You’re stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with 8 strangers and no food or water, who do you eat first?
Dystopian novels have held a prominent place on our national reading lists for the last few years and while I occasionally enjoy a jaunt into the horrific futures that we could create for ourselves they don’t really speak to me. To me they frequently seem like the ultimate lifeboat game. While occasionally it’s fun to work through the logic of how to survive in a treacherous situation, the real answer to any lifeboat game is to not get stuck in the lifeboat in the first place.
I was reminded of this principle recently when I visited a conference for my day job (graphic design). The conference was for public works personnel (AKA everyone who keeps your city functioning) and their lunch speaker spoke on how their department had handled an earthquake. From personnel rotation, calling in reinforcements, clearing roadways, reviewing housing safety, clean up – this department moved swiftly with the goal of maintaining safety and returning their town to normal in the shortest amount of time possible (and they did a great job). But having just read a dystopian novel I was struck by the realization that not one person in the room was thinking… “Bob, I’d eat Bob.” They weren’t playing the game – they were strategizing about how to not get stuck on the lifeboat.
All of this led to four thoughts. One – I’m incredibly grateful for our public works personnel. From sewer maintenance, to bridge engineers, to water management, they deserve more recognition than they get. Two – All of you great public employees are screwing up a perfectly good dystopian plot line RIGHT NOW. We’re not supposed to be coming together to overcome a natural disaster and working for the common good! Come on, people. Where is the divisive hatred and the reaching for the shotguns? That’s it; I’m breaking out the zombies. Bob is going to be dinner if I have to have three plot contrivances before breakfast. Three – We as society need to invest more in infrastructure. And four – Because we don’t invest more in infrastructure we all need to have 3 days to 2 weeks of supplies on hand depending on where you live. Be prepared. Don’t let a dystopian novel happen to you.