With fears growing of a COVID-19 pandemic, many are now thinking like a doomer, prepper, primitivist, romantic, survivalist, millennialist or catastrophist*. These are all types of people that believe one way or another that civilisation as we know it is coming to an end.
That path has been well-trodden. Many have taken joined or set up communities that would survive such an outcome. Dylan Evans was one such person. In 2006, he quit his job as an academic and sold his house to fund the “Utopia Experiment” – a post-apocalyptic styled community in the Highlands of Scotland.
Of course, “utopia” ( translated from the Greek words “no” and “place”) doesn’t exist as Dylan found out and explained in brutal detail in his book “The Utopia Experiment”. Despite trying to be completely self-sufficient, the community was never able to cut its links to the modern world.
Poor farming techniques required a weekly trip to the supermarket. Most missed the basics like toilet paper, soap and toothpaste.They ended up getting a computer, which was used for Facebook rather than practical issues. The idea of sharing all property was quickly tarnished as some squirrelled away the hard work of others.
As for Dylan himself, he feared for the safety of his community so he took out third-party insurance (unlikely to be valid after the apocalypse!) He ended up suicidal and severely depressed. No-one in his small community noticed his descent, yet part of the reason for setting it up was to escape the anonymity of the modern world. After a stint in a mental hospital, he returned to the community only to leave it.
In hindsight, he thought his end-civilisation ideas may have reflected fears of his own mortality or that perhaps he was trying to buy friends. More than anything else, he learnt that a return to “nature” didn’t bring him happiness. Indeed, he ended up appreciating the following words of the economist, Paul Seabright:
“citizens of the industrialised market economies have lost their sense of wonder at the fact that they can decide spontaneously to go in search of food, clothing, furniture and thousands of other useful, attractive, frivolous or life-saving items and when they do so, somebody will have anticipated their actions and thoughtfully made such items available for them to buy”
I think many of us now are appreciating our pre-Covid certainties.
* glossary taken from Dylan’s book:
doomer: someone who believes that a global catastrophe is imminent, and that civilisation will collapse as a result.
prepper: someone who is actively preparing for a disaster by stocking up on food and other items so they can survive. Not all preppers are doomer (they may believe only a small disaster will happen)
primitivist: someone trying to return to the golden age of pre-agriculture
romantic: someone trying to return to the golden age of pre-industrial revolution
survivalist: someone who is actively preparing for a disaster by stocking up on food and other items so they can survive. They are doomer, so believe the disaster will be national or global
millennialist: someone who believes the the imperfect world we live in will soon be destroyed and replaced with a better one.
catastrophist: someone who believes that the world is heading towards an economic, environmental social or spiritual collapse, and that a new and better world will emerge from the ashes of the old one.
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