by Spencer Pearson
Iam something of a Doomer myself. Back in ’04 I was introduced to the concept of peak oil. The idea was lent some considerable weight by the fact that at the time I was in what amounted to a fort in the middle of Iraq participating in something which couldn’t be sensibly explained other than as a desperate oil grab. After my return to the UK I spent a lot of time on the net becoming acquainted with the debate at places like The Oil Drum and LATOC. So when the great crash of ’08 hit as far as I was concerned the case was closed. Largely on the basis of my conviction that the whole project of modernity was finished I moved my family from the industrial city of Birmingham where it had been conducting its business for two hundred years to a small town selected for its remoteness from major population centres.
However, though I am sympathetic to the analysis of the “doomer” community, in my opinion the proposed reaction to it for individuals in somewhat lacking. Generally doomers adopt a strategy of “prepping”, this involves stockpiling food, precious metals and, in the USA at least, weapons and ammo. The ultimate in “prepping” is the “doomsted”, a small property in a rural area fitted with as many “off grid” systems as possible; solar panels, water purification systems, food production and ideally areas set aside for the provision of mine fields.
I’d like to suggest that this strategy is rather counter productive. Ultimately if the worst case scenario, a total collapse of the systems of distribution and production, ever came about such “prepping” would actually be dangerous. Since such caches of supplies or now highly desirable properties would become the primary targets of just about everyone. No matter how well a small family group had prepared their defences it is highly unlikely that they could withstand a determined assault by a larger group. After all people have to sleep.
I would suggest that if the worst case scenario ever did come about the only possible long term survival strategy is to be part of a community. Weapons are good, but history suggests they are most effective when massed in large numbers. While a .50 cal with clear lines of fire across the cabbage fields is quite a deterrent so long as there is only a handful of potential operators it is always going to be vulnerable. On the other hand a community with the capability to fielding a thousand ad hoc warriors armed with improvised weapons is going to be somewhat more difficult to catch off guard, be able to organise defence in depth and has considerable capacity for counter offensive action.
It’s also worth considering that if such “post crash” community organisation is viable then such highly organised “hoards” might present a considerable threat to the isolationist doomster. Which is to say that if such things are possible then the alternative strategy of rugged individualism is probably not.
Speaking as someone who has some experience of being in the area of destination for inbound hot metal I can’t emphasise enough how comforting it is to know that you are protected by the armour of probability generated by being only one of a lot of potential targets. The effect of this psychological advantage accruing to members of a large group in a combat zone is, I believe, what allows warfare to be possible. This because it adds another option to the possible outcomes of “die” or “win” in which other people can die and you still win.
Obviously not all communities are suitable for the thoughtful doomer, anything urban or within a day’s walk of urban is clearly out of the question since if the doomers analysis is correct such environments are likely to be the venue for an accelerated version of natural selection. The smart move here is to put as many obstacles between yourself and the hoard of mutant zombie bikers as is possible, at least half a dozen viable agricultural communities is advisable to ensure that if they ever do get as far as your bolthole they have at least been thinned out along the way.
Beyond strategic considerations of coping with aggressive population reduction the doomer must consider the future beyond the end of the world as we know it. There is a limit to how long the best provisioned doomstead might maintain anything like civilisation. Many doomers face the prospect of running out of petrol and light bulbs with a high degree of equanimity and stoicism. Which is commendable, but running out of antibiotics and disinfectant might turn out to be more than inconvenient. Communities such as small towns offer the prospect, once the initial crisis has passed, of beginning to developing specialised manufacturing process. Such towns might eventual be able to provide a wide range of goods including at least some chemical and medical supplies. Most likely trading networks such as those which existed in the pre-industrial Western civilisations would develop making all sorts of goods available. Even if the doomer is prepared to eschew luxuries like sterile kitchen utensils then the community strategy offers the doomer the ultimate inducement, ammunition production.
However even more than such utilitarian considerations it is worth considering the kind of life the doomer would like to experience after the collapse of modern civilisation. Living in a bunker in a vegetable patch surrounded by the skeletons of would be invaders and piles of bullet casings might be existing, it might have a certain Spartan attraction to a certain mentality, but it isn’t many people’s idea of living. A post collapse town sized community might offer many opportunities for recreation, not the least of which would be getting a night’s sleep secure in the knowledge that someone else was manning the watch towers. However there would most likely be other entertainment options, these might be a simple as a night around the fire of the local tavern drinking homebrewed ale and telling embellished tales of the carnage inflicted on the last people to attempt a raid on your neighbourhood. Perhaps traditional pastimes might reassert themselves, such as watching felons and bandits executed in the town square. Maybe even some technologies might be kept in working order, a night at the cinema might be an option, even if the film is twenty years old and the popcorn organic.
Life in a post collapse township might provide better varieties of foodstuffs, some type of specialised medical facilities, maybe even education and libraries and most importantly some kind of society.
The problem is of course the issue of control. It is within most people’s power to stack up a few hundred tins of beans and 50kg of rice, it’s with a lot of people’s power to set up a DIY version of the North Korean border around an acre of land in Nebraska. However very few people, if any, could convince a town of a ten thousand people or more to engage in a general mobilisation in anticipation of the collapse of industrial civilisation in the immediate future. Which is where the concept of “pan secessionism” comes in .
Now obviously standing on Main Street shouting the merits of decentralised executive power and community self determination through a bull horn isn’t much better, if at all, than promoting community resilience with a view to the end of the world in the same way. Fortunately we’ve developed slightly subtler tactics over at the pan secessionist COMINTERN (Attack the System.com). The incremental model playbook of pan secessionism advocates the development of specific programs of economic and political relocalisation. Which is to say you don’t go advocating a unilateral declaration of independence for the town of Truth or Consequence, NM, or wherever.
Rather you go about building groups behind specific projects which are aimed at promoting community autonomy; such as Farmer’s markets, local currencies, voting blocs etc. These measures help the community develop its capacity for self governance but more importantly create the networks and activist skills that would be required for a self governing community. Of course it doesn’t hurt to try and persuade the local town hall to hang some newly minted flag representing that particular community out front next to Old Glory. The idea is that one day the townsfolk wake up to find that they don’t need the Federal Government or, better yet ,it has gone away and died of shame in the night but it doesn’t matter because they wasn’t using it anyway.
Obviously this isn’t quite a sexy for the average doomer as organising some kind of militia and erecting Medieval style city walls around the community. However the trick here is build the networks, the tasks which these networks are directed is largely irrelevant because if it should ever become necessary it would be much easier to re-task these networks than it would be to create them from scratch. And in the meantime the general cultivation of a civic mentality would do much to mentally prepare people for any “alternative arrangements” which might become desirable in the event of the population of the local metropolis deciding the rural lifestyle was preferable to starvation and murder.
Of course part of the fun of being a doomer is telling “squares” exactly why they need not worry excessively about how they are going to pay the last instalment of their twenty year mortgage and why their problems might become more interesting in the near future. However I would suggest that the advocation of pan secessionism is not merely justified by the same logic but makes for a little variety when spooking straights. Maybe you might even find that there is a certain kind of person who can more easily be persuaded to “do the right thing” with talk of liberty and community autonomy than they can by reference to a graph showing OPECs “proven reserves”.