We’re All Survivalists Now: Coronapocalypse Adaptation 101

Hunkering down amid a global pandemic whose containability depends on your latitude, longitude, and head of government requires mad adaptation skills.


A man in Murcia, Spain, failing to bypass quarantine rules by going incognito in a dinosaur suit.

Lisa Van Dusen/For The Hill Times

April 2, 2020

Unless you have a history of hoarding canned goods, burying 200-gallon steel drums full of water in your backyard, or securing the perimeter of your bungalow with concertina wire and fougasses, managing the more existential aspects of our current pandemic may not be second nature to you. Hereby, a helpful primer on how to mobilize your inner prepper for the non-medical exigencies of our current siege:

1. DON’T GO OUT THERE! Per the arcane and arbitrary rules for social isolating as prescribed by the International Society for COVID-19 Orwellian Buggery, based on a formula involving variably weighted inputs adjusted for national, regional, and local jurisdictions, you can now get arrested just for walking down the street. In Spain, the cops busted an orgy last Friday night and more than 1,000 people have been arrested for violating national lockdown rules in a crackdown of such granular, surveillance-assisted fervency that if it were not, funnily enough, for the pandemic and the lockdown restrictions, people would be filling the streets in righteous indignation. Whatever you do, do not engage in orgies of more than one person and, if you must go out, leave your phone at home and disguise yourself as a shrub indigenous to your local biome. Wearing a dinosaur costume, as one thwarted Spaniard learned, will do you no good. Police are just as quick to arrest eejits as joggers and septuagenarian Pokémon Go addicts.

2. Since we’re not allowed, in Canada, to orbit each other at any distance closer than the length of a hockey stick, zip on your shrub and go buy a hockey stick to brandish at daredevil pedestrians and frozen food section physical-distancing heretics. Per rule 10.1 of the NHL Rulebook, it must be regulation length, not exceeding 63 inches. I have no idea why there’s no minimum length requirement or why hockey sticks are measured in inches and not centimetres. Unlike mastering teleportation, knowing more things about hockey isn’t one of my self-isolation projects.

3. Since maintaining a positive attitude is a key predictor of surviving any cataclysm, even one whose potentially dystopian economic, political, and social consequences depend on the whims of both a googolplex of pleomorphic spherical particles with bulbous surface projections and one lunatic game show host, try to keep your spirits up. First and foremost, avoid any exposure—even fleeting—to the last-responder stylings of a certain president whose apparent mission in the content sphere is to misrepresent every threat, backtrack on every edict, compound every crisis, and double down perpetually on chaos. Instead, watch the speeches of his predecessor, especially the crisis management ones, to remind yourself that America had a sane commander-in-chief before the pre-pandemic pandemic of bullsh*t got so miasmic.

4. There’s no “I” in social order. In a context in which you can be arrested for loitering in a Halloween costume and opportunistic larceny includes everything from failing to self-isolate to hijacking loo roll shipments, be your own Stasi. Memorize Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for a New World or, better yet, Czeslaw Milosz’s The Captive Mind. Be polite at all times, do not publicly (the definition of “public” could evolve rapidly … Google hourly for updates) question authority, and have a plan for when the performative anarchy kicks in. A little common courtesy goes a long way in an apocalyptic hellscape.

5. Stockpile essential items. I’m watching the survivalist classic Move Over Darling while writing this, and Doris Day somehow managed to MacGyver a pair of false eyelashes on a desert island. Let that be your standard and don’t get caught with the wrong shade of lip gloss when the SHTF just because your alpha strategy was full of holes.

6. Chin up and stay well.

Lisa Van Dusen is associate editor of Policy Magazine and a columnist for The Hill Times. She was Washington bureau chief for Sun Media, international writer for Peter Jennings at ABC News, and an editor at AP in New York and UPI in Washington.