The following is a guest post entry into our Survival & Preparedness Writing Contest.
“In order for civilization to continue, man must remain civilized” – Rod Serling
Lessons from The Twilight Zone on Civilzation Post-IHTF by Flutterby
I was watching TV. last night, a 1961 episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled, “The Shelter”. Well, of course, this grabbed my attention!
The story line is a group of friends gathered in the home of a doctor/friend in order to celebrate his birthday. Apparently, this group is comprised of all close neighbors and they get together on a regular basis, so, supposedly, they are all quite friendly and well known to one another.
They have just enjoyed a fine dinner served on fine china with crystal glasses and silver tableware, and are in process of enjoying a lovely decorated birthday cake.
Then it hits. A message comes across the radio (not t.v. – radio – it is 1961, after all, and not everyone had a t.v.!). The message is that something has gone horribly wrong, and the government is issuing a warning that “missiles are on their way” and “everyone should take shelter immediately”.
The radio message warns them to gather food, water, clothing, medicine, and go to a “safe” place, where they are to “shelter in place”. But, where is that “safe place”?
Everyone panics. Everyone suddenly goes from celebrating this wonderful doctor/friend and enjoying his birthday dinner to total chaos – where to go? What to do?
Well, it seems that the doctor/friend, in whose house they are partying, has built a small shelter for just such an occasion in his basement, and stocked it with sufficient supplies for his family of three, to last quite some time. It also seems that he has made this no secret to his fine neighbors., whom he has known for years and finds trustworthy. But that’s for a family of three, and the safe shelter is no more than a small room – sufficient only for a family of three, of course.
The neighbors all run to their respective homes, gather the kids and supplies, and, one family by one family, return to the doctor’s house. All want to gain entrance to the doctor’s “safe shelter”, but none can. Now, how this is supposed to be practical, I don’t know, but they’re shouting at each other through a metal door. One-by-one, the neighbor men scream to be “let in”, while the doctor tells them all, “I cannot; there is not room, and I did not provide for all of you”.
As the tension mounts and the neighbors gather in the basement, trying to figure out how to get in, shouting through the door and at each other, things get out of control.
An Italian-origin family who was a part of this “community” is now verbally attacked by one of the other “neighbors”, told they don’t belong there, they need to “go home”, and the neighbors actually end up in a fist-fight, in which the Italian man is injured and unable to rise up from the floor on his own.
One family has a three-month old baby, and begs entrance. Still, the doctor refuses. He will not open the door for any of them.
The neighbors continue to demand entrance, escalating into threats of destruction. Then one of the men remembers they have a “battering ram” available; a long metal pole that is actually part of a utility pole. They run to get it, bring it to the basement, and proceed to batter the metal door, until they make progress and it begins to come off the hinges.
These people have lost all reason; they are willing to destroy the one “safe place” available to them, because none of them can enter. They do not stop to ask what good it will do to tear down the door. They do not care; they only want to destroy it because they are denied access. They want “in”, even though “in” will be useless because of their own actions. There will be no metal door on this “safe room” to act as a buffer from nuclear fallout, there will be insufficient water and food for all of them, so they are all wasting everyone’s time. But that does not occur to them. They are not thinking clearly.
Just as the metal door is hanging on its last hinge, another message comes across the radio, and is shared with all of them by one of the neighbors who happens to overhear this new message. It seems that the incoming were not missiles at all, but “something else” (I don’t recall what explanation they gave). And they are told they can all go back to business as usual.
They all look at each other, the destruction they have caused physically, and start apologizing to one another. The doctor, his wife, and child, walk out of their “safe shelter”, through the damaged door.
The neighbors offer to pay for the damages, repeatedly apologizing.
The doctor tells them there was much more damage done here than can be repaired, and the episode ends.
What struck me is that this was made in 1961 – 52 years ago! If it happened today, I do not think the response would be all that different. Oh, yes, it would start off with a rebellion of a more civilized nature, and it would most assuredly escalate until there was no semblance of civility remaining, even to destruction of the one place of safety.
The deterioration was rapid, and it involved all of them – not one chose to go home and tough it out with what they had failed to prepare for themselves. I do not think it will be any different when IHTF here, and it is coming – soon.
If you are sheltering in place (no BOL), then you need to think through, in advance, how you will deal with lack of civility post-IHTF, because you will have to deal with it. All of us will – but those in areas with lots of people who have made no preparations will get there almost immediately.
So, what else can we learn from this episode of “The Twilight Zone”?