When disaster looms preppers envision relying solely on their own survival skills and strategies. And why wouldn’t they? While interest in preparing for the worst has grown among the general public the popular view of post-collapse society is grim, With images from the likes of Mad Max and The Walking Dead the post-apocalyptic world is one of winner takes all, every person for themselves.
There’s little reason for preppers to plan for anything else but a solo existence. But history shows us we need a community to truly survive and rebuild. No one person can do it on their own, isolation doesn’t suit us. Even embedded in the dire futures imagined in sci-fi, people do come together for one reason or another, for support, for a semblance of purpose, for even a meager sense of community. We are social beings and in the long run, interconnected groups will be the roots of the next society.
Science fiction is replete with speculation of the shape post-apocalyptic societies could take, some more realistic than others. There are numerous strategies and philosophies that accompany such visions but the encompassing element, that common factor is a need for community. And by this I don’t mean some kumbaya, spiritual cohesion connecting and binding a community together. No, this is about the foundation built by necessity, individual drive and a common goal… to not just survive, but to thrive.
Survival through Collaboration
The well-known line, No man is an island, from English poet John Donne is appropriate in this context of rebuilding society after its collapse. Yet, by pulling together a group of people, people who want more than just to survive, they will work with one another pooling skills and knowledge to build a framework one that will attract others with additional know-how.
The first priorities will focus on basic survival, finding food, water and building shelters. The initial group will have general knowledge of safe food, how to filter water and methods for building temporary shelter. As newcomers arrive and join the group the knowledge base will grow. People with combined skill sets, knowledge and education will advise on safe locations for a permanent settlement away from floodplains, adjacent to water resources and quality land for farming.
Others with construction and engineering backgrounds will design and construct structures for housing, common needs including irrigation for farming and defenses should the need arise. Those with agricultural backgrounds will begin collecting seeds, planting crops and find animals for domestication while others will determine safe harvest levels for the region’s wildlife. As basic needs reach sustainable levels pursuits will expand through the sciences producing and distributing electricity, meeting health and medical needs, chemists will serve a multitude of purposes, educators will teach the sciences, math and history expanding the community’s knowledge base even further and ensuring its survival.
As the community continues to evolve and progress, inevitably it will connect with other groups of people who had banded together in other regions. With a similar desire to rebuild society this will lead to a restoration of communication lines, then trade which will develop into an economic system that will, itself, evolve over time and expand. Relationships, business and personal, will build up leading to further expansion and likely establishment of new settlements fostering stronger bonds.
Sitting there reading this, it is all too easy to dismiss this view of post-collapse community as somewhat utopian. And that pessimism would not be misplaced. The realities of such a world may simply prove to be insurmountable. It is just as possible the communities that sprout up after won’t be the egalitarian or democratic collaborations imagined here but are instead run by the heavy hand of one leader or come in a form loosely connected clans or tribes. But with history as an indicator, those types of societies will eventually give way to those more akin to what exists today. It is not altogether unlikely the survivors of some future calamity will remember what came before, enough so to motivate themselves to rebuild the past.