when grown together, look like part of the forest or landscape, allowing you to grow an abundance of food that bandits combing the land won't recognize as crops.
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How to Survive Total Social Collapse