I’ve done a lot of research into prepping, survivalism, and bushcraft. I like the way you guys think. I like your approach to technology, I like that you’re keeping old skills and old recipes alive, I applaud your resolve to defend your families and communities, and I admire your inclusion of charity in your preparations; but I say ‘you guys’ because I don’t feel like I’m really one of you. At the same time, because of what you all have taught me, neither am I one of the herd panic buying beef jerky and bottled water at the last minute. I am someone in between and I want to write to others who are prepping in between.
I live in small-town USA with my wife and kids. My property has no chance of even approaching self-sufficiency and it is close enough to a large enough population center that the fleeing horde would strip it bare even if was. I spend money on things I absolutely would not spend on if I believed the balloon could go up any minute. At the same time I was not shocked at how quickly shelves were stripped in 2020. You guys had already taught me about just-in-time [JIT] shipping. And I was already carrying extra provisions against emergency weather.
There is a part of me would love to live in the Alaskan wilderness in a homestead, how else would I have found you guys? But in my research I came to realize there’s a zero-sum aspect to this. Each resource we put towards preparing for TEOTWAWKI is a resource we didn’t put to succeeding in the world as we know it. My wife has a point in not wanting that life to where it excludes resources for my children’s success in the world as we know it. Ultimately, prepping for in between means that you won’t be the most successful in either world but I think you can succeed well enough in both. Something more important because I think the emergencies we will face will be in between, too.
In my readings of history, I’ve noticed that great empires collapse but villages and cities survive. I hear my Carthaginian brethren screaming in the back but they are the exception rather than the rule. We go through hard times. We go through shortages. We go through extreme privation. We go through conquest but something grinds on. The bones of civilization survive. So how do we prepare for the in-between?
As with all preparations the specific answers vary. People who are equally intelligent and knowledgeable will have different answers while trying to solve the same problems. This is normal but while the specifics may differ the principles are the same. Looking at history, I want to propose three main principles worth considering:
- You are going to have to get along in the new social reality.
- Subtly supplementing is the name of the game.
- Prepare with Hobbies and History
Between a normal day and full-blown TEOTWAWKI, there is a range of restrictions and shortages. Availability and cost will change our behavior and may change entire industries. These changes might last years. It might a fairly minor change like switching to reusable canning lids as the cost difference goes down. Or it might be a large change like switching how you hunt because cartridges are too dear (and if you think that is farfetched look into ammunition availability during the world wars). These types of changes may last for years but may not be large enough to warrant bugging out to a retreat — if you have one.
This was one of the big lessons from COVID for me: the social reality can change overnight but the balloon still not go up. My family made some changes but we didn’t head out to the wilderness or blockade the entrances to the house. We’re still not normal as a society but I’d hazard that most people who have retreats aren’t in them. Instead we’re all making do the best that we can in a changed world. And that is itself normality. We all try to get by with normal in abnormal times. That is what we should prepare for first.
Getting Along In The New Social Reality
When you were shopping during 2020, do you remember when it changed? You might not have known why exactly but things were different. I tend to say “the herd was on edge” I think that encapsulates it nicely but how that manifested depended on where you were. It doesn’t matter if you were shopping in NYC or in the suburbs of Georgia, both changed. They were already different from each other but each group could sense that their own baseline had changed. In my location there was no anger but the normal greetings and friendly small talk was gone. Objectively, that’s a small change and in fact normal in other places I’ve lived but here it was a huge departure from normal. I highly recommend reading Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horn and Jason A. Riley as it’s the best distillation of this that I know. How that change appeared matters far less than that for all of us the social reality was changed practically overnight.
The first part of getting along is staying safe. How do you stay safe in the social reality? The main rule is: “Stay away from Stupid Places at Stupid Times with Stupid People doing Stupid things.” And that still applies but it gets complicated when things are in flux. In the new social reality a park that wasn’t a stupid place may now be a stupid place. Times that used to be fine may no longer be. Laws and policies that you used to be able to rely upon may no longer be things that you can count on. The tricky part is that the more removed you are from society/community the harder it will be to know when these things change. We need to have an ear to the ground and understand that our strategies need to change in response to the current reality. We can’t assume everything is the same or that the changes will be announced.
Your social reality will dictate the risks you take and the strategies you implement. The law and policies of your jurisdictions are a part of your social reality and we have to be aware of how to navigate them. Knowing what the legal definitions you will be held to are, knowing what the going rate is, knowing what risks you are running by using force (with and without weapons) is part of preparing. I’m not saying those policies are right, what I am saying is that you have to keep your family safe and that is difficult to do from a jail cell. We need to keep a careful ongoing analysis of what tactics, techniques, and tools will help or hurt us and our goals. For US readers to give you a beginning understanding I highly recommend Ayoob’s book Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense because he gives both legal principles and realities of cases. Being able to demonstrate to others that your actions were both reasonable and lawful is part of getting along in any social reality.
As the social reality changed during the pandemic, my risk analysis for my family changed, and I made changes accordingly. All of us were somewhere pre-covid and have made choices since then. Maybe it was getting physical training in boxing or Judo. Maybe it was getting a weapon to protect your house. Maybe it was a concealed carry license (CCL). Maybe it was looking into “CCL+” or a “truck gun” or a more restrained “truck magazine” with more capacity for your existing CCL. Those are all worthwhile questions as the risk of political violence and group violence/riots increased but don’t neglect the rest of the social reality. Include research on de-escalation and avoidance (Rory Miller’s Conflict Communication or George Thompson’s Verbal Judo) as well as the legal realities of what happens with use of force in your jurisdiction.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)