Recipes for disaster

I cannot think of a good meme for this month. I think only about food, and trying to make sure we have enough to eat, because little comes from outside anymore. So I will do my meme about this. Tell me your recipe for disaster: What are you eating and how do you cook it? Perhaps we can help each other with some ideas.

I will give my answer, but first I must tell you something about me. I am an art student, you all know, but you do not know I could be a medical student. I am very good at biology and other sciences in school, but I do not like to dissect the animals, so I choose to study art. This is because one day in school we have to dissect a rat. We are three girls and one rat, and nobody wants to put in the scalpel. When I am tired with arguing, I say “I will do it.” I get ready, and a boy behind me pushes my arm, so the scalpel slips in the gut of the rat and there is rat shit and bad smells coming out, so we jump back and we are screaming, and he is laughing, and that is biology class – boys laughing, girls squealing and waving hands in front of our faces, and covering our mouth to look around and see which boy is laughing at us the most.

I always love animals, and my cat loves me too, because he brings to me a present – a big present – adult rat, almost 30cm! Now, I feed you, he says. We have very little protein now in our food, with only noodles, rice and some little beans in the store, and sometimes a stew with the lab animals and vegetables we farm, but not much to go around. I am very hungry. The rat smells bad, but looks healthy (except dead). I know it can have many bad diseases and fleas. I wear a mask and gloves to pick it up, and I put plastic on top of the table, and get a sharp knife. If you see me, you will think I am a vet doing a surgery. I think of the dissecting lesson at school, and when the knife touches the skin I am squealing a little. Then I get a feeling, like I am two people, and one is squealing and the other is standing next to her and says: “What is the matter with you? You organise a quarantine. You sit all night with a dead girl in the next room. You bury a hundred people. This is just a dead rat.”

This is when I know I can do this. I am not scared, and I am not squeamish. Truly, I never was. At school, I am squealing because the other girls are squealing. But I am not that girl. Maybe the others are not that girl, too. That girl is not real, and now my life is too real, I cannot pretend to be that girl.

So I am skinning and gutting and washing and cooking my rat with a little cabbage in a little water on the tiny stove in my room, because I cannot go to the big kitchen with private food. I know others do this sometimes, but even though I no longer go to the meetings, I am seen with the committee and must be an example. I put a little in a bowl for the cat, and then I eat everything to the bones. It is not the best, but when you are hungry, everything tastes good. The cat does not agree; he looks at me to say, “I expect better from you.”
“You are right,” I say. “I should be a medical student.”

Maybe if we are still here next year, if lectures begin again, I will transfer.


Building for the future

Whenever we get used to our lives now, there is a new threat to us. The government want to make student campuses into a base for the army. They offer us money, food and electricity in return for this, but we provide these things ourselves now. Our first crops are ready to eat, and science students breed their laboratory animals for some meat – rabbits and others that eat grass are easy for us to keep. The cat is very pleased about this because I can feed him some small piece of rabbit or guinea pig, but I hope he will stay away from the rodent runs. Somebody on the forum says they have seen cats on the campus – I did not say I have been feeding him, as many would see this as a waste, and maybe think the cat is dangerous or can spread disease. I say cats should be allowed to live on campus because they kill the rats and mice, and these spread disease and will eat our food stores.

We wait for as long as we can, but today, we send our answer to the army – we say no, we will keep control on the campus. Soldiers may join us, but they must give up their weapons when they come in, and we will search them for anti-virals and put them each in a quarantine room for 28 days. We wait for their answer, and prepare for what they may do next, but their numbers are small now – many have died in the uprisings in Southern and Eastern provinces. Zhen spoke in favour of refusing the army at a general meeting, and we voted with him. The party members resent that he wins the election and refuses to join the party. They start to say it is weakness that Zhen cannot make a big decision without a vote, that he is not confident in his opinion without the students behind him and will not act like a leader when it is what we need. They begin now to campaign for allowing the army to take over the campus, and say we will have a better organisation this way. Most do not listen to them – we never have any problems with organisation so far – everybody does their jobs well, or tells us if they cannot so we can find somebody else. I say “we”, like I am one of the leaders, and I think many see me this way. I am not in an elected position like Zhen and Li, but I am always with them and do so many organising tasks, and they talk to me about their decisions and respect what I say. They say I must stand in the next election, and I feel more confident now, but still I don’t think I want to do this. I almost want to be back in the quarantine, when all the decisions happen on the forum and everybody is just trying to make the campus work, not to win against another person.

I do not worry about the Party. They fall in many provinces, and they do little now for the people in Beijing. Food growing and delivery is run by local people as much as the army, and is more efficient and a better quality. There is a will to resist, and in the past weeks many speak of 1989. Normally, we cannot commemorate our past resistance, but there is nobody to suppress student protest this year, and so we honour our parents’ resistance and celebrate our own, with hope for the future.

Thinking about hope for the future, there is another quiz from the person who did the disaster meme. Which Utopia are you Building? My answer:

Anarchist Communism in a scarcity environment, e.g. Annares in The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Anarchist Communism in a scarcity environment, e.g. Annares in The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

You know that society will never be perfect, but you also know that it can be a lot better than it is now. You can’t eliminate human fallibility, but you can put processes and fail-safes in place so that a society can weather a reasonable amount of petty-mindedness, self-indulgence and indolence, without resorting to the hierarchies that make vices or privileges of them. Most importantly, you recognise that the revolution is never over, and a utopia is not a stagnant society but one that’s free to change and develop its ideals, its processes and its technology towards ever greater freedom for all.

See the story behind this quiz at

Take the quiz: Which Utopia are you building?

Making Manifestos

Outside the campus, people continue to die from the flu. The power often is out for many hours now. We have set up the solar array on the library building to charge batteries and the UPS for the forum servers. Though we can hold meetings now in the big auditorium, the forum is used to record decisions and rota changes that are too complex to keep on paper, so it is very important we save our batteries for this. We each have a bicycle generator to charge batteries for handsets and homesets in an emergency, but this also uses our food energy, and we strictly ration the remaining supplies. Food from outside is very expensive and risky to collect. Agriculture and botany students will grow crops in all green spaces on campus. We pull up many flower beds and ornamental grasses to make space for cabbage, potatoes and beans, add some earth from the sides of the lake, and even plant some weeds in the water that have many vitamins to eat and make the water more clean. When we filter the water for drinking, the sediment is used for a fertiliser. It is very clever, but it will be many months before we can eat what we now grow.

We did not yet announce to the press that the quarantine is finished, but of course many tell their friends and family and it is reported in Beijing Newsnets. Some plan to return to their families, even though they risk infection. Most of us wish to keep the campus as a safe haven, and continue the Quarantine Movement. There is a big debate in our meeting now: will we set up a quarantine area to allow others in and let them join us when we know they have no disease? Some are against allowing in others, as we cannot know if they use anti-virals and remain infectious, or if they will try to take over. We argue for many hours, but we know that others can use force to get in. At least if we set up a way for others to enter safely, we keep control of the campus.

We will have endless meetings and discussions, and then nominate those with the best ideas to make a manifesto for running the campus. There is a group of Party members we were afraid will want to bring in the authorities after the quarantine, but even they agree an election will be the best and quickest way to decide who is in charge now. They want all students to join the party so they may vote, and all candidates to work with the party. It is more practical than really political – a compromise to do what we will do anyway, but not antagonise the Party outside. Many of us are still very angry at how they treat us before the quarantine and we refuse to join the party, so this will cause conflict. So much has broken down outside, there is a large group within the Quarantine Movement saying it is time for a revolution, to overthrow the party – they do not decide yet whether it is a revolution for democracy or for communism or for something else. I think we made decisions more easily on the forum, with an open discussion, and although we argue a lot we can all say what we want to, and then take a poll to decide. I say this to Li, and she says I should make this my manifesto. I laugh, really laugh for the first time in five weeks, until I am crying. I already moderate three forums, design the memorial garden, organise the cooking rota, write many press releases and answer hundreds of e-mails every week, as well as all the security, food, water and cleaning duty I have on the rota. Where will I find time to be a leader? I am too busy running this place!

So this is my meme for April: What is your manifesto for living in a time of disaster? How should your government respond to a Blood Flu outbreak? If you are in charge, what will you do? Or if you do not want to be in charge, then what is the manifesto you will trust? Who will you vote for?

Our quarantine begins

Today is the lantern festival, but like New Year public gathering is forbidden, we are told to stay indoors and not meet in big numbers. Still, people release lanterns from their windows and balconies. Why would people risk so much to break this rule? There is a lot to wish for. The socnets are on fire with virtual lanterns – so many people, all wishing for the same thing. For us, in the campus, we wish for the next 28 days to pass quickly.

Our last meeting decided we cannot wait until more Beijing people begin to fall ill. A medical advice team, mostly postgraduate students but also Li and even some lecturers, produce a leaflet about precautions. The face masks we all wear have little use, both the cheap and expensive ones – it is like holding out water with a sieve. They say we must quarantine the whole campus, and today we agree this and we close our gate. We have enough food. If we allow nobody into the campus for 28 days, this will prove that nobody here is infected, and then we will ask to be allowed to leave Beijing and go to our families. We plan this for a long time, but I could not say on even a private post to my friends. We know that there must be crisis outside before we can safely do this and be left alone for long enough to set up what we need.

If this will work, we must keep the campus secure. Others may try to join us, or police may try to remove us since we do not have the authority to take over the campus: this is not only a quarantine, but occupation. We hope the authorities will see that it is a good plan, and leave us alone, but we are prepared for them to try to take control.

Nobody is to come in the walls for 28 days. People can leave, but then they cannot come back inside. This morning, we close the gates and post signs saying not to come in, notices explaining what we do. We try to avoid any political words, as this will bring attention we do not want, but we know it is impossible to do this without opposing the authorities.

We did not tell the press before as we do not want the news to spread very fast – this will only bring people wanting to join us or stop us. But we know the news will spread, and we prepare to make statements when they come to us. I am a part of the press team – we will answer questions to the university socnet pages and we have a loud speaker ready to speak to journalists from behind the gates.

Inside the quarantine, we have agreed our rules, and these are put on leaflets all over the campus. Everybody now has a private room. This is a great luxury, when in normal term-time we are four people in every room – but also lonely, since we must all live very separately now, with no close contact. We have
a rota for distributing food to the rooms, and a timetable for using washing rooms. When we leave the room we wear gloves and a mask – not to stop us catching the virus but to stop us spreading it by a door handle or light switch. We have a strict procedure for washing – use hand gel and spray the sink before turning the tap, then wash, then disinfect the sink, then disinfect hands before turning the tap again.

We communicate through a private forum on a secure Socnet – all the homesets in the rooms are now secure, and we all make sure our handsets are secure, too, and keep these charged up in case of a power cut. We have a medical team running the advice forum, also forums for sharing recipes and practical advice, a forum for every kind of studies where people can share notes and arrange lectures on SkIMp, forums for social chatting and for playing games. This will keep us from feeling too isolated.

A new meme for the month: It is maybe a little depressing for you, but important to me now to know that my friends are prepared. When we first hear of the Blood Flu, we say that this is just Vietnam, and I never think of it coming to China. Then it came to Guanxi, and I did not think it would come to anybody I know. Then there was Anhui, and everybody I know was cut off from me, and still I think Beijing will be safe. Only now is this real for me, and I know that many of you think, like I did, that this is a long way away, this is a China thing, you are safe. I hope you are right, but I want you to believe, for this meme, that you are wrong. I ask you all to say what you will do now so you will be safe when the Blood Flu reaches your country, and to do these things even if you think this is silly. This is the one thing you can do at this time to help me. I feel safer to know others will be safe.

Which apocalypse I will survive…

Today, just a quick post – this quiz about how you will survive disaster is going around the students now.  I know it will seem strange that we do a funny meme about disaster at this time, but I think the silliness of it helps us to deal with our fears.

Here is my result:

You Will Survive: Nuclear War

You Will Survive: Nuclear War

Your disaster forces you to take refuge in some kind of sealed shelter – let’s hope you get on with your fellow survivors, because you’re going to be holed up together for a long time.

Your answers show you have a strong sense of community, and will keep the group from turning on itself. Given your distaste for any kind of violence or conflict, you wouldn’t survive out on your own – but then, you probably wouldn’t see the point in that anyway. You might even succeed in building a better society – but will you be able to hold onto it when the doors open and you face the ruins?

See the story behind this quiz at

Which apocalyptic disaster will you survive?