After the after

Many, many people believe the world as we know it will come to an end soon. Some of those people happen to be in positions to make such a dire prediction come true. So let’s talk about the apocalypse for a moment, why don’t we?

The cause doesn’t really matter for our purposes. Suffice to say, some catastrophe causes a severe drop in the world’s population. How far? Well, we’re close to 8 billion now, so there’s a long way to fall. Obviously, an I Am Legend scenario of the last remaining man is pretty pointless to consider: humanity ends when he does. For similar reasons, a very small remaining population (up to a few hundred) is essentially extinction-level.

The last time humans numbered only a thousand was about 74,000 years ago, at the genetic bottleneck caused by the eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia. (By the way, climate catastrophists have been unsuccessfully trying to debunk this theory for years, because the idea that a volcano can cause a drop in global temperatures up to 15°C is awfully hard to reconcile with the idea that people are the sole cause for all the climate’s ills.)

Since that fateful day, we have progressed in an almost monotonic fashion. The only major setbacks in recorded history were the Black Death of the 14th century and the lesser-known plague, volcanic winter, and famine years of the 6th century. But our growth as a species really started getting exponential within the last 200 years: the Industrial Revolution. Around the start of that glorious era, humanity numbered less than a billion.

Let’s assume, then, that our apocalypse knocks us under that threshold and, from there, halfway to our doom. In other words, a population of around 500 million, which is just what the “population control” (i.e., genocide) believers want. This mass slaughter can come from a bioweapon or its supposed “cure”, a nuclear exchange, an asteroid impact, or some combination of factors, but we can assume it happens with no last-minute heroics to stop it.

One day, we wake up to find 7.5 billion human lives have been extinguished. Now what?

The first stage

The survivors will need to, well, survive. We’ve all seen that in television (The Walking Dead); literature (The Decameron, not to mention Genesis!); movies (way too many to name); video games (Fallout, The Last of Us, 7 Days to Die); and novels (my own The Linear Cycle, for the shameless plug). Those who survive the calamity band together, scavenge what they can, and fend off the hordes of aliens or zombies or mutants while trying to rebuild society.

While that makes for great drama, cinema or otherwise, it’s been done to death. No pun intended.

As a fan of worldbuilding, I’m more interested in what comes next. What happens after the post-apocalypse? That is, in a sense, literal worldbuilding, don’t you think?

So I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I don’t have time to start yet another story (I already have three that are basically stalled because of my new job!), but it’s still a fun topic to contemplate. What would the next iteration of civilization look like, especially if it retained some continuity?

At present, we’re seeing the beginning of a slide into a kind of neo-feudalism. Take away 93% of the population in one fell swoop, and two things could happen. Either the powers that be consolidate that power, or the hollowing-out of society causes a complete collapse that leads to revolution. The latter has precedent: it’s basically how the first feudal period in Europe came to an end after the Black Death. So many people died (one out of every three, in some places) that labor became scarce, and peasants could essentially name their price. They gained leverage over the nobility, pushing them into irrelevance in a gradual process that took about four centuries.

The modern-day nobles, the men and women who claim the right to rule our lives, don’t call themselves lords or bishops or anything of the sort. And they probably won’t even after the vast majority of humans have fallen victim to whatever disaster awaits. No, they’ll keep calling themselves businessmen, politicians, and celebrities even after capitalism, democracy, and mass media are destroyed.

But feudalism requires a certain population density to be worthwhile. So does industry, as a matter of fact, and our figure of 500 million is actually below that, by all accounts. Our apocalypse will have the side effect (or possibly intended effect) of reversing the Industrial Revolution. Maybe even the Enlightenment before it. The medieval era before that? It’s possible. And we should hope so.

Where to go from here

As I said, I’ve been thinking about this one, so…let’s make a new post series. I haven’t done that in a while. This one won’t be anything like “Let’s Make a Language” or “Magic & Tech” in size. Well, it shouldn’t be, but you know me.

The goal for the posts will be to sketch out one plausible post-post-apocalyptic scenario. I’m not saying that’s what will happen once the Omega Variant kills 90% of the world, and The Climate Crisis (capitals to emphasize how stupid the notion is) does for half the rest. No, this is just a possibility.

Again, my focus isn’t on the immediate aftermath of the disaster. It’s the part that comes after, the true rebuilding of civilization. So you won’t hear me talk about killing zombies or building sunshades or whatever. Let’s say that the disaster itself is in the past. What then? That’s the question I want to ask and answer.

This one’s going to be a little different, though. Or that’s how the idea looks in my head. On top of the posts, which I anticipate to come out once a month or so, I want to do something I’ve never done before: make videos.

Yeah, I know. We’ve all seen Bear Grylls and Les Stroud with their camera crews and helicopters. That’s not what I’m about. No, my goal is to build, not survive. To do that, we need technology. We need to create. And that is what I want to do in these videos. I want to talk about technology, its history, its re-creation. Using the materials you might have in the rebuilding era, what can you make? What will have to change?

Assuming I get that far, I’ll post these on a few platforms. Not Youtube, because I don’t believe a series of informational, scientific videos belongs on a platform as hostile to knowledge and free speech as Google’s video silo. Instead, you’ll (hopefully!) find them on places like Odysee,, and Rumble.

But that’s for the future. Until then, dream with me, and let’s hope that we never have to use the wisdom I’ll be giving.

Passage of time

Late last night, I was trying to go back to sleep and having a lot of trouble getting there. So I listened to music, an activity I can do at any hour of any day, in any mood.

For this particular mood, I was listening to some old favorites. The song that struck me was “Sign On The Door” by Edwin McCain, because something about it gave me one of the most intense feelings of déjà vu I’ve ever had. As I listened, I reflected, and I found that I had indeed been there before.

I could recall with crystal clarity a night fifteen years ago where I was in the exact same spot (lying in my bed) listening to the exact same song, and…I don’t know. Something about that hit me hard.

Yes, some things have changed. My headphones were attached to a smartphone, not the Rio Karma MP3 player that was already obsolete back then. I have a different computer, different TV, even different lights. So it wasn’t exactly the same room, if you think about it like that.

I’ve changed, too. I’m 37 instead of 22, of course, with all that entails. I’m about 30 pounds heavier, unfortunately. I’ve lost my grandparents, my uncle, and two close cousins. I’ve been to depths I couldn’t even imagine in 2006, and I have the scars to prove it.

But it hasn’t all been bad. I’m employed for the moment. I have a partner who loves me. I’m smarter, wiser, and more certain of myself than I was then. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been to the bottom, but I feel things are looking up.

Still, it’s strange. I truly felt that I had somehow completed a circle, that I had ended up back where I started. And I briefly wondered what I would do if, by some miraculous means, I’d been sent back to that other night, but with the memories and knowledge and experiences I’ve gathered in the past decade and a half. What would I change? How would I live my life differently, knowing what might come?

Or is this river of time actually more like a whirlpool? Would I think I was doing it better the second time around, only to find myself lying in bed fifteen years later, thinking the exact same thing?

Asleep at the wheel

I have often noted that I’m from a very big family. Growing up, I never had many friends, but I made up for that with plenty of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Lots of people to learn from, and lots of them to teach.

Yesterday, that big family got a little bit smaller. My cousin was killed in a near head-on collision when he was ejected from his friend’s car, where he was a passenger. He was 41 years old, only four older than me, and…I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Every family, once it gets to a certain size, is sure to have an outlier. That one member who, for whatever reason, just doesn’t fit in with the rest. In our case, that was Brian. We all knew it. We joked about it. He joked about it. Of the whole lot of us, he was always in the most trouble, no matter what kind you imagine, and he was the one most likely to turn down any offers of help from those who truly loved him.

Let’s not mince words. He was, in many respects, an awful person. He was an actual psychopath, with a more-than-healthy dose of narcissism and some general destructive tendencies thrown in for good measure. He lied, he cheated, he stole, and he rarely showed any kind of sympathy for his victims. He was a drug addict who spent too little time in jail for what he’d done. The people he called friends were, by and large, just like him.

Yet he had moments of genuine warmth and compassion, times when he seemed to realize what his self-destructive behavior was doing to his family and himself. I don’t believe in demons or demonic possession, as many of my relatives do, so those flickers of humanity Brian sometimes showed often felt, to me, more like a drowning man who had managed to break the surface long enough to scream for help.

He leaves behind four children by three different women, each of whom left him to save herself, choosing the life of a mother over that of a junkie. His 4-month-old grandson, Wyatt, will grow up having never seen his grandfather. And all of us who tried to help him can only wonder if our efforts were always in vain.

I don’t believe anyone is irredeemable. That’s just how I am. No human being is beyond saving. But they have to want it. You can’t force someone into rehab, or into the hospital, or into a better life. The first step is one they must take.

I’ve often wondered if Brian wanted it. There were many times where it was clear that he didn’t, that he’d rather be high than healthy, that he would gladly trade everything good in his life for one more hit. But then I think about his more lucid days, or at least the ones I saw. I think about the man who always called me for computer help, who all but begged me to take the GED test in his name because, as he put it, he didn’t think he was smart enough to pass it, but he needed it so he could get a job and settle down.

More than anything, I think about someone who, late Wednesday night, tossed the last of his crack to a family friend and said, “I’m tired of being a drug addict. I want to be better.”

And I wonder why the world is so cruel that “I want to be better” is a death sentence.

Summer Reading List Challenge 2021: Late start

In all the bustle of actually having a job, I completely lost track of time, and I forgot about the Summer Reading List Challenge!

Here are the rules again, for those curious:

  1. The goal is to read 3 books between the US holidays of Memorial Day (May 31) and Labor Day (September 6). Yes, that’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere. I can’t change that.

  2. A “book” is anything non-periodical, with very wide latitude. Comics, graphic novels, and manga are out. Just about anything else is in. And, thanks to the socializing I’ve gotten from having a job, I know to add something else to this: audiobooks count for the challenge if they would be considered books in written form.

  3. One of the books needs to be a genre outside your normal reading habits. Nonfiction, horror, whatever. Anything different, because one of the object of the challenge is to expand your reading horizons.

  4. Books you wrote don’t count. Even if you’re reading them for fun.

Now, because of my late start (which I can’t apologize enough for), you get a little extra time this year: the deadline is extended to September 17 if you haven’t already started something new since Memorial Day.

I’ll be posting my progress here and on the fediverse, where you can follow Have fun, have a great summer, and keep reading!

Human pride

June, as everyone not living under a rock knows, is Pride Month. It’s that special time of year when corporations across the country dress up their logos with the rainbow flag that gains colors faster than a box of crayons and spread vague, virtue-signaling one-liners about how they stand with certain people against hatred. Oh, and there used to be marches and stuff, but then Valentine’s Day used to be a Catholic saint’s day, too.

The original purpose of Pride Month wasn’t that bad…at least in theory. As a social movement to increase awareness of alternative lifestyles and relationships, it served a purpose. Of course, since the Oberfeller decision a few years ago, that purpose is now superfluous. Gay marriage is legal across the nation, the ultimate expression of acceptance. And that case also set a precedent: sexual orientation is considered a protected legal category under the 14th Amendment, so the entire “gay rights” agenda has been fulfilled. Equality is here. There’s no need to fight for it any longer.

Thus bereft of a goal, Pride Month has been left to a rather confusing pair. Commercialization is the fate of all holidays, really, so it’s only natural that a month-long celebration of once-forbidden love would find itself in the corporate crosshairs. But the movement was always geared towards the political left, so we now see the curious juxtaposition of anti-capitalist progressives on June 1 “standing with” the very global corporations they were threatening to boycott on May 31.

Both sets share the same desire, however, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to see this temporary alliance of convenience. For these groups seek to divide us for their own gain. Progressives thrive on conflict, as we know; their whole worldview is based on class warfare, on setting us against each other. Corporations, of course, are only out for short-term gains, but those most immersed in the “pride” culture tend to be the ones with captive markets and virtual monopolies. They can’t very well lose market share, but a few tweets can reach the small segment of the populace who would otherwise ignore them, and that’s just modern PR.

But using this month as a reason to incite further divisions in society or, worse, to cast those who are tired of the force-fed propaganda as hateful and loathsome, is a tragic miscarriage of justice, to say the least. Much like Black History Month, what was once a celebration has become an inquisition. It’s anti-human. It’s anti-equality. It is, to put it simply, a perversion of everything the various equal rights movements were founded upon.

Instead of worshiping what sets us apart, we should begin to embrace what we have in common. We should take pride in being human, because all of us share that. Whatever you believe, whatever you look like, whatever attracts you, you are human. You are one of billions, yet still unique in many ways.

Not only are you human, but so are other people. Everyone you love, everyone you know, is a human being, just like you and me. In a world where dark forces seek to dehumanize us at every turn, to fit the entire population into a number of mutually-exclusive categories solely to set us against one another, it’s important to remember that we are better than that. We can do better.

Within the last decade, we proved that by ending a restriction, a limitation of rights defined as inalienable, that had been in place for over 200 years. None of us is lesser because of who we love, and that statement is now the law of the land. True, we may not always live up to the ideals we express, but that is no reason to reject them. No, we must do better. We must strive to reach them, while knowing we will never quite attain the perfection and utopia we long for.

We are human. Our reach will always exceed our grasp, but that should not dissuade us. The pride we should celebrate is not that which separates us, and certainly not the idea that some of us deserve more because of who we are. No, our pride is in the knowledge that humanity can grow, that each and every one of us can contribute to that growth if we all work together.

Progress doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight, if you’re black or white, if you’re male or female. All that matters is being human. The only entry card to the clique of progress is your humanity. As corporations aren’t people, they’ll never understand that. As progressives stand against unity, they will always fight it. But we know the truth.

In this month and every month to come, be proud. Be human.