I was reading Steve Masover's diary "Humans are like rats and cockroaches": the coming feudalism and want to take a slightly different approach to the topic.
I am on the ground, having never in my entire life risen far above the poverty level - and that's with a PhD and a PhD equivalent degree, thank you very much. I may not be able to earn a decent income with my knowledge, but I can certainly survive and survive well because of them.
I started out in science fiction. Attending science fiction conventions, reading science fiction, talking to scientists, being heavily influenced by Heinlein and Asimov. I dabbled in some of the survival skills because their books all had people needing to know some obscure bit of ancient lore to survive. This, back in the 50's and 60's, was my introduction into survivalism. I not only debated which ancient survival skills would be suitable for surviving in outer space, I learned how to do them. That's when I picked up basic blacksmithing skills to add to my already extensive herbal apothecary skills (how to repair a space ship!). I picked up some other mechanical skills, too, and got started in computers.
Back in the late 60's early 70's, I was attracted to the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) because of the forgotten arts. Not because I'd forgotten them, but because here was a group of people that understood craftsmanship and handmade items. Here were people who could appreciate my embroideries, my herbal craftsmanship, my brewing skills, my culinary skills, my blacksmithing, and my basic carpentry. I could improve my carpentry and sewing and embroidery. It was great.
Then I reached out for the fur trade re-enactors because I learned, on the death of an unknown uncle, that I was part Kiowa Apache. My mother had never shared that and I was raised mostly German in America. We hung out in the German communities and shopped in German and German-owned stores.
There, I learned porcupine quill embroidery, beadwork, brain-tanning, how to set up a tipi, build a debris hut, and a variety of survival skills that led me into learning more and improved my skills as a hunter.
From there, I drifted into the Sherlockians and the other neo-Victorian groups and the Civil War re-enactors and Colonial re-enactors and learned even more sewing and cooking and crafting skills.
I never dropped anything I did, just added to it. I still was into science fiction - Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica (a survival tale indeed), Babylon 5, Star Wars, and more. And people started talking about McGyver, and how this person had MacGyvered that, and how the things I did were MacGyverish.
From there, it was a no-brainer to slip into steampunk.
What all of these have had in common is survival. As a person living at and sometimes below the poverty line with lofty aspirations, the only way to live below my means and still have a well-above-my-means lifestyle meant I had to do a lot of things myself. Everything from home decor to gardening, to sewing to training our pets to be useful household members contributed to the well-being of my family and my household, allowing us to live far more comfortably than those who earned more than I did.
Steve Masover talks about the gated communities that resemble the castles of yore. He sees that as a return to feudalism, and perhaps it is. He spoke of it in a pessimistic light, and perhaps we need to look at it that way. He points out a large and looming societal problem and speculates that the popularity of steampunk is a zeitgeist response to the impending feeling of an approaching feudalistic society whereby play-acting
at an alt-history with a soupçon of 19th century spicing is a way of discharging horror at how deep we're really likely to sink.
I think it's not just a way to discharge the horror, I think it's a way that people are preparing themselves by emulating some of the things the Victorians did to survive - the deep recycling, repurposing, re-inventing, re-using, and re-claiming items to re-making things into durability and tinkerability.
The Zombie Apocalypse is a much better analogy to the discharge the horror of the impending feudalism.
I've had weird little fantasies of building a community of like-minded people - people who wanted to live in the modern world but did so on the back of self-sufficiency and forgotten skills (which is really a misnomer, because they aren't forgotten). Who wanted internet and computers, refrigeration and interior climate controlled homes, and the ability to travel great distances, yet spun, wove, and sewed their own clothes, created beauty with their own hands, and so on. People who lived in clusters that were part marriage, part tribe, part village, not dependent upon currency for survival. We would take the best of the Victorian Era, spice it up with MacGyverisms, apply our modern knowledge to it, and use that to re-invent pockets of society, sort of like the monasteries and universities of the feudal era that existed outside of and alongside the castles and feudal overlords, independent and co-dependent.
And when the time is right, reclaiming equality.
I borrowed a book from a friend while I was house-sitting for her. It was written by Suzette Haydin Elgin. I'd read her Ozark triilogy and enjoyed it. This was her Communipath trilogy. In the first novel, she introduces a group of people called the "Maklunites". As I read the novel, I thought how strikingly similar the Maklunites were to that community I'd been visualizing.
There were, of course, major differences. The working with our hands to make things to support the community and create beauty was the same, but I never visualized a fully communal community where all possessions were held in common including bodies, but rather a mutually supportive one where people shared freely among themselves, but each had their own space, possessions, income, that sort of thing. I guess if you smashed up Elgin's Maklunites with the family corporateship of David Kingsbury's Courtship Rite and a multi-gendered abbey that combine monastery and convent without the religion, set among huge orchards and groves of large canopied trees, and made it all modern, you'd get what I'm kind of visualizing. I, of course, visualize it as a Numenist community, but the basic model would work without religion.
What all this rambling boils down to is that yes, there are bad times coming, and I think there are ways to mitigate it in small group levels. It's why I write the diaries I do for the Practical Survival and Sustainable Living group, to encourage others to consider their own personal survival and the survival of their near and dear.
It's not all doom and gloom. It doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. We can MacGyver our way into the future with steampunk aesthetics and a touch of Zombie Apocalypse survivalism.