Within our relationships, as preppers, let’s look at the concept of true independence. It applies to us in our preparedness pursuits and in life in general. While we, of course, avoid many dependencies, what may surprise you is that it requires we cultivate certain dependencies.
Fourth of July or Independence Day?
Here’s a question: Do you wish your friends and family a “Happy 4th of July” or a “Happy Independence Day?” For me, I always make a point of calling this holiday “Independence Day”. I want to remember and remind others that all the fireworks; red, white, and blue; and backyard cookouts are about one thing and one thing only– the celebration of and thankfulness for our independence.
The Concept of “Independence”
Unfortunately, I have been dismayed to find that many people don’t like the word “independence”. “No one can be independent,” they say. “We all rely on others.” Independence is even used sometimes as a pejorative term.
As we celebrate our nation’s 241st birthday, I’d like to take a moment to speak up on behalf of this less-loved word. I’d like to present an idea about what independence truly is and explain how we can work to achieve it.
What We Are Dependent Upon Defines Our Level of Freedom
First, let me concede that yes, we are and will always be dependent beings. “No man is an island,” said John Donne, and he was correct. However, it is who or what we are dependent on that defines whether we are free or enslaved.
True independence is achieved by cultivating horizontal dependencies and avoiding vertical dependencies.
Horizontally Dependent Relationships
A horizontal dependency exists when both parties depend, mutually and equally, on each other. As a result, neither party is able to coerce or violate the other, as it is a symbiotic relationship. Examples of horizontal dependencies include a business and a client; brothers and sisters; neighbors; and a husband and wife.
Vertically Dependent Relationships
A vertical dependency, on the other hand, is where one party is highly dependent and the other party depends only a little, or not at all, on the relationship. One party’s need is great, while the other party’s need is limited. One party becomes the giver while the other is the receiver. Examples of vertical dependencies include bureaucratic governments and citizens; parent and a newborn; and lender and creditor.
Vertical dependency leads to slavery, while horizontal dependency leads to freedom. I celebrate independence not as a declaration that I am free from my fellow man, but that I am free from any oppressive power, tyrannical force, or earthly master.
Our Founding Father’s Fight For Independence
When our founding fathers fought for independence, they were never intending to shun all forms of dependency. They knew they would continue to depend on each other and on the fledgling nation’s allies and trading partners. No, their war for independence was against vertical dependence on the Crown, who taxed but gave no representation and who demanded allegiance but gave no respect. The relationship between Britain and the Colonies was a true vertical relationship. As Richard Henry Lee wrote:
“Resolved: That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
The Declaration of Independence was simultaneously the dissolution of the vertical dependency between the Colonies and the Crown and a commitment to a horizontal dependency between the states. Benjamin Franklin summed it up best when he said:
“If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.”
The Ideal Government
The Founding Fathers also included this iconic phrase in the Declaration of Independence:
“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
This statement evokes an image of a government and governed who are horizontally dependent on each other, as opposed to the usual relationship between state and citizen, which is typically a steep, vertical one. This is the ideal state of government, which our ancestors fought for and which we are still fighting to realize today against the inevitable creep of tyranny.
Apart from his or her vertical dependence on the God and Creator of the universe, a man or woman does not need to have any one-sided relationships where all the power held by one party. When you are dependent on someone powerful, you are not free. When you are dependent on someone who is also dependent on you, risk and fear of harm are reduced, because your provider cannot hurt you without hurting themselves.
A Hypothetical Family: The Johnsons
To explore this idea further, let’s examine the lives of a hypothetical average, suburban, middle class, American family. We will call them the Johnson family. Mr. Johnson is a high school teacher. Mrs. Johnson is an associate department head at a tech firm. They have two children, who are both enrolled in the public school system. With their combined income, the Johnson family is very well off by middle class standards. They have a spacious townhome in a great neighborhood. He drives a Prius, and she drives a Lexus. They have a newly renovated kitchen with marble countertops facing their open floor plan living room with its 52-inch 4K screen. The Johnsons are living the American dream, at least as it has come to be understood. But are they really among the free men and women? Let’s scrutinize their lives for evidence of either vertical or horizontal dependencies.
How the Johnson’s Obtain Food, Water, and Shelter
First off, let’s look at the Johnson’s dependencies related to the basic human needs: food, water, and shelter. The Johnsons get their water from the municipal water supply, which they pay for every month. They may purchase their food from the grocery store, a farmer’s market, or a restaurant. However, in each instance, they pay for it with money. Like virtually every middle class American family, the Johnsons don’t own their home outright. Instead, they have a mortgage from a bank. Every month, a portion of their pay check goes to ensure that the roof stays over their head. What’s the common denominator in the providing of all the Johnson’s needs? It’s cash. Cash provides everything the Johnsons need. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson depend on their jobs for money, and they depend on the economy to convert that money into food, water, and shelter.
Food, Water, and Shelter In the Primitive State
This is a sharp diversion from man in the primitive state– the state we could revert to in the event of a crisis scenario. In the state of nature, man must procure food, water, shelter, and security organically by actually going out and acquiring those specific things. In a civilized state, man still works, but he does so in an artificial setting. At his job, he earns a token called money, which he trades for food, water, shelter, and anything else he needs. The extent to which a person depends on income for sustenance, or the actual procurement of those things, is a sliding scale that measures how “down to earth” or close to the supply chain the individuals in that society are.
Self-Sufficiency v. Consumerism
The Johnson’s lives are primarily sustained by income. Not only is this a departure from the primal state, it is also a departure from the habits of their middle class predecessors. Historically, the middle class has been defined by self-sufficiency, or the ability to provide for one’s own needs without necessarily having to earn tokens (money) and trade those tokens for goods. Essentially, self-sufficiency is the opposite of consumerism. The consumer buys the things he wants.
The self-sufficient person makes, procures, grows, or establishes them. In the past, the middle class have been the ones with the infrastructure, knowledge, ability, and time to provide for themselves without being forced to earn enough money to pay for everything in cash. This separated the middle class from the wealthy, who could solve every problem with money and never needed to get their hands dirty. The poor was a class whose hardships forced them to rely on benefactors.
A Self-Sufficient Middle Class Is a Hedge Against Tyrrany
“We would go into town to get coffee and sugar,” says my neighbor— a lady who has watched my town turn from a farm field into suburbia. “Everything else we made or grew right here.”
That used to be the way of the middle class; they were self-sufficient. Coincidentally, it’s no wonder totalitarian forms of government, such as Marxism, hinge on the elimination of the middle class. Anybody who is self-sufficient is an impediment to tyrannical government, since the self-sufficient are typically immune to the combination of fear mongering, protection rackets, and utopian promises that define the incipient stages of tyranny. Marx new well how difficult it would be to enslave the resilient middle class. A vibrant, self-sufficient middle class will always be a hedge against tyranny.
Today’s Middle Class Has Drifted
Unfortunately, today’s middle class has drifted far from these self-sufficient roots. Today, the middle class plays by the same rules as the wealthy: pay for everything you need with money; don’t get your hands dirty. But without the resources of the wealthy, it’s no surprise the middle class in America is struggling and working ’round the clock to sustain their income-fueled lifestyles.
Assessing the Johnson’s Dependency On Income
Returning to the Johnsons – is their dependence on income a horizontal, or a vertical dependency? In some cases, an employer depends on an employee to a great extent. Examples are high demand, high risk, or high skilled professions, or small companies where one worker may make or break the business. High level positions – typically held by the wealthy and not the Johnsons – are also positions of critical importance to a company. But in most cases, for all the benefits of capitalism, the average, mid-level worker bee is largely expendable to the company. If he quits or is fired, the company will quickly find a replacement.
Therefore, the Johnson’s dependence on income for food, water, and shelter is a steeply vertical dependency, making them entirely dependent on employers who may in turn be ambivalent about them. Add to this the fact that the Johnson’s health insurance almost assuredly stems from their employer, and we can quickly surmise that in the arena of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, the Johnsons have no true independence.
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:
- 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.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- 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),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
- Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
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.