ITEM: Social and Behavioral Factors in the Implementation of Local Survival and Recovery Activities (written by William Chenault, Richard Engler and Peter G. Nordhie in August 1967. Published by Human Sciences Research, Inc., of McLean,Virginia. 11x8 87pp+xiipp+3pp. Fine condition. $125
JF Ptak Science Books Post 1430
In the entirety of the text of Social and Behavioral Factors in the Implementation of Local Survival and Recovery Activities (written by William Chenault, Richard Engler and Peter G. Nordhie in August 1967) there is little evidence that its authors fought to rid themselves of their Thesaurus of Obfuscation. A dissected version of their effort would've made for good, clean fun, adding their bits to a Menckenian database of extraordinarily-written governmentese, but since all of this involved surviving thermonuclear war, the "fun" part is obliterated. What, exactly, was it that the authors were trying to accomplish? Perhaps in all of it they weren't constructing anything devious at all--perhaps their incredible assault on meaning was simply written in a language understood by their audience. That, or they really didn't intend to have heard what they were trying to say,, if there was anything that was being said at all. (This report is available from our blog bookstore.)
The baseline to this pamphlet is this: that in a post-thermonuclear war United States there will be survivors; the survivors will have "hardships", but the hardships will be overcome; the key issue is to get survivors to work together to put the country back on its feet militarily and economically; survivors will need "incentives" to work together; the strong will survive, and others will have to be thrown under the bus. There will be worries about compensation for destroyed property, shipping schedules, trust in money, and a certain amount of debt forgiveness. There will be tax--sales tax.
There is no mention of the amount of death or the continuation of the dying in the year or two post-attack, but there is a graph, and the graphs not pretty. It doesn't get very much mention.
“...communities of [nuclear] disaster struck individuals need to define their needs and activities in the immediate context of the community”. pg. 5.
“The tendency of nuclear disaster is to isolate communities..” pg 6
I've written often on this blog1 about spectacularly bad thinking in planning for post-Apocalypse thermonuclear war America, mostly on government/agency reports that write about the impossible being done by survivors in impossible ways, painting the specter of impossibility and liquid death in turgid, unprovable prose.
This study reports of the ways in which American society can survive and rebuild following a devastating nuclear/thermonuclear war. The authors list five consequences of “severe attack”:
#1. Tremendous destruction of property...
#2. Disruption of transportation and shortage of fuel for motive power together with an associated disruption of regional specialization and significant breaks in geographical continuity.
#3. Drastic reorientation of effective economic demand”
#4 . General disruptions of normal interindustry flows
#5. Shortages of technical and professional manpower in some fields.
I particularly like #3. Also the use of words like “shortages” and “disruption”. And why they stopped there I really don't know.
Much of the report is an examination of how to get the surviving elements of society back on its feet via carrot-and-stick methods, coaxing people into working together, with the eventual goal of restructuring the country, building America back again, observing capitalism, the tax codes, exchanging labor exchange units for goods and services.
“Personal and group motivations would continue to be related to economic organization and production as they are in the preattack society” (pg 1)
“It follows that the nature and direction of many recovery activities will be determined by national, not local, requirements” (pg 3)
“Individuals must be motivated to implement policies and perform activities dictated by national economic interests”. (pg 4)
It is assumed that the character of the post-attack country would be pretty much the same as it was before thermonuclear war, and that we all want to return there. The report states that one of the most important elements of that society is the military and its capacity to protect people and industry. Therefore the survivors of nuclear war must be induced to work on a national scale to maintain the military and thus the stability of whatever was left of society, in spite of the fact that “in the heaviest attack, the loss of familiar landmarks, relationships and dependencies would be unsettling to survivors”. (I'm not sure what “dependencies” relates to, whether they are child or the need for pharmaceuticals or the need to watch the news on television. This is unclear.)
Generally, there are a host of activities suggested to compel compliance, depending on where a community is in a 9-part destruction grid. There are incentives like food and water, medical treatment, and of course loan forgiveness. These inducements must be considered because enforcing compliance militarily is not an option, as the report states:
“It is doubtful whether a very widespread employment of a force to secure participation in recovery activities is feasible” (pg 7)
Meaning I guess that the U.S. Armed Forces will no the enforcing mandatory compliance schedules for recovery—or at least they weren't writing about it “preattack”.
But the authors clearly assume that there will be something approximately preattack life in the post-attack world. Amidst the horror and chaos, we read that
“Businessmen, in particular, but others as well, would experience disturbing and subtle changes in familiar institutions and in such bases of mutual trust as methods of establishing or verifying credit...or estimating delivery dates”--pg 11.
“Disturbing and subtle” changes to delivery, indeed.
We further read of “widespread readjustments of status, status symbols, and values” (page 11) which no doubt would come if all of your possessions were burned up, or lost or destroyed in some way, along with the owner. It is definitely difficult to maintain status relationships in the evidence of no status and no relationships. Of course this whole deal is complicated by the issue that status symbols are also relationships and associations, much of which could also be gone in the same fire cloud.
If your valuables and house and such weren't destroyed, then you were expected to go out and work for the community, and not spend your time inside your house protecting it from people who didn't have anything. This issue is sort of addressed here:
"Measures for the control of displaced persons, obviating the necessity of individuals devoting their time to the protection of their homes, represent one form of indirect influence on the motivation of potential workers to abandon maintenance activities." (pg 50).
Which means, I think, that there will be some sort of control or protection so that people don't need to spend their time securing their possessions.
But the thing that will make people work for the greater good, the compliance with the orders of rebuilding the country, will be "economic incentives...or a penalty for nonparticipation)". Payment would be made with money or food. The next incentive: housing, or "more desirable dwelling places for those participating in recovery activities". It remained to be seen though in this report what it was specifically that represented "recovery activities" or how the compensation per work bit was handed out.
One way to raise the necessary capital to fund this post-attack world was through taxes, "a structure of indirect taxes could be developed, with higher rates applied to non-essential goods". (pg 53). On the other hand, just a few paragraphs later, the authors discuss getting rid of an income tax in favor of direct taxes, which means that taxes survive the atomic nightmare.
This continues on and on, a cascade of some wincing ideas tumbling over themselves, settling into a confusing mist of wording and logic that is difficult to translate. Perhaps that was the inention. Perhaps not. There's not much left in the bottom of a smoking, radioactive hole, except for smoke and radiation.
Lastly, I wonder why “post-attack” is hyphenated in these reports and “preattack” isn't?
1. See for example Bad Grandeur, Predicting Post-Nuke USA (1966) and the Loss of 76% of all Authors
The Nonsense of Strategically Meaningful Phrases, Finding Pillows int eh Post-Nuclear Attack World, 1968
Ueber-Spectacular Understatement Department, the Happy Post-Apocalyptic America and the "Awkwardness of Nuclear Holocaust, and others.)