Letter Re: Confronting Kleptocracy–Identifying the Looter Mentality

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I would like to make a few comments on your post titled “Confronting Kleptocracy – Identifying the Looter Mentality”.

Although my education and profession are in medicine, I have been long interested in social anthropology particularly as it applies to the average “citizen” confronted with a breakdown in modern society. As you are well aware, our society exists by means of a fragile web of precisely balanced interconnected dependencies. This web was not created overnight but has developed over several generations.

At present we enjoy life at a time where the poorest people in our modern culture live at a standard way beyond what the richest kings enjoyed only a hundred years ago. About a year ago I sat in a restaurant and heard a young lady (20-something) exclaim to her friend and the server, “Oh my God, this chicken has bones in it! That is so gross!” Quite obviously, this typical young lady has lived her entire life eating only boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken nuggets and is so removed from the source of her meal that being confronted with the reality of chicken, she was appalled. Today, a majority of our population has never experienced life without these comforts. They have no frame of reference to anything different. We set the thermostat for 74 degrees because 76 is a bit too warm and, well, 72 is just a little too cold. We also feel free to complain when it’s not right.

I believe it is important to remember that as a reader of SurvivalBlog, you are not among the majority. If you are a regular reader then almost by definition you understand that your comfort, your safety, and your assets are earned and not deserved. If you are a reader than you understand and agree with the concepts of preparations that you make thereby earning your comfort.

One thing we can ascribe to the “Golden Horde” leaving suburbia is they will have a sense of entitlement. Never before have there been as many people who believe they deserve more then what they have. This phenomenon is made clear by the average personal debt, and is well documented and written about in business literature since it reigns as one of the largest problems facing employers today. In short we have a large group of people with a willingness to deserve but without a willingness to earn.

Last fall during a lecture I asked a group of medical residents what they would do if society collapsed. I used the example of an EMP with complete failure of the electrical grid and ensuing chaos. Keep in mind, these are very well educated and intelligent people; they are physicians in training. These people are expected by the population to have the highest ethical standards and morals. Their answers astounded me. In the early aftermath as a group these people said they would go to the store and get what they needed. When I reminded them there was no way to pay with a credit card they seemed to think that it would be okay anyway. Many of the women said they would resort to begging if things became difficult, but most of the males in the group said they would leave for the rural areas due to the availability of cattle and other farm animals. When I asked what they would then do, most responded that they would take “one or two.” It wasn’t until I mentioned that stealing cattle is also called “rustling” and men used to be hung for such acts that it even began to register they were in fact stealing. The notion had not even occurred to them. One of my residents took the discussion further saying, “It wouldn’t necessarily be considered stealing because of the national emergency.” When I assured him the farmer or rancher would definitely consider it stealing and would likely defend his property with a rifle, he answered, “He wouldn’t shoot me. I’m a doctor. Besides murder would be a worse crime than my stealing.”

In general statistics apply only to populations and never to individuals. This is a critical fact to remember as we consider what might happen in a societal collapse. Personally, I hate the term “sheeple.” Although descriptive in the sense that we refer to the masses of suburbanites moving in the Golden Horde it does not describe the individual. “Sheeple” conjures images of an inept couch potato lumbering along the road with a bed sheet full of junk food over his shoulder with a fat wife and three whining kids in tow. In reality, the individual may very well be educated, physically fit, and have a history of military training. He might be young or old. He might be married with kids or single and alone. He may be well armed and have a great deal of experience using weapons; he might be a felon, or he might be a doctor.

My fear is that the entitled attitude is not only common, but it is the prevailing mindset today. It will not even occur to these thousands of normally good and law-abiding people that taking your hard earned larder is wrong. “After all, it’s an emergency and my family and I are hungry.”

Could it be that all looters are not bad? Perhaps some are just self-centered, entitled, and clueless. This describes half the current population and part of the reason we are in this economic mess. While I have no problem justifying the use of deadly force to defend one’s property and loved ones, (yes, I have a rifle and a shovel) it might be beneficial to stop for a second and consider that the looter just doesn’t get it. They are a product of a society that has taught them the wrong values and ideals for a generation and encouraged them to be self-centered.

As I consider the possibilities in a post-TEOTWAWKI scenario, I can see where looting could fall into two distinct categories. The first group is the despicable where stealing is done for personal gain. They are anarchy in action, they destroy community, and spread destruction. For that group I would agree that “Rule .308” applies. But it’s this second group that gives me trouble. These are the folks that just don’t have a clue. They steal to survive and to protect their loved ones. If I was in their situation I don’t know what I would do, but I do know that I would not sit idly by watching my family starve. I believe these will be the majority and I have to think that education and a little charity could go a long way.

Regards, – Dr. Dean