(Continued from Part 1)
For a group of neighbors who first come together after a disaster has already occurred, many of whom will barely know each other, if at all, the level of cohesiveness and trust will likely be stretched thin. So expect the question, “Why defend your house, and not mine?”
It would be better if decisions about which properties/neighborhoods would be defended were made in advance of a disaster. While apartment dwellers may be very flexible about the issue because they have little skin in the game, for homeowners in the group, the decision could obviously be a point of conflict that would be difficult to resolve amicably. Again, expect the question, “Why defend your house and not mine?” This decision may well prove to be a nonstarter for those who are considering joining the group in normal times when there is no compulsion to do so.
For those who wait until after a major disaster strikes to attempt to form a group (that is, after it becomes crystal clear to neighbors, for example, that they need to come together to meet serious threats), more individuals would likely decide that it is in their interest to join the group, but they will come to the group with different assets. Serious preppers/survivalists could find themselves with months of food on hand for themselves and their families, while other members of the group might join with almost nothing. (The Millennials who refuse to eat canned goods because they prefer to “eat fresh,” for example, will pose special problems.) Unprepared group members will be telling the prepared group members that, as they say in kindergarten, “sharing is caring.”
The issue of group cohesiveness will become a serious issue after a few weeks, if not sooner, when the clothing of some members of the group has becomes baggy and loose-fitting, and when it is obvious that other members of the group are still eating quite well. Trouble will naturally follow. “How can you stand there and watch my kids starve while you and your family have full bellies?”
Of course, an obvious solution is that members of the group can pool their assets and share what they have. The problem with that solution is that a family of four with a six month food supply will now have not much more than a one month’s supply if it is part of a mutual assistance group composed of four additional families who were poorly prepared.
The reality is that, if a family is not part of a mutual assistance group before a disaster occurs, it may well be unable to shop around and pick and choose which group it wishes to join after a disaster occurs. Geography will likely trump everything else.
THE SURVIVAL GROUP’S RETREAT
I doubt that many people would need to come together at a retreat during any of the local disasters mentioned, except to use it as temporary shelter for a few days/weeks. Its use under such circumstances would be for not much more than what a hotel room might offer.
A factor here is the natural inclination for most homeowners to stay in or close to their homes, or what is left of them, after a hurricane or earthquake, and to protect their possessions from occasional opportunistic looters until order is restored. Another reason they would want to stay relatively close to home after a local disaster is that their job might not have been affected by the local calamity, and they would need to stay within commuting distance of their place of employment.
Yes, I realize that homes can be rendered uninhabitable for months following hurricanes and earthquakes and that a retreat might provide shelter during that time. A neighbor across the street was out of her home for six months after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, although I am not sure why. Nevertheless, the security and sustainability aspects of retreats in such circumstances would not be all that important after a local or regional disaster. Order would be restored relatively soon.
On the other hand, access to a retreat could be a godsend after an EMP attack, a massive cyberattack, and, of course, a nuclear war. In a post-apocalyptic landscape, many will decide that the survival contest will be best “played” as an away game.
Security of Unoccupied Retreats
Buying property to use as a retreat obviously presents daunting financial issues for most people. Beyond that, leaving the property unoccupied for much of the year presents security issues.
A friend related to me how a co-worker was building a home in a remote area of the High Desert in Southern California (so it wasn’t exactly a retreat as such). He had a large sea-land container there that held supplies while he worked on weekends slowly building the home himself. Despite the property’s rather remote location, people with bad intentions found it.
The thieves took an entire lift of 2x4s, as well as a large amount of roof shingles. They cut through the rear side of his sea-land container with an acetylene torch. They gave up when they could not move the large stack of plywood at the rear so as to allow them to gain entrance. The thieves went so far as to remove the pump from the cabin’s well. The security camera at the location caught much of the theft in progress, but identifying who the thieves were was impossible.
The takeaway here is that in this era of widespread drug addiction, a significant portion of the druggie population has turned to petty crime to fuel habits, and anything that isn’t nailed down, whether at a remote home’s construction site or at a retreat, may well be carted away whenever the owners are not there.
While it might be possible to find someone who was willing to live at a group’s retreat in order to keep an eye on things, the odds are that this person would probably have to be a retiree if the retreat was very far from urban and suburban areas (which is to say, “places of employment”).
Some people suggest that one way to ease the financial burden of building a retreat is for the survival group to pool its assets in order to purchase a desirable property.
Getting friends and family members to invest in beans, bullets, and Band-Aids is difficult enough, but getting friends and family members to spend money to invest in a retreat will be even more difficult.
Beyond that, who would agree to buy a share in a retreat without seeing it first? The result would be that, after they visit the property, each person who turned down the offer to buy a share property will know exactly where the safe haven is when disaster strikes. How many of them will show up at the front gate of the retreat once things turn spicy, hoping to take advantage of years of friendship or a family relationship?
Let’s assume that a few like-minded individuals are actually convinced to purchase shares in the retreat. Those in the prime of life with no serious health issues and with important skills will be among the most useful to a survival group. These people are the very people who will be likely to have additional children. As a result, the burden on the land could become more unsustainable with each passing year if the disaster lasted for a great period of time.
It is common in survival novels and dystopian fiction, in general, for characters to be strangely (and conveniently) out of contact with their families–Dad and Mom died three years earlier after a collision with a drunk driver. The brother and the hero had a falling out ten years earlier and the brother’s whereabouts are unknown. Sis is living with her family in Maryland, etc., etc., etc. Death, alienation, or simple distance removes close relatives from the hero’s concern and from the entangling familial issues that might complicate the plot the author has in mind.
The reality is, however, that the majority of people have family members and in-laws who live reasonably close. What does the group do when one couple who are shareholders in the retreat shows up at the retreat with their elderly parents, their in-laws and kids, and even lifelong friends? Will such a situation be the flashpoint that results in the group’s first use of lethal force? I don’t think so. The extra mouths to feed will simply make it more complicated.
And then there are the expenses that need to be shared by the group. The best intentions in the beginning often fade with time. (That the interest in prepping has been reduced since the economy began booming in 2016 has been commented upon by many.) One of my brothers purchased and renovated a nice cabin on a broad creek in rural Indiana. Each of the cabin owners in the area was supposed to pay an annual road maintenance fee of a modest amount. Most did, but some didn’t. The fee was important for upkeep of the access road, but the fee was also small enough that it didn’t justify the expense of hiring a lawyer to collect the fee each year.
After TEOTWAWKI, it will “take a village,” but the devil is still, most assuredly, in the details.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)