Saturday, April 12, 2008


from The Coming Dark Age by Roberto Vacca

In the imminent dark age people will endure
hardship, and for the greater part of their time
they will be labouring to consist in cultivating
the soil or building shelters with their hands.
It will consist in schemes and intrigues, grimmer
and more violent than anything we know today, in
order to maintain their privileges.

One must point out, however, that many who now
deplore the oppression, injustice, and intrinsic
ugliness in a technically advanced and congested
society will decide that things were better when
they were worse; and they will discover that to
do without telephone, electric light, cars,
letters, telegrams is all very well for a week or
so, but not so amusing as a way of life.

One fact will bring notable relief to many
survivors: the grim problems facing them will at
least be completely different from those that
have been tormenting them in past years. The
problems of an advanced civilization will be
replaced by those proper to a primitive
civilizatian, and it is probable that a majority
of survivors may be made up of people
particularly adapted to passing quickly from a
sophisticated to a primitivbe type of existence.

It is certain that free societies will have no
easy time of it in a future dark age. The rapid
return of universal penury will be accompanied by
violence and cruelties of a kind now forgotten.
The force of law will be scant or nil, either
because of collapse of machinery of state, or
because of difficulties in communication and
transport. It will be possible only to delegate
authority to local powers who will maintain it by
force alone.

On the third day the looting of supermarkes
begins, and troops try to stop it. There are
riots and several hundred are killed. John Doe
becomes aware that he is totally unprepared for
this kind of situation.

The candles are finished and all the electic
appliances that fill his house are useless. Jose
Gutierrez, the Puerto Rican, finds his situation
not so bad. His subsistence level is low anyhow,
he is not especially distressed at what is
happening. He has never had a telephone and is
accustomed to having electricity cut off because
his payments are often in arrears. His home, with
the bare minimum of necessities, corresponds to
his primitive way of living. He is accustomed to
a competetive, even violent existence. Jose will
clobber John Doe - and survive - when they fight
for the cylinders of liquid gas.

The number of deaths from violence will be far
exceeded by deaths from cold and hunger. The
total casualty list will include a remarkable
number of deaths in hospitals. Some millions of
people will die in the two weeks during which the
crisis will last. With hygiene virtually absent,
an epidemic will be the widespread new phenomeon
causing more deaths. This will be the decisively
lethal fact - half the surviving population will
die of bubonic plague. Historians estimate that
during the fourteenth century the plague
destroyed half to two thirds of the population of
Europe. We think of that as long ago and far
away, and we cannot help thinking that the plague
is one of history's horrors, unknown in the
modern world for about 170 years. But as Hans
Zissner wrote in "Rats, Lice and History", "We
have no satisfactory explanation for the
disappearance of plague epidemics from the
Western countries and we must assume that in
spite of the infectiousness of the
plague-bacillus, the plentiness of rats their
occasional infection with plague and their
invariable infestation with fleas, the evolution
of an epidemic requires a delicate adjustment of
many conditions which have fortunately failed to
eventuate in Western Europe and America during
the last (nineteenth) century. The most
reasonable clue lies in the domestication of
rats. Plague epidemics in man are usually
preceeded by widespread epizootics among rats;
and under the conditions of housing, food
storage, cellar construction, and such that have
gradually developed in civilized countries, rats
do not migrate through cities and villages as
they formerly did. Plague foci among rats remain
restricted to individual families and colonies.

The groups conserving civilized values and
preparing for the renaissance will have to enjoy
notable freedom from the immediate anxieties
which would otherwise exhaust their energies; and
this could happen only by means of an initial
endowment made soon enough (that is, before the
dark age begins) by the planners of the survival
groups. This initial endowment could not be in
money, since money would obviously be among the
first casualties when the systems break down.
Instead, it would have to be an endowment of
concrete things; tools, implements,
motor-generator sets, non-perishable good which a
monastic community would make more of; goods
exchangeable for food,, particularly salt, sugar,
and alcohol; drills, electric cells, copper wire,
stainless steel screws and small arms ammunition.

The monastic communities for survival will be
located in high places, because in dangerous
times it is heights that are easiest to defend.
They enable the advance of hostile hordes to be
seen from a distance and prepared for; and they
favor the traditional counter- attacks that are
helped by force of gravity -- the rolling down of
rocks and stones against assailants. Further,
hilltops are naturally protected against floods;
they are also very likely to be left alone by the
large masses of people on the move, since migrant
hordes are inclined to go after easy prey rather
than undertake an arduous siege of doubtful

No comments: