I read an article recently that sparked a thought–what will the world look like after a collapse? Much depends, of course, on the cause of the collapse. The common non-prepper view is something resembling the Road Warrior; I personally know many people who refuse to even believe that any sort of collapse is possible.
The article that got me thinking about this posits that we are heading for a New Dark Ages, much like Europe after the fall of Rome. It cites a number of factors: the growing level of scientific illiteracy (or outright denial) within the U.S.; increasingly strident and militant (and polarized/polarizing) portions of the government; growing economic inequality. They don’t feel that it’s inevitable, and give their recommendations for how to keep it from happening. I’m not so certain about all of that, though.
Perhaps I’ve read too many boilerplate sci-fi novels, where vast societies get to a point of tension, and any move–either for the positive or negative–sends things toppling into one or another form of Evil Empire or civil war or some such. I keep getting this feeling that we’re at that sort of a point right now in American history; things can’t keep going as they are, but any attempt to hurry them along has potentially disastrous unintended consequences in the short- to medium-term. This feeling, however, is balanced by a feeling that we can’t just sit and do nothing. (Thus, the prepping–better to be ready for whatever comes next…)
One thing that the author mentions briefly in passing is that the collapse into the medieval Dark Ages didn’t happen with the flip of a switch; the Roman Republic took some time (I’ve seen 50 years cited, but the exact number is certainly up for debate) to become the Roman Empire, and longer yet to fall apart. After everyone eventually got used to the Empire not being there, they eventually (between 200-500 years later; again, the exact numbers are debatable) developed/evolved the feudal system. The process was certainly not quick, nor was it particularly pretty–any decent history book covering the period leading up to Charlemagne should make that clear.
Feudalism is often described as the result of decentralization of an empire. Given most of the technological advances we’ve made since then, however, I’m not certain that a complete fallback to feudalism is in store for our American Empire. At least, not at first–if anything, I’d predict a split. The Roman Empire did this, too, becoming the Western and the Eastern Empires (a condition which reflects today in the dichotomy of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I rather suspect that our split would be into more than two “sub-Empires,” but exactly how and where the split occurs is a topic for the academics and future historians.
Of somewhat more pressing concern is how we get from “here” (on the edge) to “there” (collapsing-to-collapsed). Will it be relatively peaceful? Or will we transition through being a police state? A lot of the more frightening trends seem to be pointing at a stop, hopefully very brief, at fascism.
What about you, readers? Where do you think we’ll end up, and how do you think we’ll get there?