How many times in the course of a conversation at a meeting, party, event, or whatever, has the subject of emergency preparedness come up, and you make a comment about the having done something (anything) about it in some way, and someone says “the next time [something bad] happens, I’m coming over to your place!” How do you reply? You can’t invite everybody in need, you don’t want to invite parasites, you don’t want to piss off friends and co-workers, and you may not be able to tell if they are joking or serious.
However viscerally satisfying a “I got mine, you socialists are yer on yer own, and I’ll shoot you parasites on sight in an emergency” may be in the short run, I think it is generally counter-productive on a number of levels.
I’ve struggled with how to reply to this comment over the years (at least since the early 1990s), because there are so many variables in each situation (how recently there has been an “event,” how close of friends you are with the person making the comment, what sort of mix there is present of good friends-acquaintances-strangers, the tone of how it was said, how much you
know about the background of each one, what the relative wealth and social standing of all parties present are, location, etc.), and many times there are far to many unknowns to give a really good, tailored answer, that will get more people to become preparedness oriented and independent-minded (which is what we really want, right?).
But after reading a very long thread on the topic recently, talking it over with my other half, and in light of this specific comment being directed at me several times in the last month (I am in the Puget Sound area, so the windstorm hit where I’m at pretty good – lots of trees and branches down around here, and I had fun making lots of chain-saw-dust), I think I may have come up with a pretty good “all purpose opening response.” Look directly at them, and then quietly and matter-of-factly say: “A long time ago, I made the conscious choice to not be dependant on other people, and I was willing to forgo some of the luxuries of life in order to accumulate the stuff and the skills to prepare me to take care of myself and my immediate family for any likely emergency that may occur in the region where I live. I would be happy to help you figure out how you can do the same thing most efficiently.”
There are four very important things about this phrasing: you are saying some things very clearly, some things are obviously implied, a lot is left completely unsaid, and you are not being in any way threatening, arrogant, condescending, judgmental, or patronizing. You are offering them help on how to help themselves now, and you are not saying you will shoot them on sight in the future (you are helpful and non-threatening), and you are not saying you will give them a handout and implying that there are limits to what you are able to do (but don’t expect free-bee’s). You have stated a basic
philosophy with a fairly limited and hard-to-argue-against scope, you have not given away to much information about what or how much you have, you are alluding to a simple method for others to do the same; you are opening a conversation that puts the ball in their court on how to respond, at which time you’ll have a much better idea about what to say, or not say, from there. You are serious but neutral; if you can get them to seriously consider and pursue emergency preparedness, you have expanded your “mutual-defense circle,” if they don’t and the need arises, you can turn them away with a much clearer conscious. You haven’t given them any more reasons to hate you, target you, fear you, or depend on you (which is a good defensive move). All you need to do is ask some pointed questions, like “this area gets snowstorms regularly, why not have chains for your car and just keep them in the trunk all winter?” or “$45 a month for cable TV? That’d put up a lot of extra food in a year.” Make observations like “yes, a generator is nice, but not everyone needs one, not everyone can afford a good one, and not everyone has a place for one; you just have to be ready to work without power,” or “supplies aren’t everything; what if the disaster you are preparing for causes your well-supplied house to burn down and it takes everything with it? Attitude and skills are just as important.”
If they say “what sort of luxuries did you give up?” some possible follow-ups might be: “I don’t have a new, big screen TV, I have an old 19-inch beast; but I do have a generator.”
“I don’t have a Rolex or a Hummer, but I am debt-free except for my house mortgage.”
The first one might not be the best example to use if they were bragging about their spiffy new 55″ HD 1080p wonder-vision unit [HDTV], just after freezing their butts off in an ice storm, but you get the idea. Get across the idea that it is all about making appropriate choices now, using as neutral a tone and wording as possible. Don’t say “of course only an idiot would
drive a Lexus when he doesn’t have a month’s supply of food in snow-storm country” when talking to someone you know has a Lexus parked out front and no food in the fridge. If you have no idea what sort of ‘stuff” they have, focus on skills, e.g., “I don’t spend money on yoga classes, I take self-defense and home-repair classes.” Keep it neutral, informative in a general way, and neither promise anything or sound judgmental for the opening few minutes (even if this requires biting your tongue, hard, for a bit), until they have done a fair bit of talking and you have a much better feel for the lay of the land, whereupon you can teach, share, run, or whatever as needed.
Think through a couple of paths that the conversation could take, and how you would respond in a way that would appeal most to the sort of person who would go down that path. A socialist who is used to depending on the state might say “are you saying you wouldn’t feed me if I showed up on your door-step after a major earthquake if you had any extra food?” Saying “of course not” will just piss them off and may make you a target, with them calling you a “greedy hoarder.” Saying “I would have a hard time justifying taking food out of my children’s mouth tomorrow to feed a casual acquaintance today, especially if we did not know when services were going to be restored and supplies replaced” puts a whole different appearance on it.
Information is your friend; don’t start by telling them what you have, what you have planned, how stupid they are for not being equally well prepared, etc. Find out a bit about their mind-set, skill-set, resources, and then go from there in the best direction. Best of luck with your next “conversion” into the mindset of independence and preparedness!