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What if things just keep getting worse?
January 28, 2009 6:21 PM   Subscribe

"Civilization is Just a Thin Veneer. In the absence of law and order, men quickly revert to savagery. As was illustrated by the rioting and looting that accompanied disasters in the past three decades, the transition from tranquility to absolute barbarism can occur overnight. People expect tomorrow to be just like today, and they act accordingly. But then comes a unpredictable disaster that catches the vast majority unprepared. The average American family has four days worth of food on hand. When that food is gone, we'll soon see the thin veneer stripped away."

It's getting ugly. Very ugly.

What if things just keep getting worse?

James Wesley, Rawles will be prepared.

Just how many guns will you need? If you are on a budget, you might get by with a good quality bolt action rifle chambered in .308 or .30-06, a 12-gauge pump shotgun with a spare riotgun barrel, a .22 LR rifle, and a .45 automatic pistol. However, in order to have the versatility required for the many shooting tasks at most farms and ranches you will likely need at least twice this many guns.

Lots more advice here. (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (179 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
panic will help.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:23 PM on January 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


One of the most annoying artifacts of a recession like this is the insurgence of fringe group crazies and their end-days ideologies. It's scary when otherwise reasonable people start giving serious thought to them.
posted by spiderskull at 6:27 PM on January 28, 2009 [24 favorites]


Don't look up. You'll get pieces of sky in your eyes.
posted by cytherea at 6:29 PM on January 28, 2009 [33 favorites]


It's not how many guns you have, but how good you are with them and how much ammo you've got.

I dunno, as long as one can survive the initial upheaval, I think that not being an asshole is pretty important (unless you're The Asshole) so you can make longer-term allies to protect yourself against The Asshole and their mob followers.
posted by porpoise at 6:32 PM on January 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


"See their morals, their code: it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down these, uh, these civilized people...they'll eat each other.

See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."
posted by weston at 6:32 PM on January 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


I love a good pockyclipse as much as the next guy, but this is fucking crazy talk from a fucking crazy loon.
posted by dersins at 6:34 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mistah Kurtz - he dead.

One of the most annoying artifacts of a recession like this is the insurgence of fringe group crazies and their end-days ideologies.

I had a long discussion with a friend about this whole sort of syndrome late in '99. He opined, and I've come to adopt a similar notion, that some folks, deep down, want it all to collapse. With so many daily demands on our attention, just seeing it all go away and getting back to fulfilling basic requirements might seem like a gigantic relief.
posted by jquinby at 6:35 PM on January 28, 2009 [47 favorites]


People are assholes...this is new?
posted by scarello at 6:35 PM on January 28, 2009


What I would like to know is, where do survivalists get their money? An awful lot of this stuff seems to be terribly expensive. I get that you can pinch pennies and learn to cook in a thermos (don't laugh, it actually works and is handy), but off-grid electrical systems are quite costly. Guns aren't cheap, either.

Are they whackos who happen to be wealthy and into the survivalist lifestyle? Are they running guns and drugs? Are they hitmen? I just cannot figure it.
posted by adipocere at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


If I spent lots of time and personal resources building up a huge store of food supplies and guns because I was sure that the day of reckoning was going to come sooner or later, I'd look down my nose on the poor fools with only 4 days worth of food, too. Because to do otherwise would be to concede that my passtime was a somewhat paranoid affectation, and it's much more useful to claim that you're just biding your time until everyone will realize how smart you are, and who'll be laughing then, amirite?
posted by deanc at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


Fuck defending myself. Come the collapse of the State, I'm running towards the first machete-wielding despot I can find.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


My preferred plan is to lure looters into a giant abattoir that also functions as a solar still to extract water from their spilled blood.

Seriously though, if you are adopting this kind of survivalist strategy you'd better be in a roving gang of likeminded thugs, or you are going to be outflanked and outgunned no matter what kind of non-military hardware you have available to you. All these survivalists act like the nuclear family is the only group you can trust if the shit hits the fan. They may be right about the trust issue, but no man is an island, and no one can wage a war on their own with no supply or recruitment.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:37 PM on January 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


I love a good pockyclipse as much as the next guy, but this is fucking crazy talk from a fucking crazy loon

There's nothing crazy about it. Look at how much survival gear he's selling through that site. His whole schtick is an obvious marketing angle.
posted by fatbird at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if there is a mass panic, I think the people who will be hurt most are actually the survivalists. It's a mistake to underestimate the intelligence of the hordes, and people will quickly figure out where food and supplies are. Good luck holding onto that solar system, larder, and livestock when there's a dozen well-armed groups on your fenceline waiting you out. I think the people who would truly survive are those who know how to travel light and live like a nomad, and those who quickly fall in with a well-provisioned, aggressive gang.

Slow panic, like the Great Depression, all that's out the window. Your rural farm will probably see you through.
posted by crapmatic at 6:40 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


16.) "Why do your write your name with a comma in the middle? (James Wesley, Rawles). I've only seen commas before when people write their names backwards, with their surname first, like on rosters."

I use the comma to make a distinction between my Christian name, and my family name. My Christian name (James Wesley) is my property. My family name (Rawles) is the common property of all those that share the Rawles bloodline, and our wives.
It's mine, goddamit! Mine mine mine!
posted by Flunkie at 6:40 PM on January 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


Another thing...my dad told me about a guy he knew from way back who was into all this survival stuff. He had food stockpiled, water, the whole works. I can't even remember what it was he was trying to survive. This had to be during the mid 70s. Anyway, at one point, he asks my old man:

"So, just what are you going to do when _____ happens?"

Dad says:

"I'm coming over to your place to kill you and take your food, now that I know where I know where to find some."

That was pretty much the end of the discussion.
posted by jquinby at 6:43 PM on January 28, 2009 [37 favorites]


Honestly whats the point. If society collapses, I am going to find a nice quiet ditch and fade out. OH MY CONTINUING SURVIVAL IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. No it's not you egocentric twat.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:45 PM on January 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


In a real catastrophe, most people want to band together to help each other as best they can. In Katrina, a huge group of refugees, all banded together trying to help each other escape the devastation, was turned back at a bridge by a small group of angry cops from a rich nearby suburb, cops who thought like survivalists. That everybody wants to take your stuff and you'd best be ready to shoot to kill to protect your stuff.

This is the left and the right in a nutshell. The people who want to band together so that everybody can help everybody else, and the people terrified of somebody else taking their precious stuff, and ready to protect it at all costs.

There are always rumors of atrocities when there is a disaster, a breakdown of order, because people want to protect the Hobbesean myth of a basically vicious humanity barely held in check by a civilizing force imposed by authority. Few of them turn out to be true. But the belief that everyone's just one earthquake away from violent savagery is so very, very precious to so many people and institutions....

Went off on a rant there. Survivalists to me seem like a concentrated, caricatured picture of everything that plagues society.
posted by edheil at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2009 [112 favorites]


When the last big blackout hit NYC in 2003 it was civil, friendly, gentle. People were kind and considerate with each other.

When there was war in Bangladesh, a million mostly Muslim refugees arrived in mostly Hindu Calcutta. The locals welcomed them, set up soup kitchens, found a way for everyone to survive under the circumstances.

People can also be kind and good with each other in a crisis.

On the other hand, if one has the place to store it, $620 can buy one person a year's worth of dehydrated food in 13 buckets. Or other variations.
posted by nickyskye at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2009 [21 favorites]


Yes, yes, Hobbes, life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. But, so am I.
posted by piratebowling at 6:50 PM on January 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ah, where are the Holnists when we need 'em?
posted by aramaic at 6:58 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, in this apocalypse of yours: will there be beer? Good beer? Or at least whiskey?

Because if there won't, you will have to go on and play without me.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:58 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


US unemployment by year, or, "why the premise of this post is moronic."
posted by sergeant sandwich at 7:00 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The end of the world better not come before domed cities and terry cloth robes and co-ed jacuzzi sessions and promises of Sanctuary and rituals of renewal.
posted by billysumday at 7:00 PM on January 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think we all know this is going to be the most surreal apocalypse ever. Who wants to live it out and see a bunch of remains everywhere. I want to go while I'm staring in wide eyed amazement at people stepping over huddled teeming crowds of shivering bodies, still trying to commute. People waiting at gas stations overnight 40 deep, just in case. People using broken pieces of glass to apply makeup. And great hoardes of die hards gathered together for warmth in the candlelit library, one frail looking librarian reading from a coverless book as a mother quiets her ... shit, that's the combined plot of like every dystopian sci-fi movie I've ever seen.

Bring on the end times, man. As long as everybody goes through it and the poor crash the gates of the wealthy and bring us all even more or less, I think it'll be horribly awesome.
posted by cashman at 7:03 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


In the absence of law and order, men quickly revert to savagery.

Bullshit. This is one of those strains of thinking which people use to hoard guns and food as part of some survivalist fantasy. This line of thinking has little to do with either the historical record, and ignores examples of places with a low-level of order today.

In history: The City of Rome, where most of Western Civilization traces its ancestry did not have a police force and troops weren't allowed in the city... it probably contained a couple of hundred thousand people and it had large number of foreigners who were trading and visiting. Modern Policing, didn't emerge in London until around 1830 - and it was very controversial: people thought that police would only react to crime, and restrict liberty. "Law and Order" largely derives from a basic human need to get along. Most of our great-great-grandparents were born into a world with very few police... humanity survived before law and order.

In the present: If you go to fairly dangerous and crime ridden places today, like South African townships you won't find Mad Max. You'll find people who band together, and try to take care of each other as best as they can and while the criminal element is present (in part because it has no where else to go) most people help to keep an eye on their neighbors and protect each other. Word travels among people like crazy, and everyone knows who the bad apples are and tries to avoid trouble. Otherwise people go to their jobs, raise their kids, watch tv and listen to the radio, visit each other, sleep and eat like normal people everywhere - this all takes place in a country that is as divided and well-armed as any.

We have some great examples of man's inhumanity to man, but on the whole we don't revert to savagery on a large scale. People are social animals, and we will normally try to maintain the pack. The farmer and the baker are essential to me getting my daily bread and protecting them also protects me... most people, eras, and cultures have understood this.
posted by Deep Dish at 7:07 PM on January 28, 2009 [53 favorites]


$620 can buy one person a year's worth of dehydrated food in 13 buckets. Or other variations.

"Dehydrated food" is even a bit of a stretch. Self-sufficiency: when you need to use the internet to pay someone else to pour rice, flour, and beans into plastic buckets for you.

Dehydrated - Year Supply Basic Food Storage Unit For One, 13-6 Gal Super Pail Buckets, 3-Hard Red Wheat, 2-Hard White Wheat, 1-Small White Beans, 1-Instant Milk, 1-Pinto Beans, 3-White Rice, 1-Black Bean, 1-Quick Oats, #10 cans 1-shortening, 1-baking soda,1-Baking Powder,1-Iodized Salt,2-White Sugar, #2.5 cans 1-Beef Bullion, 1-Chicken Bullion, 3 packages of Yeast, 1 Lid Remover. 2372 calories per day.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:08 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Back in 1990 I was on a bulletin board that a friend ran where a bunch of guys who considered themselves survivalists hung out. Anyhow, that December Iben Browning has predicted that the New Madrid vault was going to let go and these guys were eating this up. Nailing things to walls, stocking up on stuff, and naturally predicting those of us who weren't were all going to diiiiiieeeee and not to come crying to them.

In case you missed it, the fateful day came and went without anything remarkable taking place.

About six months later my friend told me that the survivalist guy he worked with (which is how they came to be on his bulletin board in the first place) looked at the predicted scenario, looked at giant pile of survivalist gear he had amassed, and decided that the one thing that would get him through a huge earthquake was....wait for it....

A Reproduction Katana!

Every so often I try to wrap my head around that decision. So far, the best I can come up with is that there were some pages missing in his book between the earthquake section and the zombie apocalypse section.

And yes, I do kind of wonder what he thinks he ought to bring to a recession.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:11 PM on January 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


However, in order to have the versatility required for the many shooting tasks at most farms and ranches you will likely need at least twice this many guns.

I spend a lot of time in the very rural west, where there are very few people, fewer police, and quite liberal firearms rules. A lot of survivalists (including quite a few of the more famous ones who made their money writing books on the subject) have moved to these areas, for exactly those reasons.

The funny thing, at least to the casual visitor but probably not to the survivalists, is how poorly they fit in the rural west. Yes, there are few police and lots of guns, and everyone likes it that way... but the other side of that coin is a healthy mistrust of outsiders who talk about "batteries" of firearms being essential to running a farm or ranch. Yes, every ranch I've been on has guns, but those guns are used infrequently, and as tools.

It's the difference between an active fantasy life, and going on real dates, maybe.

When the police are an hour or more away, your neighbors are all you have. If they are barricaded behind sandbags and are known to have itchy trigger fingers, they aren't much use if you need to go borrow a generator late at night because you wouldn't dare knock on their door for fear of getting shot.

So while I'm all for (realistic) planning for disasters, this sort of stuff is just silly. Prepare by creating strong connections with other people, so you can rely on each other in a time of need. Sitting all alone in your cabin while civilization falls is a cute fantasy, but when the end times come, I will be feeding my militia with the flesh of captured loners, you know?
posted by Forktine at 7:14 PM on January 28, 2009 [45 favorites]


Hey, where's that edit button? Because I have an extra "Yes," that I would like to remove, and I want my pony delivered in the waaaambulance, dammit!
posted by Forktine at 7:18 PM on January 28, 2009


It's the difference between an active fantasy life, and going on real dates, maybe.

Forktine, if you're ever going to be in St. Louis, make this known. There will be a meetup. I will buy you a beer.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:18 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, just worry about it when it happens. If civilization falls, put together an AskMe.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:19 PM on January 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Mmmmmmmmmmm... captured loner.
posted by Flunkie at 7:20 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


turgid dahlia: " If civilization falls, put together an AskMe."

"Is it safe to eat him?"
posted by Joe Beese at 7:22 PM on January 28, 2009 [26 favorites]


I, for one, am going to just keep drinking booze until I run out or pass out.

What was this thread about again?
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:24 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I need to start by finding one of these "farm" or "ranch" things.

Where are they? Somewhere uptown?
posted by rokusan at 7:25 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't call myself a survivalist, but I am a survivor, and it often pays off to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. That doesn't mean I have an arsenal of guns; I have none at all. But I do have a year's supply of cigs, probably six months worth of canned food for two people, a few cases of bottled water, extra medicine, piles of LED camplights and flashlights, a water filtration system, compass, tents, sleeping bags, etc. Not having guns doesn't mean that I'd be entirely unarmed either -- I have a good bow, plenty of arrows and tips and strings, and two high-end slingshots, plus some other cheaper ones. (Useful for plunking squirrels off my tomatoes during the growing season too.)

Not all of the stuff is for the end of the world, of course. I go camping now and then, we do have power outages from time to time and need emergency lighting and/or warmth, and it's nice to have enough food/water that when we get snowed in, it's not a big deal to just wait it out. If civilization *does* collapse, well, I won't be as prepared as the survivalist fanatics, but I also won't be as UNprepared as a whole lot of people.

I don't see anything wrong with being at least somewhat prepared for disasters. I don't let it consume my life or anything, but taking a few precautions seems prudent. That's just me though. For all the carefree everything-will-be-just-fine folks out there, well, I hope everything *does* all work out just fine, for everyones' sake.
posted by jamstigator at 7:32 PM on January 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


If we didn't have a natural tendency toward civilization and cooperation, how'd it happen in the first place?

In the absence of law and order, human beings quickly revert to inventing law and order.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:34 PM on January 28, 2009 [43 favorites]


Around here these folks call themselves "Doomers" and they are just as insufferable. The best tactic I've found to deal with them is to insist they name a date for their apocalypse, after which they have to shut up about it when it doesn't happen. They generally do not take well to suggestions that they are perhaps fantasizing about a way out of lives they see as inescapable, boring, and robotic. Nor do they take well to being lectured on the history of American millenarianism. Actually the best tactic for dealing with a Doomer is probably to walk away.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 7:34 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've got a Chinese assault rifle, I've got lots of stimpacks. I'll be fine.

(OOH! and a conductor!)
posted by dirigibleman at 7:37 PM on January 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


Nah, the farm is way out in Queens.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:38 PM on January 28, 2009


The average American family has four days worth of food on hand.

I've heard this before and I call BS. The average American family goes grocery shopping on a weekly basis. When I was a kid, we went monthly. And you don't go grocery shopping when the cupboards are literally bare (unless you are a bachelor), you go when you are out of the stuff you are eating lately. There's always a couple jars of peanut butter, some old crackers, a box of unpopular cereal, cake mix, canned cream of yuck, etc around. Each of these things is a day's worth of food for a person.

And that's not even counting the "pantry" our family has. We buy bulk when things are on sale. I probably have 20 lbs of chicken in the freezer and I know I have at least 4 Tabasco sauces. Not to use as bribes when civilization falls--it was on sale and the more you buy the more you save.
posted by DU at 7:41 PM on January 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nerd alert!
posted by jimmythefish at 7:42 PM on January 28, 2009


It was a fun read until I realized the guy probably has kids of his own. I feel for them.
posted by bardic at 7:42 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I knew Fallout 3 would be educational! I knew it.

^props to dirigibleman, I just noticed his post.
posted by jellywerker at 7:44 PM on January 28, 2009


Since I am too tired right now to formulate a response to this survivalist clap trap here is a link to an essay that does it for me:

The Art of Survival, Taoism and the Warring States

Ans some quotes from the essay:

I'm not trying to be difficult, but I can't help cutting against the grain on topics like surviving the coming bad times when my experience runs counter to the standard received wisdom.

A common thread within most discussions of surviving bad times--especially really bad times--runs more or less like this: stockpile a bunch of canned/dried food and other valuable accoutrements of civilized life (generators, tools, canned goods, firearms, etc.) in a remote area far from urban centers, and then wait out the bad times, all the while protecting your stash with an array of weaponry and technology (night vision binocs, etc.)

Now while I respect and admire the goal, I must respectfully disagree with just about every assumption behind this strategy. Once again, this isn't because I enjoy being ornery (please don't check on that with my wife) but because everything in this strategy runs counter to my own experience in rural, remote settings.


....



Your hideaway isn't remote to us; this is our valley, mountain, desert, etc., all 20 miles of it, or what have you. We've hiked around all the peaks, because there's no reason not to and we have a lot of energy. Fences and gates are no big deal, (if you triple-padlock your gate, then we'll just climb over it) and any dirt road, no matter how rough, is just an open invitation to see what's up there. Remember, if you can drive to your hideaway, so can we. Even a small pickup truck can easily drive right through most gates (don't ask how, but I can assure you this is true). If nobody's around, we have all the time in the world to lift up or snip your barbed wire and sneak into your haven. Its remoteness makes it easy for us to poke around and explore without fear of being seen.


....



The flatlander protecting his valuable depot is on the defensive, and anyone seeking to take it away (by negotiation, threat or force) is on the offensive. The defense can select the site for proximity to water, clear fields of fire, or what have you, but one or two defenders have numerous disadvantages. Perhaps most importantly, they need to sleep. Secondly, just about anyone who's plinked cans with a rifle and who's done a little hunting can sneak up and put away an unwary human. Unless you remain in an underground bunker 24/7, at some point you'll be vulnerable. And that's really not much of a life--especially when your food supplies finally run out, which they eventually will. Or you run out of water, or your sewage system overflows, or some other situation requires you to emerge.


The rest of the essay is well worth reading.

Another thing that survivalists of the paranoid type fail to take into account is that empires, civilizations, society's etc do not fail overnight. It usually takes generations and the decline is slow and meandering.

If our society collapses I think it will be what John Michael Greer calls A Theory of Catabolic Collapse

i.e... long and slow.

For example:
Minoan Crete 1500 BCE 300 years
Western Roman Empire 166 CE 310 years
Lowland Classic Maya 750 CE 150 years
posted by yertledaturtle at 7:47 PM on January 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


And here I thought I would be strategically looting the veterinarian clinic and . In any case, I learned a lot from MeFi folk experiences during natural disasters and that information has been incorporated into my personal household processes. Nice reference to the Postman upthread!
posted by jadepearl at 7:48 PM on January 28, 2009


Just another manifestation of the shared impotent gun nut fantasy: stockpiling a personal arsenal in preparation for the gun nut cumshot, dispatching whatever your preferred racial caricature is when they come to steal your precious stuff and becoming the big hero. All the bullshit about "home security", all the time spent at the firing range, all the rabid 2nd amendment defenses to the point of exclusion of all other liberties, the whole culture is built around this one cowardly surrogate-dick sexual fantasy. Survivalists are just the most extreme, like BDSM lifestylers as compared to guys that like their girlfriends to spank them and call them naughty once in a while.

Plus, like Penn & Teller pointed out, these dipshits always assume for whatever reason that they're going to survive the catastrophe that wipes out almost everyone else, even though odds are they'll starve to death or be vaporized or whatever before they even get the chance to defend their territory against the negro hordes, and even if they did survive, do you really want to live in a post-apocalyptic nightmare?

The best illustration ever of the impotent gun nut fantasy (panel 3). "Oh LAWDY!"
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:51 PM on January 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


I know I have at least 4 Tabasco sauces.

Wow...
posted by dirigibleman at 7:52 PM on January 28, 2009


Prepare by creating strong connections with other people, so you can rely on each other in a time of need.

Ain't that the truth. No one can steal your social capital, or your knowledge.
posted by Miko at 7:52 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was in NYC in 2003 during the blackout, and it was mostly a party. But things came back online within 24 hours (or started to), so nobody suffered much. Had it gone on for another day or two, different story. Which doesn't mean it would be riots and anarchy everywhere, just a lot of hungry, overheated people showing up at hospitals, fire stations, and police stations, or anywhere else that seemed likely, asking for water and food and help. Even after Katrina, most people wanted to believe their government would help after a disaster.
posted by emjaybee at 7:52 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


dispatching whatever your preferred racial caricature is when they come to steal your precious stuff
They're coming for my Christian name?
posted by Flunkie at 7:54 PM on January 28, 2009


SERIOUS NOTE FIRST:

This morning, I heard a news report about how the people of Holland were stuck without food during a brutal winter during World War II. The Axis powers were on the run, but still had control of the area, and Churchill had made the executive decision to save the people of Holland by taking out Germany, arguing against sending in food relief by pointing out that the Germans would just steal it; even though he was basically leaving them to starve.

Instead of going through their "four days' worth of food" and then turning to mayhem, according to this report, the people of Holland banded together and survived by eating shoes, animal fat, and tulip bulbs.

So hearing claims that mankind would cave that quickly in the face of hardship just make me question the constitution of those making those claims, because it strikes me that they would be first to cave themselves.

FLIPPANT NOTE SECOND:

...Okay, calling people "sheeple" is the most trite, overdone crazyspeak-buzzword ever. Can we call a moratorium?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know, here's the thing: I don't like seeing people suffer. At all. It would pain me even to see people I dislike in physical pain. To help other people avoid suffering, I'd do a lot. I mean, I'm no saint or anything, but I'll go out of my way to help people when I can. And I think most people are pretty much like me. When things get so bad that the people I care about the most are threatened, then things would change. But that's a long way off. Far more than four days plus a little hunger, that's for sure.

I don't hope for the collapse of civilization because I don't want to see people hurting. I wouldn't prepare actively for the collapse of civilization because that would feel a little bit like hoping. Instead, I'd like to think that my actions as a citizen, neighbor and friend help a little bit to keep the boat floating. Not a lot, mind you. But a little bit.

So the thing is: for these survialists, civilization has already collapsed. They don't recognize a fundamental responsibility to care for their neighbors and to contribute their resources to the common good. They stockpile and plot and imagine the days when the world outside starts to look like the world inside them. They could probably take me in a one-on-one fight. And some pretty powerful people share their selfish, unkind worldview. But there are a lot more people in the world who are like me. We get up in the morning and do our part to keep things running. For a while the selfish people have been doing their best to turn our honest efforts to an unkind end. But they're out of power for the moment. And the rest of us are trying to fix the things that got messed up. As long as we keep doing that, those guys aren't going to have a chance to use their guns any time soon.
posted by felix betachat at 7:58 PM on January 28, 2009 [64 favorites]


The doomer myths debunked by a former doomer:

Are You a Doomer?
posted by yertledaturtle at 7:58 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I'm coming over to your place to kill you and take your food, now that I know where I know where to find some."

My Dad has always joked along these line, saying that when the shit hits the fan he just needs to know where the Mormons live.
posted by chupacabra at 7:59 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


If civilization falls, put together an AskMe.

Way ahead of you, man.
posted by piratebowling at 8:01 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Growing up in the DC area, I worried about disaster. Nuclear holocaust? My parents more or less shrugged off the question from their precocious child in the 1980s. Their answer more or less was that we were gonners, living so close to DC. Years later, I was working downtown on September 11th as news came in about New York. Our office wasn't too far from the White House; my boss sent us home. I saw an exodus of people walking across Memorial Bridge, unwilling to be trapped underground in the Metro tunnels. The Pentagon trailed smoke in the background, close to I lived. People I knew recovered remains.

There are caches of emergency goods in my parents home: on the top floor, where you'd shelter in place in case of chemical attack, with gasses settling to lower levels; more supplies are in the basement in case above ground habitation became unsafe. And we're not looney. This is basic stuff according to advisories sent to people in the area in 2001, and after Katrina. Duct tape, and plastic: handy sealants for sheltering in place!

I don't live near an obvious target anymore. Woodway, TX doesn't have much going on as Crawford fades from hazy association with a former president. I still think from time to time how I've never truly been hungry, as DU points out, the way many people in the world experience as their normality. I'm soft. I'm grateful. I'll enjoy a safe, peaceful night's sleep in a comfortable bed.
posted by woodway at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The one thing that freaks me out with survivalists is that if the apocalypse doesn't happen soon enough for them, they'll get bored and try to start one. Or, if they just aren't happy with the way the system is. (Something like this)...
posted by drezdn at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2009


From yertledaturtle's first link:

Because the best protection isn't owning 30 guns; it's having 30 people who care about you. Since those 30 have other people who care about them, you actually have 300 people who are looking out for each other, including you.

Amen.

And Yertle, sir ... if you're ever on the northside of Atlanta, for a link of such quality, a beer I owe you.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:10 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I plan to spend the whole time hopped up on a cocktail of Jet and Mentats.
posted by aubilenon at 8:12 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


(OOH! and a conductor!)

Dude, swap ya! I had to dump all my conductors after I picked up my fifteenth combat shotgun.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:12 PM on January 28, 2009


DecemberBoy:

That comic has truth, but it's also full of bullshit. I am not a gun nut, don't even own one anymore, but seriously, there are people that find them legitimately useful. I don't understand the all or nothing thinking of people on both sides of the argument. Just because they are dangerous to you doesn't mean they are dangerous to the guy in Texas protecting his sheep from coyotes. Does that guy need a modded AK with a tactical light and a bayonet? Nope (thought he might need the night vision =D), and I'll bet you he doesn't have one. People who need guns use guns reasonable to the task at hand. It only starts to get sketchy when you have the guy living on Main Street with a case full of automatics for "protection" and other such circumstances.

I've grown up in rural and urban areas, so that's my take on the thing. Living in Seattle I can't imagine a need for a gun, and in this area, when you see guns, it's as part of crimes. Living in the sticks in Pennsylvania? Different story, they kept foxes out of my chickens. But when it comes to voting for gun control and such, guess which area has more voters? The one that sees guns used in dangerous ways.
/derail

Anyways, back to the topic at hand, I think if it ever came to such a situation (I think nuclear war is probably the only thing that's going to bring a country down overnight) people would just pop back up to put some new governance in place. The average person doesn't relish the idea of roving packs of raiders, and putting together some sort of local government for safety and a feeling of normalcy would be high on the list of things to do after the country falls I should think.
posted by jellywerker at 8:13 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Is it safe to eat him?"

"I have an irradiated mutant deathtiger the size of a horse, and he can get a little boisterous. The other day he was rough-housing with my son, and accidentally took of one off his arms, so now my poor boy has only two. And you should see the couch!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:15 PM on January 28, 2009


Nerd alert!

Dude, that's just a Shadowrun supplement.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:17 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, as much as I hate to say it, all of the counter-evidence y'all are providing are for incidents where the disasters are 1) of short-term immediate threat, 2) localized to a small area, with surrounding untouched areas. Hurricane Katrina, New York power outage, etc. Hey, when I was without electricity for a week, I slept on a friend's floor. I wish I had been better prepared, though perhaps not to the point of getting a generator.

In a short-term, localized disaster, you can try to keep it together and help out your neighbors, because you assume help is coming from the government. The above scenario is neither short-term nor localized. Help would not be coming our government because the scenario describes the collapse of the government. Nor could Americans migrate to a nearby country for help.

Making fun of survivalists can be entertaining, but at least argue against the stated scenario, not a straw man.

The other portion of the straw man is that many here seem to assume is that it's either one guy with Kaczynski's manifesto wallpapering a cabin stockpiled with MREs and boxes of Ridiculously High Caliber Ammo or a brainwashed nuclear family consisting of military reject dad, dishwater passive mom, and some surly sons. Many survivalists actually argue for what are essentially militarized and prepared communes consisting of many families (and, really, who doesn't want their family near them in a crisis?) with balanced skill sets including farming, basic medicine, and practical construction. They assume barter and trading of work for various skill sets. Some of survivalists incorporate practices of varying greenness, like composting and waste management, solar panels, and so forth.

If survivalists seem like a caricature, it's because y'all are the ones drawing it.
posted by adipocere at 8:19 PM on January 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


metafilter: 20 lbs of chicken in the freezer
posted by ornate insect at 8:19 PM on January 28, 2009


@ grabbingsand
Thanks! If you are ever in San Jose, Ca. give me a heads up.
posted by yertledaturtle at 8:20 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if you were to survive some initial cataclysm, and retreat to your mountain hideout with your clan (I'll use a c) and your guns, what then? It seems that the fantasies of these guys end right about there. Do they not envision (human nature being as depraved as it is, according to them) that some other clan member might disagree with their decisions about perimeter guard placement or how many almonds constitutes a ration, and challenge them for dominance and control? Do they not imagine that whoever prepares the food, perhaps fed up with the crazed nonsense going on in their house and the bullets flying over their heads, fatally poison them? Or that the inevitable result of having a fortress stronghold with good stuff in it is that you will eventually be overwhelmed by someone else with a bigger expeditionary force whose clan is running out of supplies, so that your eventual fate (unless you are that guy, for now) will be to witness the death, or, if the conquerers be kind, just the enslavement of you and your entire family? Survivalism in some nightmare scenario of government collapse only sounds good at the single ideal point at which you make the retreat, and maybe long enough for you to run off a few curious small-time foragers. But if it got really serious, even in their own imagined world in which people wouldn't immediately form new self-governing structures, what would they imagine the outcome to be? What's the ultimate quality of life envisioned - and why would you want it?
posted by Miko at 8:23 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Prepare by creating strong connections with other people, so you can rely on each other in a time of need.

Conveniently, the skills you'd need to survive society's meltdown are exactly the same skills you need to prevent society's meltdown.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:25 PM on January 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


In a short-term, localized disaster, you can try to keep it together and help out your neighbors, because you assume help is coming from the government. The above scenario is neither short-term nor localized. Help would not be coming our government because the scenario describes the collapse of the government. Nor could Americans migrate to a nearby country for help. Making fun of survivalists can be entertaining, but at least argue against the stated scenario, not a straw man.


What if we believe the stated scenario -- i.e., that we are heading for a catatrosphe of that magnitude -- is a straw man? We have listed instances where the United States and other countries faced natural disasters, infrastructure failings, famines and war, and mentioned how such instances caused people to unite in collective and mutual support rather than collapsing into anarchy. Yet your response seems to be that "oh, no, those aren't big enough problems, we're facing much bigger problems and they're coming any day now, you better watch out because things will be different."

You haven't convinced us of that premise yet; of the imminence of the disaster, and that it is in an unforseen scale that outdoes war, famine, and natural disaster. ...Try that first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


"They say a society is just three meals from revolution" -- Arnold Rimmer

Related askme question
posted by troy at 8:27 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


felix betachat writes: [...]So the thing is: for these survialists, civilization has already collapsed. They don't recognize a fundamental responsibility to care for their neighbors and to contribute their resources to the common good. They stockpile and plot and imagine the days when the world outside starts to look like the world inside them.

Favorited so hard I sprained my clicky finger.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Can the revolution wait until summer? It's fucking cold out.

Because the best protection isn't owning 30 guns; it's having 30 people who care about you. Since those 30 have other people who care about them, you actually have 300 people who are looking out for each other, including you.

Neo-tribalism will solve all our problems. Also, that's 900 people.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


edheil has really hit the nail on the head. Survivalism is often the ultimate extension of the "F you, I've got mine" mindset that some people seem to build their lives around.

Survivalist fan-fiction is full of scenes where the hero gets to lord his or her "preps" over the sheeple in one cathartic "I told you so" after another.

At the same time, is it a bad idea to have more than a 4 day supply of food and water on hand? If nuclear bombs destroy the productive capacity of the world there may be no point in surviving on bottled water and TVP for 6 more months, but there are many other potential scenarios where having a well stocked store room could come in handy. Gradual or rapid economic decline, unemployment, natural disasters -- all these things are unpleasant but none of them warrant lying down in a ditch and waiting to die. They would all be a lot more pleasant if you knew you didn't have to worry about going hungry right away.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:32 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Survival is already a way of life for many, many people on our planet: people in the slums of Haiti or Brazil, people in the war zones of the Congo or Darfur, etc.

Thus, what many people mean by "society" in this context seems to really mean "modernized, industrialized, Western-style consumer society."

Just saying.
posted by ornate insect at 8:36 PM on January 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I am so very, very glad that this didn't devolve into gun stats and arguments over survival tactics. I spent some time lurking at Fark and they seemed to do that every seventh thread or so. It was incredibly depressing after awhile. Thank you for not being that way, Metafilter.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:44 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, it's fine if you don't believe in that scenario. Perfectly fine. Most survivalists aren't too concerned if you believe it or not. They do not need to convince you. Not really a huge outreach program there. You can call him misguided, certainly, but no, that is not a straw man.

If you go by the definition "a straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position," Rawles cannot have a straw man since he doesn't even know you're there. He doesn't know you have a position, and he therefore cannot misrepresent your position.

My point is simple: arguing against a scenario entirely different than what Rawles is supposing is 1) putting words in the guy's mouth to 2) prove him wrong. Not exactly kosher by your basic rules of argument, you know? Straw man in surplus army camo, but straw man nonetheless.

As to painting all of them as Rapture-anticipating white trash whose only three outfits consist of overalls, fatigues, and a Klan robe, well, that's a little strange. It's roughly as ridiculous as people in tiny towns (where we don't want you comin' 'round) believing that everyone in a city is a clove-smoking librul hammaseskshul with too many degrees and a burning desire to ban the Bible.
posted by adipocere at 8:45 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always think of this as being a western phenomenon, but actually it has much deeper roots in the east. There was a really interesting article some months back in the Times about the author Carolyn Chute, touching on her involvement with the "2nd Maine Militia," and a follow-on book review here. (Did it get made into an FPP? It should have, if it didn't.)

And here is a piece about Kirkpatrick Sale and the "Second Vermont Republic," among other small-scale pseudo-secessionist movements.

(Nor would we want to leave out MeFi favorite James Kunstler -- sadly, the full text of that article appears to be not available without registration.)

The point being, millenarian craziness is not in any way limited to the far right, nor are many of the apocalyters easily pigeon-holed into left/right boxes.

Making fun of survivalists can be entertaining, but at least argue against the stated scenario, not a straw man.

The link starts with:

In the absence of law an [sic] order, men quickly revert to savagery

We've been through this before on MeFi, but this is almost always simply not the case. It's historically and factually inaccurate, and if this is what the planning is based on, it's hard to justify the energy and resources that they are suggesting devoting to this.

Look -- I own firearms. But I don't fool myself that guns are the basis of any serious plan for family survival. That comes from community -- the formal and informal networks of support that make life pleasant now, and would be critical to survival in a terrible situation.
posted by Forktine at 8:53 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


We had this test already. In the Great Depression, there was 25% unemployment and former members of the middle class scavenged from garbage heaps for food. And it lasted for a decade at least. And guess what? We had our Bonus Army and our unemployed workers' collectives but no chaos, no significant violence and no need for people to take aim their rifles at intruders out their windows. There was just a lot of suffering, worrying and standing in lines.

We're going to see unemployment -- my guess is we peak at the 1983 peak of 10% -- and there's going to be a subtle but major realignment in our polity and production that will take years to shake out. But picturing where we're headed as Lord of the Flies is just silly, as I see it.
posted by argybarg at 8:53 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because the best protection isn't owning 30 guns; it's having 30 people who care about you.

The really best protection is wiring up a transmitter to your heart that goes to a deadman switch on the thermonuclear warhead you keep in your vicinity, so that people don't dare let you die from nuthin'. Also, you get the be the baddest motherfucker on the planet, so that's good too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:55 PM on January 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, that's 900 people.

But those other 30 people can't each have their own 30 people who like them - then they'd be just as powerful as you. They each only have 10 people who like them. That's how you know you're top dog. You demand their allegiance; their social weakness indicates their unfitness to lead.
posted by Miko at 9:02 PM on January 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


While I find the blog silly, it is important to remember that if there's one thing that you can definitively learn from history it's that no empire lasts forever.

I wouldn't rush out to buy food (but damn, anyone should have at least two weeks' worth) or guns, in the long term the chances that there will be a collapse of the American empire is 100%. Whether that long term is two years, twenty years or two hundred years is anyone's guess. (And whether that will lead to civil disorder is another matter too, though people aren't so well socialized around here...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:04 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Any Toynbee fans in the hizzouse? I vote for owning just enough guns to steal a solar purifier, a good radio, a fishing rod, a couple dozen gallons of whiskey and a sail boat in good condition. And a mixtape with Styx and Enya...
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:04 PM on January 28, 2009


And the most important survival tool of all ::voice gets higher:: hope.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:06 PM on January 28, 2009


delmoi Also, that's 900 people.
You're assuming zero overlap. 100% overlap is only 31 people. In practice, it'd probably be 50-ish. Also (cf works of Malcolm Gladwell and Robert Anton Wilson) dealing with large groups becomes problematic and people will factionalize, schism, in-fight and splinter off.

adipocere Many survivalists actually argue for what are essentially militarized and prepared communes consisting of many families (and, really, who doesn't want their family near them in a crisis?) with balanced skill sets including farming, basic medicine, and practical construction. They assume barter and trading of work for various skill sets. Some of survivalists incorporate practices of varying greenness, like composting and waste management, solar panels, and so forth.
Commune-ism is an ironic practice, considering the stereotypical political leanings of the stereotypical survivalist; but it's the only practical way.

ornate insect Thus, what many people mean by "society" in this context seems to really mean "modernized, industrialized, Western-style consumer society."
Further to this, what many people mean by "survive" in this context seems to really mean "personal survival", which isn't going to happen. The most adaptive, well-prepared and healthy of us only survive our circumstances for, say, ninety years or thereabouts. Humanity's circumstances change all the time, subgroups of humanity's circumstances change more quickly, but individuals' circumstances usually change only over decades. It's entirely normal for a given person's circumstances not to significantly change in their entire life; that's actually the default state for human beings. Only recently has it sped up much, and there's no guarantee it will continue to speed up.

The wheel of history turns and moves on. You won't survive the turning of the wheel, but the next generation, who grow up in the circumstances that are natural to them, will. The wheel turns again, and they won't survive, but the generation after them will. And so on.

That's cold comfort to the survivors of life-changing events, I know. If you want to personally survive, well, no-one can give you a perfect prescription for that. But if your method of personal survival increase the odds of personal survival of others (eg, you farm and make things in a commune/tribe structure), then in the long term, you will do better than those whose methods of personal survival reduce others' chances (eg, raiders, jquinby's dad, isolationist militia cults, etc). That's just game theory: positive-sum versus negative-sum.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:06 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I REALLY hate people like that.
posted by mike3k at 9:09 PM on January 28, 2009


Metafilter: Thank you for not being that way, Metafilter.
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:12 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, unlike the majority of you (I assume), I actually lived several years in a period of savagery and killing, during which nothing - food, water, electricity, phone, clothing, sense of safety, school, the ability to go out in public, etc - was available, except during totally unpredictable, brief and sporadic occasions.

Of those who couldn't leave my city, Sarajevo:

Some people (very few) were prepared for what they thought would be the "long haul" - this tended to be a couple of months. These people were widely seen as lunatics and dangerously pessimistic ones at that.

Most people were not at all prepared. This included my family. Many of those - like my family - considered the idea of "preparation" to be an affront to the decency we felt most people possessed. Were we wrong? Well, I don't know. We suffered greatly; my parents were killed. But speaking only for myself, I never felt I cheapened my soul by betting on calamity. Today, that still feels like it's worth something.

But here's the main point: "Preparing" for the disaster really didn't do anyone much good. Those who "prepared" ate a little better for a while. They stayed warmer for a few extra days. They enjoyed the radio for a while longer (via batteries.) But in the end, they ended up hungry, cold and bored too, just like the rest of us. Guns and weapons helped no one directly and were even of little to no use in the defense of Sarajevo, since they were toys compared to the shells, bombs and high-powered armaments of the attacking forces. The worst parts of war were psychological - the fear, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, paranoia, bad dreams. Respite from those things came with sharing food with a neighbor, finding a piece of clothing that would fit someone you knew, commiserating with others in your position, figuring out how to make make-up from brick or french fries from wheat paste and spreading this newly-acquired war knowledge around the mahala.

We knew who had extra food and supplies. For the most part, they weren't attacked or hassled or bothered. Contrary to what these survivalists say, those in dire times generally hold on to their personal sense of pride even more than they do in normal times. I'd take a bite of a friend's salad without bothering to ask in normal times. I'd never have done that in wartime, no matter how hungry I was.

Within the domain of those trapped in the city, civility greatly increased.

You often hear how Holocaust survivors felt guilt at surviving. Well, during war, that was a feeling everyone was aware of - people started dying right away (my parents were killed near the start of the siege, for instance) - and there was a palpable enough common sense of karma to make everyone into good Samaritans. None of us understood why we survived while others didn't. I shared food when I had it, even though I often knew I wouldn't have a crumb the next day. Which was no big achievement, because nearly everyone did the same.

Those who'd prepared, well, the majority of them shared their food and whatever else they had as soon as someone else was clearly in need. I can't swear it, but I think they felt a little foolish to have been so self-obsessed, and giving away that stuff might have lessened that feeling. There were a few people who hoarded things until they ran out of stuff - eventually everybody ran out of anything worth hoarding - and they soon became wishful beggars like the rest of us. Again, I can't swear it, but I hear stories, and it seems that these people suffer from post-war trauma, guilt and nightmares more than the rest of us.

Those survivalists, I feel sorry for them. It's no way to live.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:33 PM on January 28, 2009 [582 favorites]


My Christian name (James Wesley) is my property. My family name (Rawles) is the common property of all those that share the Rawles bloodline, and our wives.

I hope he never runs into another James Wesley.

Survival is already a way of life for many, many people on our planet: people in the slums of Haiti or Brazil


People in the slums of Brazil put together, with collective effort, the greatest party on the planet.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:44 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Survivalism is often the ultimate extension of the "F you, I've got mine" mindset that some people seem to build their lives around.

I think you have it exactly backwards. These aren't the ultra-rich, they merely look forward to a time when others are brought below their level, while they keep what little they have. There's two ways of making yourself feel superior, do something to make your self better (the hard way) or bring (or talk) everyone else down.
To those who spoke of it being important for people to band together, I ask, to what end? If you don't have food, a large group is no better off than a small group. A variety of skills are no good without raw materials, i.e., if you have less than 4 days food, having someone who knows how to garden will not help.
I must admit to having a little wishful thinking in this direction myself, but don't think I'm evil. I mean, if it happens, it won't be because of I didn't keep certain thoughts out of my head. Right now, some people can have a good life by just knowing how to make a good powerpoint presentation. Meanwhile, I know how to do just about everything for myself, and I can't get a decent job (my resume? I grew up on a nearly self-sufficient farm where we raised our own food (a big garden and quite a few animals) and fixed anything that broke. I worked my way through college as a machinist and welder. I went to grad school (physical chemistry) and got a PhD. Now I'm working as a post-doc in a biochemistry lab. I have built many hot rods and motorcycles (and driven them, I've never owned a car with a check engine light or a third brake light). I own dozens of guns and have lots of reloading equipment.) If anybody could get by in hard times, it'd be me, but I'd rather have a good job and just tinker with my guns as a hobby.
posted by 445supermag at 9:48 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


A lot of this is weird to me because I grew up and live in "flyover" country.

It's strange to me that some of you don't own generators because I wonder what the hell you do if there's an ice storm.

I suppose some of you don't own guns but in Michigan it's damn near the easiest thing in the world to shoot a duck or a goose and save the $15 you would have spent at a grocery store to purchase one.

And everyone in my neighborhood has five or six gallons of gas on hand for the generator, truck, wood-splitter or whatever because the gas station is a long way off and unreliable.

So I guess the thing that surprises me most is that "survivalism" has now been relegated to "being able to keep shit running" and that's kind of depressing. People should at least have something on hand to produce food and heat in case of a natural disaster.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:55 PM on January 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


The late great George Carlin explained the difference between himself and the "fuck you I've got mine" crowd in an interview with the Onion in 2005. If we all just stopped being gluttons and lived this way a little bit more we wouldn't have to be worried about the shit hitting the fan every 10 years.

Let's suppose we all just materialized on Earth and there was a bunch of potatoes on the ground, okay? There's just six of us. Only six humans. We come into a clearing and there's potatoes on the ground. Now, my instinct would be, let's everybody get some potatoes. "Everybody got a potato? Joey didn't get a potato! He's small, he can't hold as many potatoes. Give Joey some of your potatoes." "No, these are my potatoes!" That's the Republicans. "I collected more of them, I got a bigger pile of potatoes, they're mine. If you want some of them, you're going to have to give me something." "But look at Joey, he's only got a couple, they won't last two days." That's the fuckin' difference! And I'm more inclined to want to share and even out.
posted by any major dude at 10:11 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


My point is simple: arguing against a scenario entirely different than what Rawles is supposing is 1) putting words in the guy's mouth to 2) prove him wrong. Not exactly kosher by your basic rules of argument, you know? Straw man in surplus army camo, but straw man nonetheless.

As to painting all of them as Rapture-anticipating white trash whose only three outfits consist of overalls, fatigues, and a Klan robe, well, that's a little strange. It's roughly as ridiculous as people in tiny towns (where we don't want you comin' 'round) believing that everyone in a city is a clove-smoking librul hammaseskshul with too many degrees and a burning desire to ban the Bible.


but my point is, we're having a hard time establishing what Rawles' scenario is. From my perspective, the argument is going thus:

"Society is doomed! One big disaster and we're all going to be at each other's throats! Arm yourselves!"
"But we weren't at each other's throats during the NYC blackout..."
"No! I mean a BIG disaster! Bigger than that! And it's coming any day now!"
"Bigger than that, eh? Okay, let's see...uh, Katrina?"
"No! Bigger than that!"
"...bigger than...Katrina. Okay, well, there was also Holland's famine during WW2..."
"No! Bigger than THAT!"
"...Bigger than...World War...2. Uh...The Depression?"
"No! I mean a REAL disaster! And it's imminent and MUCH BIGGER than that!"
"...So...you're saying that...it's bigger than the Depression, Katrina, and World War II?"
"Yes! And it's happening any day now, can't you tell?"
"...uh....no?"

And THAT is where they start sounding like "Rapture-anticipating" folk, because I'm not sure what else but the rapture would BE bigger than The Depression, Katrina, and World War II.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 PM on January 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


I've got a Chinese assault rifle, I've got lots of stimpacks. I'll be fine.

You have got to find yourself Lincoln's Repeater.
posted by The Monkey at 10:34 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was like the rest of you, thinking the guy was a lunatic. Then I read this:

The Girl Scouts of the USA confirmed Wednesday that it has reduced the number of cookies per box to save money because of rising transportation and baking costs.

THE SNACK RATIONING HAS ALREADY BEGUN.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:38 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I knew Fallout 3 would be educational! I knew it.

I think Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is far more educational, if you buy into the dreariest scenario possible. Even more pessimistic than Mad Max.
posted by zardoz at 10:40 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Baby_Balrog: I live in a big city. I have power outages less than 3 hours a year. I am almost certainly safer not storing five gallons of gasoline anywhere in my apartment. I have some earthquake preparedness stuff, but beyond that, the extent of my survivalism is that I make my own ice cream.
posted by aubilenon at 10:52 PM on January 28, 2009


The people who turn to guns to protect themselves are already dead inside.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:04 PM on January 28, 2009


delmoi quoted:
"because the best protection isn't owning 30 guns; it's having 30 people who care about you. Since those 30 have other people who care about them, you actually have 300 people who are looking out for each other, including you."

delmoi wrote:
Neo-tribalism will solve all our problems. Also, that's 900 people.

I think you are taking this quote out of context. He is not arguing for neo-tribalism but cooperation.

The essay it is quoted from addresses the assumptions of people who think that to survive one must hole up with guns in a secluded place.
posted by yertledaturtle at 11:15 PM on January 28, 2009


A lot of this is weird to me because I grew up and live in "flyover" country...

As someone who has lived in "flyover" country his entire life, your experience is not typical and I'll thank you not to generalize it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:22 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a close friend and roommate who was a survivalist. He died a few years ago, from a sudden heart attack in his sleep at the age of 40. He was not a terribly social fellow, being someowhat guarded with people.

When his family came to make the final arrangements, I helped them sift through all of his things and pack them up. Firearms, ammunition, boxes of food stacked in the closet. Bug-out bags. Maps of places in the state that could be used as a hideout. Gas cans filled and at the ready in the garage.

He was a close friend. I still can't help but think that he wasted an opportunity to really live, in his pursuit of merely surviving.
posted by darkstar at 11:23 PM on January 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I've enjoyed reading this thread, as my ideas about survivalism have shifted from OMG I NEED TO PREPARE to OMG I NEED SOCIAL NETWORK TO SAVE ME, and those extreme fluctuations are fun for the mind...

Regardless, however, I think survival in the case of a catastrophic collapse would not depend in any way upon the amount of food-stuffs and arms an individual would have. It would depend on their social network (as noted before), and their hard work and determination to survive, and, of course, luck.

But further, and perhaps more importantly, an individual's ability to survive I think would depend upon their spontaneous ingenuity to act well in a circumstance she or he could not have yet imagined.

I really liked the book "Giants in the Earth", because it deals with a lot of issues with plain survival, and at the same time doesn't trivialize how important both hard work and luck are in determining what becomes of a person or his family. It is not very surprising that the end is a sad one, but it makes a solid case for the value of community, however small, in the face of overwhelming adversity.
posted by localhuman at 11:45 PM on January 28, 2009


The thing that irks me is the paucity of vision these people have. They are hoping for... what, exactly? At some point after a genuine, huge civilisation collapse, you're going to have gone through your ammo, tinned food, and batteries. Then what? You're banging rocks together.

Get together with a few people, though, say a few score, with the right backgrounds, and you can have a pretty nice, albeit reduced, civilisation.

Take electricity: electricity isn't hard. Electricity's easy. You need copper wire (it'll be lying around, even if you can't find copper mines), magnets, and a power source. Water. Wind. Steam engines aren't exactly challenging once you understand how they work, and someone called Watt did that a long time ago. You kept books, right, not kindles? Bang. You aren't going to heat and light McMansions with electricity generated with 18th and 19th century power sources, but you can light searchlights in your compound, maybe run scavenged medical equipment and electronics (although they'll all go away eventually, sadly). You can light streets in your village.

You may not be able to make H&K MP5s, but a good blacksmith and a half-decent chemist could keep you in black powder firearms forever.

That could chemist would be able to synthesise any number of drugs, too - on a small scale, many antibiotics and painkillers aren't chemically complex.

Explosives? Basic explosives are, again, easy once you have worked out how.

I could go on, but my point is this: do you want to live in a hole with trinket until someone takes them from you, or you run out and grovel in dirt, or you get sick and die? Or do you want to start rebuilding something worthwhile with a collection of like-minded souls?
posted by rodgerd at 11:51 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


"[W]hen people start talking seriously about hoarding cases of Beef-a-Roni in the garage and get all misty-eyed about the Last Days, then it's about as striking a confession as you're ever likely to get of how upset they are that life isn't working out the way they thought it would."
-- Claire, in Generation X, Douglas Coupland
posted by salvia at 12:21 AM on January 29, 2009 [19 favorites]


Jesus. According to some you people everybody with a flashlight and fucking earth quake kit are survivalists. And hell, we all know how useless having a couple of extra gallons of water and a few batteries can be.

I have now been through two hurricanes, three earth quakes, a massive riot, third world financial melt down and civil war. I'm also the child of Depression era parents, one of which had to eat newspaper soup to survive as a child. My father was raised a Mormon. He was also a Green Beret and served in Vietnam and raised me as an outdoorsman. I suppose combined that would make me the perfect candidate for being a survivalist. I don't really know what that term means other that the cliché. But I don't that term applies to me and I don't think it's fair at all that every body who prepares for a future disaster should be painted with the same idiotic prejudice as the extremists in this article.

I do keep about three weeks stored dry goods, plenty of extra batteries and portable bug-out/earthquake kit ready. And look out - I own a shot gun! I must be dead inside!

I keep extra tools, blankets, water, food, First-aid kit and two-way radios in my car. And do you know why? So I can maybe help my 82 year old neighbor. Or maybe have the where with all to be of some assistance during an emergency rather than be one of the many needy. I have no plans to bug out to the woods or such nonsense. But for fuck sake everyone of you should be, where you can, planning likewise. Not for selfish reasons but so you can actually help other people if the worst happens.

I have rubbed shoulders with lots of the extremists. Yeah they are deluded kooks. But. Frankly they bug just as much as some of you people do here with the snark and denial. Your all just as bad because your just as selfish and short sighted. They are selfish and short sighted because they are only thinking of helping themselves and are selling humanity short. Some of you are selfish and short sighted because you assume you're not thinking of helping anybody as want to believe you'll never have to.
posted by tkchrist at 12:33 AM on January 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


Grrr. Should read: Some of you are selfish and short sighted because you're not thinking of helping anybody and want to believe you'll never have to.
posted by tkchrist at 12:39 AM on January 29, 2009


tkchrist: Damn dude, would you just stand the fuck down?! Wooo...3 weeks of rations and a Green Beret for a dad, you're just the God-damn second coming aren't you? Do you really think you're the only realist on the fucking planet? Christ.

Seriously though, this Armageddon fwap is the last resort of the disenfranchised. Anyone who believes that humanity can be saved by retreating into the woods is a deluded ass. These people have jack shit going for them and have only the end of the world to look forward to.

I've come to the conclusion that the world is not going out with a bang, but with a whimper. Sorry Rambo, but it's just going to be a gentle, downward spiral into silence. All your equipment and woodsman's skills aren't jack shit against epidemic and climactic chaos. If you can last 200 plus years, you might get your chance in the sun, but you will have to eat your Wheaties to see the final showdown. So shut the fuck up, and go back to your gun and knife show, there's nothing to see here.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:14 AM on January 29, 2009


I thought it was an interesting article/blog; though I had run across it in the past. If you read past the crazy there's some worthwhile advice there.
"Racism ignores Reason" and "Skills beat Gadgets and Practicality beats Style" are good things for narrow-minded people to read and think about.

Also, absence of Mall Ninja is the only thing keeping "Night of the Comet" from greatness.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:40 AM on January 29, 2009


Well, unlike the majority of you (I assume), I actually lived several years in a period of savagery and killing, during which nothing - food, water, electricity, phone, clothing, sense of safety, school, the ability to go out in public, etc - was available, except during totally unpredictable, brief and sporadic occasions.

Are we all just comfortably ignoring this fantastic comment? If this were and AskMe (potential titles: Is this Dude Insane or Right?; What's a Rational Way of Thinking About This?), this comment from Dee Xtrovert and the one from Baby_Balrog would have answered it. They're high-quality comments -- written from experience and even-handed. Just sayin' that they might be more worth your time than the old "ya'll are crazy / no ya'll are crazy" thing we got going on here.
posted by nímwunnan at 1:52 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nor could Americans migrate to a nearby country for help.

I missed this on my first read-through.

What makes us so special that we couldn't emigrate if life here sucked? Between me and the Canadian border is a fair number of miles, but almost no people -- I could hike it in a couple of weeks if I had to. And even if every Canadian stood arm to arm along the border, there would still be space to slip through. It's a long and mostly open border up there, they have lots of farmland, and high rates of gun ownership. What's not to like?

Or gee, maybe there is all of Latin America stretching out to the south? I met someone once who had, as a teenager, walked all the way from Nicaragua, through Honduras and Guatamala, well into Mexico, then finding work to get money for a bus ride the rest of the way to the US border. And they did this during the violence of the 1980s, too. If things get tough enough where you are, sometimes starting walking can make sense.

But you know, even during the worst years in Guatamala, when the military was waging an "anti-subversive" campaign that operated through anti-indigenous genocide in the rural areas -- when the "rule of law" meant that the helicopters would show up and kill all the men in the village -- society didn't fall into total anarchy. In fact, it was the exact opposite, and people drew together and survived together in the same ways as DX describes in the Balkans.

It starts taking a really elaborate fantasy (basically, nuclear war or zombie infestation, something like that) to imagine a world where things are equally bad from the Arctic all the way down to the bottom of Patagonia -- and if the fantasy needs to get that elaborate, maybe the fantasy is the main point?
posted by Forktine at 3:07 AM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Because the best protection isn't owning 30 guns; it's having 30 people who care about you."

And then you go to them, one by one, and borrow their guns.

"Since those 30 have other people who care about them, you actually have 300 people who are looking out for each other, including you."

Yes, but now I have all the guns.
posted by Eideteker at 3:36 AM on January 29, 2009


Does this sort of apocalyptic, end-times, neo-militaristic, survivalist wet-dream exist, in any real sense, anywhere else? Or is it unique to nations where the idea of a binding social contract is actively ridiculed?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:19 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I keep extra tools, blankets, water, food, First-aid kit and two-way radios in my car. And do you know why? So I can maybe help my 82 year old neighbor. Or maybe have the where with all to be of some assistance during an emergency rather than be one of the many needy. I have no plans to bug out to the woods or such nonsense. But for fuck sake everyone of you should be, where you can, planning likewise. Not for selfish reasons but so you can actually help other people if the worst happens.

tchrist, I don't think you're being fair. I don't think anyone is scoffing at the notion of being prepared for an emergency, only at the extreme nature of the warning and at the argument that such an emergency is imminent and of a scale that would obliterate the very foundation of civilization.

Besides, the very fact that you would want to help your 82-year-old neighbor as well as helping yourself is proving our point -- that when Ragnarok strikes we would actually all NOT turn into cannibal hordes, as has been argued, but that the human instinct is actually to help each other out. And as long as the human instinct is to help each other out, the foundation of civilization is pretty damn solid, no matter how sparse the food, water, or other things are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:19 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, bigger than The Great Depression, the NYC Blackout, and Katrina? Golly, nobody can top that.

'cept we can, and we can do it pretty easily. I am still rubbing sleep from my eyes as I get ready for work, so you'll pardon me if I only come up with three scenarios that work within Rawles scope.

1) When we finally hit our first overpopulation hurdle. C'mon, if you have even the slightest green interest, you know we're running out of fresh water in the west (let's fight over the Colorado river). Or maybe Peak Oil causes the price of gas to do an order-of-magnitude jump — watch our supply chains, already very short due to the internet and computerized inventories, snap. Either of these means multi-state areas are in deep trouble. Most people, concentrated in cities now, will hardly be able to grow a Victory garden in their apartment. Overpopulation issues will hit other places before they hit America, but it'll come. You don't really think the Earth can support an infinite number of people, do you? Of course not, neither do I. Weird how we're at seven billion people, though, more and more of whom would like to live like Americans. This would be a slow disaster.

2) Any amusing biological threat. We can bungle through the jungles a while longer in search of more trees to turn into cheap furniture and maybe find a particularly hardy organism that will jump the species barrier and make HIV look like a summer cold. Or maybe folks get tired of tinkering around with anthrax and ricin in their garages and decide to make something serious. As science becomes more available to the masses, a well-financed group could decide to start with your average bad cold, whip in some fun stuff from the 1918 Spanish Flu (PA, PB1, and PB2 are the genes you want, in case you wondered), and just keep going. You can laugh at this one, but remember the power of open source and cheap kits. Kids are now doing DNA fingerprinting in high school with cute little kits, which blew my mind when I found out. The equipment keeps getting cheaper, and information wants to be free, right?

3) Global Warming really takes off. You know, climate change. Raise your hand if you believe in it. Climate change is going to generate a lot of hurricanes, a lot of weird weather, crop devastation, droughts in some places, and destruction of costal property where, interestingly, tons of people live. Think permanent regular Katrinas with some food shortages from America's breadbasket. Bet you folks around either coast will want to have some generators and a few months' worth of food stocked. Another slow disaster.

Any one of these scenarios renders The Great Depression nothing more than a few bad weeks at sixth grade camp. And, during the The Great Depression, a hell of a lot more people, by percentage of the population, had some basic farming skills and were not taking quite as much medication to survive. We have a lot more complexity in terms of technology, medicine, and logistics of getting food to our tables right now, with the 1,500 mile salad as an example.

Scenario two isn't very likely, but then, who expected HIV, right? One and three are pretty much a given, it's just a question of when. I tend to think they'll happen decades from now, but I could be surprised. So you'll pardon me if I think that someone wanting to know how to plant corn, beans, and do basic crop rotation is probably a skill worth keeping in circulation.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

And, by the way, still a straw man in surplus army camo. Why everyone reacts so strangely to these guys is a mystery to me. They're basically some gloomy off-grid-living folks with varying levels of interest in sustainable practices and restoring practical skills, 'cept these guys have firearms. Is it the guns? Is that what we're really talking about, that owning some guns makes you a whacko, and from there it's just a question of finding out what makes you a whacko? I know MetaFilter doesn't do guns that well, so it's a valid question.
posted by adipocere at 5:13 AM on January 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


When and if civilisation collapses I want to be:

1. Surprised.
2. Sad.

Because that way I figure I will have been living and enjoying my life in the present rather than fearing/eagerly awaiting any hypothetical post-apocalyptic future.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:20 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


When Katrina hit, I didn't have a generator or any preparation. When Rita hit, I was still unprepared, and could have kicked myself. I still don't have one, out of sheer laziness.

One thing I conclude from my one visit to Bosnia (Dee, please tell me if I'm wrong) is that in disasters of whatever kind, people are more or less okay until somebody breaks the societal norms, i.e., starts shooting. Then everybody is on one side or the other, or waits to commit until they see what's going to happen. Around Tuzla, where I was, it seemed like all the young punks and minor criminals came out of the woodwork and ended up running things. They were protective in their fashion of their local in-group, but the others were evicted or killed.
My intuition about this says in the United States we've got maybe as strong or stronger norms against killing or harming for racial or ideological reasons, but that may also mean that there would be a stronger polarizing effect once those norms are broken.
posted by atchafalaya at 5:35 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


i read until "sheeple"
posted by 256 at 6:03 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


C'mon, if you have even the slightest green interest, you know we're running out of fresh water in the west (let's fight over the Colorado river).

Sure, we are running out of water... for growing cotton in the desert, irrigating three-acre lawns, and providing hourly sponge-baths for your SUV. We are not running out of water to drink, or even in real danger of not being able to continue growing food in vast quantities. The western water crisis is very real, because they set the extraction limits in what turned out to be an unusually wet period. It's far from ideal, but also really far from provoking Armageddon.

(I mean, have you ever looked at how much water flows down the Columbia River every day? According to the Bonneville Power Administration, there's 275,000 cubic feet per second flowing out that river. If we were in a real crisis, we'd say "fuck the environment, fuck the salmon, and fuck the hippies who want to go swimming on Sauvie Island, let's start pumping this thing dry!" That we are instead planning to remove dams and restore river flows across the west, in many cases cutting back on irrigation allocations, suggests that a) we are not facing an immediate crisis, and b) there is a huge reserve capacity out here in land, water, and other resources that could be accessed (with a huge environmental cost, obviously) if we were to need it.)

My guess is that over consumption will lead to slow deterioration in quality of life, and we will end up living in grey unhappy eastern European-style apartment bunkers and shopping with ration coupons, perhaps, but not some sort of sudden shock and crash.

Any amusing biological threat ... HIV ... anthrax ... ricin ... bad cold ... 1918 Spanish Flu

Again, history has a lot to say about this. In the west, communities dealt with the Spanish Flu by turning inward and trying to keep out strangers. It didn't often work to prevent outbreaks, but it suggests again that the natural impulse is not towards atomization and brutality. Or consider disastrous cholera and other outbreaks, current or past. Even the Black Plague caused only temporary and localized economic and social collapses (along with all kinds of millenarian fervor and social change). People tend to self-organize, or hunker down and suffer.

Rioting in the streets is fascinating precisely because it is so rare. People will starve, and watch their children starve, and watch food trucks go by, and still won't riot. Grain riots were a codified part of early modern Europe's political culture, but were still incredibly rare, and things returned to normal very quickly. In modern times, as Amartya Sen describes, famines take place in the context of food being available, but people not having the money to buy it. But most of the time, this doesn't happen. People starve and die, and preserve the social order.

I think you are giving far, far to little credit to the human impulse towards order and organization. History has a lot to say about disasters, and doesn't provide a lot of support for the doomsayers.

Again, I'm all for being prepared in sensible ways; I'm simply suggesting that those preparations should be focused in ways other than what is proposed by the survivalists.
posted by Forktine at 6:05 AM on January 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


adicopere, you didn't finish reading my argument -- that they were arguing that something was going to be "bigger than The Great Depression, the NYC Blackout, and Katrina" and would also knock us into a Randian Mad-Max kind of existance, and was also imminent.

Does the potential exist for the disasters you cite? Sure, I never said it doesn't.

But is that potential strong enough that I should lose sleep actively worrying about it beyond assembling some basic supplies?

And would those disasters strike instantaneously enough that we wouldn't have clearer warnings as they went from possibility to probability?

And would the fallout from those disasters be so complete, total, sweeping, global, and universal that they would short-circuit the past 10,000 years of human experience and cause us to devolve into "every man for himself" rather than simply forming smaller groups and those groups all working together?

That's the part where you've lost me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on January 29, 2009


When and if civilisation collapses I want to be:

1. Surprised.
2. Sad.

Because that way I figure I will have been living and enjoying my life in the present rather than fearing/eagerly awaiting any hypothetical post-apocalyptic future.


When and if the banks fail I want to be:

1. Surprised
2. Sad.

Because that way I figure I will have been living and enjoying my life in the present rather than fearing/eagerly awaiting any hypothetical economic crisis.

But seriously, you can still live and enjoy life just as much while still thinking about the future. Because guess what? Even if I'm not, other people will still be around, and I want to make sure they have the ability to live and enjoy life as much as I have, and not be at a loss because of the irresponsible decisions me and my generation made. That's the lesson I've learned from being born into this particular chapter of history. And, yup, as a young person, I do feel a bit cheated by prior generations and their lack of foresight.
posted by symbollocks at 6:40 AM on January 29, 2009


Si Dieu la civilisation n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer.
posted by jock@law at 6:43 AM on January 29, 2009


Honestly though, all y'all professing faith in the basic kindness of humanity must not have gone to public school.
posted by jock@law at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Honestly though, all y'all professing faith in the basic kindness of humanity must not have gone to public school.

As a matter of fact, I did. And I was even that one kid in third grade that the entire class gangs up to pick on, to boot.

But you know what? I also saw those same third graders grew up and grow the fuck out of it by eighth grade. A lot of them were still total shits, sure, but when real crises happened, they knew to cut the crap.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 AM on January 29, 2009


Looks like you didn't finish reading my argument. Or didn't start reading it at all, given that I began with "EmpressCallipygos, it's fine if you don't believe in that scenario. Perfectly fine. Most survivalists aren't too concerned if you believe it or not. They do not need to convince you. Not really a huge outreach program there."

They aren't concerned if you don't lose sleep. They really do not care. They're not asking you to care. You pretty much are not their target audience. Can't stress that enough.

And you still aren't reading the part where I say that most of the folks into survivalism are not "every man for himself," but are advocating well-planned communes.

So we're back to the point where I say: you're arguing against this caricature you've conjured up. Which is a straw man. In fatigues.
posted by adipocere at 6:58 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about when things just kept getting worse?

This is a link I got from Metafilter in the first place, but it's probably just as relevant as comment #500 on this thread as it was as comment #500 on that one. It's not apocalypse-porn, just a first hand account of dealing with rising crime and falling economic stability after Argentina's collapse, so it might not be quite as fun as "LOL Stereotyped Survivalist" fodder, though.

I'm not currently a survivalist myself (unless you count a meal's worth worth of bottled cooking gas left over from my last camping trip), and I don't own and don't plan to buy a gun, but I don't really get the pile-on here. We start out not going 10 minutes between the jokes about how survivalists are all monsters who would murder each other to the jokes about how it would be funny for us to murder them and take their food. What monsters they are, with a completely misplaced lack of faith in humanity!

Even with one of the good comments ends with, in effect, "I could swear they felt guilty for having been better prepared and sharing their preparations with us." Project much?

In Katrina, a huge group of refugees, all banded together trying to help each other escape the devastation, was turned back at a bridge by a small group of angry cops from a rich nearby suburb

Might it not have been better if a small group of the refugees were survivalist types, too, so they were able to assert their public property rights over the thugs who had taken them? I don't expect this scenario to dissuade anyone who believes in banning guns, either... but I hope it make some of you think twice about the typical compromise "ban", where hoi polloi don't get to be armed, but a small group of cops still do.

Commune-ism is an ironic practice, considering the stereotypical political leanings of the stereotypical survivalist

Is it possible that the only irony here comes from your overuse of stereotypes? Even the right-wingers typically recognize that communes can work among small groups where everybody knows, trusts, and can apply social pressure on each other. That's perfectly consistent with not expecting the practice to scale successfully up to millions of people and/or not thinking it's moral to enforce it on everyone in a country whether they agree or not.

I will have been living and enjoying my life in the present

LOL, his hobbies are different from my hobbies! I used to enjoy collecting coins, and still enjoy playing video games. But I don't think that makes me a better person than someone who enjoys collecting food and supplies and goes target shooting, and I wouldn't even bet that it means I'm enjoying life more.
posted by roystgnr at 7:00 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


All of adipocere's suggestions of "EMERGENCIES" are long emergencies. They would be very regional, very slow in the ways that they would affect the daily lives of folks, and probably ignored by people 10s of miles away (and definitely ignored by people hundreds of miles away). You'll have a decade or more to prepare for a long emergency like this. Unless you're patient zero in the zombie outbreak or at nearby a first strike in an all-out thermonuclear war. In which case it doesn't much matter about your bugout bag, or the cans of food.

There isn't a realistic situation in which having weeks of food makes a lot of sense.

Sorry, there just isn't.
posted by zpousman at 7:03 AM on January 29, 2009


most of the folks into survivalism are not "every man for himself," but are advocating well-planned communes.

So "every small group for themselves"? That doesn't sound like a huge step forward. It sounds like they're starting to get the fact that we're all in this together, but not quite.
posted by symbollocks at 7:04 AM on January 29, 2009


But seriously, you can still live and enjoy life just as much while still thinking about the future.

As someone mentioned above, I think James Wesley, Rawles and his ilk have all but given up on today and are live exclusively in wait of tomorrow. Planning for the future != living for the future.

Sorry if my original point was unclear. Living for today can indeed be either Zen or narcissistic hedonism. I lean towards the former.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:09 AM on January 29, 2009


And you still aren't reading the part where I say that most of the folks into survivalism are not "every man for himself," but are advocating well-planned communes.

....If this is their plan, then why on earth are they making the claim that "the average person is only three meals away from anarchy"? Such claims make it sound like you're advocating COMPLETELY cutting yourself off from others and arming yourself AGAINST others rather than working WITH others.

If well-planned communes is what they are advocating, then they're shooting themselves in the foot, quite honestly, because -- as you can clearly see -- the things they're saying are making them look crazy enough for the average person to dismiss them.

Looks like you didn't finish reading my argument. Or didn't start reading it at all, given that I began with "EmpressCallipygos, it's fine if you don't believe in that scenario. Perfectly fine. Most survivalists aren't too concerned if you believe it or not. They do not need to convince you. Not really a huge outreach program there."

If well-planned communes is their goal, then why would they not be trying to reach out to as many people as possible? Who knows what resources a given person could have, right?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on January 29, 2009


Norman Cohn had some interesting things to say about all this. Lifestyle survivalism is a millenarian faith. In that respect it's a kind of passive-aggressive instinct towards civilisation, a kind of yearning to see it destroyed to clear the slate of Sin, or the Sinful, or the Wrong System, or the Wrong Sort of People, or whatever the believer believes is holding Us back. For the Hard Right, it's clearing out the cities of the Wrong Sort who have thwarted the US's Manifest Destiny. For the Hard Left it's ripping down technological capitalism. In each case the underlying belief is that the system cannot be reformed or saved or peacefully replaced with an alternative system and, moreover, deserves to be destroyed. Which is a very unhealthy belief.

The giveaway is that the survivalists always mentally spare (whoever they think are) the Right Sort of People. Obviously people like me will be OK because ... Obviously we John Galts will be OK because ... Obviously we farmers will be OK because ... Obviously we in the cities will be OK because .. Obviously we gun owning Birchers will be OK because ... My friends and family will be OK because they know me.

Yes, catastrophe is possible, but there are some people out there who are egging it on. Needless to say, they're not part of the solution.
posted by WPW at 7:22 AM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anyone who needs their own glossary to help regular people understand them must be hiding something, and Im not talking about the jars of stewed tomatoes in his cellar.

Why does he include 'TSCC?' How does that help survival?
posted by Capt Jingo at 7:23 AM on January 29, 2009


From the first link: The foundational morality of the civilized world is best summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Can't we get a better summary than that? Because of the 10 commandments only about 4 really apply to the civilized world-- no killing, no lying, no adultery, no stealing, the rest are more or less meaningless. Even 3 of these commandments have plenty of exceptions. You can kill if it is accidental or in self-defense or in the service of your country. You can lie all day long as long as it doesn't involve money or an officer of the court. Adultery can be grounds for divorce but aside from some antiquated laws still on the books, you can't be prosecuted for it. Stealing is the one commandment that we all still live by.

There are no laws about honoring your parents-- other than as a minor you can't run away from home. We do have laws about honoring your children, however-- there are all kinds of laws about keeping them safe, healthy, and educated. There are no laws about coveting-- in fact the advertisement business exists to encourage us to covet. The rest of the commandments are all about God and the sabbath, which have very little to do with the legal system in the USA-- other countries may vary. In fact, as far as I know, you cannot say "Fuck" on TV but you can say "God damn it."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:26 AM on January 29, 2009


Having some disaster-preparedness stuff around is simply insurance. You have fire insurance on your home? Of course you do, if you own a home. When your home burns down (mine did a few years ago), you aren't merely surprised and sad. It's devastating. But as devastating as it is, it'd suck a whole lot worse without insurance. Because of insurance, we were able to move back into the house within about 14 months. Without insurance, we'd no longer have a home at all. When squirrels eat my tomatoes, that makes me sad. When my cat jumps out from under the bed and pounces on my leg, that surprises me. Those words are not adequate when you are watching your home (or your civilization) burn to the ground. Even *with* insurance.

So, just as I have life insurance and homeowners insurance and car insurance, I consider keeping some vital disaster-preparedness stuff around to be a different form of insurance. Better than normal insurance though, because there's no monthly fee involved. I don't think having insurance makes me a kook either. That it's solid and tangible insurance, rather than a promise and a piece of paper from State Farm -- well, that doesn't bother me. If it bothers others, then hey, they're the ones with the problem.
posted by jamstigator at 7:28 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Survivalists are, apparently, like slow children who are slowly being led out of their terrible forest lives into the glittering, antiseptic cities. Look, Maw, they've got runnin' water! I'm hearing a hell of a lot of White Man's Burden about having to introduce these sullen and uncivilized folks to how things will just work in our Great Society as subtext. Do I hear the faint sound of twin banjos in the distance, too?

"They're starting to get the fact that we're all in this together ..." How fabulously condescending. You've presupposed that, if someone just understood what you meant, they'd automatically agree with you. Differences therefore must come from a lack of understanding. They just don't "get it."

Most survivalists completely understand that civilization depends on everyone working together. They probably get it better than you do. The sole difference is that, if something in the machinery of civilization may go wrong, like the odd French Revolution or two, they'd like to be prepared. How awful and selfish of them.

Of course, they don't do much outreach because the scenario is not something the vast majority of people want to consider. Most folks don't like to think about backups, but like clockwork, we get a couple of AskMe's per month about retrieving missing data. Most people don't like to think about their health going to hell, but again, look at AskMe. Or check for all of the retirement questions. Humans are, as a species, just not all that comfortable with looking towards the future. Outreach is, by and large, a waste of time. People who worry will find them, people who don't want to worry will mock them, as this thread so helpfully points out.

If you really don't think that things will go wrong, and that people would help you if things do go wrong, throw away those jumper cables in the trunk of your car, cancel all of your insurances, and empty your IRAs.
posted by adipocere at 7:37 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Back in 1990 I was on a bulletin board that a friend ran where a bunch of guys who considered themselves survivalists hung out. Anyhow, that December Iben Browning has predicted that the New Madrid vault was going to let go and these guys were eating this up.

Holy crap. I'm guessing that BBS was Ken's Survivalist?

Man, I remember the whole New Madrid fault hysteria. I've even thought about doing an FPP about it.

It's pretty fascinating in retrospect. This dude Iben Browning claimed that he could predict, to the day, when this massive earthquake was going to happen. I'm sorry, but you just can't do that! Anyway, lots of people believed him, and stocked up on food, water, etc. I think some enterprising companies even started to offer earthquake insurance. (so much for dispelling the myth of credulous Midwesterners.) Anyway, a while back I was googling about the whole thing ('cuz I google random shit when I'm bored) and it turns out that people have since written research papers about the whole Browning incident, using it as a classic example of irrational panic.

All of that aside, doesn't anybody remember Y2K and the tremendous non-event that was?
posted by Afroblanco at 7:38 AM on January 29, 2009


If you really don't think that things will go wrong, and that people would help you if things do go wrong, throw away those jumper cables in the trunk of your car, cancel all of your insurances, and empty your IRAs.

Now who's not reading, adipocere?

No one is saying that "everything's going to be all wonderful and nothing will ever go wrong and we don't need to prepare for anything tra-la-la". We are only saying that there is a middle ground between that and "the instant that gas prices hit $10 a gallon it's going to instantly cause all your neighbors to start trying to break into your homes so they can shoot you and eat your liver". You keep saying that that's not what survivalists mean; but whether or not it's what they mean, they -- and you -- are sure as hell doing a good job of giving the impression that that's what you mean.

Being prepared for emergencies is just common sense, and most people actually do that. Advocating a level of preparedness above and beyond common sense, advocating a level of preparedness on a scale of a Mars Mission because "that's the kind of non-society we're going to have" -- it is that degree of preparedness that we question. Because it does not just call infrastructure into question -- it calls a basic element of human nature into question.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


All of that aside, doesn't anybody remember Y2K and the tremendous non-event that was?

Bizarrely enough, JW,R's glossary refers to Y2K in its entry for pollyanna. One would have thought that the fact that Y2K wasn't actually a disaster would have led survivalists to stop mocking people for downplaying its significance; but apparently not.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:52 AM on January 29, 2009


When your home burns down (mine did a few years ago), you aren't merely surprised and sad. It's devastating.

Being a 'proper' survivalist isn't having fire insurance on your house. It's teflon coating your house and children and having 7 different types of fire-extinguishers in every room and going to fire safety seminars and creating websites talking about the inevitable (but suprisingly vague) fire that will ravage all the land soon.

If it makes them happy, that's great. I just think that for the majority of us there is a compromise between moving to the woods and oiling your 5 different guns and not having house insurance...
posted by slimepuppy at 7:57 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the movie Blindness. Man, that sucked.
posted by metastability at 8:03 AM on January 29, 2009


Most survivalists completely understand that civilization depends on everyone working together. They probably get it better than you do.

I beg to disagree. They fail to see that any collapse would be caused by a (further) breakdown of cooperation, not by random accidents. They're essentially saying: we don't want to cooperate anymore, because it leaves us open to disaster in the exact same way everyone else would be. They don't get that the threat of disaster is insurance for cooperation. We've failed to cooperate as a society on so many levels. That has lead us into the pickle we're in now. Now we HAVE TO COOPERATE or be destroyed. They're trying to get around this for some reason, trying to create an exception to that rule. They don't see us being forced to finally cooperate as a good thing, or they don't think we'll be able to.

Now is that such a bad thing? Trying to create an exception to that rule? No, but it's aiming so so so so low. It's a little sad.

The sole difference is that, if something in the machinery of civilization may go wrong, like the odd French Revolution or two, they'd like to be prepared. How awful and selfish of them.

Yeah, instead of actively working to prevent such things from happening. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? If this was a backup plan then that's perfectly respectable, but it's not. It's everything to them, it's THE SOLUTION. It's like the survival of the human race (or the sustenance of their bodies) is their goal, which again, is aiming so friggin low that it's depressing. Aren't there ways we can guarantee that we will keep surviving as well as aiming a lot higher than that, like to be better than we were? To create a world where cooperation is a virtue? Instead of a world where cooperation simply means open to domination (being a yes-man, putting up and shutting up, f u got mine, etc. etc.)?

And have they really given a lot of thought to what they would do in a real emergency? Do they really think they could stay hidden from the urban hordes they fear so much? That's simply wishful hollywood-style thinking. They would be found in no time flat when people get that desperate.
posted by symbollocks at 8:32 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


^

...means being open to domination..
posted by symbollocks at 8:35 AM on January 29, 2009


Lifestyle survivalism is a millenarian faith. In that respect it's a kind of passive-aggressive instinct towards [ie, against] civilisation

Totally. And the one thing I learned from my millenarianism / eschatology / apocalyptic religions class (before I dropped it) is that it is most common in powerless groups. It's a power reversal scenario. It's like buying a lottery ticket. "I'm not powerful now, so I might as well buy all this ammo, and then if that 1 in a Billion chance of civilization collapsing come to pass, I'll be really powerful."

So, that's one version, and the one that seems most applicable here. But as someone who enjoys a good doomsday scenario myself from time to time, (bicycles! fruit trees!), there's another appeal to them... I'll have to think about where that comes from.
posted by salvia at 8:42 AM on January 29, 2009


It's strange to me that some of you don't own generators because I wonder what the hell you do if there's an ice storm.

...And everyone in my neighborhood has five or six gallons of gas on hand for the generator, truck, wood-splitter or whatever because the gas station is a long way off and unreliable.


Actually, this sounds nice and like it would work and all, but I have just experienced this situation. In mid-December, in NH and Southern Maine and Northern Massachusetts, we had a debilitating ice storm that basically took down the power grid for, at its peak, about half a million people. My city was without power, except for a few odd locations still connected to the grid in a functioning way, for four days, and many many people and businesses were out for twelve days or even more. So it became a very instructive experiment in "what happens" when the grid collapses.

In the short term, everything was pretty fine. People were put out, of course. Not knowing how long power would be out, there was first a widespread "holiday" reaction, where people had fun pulling out the candles, battery-powered radios, and board games and eating peanut butter sandwiches. It was a nice respite from the frenzied holiday season. However, it was wicked cold and snowy - the temperatures never rose above freezing during the entire outage period. Those who had woodburning fireplaces or stoves were in the best shape of all - IF they had wood - because they were able to cook and heat at least one room. Those who had generators were also happy because they fired up the generator and had no interruption in their activities. However, as the outage went on, they took to only turning the generator on for brief periods to save fuel. People found that indoor temperatures, without any fuel, stabilized at about 40-45 degrees, which most people could sustain by wearing a lot of clothing and moving around a lot, and sleeping as warm as possible - often with the whole family in one room.

The social network went into action almost immediately, as well. First problem: coffee. People woke up wanting coffee and many didn't have a way to make it. So they worked with their neighbors, (or drove several miles to where a McD's was open and waited on (literally) hour-long lines to get coffee and something hot to eat). Neighbors invited one another over to stay overnight, eat meals, and take hot showers if they had the resources to offer. It actually strengthened some neighborhood ties. There was a tremendous amount of cooperation immediately and it went on throughout the outage.

However, there was a significant portion of people who did not do well during this time. That included large numbers of people who require electricity for home health care - insulin pumps, oxygen tanks, etc. Hospitals were on reduced auxiliary power. Also, newborns and the elderly even in homes need to be kept warm. So the state opened well-supplied shelters with heat, electricity, hot food, blankets and cots. They did quite a nice job.

Some people sheltered in place with their generators - one of my staff, whose husband, a heart patient, needed electricity for his care was in her house when the generator fuel ran out. She went out to refill the tank. Oops! There was no fuel available. Gas stations required electricity to pump the gas or propane. The few stations that were open within a 50-mile radius were quickly depleted - they actually ran out of gas.

Eventually everything sorted itself out. But I have to note that any fuel supply - whether it's wood or gasoline or propane - is expendable, and will get quickly depleted if a need for emergency fuel goes on for more than a few days. People swiftly ran out of their "5 or 6 gallons" of fuel and then that was it: time to go to a shelter, which my staffer eventually did. Thank goodness the state had the funds to set up shelters and the knowhow and equipment to do so, and do it so well; it saved lives, without a doubt. We need our grid and supply chain to sustain our population levels.

What I took away from this:
1. You can survive very well in the short term through preparation and cooperation.
2. At some point, everyone needed to rely on the state and/or large organizations to ensure continued safety and survival and repair of damage.

As far as (1), what seemed practical:
1. If you can, have a woodstove, or a fireplace, and an abundant supply (2 cords) of wood. Keep in mind that 2 cords will last maybe a month if you burn it daily.
2. If you feel you need it, or have medical issues requiring constant power supply, have a generator. But don't think your generator is going to be running all the time or that you are going to be able to refuel it. And don't store fuel if you don't have a safe way to do it.
3. Make a lot of friends - not just in your own neighborhood but also in towns nearby and a bit farther and even in other states and regions.
4. Have a supply of nonperishable food, have water, have a battery-powered radio and candles or lanterns with lots of backup batteries, have blankets, and have a first-aid kit. Also have an old-fashioned rotary phone that you can plug into the wall jack, because in the early outage land lines that didn't require auxiliary power (like cordless phones do) were the only things that worked.
5. There's no need to lay in a supply that would last more than a few days. If you find the emergency continuing more than a few days to such a severity that you are unable to purchase new food and fuel, things are seriously fucked anyway. Either you won't be the only one in this boat, in which case larger social organizations will kick in, or form in a grassroots manner, and begin delivering support in sustaining ways, or you will be the only one, in which case you can go to #3 and move in with someone who's doing all right. Do your part and be pleasant and they won't really mind. one day you can do a good turn for them when the emergency's over.

The NH emergency was pretty severe, but everybody basically did OK. However, by no means did they do it without relying on civilization - even if they were quite well prepared for emergency. Civilization did not stop, nor did people stop helping one another. In fact people dealt more, and in a more friendly way, with one another during this event than in normal life. Institutions functioned. Utilities went to work. Those who had resources worked hard to help others and made generous offers to share. People did their jobs and saw to the needs of the citizenry as best as possible. Prioirity went to assisting the weak and vulnerable while the able-bodied and resourced kept their demands on the system light. So the idea that something like a 12-day power outage in subfreezing weather would cause "collapse," or even that all you need is preparation and a few cans of gas and you'll be perfectly fine - both are naive. People and systems react predictably during emergencies, and those reactions can be planned for, met and managed well by everyone when we all do our part - which we tend to do, because we all stand to gain from restored stability.

And Dee Extrovert, your comment was really great and I will remember it and use it in further arguments of this type.
posted by Miko at 8:45 AM on January 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


Screw the Chinese assault rifle. I've got a Rock-It launcher and an endless supply of coffee mugs and small ruined books.
posted by naju at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see what the big deal is. Everyone has to have a hobby. For these guys it's thinking of awful things that could happened and devising strategies to mitigate them. For us it's complaining about people on the internet.
posted by electroboy at 8:56 AM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


happen. stupid fingers.
posted by electroboy at 8:56 AM on January 29, 2009


My plans for "the apocalypse" (which is so broad, as shown in this thread, could cover almost anything), but I mean a real apocalypse, a total meltdown of society, where there is no government, no hope, total nightmare, consist of 2 parts:

1. Be overcome with religious zeal, and join the nearest Mennonite/Amish community.

2. Failing #1, secure a firearm long enough to execute my family and then myself.

Honestly, not just my life matters, but my quality of life. I don't plan on spending any measurable amount of time drinking out ditches or fending off angry mobs for my wife's 3rd rape today.

I remember watching "The Day After" on television as a young teen and knowing fully at that moment I had no desire to experience what comes "after".

If things go to hell for a week or two, most people can make it.

If things are going to hell for the next 20 years, Mad Max style or worse, then yeah, fucking kill me.

I'm not going to arm myself to the teeth to live like a cornered animal until I die a cold, hungry, terrified, miserable death. My dog deserves better than that.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:57 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I think I first really knew it was time to dump my ex was when he started telling me about how the poles were going to shift in the next yen years (over ten years ago) and it would wipe out all technology and we would be reduced to roving packs of mercenaries and the guys who would really rule would be the ones who knew how to use swords.

It wasn't so much the fact that he said this, but the gleam in his eyes that told me this was his wet dream. I think I dumped him within the month.
posted by threeturtles at 9:39 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why does he include 'TSCC?' How does that help survival?

Capt Jingo, it seems Terminator (a fictional entertainment, lest we forget, about an alternate future/past/present where time travel is a reality, robots rule the day, and the world is divided between those who know about this and those who don't) serves as some sort of validation/reinforcement/motivation for this approach to life.

From a response to a letter on the front page of his site:

"Is your goal the survival of your family, other retreat members, and yourself, or, are you out to fight against the outlaw gangs, UN troops, T-1,000 [Terminator]s, etc."

And elsewhere, after a site search for "Terminator", under a posting entitled "'Terminator' and 'Jericho'--Science Fiction as a Preparedness Motivational Tool":

"I have hopes that this series (along with "Jericho"), will in some small way help get people to "think outside the box" about the fragility of our modern society and motivate them to prepare for more inimical times. But perhaps I'm putting too much faith in the "bread and circuses" TV-viewing crowd."

"Putting too much faith" is one way to look at it, I guess.
posted by roombythelake at 9:46 AM on January 29, 2009


Bigger than The Great Depression, the NYC Blackout, and Katrina....

Well, there's always the Cumbre Vieja collapse, that Yellowstone super volcano, asteroid impacts, or if we get impatient waiting for that stuff, earnest nuclear exchanges.

More than that, though, I think it's wise to consider the possibility that we are in some uncharted territory as far as human history goes. I think that yertledaturtle's link to Greer's theorizing on collapse is far more thoughtful than the original post, and I think it's interesting to consider that most of the collapses aren't fortnight descents into madness. I also wonder, though, if we might have reached a higher degree of social complexity and scale of operation where a quicker descent is also possible: we've reached greater heights, so maybe bigger or faster falls are possible. And it strikes me that much more of modern society is unfamiliar with how life and society at a barely-industrial scale is conducted than was during the Great Depression.

This doesn't mean that I disagree with a lot of the optimism expressed in the thread, especially about human capacity to work together. Just that I think it's unwise to dismiss the possibility that this bigger event is out there.

I also think some of the caricature of the survivalist is extreme. I suppose you can say that it only applies to who it applies to, and that the reasonable people who plan to remain part of a community but still have stored food, fuel, and tools (potentially including firearms) don't count as nuts, but some of the brushes people are painting with here still look a bit broad to me. But assuming they exist in pure iconic form, as most stereotypes do somewhere, if these Doomer Survivalists make the mistake of hoarding physical resources and disregarding social capital, I think it's also wise to consider the possibility of making the reverse mistake. I don't even think you need a 50/50 balance between the two, but a year's supply of food, maybe fuel, and some tools and home capacity for production of some kind wouldn't be a bad thing to have spread out amongst the population, not simply as a personal backup in case things go to hell, but also as resources for communities to reorganize if, for whatever reason, someday they have to.
posted by weston at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weston, this next bit is a sincere question:

I don't even think you need a 50/50 balance between the two, but a year's supply of food, maybe fuel, and some tools and home capacity for production of some kind wouldn't be a bad thing to have spread out amongst the population, not simply as a personal backup in case things go to hell, but also as resources for communities to reorganize if, for whatever reason, someday they have to.

Sounds wise. My question, though, is -- supposing you have a community where no one has taken specific means to plan for specifically this, but Ragnarok (or whatever) strikes. How implausible would it be to assume that you could assemble enough for the community for a year just as it is anyway, by rounding everyone up in a drive for "right, everyone, go home and gather everything out of your stash and we'll meet you all on the town green tomorrow at noon and put it all together and see what we got, and then we'll send a team out to the local Wal-Mart and break in and get whatever we don't"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on January 29, 2009


Capt Jingo: "Anyone who needs their own glossary to help regular people understand them must be hiding something"

Indeed. :-)

Forktine: "It starts taking a really elaborate fantasy (basically, nuclear war or zombie infestation, something like that) to imagine a world where things are equally bad from the Arctic all the way down to the bottom of Patagonia -- and if the fantasy needs to get that elaborate, maybe the fantasy is the main point?"

Apart from Dee Extrovert's Hall of Fame comment, which stands in a class of its own, this may be the prizewinner. One of the Amazon reviewers at the link described Rawles's novel, not altogether pejoratively, as "doomer porn". And in addition to suggesting the book's literary merits, the phrase contextualizes what I can only describe as the fetishistic detail to be found in its pages.

But the near-unanimous distaste found in this thread would still be nothing more than "Your favorite hobby sucks" were it not for the larger points made about the practical and philosophical limits of self-reliance. Their aggregation been an educational experience for me - so I wish to sincerely thank you all for contributing.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:31 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I think your proposal is partly plausible. The big concern I have with that has to do with my understanding of a lot of retail operations. They don't necessarily keep an inventory that's meant to least even weeks, as a good profit is made by turning over what you've got as quickly as possible at a reasonable margin. If for some reason the trucks aren't coming, I have my doubts that a community's walmarts and other stores really have what's needed for more than even a fortnight. Particularly food. I'm thinking about a grocery store I visited in Grand Junction in 2003 when a blizzard shut down Denver and I-80 under 12+ feet of snow. Empty produce section, shelves looking a bit thin, trucks can't have been stopped for more than 36 hours at that point. Not to say that I think it would be futile for a community to self-scavenge like that or that I don't think they'd turn up some hidden resources. And maybe that'd be enough to hold over until an outside economy started working again or help came or the community figured out some other way to sustain itself. Just that I think it's a lot barer of a setup to bet on than a population with a reasonable amount of storage and some minimal direct production means/knowledge.
posted by weston at 10:44 AM on January 29, 2009


a year's supply of food, maybe fuel, and some tools and home capacity for production of some kind wouldn't be a bad thing to have spread out amongst the population, not simply as a personal backup in case things go to hell, but also as resources for communities to reorganize if, for whatever reason, someday they have to.

Yes, it is a good idea, and in fact we have such resources - though on most days, we just call them "municipalities" and "states" and "federal agencies."
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on January 29, 2009


My wife and I have a pretty coherent plan in the case of an all-out collapse of human society. It goes like this:

Die.

We both rely pretty massively on modern medicine and opthamology to survive. We're not the really cut out for survival without modern civilization. I suspect there are more people like this than not.


My only comfort is that our bloated swelling bodies will infect your clean water.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:15 AM on January 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Any one of these scenarios renders The Great Depression nothing more than a few bad weeks at sixth grade camp."

Really? How likely and how immediate are they?

See, for all your bitching about how this is all some terrible caricature of survivalists, the basic fact remains—they are wrong regarding risk and allocation of resources. That's basically it. They're shouldering enormous opportunity costs based on incredibly unlikely scenarios and with little practical value should those scenarios occur.

That's stupid. And I don't care if I'm not their audience, or if yo momma's a survivalist and that's why you're all butthurt—their allocation of resources is stupid, and their philosophy is stupid.

I mean, Christ, we can all ridicule the religious for their continual delay of Rapture, but because there are quasi-plausible secular possibilities for ruin, that somehow makes them less ridiculous? This isn't evidence-based thinking even at the most charitable reading. It's stupid, and no matter how aggro you get about protecting these poor picked-on 'pocalyptos, it doesn't make it any less stupid or any more rational.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


There isn't a realistic situation in which having weeks of food makes a lot of sense.

Sorry, there just isn't.


Actually, where I live, many freeways are built on top of faults, or on fill that will liquify in an earthquake. Naturally, roads are the primary way that food is distributed around here, and the chances of them being rebuilt in a couple week after a magnitude 7 earthquake is pretty much nil. The same goes for water mains. Sure, there will be people trying to deliver food and water within a few days, but reliable sources of regular food and water are not going to be easy to come by for several weeks. In the Bay Area, it makes perfect sense to have a few weeks worth of necessary items, because we live in a situation where our distribution network is going to be totally broken by the impending disaster. There will be no floodwaters receding to reveal mostly undamaged concrete and asphalt.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2009


I take the point, Miko, and I think municipalities, states, and federal agencies should take those responsibilities, and some of them do it effectively. I don't think, however, that anyone who doesn't completely trust a view that places nearly all of the responsibility there is crazy. Doing so seems to me to place all your deposits in one particular social capital bank and none in another, leaving individuals and communities with fewer options.

Snowed two feet in two days a few weeks ago in my hometown. The city has plows, of course, as they should, but in my parents' neighborhood, they didn't wait for them to get here, out came the shovels and the snowblowers and the neighbors who have pickups and even ATV with snowplow attachments. I think you could easily argue that nobody needs the later, it really is duplicating something the city does for the moment, but it doesn't make the having worthless, nor are the people who have and use these things antisocial.

I think a similar argument is available for food storage, fuel, guns, backyard gardens, home auto garages. A community where individuals as well as organizations hold real capital is one that has another layer of resources and responsiveness, one where individuals have more power to act in whatever kind of crisis.
posted by weston at 11:45 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want to mention something. The scenarios these gun nuts think they're going to be really well prepared for are the plot to M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Short term apocalypse during which going outside is dangerous followed by a miraculous near-total recovery they simply had to wait out. There's even a gun nut who survives (after killing innocent children) by staying inside his house and pointing a gun at anyone who approaches.

The Happening, people. That should tell you all you need to know about this type of "preparedness."
posted by shmegegge at 12:05 PM on January 29, 2009


YOUR HOBBY SCARES ME!
posted by adamdschneider at 12:07 PM on January 29, 2009


Many survivalists actually argue for what are essentially militarized and prepared communes consisting of many families (and, really, who doesn't want their family near them in a crisis?) with balanced skill sets including farming, basic medicine, and practical construction. They assume barter and trading of work for various skill sets. Some of survivalists incorporate practices of varying greenness, like composting and waste management, solar panels, and so forth.


Hmmm, sounds like what you'd find in a metropolitan area.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2009


I believe what Heinlein had to say about being prepared.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love


Even if you can't do all of the above...the effort to be able to do for oneself is a worthy goal in my eyes. With a broad range of skills or at least knowledge of these skills, you'll be OK, come "Hell or high water".
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 1:02 PM on January 29, 2009


What is it about geeks quoting Heinlein for truth?
posted by aspo at 1:08 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


What is it about geeks quoting Heinlein for truth?

I think they all just want to go back in time and have sex with their mothers.
posted by dersins at 1:25 PM on January 29, 2009


tkchrist: Damn dude, would you just stand the fuck down?! Wooo...3 weeks of rations and a Green Beret for a dad, you're just the God-damn second coming aren't you? Do you really think you're the only realist on the fucking planet? Christ.

Yes. That is what I meant. I was bragging. I am awesome.

Christ what an asshole.
posted by tkchrist at 1:57 PM on January 29, 2009


Well, roystgnr linked to my earlier comment on this subject so there's no reason to do so again. The links he referred to were from a guy in Argentina who lived through the financial collapse there. Even though that scenario is the most probable catastrophe for the U.S.A. I don't see many responses to that survivalist's experience. Yes, Dee Xtrovert went through an extreme situation, but most of the survivalists being mocked are not preparing for a para-military force to be operating in their vicinity for years at a time. Argentina and the breakdown of the Weimar Republic are far more common models than Sarajevo. And on a related note, I would never equate betting on calamity with "cheapening my soul". There's a difference between having a vested interest in the destruction of one's own community and paying attention to what's in the wind. Can I determine who is doing which? Of course not, but if I don't make room for the distinction, I largely forsake prudence.

---

"In the absence of law an [sic] order, men quickly revert to savagery"

We've been through this before on MeFi, but this is almost always simply not the case. It's historically and factually inaccurate, and if this is what the planning is based on, it's hard to justify the energy and resources that they are suggesting devoting to this.


If you amend the earlier quote to, "...men with nothing in reserve..." then I don't think it's all that inaccurate. In FerFAL's (the Argentinian survivalist) account there is a dramatic increase in violent crime with largely ineffective and slow responses from emergency responders. Those who hole up in the mountains make themselves into targets; it's an awful strategy. Still, one can foster ties with their community while also taking increased defensive measures.

The links at the top are sensationalistic. Some of this criticism is just taking one of the more ridiculous examples and implying it's representative. You don't have to think that Mankind, writ large, will go Savage, in order to devote some time and money towards defending oneself and home from opportunists. Even more so, when you suspect that times will soon be getting desperate.

---

US unemployment by year
, or, "why the premise of this post is moronic."

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!

Take a look here for some unemployment numbers that you can actually compare to the past.

---

The people who turn to guns to protect themselves are already dead inside.

This is just incredibly stupid, even for the internet.
posted by BigSky at 2:56 PM on January 29, 2009


Several people in this thread refer to this as a "hobby".

I don't think any of the participants would view this as a hobby.

And from the outside, it may seem like obsession, or maybe compulsion is better, but hobby is still not the right word at all.

I think a hobby would be those people who try to make a functional survival kit inside a Altoids tin. That looks like a hobby. Oh look, it has 3 feet of fishing line and a little tiny hook. How cute. It's like miniature ships in a bottle.

Digging out your back yard with a backhoe and building a concrete bunker, laying back weeks worth of supplies and arming yourself to frightening degrees looks like something, but not a hobby.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:59 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Miko, good comment. Sounds a lot like what happened in Houston during Hurricane Ike. The thing I find funny about all of this is 1) the idea that people can't survive on their own for 72 hours and 2) the idea that preparing is going to help you survive for very much longer than 72 hours without any input from society, whether governmental or commercial or local community. In Ike, I saw a lot of people who thought they were prepared, thought their 20 pounds of frozen chicken (metaphorical or otherwise), ice chests of ice, water supplies, and dry goods would see them through in comfort. And after three days they're begging for FEMA.

Yes, people came together, neighborhoods tightened bonds, people shared resources. But without the McDonalds or the HEB or the FEMA trucks or whatever, they wouldn't have gotten very far for very long. Not in extreme weather, temperatures, or conditions. That's not to say these survivalists have the right idea, for all the reasons discussed above. A certain level of preparedness is only reasonable, but people shouldn't overestimate either the need for being prepared or the extent to which that will protect them.
posted by threeturtles at 3:01 PM on January 29, 2009


Ynoxas I think people who have a hobby of collecting guns, knives, etc use The End of The World As We Know It as a justification for their collection. It is easier to justify (to yourself or others) spending hours and hours debating 5.56 vs. 7.62 and thousands of dollars when you're doing it because THE WORLD IS GOING TO END than because you have a hobby like your kid has a hobby collecting Pokemon cards.

I'd love to dig up my backyard and put in a bunker. I'd spend hours and hours on the Internet researching bunker construction techniques and proposed floor plans. Then I'd have a grand time getting muddy playing with huge machines. I used to do things like that as a kid, now I'm older it is harder to justify. If I could tell myself that it would be only prudent because THE WORLD IS GOING TO END I'd have an excuse (and angry neighbors because I live in an apartment).

I think the majority of survivalists are not honestly and truly scared that the world is going to end. I think for most it is an escapist fantasy and an interesting hobby, much like role playing games. And if as a result of their hobby they have 400 pounds of rice, beans, TVP and Beef-A-Roni in the basement, what is the harm?
posted by ChrisHartley at 4:24 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think a hobby would be those people who try to make a functional survival kit inside a Altoids tin.

But that's because you spend all day on the internet looking at BoingBoing and MAKE.
posted by electroboy at 5:03 PM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think you people read a different article than I did.

Good Lord. I read it and there was very little about guns, just saying basically that they could come in handy.

And there was A LOT of talk about community and sharing and looking out for your fellow man.

There is a whole lot of reactionary group-think going on in this thread, and it's really disheartening that such an intelligent community could play that role so readily.

There is nothing wrong with having a generator and some supplies to supplement the commmunal love fest that will save us all in the case of a disaster.

Sheesh.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:51 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing is, there are all kinds of scenarios where some aspect of "survivalism" might make sense. What no one ever seems to look at is how likely a scenario is and what would be needed to make it through alive.

I mean OK, you're building your kit. Why does it always start with the biggest damn gun you can find and an Israeli manufactured gas mask? Are there really going to be that many people comming to take my naughty nightwear by force? I can respect the notion of having things like some blankets, flashlights, a decent first aid kit, a sterno stove and a weeks or so worth of canned goods hidden away somewhere.

If things really fall has hard as most survivalists think, they better know how to build a plow and yoke an ox. And have a dehydrated ox in their shelter. Or something.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:00 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh My G-d, this thread is just too long. You people, take a break already.
posted by newdaddy at 8:44 PM on January 29, 2009


Yes, Dee Xtrovert went through an extreme situation, but most of the survivalists being mocked are not preparing for a para-military force to be operating in their vicinity for years at a time. Argentina and the breakdown of the Weimar Republic are far more common models than Sarajevo. And on a related note, I would never equate betting on calamity with "cheapening my soul". There's a difference between having a vested interest in the destruction of one's own community and paying attention to what's in the wind.

It's very fun to speculate on what one might do (or even more ridiculously, to state with assurance what they would do) in bizarre, unthinkable scenarios, but you know, it's only a game. I could have been more explicit than I was when I made the "cheapening my soul" comment, so let me explain what was left out. It wasn't that I had any real opinion about survivalism or pre-disaster preparation before I went through the war. I was a teenaged girl saving money for clothes and sneaking out of class to smoke the occasional cigarette; I didn't have many serious issues on my mind. Of course, there was a brief period of time between "normal" and "war" where I could have prepared, and where the subject was widely discussed among all citizens of Sarajevo.

But it was only after the war that I felt glad for not cheapening my soul, and that was after noticing that so many people who did "bet on calamity" realized that it hadn't stopped the inevitable and had, in many cases, made the misery more miserable. Most of those who prepared felt - after the war - that they had cheapened their souls and were plenty sad about it. And let's be honest . . . we all knew and were paying attention to what was "in the wind."

For me, I got to spend at least a precious few weeks leading a "normal" life with my mom and dad, instead of "preparing" for a catastrophe that probably would have taken them anyway (they died in a fashion no steps towards preparation would have prevented.)

Those few weeks made many of my strongest and most precious happy memories - I'm glad they were spent living life as it should be spent, not stockpiling a bunch of crap that wouldn't have lasted for even 5% of the length of the war. Those who did waste this precious time which could have been spent with whole, intact families . . . well, all of the ones I know regret it now.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:30 PM on January 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


You people, take a break already.

This IS my break.

At 0100 hours I have to patrol the southern wall and check the fuel and water levels in the tanks. This is how I earn breakfast.

Hey, does anybody remember the sort of paramilitary survival guy who was holed up with his girlfriend and a buddy in some CBD office building during Hurricane Katrina? He was realtime blogging their survivalist-style activities. They each traded off sleeping/patrolling shifts and had a whole defense system rigged for themselves, rations, all kinds of stuff. I found him here on MeFi where I was obsessively tracking Katrina events at the time. Can't remember his name or what building he was in, so Googling isn't working, and my search of the site isn't turning much up because there are so many Katrina threads. Not this guy, though (wouldn't want to suggest that he's at all representative of survivalists).
posted by Miko at 9:32 PM on January 29, 2009


Outpost Crystal! I found it. Interdictor. His dedication to survival ensured that Something Awful would continue service uninterrupted.
posted by Miko at 9:37 PM on January 29, 2009


piratebowling: "If civilization falls, put together an AskMe. Way ahead of you, man."

Way ahead of you, man.
posted by WCityMike at 9:46 PM on January 29, 2009


But it was only after the war that I felt glad for not cheapening my soul, and that was after noticing that so many people who did "bet on calamity" realized that it hadn't stopped the inevitable and had, in many cases, made the misery more miserable. Most of those who prepared felt - after the war - that they had cheapened their souls and were plenty sad about it. And let's be honest . . . we all knew and were paying attention to what was "in the wind."

I'm not responding to argue with you. There's really no argument to be made. You have no regrets about how the time before the war was spent and that's congruent with your beliefs and values. OK. And since that doesn't match me, I see the equation of "preparing" with "cheapening one's soul" as judgmental. Some years ago, I learned that, on average, women who fought their rapist had easier recoveries than those who did not. Knowing that one showed up for oneself and did what they could according to their capabilities, counts for a lot. Perhaps it's more important to some than others. It would be difficult to forgive myself, if I didn't take some preparatory measures for a catastrophe I reckoned likely. I see it as a duty, the results are secondary. Even in less extreme scenarios than war, any preparations made would only make a difference in a fraction of the possible outcomes. But failing to respond at all would be shirking responsibility for my own fate. There's been a lot of eye-rolling here, and if the U.S. emerges without any turmoil it will be easy to snicker, but I can't see taking action according to one's beliefs as anything but "living life as it should be spent".

I also emphasize that most survivalists aren't thinking about scenarios of such intensity as Sarajevo. Hyper-inflation, civil unrest, a deep and prolonged depression is more along the lines of what survivalists are considering. And I would also agree that some situations defy our capability to plan and meet. For those there is little point in wasting time, doing anything to prepare. I don't think very many of those who are stocking up see the future quite so bleak.
posted by BigSky at 11:17 PM on January 29, 2009


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