The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The response to my article about how climate change is now unstoppable and people should consider what they will do to survive it included some questions of what those considerations should be.

I don’t want to go into the technicalities of survival preparation. There are plenty of books and blogs (prepper blogs) devoted to it.

But a lot of them miss the proverbial forest for the trees. Obviously you’re going to need the basics; obviously you don’t want to be in the worst places when whatever it is hits.

But less obvious is that the primary determinants of who survives will be social.

Strong and Wide Social Ties

Look, when the shit hit the fans, distribution is hard to entirely determine. Some people will survive, others won’t. Minus tons of money (not always as useful as one thinks, minus prep work) and maybe even with tons of money, what determines survival best is how many people care about you and want you to stay alive.

Are there people who will check on you? Share food and shelter and medicine if they have to? Find (or be) two strong young men and hump you out if necessary? Do people care?

If you don’t have a strong social group, and wider ties, if you’re essentially on your own or just with your immediate family (and it isn’t a huge clan), then your odds of dying or suffering going way, way up.

Don’t have this? Join a church. There are agonostic churches, by the way. Any functional church checks on its members, does visits, helps find jobs, etc, etc…This is a ready-made social group. Yeah, you have to do this stuff yourself, but it’s good for you to care for people and be cared for. When Emile Durkheim studied suicide in 19th century France, he found that atheists suicided most, followed by Protestants, followed by Catholics. This was based on social engagement (don’t transfer this direct, look for a church with social engagement).

If you absolutely can’t stand church, find some other close knit social group. People who look after each other.

Be On Good Terms with the Violent Authorities

Do the local cops like you? Do you give to the patrolman’s benevolent association, or whatever? Does the police chief know your name and care about you? If there is a local military base, are you on good terms there? If there is a local gang, are you on good terms with them?

I don’t care how many guns you have, or if you think  you’re Rambo, organized violence beats unorganized violence. When shit goes bad, you want the people who are used to fighting as a group to think you’re a great person. You want them to defend you and not think of you as a victim.

You may have reason to hate some of these folks, those reasons may be good, but the best way to deal with an enemy is to turn them into a friend, and this is about survival.

Keep Your Resources Largely Secret

You aren’t Rambo, you don’t have an army at your beck and call, and you’ve done your work: You have food, water, medicines, maybe even power. Other people may resent that. They may ask you to share. You may not have enough to share with as many people as want you to share, and still survive. So keep it on the down low. I’m not saying don’t share at all, but conceal how much you have, and keep it hidden. Be smart about this, a semi-public stash you show to those you share with and a hidden stash are a good idea, for example.

Have Tradeables

In the old days, this used to mean cigarettes. In a crisis, it will mean medicines like antibiotics, drugs, medical supplies in general and anything else you can think of that will be in short supply and needed (iodine tablets for purifying water might be a hot item, for example).

You’ve got to be real careful with this stuff, see “secrecy” above. If people think you have a stash, and know who you are and where you’re from, this can go bad. Strong social ties, ties to the local violent authorities, and secrecy can protect you somewhat, but use your sense.

Careful Following the Crowd

Despite wanting to have strong social ties and all that, remember that the places that are worse to be are often the big center points: the stadium or whatever set up as a central distribution and camp out point. This is where the rapes and violence happen. You should prepare in large part so you don’t have to go there. If you do, visit only, don’t stay, and go in numbers with people good at violence and stay together. Dead serious on this.

Belong to an Organized Group

A good church qualifies, but any reasonably large group (50+ people) who are used to working together outside of work can qualify. When government fails, such groups, used to working together, can pull together. Bonus if the group tends to include people with technical, agricultural, and survival skills. Be on good terms with these people.

Concluding Remarks

The people who live, in good times and bad, tend to be the people who other people want to live. When established authority collapses, groups that already exist but aren’t dependent on that authority tend to take over; and yes, organized groups with guns tend to matter.

Want to live? Make it so you living is what other people want.

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