I'm currently reading a post-apocalyptic* YA novel and it occurs to me: in postapocalyptic novels, we accept the fact that after a disaster there will be people -- individuals, small groups, gangs, whatever -- roving about ready to rape, steal, loot, and murder, and others will group together in order to protect themselves, quite often with lots of guns.

In practically post-apocalyptic situations recently - the 2004 tsunami, Katrina, Japan, etc - how much of that has there really been? Not rumors, which always blow situations up worse, but actual documented cases of that? And on how large a scale?

Just wondering, because it seems a cliche for every post-apocalyptic novel to assume that some segment of society is going to go all Mad Max on us when the Big One hits, when I don't really think that's necessarily the case. I read an article recently that unfortunately I only remember vaguely (either on the NPR or BBC iPhone apps, or on the BBC news site, most likely) that said a study concluded that more often than not the best in humanity comes out in disastrous situations, not the worst.

We may be extrapolating from areas of the world that are already pretty dangerous, most likely stemming from decades of war, strife, grinding poverty, and lack of resources, rather than one giant apocalypse. Hm.

* Of a sort.

ETA: This isn't the article I was thinking of, but it's similar - studying the Titanic and the Lusitania shows that the speed of the disaster seems to indicate which way humans behave. The Lusitania sunk in 18 minutes, and there was a lot more every-man-for-himself behavior on it, while on the Titanic, social norms had time to reassert themselves and people were more altruistic.

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Tags: post-apocalyptic thoughts
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