Horizontal Relationships: The Key to True Independence- Part 2, by J.E.

We are continuing to look at my thesis: True independence is achieved by cultivating horizontal dependencies and avoiding vertical dependencies. We have done so through a hypothetical family’s situation– the Johnson’s– and analyzed their most basic needs, as Maslow would say. We’ve looked at the Johnson’s food, water, and shelter scenario.


Speaking of Maslow, let’s look at another critical need– security. If the Johnsons are anything like the average American Suburban dweller, they probably have a shotgun somewhere in a closet. It was probably Mr. Johnson’s dad’s or grandad’s, and it brought down many a fowl in its day. Mr. Johnson has shot it a few times and plans to teach his son how to use it. Somewhere in the garage is a box of #7 target load. The Johnsons lock their doors at night and have a great security system installed. It’s a good neighborhood with a low crime rate, and the police station is close by.

So, who do the Johnsons rely on for security? Primarily, they rely on the ordered, polite, civilized society. If it remains a good neighborhood, the Johnsons will be okay. Secondarily, and exclusively in the event of an incident, the Johnsons rely on their local law enforcement.

A Concerning Scenario

When Mr. Johnson is wakened by the sound of breaking glass one night, the thought of getting the shotgun out of the closet doesn’t cross his mind. He instantly reaches for his smartphone and dials 9-1-1. As he hears the sirens going off in the near distance, he cautiously steps out on his deck.

“Did you hear that?” his neighbor calls from across the property line.

“Yeah, it sounded like someone breaking in,” Mr. Johnson calls back. “The police are on the way.”

“Thank God,” the neighbor says as he pulls his bathrobe more closely around him. Unlike Mr. Johnson, he’s never touched a gun in his life and has no desire to do so. Were an attacker to spring from the bushes and assault Mr. Johnson, his neighbor would stand there frozen, unable to move, lacking any training or skill to act.

After the police discover some innocuous cause for the broken glass, clear the scene, and head out, Mr. Johnson goes back to bed feeling safe in the knowledge that his community is secure.

But while Mr. Johnson is completely dependent on law enforcement to keep him safe, is he and his family the local police department’s primary and only concern? What if on that night there was a shooting, a fire, or a major incident in some other part of town? Mr. Johnson may have had to wait several minutes or longer for the police to arrive.

Dependence For Security

While he is solely dependent on them, Mr. Johnson’s personal safety is only a part of the police department’s larger, overall concern. Additionally, were he in any way mixed up in an incident jeopardizing his safety, arriving law enforcement would undoubtedly view him as a suspect instead of a victim. Law enforcement is focused on the overall safety of the community rather than the affairs of one particular person in that community.

Mr. Johnson is vertically dependent on an entity which is only marginally dependent on his goodwill and cooperation. It’s not a fully vertical dependency, but it’s steep nonetheless.

Other Unbalanced Dependencies

We could go on at length about the dependencies of the average American in suburbia. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are dependent on the public schools to care for, educate, and supervise their children. As we have said, they are dependent on the health care system via employer-provided health insurance for their medical needs. They are dependent on cellular and Internet providers for one hundred percent of their communication needs. They are dependent on the entertainment industry for recreation and pleasure. Perhaps they don’t regularly run or bike. So they are dependent on their cars and the income that fuels them for all their transportation needs. Each of these dependencies tends toward the vertical.

The Johnson family is living the American dream by having it all, yet they are not independent.

Moving Toward A Horizontally Dependent Life

Now, let’s examine how the Johnson family could move from a life of near-total vertical dependency to a more horizontally dependent life that allows for true and meaningful independence.

Making Things Themselves

First and foremost, the Johnsons need to transition from being consumers to producers. Instead of spending all their time earning money to convert into needful items, they need to start making needful items themselves. Fifty years ago, a middle class family would grow a portion of their own produce and hunt. They’d sew, knit, or crochet their own clothes and cook their own food from scratch. If they needed tools, toys, or furniture, they’d make those too. They would barter, build, and catch. We have stopped doing these things because it’s so much easier to sit at a computer for 40 hours a week, earning money that can be converted into tangible goods. If the Johnsons want to be independent, they need to go back to middle class roots.


Beginning with food, the Johnsons should have a garden. They need a backyard garden, a raised bed, or even a few planters. But it should be something. Gardening is the process of converting recreational time into food. Backyard, recreational gardening may not be lucrative or replace trips to the grocery stores, but it will necessarily produce three valuable things:

  1. Something good to eat,
  2. Seeds and infrastructure to expand to full-scale food production, if the need arises, and
  3. The critical skills needed to create human fuel out of water, light, soil, and time.

Start somewhere, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, and then expand as you can. As this readership knows, a significant amount of food can be generated in a townhouse and tiny backyard.

Water Collection and Purification

You can easily collect water at a townhouse and use it either for a garden or for emergencies. Learning the basics of water purification creates a secondary water supply, turning the Johnson’s dependence on city water into optionality in the event of a service disruption.

Establishing Rural Relationships

Independent food procurement can take on another dimension, if the Johnsons look to establish horizontal relationship outside of their immediate neighborhood. While Mr. Johnson has no property to hunt on, he can go out and befriend local farmers. He might offer to volunteer on their farms in exchange for hunting privileges, again converting recreational time into potential food. In the process, he established great, horizontal relationships with local farmers. He helps them and shares anything he kills with them. They let him hunt. Many times, the farmers send Mr. Johnson home with eggs from their chickens and extra produce. Community and mutual dependency are built, enabling the Johnsons to become more independent of the industrial food complex, or the money they make from work to feed their family. Between gardening, hunting, foraging, and befriending local farmers, the Johnsons could still put food on their table if they lost their jobs.

Horizontal Security

Security is logistically easy but mentally challenging to provide for one’s self. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson could easily obtain their own firearms. With regular training and practice, they could obtain the skill and mindset to use them. But they can also depend on others for security while still maintaining independence. No doubt, in their neighborhood, there are other like-minded individuals who own weapons and know how to use them. They meet up and discuss “what if” scenarios. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson start keeping an eye out for their houses, and their neighbors do likewise. If something happens, they have each other’s backs and are able to defend each other. The responders of 9-1-1 is still there for backup, but if the police are diverted elsewhere the Johnson family is not helpless. They are armed and have armed friends. They can round up a posse, if the need arises.

Substituting Horizontal Dependencies for Other Vertical Ones

And so it goes, in every arena, there exists a way to find horizontal dependencies to replace the vertical dependencies we are accustomed to. This is why many families homeschool– to reduce dependence on the state. They choose to not sit home, helplessly hoping the state (who only cares about children as a collective, and does not individually care for your child) is shaping and nurturing your child. They desire to learn, practice, and pass on many of the skills that have been expounded upon at length here.

Volunteer As A First Responder

Even the one-sided relationship between citizens and government can be favorably adjusted by the individual who gets involved with his or her community and becomes a community helper. I cannot overstate the value of joining a volunteer fire or rescue department. Not only will you learn valuable crisis and medical skills, which may save the lives of you and your family, you will also balance the relationship between you are your local government. Since a community depends on its heroes, most cities and towns provide benefits to residents who are volunteer first responders. While volunteer fire and rescue is still a thriving profession, the individual who wants to level out their dependency on their local government should definitely consider this path.

In A Crisis Situation

While I believe independence is an inherent good, independence becomes exponentially more important in a survival or crisis situation. If a crisis were to occur, would those providing my needs have a reason to continue providing for me? If I am vertically dependent now, I will suffer more in a crisis. Horizontal dependencies are more likely to survive, since a crisis increases our need for each other.

A final note for those making contingency plans for times of crisis. What we have discussed here is the critical difference between “community” and “communism”. Both are forms of collectivism. Yet, we intuitively know that the first is good while the second is bad. The reason for this is that “community” relies on horizontal relationships, while communism (like most forms of oppressive government) relies on a centralized power controlling and redistributing the resources. Communal living is all fun and games until a centralized authority is designated, which forcibly administers it. Then it becomes totalitarian. This is an important point to keep in mind for those planning to establish a form of community in a worst-case scenario: You must keep the dependencies horizontal if you want to preserve liberty along with life and the pursuit of happiness.

The Path of True Freedom Today

Even if there is no crisis, minimizing vertical dependency is a path to true freedom in a society and economy where we are increasingly enslaved by debt, obligation, red tape, and bureaucracy. You don’t need to wait for a crisis to be a free man or woman. You can start on this path of independence today.

I hope I have demonstrated that independence does not mean total self-reliance apart from our fellow man. It is rather the eschewing of vertical dependencies and the nurturing of horizontal dependencies. That is what true independence means to me– to be dependent on my wife, my brothers, my sisters, my neighbors, and everyone in America like me. But to be independent of kings, powers, tyrants, and anyone who seeks to exert control or dominance.

That’s the kind of independence I’ll be celebrating today. Happy Independence Day!

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 71 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
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Round 71 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. One of the issues facing ‘The Johnsons’ in suburbia is the existence of Home Owners Associations (HOA), and the control wielded by them. We experienced this personally and moved out specifically so we could keep animals. Many in suburbia are trapped by the need to be close to employment, versus the ‘nice neighborhoods’ have these overzelous HOA’s that are like miniature communist governments.

    Want to know who your petty tyrants are? Look to the HOA.

    Yes, they keep abandoned refrigerators off lawns, but they allow no freedom and this inpacts on any plans for limited self sufficiency.

    In fact, it was this house I refer to that I based the Berenger’s house off of in Patriot Dawn.

  2. Yes HOAs can be bad and they are a constant source of irritation. Just like people, right? But my retreat is in an HOA. In return for my yearly 400 bucks in fees I get road maintenance to my 15 acres of heaven where I cleared an acre of forest and built my off grid shack and started a small orchard, 3,000 linear feet of community shoreline and tide lands which we seed oysters onto and harvest every few years, we shotgun harvest a deer each year on my acreage, our own airfield with daily FedEx delivery, a mail shack with daily delivery by boat, our own long fishing pier with attached docks for boats, and harvest fresh shrimp and dungeness crab in abundance. We have our own small park and some common areas open to wood harvest for members. Within the HOA there are some real pain in the ass people but at the same time there is a community here with skilled craftsman and mechanics and backyard farmers and off-road electrical technicians. Communities are dynamic and you need people skills. And there are always some good people who become good friends if you do your part. Yesterday the island at large held it’s second annual Independence Day parade and potluck. A John Deere tractor with Old Glory mounted on a vertical staff lashed to the loader bucket led the parade.

    1. Sounds wonderful, how fortunate you are. It also does not sound like suburban life, or a suburban HOA. And thus is no help to ‘The Johnsons’ who may in fact make up a larger readership here than those fortunate to live in a ‘retreat.’

      Perhaps the exception that proves the rule?

      As mentioned, we solved it by moving out of suburbia. Many are not in a position to make those changes, without significant changes to their modern way of life. There is the problem.

  3. Freedom and prosperity are blessings from the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s title right now is “Lord of lords and King of kings and is a very political title. After His ascension, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father where He rules from Heaven above. This is the establishment of the only good vertical form of government that at the same time gives the most liberty to men.

    I do hope and pray that Christians will once again see the beauty of Christs government as it is centralized in heaven while being decentralized here on earth. Christ ordained and rules through three primary spheres of government among men; the family, Church and civil governments. These spheres of government are to be in submission to Christ and His law which defines, decentralizes and limits them. Men are called to rule in their particular sphere of authority as servant / kings & priests while Being in submission to the Law of their Creator God. This system provides great liberty while providing the accountability, checks and balances of the other spheres while at the same time having a high level of independence from each other.

    This delegated governmental authority in no way diminishes Christ’s omnipresence and direct hand in His rule over His creation.

    Satan the usurper and liar from the beginning has deceived Christians into thinking the Moral Law of God has no further use once a Christian is saved. Because of this, we have abdicated our horizontal leadership roles to a vertical overbearing highly centralized satanic state that is attempting to usurp the authority and rule of Christ. Federalism and globalism are satanic to the core. The majority of the modern American Church gives lip service to Jesus as Lord but openly rejects Him in practice. We would rather be ruled by the tyranny of satanic men because they give us “free stuff”.

    The Moral Law of Christ must remain as a standard for our sanctification and as a definition of sin for individual, Church and state.

    I must say it again; “To have civil freedom, the Moral Law must be used by a distinctively Christian State as a standard for morals and law in order to provide righteous justice and to be a proper terror to evil doers”. Look and see how the satanic federal government is now declaring good to be evil and evil to be good!

    The horizontal freedom given under the reign of Christ allows families to freely contract and trade with others for goods and services. The civil government has no authority to be in business (or to be in bed with them) or to control free trade. This allows the diversity of talents given by God to individuals to benefit the community and allow us to rise above a very basic substance existence.

    I used to be a typical loner prepper and now see that mindset as a failure waiting to happen. Of course individual preparedness is important, but building a distinctly Christian community and culture that freely trades goods and services will provide what most preppers are seeking.

    Lastly, in a SHTF scenario, families that know,love, trust, worship and serve Christ together will also be able to have the numbers to network and provide a mutual community defense. Ultimately safety is of the Lord.

  4. “50 years ago, we sewed, knit, grew our own food”. Actually that number is more like 70. And those people are aging out and taking their knowledge with them. 50 years ago, I was 15. My family wore handmade clothes. All the women of all generations in my family could sew their clothes, including me. We could all knit or crochet or both. But my grandmother did the bulk of both the sewing and knitting. My other grandmother did the mending. We had home ec in school but we were already moving away from making our clothes. I continued to do so, but my friends didn’t. And I was the only one of my friends who knit.

    Although my mother had grown up with a victory garden, neither she, nor her parents continued the trend after it was no longer mandatory. And I never learned. It wasn’t until it became trendy for a short while in the early 70s that I attempted to grow anything. And not til I moved to a rural area of the redoubt (by accident and long before it was popular) that I learned to grow and store my food, simply because people there did.

    But even so, I figure most of the people who routinely used those skills growing up and as young parents are likely in their 80s now. Thankfully there is still a remnant that has either hung on to the lifestyle or wants to return to it. I’m looking forward to returning to the redoubt next summer, but here in suburbia, I’m thankful for the retired and the newly adult who at least try and keep our older neighborhood from falling into the HOA trap.

    These skills

  5. Ironically, our devotion this morning (by Chuck Swindoll) was titled “Hope for Survival” and focused on Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32. This passage discusses early Christians living in such a community, voluntarily helping meet one another’s needs. There can be little question that this is how God wishes for His Church to exist, similar to the horizontal relationships described in this article.

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