Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pacific survivalism

Just when we'd pretty much forgotten about swine flu, the government is urging us to panic - sorry, I should have spelled that "prepare" - all over again. "Swine flu will hit us hard", apparently.

As vague, existential threats go, swine flu is pretty mild. All we're supposed to do is stock up on preserved foods ("three to five days") and paracetemol. The idea being that nobody should have to die just because they can't get to the shops for a few days.

I like this kind of fearmongering. The prescribed precautions are cheap, and not too hard. More importantly, they scale: everyone can do this, without actually causing the end of civilisation as we know it. Contrast that with full-blown survivalism, which traditionally involves lots of land plus a robust attitude to trespassers.

In New Zealand, most of us can imagine electricity, and water, failing. We can imagine police, medical and fire services not being available. We can imagine a world with no food in the shops and no petrol in the pumps, at least temporarily. What we really can't imagine is the world of the traditional demented survivalist fantasy: where civilisation breaks down, and we have to stand alone against armed gangs and crazed marauders.

This kind of scenario always assumes that the protagonist stands alone. And hey, it could happen. I'm no more immune to heroic fantasy than the next guy. But it could also be a self-fulfilling fantasy. For me, when that disaster strikes, I'd rather be working with my neighbours than against them.


castlerook said...

A friend of a friend of mine recently visited New Zealand, only to come down sick as soon as she arrived with "symptoms consistent with swine flu." I gather she was forced into quarantine there for two weeks until she got better.

vet said...

Aww, that's not a fun way to spend your holiday. My sympathies to her. If anyone else is thinking of visiting, I suggest waiting 'til it's winter up there and summer down here, rather than vice versa.

The Authorities do seem quite serious about the "quarantine" idea. Officially there have only been a dozen or so confirmed cases, and none of person-to-person transmission in New Zealand; but they also say it's spreading like nobody's business in Australia, and it'll hit us Real Soon Now.

Deadlyjelly said...

Hasn't civilisation already broken down? Every time I venture into Henderson, I see crazed marauderers. I'm pretty sure that's what they are, anyway.