I recently read a gripping novel by Michigan poet, Laura Kasischke, which caused me to think long and hard about the future. In a Perfect World starts out a tale of love and family and the challenges of making step-relationships work. Eventually, the world as we know it crumbles under the weight of a worldwide pandemic, food and energy shortages, a reduction and removal of our freedoms, and finally total chaos. Our protagonist, Jiselle, once a rather spoiled, modern woman, becomes a pioneer of sorts while holding her family together.
Ms. Kasischke is a talented writer indeed. I couldn’t put the book down. It’s been months since I read it, but I find myself thinking about the situation Jiselle found herself in all of the time.
About the same time as reading the book, we watched The Book of Eli, another compelling story set in the ruins of the future. It’s a pretty bleak picture, and caused me to wonder.
Am I ready for the worst case scenario? Are you?
Think about it. If life as we know it comes to a grinding halt, will you have enough food? Money? Gas in the car? Do you have alternate plans for “just in case?” Or are you operating under the assumption that life is a party and you can’t see past the end of the champagne?
Nowhere was the importance of electrical power more apparent than in the power grid collapse of a few years ago. It encompassed most of the East Coast, parts of Canada and up through the Detroit area and lasted for several days. A lot of people were caught off guard in the middle of a sweltering August.
Guess what? When the electricity is off, there is no air conditioning, TV, or stereo. If you don’t have a car charger and plenty of gas, your cell phone will eventually die. Refrigeration is brought to a standstill, meaning all of your fresh and frozen foods will go to waste. There are no stores open to replenish supply, because most stores have electronic cash registers and don’t do business by hand. Gas pumps don’t work. Of course, you don’t really want to drive because traffic lights are out and it’s a dangerous proposition to be out on the roads. You can’t get money out of an ATM. Our business phone lines didn’t work, meaning no new customers and no way to get in touch with the current ones. In homes with water pumps (operated by electricity), you couldn’t get a toilet to flush.
We were lucky then. Fifty miles away was Flint, still with electricity, on a different grid. We made the short trip, gassed up, sat in air-conditioned comfort in a restaurant, stayed in a motel in order to shower, and waited for the power to be restored.
Multiply the grid shutdown by a thousand, make it last for months instead of days. Throw in a flu that kills almost everyone, restrictions on travel, on coming and going, and you have In a Perfect World.
Before you think “it could never happen here,” think again. Art doesn’t always imitate real life; it can just as easily happen the other way around. We are a generation of spoiled brats. We don’t know where food and energy really come from. We don’t know how to entertain ourselves. We don’t make anything anymore, instead relying on cheap labor and “convenience.” Our economy is unstable, the world is at unrest, and China owns us. What would it take for the tipping point to be reached? Not much these days.