Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Being prepared for any degree of self-sufficiency has picked up a strangely kooky reputation. Prepare too much, and you're bordering on being a "survivalist," and we all know they're crazy, right? But of course, the funny thing is, we all want to survive. We all want to live, mostly in the manner that we've become accustomed to. Or better.

Survivalists got smeared a couple of decades ago by the truly bizarre among them, who made it clear that they looked forward to the day when society comes crashing down, and they could be one-eyed kings in the land of the blind. I personally think those kooks were the minority, but it certainly tinted negatively the public view toward anyone who would identify himself as a "survivalist."

While I agree that there's a point where one puts more time and resources into preparing for the possible than dealing with the present, I think that it's wise to prepare. I put on my seat belt whenever I'm driving, but I don't want to get into a car accident. I lock my doors but I don't want to have my house or car attacked. I put in smoke alarms, but I don't want a fire. I carry a gun but don't want a shoot-out. I do some contingency planning.

When a large hurricane hit my friend's county in southern Florida, the local police came to his house to take showers and charge their radios and cell phones, because he had taken the relatively minor steps, when building his house, of installing a medium-sized underground diesel tank and a generator, and of putting in a large propane tank for his heat, cooking, and hot water. When rolled into the cost of his house, these were very minor costs for him. He also had plenty of clean fresh water, and fuel for his SUV, which even fairly poor person could fund. In short, he was prepped to bunker in place.

At any rate, on Friday, 02/13/2009, at 11:00 PM CST, my pal Mark at Blog Talk Radio is going to be interviewing the guys at Alpha Disaster Contingencies, who think a lot about these concepts, and spend a lot of their philosophy debunking the whole "bug out" concept of survival.

Give 'em a listen.

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At Thursday, February 12, 2009 2:21:00 PM, Blogger Kevin T. Keith said...

You make good points, but there is another factor to consider: that of proportionality.

Of course you wear your seatbelt even though avoiding accidents is better. It's prudent to prepare for a foreseeable problem. But do you wear a safety harness everywhere you go? Do you constantly practice seat belt drills (including how to strangle a carjacker one-handed with your seatbelt, how to beat a terrorist into submission with the buckle, and how quickly pull out your emergency backup seatbelt and buckle it on the weak side)? Do you own enough seatbelts to be regarded as a "stockpile", and keep looking for more? Did you race out in a panic and buy as many seatbelts as you could when Obama was elected?

The problem with a lot of rugged individualist, self-reliant, manly man Second Amendment constitutional scholar survivalists - leaving aside the actual secessionist neo-Nazi whackos - is not that they're prudently prepared for possible eventualities, but that in many cases they seem to rely on that possibility as justification for aggressive and belligerent attitudes they harbor for completely unrelated reasons. Listening to the rhetoric that surfaces on any gun-rights or survivalist Web site, there seems little sense of scaling their preparatory or defense efforts to likely realities, and a lot of self-justification by reference to very improbable scenarios.

How many people with a weapon in the home have spent as much money on locks, barriers, and security systems as they have on guns, ammo, and training? How many civilians who have paid for tactical training at Gunsite or the like have also conducted a home fire drill with their family? How many people who own a gun for self-defense in a combat scenario also own a sophisticated, well-stocked first-aid kit - or have taken a formal course in that subject? How many have even a weekend's worth of nonperishable food and water? How many have a vegetable garden? How many have ensured they can perform all their necessary tasks with tools that don't require electricity? Dedicated "survivalists" usually have some of these things, but they almost always start with guns and then build up. The most likely need, and greatest payoff, is associated with much less dramatic scenarios than a gunfight, but guns are the constant focus of survival preparation discussion. In short, emergency preparedness often seems to be simply a rationalization for gun ownership, not a rational threat assessment that results in a balanced and proportional response.

Consider also the people you see running around in "tactical" gear, ready to shoot their neighbors after "TEOTWAWKI". Some of them train in sniper operations, tactical room entry and CQB, or even squad-level tactics and other pseudo-military nonsense that would have absolutely no use in a home defense or urban riot scenario. Some talk of acting as a civilian posse to back up the military or law enforcement during a breakdown of order - a thought that likely has the military quaking in laughter and the police quaking in fear. Again, these "preparations" look much more like fantasy fulfillment and wishful thinking than realistic thinking about what one would actually have to do to be safe in any foreseeable scenario.

And, finally, one should not overlook the rather alarmist and hyperbolic mindset that often accompanies these preparations. Gun Web sites constantly focus on individual instances of harm or defense involving guns - some are devoted to nothing but a list of such incidents - as if repeating this anecdotal data confirmed their fears and obsessions. Many survivalists are consumed with the signs and portents of social breakdown: several Web sites I have seen have confidently predicted lawlessness and starvation within 6 months of Obama's election; others are certain that America is run by traitors and Communists (Social Security, don't you know); others that fingerprint checks for gun purchases are part of a UN conspiracy. It's hard not to think survivalists are nuts when so many of them sound like nuts.

From this perspective, there is good reason to be wary of the "survivalist" mentality. Even ignoring the unsavory political element that creeps into some parts of the community, the survivalist outlook often seems to be unrealistic and spoiling for a fight. It doesn't seem to match what you would think people would actually do if they were merely, and sincerely, interested in self-reliance as a hedge against bad times. And it seems to consistently mis-match reality in predictable ways: extremist rhetoric, unrealistic animosity to political opponents with fairly mainstream viewpoints, apocalyptic expectations in defiance of facts, constant emphasis on the possibility of violence to the exclusion of many more-likely sources of danger, and a pervasive obsession with guns, guns, guns. As long as that continues, declaring yourself to be a survivalist is to declare allegiance with what is often - though very far from always - a bizarre and belligerent outlook on the world.

At Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:59:00 PM, Blogger MauserMedic said...


When I read this:

"And it seems to consistently mis-match reality in predictable ways: extremist rhetoric, unrealistic animosity to political opponents with fairly mainstream viewpoints, apocalyptic expectations in defiance of facts, constant emphasis on the possibility of violence to the exclusion of many more-likely sources of danger, and a pervasive obsession with guns, guns, guns.", it reminds me far more of what I've heard coming from the political left for the last eight years. It must have been quite a shock when the lower classes didn't riot when the new president was elected, unless it was simply hyperbole all along.

I agree there are some extreme right-wing branches in the survivalist community, but I believe they would be as representative as the "colorful" characters picked out by the media for statements about gun ownership when shootings occur. I do think most people interested in preparedness probably fall into the right side of the political spectrum, as these are the people who tend to believe individual effort is more effective than trusting a governmental organization to effectively deliver aid. One person's idea of prudent preparation may consist of being sure to watch the TV to see where the local shelters are when a tornado hits; an individual who stocks two weeks of food and water, and owns a handgun, could appear to be dangerously paranoid. To a homeowner who successfully rode out Katrina, the same individual may seem to be seriously underprepared.

As far as looking for self-reliant manly-man types relying on their philosophy to justify aggression, I'd look to the bicyclists in San Fran who assault drivers on their special no-rules-for-cyclists days, senior citizens assaulted by Democratic political activists,or the green whackos who set fires that end up killing people in California or Australia.

Bitter, aggressive self-justification is hardly the sole property of the right.

At Wednesday, August 18, 2010 7:53:00 PM, Blogger staghounds said...

To actually return to the topic, it might be useful to list the "survival" situations you have actually been in, and compare your preparation and training with the thins that have actually happened to you in your own life. Yo might add family and friends, or historical events if you are new to the area.

In say 30 years of living in suburban and rural America, I've personally had:

Electricity out, once for 10 days, and for a day or two every six months.

Loss of heat if its cold and the power goes out.

Water out for roughly a day a year.

Sudden loss of employment without prospects of immediate work.

Robbed on the street.

Sudden catastrophic car failure a dozen times, three times permanently.

Mild car failure- flats, boilovers- a couple of dozen of those. Annually anyway.

Crazy or careless people almost getting me into wrecks- bimonthly, I suspect.

Actual car wrecks, eight or ten.

Car stuck in the mud, again, annually at least.

Cashless and needing to pay for something, every few months.

Locked out of the house or car, bimonthly.

I could go on. Point being, I look at my own history to plan my preparation. I carry gun, and I may need it again.

But I KNOW a day will come when I lock my keys in the house, the electric is dead for a couple of days, or I don't have tap water. I WILL get in a wreck, or find myself needing $50 or some jumper cables.

Plan for likely first. If you have a carbine, but not a gallon of water tucked away in the car, a year's worth of food but not a month's worth of operating expenses,you aren't thinking clearly.


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