Monday, 8 February 2010

PAW for thought

"What's your post-apocalyptic skill?" My mum asked.

"Uhhh... I can knit. A bit. But not that well. I don't think I could knit anything useful."

Knitting is mum's skill. She once knitted me an Amy Winehouse doll. No pattern or anything. It was featured on the Heat Magazine website and everything. Okay, so that's not so useful either, but she knits all manner of clothing and toys. She's also a great seamstress and makes clothes...including wedding dresses.

"I can't shear a sheep or spin wool either, so that's useless. Anyway, all the clothes shops would still have clothes in them, for a while, until they all got looted."

"Looting might not happen," my mum pointed out. She'd obviously thought about this. "We're talking about an abstract situation here. There might not be any power or many people, but it doesn't mean shops couldn't open for a time, or that people couldn't function normal lives. In the short-term things might be okay, we'd have food and clothing and structures. It's the long term that we would need to plan for."

"Riiight. Ok." I wasn't quite sure mum was still being hypothetical, and I was also too engrossed in an online flash game.

"So what's your skill then?" She asked again.

"I don't know. I'm really good at this sushi game."

"That's your skill? Playing a sushi game?"

"It's really hard! You have to memorise the menu, make the dishes, keep an eye on all the customers, make sure they are all being catered for, make sure you never run out of ingredients and that you're making enough money..."

Actually. It's just like my job making sandwiches at the deli.

Damn. I pushed my laptop away. I suddenly didn't want to be playing at my job on my day off.

"Well, I know about politics. I can get discounts in taxis apparently."

My mum rolled her eyes and started a new line of knitting the complicated scarf she was working on, "I meant a useful skill. Think about it. In a post-apocalyptic world, you don't know how many people have survived, and what their skills will be. We'll need doctors and medical experts, we'll need farmers and horticulturalists, engineers and electricians, communications experts and teachers to pass on skills to the next generation. The next generation will be really important, and how would we decide which children learn which skills?"

"Well, it'd be a throw-back to early economics. The children of the craftsfolk would take on their parents' trades, most likely. Learn from an early age." I added.

"But is that the best way to do it?" My mum pressed. "Because, in the post-apocalyptic era it'll be vital to have the best people possible learning these skills in the shortest amount of time. What if the doctor's son is better at cooking? At what age would they decide to choose their vocation? Is it truly fair to dictate to them what they should do?"

"That's not really different from now. Capitalism. The best people become successful in their chosen field."

"But it will be more imperative if there are fewer people and survival is the aim, to choose the best skilled people to fill these roles, in a short space of time."

"That could be a democratic decision..." I led.

"Depending on how big the post-apocalyptic community would be, we'd need to be organised and assign roles accordingly so that we could pull together and survive."

"And in order to organise the community you'll need people who are skilled in organising and who know the principles of leading communities..." I continued.

"Well, it'd have to work on group decisions, like community meetings to make these decisions," my mum pondered.

"And you'd need people who knew the best methods for making group decisions, or who knew the theories and difficulties in creating good and fair systems for effective control of groups of people."

"I suppose so."

"So you'd need people who knew about politics then. And had experience in administrating groups of people." I smiled, wide-eyed.

"Well, I suppose so," my mum conceded.

"There you go. Not so useless after all." I grinned.

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