Thursday, May 12, 2011

Survival Resources 12: Reinventing Collapse

Of course, part of the reason I am doing this series on Survival Resources is that there is a good chance at some point in the future, the corporate-industrial, oil maintained US society will collapse. (See my posts on Collapse, 7/5/10, and Peak Everything, 7/20/08.) Being prepared for this possibility and having some idea how it might happen would certainly help increase our chances for survival.

Dmitry Orlov has a unique perspective on the question of social collapse. Having grown up in the Soviet Union (he immigrated to the US at age 12) he understands the culture and the way the society worked. He visited Russia several times in the 1980's and 1990's after the fall of the USSR. In his book, Reinventing Collapse, Orlov talks about the parallels between the collapse of one 'superpower' and the impending collapse of the other--the US. (He talks about the question of when "the second superpower shoe would be dropping".)

This is a perceptive, cynical, and often very funny book. Orlov has a dark Russian sense of humor that is usually on target. (Sample: "I have had a chance to observe quite a few companies in the US from the inside and have spotted a certain constancy in the staffing profile. At the top, there is a group of highly compensated senior lunch-eaters. ... They often hold advance degrees in disciplines such as Technical Schmoozing and Relativistic Beancounting. ... Somewhat further down the hierarchy are the people who actually do the work. They tend to have fewer social graces and communication skills, but they do know how to get the work done. ... More often than not, the senior lunch-eaters at the top are native-born Americans and, more often than not, the ones lower down are either visiting foreigners or immigrants.")

The book has a bunch of useful insights. An early one is "when faced with a collapsing economy, one should stop thinking of wealth as money. Access to actual physical resources and assets, as well as intangibles such as connections and relationships, quickly becomes much more valuable than mere cash." He backs this up with stories from his visits to Russia around 1990.

He also suggests that a nomadic lifestyle with several 'bases of operation' may be safer and more secure than one permanent location. He even suggests life on a boat, saying "there is no such thing as 'waterway rage'" and "Having a moat around you provides a remarkable amount of both privacy and security". He gives ideas about how to adapt to rapidly declining circumstances and talks about what skills and working conditions might prove useful in a collapse.

While I hardly agree with everything in the book (I know I can be critical of American society, but I think he downplays even some its more useful aspects while extolling what he sees as the Russian character--but, of course, he is Russian), nevertheless I think it is really worth reading. There are lots of books about different people's ideas about social collapse. Dmitry Orlov is reporting from experience.

Quote of the Day: "True necessities are those few items found at the base of Maslow's hierarchy: oxygen, water and food, in that order. The order is determined by seeing how long someone can stay alive when deprived of any of these: a few minutes for oxygen; a few days for water; a few weeks for food. These are followed by non-necessities such as shelter, companionship, opportunities for sexual release and meaningful activities, such as exercise, play or work. Most people can survive without these for months, perhaps years; I even know some people who have survived for their entire lifetime without work. Cars, water heaters and flush toilets are not anywhere on this list." - Dmitry Orlov

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