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How to Wake People Up: A Time-Travel-to-the-Year-1970 Gedanken, by Joe Snuffy

Many preppers and survivalists have tried to convince family members and friends about our current predicament, being the long-term collapse of industrialized civilization. As intellectual survivalists, many of us have studied the works of Dr. Joseph Tainter (The Collapse of Complex Societies) [1], Dr. Nate Hagans (Peak Oil / environmental economics), John Michael Greer (catabolic collapse theory), etc. Many of us collapse theorists have performed a form of fusion [2] between these noted theorists, as well as noting significant events ourselves, since the early 1970s, in particular.

How about a neat little Gedanken (a thought experiment) or role playing game during a family get-together or social event? In this game, we travel back to the year 1970, where the traveler (or even a group of people, which would be better, for collective input) is the time traveler to the year 1970, and the rest simply play the parts of ordinary, average people of that time period (not our usual doomer selves, in the modern sense), oblivious, and amazed that this person was able to travel back through time, from the year 2013. Note-taking and illustrations on a dry-erase board could add to the fun, and create more effect.

Here is how a realistic dialogue could go during the role playing between one of our typically uninformed, NFL/NASCAR/Disneyland relatives/friends being the time travelers, and us as the 1970s people:

Us: “Wow, so you’re from the future! Groovy!”

Traveler: “That’s right”

Us: “Wow, so it’s like 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 2013, right? I just saw that movie.”

Traveler: “Uh…no…not really.”

Us: “What do you mean?”

Traveler: “We don’t put people in space anymore. Only the Russians do.”

Us: “What!?”

Traveler: “There’s an International Space Station in orbit, but the Russians are the only ones flying to it. I think American astronauts are getting rides with them.”

Us: “What!? But it’s like that one in 2001: A Space Odyssey, right?

Traveler: “You mean like a big, giant round thing? No, it just looks like the small one that the Russians had in space from the 1980s, to the 1990s. My cousin said he talked to someone who works for NASA, who said that the Russians even built the modules for the newer space station, because they were they only ones who knew how to do it.”

Us: “Well, isn’t the US going to put something like that in space?”

Traveler: “We had a little one of our own called Skylab for a couple of years. I think that was around 1973. But, I mean…nobody has any money anymore for stuff like that.”

Us: “What are you talking about?! We’re the Unites States of America! We’ve got Apollo Moon missions going on! We’re fighting a war in Vietnam! There’s nothing we can’t do!”

Traveler: “Well, I don’t know. When I hear older people talk, they talk about the economy back in the 1970s, with the gas rationing that went on in 1973 and 1979. I also hear them complain about how Nixon took the US Dollar off of the gold standard in 1971, and that it’s causing problems in my time. I also have this loony cousin, who says that US oil production peaked in December of 1970,… whatever that means…I heard this one guy, Schiff,  I think his name is, saying that we ‘went into debt in the 1970s, in order to pay for everything we did back in the 1960’s’.”

Us: “No gold standard?! Well then what backs the dollar? Nothing?

Traveler: “Yeah, pretty much.”

Us: “Oh my God… But we produce all the oil we need. At least that’s what we’re told.”

Traveler: “Well, I think we’ve always imported oil from foreign countries. I think even in your time, we’re importing oil. There’s a lot of talk about something called shale plays in the US, but my cousin says they’re a lie, that they’re actually starting to peak, as they ‘play-out.’ He says it’s like the lie about food in the movie Soylent Green, whatever that means.”

Us: “What’s Soylent Green?”

Traveler: “Some really ugly movie about the future, with Charlton Heston in it that comes out a few years from now…Oh, by-the-way, that reminds me: I think that people were encouraged to kill themselves in that movie. Just before I time traveled, there was a news story about how since 2010, suicide was the number one cause of death in the US and Europe, exceeding traffic accidents. The article said the numbers were actually conservative, with one researcher saying that the real suicide rate was probably 30% higher, because coroners can’t always tell what the motive behind accidental death is.”

Us: “Oh my God…By-the-way, you don’t seem to be recalling this stuff very well. Didn’t you have any schooling after high school?”

Traveler: “Yes, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, but I haven’t been able to find a job, so I work two different part time jobs at the mall.”

Us: “You mean one of those new indoor shopping malls?”

Traveler: “Yeah. I work 30 hours a week at an Orange Julius. It’s a place that serves fruit drinks and hot dogs. Then I work 20 hours a week at a clothing store that sells punk rock and goth stuff to kids.”

Us: “Punk rock,… goth?”

Traveler: “Never Mind.”

Us: “So what do you do when you get home?”

Traveler: “Oh, I waste time on the Internet, chatting with friends, etc.”

Us: “What’s ‘the Internet’?”

Traveler: “It’s this global network of computers that all communicate, and share all of the knowledge of the world that has ever existed.”

Us: “So for a time traveler representing the future of humanity, how come you don’t seem to know much?”

Traveler: “I don’t know…

Traveler: “I then usually watch TV. I like ‘Dancing with the Stars’. It’s my favorite TV show.”

Us: “What’s that?”

Traveler: “It’s this show where celebrities go and have these dancing contests.”

Us: “Oh my God…That sounds stupid. Well…Then again,… we have these ‘variety’ shows on TV, that are probably just as stupid.”

Traveler: “What are those?”

Us: “It’s where these celebrities host their own TV shows, and perform skits, play jokes on each other, stuff like that.”

Traveler: “You’re right. That does sound stupid,”

Us: You know, your future doesn’t give us anything to look forward to. I can’t believe it! There is no way I’m going to allow my kids to have any children of their own. Why bother! They’re just going to suffer. Is there anything else that sucks about the future?”

Traveler: “Oh yeah. One other thing: You mentioned Vietnam. I don’t know much about that war, but I heard that we lose that war a few years from now. Anyway, we had another series of illegal wars in the Middle East, after the World Trade Center in New York got crashed into by some airlines, in 2001. A lot of people compared these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam. Also, my cousin said that the attack on the World Trade Center was a false flag by our own government, because of the way they completely came down from a set of implosions. One building didn’t even get hit by anything, and it imploded in on itself, as well.”

Us: “Oh my God…Martin Luther King himself even warned us about this, in his Beyond Vietnam speech, when he protested the war…He said it would continue, if we didn’t stop acting like an empire…” I think I just saw something on 60 Minutes about how the Gulf of Tonkin incident never actually happened. By the way, next time, have your ‘crazy cousin’ do the time traveling. He sounds a little bit better informed…”

Us: Okay, so apart from the fact that our future is totally screwed, how much do things cost in the future, like a home, cars, stuff like that?

Traveler: Well, a decent house, depending on where you live can cost anywhere from $150,000 on-up to a Million. Most new cars are from $20,000 to $60,000. Bread is about $3.00 a loaf. A gallon of gas, last I checked, was around $3.80.

Us: My God! The average price for a new house now is just somewhere over $24,000. A good new car is around $3,500. A gallon of gasoline right now is about 36 cents. Bread is only a quarter. What happened to the value of the dollar? Oh wait, that’s right. You just said that Nixon is going to take us off of the gold standard. And you said we’re already importing oil. How much are we importing in the future?

Traveler: My cousin told me, because of something called ‘demand destruction’ and those shale oil plays, just less than half of what we use each day comes from a whole mix of other countries. Before the economy got really bad in 2008, we imported over half of what we used…

I think everyone can see how this can go. Yes, in this example, the time traveler takes some ribbing, to say the least, but YMMV, based on how cooperative and good-natured your friends and relatives are. Just have fun with it. You can even have a large group, divided into two halves, serving as time travelers and as 1970s people. Also, it may work out better if it’s one of us unplugged types who does the time traveling, as some of us might have a deeper knowledge of history, and the ability to convey it.

Some of my inspiration here comes from the ultimate intelligence officer, himself, the character Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) from the old Star Trek episode Assignment Earth [3]. (He was so high-speed, he knew that the Enterprise crew came from the future, as soon as he encountered them. “Humans, traveling with a Vulcan…”) The Canadian documentary Stupidity also came to mind. This particular documentary, narrated by Donald Sutherland, asks the question: In a world where information is more accessible than in any other period in human history, why do people insist on remaining stupid?

As things quickly transpire, like most other doomers out there, I am convinced that it is simply too late to preach to people who want to stay clueless. However, this could be fun, and have a powerful psychological effect (or at least create a serious paradigm shift.)