Despite the mountains of rational evidence to the contrary there are still a lot of folks out there holding to the claim that come December 21, 2012 the ire of the universe will refocus upon the planet Earth and cast us all into an end-of-the-world scenario of some kind. If those folks are right then I’ve got only a few days left to get some hard-earned advice out to my readers before this blog goes offline… It’s time for another Week of Lists!
As the week wears on and as every list I’ve been writing in my Seven Days of Apocalypse Week of Lists gets published out to a soon to be extinct blog, I’ve read back. An in reading back, I’ve thought about some of the common themes that I’ve proffered to my readers. One of those major themes has been survival. Survival? Well, I mean to say that, simply, I’m assuming that you — dear reader — are going to be one of the handful of lucky ones to pull through and be able to make use of all this advice I’m putting online during the (potentially) last few days of modern civilization’s existence.
And that’s all well and good, right?
The problem is in helping you survive I’m creating a whole other problem for you. See, survival is a complex situation. In surviving you’ll need to become so more than a hopeful mooch upon whatever new order arises from the post-apocalyptic ashes of society. To really survive long term, you’ll need to become a contributing member, earning your keep, and making your way as a productive member of Society Two-point-oh. Whatever your skill-set, you’ll need to be creative in finding a niche that you can fill. You’ll need to make yourself useful, indispensable, and offer a service or product that can be bartered for food, shelter, or even to curry favour with any new post-chaos totalitarian leadership regime that springs into being during those interim years while humanity gets back on its feet.
And that’s not always going to be a pretty job.
As a writer I’ve considered what my own role might be and (at the risk of opening myself up to competition) I’ve got a few post-armageddon tasks that might get you started in your own new career:
1 :: Dictating Letters of Last Regret for the Mortally Wounded
This is a short-term job and one that you’ll need to jump on right as society is collapsing around you. Of course I’m not advocating being a kind of “post-annihilation ambulance chaser” but with ninety-eight percent of humanity not being as lucky as you in their survival and — well, let’s not beat around the bush here — getting caught up directly in that primary wave of destruction, there are still going to be a lot of folks who are on the fringes of that group. These folks will pull through, but — if modern television action sitcoms have taught us anything — they will struggle through an arduous few days of mortal peril before eventually succumbing to their wounds (or infections, etc.) Many of these same folks will be having epiphanies of self-realization, death-bed regrets, et cetera and will be looking for someone to write down letters to family, friends, or just for the sake of some vague notion of setting straight the historical record. While you shouldn’t get caught up in promising to deliver these — I recommend sub-contracting that part out to explorer-type personalities — you can probably score a few choice resources bartering your writing skills for this kind of task. Make sure to pro bono a few too, just so you don’t become a total jerk.
In the weeks and months following the End of the World, numerous groups of survivors will coalesce and start to compete for the now very limited resources. Whether you’ve allied with any of these gangs or not, your writing skills will very easily port over to a rudimentary set of diplomatic skills that will make you invaluable (and give you diplomatic immunity and protection while travelling between emerging settlements and camps of survivors.) Even gangs need to negotiate, and the familiar contract-come-treaty will be a familiar tool for survivors who have spent most their pre-apocalypse lives earning MBAs or law degrees, but who are now the thug-like leaders of one of the thousands of declared micro-nations vying for control over the crumbling remains of an abandoned Walmart or arduously defending the burnt husk of what used to be a 7-11 gas station. Penning treaties is easier than it sounds and creative wording will surely be appreciated.
3 :: Producing Propaganda for the Re-Emerging Quasi-Government
And as the strongest of these gangs eventually ignore the aforementioned treaties and ultimately subsume control of nearby gangs, the strongest of these groups will start to be more public about their assumption of a more broadly based dominance over the land. I would suggest that within a year to eighteen months following the disaster that crushed humanity, at least one of these gangs will have amassed enough support to declare themselves the “new order” and attempt to form a rudimentary government. This is where writers and creative folk like yourself, who’ve probably by now earned a solid reputation as a bit of a mooch (keeping yourself out of the direct line of fire with all your diplomatic work) can really start to rebuild favour: after all, most every successful government makes use of propaganda to manage their reputation and when you start mashing-up your writing skills with a liberal adaptation of those now-useless social media marketing skills you’d spent your last few years online proclaiming on your blog or Twitter feed… well, you can quickly pitch yourself as a “New Order Propaganda Specialist” or a “Public Opinion Adjustment Coordinator.”
Any modern student of history will tell you that the most successful totalitarian regimes always like to add their own flare on religion and belief. And if not, someone does it for them. In Society Two-point-oh, at some point, someone will start a cult that incorporates some aspects of (a) current belief systems and (b) the un-timely destruction of the whole world. Don’t be offended: it’s just that’s how these things work, and if you want to survive you’ll need to (at some level) play along else risk being burned a heretic. As a writer it is important to remember that every major religion is based around stories of world-changing events and the impact it had on those lucky enough to pull through and survive. Think about it: Humanity cast out of paradise, world-wide floods, cities being destroyed whilst others are turned to pillars of salt, towers crumbling to Earth in a holy wrath of destruction. These are all staples of the stories and lessons of modern belief, and are (at some level) based on some kind of disaster and how it was perceived (opinion on size, scale, and impact may vary) by the survivors of that disaster…. survivors who could write and record those stories. As a survivor yourself make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for “signs” or “revelations” or “insights” into next week’s apocalypse as these will be invaluable to any budding religious leaders in the years to come.
5 :: Authoring Tall Tales of the “Old Days” and Becoming a Travelling Minstrel
As the years wear on and you really start to amass a good collection of memories and elaborate and exaggerated tales of the “good old, long-lost days” of society, as your memory fades, and even as your recollection and imagination begin to blend into a cocktail of confused rambling and half-true stories of how things used to be, your skills as a writer and as a story-teller will serve you well. By this point the world will start to re-stabilize and travelling from settlement to settlement (while still risky and dangerous) will not be a sentence of certain doom. You may find yourself writing down these stories and reading them out, as though a kind of post-apocalyptic wandering minstrel, in exchange for a meal and a night of safe shelter from the still-wandering hoards of mutant beasts savaging the wilderness. Writing half-baked stories or fractionally-true histories for complete strangers: it’s kinda like blogging actually. Some things never really change.
This post is part of my (satirical) Seven Days of Apocalypse Week of Lists countdown to (almost certainly not) the end of the world. Share and enjoy.