In the last ten or fifteen years, I can’t tell you the number of times some jackass of cultish renown has stepped onto a broadcast soapbox to tell everyone the end of the world was right around the corner. But it’s been noteworthy. Let’s try and remember: Pat Robertson did it in 2007. Pyotr Kuznetsov ushered in a doomsday cult in 2008. A prediction made a hundred years prior said the apocalypse would happen in 2010 (so, technically, that one doesn’t count); four predictions in 2011, three in 2012, one each in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and on and on: Rasputin, the Blood Moon Prophecy, the Elenin comet, the Mayan calendar, COVID-19.
I guess that’s it.
It never, ever happens. However, if you live in a more rural area and have to talk to ex-military, survivalist-types on occasion, like when they walk in to get their blood pressure or Viagra medication refilled, or they get kicked in the head by a mule and need a medical professional to tell them they’ve been kicked in the head by a mule, it tends to be a perennial subject of interest. One’s sense of the world is often constructed of one’s own intentionality. In other words, the world is, oftentimes, what you make it. If survivalism is continually what you think about—if, somehow, your life is so shitty that the far side of an apocalypse is what you want to manifest and, once it does, you believe you’ll be successful and thrive—then it’s a continual reality for you.
And you’re likely a religious…well, not quite ‘nut’. Legume, maybe? Non-endospermic dicotyledon sounds right.
One day, a survivalist-type I knew pretty well came into my office for his DOT medical exam. Normally, we have a PA here who does those, but he was out, and I was the only person available.
“How’s your boy doing, Lamar?” I asked him, making small talk.
“He’s in his final year now of high school. Startin’ to come out of that shell of his. Takin’ a shine to studyin’ paintin’, pottery. Things. Like, of a more artistic nature. Don’t get it, myself. I told him not to bother, but I don’t know he’ll listen to me. Won’t do him no good in a few years, when the whole world goes to hell in a flaming shithouse. I tell ya, soon’s they vote in another Democrat, I myself am packin’ things up, headin’ into the hills. Get a head start on the end of days. Got a good cache set up there already. Provisions. Ammo. Couple years’ worth.” He smiled, “Be able to line up them antifa pussies when they come lookin’ to loot the place. ‘Fore they even know what him ‘em. Be like shootin’ queers at a pride parade.”
“Oh, you’ve been to a pride parade?” I said. “I could see that. So have I. Okay, Lamar, go ahead and drop your pants for me.”
After that gobsmacked hillbilly left, our conversation got me to thinking, Would an art major be able to survive an end-of-world scenario? Not that anyone posed the question. But, shit, I don’t know. I was bored.
Lord knows that conservative simp whose health I barely greenlighted for employment would unflinchingly Rittenhouse his own kid should they find themselves on opposite ends of an issue of national protest, and someone happened to throw a plastic shopping bag in their direction. But to think that people who don’t passively try to will the “end of days” into being with their senseless, Oscar the Grouch outlook on life would have an apocalyptic advantage over those who would rather dance to Lady Gaga than dig a latrine, or sketch a horse rather than ride, steer or slaughter one is a baseless rationale. Let’s go over some of the reasons.
(Again, pretty goddamn bored over here.)
We’ll narrow the field down to college art majors, in particular. They seem to get more flak than anyone who can’t tell a box wrench from an ophthalmoscope, because of all they’ve invested and because so many conservative types love to smugly compare them to trade school graduates, who possess a much higher rate of employment and financial success (not to mention heart disease, COPD, musculoskeletal disorders and risk of on-the-job injury and death).
Art Majors Have Abstract Visualization Skills
Some of the most primitive lifeforms—undoubtedly our primordial ancestors—needed to possess abstract “thinking” and visualization skills to survive and reproduce before having become something else’s breakfast. And our more evolved ancestors needed to possess this skill to have made it through those bumpy, first few hundreds of thousands of years of existence. It’s a crucial evolutionary trait. In fact, possibly the first of note.
And what makes you an “artist” in the first place isn’t how you dress, or walk, or how you speak or flap your wrists, but how you consciously interpret the images your brain takes in, to further that crucial, evolutionary skill. For artists, there is a tendency to be able to take one’s reality and imaginatively reshape and restructure it at will, more so than others who don’t wear them kinds o’ funny clothes.
Abstract visualization was not only important for prehistoric survival, it’s important in science, too. The Roman aqueducts, the Bohr model of the atom, the microchip, levers, pulleys—shit, even the wheel—all of these required the ability to envision something for which there had been no blueprints to follow and which hadn’t existed prior in any way, shape or form. And while he built upon a dearth of research using the mathematical tools that came from his contemporaries and those before him, Einstein enumerated his theory of special relativity by being able to first construct in his mind something that no one had actually ever thought to construct before. Which required a bunch of—you guessed it—abstract thought.
They Likely Know How to Work with Their Hands
Hey, art ain’t easy, despite how useless it may seem when the day comes you’re looking to triage a field of wounded after the final wave of wild pig onslaught, or supervise the polyculture of multiple crop rotation and subsequent conservational tillage of crop residues just so you won’t get rickets next spring. It’s actually work, and the more you actually engage in an activity, with intelligent engagement, the better you get at it. And one of the most useful tools at the end of the world will be knowing how to work with your hands.
Sculpture, painting, pottery—hell, even design: the physical act of art production often has a translational practicality into real life.
Like sewing—you’re gonna need someone to fix those rips. Guaranteed. And make clothes and drapes and portieres and cheese cloths and shit. Not to mention masonry, and also the everyday, random stuff that’s going to need a decent amount of hand / eye coordination. Scorpion fall out of your boots? Art major’s gonna know how to swat that thing with a broom. Wild pig barreling down on you? Art major’s gonna know how line up that rifle. Crows stealing your veggies? Art major’s gonna know how to make a really fanciful scarecrow. Panthers sneaking in and stealing your livestock? Art major’s gonna know how to build you a panther trap. And art major’s gonna know how to lie down on the ground and be a motionless sack of nothing, should a grizzly bear come a-rearin’ and a-sniffin’ and bearin’ its fangs and claws inside your camp.
You better believe it.
Just as they learned to do art, art majors can no doubt learn to do important stuff, too. Stuff that’s actually meaningful after an apocalypse. Because…
They Did Go to College, After All
And despite what many dropouts will tell you, it takes some smarts to get a college degree. And not only that, it takes some smarts to get into college in the first place. And not only that, it takes some smarts (believe it or not) to get into art college in the first place. The term ‘smart’ here being more broadly defined than the whole straight-A student, doctor / lawyer / scientist cliché.
Knowing how to avoid being knifed in a knife fight is a type of intelligence, too.
But more than that, college classrooms aren’t necessarily fruit baskets of the smartest plums plucked from several overlapping demographics—plenty of college graduates don’t have enough sense to come out of a knife fight without looking like a newborn foal, or Sissy Spacek at her prom in Carrie. Or know how to find their way around a big city without a voice-prompted MapQuest (basically, a robot to take them by the hand and walk them through it like they were a four-year old child).
Like any successful executive or highly skilled manager will tell you, it isn’t necessarily how good someone looks on paper, it’s their determination. Which in this case we can translate to: their will to live.
When I was driving a bus, before I got into long haul driving, there was this diesel mechanic who worked on the buses named Raul, a formally trained dancer from Guatemala City who hardly spoke a lick of English. He worked harder than nearly every lazy, bigoted, entitled gringo who used to stand around bullshitting, talking about all the illegals coming over and taking jobs here in the U.S. Raul was out actually doing more for the economy (and his community) while everyone else complained about the parts-runners, custodians, drivers, management, executives and everyone else who may have had a hand in making their golden path of life not absolutely golden.
I was talking to the guy who ran the shop one day—who for years had run his own and was considering going back into business for himself—and he confided in me, while we were both watching Raul work, “I’d hire him in a second. No question. Before any of these lazy son-of-a-bitches,” jerking his head to a group of five of them standing around, on-the-clock, laughing, talking about some goddamn YouTube video they’d watched the night before.
And in a scenario where you have to literally work hard every day to literally wake up the next morning, who would you choose?
College Has the Tendency to Teach You Things You Didn’t Necessarily Go There to Learn
Majoring in both the social and physical sciences as an undergraduate, I inadvertently came out a better writer than I was when I went in. I also came out understanding how to thoroughly research a topic, how to think critically and how to acquire outside resources to aid in the acquisition of knowledge, on top of having to memorize all the other factual (what felt like) bullshit they spent years throwing at me.
So, for example, someone who studied pottery probably knows how to build a fire. Or, at least, they spent a lot of time around one. Probably cooking. Sure, it was clay they were cooking, and it probably didn’t taste very good, but, still, it was something.
And what about the ethic of hard work? School teaches you as well as any loveless Dickensian matriarch or pederastic street grifter about how to succeed in life. And success comes from not only doing, but from never giving up. College pretty much has a rule, after you pay them what they’re owed—like a university legislative body, like a state board of regents, like in Special Forces training, like a street gang membership: you better do what we tell you the way we tell you. Because we basically own you while you’re here. Otherwise, you’re nothing to us. We hold all the cards.
So you learn to work hard, and, being surrounded by people just like you with pretty much the same mentality, you develop a strong sense of competition. And that has real-life applications. You think an art major wouldn’t Rambo-knife you in the back if there’s only one hunk of meat left and two of you? And you thought you’d won that tug of war? Think again, chief. Because…
They Know What It’s Like to Compete to Survive
Sure, plenty of college students just coast by with average grades because their parents tell them, “Sick grandpa will be proud of you if you get a degree, so do it for sick grandpa, because God knows if we have to ask you to do something and it takes you twenty-five times, our corpses would likely have been skeletonized by kites before you would ever get a degree / get a girlfriend / get a real job / move out of here / buy a home / at the very least get on with your fucking life.”
But college can be a Wild West / pirate ship experience for many. By which I mean cutthroat. Believe it or not, getting an undergraduate degree isn’t the end. Like graduating from high school wasn’t the end. Like graduating from grade school wasn’t the end. At those levels they’re (still) teaching you things you’re going to need to know at the next. Because there is a next. Until you get a doctorate.
At which point, you basically become an asshole.
But until then, universities and grad schools continue to funnel in the best, and weed out the worst. That’s why there are fewer and fewer numbers of seats for each new level. That’s also why people think Harvard is such a great place. That, and nothing beats being served an elitist, golden, pork idol sandwich for the rest of your life. And looking fantastic on LinkedIn.
Remember, we’re not talking about coming in to an apocalypse knowing everything about defense and survival. Human beings adapt, and the skills you come in with will help you to potentially adapt all the quicker.
And if you think I’m out of my mind here, that there won’t be a similar-type, hyper competition for survival in an end-of-world scenario, then you obviously need to work a little harder on your abstract thinking skills.