Dmitry Orlov wrote about the five stages of social collapse. In descending order, these stages are: financial, commercial, political, social and – last and certainly worst – cultural. In the face of a collapsing society, what can be done to lessen the immediate and local impact at each of these stages? How can we lessen the personal impact of societal collapse? Preparedness is key in any disaster, and societal collapse is certainly a disaster on epic scale. The question then is what to do at each stage of societal collapse.
Here is how to do more than survive at each stage of societal collapse, and what one can do to prepare in advance of each stage.
- In the financial collapse, currency hyper-inflates or becomes unavailable. If currency becomes unavailable, either due to hoarding or restrictions on allowed cash withdrawals, money becomes scarce. If currency hyper-inflates, the theoretical cost of paying off a loan frequently shrinks. However, in hyperinflation, wages rarely keep up with the devaluation of currency, leaving workers with a shrinking plate on which to pay their existing bills. It is preferable to pay off all debts before this stage, so that lack of money in either scenario does not make it impossible to pay payments and lead to your physical possessions being repossessed. When cash is scarce or worthless, crime frequently goes up. Don’t look like a target. Where possible, lower your profile now so that collective memory will also change; “he used to have all the flashy stuff that’s gone, probably trying to look poor.”
What to do before then: Own your home and property. If applicable, own your business location. If possible, own usable real estate that can be rented out to others in exchange for barter. For example, own outright a plot of land near high density homes that can be rented for gardening in exchange for produce.
- In commercial collapse, there is a business slow down. Lack of currency or lack of value of cash on hand causes business slow down. Inability to buy goods or pay for their transport creates shortages. To manage this stage, have your own supply source. For example, have a garden for food so that empty shelves at the grocery store do not leave your family hungry. Have a stand of trees that can be harvested for wood so that propane gas lines don’t leave you cold at night.
What to do before then: If possible, become a distributor or seller of these necessities, ensuring your own supply as well. However, this requires building up the business connections and likely getting into the business before a collapse so that you have an established customer base. This requires inventory, storage and protection for inventory, and the means to purchase these products now, but it can create a means of livelihood for the long term.
- In a political collapse, public order becomes chaos. Police don’t bother policing the streets unless it is their own. Judges don’t see many cases unless it is for the ruling elite or to silence an angry mob outside. In this situation, it is essential to have at least one means of personal protection. If calling 911 is jokingly called government sponsored dial a prayer when we have a functioning society, what will it be called when the police rarely bother to come at all? Own at least one gun, and know how to use it. Teach your neighbors how to use a gun properly, so that their response to a home invasion is less likely to result in stray bullets hitting your home or even yourself. Consider having a family member join private security services. Or set one up yourself.
What to do before then: Organize a local neighborhood watch that actually packs heat, so that violent crimes by armed criminals can be dealt with immediately. An existing organized group can easily ramp up its number of patrols and extend its range. An active group also benefits from knowing the people and the area, thus will not be mistaken for a new gang as it starts to patrol or make contact.
- In social collapse, the national institutions start to fail. Colleges close. Landmarks shut down. Communication across even intermediate distances becomes difficult and unreliable. In this stage of collapse, local institutions are the only ones left standing – if they are helped to stand. Bolster local institutions like churches and temples by volunteering. Keep food banks open by donating food – thus preventing begging on the streets. When state schools close, support private schools to fill in the gap. At this stage of collapse, strong local social connections become even more important.
What to do before then: Know teachers, lawyers, and supportive personnel that are within a safe commuting distance and who can be there when you need them. If possible, organize home-schooling groups now that can evolve into private schools for children within walking distance. Set up mediation center now with trained mediators and retired judges that can evolve into a local community court when the municipality ceases doing its job or becomes too corrupt to be trusted.
- In cultural collapse, local institutions fall. This is best described as total anarchy or social collapse. When the Maya abandoned their cities, they were in cultural collapse. When the local institutions fail, the only fall back is family and clan. There is no prospering at this stage, only survival and hope for more than survival later. If society is in a stage of collapse, it is essential to take the right actions long before it falls this far. Move close to family, such as within walking distance.
What do to now: Repair family ties. If the world falls apart and one can only rely upon family, have strong relationships so that they are willing to support you. Build up family members into those you can rely upon Encourage financial responsibility among family members, so that they do not need desperate help when money is in short supply. Encourage strong personal responsibility in the next generation, so that they can be there to rely upon instead of needing help. Help them break addictions now, because that will only be an even greater temptation when the world seems to be falling apart. If your younger family members are looking for mates, encourage them to select spouses who are compatible and in for the long haul.
You may want to consider networking now nationally or internationally with like minded individuals, so that you could join a rising culture that is still strong. Whether it immigrating abroad to another nation or building anew regionally will depend on circumstances of the time and place. However, having the social infrastructure and connections in place now are essential to avoiding becoming a refugee. Whether it is knowing someone you could move in with after your home is destroyed in a disaster or after forced relocation, having family or friends that are like family can give you a destination ready and able to take you in. Also have the means in your own home, such as space and supplies, to help incoming relatives and close friends, in case you are the refuge to which they flee.