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12 November 2012 @ 11:13 am
Post-apocalyptic writers take note  

On The Civilizing Power of Disaster:

“Researchers in disaster science have again and again debunked the idea that catastrophe causes social breakdown and releases the ugliest parts of human nature. Research from the past several decades demonstrates, as one report put it, “that panic is not a problem in disasters; that rather than helplessly awaiting outside aid, members of the public behave proactively and prosocially to assist one another; that community residents themselves perform many critical disaster tasks, such as searching for and rescuing victims; and that both social cohesiveness and informal mechanisms of social control increase during disasters, resulting in a lower incidence of deviant behavior.” People become their best selves when crisis strikes.

“The history of modern disasters entails a parallel history of people suddenly exhibiting communal, altruistic impulses … A growing body of research suggests that large-scale emergencies loosen social mores just enough to open up new spaces for human resilience, imagination, and compassion.”

Mirrored from Desert Dispatches: Wordpress Edition.

Rachel M Brown: Heroes: Save the worldrachelmanija on November 12th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
So the whole "resort to cannibalism before bothering to search for canned goods" thing is a myth, eh? ;)

Seriously: yes, my experience has also been that people behave pretty responsibly during disasters.
Janni Lee Simner: wildfire aftermathjanni on November 12th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Or even after searching for canned goods, yeah. :-)

This pretty much fits my experiences and sense of people, too.

It'd be interesting to learn more about the NYC 1970s blackout, which is always cited as an example of lawlessness: whether it was an exception and why, or whether reporting and memories are different from what actually happened.
Emma Bull: Cat in Specscoffeeem on November 12th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
According to some reports, the effects varied depending on how much of a beating the neighborhood had already had to take.
Janni Lee Simner: wildfire aftermathjanni on November 12th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
Interesting, that. Even that the effects varied seems not strongly in the consciousness.

And reading this, I can see how the psychological effects lingered through my NYC childhood. (I was 10 when this happened. Oddly, I remember the Son of Sam shootings but not the blackout.)

Also, this:

Because many of the problems behind the urban crisis remain unsolved despite the prosperity of recent years, the memories of the 1977 blackout have taken on the quality of morality play or myth, with widely diverging views of what the myth means.
Gwenda Bondbondgwendabond on November 13th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Absolutely true. Panic is definitely not the usual response to a disaster or emergency.

To your question, there is actually a pretty significant body of research into disasters where things *don't* go well and there is panic and/or lawless behavior afterward. Almost all of them involve various combinations from a set of consistent factors, one of the most telling being how quickly and honestly/consistently information about what's going on is provided by authorities.

Edited at 2012-11-13 12:44 am (UTC)
Janni Lee Simner: wildfire aftermathjanni on November 19th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
Heh. So as long as the government doesn't try to either hide information or hoard resources -- which ties in to the elites being the one prone to act badly? -- things tend to be okay ...
(Anonymous) on November 15th, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
How much for just the apacolypse
Of course, 1970s New York was sort of an example of lawlessness, even without the blackout :-).

Greg Leitich Smith
Janni Lee Simner: wildfire aftermathjanni on November 19th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
Re: How much for just the apacolypse
As a kid growing up on Long Island in the 70s, I do remember that both the impression I got of the city, and attitudes about same, really were very different from today ...
Danny Adamsmadwriter on November 13th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
Writers taking note
I think S.M. Stirling certainly took note of this in the first book of his Emberverse series. The people who tend to get through the erased-technology Change are the ones who band together quickly and proactively take charge (even if they get wiped out later, as happens in some cases). The ones who do await outside aid are generally the first to perish.

I like one comment a character makes when he wants to save a father and daughter he sees pulled into slavery. He's told "We can't save them all!", and replies that this is true, but just because you can't save everyone it doesn't mean you can't save anyone.
Janni Lee Simner: wildfire aftermathjanni on November 19th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Writers taking note
It's a pretty strong SF community meme that self (and sometimes group as an extension of that) reliance and intelligence are the things that will get us through.

This is, of course, both true and not true. (wry g) But I do think working together is key, rather than holing up and hoarding resources.

And for that last ... you know the story/parable about the guy throwing starfish back into the ocean, right? (Or, for that matter, there's a certain Doctor Who episode ...)