Archaeologists and Historians study the past to derive valuable inferences from past civilizations. This exercise is a noble and important one; after all, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. In the spirit of this thinking, I have written about a few examples of decay. If we aspire to be prepared for the worst, we need to look at people who have already experienced the worst. Fifty years ago, the places on this list were functioning, maintained, and inhabited. The existence of these ruins is evidence that bad things do happen.
By D-Raya contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache
Contrary to what some people would like to suggest, civilization is a very fragile thing. In some instances, the only thing separating society from anarchy is the health of the economy and the strength of law enforcement. With this in mind: here are a few times civilization failed.
3. The Abandoned City of Kadychan
At the peak of Kadychan’s existence in 1986, some 10,000 people lived in the Russian town. Today the town has a population of zero. In the span of a generation, the modestly successful town of Kadychan has become a ghost-town. Why? Kadychan is the casualty of poor state planning and a failed economy.
Patrick Coleman, an urban explorer, captured some haunting footage of the abandoned city. At one point, Patrick enters an abandoned hospital and finds photographs of a patient’s lungs. Although the city is thoroughly abandoned, it is littered with reminders of a more prosperous time. Look closely enough at the decay and it becomes evident the city was home to thousands.
Patrick’s video offers us a rare, first-person glimpse of urban ruins. As Patrick turns the corners of dimly-lit, derelict buildings, the viewer is left in suspense. A chance encounter with an opportunistic looter in Kadychan would certainly spell death. No police force can save you in the ruins of a remote, Russian ghost-town. An innocent explorer could be murdered in Kadychan and his disappearance would remain an unsolved mystery for eternity.
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More frightening than the prospect of murderous looters is the reminder that civilization is a fragile and fickle thing. Had coal-mining in Eastern Russia been more robust, Kadychan would likely still exist. Even if Kadychan had developed a more diversified economy, the city would still be home to some inhabitants. One economic eventuality, unaccounted for by Soviet leaders, destroyed Kadychan.
To those who scoff at the concerns of preppers, look at Kadychan. In the mid 1980s, Soviets would never have thought Kadychan would fail. Fast-forward thirty years and Kadychan is a depressing collection of decaying buildings. Any city not equipped for economic disaster is one failure away from becoming the next Kadychan.
2. China’s Urban Cesspool: Kowloon Walled City
Like Kadychan, Kowloon Walled City is another example of state planning gone horribly wrong. As a result of poor negotiations between China and Great Britain, Kowloon City, a 6 acre enclave in Hong Kong, assumed odd legal status. Neither the British nor the Chinese could properly exert legal authority over the territory’s 33,000 residents. The densely populated city became a hotbed for criminal activities: gambling, prostitution, and drug production.
For most of its existence, Kowloon City was an urban jungle of unmitigated anarchy. Even murders blatantly committed within Kowloon were ignored by the surrounding Hong Kong Police. As the British were preparing to relinquish control of Hong Kong, administrators decided it would be best to demolish Kowloon City. The urban jungle was leveled and replaced with a city park.
While Kadychan is a sad story of a deserted town, Kowloon Walled City is an example of an urban environment with zero law and order. Kowloon of the mid 1980s made South Side Chicago look like a well-regulated suburb. What’s the lesson to be gained here? Law and order is important. Nobody wants a totalitarian police force but it is imperative the government exercise some control. If the police disappeared, our lives would get chaotic fast.
1. Belgian Ruins Along The Congo River
One of the greatest novels ever written, Heart of Darkness, details the horrors of the Congo River. As the Congo River snakes deeper into the jungle, it leads travelers into areas completely devoid of decency. The novel demonstrates that well-mannered people are easily divorced from precepts of civilization. Moreover, it proves the Congolese Jungle is an unconquerable hell; a region immune to the taming spirit of civilization.
More than a century after publication, the assertions of Heart of Darkness still stand true. Although the Belgians established some semblance of civilization in the mid-20th Century, conditions have deteriorated. A journey down the Congo River in 2016 is just as wild as it was in 1899. The banks of the Congo are littered with the abandoned ruins of Belgian Colonial Rule. Medical facilities, depots, and stations sit in disrepair. They are a testament to the idea that the Jungle is unconquerable. More importantly, they are a reminder of man’s primitive nature.
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In geopolitical terms, the Democratic Republic of Congo is fairly inconsequential. The slow decay of the Congo has not had the same impact as our last two examples: the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the ascendancy of China. No, the Congo River is worthy of such high consideration because of Joseph Conrad and his novel, Heart of Darkness. Using the Congo as his template, Conrad outlined the intrinsic savagery of mankind. If you haven’t read Heart of Darkness, do it.
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