Just how significantly would your life be impacted if everything with electronics went dead? No computer. No vehicle. No refrigeration. That’s the scenario outlined in William R. Forstchen’s One Second After when an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) occurs.
Jim Cemorelis earlier this year recommended to me the book and after another friend did the same, I put it on my reading list. Randomly, I found an advanced copy (usually sent to media outlets prior to mass publication) when browsing the bookshelf at the Keene Activity Center.
The story follows John Matherson, a military man-turned professor, who likely personifies attributes attractive to readers of the book – respected, level-headed, self-sufficient, family-man.
Matherson’s tact and strategic-thinking thrust him into a key role of his Black Mountain, NC community, becoming involved in the allocation of scarce resources like food and medicine, handling refugees, and envisioning the defensive plan that successfully safeguards the town from marauders before a military convoy shows-up a full year after the EMP changed forever their reality.
Published in 2009 the book was a quick read unhampered by deep philosophical concepts that eventually reached the #11 spot on the New York Times bestseller list for works of fiction. As with other books framed around a what-if scenario, the plot outlined take-aways that if acted on today, could mitigate fallout from such an incident. Things like:
- having a food source – your stash of food will eventually run-out and wild game – if sought by all your neighbors and those fleeing population centers – will soon be depleted. Invest in yourself and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to provide your own food and start putting it into practice. It seems like more folks I know are doing this – gardens, crops, chickens, rabbits, etc.
- having access to water – are you reliant on city water? Where would you get water if you turned on the tap and no water came out? Sure, we can all deal with it for a couple days after a bad storm, but what about weeks or months out? Perhaps, like I did a couple of years ago, you might want to consider a Lifesaver Bottle.
- keeping yourself in shape. How many self-described “survivalists” or “gun polishers” do you know that couldn’t walk, let alone hike with gear for a mile? If you’re healthy not only will you be more productive and centered, you’ll also be more resistant to disease and more-likely to quickly recoup from injuries.
- owning and being proficient in the use of firearms. A firearm is just a tool. It can act both as a means to acquire food and to protect yourself and those around you.
I had two gripes with One Second After.
#1 – the low-level, underlying patriotism was so constant that I found it distracting. A few examples:
-one scene included so many references to the Patriotic Bear that Matherson gave his daughter for a birthday present that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the makers of Beanie Baby’s paid for the advertisement.
-prior to the start of a meeting Matherson had the former mayor, police chief and others, it was noted that he had insisted on a “ritual” – “the group turning to face an American flag in the corner of the room and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.” Blah.
-the use of “us” and “we” was pervasive when referring to actions done by some criminals who subsist off the wealth others create. Not only does such text likely go unquestioned by most readers, but there’s a good chance it only further solidifies artificial divisions that carve-up the world into nation-states; arbitrarily placing individuals based on a characteristic beyond their control – where they happen to be born – into groups to either be supported (“us”) or vilified (“them”).
#2 – the complete lack of the most viable alternative to severely mitigate if not eliminate entirely the potentiality of an EMP strike – the cessation of buying-into the bad idea of a nation-state and arbitrary authority.
Newt Gingrich, who wrote the book’s forward (I know – that alone almost caused me not to read the book!) noted:
The threat is real and we as Americans must face that threat, prepare, and know what to do to prevent it. For if we do not, “one second after,” the America we know, cherish and love, will be gone forever. (pg. 13)
The book’s afterward by Bill Sanders echoed the sentiment:
Once second after an EMP attack, it will be too late to ask two simple questions: what should we have done to prevent the attack and why didn’t we do it.
Forstchen himself not only failed to recognize the cause of the potential threat: blowback based on the meddling in the affairs of others that is a natural consequence of an institution based on a “legitimate” right to use force (the nation-state) – disappointing as he himself is supposedly versed in history and thus should know the incentives of empires – but he made the same tired strawman attack against a viable alternative when Matherson noted, “That’s when either we try to pull together and keep order or it will go over to complete anarchy.”
To unpack that statement – the character is merely stating that if things are pulled-together the reality will be a continence of the Statist Quo – where some are viewed as leaders to be obeyed, yet if things change it’ll mean a society based on the idea that each individual is a leader unto themselves.
The latter not only sounds preferable but a much-surer way to prevent an EMP attack simply because the motivation to engage in such an act will not exist.
Imagine a world with no centralized, bureaucratic war-machine funded through theft (taxes) and a printing-press, built on the disinformation peddled in public schools and the lamestream media. Imagine a world where so-called leaders don’t further centralized their claimed authority and profit off the wholesale slaughter of others based on this flawed “us vs them” perspective.
Apparently Forstchen doesn’t believe that possible, as he included in his book passages like this one that seemed to imply that most folks are sheep that need to be led:
John signed. Scale of social order, he thought. The larger the group, the more likely it was that it would fragment under stress, with a few in power looking out for themselves first. Five thousand might be convinced to share and cooperate. A hundred thousand, self-interests, them and us, would begin to take over, especially with the breakdown in communications. That had always been the power of media in the hands of a good leader. To get individuals to feel as if the leader was speaking directly to them
Does Forstchen not think that each of us has the ability to be a Matherson? To look inward, trust ourselves and not just survive but live, no matter how daunting the odds?
I think we each have that ability.