I have been deeply perplexed ever since first beginning to read SurvivalBlog. Every night, while the wife and new baby daughter slept in peace, I have thought about my lack of tangible knowledge. Sure, I have many skills over a variety of useful tasks in our everyday lives, and even some that would help my family survive in a bad situation. But, when we have to be brutally honest with ourselves, self-doubt can get the best of us. I say this now because it was reading the highly useful SurvivalBlog that brought on this doubt for me. I wanted to be able to contribute, but doing that means you have to actually know something useful for others to consider in their preparations. The essay contest at SurvivalBlog has reminded me to be more vigilant in learning the right skills-the ones that my mother’s generation stopped teaching us (or we were not listening). The site and community here has triggered me to ask myself, “What do I know well enough to actually write about?” I believe we should all self-reflect; it may give us strength now for when our families will need it most.
But this essay is about something else. This essay is a thought experiment in reminding ourselves of what not to forget in any horrendous situation that might occur where people depend on our foresight and fortitude to survive. What is it that we must never forget? That we are a nation of laws, not men. Let me explain, and it will be shown that what I write about is indeed a skill. A skill that all of us will need to insure the long-term survival of our families, nations, and world, no matter how bad it gets.
Here is a hypothetical: A worst-case nuclear scenario. Multiple hits. Fallout. It could be worse-but you prepared. You covered all the bases, down to the last pound of hard wheat and fully stocked ammo cans. You have a shelter that helped you survive the initial effects. You find the government fails and falls. For a time, you are secure with the skills and supplies you have, and your family lives on. Very quickly, though, things begin to deteriorate into lawlessness. I am not just talking about hordes of zombies running rampant; I am talking about every institution that you staked your survival on being gone. That survival retreat you bought has no more boundaries-it is open to all who wish to take it-even once friendly neighbors you never knew you had. I am talking about the threatened existence of private property. What do you do?
What about justice for the weak and the wicked? It cannot always come at the end of a smoking barrel. I have as many guns as the next guy and train with them-but real law comes only when we can make promises and keep our word. At the root of every law in our land lies a promise- a promise to do or not to do something-and another person that makes the same commitment. It is called a compromise.
What about a court system to enforce these promises? Sure, as citizens we often lament the court system as it applies to our everyday lives. Sometimes its because we do not understand its complexity-and it is complex-but other times it is because the system actually does do wrong to someone. Nonetheless, it is a necessary evil if we are to live in a truly free community and nation. Do not misunderstand me-I am a libertarian to the core, not a pro-big government full of too many laws type. I write these words hesitantly only after substantial thought of how to protect my family in the long-term. That is where the skill enters the fray.
The skills I believe are critical for all of our survival include negotiation, objective legal analysis, compromise, and institution-building. I am not going to detail here how best to create a judicial system or government out of the proverbial ashes. What I will discuss are the basics of thinking about problems we will have post-TEOTWAWKI in a way that really insures our long-term family and community survival. At some point, supplies will run low, skirmishes will occur (either between neighbors or communities), and arguments over what is whose and who promises what will prevail. How will you deal with these situations?
I am a soon-to-graduate law student, and will be a high-level litigator for lawsuits against the government. I attend a powerful law school that breeds politicians and world leaders at the highest levels of government-and that is all I will say in the service of relative anonymity. My essay here addresses the topic with the skill and reality of a lawyer-not someone merely interested in reading books about law or statutes of gun laws. Let me make this very clear: The law is not black and white. It is gray-and this is why lawyers have jobs. It is gray because it is a human endeavor. This is why you must be able to deal with human beings! You must be able, in any survival situation, to make everyone feel like they have gotten their fair shake at the table. You have to be able to negotiate, analyze without emotion, and compromise. If you do not acquire these delicate skills, you will not survive very long. People in your community will not deal with you. If you do have these skills, you can quickly become the go-to person for resolving disputes, whether local or not. No matter what happens to our present world (excluding religiously based predictions), people will eventually congregate again and begin to bargain. Eventually those bargains will get more complicated. Eventually martial law on anything is sight will have to give way to civil and political discourse. You must be able to do this. Before anyone discounts any of the preceding words as not a “survival” skill per se, or not an OPSEC consideration, I point to the founding fathers of this country. They were revolutionaries, patriots, but many were also lawyers. And our country was born. I hope I have conveyed the importance of the skills I outline. They are not just for lawyers that many seem to have a dislike for.
Negotiation: The first step to a successful negotiation is trust between the parties involved. Simple steps can be taken to do this. Say two neighbors are fighting over a property line-but the court burned with all the recorded deeds and surveys. Even if the property owners have their own copies, who will enforce it? What if one has more ammo than the other? Uh-oh! If you are involved and take a leadership role this can be resolved and you keep your family out of a cross-fire. So, establish that both parties can trust you, even if they don’t trust each other. Some of this should have already been done before a disaster-that is, you, as a preparedness-minded individual should have already shown yourself to be a trustworthy and fair citizen. Of course, bad OPSEC would require you to allow all neighbors to know your exact preparations. You don’t have to do that. By simply respecting the rights of your neighbors now you have established some trust to use later. Other ways of establishing that you are fair and trustworthy come in the form of charity, as always discussed on this site, and in being straightforward even when it does not benefit you. This is perhaps the fastest way to becoming a successful negotiator. If you have done right by others, and these two neighbors begin to involve you in their dispute, it is time for step two: Establish the outer limits of what both parties want. In the property line dispute, you would resort to your skills at reading surveys (if the parties have them), and use that knowledge to see where both parties want their line to be. As an aside, this could be just a land transfer where the parties both want to readjust boundaries but argue over payment, etc… I say this because this article is meant to trigger your own assessment skills and apply them to a variety of possible scenarios. Once you have established the outer bounds of what the parties want, it is time to figure out a way to do step three: Convince the parties, or even better, allow the parties to convince themselves, of why settlement is in their best interests (and yours, because you don’t want to be involved in an escalating situation). This is where your own style and finesse plays a determining factor. Be creative. Once these three steps are accomplished, you are on your way to becoming the local negotiator! Resolving disputes by negotiation is precisely the kind of skill every “prepper” should be adept at:
Compromise: This skill is related to negotiation, but I classify it separately because I define (for this article only) a negotiation as you acting as agent between two other parties. Compromise, on the other hand, involves you as one of the parties. This makes it much more difficult because we have personal interests at stake. In these scenarios, it is critical to have a developed sense of legal analysis. This is a loaded term, but for our purposes it means to see a problem as a problem-not a problem that affects you. Step away mentally and see the other person’s argument. Try to understand them and what they want. Yes, what they want might be something you’ll never give, but in order to develop a strategy you must understand what you are strategizing against! The next step in effective compromise is to offer your fair solution and then ask the other party to offer theirs. Even if no one thinks this will yield results, what else is there to do? Argue and elevate a situation? If nothing else, actually doing the repetitive act of offering solutions to each other will postpone a violent conflict long enough for you to gain a short-term tactical advantage. At best, it may actually yield a compromise you both can live with.
The aforementioned skills of negotiation and compromise are only meant to be a primer for further thought by all SurvivalBlog readers. I thought it important to contribute a few ideas on what will ensure our true long-term survival in any situation. As a parting thought, imagine the worst-case scenario. The constitution of this country has been dissolved. Awhile down the road, you are called upon to go to a convention. Would you have the skills to ensure your rights, and the rights of your countrymen, are again enshrined in a new founding document? Think about it long and hard. I think about it every evening with a .45 discreetly hidden near the desk I use to study Law for a living.
Our country will need you. Thomas Jefferson pioneered the ideal of a “citizen-lawyer,” and our nation was founded upon the idea that all persons were equally responsible in ensuring the proper functioning of the government. The “citizen-lawyer” does not have to be a lawyer-indeed, Jefferson meant it to apply to all equally. I believe that the preparedness-minded individual is uniquely situated to appreciate the need for the skills I have addressed here. Without them, our ammo and food would run out…and that is it. Run out. Do you want that to be the end result of your preparations?