Society will be rebuilt, eventually. Everyone must concern themselves with the basics of life: food, shelter, water. You, however, are different from the rest. Though you consume these goods— and voraciously— you will not produce them. Your contribution, inspired by the muses and guided by sensibility, comes from a higher place. You are a bohemian.
While the rest of the survivors band together and work to figure out how to construct driftwood houses or roast grubs or cockroaches for meals, you are to cultivate a rare flower from the old way of life— the counter culture! Bohemians, in their unconventionality, provide a service integral to any society, be it natural, multi-national or post-apocalyptic. Establishing themselves as a subculture, they thereby define the very mass-culture they will soon push against. For would a rose smell as sweet without a li'l stinker to sour your nose? This is the gift of the Bohème.
The hippies, the hipsters, the punks, the outsiders. They know all too well how to endure the end of their world. They have watched their underground rock venues converted to rockin' menswear stores; their DIY clubs, demolished for magazine subscription call centers- or even worse, graphic design studios. They wept when their neighborhoods were lost, and when their flophouses were replaced by lifestyle lofts— though not, you can be sure, when those lifestyle lofts were later reduced to charred rubble. For the bohèmes knew it was time, at last, for the mad ones to dance in the streets.
The following is not a list of rules— don't get me started on rules!— but a collection of tips, tricks, maxims and lifehacks for anyone trying to live as a nonconformist in a world where there is nothing left to conform to. Stay funky out there.
1. Thrive on Chaos
Whenever infrastructure crumbles, social norms quickly follow. It is important not only to remain unfazed, but to find it all very cool. This should come naturally. As a bohemian, you have questioned the status quo for as long as you can remember. This will be the perfect time to differentiate yourself from the herd. Let others panic or decry mass anarchy. You will express that this unbridled freedom is exactly what you always hoped for. To you, the chaos in the streets mirrors the chaos within the atelier of an artist. Destruction is but a creative opportunity.
Your pre-apocalypse proclivities for an off-the-grid lifestyle may have helped you survive the early, most violent stages of the world’s end. You were wrapped snuggly in your yurt or geodesic dome, in splendid isolation, but now that things have calmed down, it is time to reintegrate with humanity. Moving to a big city has always been a rite of passage for all curious, counter-culturally minded individuals. At the end of the world, the biggest city may be little more than an encampment with half a dozen families. Still, it's a start. Bohèmes thrive on the fringe, and the most vibrant fringe always belongs to the city. Where so many live in such close quarters, you will always find that lovely excess of crevices, seams, nooks, crannies, and shadows where the bohemian prefers to hide, with plenty of leftover crumbs for them to squirrel away.
As civilization is still being hammered together from scrap heap parts and unrecognizable miscellany, scarcely able to unify itself into any cohesive shape, much less to tend to its restless souls, the bohemian will step in to provide a much-needed riposte. Let others say: “Here's a problem— how do we fix it?” Instead the Bohème suggest: “I've got a different point of view. I say we steer the ship off course. Perhaps we need to get lost to get found.”
4. Do It For Me
The Makers, DIYers, Tinkerers and Craftspersons will be the Queens and Kings of this new landscape. They will provide the tools, the foundation, and above all the guidance for the growing new community. You don't want to rule, however; you want to speak truth to power. You don't want to make mirrors; you want to appropriate one in order to turn it back on society. Establish yourself as somebody who provides no material skill, no physical advantage. It is your mind, your personal style, your wit— your je ne sais quoi— that you bring to the group. Given any opportunity to contribute to society, it is your duty to express yourself with gesture, syncopation, satire and absurd juxtaposition.
5. Associate Yourself With a Local Beverage
Every society is organized around its beverages. Once the food supply reaches a surplus, some of it inevitably goes bad, and from this each society will discover a moldy fermented liquid to brew into a revivifying, psychoactive beverage. From alcohol to coffee to kombucha, every individual in society alters their perception with a mind- altering nectar. As a bohemian with a skewed perspective on life, it's crucial to maintain a near-permanent altered state, thus you will need to develop a close association with whatever local beverage your community has chosen to brew. The coffee houses of the days past may now seem like mythic bohemian temples of splendor and excess, whose aromas have yet to fully fade from your nostrils, but there will always be some analog where the counter-culture can hang out. That hangout, now, may be a circle of people huddled around the hollowed-out tire rim where the gatorade wine is being brewed, or maybe if you're lucky, instant coffee sipped under a blue tarp lean-to.
6. Befriend the Elite
The life of the bohemian is a constant cycle between extreme scarcity and hedonistic decadence. To allow for the laid-back life of introspection and relaxation that defines the bohemian schedule, outside support is a necessity. This will be even truer after the world ends. Every encampment will have an apex predator; you will become their remora fish. They will give you food, drink, clothing and warmth. You, in turn, will provide them entertainment, aesthetic experiences and above all, the intangible benefit of an enviable cultural status. It is, however, a delicate dance to establish a relationship of patronage and not servitude. Your elite friend must be entertained by you enough to want your company, to share their abundant resources, but not find your presence so invaluable as to put you— quite literally in these times of extremes— under lock and key. The elite must prize you not only for what you produce, but for the delirious freedom that allows you to produce it.
7. Keep Waving Your Freak Flag
All that really matters is that you keep doing you. When the cultural references used to establish your personal identity have all burned down, the only sense of self you have left is your own internal funk. As long as there remains a scrap of wire to flamboyantly wrap around your neck and a few chunks of rubble to artfully arrange, bohemia will live on.
Nick DeMarco, November 2015