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Enlightened survivalism

A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them;
the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

- Proverbs 22:3

It would seem that some people think that debating and having a say in trying to solve some of the problems of this world, and I am thinking particularly of Peak Oil and Global Climate Change, have nothing to do with ‘survivalists’ or ‘survivalism’. Some say that they ‘have not got the time for survivalists’ while others are ‘not very enthusiastic about survivalism’. So let me give a ‘survivalist’ view.

Let me start with a definition from the Wikipedia encyclopedia

A survivalist is a person who anticipates a potential disruption in the continuity of local, regional or worldwide society, and takes steps to survive in the resulting unpredictable situation.’………..

 

The Roots of ‘Survivalism’

The roots of the modern survivalist movement can be traced to several sources, including government policies, religious beliefs, and writers warning of social or economic collapse. In the Cold War era government civil defence programs promoted public atomic bomb shelters, personal fallout shelters, and training for children, such as the Duck and Cover films.

Howard Ruff warned of socioeconomic collapse in his 1974 book Famine and Survival in America. Most of the elements of survivalism can be found here, including advice on storage of food. Newsletters and books on the topic of survival followed the publication of Ruff's book and in 1975 Kurt Saxon began publishing a newsletter called The Survivor, which combined Saxon's editorials with reprints of old 19th century and early 20th century writings on various pioneer skills and old technologies. Kurt Saxon used the term "survivalist" to describe the movement, and he claims to have coined the term.

Another important newsletter in the 1970s was the Personal Survival Letter published by Mel Tappan who also wrote Tappan on Survival. He became an influential leader of the Survivalist movement.

Interest in the survival movement was renewed in 1999 by fears of the Y2K computer bug and many books have been published in the past few years offering survival advice for various potential disasters, ranging from an energy shortage (Peak Oil) and crash to nuclear or biological terrorism. In addition there are now information channels such as SurvivalBlog and many online survival websites which discuss all aspects of ‘survival.’

One main tenet of the survivalist movement has been that people should prepare on their own or with like-minded people and not rely on the government to take care of them in emergencies.

Some who do anticipate and advocate preparation for response to a serious depletion of non-renewable resources are critical of survivalists on the grounds that their approach engenders paranoia and suspicion in contrast with preservationist approaches that increase cooperation and increase the likelihood of long-term sustainability.

What is ‘Survivalism’

But even so what exactly is ‘survivalism’ and what and who are ‘survivalists’.

Survivalism is a philosophy - a way of life - and it is as varied in its methodology as the worlds’ religious or political theories but contrary to popular opinion, it is not an "activist" tautology.

Most survivalists are reserved and quiet individuals who have lost faith in society’s ability to protect its own, and who have taken steps to lessen their dependence upon society for aid in an emergency situation.

Survivalists also realise that modern society is a long and twisted chain of interdependency and that each link of this societal chain is dependent upon every other link to maintain its integrity. At various points within this chain are links that provide the rest of the chain with food, shelter, power, water, communications, transportation, and medical and physical protection. Should one or more of these links fail, those placed before and after the broken link(s) may find themselves without these necessary resources. Should enough of these links be broken, the entire chain may collapse.

They attempt to reinforce the chain of society by strengthening their own links. Many do this by actively learning and practicing the necessary skills to provide or obtain the basic necessities of life for themselves, their families and their friends.

They learn to build and maintain their own homes, provide their own clothes, find, store and purify their own water, establish and maintain their own communications and transportation. They learn to grow, hunt or gather their own food and how to process and store it. They learn to maintain their health through diet and exercise, and how to avoid or handle basic injuries and illnesses. And yes, they learn to defend themselves from aggressors when there is no one else there to protect them.

Survivalism does not necessarily concentrate on global catastrophe or the collapse of civilization. The profile of a "true" survivalist is someone who is concerned with planning for and avoiding the pitfalls and dangers of daily life and short-term emergencies and disasters of a local and temporary nature. In fact, since the frequency and likelihood of personal and local emergencies are more common, these situations are of primary concern.

Long term and widespread disasters are also of concern to the survivalist, but they are extremely difficult to plan for. The individual (or single family) often does not possess the resources - financially, materially, or intellectually - to efficiently plan for a long term, widespread disaster.

Our ancestors.

When I think back to our ancestors and I think of all the knowledge they had to have to simply live it amazes me. They had to know: which plants make anything from rope to medicine, which rocks makes sparks, which can be sharpened, which can be used to break other rocks, which trees are best for all their needs, the habits of animals, the weather, weaving natural materials into clothing and tents. It truly is mind boggling especially in juxtaposition with the specialized modern mind who barely can cook with a microwave. Even after a little bit of study you have a hard time saying the word "primitive", because the level of skill involved is really beyond anything modern man can comprehend.

Survivalism also enriches your life by giving you the abilities to know you can create from just what is there in nature. What could be more empowering? Though we would be hard pressed to become proficient in all these areas I do think it is important to study and attempt as much as you can.

A true survivalist hopes deep in their heart that the good life never ends for anybody. They just know that trouble sometimes does happen, and want to be as well situated as they can be if bad things do come to be.

A fireman is a fireman, not because he believes everything will burn, but because he believes much can be saved. Doctors don't believe in death, they believe in life, and a survivalist is not a survivalist because he believes everything must be destroyed and everyone must die, he believes that life and freedom can be saved, if people of good will are prepared. A fireman does not start fires, a doctor does not make disease and a survivalist does not make disaster.

Crime, disease, war, revolution, fire, flood, periodic financial collapse and famine, Peak Oil and Global Climate Change are the results of nature and the nature of man and unfortunately are not within the power of anyone on this earth to prevent. It is not inherent in the nature of man to be able to solve these problems, we can’t even get our governments to work together and least of all we can not get our leaders to be honest. So come on be realistic.

We all know that the sun will set each day, leaving us in darkness and we all know that warm summers give way to cold winters and that we can do nothing to keep the sun from setting or the cold winds from coming.

Why is a ‘Survivalist’ a loony?

So then, why is the survivalist thought of as a loony when he makes ready to face events that are just as much a part of history and nature as the sunset and the changing of the seasons.

We survivalists have loved ones we don't want to see hurt or killed, we have homes we don't want to see destroyed, we are not fools to think that just because we are survivalists a world cataclysm would be fun for us or that we would not experience danger, loss, hunger, injury, cold or even despair and death.

No, we will not be disappointed if there is no disaster to survive, anymore than the Red Cross is disappointed when there are no floods and storms or the man who buys an insurance policy is disappointed when his house fails to burn down.

It is most regrettable indeed, that many people consider survivalists as a threat and regard them with suspicion and even hostility. I suppose this is not really surprising when the press and media plug at the ‘Rambo’ type as being the typical ‘survivalist’. This attitude is logically indefensible and is rooted in the nonsurvivalists own sense of fear and guilt. Subconsciously, the nonsurvivalist may hate the survivalist for reminding him of how fragile his lifestyle is.

An intelligent approach to survivalism would recognize that while individual efforts and skills are important, it is vital for people to survive as a group and that for such survival, in-depth organization will be necessary.

Short-term survivalism is a brief struggle for life, with the ultimate goal of returning to a normal or nearly normal situation. Some examples are:

  • Keeping yourself alive after becoming lost in the woods.
  • Keeping yourself and your passengers safe when your car becomes stuck in a blizzard.
  • Surviving long enough to be rescued after you've broken a leg hiking.

You can see from this list that it's not inconceivable for a normal person to be in a short-term survival situation. If you engage in any outdoor leisure, it's a good idea to learn a little about short-term survivalism.

Long-term survivalism is an extended struggle for life, with little or no hope of returning to a normal or nearly normal situation. Some examples of long-term survivalism are:

  • Heading to the woods after a societal collapse.
  • Getting lost in a vast wilderness area, such as Alaska or the Amazon.
  • Being stranded in an undeveloped country, days or weeks away from help.

With the exception of a societal collapse, you'd have to go out of your way to find yourself in a long-term survival situation. The survivalist is simply being prepared for a short- or long-term situation where you must be self-sufficient.

Lets get the facts right.

Now, let's get the facts turned around right. Every person who has not made provisions for surviving without food, water, fuel and other essential needs from the outside is a mortal danger to his neighbours.

What will a man do when he and his family are freezing, hungry, thirsty, sick and starving? He may ask or beg his neighbours for help, but when they have no extra fuel, food, water or medicine to give, will he just go back home to die with his wife and kids? What do you think?

We survivalists who stock up, which is not the same as hoarding, on food and other supplies now do a favour to society because what we now buy is replaced on the shelves, so there will be that much more available in an emergency. We survivalists won't be looting and killing for food. We won't be as much a burden on the medical facilities or a danger to the police. Since we will be able to turn to each other and will not need to turn on anyone, we may even be able to help at least some others.

Survival preparation should be regarded as a social obligation, one that every individual owes to his family and community and his nation.

So the reality is that survivalists are generally self-reliant individuals, who cannot help but see the imperative of preparing for the worst possible events, while hoping sincerely, and many also pray, that they won't happen. Today's survivalist is an asset, to his community and to the world and should be proud to be called SURVIVALIST.

Compiled by Norman Church.

Editorial Notes: Norman Church makes a very reasonable case for enlightened survivalism. Norman has given talks at the last two Peak Speak days arranged by James Howard for PowerSwitch in London. The first on related to systems and interdependencies and used the 2000 fuel price protests here in the UK to try to show just how fragile and interdependent our systems where. (Available online). The second one, earlier this year was titled 'Thinking the Unthinkable.' In it, Norman maintained that once we have lost the plot we will not be able to get it back. We have a finite planet and once that is gone then that is it, finished. -BA Note: the phrase 'enlightened survivalism' first comes from an article I wrote for a series of skill sharing workshops called Greening The Apocalypse. I've never published the rant here because I'm concerned it might be misunderstood. After Norman's article I'll have to use a broader definition of 'survivalist', and I'm glad he's seen fit to use the phrase. -AF UPDATE (Nov 8): Related recent articles from Zach Nowak on EB: Communities, Refuges, and Refuge-Communities Preparing for a Crash: Nuts and Bolts -BA

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