Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.
This morning I opened up my mail, and after spending an hour’s worth of breakfast on my inbox I took a leap and jumped in to my spam folder. I guess my recent reading stint with dystopian and apocalyptic reading has not gone by unnoticed with that mysterious Big Brother. Email after email messages about endings and despair. Messages on building bunkers, ordering rations disguised as cookies, indestructible clothes and reusable toilet paper. Among those messages were several which really stood out. It must not just be of vital importance, but also fashionable to invest in preparedness to a point of having a collection of something called Apocalypse Survival Bags.
Be the envy of the homeless on your block and beyond. Get prepared and stop worrying about it by jump-starting your ideas with the Apocalypse Bag, the unofficial mobile emergency preparedness kit.
The 3 day assault style pack should contain items for basic protection from the elements both day and night as well as tools for foraging and preparing food/shelter in both natural and urban settings.
The Bug-Out Bag, everything that you need to survive and thrive in the Apocalypse, all stuffed conveniently into one pack. Lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects
The list goes on. Remarkable however is that nobody seems have learned anything from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, stressing the importance of towels.
A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
All those survival and apocalypse preparation bags in my spam folder, they all forget something really vital, something that connects us all. A practical symbol, one that conveys a recognition of humanity, something that dares to invite us to connect. That towel. Shouldn’t it be a priority to connect with others in the face of desperation and demise? If not to repopulate the planet, than to share the pain of us all. Right?
I just can’t help but wonder though, what would I put in such a bag. For starters lots of reading, to pass the time as people panick, running scared from problem solving, through delusions and in fear of not knowing how to distinguish between what is told and what is real. Probably also a camera, to take pictures of it all so when we finally sit down in collective shame of nothing having happened we can face the mirror and laugh about us all. But definitely snacks and something great to drink. If only for the party after, celebrating continued life. And if things really were to end, that party strikes me as a perfectly fine recourse anyway.
Please do not misunderstand me, it can be quite fun to witness adventures of people in our heads facing odds beyond those of real life. Still, we should remember that they are of our creation, if our human history teaches us anything it is that the zeitgeist we create determines the paths we follow. How we feel and think influences how we act and decide. In terms of cultural patterning the rise of dystopia and apocalyptic trending is a parallel to arts of ages long forgotten. Of cultures and civilisations which indeed now only exist in ruin.
The secret of life is simple. It is to make choices, and to make them again. At each step, at every fork in the road. It is travelling that road, creating something for others behind us or at our side, giving them something as we move on. I would prefer that something to be entertaining, something teaching and inspiring. But while I recognise that teaching does entail sometimes painful lessons, I also see the necessity of the positive. After all, without that something positive the more we as a culture encounter the negative the more likely for us to stop travelling and creating for others at our side, but at best for just ourselves. If anything at all.
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