The end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) has probably crossed your mind lately. It might have been just a brief news flash about a silly Mayan prophecy, or maybe you have an uncle who still thinks the Russians are gonna nuke us. More likely in our generation, our societal bonds could disintegrate thanks to erosion of our financial system. If you have not given this situation much thought, it is high time to start. The first step is to take the possibility seriously. If you cannot handle this basic prerequisite, well, Devil take the hindmost.
Once you acknowledge that the world as you know it could change overnight (as it did one day in September a decade ago, forever making 911 more than an emergency phone number), you can begin to get your mind into the right shape to handle things that might come. First off, look around you. Are you happy with the quality of “people” you see on television? Do you sense a budding sickness in society, perhaps born of ignorance and apathy? Whether by endorsing unfundable entitlement programs or refusing to speak out against unconstitutional infringements on our guaranteed rights, these are the lazy masses deciding the direction of our economy and country. Do not wait around for an irresponsible government to provide a backup plan for a problem it won’t admit exists. Decide now that your fate will not be determined by fools and demagogues. If there’s one thing we’re supposed to know how to do in this country, it is to take care of business when the going gets rough. Now exhale and use your brain.
Everyone has their own ideas about what they would need to survive. We know there are basic needs of food, water, and shelter which we earn by trading our labor, resources, and knowledge. Unfortunately we actually trade for money which is then converted into satisfying our needs and wants. But how is worth estimated when your neighbors no longer value green toilet paper with pictures of dead presidents? When the intermediary is gone from the equation, you must trade directly. With assets lying around for anyone to take, what is special and valuable from an individual? The quick answer is skill set – what you bring to the table besides a consuming belly. All the survivalist staples (like bug-out bags, bomb shelters, and sustainable living, to name a few) are secondary to the primary survival tool you have: your mindset. Whether you are prepared for a new way of living or not, your skill set brings value and your mindset determines your survival.
Currency is the grease which keeps our mighty economic engine cranking at high RPMs. If we lose it, then everyday single-swipe type transactions vanish as does all the industry that depends on things moving at break-neck speed, inevitably to collapse under the weight of its own complexity, only for the want of a little engine oil. Fortunately we grew up with tales of how the country can work (and used to work) at a slower pace. According to your grandpa, those were the Good Ol’ Days. There was more bartering and human interaction, less telemarketing and ADHD. This is not to say your current diploma-requisite job is useless; however, smart money says invest in yourself by learning something your grandma would be proud to see perpetuated.
Cities do not function below a certain RPM. Without hundreds of trucks bringing in supplies daily, everyone starves. Riots and looting are only two days deep into hunger and authoritative neglect, as evidenced by recent superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Maybe you think about escaping to the countryside where the food grows – well, everyone else is thinking that, too. Imagine: desperate hordes fleeing into the wilderness in search of a replacement for their supermarket. They will find mostly unfamiliar countryside, as not everyone is a hunter or farmer. In fact, relatively few of us have the skills to survive on our own. The vast majority of people need a bunch of other providers to live. The main reason we built societies in the first place was to make it easier on everyone. You might even manage to survive as a loner, but you won’t thrive. For success after TEOTWAWKI, you need to be accepted into a community that somehow works without our current authority and currency. Yet outside of immediate family members, who would take you in?
A survival-minded group is not going to accept everyone who stumbles into it. For their own protection of limited resources, they will turn away anyone who cannot pull his own weight. Furthermore, they will be practiced in turning away people with necessary force. You will need to offer skills and knowledge that make you worth a share of the food. If you have no obviously valuable skills (carpentry, plumbing, cooking – all those things learned by the vo-tech kids you looked down on in high school), you had better learn to have a valuable attitude. If you think you could be manual labor, well, that’s true of anyone. Why should you be the one a community says Yes to? In modern terms, you should think of your survival chances like a job interview. The best answers win and you had better sell yourself well. If you are qualified, you need to prove it. If not, you need to be convincing without fudging your resume.
Think of what kind of homeless person you would allow into your own home. What qualities could such a person have? Should they be honest? Tolerant? Talkative? Picky? These days we get away with character traits that can hardly exist in less evolved societies. White lies, prejudice, insecurity, finicky, fastidious, vegetarian, promiscuity, addictions, and high-maintenance personalities. After TEOTWAWKI, those days are over. Eat whatever is on your plate, like your grandma always said, because there might not be any more. Bothered by things like snoring or bad breath? Learn to live with it. The less trouble you are, the easier you are to keep. You will need to not give any excuse to exclude you from the community. Getting kicked out is as bad as never being accepted in the first place. To wit, you will have to get along with everyone.
Be willing to do anything. Remember your grandparents’ work ethic and make them proud. Work doesn’t stop when the sweat starts, and after work there will not necessarily be a shower. Work so hard no one can question your devotion. Never get caught lying, stealing, or holding back. You won’t get a second chance to rebuild trust. Don’t talk about things you wish you had, like chocolate or a bubble bath. Everything you do and say has to make things easier on everyone else, not harder. Think twice about anything before opening your mouth – it might be better to just internalize the comment. You don’t have to get two cents into every conversation. You could be better off being considered a good listener who only speaks when he has something of quality to say.
Imagine this kind of person you could invite into your home, because that’s who you need to be to get accepted into someone else’s group. Make that decision now, and you can learn some skills while you have a peaceful chance to do so. Home gardening is cheap and will grow on you (pun intended). You’ll learn how to nurture and no one will know if you fail early on. Cook something that doesn’t come with directions on a box. Chop a log or two and see the real cost of that store-bought bundle of fireplace fodder. Go fishing for the first time since you were a kid, and this time clean your own catch. Sew a patch onto your oldest pair of jeans and ask yourself: could I stitch an injury?
It is possible that you won’t have skills an established community needs or respects. They might not let you in . But it doesn’t necessarily end there, if you are of a persistent mind to be useful. What can you do if you’re not accepted inside? Offer to do reconnaissance and mapping. Offer to be a postman/courier between communities. Perimeter security. Ambassador. Negotiator/tradesman. Musician/entertainer. Translator, even! By the way, you are not asking for charity or handouts – you are offering information and services in exchange for food. You might even eventually earn your way inside. Trust is a thing built on experience and performance, not credit.
The decision to survive is really the same as to be a useful member of a society. If you have not prepared for TEOTWAWKI already, then you should learn some post-apocalypse marketable skills. If your only skills are modern and complex, it’s time to appreciate some of the old-school, traditional ones. The immediate result (even if society does not collapse) is that you will be a more valuable person, both to society and your self-esteem. You will be stronger of mind and willpower. If you do not want this for yourself, then be honest: are you really worth saving?