The End of Civilization

Okay, so that was all a bit heavy, so let’s lighten things up a bit. I was listening to Glenn Beck some time ago. One of his sponsors was some food insurance company-you know, those who say if the apocalypse happens tomorrow, will you have enough freeze-dried four-cheese Lasagna and Boeuf Bourguignon on hand? I used to think it was bullshit. There’s a local talk guy, Jon Howell, who talks about the collapse of society in this Ayn Rand-ian sort of way in which those with the guns, and those who are not burdened by ethics or compassion for their fellow human being will be the ones who prevail when the apocalypse comes. Even Liberal-progressive talk host Thom Hartmann markets doomsday, with talk of  a looming economic collapse in 2016, which is half way over. Because that is the sort of world we’d all want to see, right?

The debate over guns, the substantial threat from North Korea to shut down the power grid with a nuclear detonation in space, and Barack Obama has enlivened their doomsday fantasies. I mocked them, having actually lived in a society, a city under siege, in which there was no food, water, gas or electricity, in which you could be killed without warning from a sniper, blackmarketeer, warlord or a waterborne illness. Despite all of that people did not become self-directed zombie-like ne’r-do-wells, but worked together and strengthened communal bonds. But when the plumber shut off our water yesterday to install a new water heater, well, all of that changed.

At precisely, I’ll always remember where I was at that moment, at precisely 12:05, the water was shut off to our little condo. At first we didn’t notice much, but then, slowly and imperceptibly, things began to unravel. It began within half an hour. Ana asked for a glass of water. The first crack had appeared.

By 12:20 I had to face some tough truths. Ana’s thirst indicated that she might not be strong enough to carry on. How long could she hold out? I was thawing chicken for supper, but should I set that other plate? Would or could both of us survive, or should I start coming to terms with stark and unavoidable truths?

“Can you do me a favor,” she asked, “just go up to McDonald’s and get me something to drink.”

There it was, the Lord of the Flies! The power play. Survival of the fittest. John Locke and Ayn Rand, and Rand Paul and Ron Paul were right all along. The relationship, the love Ana and I had cultivated these many years was crumbling before us, and we were helpless in the face of animal desperation.

I was trapped, struggling as much with myself as the lonely howling from the pipes that sang the demise of the civilization I held so dear. Still Ana pressed for something to drink. I felt as the very edge of existence, alone. I dreamt of water, cool, refreshing, but it was no more than a distant fantasy.

“You know what would be good?” Ana commanded. “Be a dear and run down to that place on the corner for some Pad Thai, since the stove is shut off too.”

The stove, indeed! The second pillar of civilization was gone. First the water, now the stove. I eyed the cats, luxuriating at their dish and thought that I could sustain myself through the darkness to follow on cans of Friskies if needed. There was a squirrel in the yard, fattened by the bread I’d vainly and short-sighted-ly tossed out through the winter. I curse myself for not buying an AR-15 after New Town and Orlando and converting it to a fully automatic assault rifle with a 40, no 90 round clip. Wait! belt fed, 1000 rounds! And a monkey to cool the barrel. I’d need it to battle back the hordes, and food stealing squirrels are small and move much too fast for anything less powerful. I’d probably need a whole clip to bring the critter down!

By 1:30 my deodorant was failing. I was reverting to an animal, and smelled like one too. Ana mentioned that I needed a shower. The knives had come out. It was now every person for themselves. I was straining at the tension, which was driving me mad. Oh, Glenn Beck and Gold Line, curse you that I should have listened to you sooner! As civilization crumbled around me, what I wouldn’t have given for a fist full of gold-plated Kugurrands.

By 3 I was at the breaking point. Ana, sitting on the bed, tinkering with a Facebook post, appeared unmoved and unaffected. Who was she? Some sort of evil-genius super woman, or was she toying with me? Maybe she was the strongest, and I would succumb first. Maybe in the days or weeks to come, upon those smoldering remnants of the world, she would be feasting upon my b…”

“Well, that’s about it,” said the plumber. “She’s in and your water’s up and running again. I’ll just take a check and be on my way.”

Oh, salvation, how bittersweet civilization! So perfect and yet so fragile that you can provide us the grand illusion, only to reveal your mortality as well. I embrace you now more fully, knowing only too well what a commodity and rarity you are. Just in case, I’m keeping a can of Friskies in my pocket.


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