I just watched Die Hard 4. For those who’ve not seen it (and don’t mind me spoiling it for them) the movie’s plot centres on what they call a “fire sale” (as in “everything must go”), where by most of America is brought to a standstill by cyber-terrorists. The terrorists infiltrate the various major computer systems and shutdown everything that is they run, which, in the case of the movie, is pretty much everything. The traffic centres, the security centres, financial institutions, gas and water suppliers, telephone networks. Everything that people use on a daily basis.
Look, the movie is mildly entertaining and very forgettable. The idea, on the other hand, is interesting. And one I’d considered for many, many years. Well, not considered doing it. But I’ve been fascinated with the fragility of the infrastructure.
How many human people would be able to survive without electricity? Cell phones? Or even normal phones? Computer networks, the Internet? Everything that makes our life what it is, is dependant on some computer and electronic system running efficiently. Think of the inconvenience of losing your wallet with your cash and bankcards on a Sunday morning.
Unless you’ve got some extra cash lying about, you’re quite possible stuffed for the day. At best, you should be able to cancel your cards to prevent others from using them, but, until Monday morning, when the banks open, you probably wouldn’t be able to purchase anything. Inconvenient. Generally, not life threatening.
What if the banks were not available for a week? A month?
How about if a power plant blew? What if a dedicated terrorist group co-ordinated an attack on the power grids across the city?
No electricity. That means no hot water, no refrigeration, no credit card facilities, no active petrol pumps. How long would you survive?
That’s what I’ve always thought about. How easy it is to render social humanity helpless.
Yes, some people do have the know-how to survive such conditions. The vast majority do not. The vast majority, I would expect, would be screaming and running about in blind panic as were the extras in the movie. I would think that surely somebody would have contingency plans in place should there ever be long term blackouts.
Such is not the case. Certainly not in this country, as was evidenced when one of our power plants did in fact go down for an extended period of time.
Even now, in spite of that incident, in spite of the consistent power outages across our commercial hub, no contingencies are being put into place. People may be preparing themselves, stocking up on gas, learning how to survive without modern “conveniences”, but that’s all been done on an individual basis. The government, as far as I am aware, has nothing to offer. Effort is being made to ensure that there is as few interruptions in the electricity supply as possible. But that doesn’t change the fact that our lives have become exceedingly reliant, dangerously so, in my opinion, on that particular form of energy.
I have always thought that the best way to bring this society to its knees is destroy the source of its energy. In this country, it would seem that the very suppliers of our electricity is doing that quite nicely but that is a discussion for another post. Take out the power stations and you cripple the society. You cripple the economy. You cripple the people.
I doubt it would be as easy to do as it was in the movie. But it can be done. I’ve seen the near panic that strike humans when they think their way of life may be threatened. Yet, once the danger is perceived to no longer be valid, it’s back to their complacent little lives. As long as every day is like the previous, they feel safe. Until it may be too late.
If there ever was a successful fire sale, I think I might just laugh at the ensuing panic. And admire and respect those people that don’t give in to that panic. I think that would be perfect “natural” selection, ridding us of the dull poppies that can’t rough it without their fancy high heals.
Well, one can hope. 🙂