*This is where I admit that I have no clue where this post came from. In my — mild — defense, I am running a low grade fever and have an upper respiratory thing going on. Con crud, from a con with people from around the world. And I was very tired when I wrote this last night, even though it wasn’t late.
None of which fully explains the post.
Do I expect conditions to revert to what my mother grew up under? Frankly even if say Bernie won and we went Venezuela we have a lot of infrastructure that doesn’t disappear magically. Even in the seventies, in Portugal, with infrastructure severely neglected, the worst we got were cholera epidemics in summer. And I don’t think ANYONE died, just people got very sick and had to go to the hospital.
Antibiotics are not likely to go away, though they might become scarcer and are becoming less effective.
Do I believe we’re about to revert to a time when half the kids — or three in one — die? No.
Sure we might get a small pox attack — I’m a bit surprised we haven’t yet given how Russians keep samples “safe — but I suspect it will be contained to an area or a region. If it isn’t, it makes for an interesting SF novel, since I’m one of the youngest people to have immunity to it. Maybe my kids have some partial immunity, since I actually had it. But otherwise, it would be a world of old people and an interesting novel. But a danger? I’d rate it possible but unlikely.
There could be other pandemics, perhaps antibiotic resistant, but even those would be a one-shot not the kind of walking with death our ancestors did.
So I have no clue why I wrote this. I haven’t even re-read the Black Tide novels recently and I haven’t read the anthology yet.
I have in the past written posts — and books — where I felt as though the push were coming from elsewhere. But this one came from nowhere. Perhaps the fever and tiredness just set my subconscious free.
I’m not going to remove the post, but I want it said for the record that my awake and slightly less feverish self disagrees with it.
And yes, now you’ve seen everything.*
While I was at TVIW Speaker looked it up for me, and I found that I did have small pox as a toddler, or at least it ravaged through the area at that time. (I wasn’t sure because the common word for small pox and chicken pox is the same, in Portugal. There is a name for small pox, but it’s a little odd and not normally used in speech.) However, the mortality rate — it killed the majority of the kids under 6 (i.e. under vaccination) seemed to indicate small pox.
Weirdly, it occurred when I was two, not three, which means the vivid memories I have are either not real or I was forming clear memories earlier than I thought.
Anyway, it didn’t occur to me growing up because it was just part of the background. I knew my aunt had lost a daughter my age, I knew the farmer across the street had lost her only daughter. I have a vivid flash of memory of a funeral with a tiny coffin, carried by hand, and about a dozen relatively young people walking behind. I have a vague memory I saw that from the window in grandma’s upper floor, as I was starting to recover.
But because I was so young, I had no memory of these children who died as ever being alive, and by the time I met these people they had lost their children long ago. Well, years ago, which when you’re five or six is a long time.
I was born in a time of antibiotics, and while we still had a couple of cholera epidemics when I was a teen, we didn’t experience the child mortality — or even the adult mortality — that were part of my mother’s and grandmother’s lives.
I don’t remember any stories of lost childhood friends from grandmother, but I did from my mom, because she grew up in what could be charitably called a slum. Her stories of childhood would sometimes end with “he died” or “She died at ten.” And one of her stories that has remained with me is how a friend of hers died while she was watching him, and she noticed because a fly landed on his open eye.
This came to mind yesterday when a student at a university in California was caught with a tiny pocket knife and, immediately, counseling was offered to those who witnessed it or heard of it and were “traumatized” by it.
Was my mother’s generation traumatized by it? Was I traumatized by all those empty desks in my elementary school?
Possibly. My mother more than I. As I said, I don’t remember any school friends dying.
The question is: are humans supposed to go through life untraumatized? Is there some ideal state of humanity where we never encounter anything unpleasant, are never frustrated, never hurt?
Evolution and history would seem to be screaming back a loud “NO.” Throughout most of history the idea of someone being traumatized by knowing that someone near them had a really ineffective and small weapon in his pocket — which he’d never used to hurt anyone, or even considered using to hurt anyone — would draw a horse laugh.
ALL of us, even the most protected of the special snowflakes, are descended from war and disease, famine and strife, and an insane amount of work. Because those were the conditions that led to survival in most of history, and we’re descended from the ones who survived, or at least from the ones who survived long enough to have children.
Unimaginably difficult conditions — for us — are very close. Parents. Grandparents. usually not much further. Someone went hungry more than two days, and not hungry int he sense that all they had was some ramen, but in the sense they had nothing. Someone watched children die — their own children — and couldn’t do anything, couldn’t even hope to do anything but pray.
We’ve just been so incredibly wealthy, so incredibly blessed that we forgot the common lot of humanity. Most of humanity still living today, let alone the humanity of the past, would translate to paradise.
So, are we happy and grateful, confident in our marvelous civilization, settling down to raise fat babies and praise our good fortune?
Oh, no. We lost all confidence in the Western civilization that brought us this untold prosperity. We are dissatisfied and complaining that things aren’t PERFECT. Some whine they can’t buy everything they see on TV. And a lot talk about the evils of capitalism and pursue some imaginary socialist paradise, because they blame capitalism for everything from the fact they don’t have a purpose in life, to the fact that they’re not as attractive as they wish they could be.
And I wonder. I wonder if this radical experiment of raising kids without any traumas, any hardship is not the worst thing you could do to kids.
It used to be believed — and it was a popular theory in the sixties and seventies — that if you raised kids with absolutely no hardship they would be perfect; that if you raised kids with no violence they would be peaceful; that if you raised kids with self-esteem and praise, they would be confident and productive.
All of those seem to be wrong. The girls raised to believe that they are as good as any man and actively lied to about things like upper body strength are not confident. They grow into women who believe men have near supernatural powers over them. They scream for safe rooms. So do all the people raised with no violence and no hardship. Instead of being able to endure minor shocks, they can’t endure any shock at all.
Those theories have existed a long time, and there was no way to test them. Oh, sure, rich people didn’t endure the same things as poor people, but even rich people died of stupid things. Even rich people lost babies and childhood playmates.
In the regency, in the very same social class Jane Austen wrote about, every woman who made her trousseau included two shrouds for infants. Because they’d lose at least that many, and they had to be prepared in a time when everything, even a shroud, took time sew.
So it was easy to attribute the dysfunctions of upper class kids to “they weren’t perfect yet.”
But now, now that we’re all living better than rich people 50 years ago, we can see the result of people raised without any kind of hardship, any kind of trial, are not strong.
Raised in such an unnatural environment, they are weak and pliable, and afraid of the slightest hardship.
The good news — and good is qualified — is that our unnatural bubble of wealth and mollycoddling will shatter. What can’t go on won’t and when most of the population can’t function as adults, the gods of the copybook headings are just around the corner.
The question is, can we be like those men and women of iron who survived things we can barely imagine to get us here?
Or are we going to scream for counseling sessions and safe rooms?
Now is the time to start prepping for what’s ahead, and I don’t mean putting cans in the room under the stairs. I mean preparing yourself, mentally and emotionally.
Read biographies, read about other times and places not like ours, and work to be aware of what really was going on, what life was like back then.
Become aware that you are — even if you’ve struggled — softer and more pampered than most of the mass of humanity. And that humans are, by nature, scavengers. Scavengers adapt and survive anything except abundance and ease. They’re not designed for it.
Prepare now, mentally.
If we get very lucky and we escape the crucible, then we’ll at least be more able to understand the past.
And if we don’t get lucky, we just might survive.
And we’ll have to be strong, because most of the world isn’t equipped to survive. Soemone will have to be men and women of iron who carry others on their shoulders.
And that’s whoever is capable of doing so.
We’re the opposite of a hardened population. Being strong is not just how you survive, it’s how your loved ones will survive.
Sursum corda. We will survive this.