The Reality of Survivalism

In the first part of this post, I discussed how the post-industrial world and its associated ills have created the modern fascination with the apocalypse. Since this fringe-turned-pop culture movement is based in fantasy and imagination, rather than actual experience, it has given birth to a number of fallacies.

Image

Riots in Buenos Aires, 2001

In 2001, the Argentine government defaulted on its loans and un-pegged the peso from the dollar, resulting in a swift devaluation. Along with the lead up to these events – high unemployment, unavailability of credit, a loss of faith in public institutions and rampant inflation, more than half the country was plunged into poverty, looting and riots.

After some research on the experiences of Argentines in a post economic collapse environment,  I’ve summarised some of the misconceptions about what surviving entails.

Fallacy One – You need a country survival retreat

“The best alarm system anyone can have on a farm are dogs. But dogs can get killed and poisoned. A friend of mine had all four dogs poisoned on his farm one night, they all died. After all these years I learned that even though the person that lives out in the country is safer when it comes to small time robberies, that same person is more exposed to extremely violent home robberies. Criminals know that they are isolated and their feeling of invulnerability is boosted. When they assault a country home or farm, they will usually stay there for hours or days torturing the owners. I heard it all: women and children getting raped, people tied to the beds and tortured with electricity, beatings, burned with acetylene torches. Big cities aren’t much safer for the survivalist that decides to stay in the city. He will have to face express kidnappings, robberies, and pretty much risking getting shot for what’s in his pockets or even his clothes.”

“So, where to go? The concrete jungle is dangerous and so is living away from it all, on your own. The solution is to stay away from the cities but in groups, either by living in a small town-community or sub division, or if you have friends or family that think as you do, form your own small community. Some may think that having neighbors within “shouting” distance means losing your privacy and freedom, but it’s a price that you have to pay if you want to have someone to help you if you ever need it. To those that believe that they will never need help from anyone because they will always have their rifle at hand, checking the horizon with their scope every five minutes and a first aid kit on their back packs at all times…. Grow up.”

 

Fallacy two: Good guys vs. Bad guys

This will not happen.

This will not happen

 

“1) Those that want to harm you/steal from you don’t come with a pirate flag waving over their heads.

2) Neither do they start shooting at you 200 yards away.

3) They won’t come riding loud bikes or dressed with their orange, convict just escaped from prison jump suits, so that you can identify them the better. Nor do they all wear chains around their necks and leather jackets. If I had a dollar for each time a person that got robbed told me “They looked like NORMAL people, dressed better than we are”, honestly, I would have enough money for a nice gun. There are exceptions, but don’t expect them to dress like in the movies.”

Fallacy Three – Bullion and Barter

Lead Bullion

Lead Bullion

“”Everyone wants to buy gold! “I buy gold. Pay cash” signs are everywhere, even on TV! I can’t believe I’m that silly! I just didn’t relate it to what I read here because they deal with junk gold, like jewelry, either stolen or sold because they needed the money, not the gold coins that you guys talk about. No one pays for the true value of the stuff, so big WARNING! Sign on people that are buying gold coins. Since it is impossible to determine the true mineral percentage of gold, small shops and dealers will pay for it as regular jewelry gold. What I would do if I were you: Besides gold coins, buy a lot of small gold rings and other jewelry. They should be less expensive than gold coins, and if the SHTF bad, you’ll not be loosing money, selling premium quality gold coins for the price of junk gold. If I could travel back in time, I’d buy a small bag worth of gold rings.
Small time thieves will snatch gold chains right out of your neck and sell them at these small dealers found everywhere. This is VERY common at train stations, subways and other crowded areas.

So, my advice, if you are preparing for a small economical crisis, gold coins make sense. You will keep the value of the stuff and be able to sell it for its actual cost to gold dealers or maybe other survivalists that know the true value of the item. In my case, gold coins would have been an excellent investment, saving me from loosing money when the local economy crashed. Even though things are bad, I can go to a bank down town and get paid for what a gold coin is truly worth, same goes for pure silver. But where I live, in my local are small time dealers will only pay you the value of junk gold, no matter what kind of gold you have. So, I’d have to say that if TSHTF bad, gold jewelry is a better trade item than gold coins. Forgive me for not talking about this before, but I didn’t realize this until today, when I visited my local market warehouse and saw a “Buy Gold” sign.”

Fallacy Four – Markets don’t adapt in an Economic Collapse

Economic Collapse Market

“Once the SHTF the black/gray market will take no time to appear all around you.
In my country, gray markets were even accepted in the end. At first it was all about trading skills or craft products for food. Districts and towns would form their own barter markets, and created their own tickets, similar to money, that was used to trade.
This didn’t last long. Those tickets were easy to make on your home computer, there was no control and eventually people went back to paper money.

These markets were usually placed on warehouses or empty land, and were managed by some wise guy and a few thugs or hired security. Anyone can go rent a kiosk inside these markets for about 50-100 pesos (about 20-30 dollars) a day and sell his goods and services. Peace within these markets is usually respected… lets just say that these managers don’t call the police if someone tries anything funny, like stealing, fighting or taking advantage of women. That’s not good for their business and anyone that tries to mess with their business finds out how much pain the human body can actually experiment or gets a free ticket to meet the Lord. Sometimes even uniformed cops manage security on these markets, for a small fee of course. As always, you still have to be careful. They may still try to pick your pockets or even attack you once you leave the market. Once you leave the market, you are on your own, as always.

These markets evolved and now a lot of different products are available. Today I visited my local market, a warehouse that is fairly well set up and cleanly managed. They had problems for selling stolen merchandise and fake Brand name clothes a few days ago.
What can be found at a local markets? Mostly food and clothing. Some have more variety than others but cheese, canned food, spices, honey, eggs, fruits, vegetables, beer, wine and cured meat are generally available, same as bakery products and pasta. These are less expensive than those found at supermarkets. Fresh fish is sometimes available but not always, people don’t trust much products that need refrigeration, and they get those at supermarkets instead.

Clothes are also popular and you can find copies of brand name clothes, imitations, or even original stolen new clothes, the same goes for shoes and snickers. Children clothes, underwear, socks, sheets and towels are all very popular. Some sell toys, but they are always China made, mostly poor quality though there are some few exceptions. Others sell tools, also made in China can be found as well, but they are of poor quality. Some offer their services and repair stuff or offer work as handyman.
You would be amazed of the junk that these guys manage to fix: TVs, CD players, Power tools, etc. They even manage to solder the small integrated circuits boards sometimes. Give one of these guys a screw driver and a bar of chocolate and he will fix a nuclear submarine.

After food and clothes, the 3rd most popular item has to be CDs and DVDs, movies, music, play station 2 and Xbox games, programs, it all ends up there just one or two days after the official release in USA. Seems that they have a guy hidden under Bill Gate’s desk or something. Anyway, almost everything can be found there, and if you want, you can ask around, talk to the right guy and buy illegal stuff like drugs or black market guns and ammo. The quality of the drugs is questionable, of course, and a lot of addicts die from the mixtures these guys sell. Guns are mostly FM High Powers, Surplus 1911s and Colt .45s, Sistemas, and old Colt Detective revolvers in 38 special that found their way from police and military armories into the black market. Condition isn’t very good but if you have money you’ll be amazed of what you can end up with. Everything that is used by the military and police, including SMGs a, Browning 50 BMG Machine guns, and even frag grenades, is available in the black market, if the customer has the amount of money and a little patience, of course. The big guns may take a while, but the handguns and grenades are readily available.”

Fallacy Five – You are a soldier

soldier-farmer

 “A man with a wife and two or three kids can’t set up a watch. I don’t care if you are SEAL, SWAT or John Freaking Rambo, no 6th sense is going to tell you that there is a guy pointing a gun at your back when you are trying to fix the water pump that just broke, or carrying a big heavy bag of dried beans you bought that morning.”

Fallacy Six – Only shoot your handgun to fight your way to your rifle

This 'here handy rifle

“A LOT has been written on survival weapons. Everyone that is into armed survival has his or her own idea of the ideal gun battery. Some more oriented to a hunting point of view, others only as self defense means and others consider a little of both, and look for general purpose weapons. Talking about guns, there is one special subject I want to rectify, and it’s the point on what’s the primary weapon for the survivalist, specially an urban survivalist that has to function in a society, yes, even after the SHTF. The primary defensive weapon for the survivalist is his HANDGUN. It’s the weapon that stays with him when he is doing his business around town of working on the field. The survivalist IS NOT a soldier, even though you are a soldier or you once were the meanest mother on the battle filed, your home town is not a battlefield and it wont be, even if the SHTF. A LOT of water has to go under the bridge until the situation gets to a point where you can calmly walk down the street with a rifle on your shoulder. People, if you are interested in real world SHTF situation and you want to prepare for the real deal, then understand that this isn’t black or white. You wake up one day and listen on the radio that the economy collapsed and that the stock market closed indefinitely. What do you do? You still have to go to the office/work/whatever .Kiss the wife good bye and walk to the office with your AR across your back, or across your chest, Israeli style, and ready to shoot? You won’t get far. Someone will shoot you or throw you in jail, or in a mental institution.

What I’m trying to explain, is that it’s ok to prepare for China invading you country, Germans and UN or Martians. That is the extreme, less likely worst case scenario.
There is an infinity spectrum of gray between the black and white. White being your average normal day and black being total TEOTWAWKI, lizard men invading the planet.
Rifles do have a place in the survivalist’s arsenal, and a very important one. But you have to understand that 90% of the time, the handgun will be the weapon you have available when you need one. You can’t compare to a trooper in Iraq that has his weapon with him at all times. I ask you how many soldiers do you know that keep wearing cammo and totting their M4s around town when they return home?

What works for war does not work for the survivalist, especially the urban survivalist.
Even if you live in a retreat far from town, you have to work, don’t you? Or do you have employees that take care of all your mundane tasks, leaving you all day to keep watch with your rifle ready? A soldier is part of a huge machine; HIS job is to carry that rifle, while others take care of other needs. A survivalist, one that is not part of a large survivalist group, has no one to cover for him. When a new guy looks for advice on what to get for defense, some will recommend a rifle or shotgun as a first defensive weapon.
Let’s say race riots start in this guy’s city. He still has to go to work every day. What is he supposed to do? Shove his pump shotgun in his pocket? A handgun, even though less powerful, can be used for home defense AND go with you wherever you need to go. If the place floods, he can still hop into an evacuation boat without leaving his weapon behind. I’m sure no rescue team will pick you if you are carrying a long arm. They’ll ask you to leave it behind for sure. What if your government, realizing that TSHTF and that they lost control of the events, bans all firearms indefinitely? Don’t know about you, but if things are that bad, I’d like to be armed. You can hide a handgun under a jacket. You can’t hide a long arm under your clothes.

I think it was Clint Smith who said that the handgun is only used to fight his way to his rifle. Man! That sounds “macho”. I’d love to see him walking into Wal-Mart with his tactical M4, taking the subway, visiting the doctor or going to the bank. “Over here Mr. Smith, you can hang you M4 right next to my coat” I don’t think so. Guys, unless you have your own shooting school, you do not get to carry your rifle to work.”

Fallacy Seven – Money won’t matter

Fiat Money Make Good Fire

 “Financial security, and the ability to move:
The greatest survival trait.

Which brings me to my final consideration on survival, my final conclusion concerning surviving mayor crisis.
Money.
Yes, some paper money, gold, silver, but mostly money in accounts in a couple of “safe” countries and money invested in real estate.
We had people going from middle class to poor over here. We had people going through some terrible situations, and it’s safe to say that those that fared better where those with solid finances.
Our society runs on money, people. Not only paper money, but accounts and virtual money. It would take a world wide collapse, practically the end of humanity for money to be useless as a concept.
A country, or several, even a continent can go down into misery, dragging it’s local paper money with it, but the other end will rise proportionally. I truly believe this, and history also shows that there are always losers and winners, conquered and conquerors, the balance, the ying yang always remains.
A giant meteor could destroy earth and little green men could enslave us, yes, but in the infinite spectrum of possibilities, that scenario is the less likely one. I’d rather prepare for those that are more likely. And it’s very likely that though your country can go down with an economical collapse, suffer civil war or natural disasters, you will probably have the possibility to escape to somewhere safe, greener pastures.
Hel!, that’s what thousands of Argentines ultimately did, what my family did, and what I intend to do as soon as possible.
Just last week my parents told me that they ran across some old friends that recently moved to Spain. Bad guys broke into their home with them inside, don’t know exactly what happened but it must have bee ugly, so they got fed up of the insecurity and moved to Spain with their daughter.
I consider myself a citizen of the world, and have no problem to move if I must. I strongly suggest you think about this, because it may be the ultimate survival solution. While I do believe in the stronghold, retreat concept, I do not believe it is possible to fight off an entire starved, crazed nation.
If we are going to consider long term, permanent TEOTWAWKI, do consider moving to another country, far away, and plan accordingly. This means, having money in accounts, documents and passports ready, maybe even learn a second language.
Now that I think of it, a solid financial situation and making sure his kids had a worldly, ample mentality, was all my father did, unconsciously or not, to make sure his family survived, and he sure did succeed where millions of others failed. Considering he lived in a shack with earth floor when his parents moved from Spain 50 years ago, he sure did better than the rest.
My father’s “survival arsenal” ? a 22 semi auto, a .22 revolver and a box of ammo, until I convinced him of buying a 1911. Still, we did ok. Savings and investing was the key to our survival.
The survivalist that has 5000-10000 bucks worth of weapons, years worth of food and a safe water source but no money invested anywhere is not doing things right. Even if you invest all you have on your retreat, and manage to get of the grid and live in your retreat without the need of anything else, you are pinning yourself down to one single point in the map, from which you can’t move.
Look to what happened to an entire generation of Spanish. They fled Spain escaping civil war. Look at what we are now doing over here. Moving to Spain, escaping from a economical/political SHTF scenario. See a pattern here?
I know that some refuse to leave their country because of patriotism, but you still CAN be a patriot and still leave if you have to.
Many of the most dedicated fighters had to leave my country during the “Dirty War” civil war/dictatorship in the 70’s. They where alive to come back and bring those dictators and murderers to justice, while those that stayed and fought simply got executed. Which would you rather be?
Save money, invest, travel, make new friends, visit those long lost parents in the old continent, they will be happy to see you, travel around and learn about different cultures, how to be flexible and adapt to them. This is, by far, the best advice I can give you all when it comes to bad, bad, SHTF.
Sometimes, you simply run out of options. Happened here, happened before, and happened in several places. It can happen to you.
A person is not a survivalist simply because he lives in the woods, wears camo all day long, and has always a rifle hanging from his shoulder and looking for trespassers to shoot. That is not what I want in life, and that is not what I consider a flexible, adaptable person. In my humble opinion, the survivalist can feel as comfortable in the woods as in a cocktail party surrounded by sheep. He can play both games, he can adapt. He’s a person that can smile back at those that think differently and keep his convictions to himself if needed. A person that cannot tolerate the presence of others that are not like him has a limited adaptation capability and therefore is limited when it comes to survival. Maybe he’s great at wild life survival, but not at the real world, society surviving. He’s good at the kind of survival required to survive a plane cash in the Amazons, which is great, but he cant deal with society and other people.
You have to get over the idea of the retreat being the ultimate, final survival answer to a crisis. That’s incorrect. The final, terminal solution is to leave the country or region. And that requires some social skills and savings. Keep that in mind before you spend every single penny you have on the ultimate retreat. Before anyone beats me in the head with a cinder block, the retreat/bug in house is very important, yes, it’s the semi-last solution, it’s the place that keeps you safe through small and medium crisis (which are more likely than big time SHTF), and it’s also your home, the place you are more than likely to spend the rest of your life in if nothing goes WAY down the swage. But when TSHTF in a large scale, you have to get out, as many of you advised me to do.”

 Fallacy Eight – The apocalypse is a fresh start

Rick Grimes with Laurie's replacement

Rick Grimes with Laurie’s replacement

“Finally, I want to give a message of hope to you all, and remind you and me both that survival is about surviving, but not for the mere fact of living , but to live happy, rich lives.
Prepare because it’s the smart thing to do, and not because you are looking forward to SHTF and other disasters.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that TSHTF will be a brand new start for you, and that all your problems will just go away and you’ll have a new start in the brave new world.
It doesn’t work that way. Quite the contrary, everything will get worse, small problems will turn into bigger, more serious problems. If you have drinking problems, you’ll drink more, if you can’t keep a job, you’ll spend years unemployed, if you have a disease, you’ll see that it’s harder to get attention and medications. Again everything gets WORSE.
Someone once asked me, “How is it that you cant shoot a criminal 200 meters away, but police don’t do anything to stop them?”.
SHTF, whatever type of crisis it may be, isn’t fair. It will be absolutely unfair.
You’ll have good, honest people starving, while corrupt ones make profit, you wont have a cop to protect you but they sure will come after you when a criminal presses false charges against you. That’s the way it works.
So, anyone looking forward to TEOTWAWKI for a fresh start, better think again, and get your life straighten out NOW.
Survivalists are often considered as dark fatalists, doomsday worshipers. This is not so, the real survivalist should not be like this.
Negative people will have a hard time dealing with a crisis. It takes a positive, good natured person to make it through.
Know that there are dangers, and situations you can not predict and prepare as best as you can for them. But never forget to live life at it’s fullest.
You and I, we don’t know how long we have on this Earth, so make the best out of it, each passing minute.
A survivalist should not be a pessimist, he should always be positive, happy and enjoying life more than anyone else because he understands that each minute of peace we have is precious and unique, and he never takes it for granted.
The way I see it, the survivalist is a vital, fit, ever curious, good humored person. He’s fit because he takes care of his body, and his body takes care of him, he’s curious, because he thinks that it’s important to learn new things all the time, and he enjoys learning, he has a good humor because he’s sure of himself, and treats others the way he wants to be treated.
That’s how we should behave. Being a survivalist is 90% mental attitude. And even if SHTF does not occur in our life, that attitude makes our life more rich and fulfilling.
There are things in life we can control and others we can’t, the survivalist way of thinking makes sure we control those we can and accept those we cant.
So, if you have that mentality, either by having a fully independent homestead or simply a few funds, some supplies, a couple of weapons and bug out bags, set that chin a little higher, walk a little bit straighter, no mater if you are a doctor or accountant, trucker or plumber, be proud my friend, because you are a dyeing breed.
You are, without a doubt, a better person.”

 

These are extracts from an extended essay by Fernando Aguirre. If you’re interested in buying Fernando ‘Ferfal’ Aguirre’s book, Surviving the Economic Collapse, click here.

 

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