By Timothy Gamble
The Trigger Event - a particularly bad national or international SHTF event which triggers a cascade of other bad events leading to collapse of modern civilization. It is a staple of modern survivalist fiction, and fretted over on prepper discussion boards, blogs, and websites.
The Trigger Event may be just about anything. In Mark Godwin's Economic Collapse Chronicles (an excellent survivalist trilogy, by the way) , the trigger event was government running out of money (and credit) and being unable to load EBT cards. From there a cascading series of related events follows, leading to riots, looting, violence, and ultimately civil war.
In Goodwin's Cyber Armageddon series (another excellent series, this one with cyberpunk overtones), the Trigger Event was a particularly bad cyber attack on the banking system. A cascading series of events follows, leading to a societal collapse.
In the Brushfire Plague series by R.P. Ruggiero, the Trigger Event is the outbreak of a global pandemic, a virulent plague, which leads to the rather quick downfall of civilization as we know it.
And the list goes on. In survivalist books and discussions boards many, many possible Trigger Events are proposed. The collapse of the dollar, a CME event, an EMP event, war, a terrorist attack, a dirty bomb, the arrival of Planet X... Sometimes these events are natural, organic in nature. Other times these events are planned by an evil, selfish elite.
In each case, the idea ia a large-scale SHTF event sets off a series of other really bad events, leading ultimately to a societal collapse. A period of violence, anarchy, and often war follows. After a relatively short period of time (a few months to a few years) the good guys (survivalists, preppers, Constitutionalists, Christians, and other traditional folks) win. Order is eventually restored, with the Republic saved, commonsense reigning over all, and our Rights permanently preserved.
However, there is no guarantee of a Trigger Event. In fact, history shows just the opposite: when civilizations collapse, they collapse slowly, and not as the result of any one event. Take the collapse of the Roman Empire. for example. Historian N. S. Gill writes "The phrase "the Fall of Rome" suggests that some cataclysmic event ended the Roman Empire which had stretched from the British Isles to Egypt and Iraq. But at the end, there was no straining at the gates, no barbarian horde that dispatched the Roman Empire in one fell swoop.
Instead, the Roman Empire fell slowly as a result of challenges from within and without, and changing over the course of hundreds of years until its form was unrecognizable." -- Gill, N. S., The Fall of Rome: How, When, and Why Did It Happen?, October 30, 2019.
Yes, the Roman Empire took hundreds of years to fully collapse. It did not collapse in one sudden, fell swoop. Nor did it collapse due to one major SHTF event. Many generations of people had to live through, endure, the collapse. They experienced many SHTF events, no one of which ended it all. In fact, even to this day historians argue over exactly when the Roman Empire fell, how long it took, and what exactly caused it. But none suggest a sudden end, or any one trigger event.
The Trigger Event of survivalist fantasy has a certain appeal. It is simple and satisfying to point to a single causal event. And a sudden collapse means it is over with relatively quickly, like pulling a band-aid off. The pain is temporary, and then you move on. In survivalist fiction, by the end of the series there is usually a new beginning, or at least hope for a new beginning. But that isn't the lesson of history.
No one wants to think about a lifetime of pain, generations of pain, in which most people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives with no hope of Earthly relief. But, if we are following the Roman Collapse model, that is what we, our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren will face.
Sounds grim. But there is hope if we realize what we are facing, and we prepare ourselves and our families accordingly. Not for some single, major SHTF event which we will eventually come out off. Rather, we need to prepare for generations of dystopia.
***Be sure to read my earlier article Dystopian Survival Skills - A New List for a Dangerous Future if you haven't already. Thanks!
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