Monday, April 27, 2015

Would You Survive Civilisational Catastrophe?

Many rolled-eyes and harrumps in the Tavern yesterday at the memories and questions that some people raised.  I don't know about you but so many people today think 'hardship' is having their iPod go u/s or their favourite TV show delayed for a memorial service such as ANZAC day. (For our American cousins, that is like your 'Memorial' day.)

Myself, I was raised in the rubble of war. My city, wherein I was supposed to be coddled and cossetted when I was to have arrived, was bombed to buggery before I could get there. Many people today in the middle-east will know what that is like. At least I did not have lunatic butchers roaming through my streets.

How would, could, anyone survive.

We can and do, only because the rest of the world continues on. The electricity flows, and the water. Communications are restored quickly. Planes fly, and when some are not bombing and strafing, others are bringing relief. 

There are good people around who help. 

They do that for natural disasters too, as the poor souls in Nepal are currently experiencing.

But what if there was no-one else, elsewhere, continuing? What if the western world was struck down; civilization as we know it brought to a grinding halt?

Some disasters are 'planned-for'. Predictable. Procedures are put in place to cope and bring relief. But not all can be. Some come unannounced.

 And some suspect that some distasters may even be planned. 

Jade Helm, anyone ?

Aplocayptic catastrophy scenarios are not uncommon and over the past decade or so we have had one TV show after another contemplating 'what would we do'? 

They have a fine modern history and this month was the 40th anniversary of one of the first. Remember Terry Nation and 'Survivors'?

16 April 2015 is the fortieth anniversary of the original broadcast of “The Fourth Horseman” (the opening episode of the first series of Survivors). The first ever episode of Survivors was shown at 20:10 on Wednesday 16 April 1975 on BBC 1, and was seen by just over 7m viewers. 
“The Fourth Horseman” was written by Survivors‘ creator Terry Nation, directed by Pennant Roberts, and introduced the characters of Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour) and Jenny Richards (Lucy Fleming) – the character of Greg Preston (Ian McCulloch) was introduced in the second episode (“Genesis”).
In 'The End of the World? The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Survivors', the authors introduce their review of the episode as follows:
“The Fourth Horseman” must rank as one of Terry Nation’s finest single scripts, and sets an incredibly high standard for the drama that will follow. The opening episode of a new drama series imposes multiple challenges for the television writer: the series’ premise must be established; key characters introduced; and audience interest in the fate of the programme’s central characters secured. In the case of Survivors, Nation is required to achieve all that, whilst at the same time evoking a plausible picture of a global catastrophe using only the personal experiences of a few disparate individuals. In doing so, as Anthony Brown observed in DWB in 1993, he ‘avoids all the clichés of disaster fiction.’
Cliches caught up though in pretty well every other series ever made. Most have been American, but Survivors was 'terribly British'. It followed on from and was from a similar stable housing many fine stalking horses made for British TV, such as  'Quatermass'  and Dr Who

Please don't say you have forgotten Professor Quatermass. 
'Survivors' Epi.1 Pt.1/6 'The Fourth Horseman' Series 1
"Everything's all gone to pot," a character says at the beginning of this gripping 1975 BBC series. It's a characteristically understated British way of saying, "It's the end of the world as we know it." 
Created by Terry Nation, already installed in the cult sci-fi pantheon as the creator of Dr. Who's Daleks, Survivors plops viewers down in a postapocalyptic nightmare already in progress. 
We hear reports of evacuations, massive power outages, and frighteningly large body counts.
Er... did someone mention Jade Helm again? 
A globally spread virus has taken its devastating toll, leaving survivors to carry on in this primitive new world. Series 1's key players are Abby (Carolyn Seymour), a widowed middle class housewife determine to find her son, a missing student; Greg (Ian McCulloch), a resourceful engineer; and the compassionate Jenny (Lucy Fleming). The first--and best--13 episodes chart how these three come together and the tentative first steps in beginning civilization anew. 
A series benchmark is the episode "Law and Order," in which their fledgling settlement debates the fate of one of their number who has been found guilty of murder. As the saga unfolds, we meet some who would like to exploit the situation to exert their own "central control." We meet another, Anne (Myra Frances), a "rich brat" determined "to make sure I get my full share of everything that's going." 
I think she did, by the way. Not quite the share she had in mind though. 
But Survivors, bleak as its scenario is, is not without an abiding faith in human nature. Nation left the production before series 2, as did Seymour, who reveals in a candid series retrospective included as a bonus feature that her grappling with substance abuse led to her departure. In the second and third series, Greg, Jenny, and company further learn to adapt "to this ghastly way of life." A gallery of disparate and desperate characters put the tenets of the settlement to the test, while our heroes venture out into what's left of the world, most memorably in the second series' two-parter "Lights of London." Survivors enjoys a sizable cult following. While not as popularly known in the United States as The Prisoner (which, like Survivors, has been given the remake treatment), it should survive and thrive on DVD. --Donald Liebenson
 Down the hill at Anna's pub, the Raccoon Arms, we heard Petunia talking about it too.
Tomorrow’s World
Forty years ago this month, BBC1 screened a new drama series penned by Dalek creator Terry Nation; but this was no journey through space and time; this was very much the here and now. Nation’s chilling portrayal of a Britain in meltdown tapped into the contemporary paranoia of the mid-1970s – fears of right-wing coups by retired colonels forming private armies; fears of left-wing coups by trade unions funded from Moscow; fears of energy shortages inspired by the global oil crisis and the Three-Day Week; and, most of all, fears that the human race was living on borrowed time.
‘Survivors’ was rooted in far more adult territory than ‘Doctor Who’, and the memorably apocalyptic opening episode, which I saw as an unsettled seven-year-old, depicted the swift and sudden obliteration of the familiar and the reassuring. 
A man-made plague swept across the world, although our focus was on Britain, and specifically England. We were introduced to a small cast of characters, each of whom experienced the killer disease claiming friends and family, leaving them to abandon the charnel-house urban atmosphere for a rural wilderness that seemed (on the surface, at least) a safer bet. ‘Survivors’ is like ‘The Good Life’ directed by Bergman.

Over the course of three series, ‘Survivors’ chronicled the coming together of disparate individuals into self-sufficient communities, returning the country to its agricultural origins, forced to learn ancient skills in the absence of electricity and petrol-driven machinery. But if that sounds like a dull ‘Open University’ experiment to see how people might cope when deprived of their creature comforts, it wasn’t. 
The abrupt disappearance of the framework of civilised society – law and order, a police force, a judiciary, a government – provoked an ‘every man for himself’ attitude in which not all were committed to the common good. 
Pillaging criminal gangs on one hand and pseudo-fascist vigilantes on the other roamed across this eerie vision of Britain and left the viewer in no doubt that there would be precious little signs of a resurrected ‘Blitz Spirit’ if the premise of ‘Survivors’ became our reality.
There are numerous occasions throughout the series in which it belatedly dawns on the characters just how dependent they’ve been on the technology they’ve taken for granted. 
But, lest we forget, this was 1975 – the pre-internet age, the pre-mobile phone age, the pre-Facebook, Twitter and texting age. 
Forty years ago, there were no emails or any form of online correspondence; people wrote letters and used a landline telephone (or a public call box); and yet, what to us now appear quaint household trinkets – full colour TV sets, transistor radios or stereo music-systems – were, at the time of the programme’s broadcast, domestic objects of desire that it was hard to imagine life without.
People of every age naturally see themselves as inhabitants of the most technologically advanced society the world has ever seen, which they are; but what strikes the DVD viewer coming to a series like ‘Survivors’ four decades since it aired is that the dependence those characters have on technology is 
nowhere near the dependence we have on technology today.
Were an actual event such as that portrayed in ‘Survivors’ to strike Britain in 2015, I doubt the genuine survivors would cope half as well as the fictitious survivors of Terry Nation’s grim masterpiece. 
Even the youngest adult characters in the series are in their mid-twenties, meaning they would have been born in the early 1950s, carrying memories of post-war austerity and an inherited practicality born of the make-do-and-mend mindset of ration-book Britain. 
Their education would have prepared them for a blue-collar trade or a white-collar workplace, even academia at a time when one had to be of above-average intelligence to qualify. Reliance on one’s hands or one’s intellect meant they brought a distinct breadth of talents to the table that would enable them to apply these talents to the task at hand. The drastic disappearance of what to us seems like basic technology hits them hard, but doesn’t leave them in despair. They are secure in the knowledge that their life before ‘the sickness’ imbued them with skills they now have need to call on.
Living one’s life in a virtual world that revolves around the narcissistic worship of the self,... facilitated by pocket technology, would be a drawback to survival; 
possessing knowledge that extends no further than being able to name each transitory starlet to invite a press photographer’s camera up her skirt would be a drawback to survival; 
devoting spare time to binging on the trivial, fuelled by mass-produced fast-food, would be a drawback to survival; 
receiving an education in which ‘media studies’ is regarded as a legitimate and worthwhile life lesson would be a drawback to survival; 
earning a living by taking a place in a chorus line of cold-callers, asking strangers if they’d ever considered installing double glazing, would be a drawback to survival; 
settling for the perpetual adolescence supported by a mother’s mollycoddling that ensures clothes are washed and dinner is served would be a drawback to survival. 
In short, so much of what it prized and praised today would be absolutely no use whatsoever.
On a personal note, I’ve had a lot of trouble with my computer lately. In the last few months, my mouse, my keyboard and my monitor have all conked out and have needed replacing; my increasingly erratic internet connection has been something of an inconvenience over the past seven days as well. This household appliance is of particular importance to me and anything that goes wrong with it prevents me from not only working, but from being in contact with 75% of the people I regard as friends. Of course, I wasn’t presented with a computer as a christening present (there wouldn’t have been enough space in the church to house the entire wall a 1960s computer would have needed, for one thing); over half of the life I’ve lived so far didn’t have a computer in it, so I know what it’s like not to have one. But the crucial point is that, having had one, I cannot now imagine what I would do if suddenly deprived of it.
Yes, you can’t miss what you’ve never had. And what made ‘Survivors’ such a compelling and ingenious series is the fact that it shows people who have had items that made their life easier taken away in an instant, and they then have to devise a life bereft of them. 
I’d certainly struggle in that situation, but I dread to think how those twenty or twenty-five years younger than me would. 
They have even less intellectual and practical tools at their disposal than me. This society will not be inherited by those prepared for what could happen should that society collapse overnight. Their encouraged detachment from it, encouraged by corporations, governments and industries that rely upon their blind, unthinking acquiescence, will reduce the population to the level of Morlocks within a generation should disaster befall it. After all, even the name of Terry Nation's series has had its meaning turned inside out this century.
It is true; you reap what you sow – but in the case of the cast of ‘Survivors’, that cliché referred to self-sufficiency, not selfie-sufficiency.
Always good for a final word, our Pertunia.

'Wild Bill' in our opening video (shown in the US Room) points to a whithering of political morality in the U.S.  Deliberate. It is affecting - and changing - the Military. It CAN be done. It IS being done. 

Whither morality and humanity. Withering, along with conscience.

Hope and Change, folks. The 'Fundemental Transformation' of America.

'Surviving' may on the whole be reliant, as it is these days, on massive infrastructure and the efforts of demeaned men, dismissed men, disgruntled men manning the sewers and food supply chain. But destroy those and ..? Destroy the willingness of men to act in the common good, and.....? 

It will be down to YOU.

And you will be left with naught but your conscience and your morality. 

Are yours 'modern' or are they maintained in good working order?

Pax & Hope.


  1. A sobering thought, Amfortas. I've never enjoyed living in the country and like the conveniences of city life. In a time of Great Distress, I see myself as a Will Smith type. As in "I Am Legend."
    We already have plenty of practise with zombies in the form of phone-toting hipsters.

    1. Hahahaha. Will Smith had a fine set-up with all mod cons. And a dog. A BIG dog. Very handy. Come the collapse, those with big dogs will be better off than those without. A dog can keep a person honest.

  2. Pillaging criminal gangs on one hand and pseudo-fascist vigilantes on the other roamed across this eerie vision of Britain and left the viewer in no doubt that there would be precious little signs of a resurrected ‘Blitz Spirit’ if the premise of ‘Survivors’ became our reality.

    Eerily prescient regarding today or at least the near future. Things will be hotting up.

    1. It is notable that modern crowds on the rampage are almost all leftists. (Except in France where many rioters are mulsim) Even when huge numbers of centre and right people gather thay will be disrupted by leftists. There are enough black roiting types in America for an entire replacement of the dwindling military - and possibly just as effective.

  3. I remember that series and at the time I found it inspiring rather than disturbing... The ability to survive against all odds.

    If the same scenario was cast today many people would not have the slightest idea how cope with the loss of their mobile communications (which are their life) let alone survive!!

    Quite a chilling thought...

    1. Yes, even the 'spirit' has almost entirely disappeared. Perhaps some of the 'Wild Bill' types in America would manage, but I cannot see even the well-heeled in Britain (or Oz) surviving for any length of time.

      What HAS increased since 1975 is the number of angry men.

  4. I am an American who's come to believe that severe financial problems & possible financial collapse are coming to the USA, due to our rapidly growing nat'l debt & the US Federal Reserve's adding trillions to their balance sheet in recent years.

    1. America seems to be growing its own army of social wreckers, rioting mobs and gang leaders. I cannot understand the thinking that appears (or is attributed ) to be among the 'Elite' that they could survive a complete disruption of the financial markets. Where would they get a cup of water from? How would they communicate? Stockpiles of this and that will run out eventually. But the anger awaiting them will not.

  5. (USA) Asphalt vs. dirt seems to be the issue here.
    Cup of water..CUP!!!
    I've been digging out the leaves lest the brook of snow melt make the ground too soggy
    at the corners (I buried all four drive wheels of a "Bobcat" in the mud the other day.)
    This years Victory Garden (and maybe Apple Jack) ought to fill a BUNCH of canning jars.The biggest issue I see is I only have a small Oxy/acetylene set up for welding when the gasoline for the large generator powered Mig/stick one runs out. I'd just HATE to have to hammer/anvil weld the farm implements at a forge when they needed repair! I CAN abide the pedal grinding wheel if there were no electricity for my hand grinder.
    Roaming hoards? Well, a good circle of friends, and large capacity magazines. Besides, it gets freakin' COLD here.

    1. Here speaks a hardy man. I just might consider the trek, should the collapse come. However, my old legs are getting less likely by the day. But someone has to man the beer pumps.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..