Monday, December 28, 2015

What if There is No Collapse?

When things get really bad, some people worry about an imminent collapse of civilization. Other people become hopeful that the collapse will be upon them soon, freeing them from their captivity and servitude. When I was a teenager in the SF community, I ran into some of these people, who called themselves Survivalists. Today, the same sorts of people are called "Preppers", I am not sure why the name of a thing has to change every few decades, although I suspect that the idea falls into disrepute, and then it is revived under a new word that does not bear the stigma.

I have a lot of sympathy for the motives of the Survivalists and the Preppers, and the Shruggers, in that all of them are hoping to get the yoke of the Federal government off their backs and to rebuild anew under circumstances that are at once more difficult, but at the same time offer much more hope for the future. If only we could get out from under the current mess, scrap the present non-functional system, and start from scratch! Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. Things don't tend to collapse. No matter how bad it gets, it could always be worse.

Here is a blog post by Sarah A. Hoyt that explains the widespread historical evidence that civilization does not tend to collapse, even under extreme pressure:

In Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way, we see an example of how collapse does not happen in a small, microcosmic illustration. You would think, for instance, that when the Japanese lost World War II, their internment camps in China would just fall apart and the inmates would wander away into freedom. This would seem to be a very reasonable model of collapse.

However, that's not what happened. What happened was this: the American government sent seven men in parachutes to take over the camp. The Japanese Commandant surrendered to the head of this party, and then the Japanese continued to run the internment camp on behalf of the American government, until an Army unit could take over. And the Army unit set up an entire indoctrination program to help the internees reenter American or Allied society, before eventually shipping them home. Meanwhile, the Communists were shelling outside the camp, because as far as they were concerned, the war was not over. It would not be over till they won complete control over China.

At no time did the internment camp just collapse. At no point did anarchy reign at the Courtyard of the Happy Way. At no point were the bad policies of either the government of Japan or the government of the United States the cause of a loss of order in the world of the internees. There was always somebody in charge! The prisoners took orders till the very end. We can argue about which jailer was more humane, but at no point was there freedom in that camp.

I don't write science fiction to illustrate these points. Why should I, when actual historical facts bear me out? Is there anything stranger than the truth?