Oh my. What has changed? What has changed. Anybody who wants to, can just look on Wikipedia to see what life used to be like, but ever since I turned 80, people have wanted to know what life used to be like. For those of us geezers who lived through it, the world still seems a little weird. A little sci-fi, I suppose. I think that, when we talk, some of that slips out, and kids can feel how different it was.

When I was a kid, my grandmother told me stories about the Blitz. It was about a year of bombs raining down from the sky. They got used to the air raid sirens, the patchy power outages, and the periodic feel of earthquakes around them. When she told me about that, I could barely believe it. I’d grown up in America, in the early 2000s, and the closest thing I had to compare it to was the twin towers attack. When those things happen, people adapt. They survive. They change their lives. And if it lasts long enough, it becomes the new normal.

So, anyway, I’m rambling now. It started with Covid. Corvid? Damn, I can never remember. You can look it up if you want, but it was basically a massive plague that took out a chunk of the population. I don’t like to think about how much. You had your hoarders who locked themselves up with ammo and face masks. You had your morons who refused to take any precautions because they believed they were fighting for freedom. . . the freedom to kill others, I guess.

After Covid, there were a couple of other “novels” that people weren’t prepared for. Luckily, though, we had learned the basics of dealing with them. Telling everybody to stay home, keep clean water and food on hand, all that stuff. More people survived those. We got good at it.

Of course, by that time, people were used to being home-bound. See, before that, before Covid, we were all about getting around. People wanted to try out new restaurants, go to concerts with thousands of people, take vacations overseas, all that. But after the novels, people didn’t care as much about it. I mean, wanderlust is a part of human makeup, and there’s always people who want to go out and push new frontiers. But before Covid, we treated them like heroes. After that, there was this distaste for them, like they were the same kinds of idiots who went with huge crowds out to the beaches.

Here’s something fun. Go back and watch the movies before and after 2020. The movies before then were all about going to strange and exotic locales, fighting foreigners, discovering new planets, that kind of thing. After 2020, all the movies switched to people who worked together in small groups or online to save their neighborhoods. Spiderman was raised up to the level of a freaking god, because he basically stood for watching over a neighborhood instead of saving the world.

One thing most people don’t think about. Before the novels, most people grouped their world into Nation, State, City, Home. They didn’t really think about local counties or neighborhoods. But after that, once people got used to being stuck in their small communities, that level of division changed. Now people think more like City, Neighborhood, Home.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. The UN is still out there, the federal government still makes noises once in a while, but the real seat of power is in the states now. When the novels started hitting us, the people started looking to the most powerful force in the country, the Federal government. No, really. They handed down edicts and had massive control over states. The problem was that they bungled the Covid. I’m not gonna get too political about it, because you can look up president 45 if you want to see how that worked.

State governors and average people could see that the chain of command had fallen apart. Legislators were incapable of dealing with an emergency due to their bickering, and the president gave contradictory info that was sometimes flat out lies, so people gave up hope on them. Meanwhile, governors were mobilizing troops, ordering people to stay quarantined, that sort of thing. Even after the crises were over, the states still had more power than the federal government. It was just a question of trust. A government is only as powerful as the people who believe in it. By the time the novels had dropped to safe levels, and over half of the states released the mandate to pay federal income tax, the federal government became an advisory body to make suggestions to states.

People had gotten used to two main things. Their neighbors and the network. With the network, they had access to all the people of the world. As long as they didn’t touch. With neighbors, you have a group of people that you know are “safe” because nobody strayed too far.

People started moving out to the rural land, bringing their network connection with them. No more concentrated cities of power. No more red states and blue states. They settled on small groups of about fifty people per neighborhood. They started out separated by racial and religious groups, but even those were spread around as the new settlements got started. Every neighborhood worked to have their own self-sufficiency. They encouraged kids to learn how to be doctors, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, all from the network at home. They held potlucks so they could get out and see other people without taking their chances with strangers.

That was when we got the pebble reactors, I think. One on every street corner. A thirty-foot long lozenge shoved deep into the ground. They have about five feet of concrete surrounding a isotope that gets bombarded with . . . heh. You know how a pebble reactor works. Never mind. The point is that every neighborhood had what they needed to light up the entire place for decades, without costing more than a few hundred thousand. Even that was just to supplement the solar and wind power that sprang up when neighborhoods started taking pride in their self-sufficiency.

When you take about ten neighborhoods, you get a city. It was just a larger group of people. They would have a get-together once or twice a year, where neighborhoods could meet with strangers that were more or less safe. It was like a fair, with rides and dances and that sort of thing. It’s still considered the event of the year in most places.

They also gave neighborhood leaders a chance to talk, air grievances, that sort of thing. Every neighborhood paid in for a local police office and fire station. Everybody wanted to house them in their neighborhood. They all wanted to talk about bartering prices and whether the city should mandate how much different things were worth. It was mostly good natured, little things. Because, if they knew anything, it was that they needed each other to survive.

There were still some “national” services that held sway over everyone. Delivery services became crucial, as well as the farms. While we used to hate the “superfarms” with robots and copywritten genetic produce, the situation changed after. There were two camps then. Neighborhoods who had enough know-how and space to provide their own food, and the ones that ordered straight from the source.

The network, too, became indispensable. When I was growing up, there was this one long cable that went all around the world, connecting everybody. It was like a root, with branches all over the place so that they could reach the cities and homes. But after the neighborhoods started taking care of themselves, they started making their own version of the network. Instead of being tied to the big cable, they started tying their connections to local cities. And, after a decade or so, all those connections started looking more like a spider’s web, and less like a root. Now, every neighborhood has their own big computer with ridiculous processing power and petabytes of storage. Everybody gets their own little wireless terminal that ties to it, and as long as they keep it maintained, those things are pretty rock solid.

Oh, I mentioned the police, didn’t I? Yeah. You had about twenty guys for every city, which doesn’t seem like much, but the whole “neighborhood family” thing made it much less likely for people to hurt or steal from each other. You had to walk a long way to find a stranger, just to steal from them.

And cars. We used to all have cars. I mean, really. Every family had one or two cars that all ran on gas. What? Gas. Petroleum. Oil, whatever. After we all started relying on the neighborhood, there didn’t seem to be much point in having them. These days, every neighborhood has one or two electric vans that they use to go out to trade with the others.

And, of course, we still have money. When I was a kid, it was this fiat money that was based on paper with these exquisite designs on them. But, of course, as soon as the federal government started losing control, people started using a more stable form of currency. One that wasn’t based on a government. You know, when I was a kid, the government could just change the price of a dollar by printing more money or changing the interest rate that everybody had to agree to? Madness.

So, now we have that blockchain nonsense. It’s not based on anything but numbers really, and most people don’t use it in their daily lives. It’s mostly to round out the cost of something. Like, one dinette set is worth one chicken plus a half a coin. When neighborhoods hire people from other neighborhoods, they often do it in coin because neighborhood prices vary.

Oh, there’s so much. The strangest thing about it, I think, is the fact that it doesn’t feel weird anymore. I look around and I see the neighborhood as an extended family. We take joy in a neighbor’s new child, and we all mourn the death of a friend together. When one of the kids gets his medical doctorate or trade school masterpiece, we all take pride in them, and let him know they will be cherished at home.

And it feels normal. The strangest thing to me is that this is normal now.

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