In popular culture, images of the sweltering wasteland landscape vary as much as the characters and proposed scenarios bent on the destruction of civilization. But what might a post apocalyptic refuge really look like? And what challenges should we look to solve today in case of an end of times scenario tomorrow? And what does this obsession in media and popular culture tell us of ourselves now?
This scenario is largely speculation based on extensive research of social models and the history of technology and culture mixed in with a bit of imagination borrowed from science fiction’s more convincing elements. And while the human race may have never dealt with a nuclear apocalypse before, it certainly has had its fair share of incidents suggesting how people react in disastrous circumstances that reorganize their entire social structure.
The most obvious challenge to projecting life after civilization ends largely depends on the cataclysmic vehicle for such destruction. And in doing so we must also imagine what the specific definition of a post apocalyptic world would be. Let’s take the scenarios of a devastating supervirus and a nuclear war working in conjunction to help illustrate the commonalities these two scenarios share. With either scenario (and indeed most scenarios capable of destroying the medical establishment) the very face of medicine itself would largely change. At first it would be an issue of shortages. Medicine would largely depend on the cannibalization of supplies left over from the old world. But in time these supplies would be depleted. The very infrastructure allowing them to come into being would be dismantled and there would come a period where doctors would be trying to treat new wounds with old methods. The areas hit hardest by disease and destruction would likely turn to those that are better supplied and less affected by catastrophe for help. And if history is any judge, those less affected by catastrophe will face a harsh decision. Either help out their fellow men and make alliances to create a better world or keep their technology and face stagnation and violent resentment from those they forsook.
Life would center much as it did before advanced infrastructure around farming. While a currency may be put into use it would largely be decentralized until a federalized unification of regions was reestablished. Cash would be used for a time by those confident that the world would return to normal in due time or unaware of the extent of the devastation. While other occupations would eventually emerge, these would have to follow the establishment of villages and eventually towns and perhaps even cities.
Would people live much in the way they did in the Mel Gibson film Mad Max? While nothing is beyond the realm of possibility, and there would certainly be a devastating period shortly following collapse, a closer comparison that seems far more likely would be to compare a post apocalyptic world to the Old West with a bit more focus on recovering relics from the past. Of course there would no doubt be social movements that attempted to rid the world of the technology that ended the world and attempt to bring about a new dark age comparable to that experienced by Western Europe in the fourth century for humanity. While these sentiments would likely exist, it’s hard to imagine a movement like this taking over in the same way as they did during this period as current technology not only allows for war, but also communication.
With media coming out once again with another barrage of entertaining post apocalyptic media we are shown images of selfishness residing alongside sacrifice; and the good, bad, and ugly all make frequent appearances in our prospective future world after the fall. But what does it tell us about ourselves and our interest in society? The apocalypse triggers a very primordial chord in the collective unconscious of humanity. The world of the apocalypse rewards the strong (both evil and righteous alike) and tells us legends there is very little room for in our modern society. The hardships illustrated is interesting because they are not the focus of any given story, but yet another simple to understand obstacle that must be overcome. These stories are generally in the same vein as the stories of the Knights of King Arthur. And perhaps the suffering masses seen in this literature is indicative of how humanity perceives the suffering of the oppressed. Perhaps in seeing our society fall on screen and on the page we can better understand how to save it.