What is Survival?- Part 5, by MuddyKid

What is survival? I am talking about my journey from short-term to long-term survival and thinking on what is legible. We left off on the subtopic of the human predator and specifically with my question about whether the situation in Syria would be considered a short-term or long-term situation.


What has been going on in Syria is interesting and one of many regions that I pay close attention to in effort to understand survival. To the leftwing, Syria started because of a climate change induced drought. For the rightwing, Syria started because Assad is a communist sympathizer who is brutal dictator.

Whatever your political flavor is, there are stories about why Syria is in a civil war that cater to your politics. However, we can say for certain that the situation in Syria is complex. Syria played a role in Alas, Babylon in 1959, which clearly demonstrates how long the U.S. has disliked Syria. There is a good amount of evidence that Syria has become a proxy war between who gets to control oil pipelines, the east or the west.

So, why did Syria pop off? There is no one answer to that question. Rather, it was a sum of many situations that created the civil war in Syria.

Some Experience Normal Life

What we can see, however, is that for the most part, normal daily life is taking place in Syria. People still go to work and school, and trade still happens. In some areas, people experience war. In other areas, there are supply shortages. Further yet, some areas hear distant gun shots, and some others experience normal, everyday life.

A common theme in Syria is this: The richer and more elite you are, the less you are impacted. The stories that people are pouring out of the urban centers to strip the country side of its resources are not true in Syria. This leads to question, how many other situations, like Syria, that we point to are also not true?

I have studied many of these situations, and I have yet to find a single example of people roaming the country side for prolonged periods taking all in its path. I have found very early stories of this tied to communism, however. People that have left Syria are migrating to other nations and the urban centers. They are not just roaming around stealing stuff in rural areas. This claim could be debatable with ISIS, sure. But, that group is completely different in the context of the typical survival story.

Violence in Regions That Are Strategic For Modern World

Most, if not all of the violence that is taking place in Syria is in geographic regions that are strategic and useful for the modern world. The further away you live from these strategic regions, the less you’re going to feel the impact.

As an example, if traditional war came to the U.S., is a large city like Los Angles more likely to be a primary target or a small town like Cushing, Oklahoma, with a population of less than 7,000?

It is easy to think Los Angeles. However, any attack on large population centers I would think is more symbolic or a distraction rather than a real blow to infrastructure. Cushing, Oklahoma, on the other hand, is a major control point for American oil supply. As such, any organized force targeting America would certainly be focused on controlling critical infrastructure as opposed to high population centers that are too large to control. So, for the survival-minded people reading this, is your retreat near any strategic infrastructure, like Cushing, Oklahoma or military bases? Or, have you been focusing primarily on distance from high population urban centers? I would certainly rather be closer to an urban center than to a place like Cushing. Your mileage may vary.

Contention Between Urban vs. Rural People

The point here is this: In the story of survival, there has always been contention between urban vs. rural people. When we look at specific examples, it looks like the norm is for people to migrate to the urban centers. Conflict does not blanket the entire country or region at once. The conflict impacts every place differently, and the further people are away from the conflict, the more normal their life is.

Life Absent Modern Conveniences

To begin to wrap this up, what I believe to be my most important survival skill is that I am comfortable with walking into the woods with nothing but a knife to not just survive but to live. I obtained this confidence by practicing techniques to the point that they become knowledge. And let us not sugar coat it; it will not be easy. But, life absent of modern conveniences has been done by humans for a very long time before the modern fears of EMP’s and such. It is easy for people to simplify how things happen in the world in a way that supports our point of view. And the information we take in often supports that point of view. But, as I started out with in this piece, what I have attempted to do here is provide a different perspective.

Violence Against Another

I think different perspectives are important because often discussions about survival really focus on ways to protect ourselves through violence against another. And I will admit, that part of survival is one my favorite parts. (I am a firearms enthusiast.) However, I specifically did not make violence and defense my primary focus in this piece.

The reason I did this is because a common theme in the “bug out” articles is this… A person works in an urban center, or they are primarily suburban based. Because they do not have resources and are convinced that all humans will turn into predators at the flip of a switch, they are going to bug out to their retreat. They are going to bug out through the approach that nothing and no one matters during their travel.

I gotta say, if you cut my fence, you are the golden hoard to me. If you take a militarized approach to a road block that my community sets up in a long-term situation, you are now a threat to me. I’d much rather have conversations with you than engage in a gun fight that you created. I would much rather show you ways that instead of walking 50 miles home, you measure that distance in 168 mulberry trees. I would much rather discuss with you ways that we can be kind and protect each other, rather than fight you. And I do not care how “advanced” you think you are with firearms. Someone is always going to be better, or they are going to have the drop on you.

Living, Polite, Respectful, Firm

The most important part about survival is living. But how we define that life is also important. Pure aggression is an approach to survival that is all too familiar, and I question if that approach will most likely put you in situations that you will not survive. Being polite and respectful but also firm, on the other hand, may just be one of our most important survival skills that are rarely discussed.

Drones, Legible

There is another aspect to survival that I have not covered yet. And for this piece, I am not going to go in to detail. I will, however, leave you with a question. In today’s world, heavy government and corporate surveillance is a huge economic market that relies on technology to “secure” everything. One of many examples of this type of technology is drones. Right now, drones are being used and developed in a way that will make nuclear war obsolete. My question for you to consider is: When we continuously read news that distracts us through fear-based narratives, does increased surveillance through drones, meta-data, or AI seem like a solution to the problem? Or, does this type of approach create the problem? And, is this a process that is legible?

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part five of a five part entry for Round 77 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

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  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
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Round 77 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. I wanted to say thanks to everyone who commented and took interest in my article. Its been entertaining.

    I want to get ahead of the people who want to comment about an EMP scenario or any such scenario that acts as a single cut off switch. Of course, these are real concerns. But, what is the probability of that concern? Once we follow the story of the EMP, a boost to that story came from “One Second After”. Entertaining book. But, following that story leads you to EMPpact, a lobbying group for the industry that wants to gain the contract to update the infrastructure. So, just like how I discussed the news as survival, the same applies to the EMP story. Industry attempting to scare you so that they can profit.

    With that, not only do I trust in the lord, I also trust that the United States military is the strongest military the world has ever known. Any EMP attack by another nation is going to result in that nations complete annihilation. The leaders of those nations know this. And I trust in their ability to want and maintain their power. People who rise to power are good at it, and they certainly want to keep their power. So, while North Korea has historically talked a big game about nukes, I take comfort in the idea that the Kim Jong’s want above all else, to keep their power.

    Thanks again, everyone!

  2. The perspective given concerning Syria is interesting. Life goes on it just changes. When it changes radically this is where prepping and survival come into play.
    Visit Nagasaki, life goes on without old trees.

    Muddykid your articles have been thought provoking.
    I do agree that EMP is much less likely that a subduction zone quake, Carrington event strength solar flare or epidemic. EMP becomes less of an issue when small and medium sized utilities harden their sites and systems.

    Infrastructure spending should include hardening control points like Cushing but that is not the shiny kind of thing politicians chose to spend our money on.

  3. Enjoyed the Syria analysis. Always like to examine real world situations rather than “doom porn ” ( although obviously enjoy it because let’s face it, that’s why we’re all here )

    Not sure about the ” I come in peace ” approach to making contact with other entities.

    Given the increasing hostile nature of people ( at least here in the Northeast ) , but recent travels have proven people are getting dangerous nationwide.

    To their effect as a combat force I’m sure it would run the gambit from Joe six-pack all the way to returning battle-hardened veterans. Although nobody should discount the angry mob. What they lack in skill set makeup in sheer numbers.

    In a societal collapse, civil war, etc it would be wise to approach any group or persons with extreme caution.

    Just my humble .02 cents.

    Thank you for a great and extensive contribution to survival blog.


  4. MuddyKid,

    The “One Second After” EMP senairo was exactly what came to mind at the end of the article. Nearly all of the things we imagine we are preparing for are very unlikely, but we do it anyway. I think like a lot of Preppers the feeling of confidence that I could survive makes me more complete. Believing I’m well schooled in the basics of being Human makes it easier to face the day, otherwise it would seem like leaving the house without my cell phone and wallet! So maybe agreeing on the same likely catastrophe is not so important. That being said I don’t think we can rely on the mental stability of “Leaders” raised the way Little Rocket Man was, or the sanity of some future Jahadi with a Nuke who wants to bring the Madi out of the well. Then there is the possibility of a great economic collapse that, if it happens would probably be world wide. When war or other disasters are relatively localized fleeing some little distance is and option – but not when it’s the big one Elizabeth!

    1. Old John, you bring up great points. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

      Yes, I understand your point about other world leaders. However, over the course of the 46 years of the Cold War, it was MAD (mutuality assured destruction) that kept the world safe. Yes, history is not a crystal clear picture of tomorrow, but it can give us a sense of understanding about what we can reasonably expect.

  5. Muddy kid,

    As soon as you used the Oklahoma example all I could think about was the original Red Dawn movie that starts out with the narrative that Russia has suffered a huge wheat crop failure. Oklahoma may be strategic due to being part of the breadbasket. But back to your point you really have to know your community to know if there is anything of “strategic” importance. The other part of the equation is knowing perhaps Strategic to “WHO”?

    The Golden Horde is much talked about, but is it just Hollywood speculation? My research has led me to conclude “it depends”. Severity, size, fear factor and duration will all play part in determining if the horde materializes. Severity-how bad is it? Think about a hurricane verses a volcanic eruption with lava flow. If the hurricane is a Catagory 1 many people choose to ride it out. With the lava flow people may have have to due to the flow endangering their home. Size- how large an area does the disaster impact- Hurricane Katrina impacted numerous states making temporary housing very scarce and people where being “relocated” to different states. But this doesn’t happen with all hurricanes. There may be a temporary horde of evacuees seeking shelter however. Lava flow can be a very small geographic location so no horde will materialize. Fear factor- basically panic- panic is always over played by the media and Hollywood. Many people do not evacuate during hurricane many do. No panic- there is a lot of advance warning and time to prepare. With a lava flow coming down a hill igniting everything in its path there may be more of a sense of urgency. Also many people fear fire. How long will the hurricane last a few days and most people are back home cleaning up and making repairs assuming that it wasn’t a Category 5. People who leave due to lava flow may never come back.

    Some other issues people consider are is it better any place else? If nobody has power will millions of people in LA think or believe it is any better any place else? Some will some won’t. If my family is all in LA perhaps not but if my aunt Betty lives in Colorado on a farm you bet I’m leaving!! What I do know for a FACT through both research and real world observation is people like to surround themselves with what they are familiar with since familiar equals comfort. I’ve seen power outages in the dead of a Northeast winter lasting several days and impacting thousands of residents but there may only be 12 people at a Red Cross shelter? Why?? Sleeping in a gym on a cot with snoring strangers isn’t comforting to too many people. Staying in my home with what I am use to provides people with a sense of normalcy and normalcy equals comfort. So many people will stay put rather than leave their home and “everything I’ve worked for”. Will that be the norm? Fear is what causes panic but in order for true panic to kick in ones life must be immediately in danger. Going back to The hurricane and a lot of examples a hurricane warning several days out doesn’t cause anyone to “panic” a lava flow in the back yard may.

    So will the electric being off for 3 days cause panic? Power being off for a month? It won’t cause true panic, it will cause other emotions but not true panic.

    Another issue with the horde idea is the Notion that people will go and look for greener pastures. When riots break out ever notice the rioters burn and loot their own neighborhoods? So again people do like to stay put that isn’t to say that in a prolonged grid down situation that people don’t extend their search for “resorces” but “home” will for many remain the base of their operations.

    I hate to say this but I think most of the population is lazy. They lack drive and initiative. Free time is spent watching TV or playing video games. Not saying that this was a cognitive choice but rather what our society with fast food, instant this and that and computer etc has done. To think that the power out for 1 or more months is going to change someone with an entitlement mentality entitlement mentality to put on work or even hiking boots might be giving them too much credit. Think I’m wrong- well isn’t the real number one resource in survival just the plain will and drive to survive? How many couch potatoes will find that drive?

    Again this isn’t 100% there will always be exceptions. Do I envision groups of 100 nomadic people walking through my AO? Not really but I do expect several groups of 4 (i.e a family) and lone idividuals.

    Muddy kid thanks for the very thought provoking piece. Enjoy the discussion that it has elicited.

    1. @ 3AD Scout, based off all of the replies I have read of yours (and not just in my article), along with your recent article, I think your approach is excellent. When you ask this question “The other part of the equation is knowing perhaps Strategic to “WHO”?” That is just right!!!

      All of these scenarios are different, and are all valued different by everyone. And as I briefly mention there is another part of survival that I did not discuss, that starts with just the question you asked. Strategic and secure for who? Critical thinking and our ability to react in a survival situation is priceless. Lord help us, should that ever happen, I think you’ll do well.

      Thanks for the thoughtful replies!

  6. Next time you go out, look at how few people can even walk and what they are wearing on their feet, the kind of clothing etc. Most wouldn’t make it a couple blocks.

  7. Back at ya one more time MuddyKid!

    The worst mistake a Prepper might make is to assume that the past is prologue and to prepare only for what we can reasonably expect based on recent history. We can learn from it but should also take a long view of history. To assume that events will continue (more or less) as they have will result is extreme and devastating failure when there is a fundamental change. This is a mistake investors often make. Those who bought more stocks in 1929 and those who bought more real estate in 2007 were not just hurt, they were financially devastated because they assumed things would continue as they had. Really new, different, and quick change is difficult to imagine and more difficult to prepare for, but we should try to do it if we can.

  8. What about the financial instability in the world now? The derivatives market, fiat currency, and unsustainable amount of debt must have some form of impact on continued peace. Sooner or later this house of flimsy cards must fall; the real issue is what form will the winds of war take to blow the house down?

    This is where my faith is and shall remain: In God we trust. Faith in His Majesty King Jesus, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide us in ur thinking and planning. We are prepping as best we can, right now we are on a mad on to pay off debts. Every trip to the market is a also used to buy something extra; need toilet paper? Buy two, and so on.

    Yesterday I had an opportunity to buy several cases of MREs for one ounce of silver each; since I have invested fr over 30 years in silver I took advantage of this offer as it made sense to bolster our long term food supply. We live in the arctic interior so “prepping” for us is an everyday event. The real test will be as you pointed out about living near a critical target area. Pretty much all of our country here is critical. Thus a heavy military presence, and a lot of resources that are the collateral for the phony IMF / Federal Reserve debt notes called dollar bills. When the party is over for good its going to be one hell of a fight.

    Yours is a great read, and I’ve printed it out to study and reflect on all your points. It helps to organize my prayer in this area. Thank you.

    1. Lt. Mike, thanks for the kind words.

      You bring up a great point about financial markets. For me, personally, I lean toward JWR’s approach of tangibles. If there is one thing the 2008 financial crisis taught me, it is this…knowing how reserve banking works, even without a crisis, my dollar today is going to be worth .98 cents next year with the continued inflation target of 2%, annually.

      While gold and silver certainly have their uses (and I have some), I can not eat it. I also want something that I can liquidate quickly should I need to. Tangibles I think are a smart move.

  9. I live in the Southern Appalachians and grew up on a small poor subsistance farm. We hunted and fished to augment our food supply. If it moved we killed (caught) dressed cooked and ate it. The idea that most people, even preppers, can subsist very long by living off the land is not realistic. I have been an avid outdoors person and prepper and realized years ago that with the population density in most of the world a great percentage would perish if a global event happened. Not to say that one should not prepare…..I was unfortunate enough to have a tornado strike my place here in the hills (very rare) last October. Destroyed both my cars, damaged my house and scared me half to death. I put on my motorcycle helmet and took refuge in a basement closet. Thankfully I survived the storm but that was the beginning of my problems…Complete devastation, power lines down, roads blocked by large trees and no communication.
    Thanks to my food and water storage I just picked up a good book and waited for relief. In about four days I was able to leave my place. Interestingly, the first official I saw during that time was a code inspector for the county???? The next was an insurance adjuster.
    Prepping paid off not only in supplies, but in peace of mind.
    As for looters and other nefarians I saw none probably because the folks in this area are kind to the needy but not tolerant of others who might want their “stuff”.

  10. I remember delightful conversations with my Great Uncle who spent his whole life on the reservation. He did not know of or understand the Great Depression, even though he lived through it and raised six kids. He never accepted a single government check as it was an insult to be paid for doing nothing!

    He was not happy when his eldest son volunteered for WWII. He said it was not right to make war on anyone who has done nothing to you!

    I am a Veteran who served during Vietnam! That is about all I have to say about it now. At one time it made me proud, but I am no longer a deaf, dumb, and blind patriot!

    The truth is we are not all equal. Nor do we all share similar lives and values! Perhaps this country can turn around and God will live here again. Until then – bring it on, the sooner the better!

    The writer is spot on about Syria. I know a Doctor who came here two years ago for better economic opportunities. The left can can the poor bleeding heart stories about all Syrian refugees.

  11. I think the comments are stories are some of the most interesting and valuable parts of survival blog.

    I just love to read them and profit from the experiences and stories of others.

    Thank you

    1. Actually, there is an example of the ‘Golden Horde’ here in America. The Dust Bowl years created a huge exodus from the American Midwest as people moved to areas where they could make a life.

      What were fellow Americans reactions to them ?

      1. It is important to note that the dust bowl years (drought) led to failed crops, delinquent loans and foreclosure. Most of those people had been kicked off their land by the bankers. When you look at our debt based society you wonder how bad it could be.

  12. If you look at history the Golden Horde Theory really does not hold water in most cases. Look at the American Indian when he made war with another tribe before the white man’s coming. They sent out small groups to fight mostly because large groups could not survive off the land and fight. I think this would be the most likely route that it may go if any. I also agree a lot will sit on their couch or freeway (see Katrina) and wait to die.

  13. If you look at history the Golden Horde Theory really does not hold water in most cases. Look at the American Indian when he made war with another tribe before the white man’s coming. They sent out small groups to fight mostly because large groups could not survive off the land and fight. I think this would be the most likely route that it may go if any. I also agree a lot will sit on their couch or freeway (see Katrina) and wait to die.

  14. Some will sit and starve. Some will wander and take. Saw that after Katrina too. The gang bangers however, will be organized and they will mobilize and take what they want.

    Yeah, many scenarios are far fetched and unlikely, fed to us to get us to buy more stuff. On the other hand managing an inventory of supplies rather than subscribing “just in time” keeps you out of the rush or saves you from a midnight run to Wally World. On the road for much of June. Half a dozen times someone lamented out loud they wished for this or that. Five out of six needs where satisfied by reaching into my go bag.

    I value personal capability. It can keep a project from stalling. It can keep your costs down. Sadly, capability can ruin every Saturday from now on and make your fishing line suffer from dry rot. Generally, when I do a project I am pulling from inventory on the small stuff.

    Another scare tactic is to show you an economic trend with too short a time frame. Go pull up the graph and throw it out to 5 or 10 years for perspective. And … just to be safe, check the price of gold or the vix. If there is really a crises it will show up there. Many of the apocalyptic predictions are happening in measure right before your eyes in slow motion. Remain financially agile or achieve financial agility and remain engaged.

    Many are betting on the financial fall out resulting from our Government reaching the point where it can no longer service its debt. The Trump tax cuts will boost receipts because of the economic stimulation. Clinton balanced his budget by cutting capital gains tax. The jury is still out on whether Trump’s gambit will succeed but he has already declared he had signed his last “Omnibus Budget Bill”. So far he has been a man of his word.

    The bigger organizations get the more fragile they become. Banking, utilities, you name it. They are all big. With big comes a roller coaster ride. There is plenty of reason to prep.

  15. Muddykid, You said, “Being polite and respectful but also firm, on the other hand, may just be one of our most important survival skills that are rarely discussed.”

    I so agree. Those words apply especially in our everyday lives, ie. before SHTF. Practicing that builds trust, community, and good habits. Leading with friendliness needn’t mean being dangerously gullible. I would add “situational awareness” to the equation. Polite and awake.

    I met a fella who found that combination saved his bacon in Afghanistan. Didn’t have to fire a shot. Just backed away and came home intact after brokering a deal that prevented a lot of hostilities.

    I appreciate your eyes open, mind open approach.

    Carry on.

  16. Old Jack

    This series of articles has been very good.

    Here are a few thoughts that might be useful to those people who are thinking about these thing.

    During the German inflation after WWI some city folks took arms and went out to rural areas to take food from farmers. The farmers resisted them with guns. Neither group seems to have had the upper hand. (Many German soldiers after WWI took their rifles home with them.)

    During Stalin’s terror famine in the Ukraine many rural people went to the big cities, such as Kiev, in search of food. The reverse does not seem to have happened.

    In Germany immediately WW2 numerous bands of displaced persons roamed country in search of food, valuables, women, and sometimes revenge. Some of these were ex foreign slave laborers. Others were refugees, some of whom were Germans from the east. In many cases they were armed.

    My point is that almost anything can happen, and before the fact it is difficult to predict what wiil happen or how it will happen. If we are sure that this or that will or will not happen, we’re probably in store for a lot of surprises. We need basic skills and preps, but we especially need to be flexible. We need to be able to adapt and improvise when don’t happen like we expect them to.

    These articles give us a lot of insights on how to do that. Thank you.

  17. Thanks for the articles MuddyKid, appreciate your viewpoints.

    Maybe history in small ways repeats itself.
    From above, “…Syria started because of a climate change induced drought.”
    Earlier this month, “The changing climate in Iran is suspect,” Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization, said during an agricultural conference in Tehran. “Foreign interference is suspected to have played a role in climate change,” Thursday, 05 July 2018

    Your articles made me think there are distinct types of “Golden Hoards”, mass migrations, urban vs. rural, even Crusades. There was a Children’s Crusade described in the book “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements” by Norman Cohn, published 1957. In the twenty century there was another “Children’s Crusade” when eighteen to twenty-year olds were drafted to fight in Vietnam

    Combine Cohn’s book with “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” by Barbara Tuchman and it may indicate types of hoards you may encounter. Add in ex-military, police, gangs and prison inmates. Eventually they’ll work together and form hierarchies.

    Tuchman’s book is recommended reading by William S. Lind, https://www.traditionalright.com/ , who writes about Fourth-Generation Warfare. 4GW is what happens when countries are destroyed and stateless groups arise from the rubble, an atomized hoard. It would be like trying to defend yourself with a Colt .45 after knocking over a beehive, using second generation warfare against fourth or now fifth generation warfare. If the angry bees also belong to a religious cult, good luck.

    Lesson from Katanga, Congo, 1960-1964, if you’re sitting on natural resources don’t tell anyone, ie. precious metals, uranium, etc.,. Also, if you plan to homestead check if it’s on a drug or slave route. Ley Lines, plan to be abducted and probed.

    Look forward to any articles you may write.

Comments are closed.