Cannibal Ettiquette

Cannibalism which took place in Russia and Lit...
Cannibalism which took place in Russia and Lithuania during the famine of 1571 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) This is you. This is your future.

Being A Polite Person When Eating A Person.

Does being a cannibal have to mean rudeness?
At some point in your post-apocalyptic future, you may be required to resort to cannabalism. Please be aware, there is no shame in this choice. You did what you had to do to ensure the survival of yourself and your community. You are still a good person, even if you’re a cannibal. Let go of the guilt.
It’ll probably help with the guilt if you at least display some basic ettiquette about the situation. Just because you’re chowing down on your friends leg is no reason to be rude about it.
But isn’t eating a person inherently rude? No! Not necessarily. I will be your guide to the complex and distrubing world of Cannibal Ettiquette.
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Hunger.

Let’s talk about hunger. You probably think you know what it is to be hungry, right? Your stomach growls, and you get more and more obsessed with food the longer you are unable to eat. But chances are (if our stats are correct) that you’re a person from a western, industrialised country who has never really expereinced proper hunger. You may have eaten crap for a day or two, or a week or two, or a month or two. You lived on beans while in university. You only have one or two proper meals a day while you’re on the dole. These all suck and leave you hungry.
But the thing is, that’s not proper hunger. Thats ‘wealthy, powerful country’ hunger. That’s not the hunger of having NO meals for the last week, of being forced into eating rubbish or rats or weeds from the garden. You’d turn your nose up at those, because even though you may be poor, there is still food available for you that isn’t that awful.
There won’t be when the end happens. Finding food will become more unlikely and fraught. Fussyness will not happen. Thee’ll come a point where you kill a rat and eat it – maybe even raw, because your hunger is now so intense that something that foul doesn’t matter to you.
I don’t say these things to scold or scare you, but to prepare you. Start letting go of your rich-country food prejudices. I’d still say avoid eating dogs and cats, because they’re invaluable for killing vermin and protecting you, but if feral dogs attack you, don’t waste the meat. Most things are edible, even if they taste bad, just remember that. Don’t let hunger drive you to it, accept it early on and it’ll be more easy to deal with.
See, the problem with not knowing what is actually edible and what isn’t, and allowing squeamishness to make your food decisions for you, is that in desperate situations you are then completely ignorant as to waht you can eat or not. Hunger my then drive you to poisonous berries and mushrooms, because you don’t know that dandelion leaves are perfectly fine (if bitter). It might drive you to eat your shoe leather because you can’t let go of the idea that, psot-apocalypse, your pet bunny is better as a source of meat than as something to cuddle.
Hunger. Don’t let it win.

Passing down your history.

After the nitty gritty is done, you may want to put a thought to passing down history to your descendants. You may want to tell them a few things, including (but not limited to) what happened, how you survived, the way you set up your society, who you are, how to stop it happening again… but there’s a problem with this.
How are you going to make sure it gets down the line unchanged?
Think about the history we know. The further back we go the spottier the evidence and the more specialised knowledge required to understand it. When you’re dealing with oral cultures, it’s even worse. History gets interwoven with myth until the awareness of what actually happened is a foggy mess.
Not only that, but when you take into account human nature – the fact that people will reinterpret or outright make up history in order to suit their own agenda – it starts to seem more trouble than it’s worth.
Still, you have to try. Why? Because every thing human beings do is based on the things that went before. And at the very least, you might want to pass down information about things like electricity, water purification and refined sugar so that these necessities don’t take quite so long to turn up next time.
The best thing to do is to record everything. Keep hold of old fiction and non-fiction books you find, and copy them when they start to fall apart. Carve them into stone if you have to. Write them on parchment made of animal skin and store them CAREFULLY, not just in some musty old cellar somewhere. There’s not much you can do about how much language will change over the decades and centuries. (Seriously, you may think you speak English, but if you were dropped into medieval England you would NOT understand what they were saying) But you can, at least, ensure your documents are safe and intact so that future people translating them don’t have to work so hard.
My mother is a historian, and she says one of the worst things for documents is damp. So a dry place is the most important thing you can do. Perhaps make it law that everyone has to be able to read and write, and that everyone has to copy out an essnetial document once a year so that not only does everyone have access to the information, everyone knows how to read it. If that law sticks, you could have your great grandchildren still understanding how to build a solar power generator – and should the ability to do so ever come around, they’ll be ready.
Survival isn’t just about your survival, it’s about giving all your descendants a fighting chance.

'Traditional' Gender roles are a bunch of bullshit post apocalypse.

Most post-apocalyptic media (and a lot of prepper groups) have this weird idea that when the world ends the women will finally get back in the kitchen where they belong. While the post-apocalyptic world may be harsher to those of the female gender than the male in some ways, anyone who things gender is the main thing of importance in deciding who does what is going to find their survival group operating at less than peak efficiency.
For a start, gender doesn’t decide your natural skills. It doesn’t decide your intelligence or how capable you are at learning. Gender has a minor impact on certain tendencies, but the truth remains that people are individuals first, gender second.
And then, you have to remember that what we consider ‘traditional’ gender roles are actually a pretty modern invention, at least among the poor. Before the industrial revolution, you couldn’t have members of the family or society not contributing. Women ran bars, shops, worked the farms. One thing they didn’t do was ‘stay in the kitchen’ because the family would have starved to death if they did.
Let’s think of it with a post-apocalyptic practical frame of mind. Say you have a woman in your group who happens to be a crack shot. Are you going to make her take care of the kids because she’s a chick? Hope not. Take that to the logical extreme, and it means all people in your group should be offered the same training and found work to do based on what they’re best at, not on what old-fashioned gender ideals state they ‘should’ be good at.  Don’t stick a man who’s an excellent child-care provider on the scavenger lines, and don’t stick a woman who’s a brilliant engineer on clothes-making duty.
It really is that simple.
Are there things that either gender can do that the other can’t? Sure. With women, it’s pretty much down to ‘I can squat out a baby’. And that IS something you need to consider – babies are going to be super major important post-apocalypse and so pregnant women need to be protected. Even your crack shot from above needs to be taken off the front lines when she’s up the duff. But the thing is, you’ll need her back. So what’s the answer? Have a creche system. After weaning, all the children are taken over by dedicated child-minders, male and female.
But if you let modern-day gender binary colour your assumptions so much you end up with the person who could fix up electricity for you stuck to breeding and rearing, don’t blame me when you suffer.

Reality: Because you're not as skilled as you think.

A few months ago, I started doing semi-regular apocalypse walks. These are a really good idea, and I thought I was getting super fit. Certainly skil enough to take a job that involves walking for five hours a day.
If you could hear me, you’d hear hollow laughter.
Oh yeah. It turns out that most people assume they are better at stuff than they are. I assumed I was fitter than I was because I could walk for up to 10 miles at a fairly leisurely pace. Of coure, I stopped regularly on those walks, carried very little and generally treated it like a fun excursion. It’s a bit different when you have to walk at speed for five hours, in the sweltering heat, carrying a backpack, and still have to do your job.
So you really need to be aware of this stuff. Unless you are actually a fully trained professional in something, you’re probably not as good at it as you assume.
So what can you do about that?
Learn your (actual) limits:
Don’t assume that you can do something based on limited or no experience of it. Actually go out there and do it – or something as close to it as you can. If you think you can walk for hours at a decent pace, in all weathers, carrying a backpack, GO AND DO IT. When you have done it, you’ll know how good you are, and whether you need to practice more.
Don’t underestimate how much work it takes:
The things we discuss may seem easy to you – but you have to remember that when you do them you’re CHOOSING to and you have the option to stop at any time. It’s fun to live off the land when you have the option to return to central heating. It’s nice to choose natural childbirth when there are hospitals available to help you out if you get in trouble. If you have no other choice than these things, you might find they become more stressful and dangerous.
Self-Awareness:
Easy to say, hard to do. Effectively, you need to be well, aware of yourself. How you react. Your strengths and weaknesses. And you need to be honest about those things or you’re going to get yourself – and other people – into trouble.
So, how to do it?
As I said, try and experience things for yourself. Measure your acheivements against others – you can’t expect to be as good as an expert, but compare yourself against the average. If you aren’t good in comparison, you’re below average. Simple, yes? Be honest with yourself about this – I know your ego relies on being awesome, but there’s no shame in not being good at something – and you can always get better.
Of course, the people who always think they’re experts aren’t ever going to understand this is about them. Fortunately, they’re gonna die pretty soon. Hopefully they won’t take any of us with them.

Nothing is useless (except learning Klingon)

Studying a humanities degree adds almost nothing to your post apocalyptic survival chances. An appreciation of poetry, understanding dissent in terms of music or achitecture, or plans to take it into English later on, do absolutely nothing to defend you against psychotic robots. Also not great, is the way that studying as an adult student takes away time and resources from obsessive planning. £700 of money that could have gone to buying a gasmask and filters spent on furthering my education! 15 hours a week that could be spent on practicing how to get out of the house quick gone on learning about Pugin!
However, I am a big believer that nearly ANYTHING can be manipulated into working for you post apocalypse (yes, even you, you socially-awkward, self-righteous neckbeard; post apocalypse you may actually be as important as you pretend you are!)
It’s just knowing how to swing it.
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What Wales taught me about the post apocalypse.

 
So, I was camping in Wales.[1. Details of where we stayed for those who want to follow in our footsteps: We went to The Brecon Beacons, a national park of astounding natural beauty. We stayed in two campsites, both of which I strongly recommend – Priory Mill Farm, just outside the town of Brecon, and Ynysfaen a mile and a half outside of Trecastle] It wasn’t a survivalism retreat and to my mind it was far from roughing it. Experienced survivalists would sneer at it and pampered hotel-dwellers would shudder. But you’d better believe it taught me a few things about my survivability rate post-apocalypse… both good and bad. It also taught me about how unpleasant a panic attack is when you’re having it in a field surrounded by woodland, water and no other people, but that’s an entirely different post for an entirely different blog.
First, the bad. Read on after the cut.
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Camping: It's practice for living post-city.

I am not here. I am off camping in Wales with my husband, where I am spending the time walking up hills, looking at castles, complaining about hills and wishing I didn’t get thirsty so often.
I’ve always loved camping and walking holidays, and this time I’ve chosen one with as few mod cons available to me as possible (I drew the line at lack of showers; though all the places we’re staying have only 4 minutes of hot water).
And while it’s not true survivalism we’re doing (I have access to a town and shops, this is a HOLIDAY) It is far from a luxury break, and it’s excellent practice for the post apocalypse.
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Some depressing truths.

The Apocalypse (hell, any massive disaster which you may need to survive) is not going to be fair. Books and Films and Comics give us the impression that, as long as we’re a ‘main character’ we’ll make it. Oh, there’ll be tragedy and horror along the way, and people will die almost as if it was designed to have an emotional impact, but we’re the leading characters. We’ll make it!
Most people see themselves as the leading characters in their own story. The fact is, this won’t be a story, and we can’t all make it.
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Illness after The End.

First things first, I apologise for the rambling nature of this post. I’ve spent the last few days working on my novel, completely forgot I had a post to do and am still slightly in a world of my own.
I want to talk about illness post apocalypse. We’ve covered it briefly (by necessity, I am not a doctor) but I’ve spent the last three weeks fighting off the same cold, and it made me think of how such a thing could affect us when the world is smashed flat.
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