Bill Totten's Weblog

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Survive Social Collapse

by Joshua Holland

AlterNet (March 12 2009)

I know people who think that the economic meltdown is leading us towards some Road Warrior-esque dystopia where we'll have to hole up in the nearest shopping mall and fend off the flesh-eating zombies (yes, I mixed two cheesy movie references into that single sentence).

While no Pollyanna, I'm not convinced that it's going to get quite that bad. But the creaky old economic system was never sustainable and there's a lot of space in which to land between a less-than-cataclysmic recession and zombies roaming the streets.

Which brings us to this talk by Dimitry Orlov that long-time AlterNet reader and commenter OregonCharles sent my way (thanks, Charles!). Orlov, who says he's "not an expert or a scholar or an activist", but merely someone who witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union up close and learned something from the experience, is the author of Reinventing Collapse (2008). It's a pretty interesting read.

A few excerpts from Orlov's set-up ...

"You are here to listen to me talk about social collapse and the various ways we can avoid screwing that up along with everything else that's gone wrong. I know it's a lot to ask of you, because why wouldn't you instead want to go and eat, drink, and be merry? Well, perhaps there will still be time left for that after my talk.

"It seems that I am enjoying my moment in the limelight, because I am one of the very few people who several years ago unequivocally predicted the demise of the United States as a global superpower. The idea that the USA will go the way of the USSR seemed preposterous at the time. It doesn't seem so preposterous any more. I take it some of you are still hedging your bets. How is that hedge fund doing, by the way?

"I think I prefer remaining just a tourist, because I have learned from experience - luckily, from other people's experience - that being a superpower collapse predictor is not a good career choice. I learned that by observing what happened to the people who successfully predicted the collapse of the USSR. Do you know who Andrei Amalrik is? See, my point exactly. He successfully predicted the collapse of the USSR. He was off by just half a decade. That was another valuable lesson for me, which is why I will not give you an exact date when USA will turn into FUSA ("F" is for "Former"). But even if someone could choreograph the whole event, it still wouldn't make for much of a career, because once it all starts falling apart, people have far more important things to attend to than marveling at the wonderful predictive abilities of some Cassandra-like person."

Read the whole thing here. {1}

If you have a short attention span, here's a slide show {2} laying out Orlov's argument that the USSR was better prepared for social collapse twenty years ago than the US is today.

Also, a somewhat lighter take on the theme: here's Scott Thill's AlterNet piece from last summer, "Massive Economic Disaster Seems Possible - Will Survivalists Get the Last Laugh?" {3}


{1} "Social Collapse Best Practices" by Dmitry Orlov, Culture Change (February 14 2009)

{2} "Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US" by Dmitry Orlov, (December 04 2006)

{3} "Massive Economic Disaster Seems Possible - Will Survivalists Get the Last Laugh?" by Scott Thill, AlterNet (July 26 2008)

Bill Totten