Forming Survival Groups
This is a continuance from Part I, Future Prep. Blog postings are usually meant to be short if they’re going to read at all. I don’t think anybody likes to read particurly long essays online.
What I write next is based on many years of personal experience. Forming groups to survive the collapse is often inquired upon and this subject is very difficult to deal with. Most groups fail (over 95%) within two or three years (or even sooner). And that’s now, when the SHTF isn’t “real” yet and the greater society remains viable out there to catch the pieces (people) that go spinning off from their fractured group attempts.
Here is where most groups fail (in no particular order):
1) Unrealized expectations. Either these were not fully discussed, written down (important) and agreed upon, expectations are often unfilled, causing dissension, implosion and failure.
2) Lack of ‘localness’. Forming a group from ‘outsiders’ is an almost certain recipe for disaster. The lack of local connections, customs, habits, expectations, and familiarity with all of the above, causes most ‘formed groups’ from people scattered far and wide to fail.
3) Lack of funding. A serious lack of planning, expectations and foresight, lack of initial startup costs, etc. Individual members don’t make equal contributions in terms of resources, land, money and resentment develops.
4) Habits and belief systems. Smokers, dogs, religion, politics, work ethics, even scheduling habits. Slackers, wannabe’s, lazy and incompetent people should be avoided at all costs.
5) Relocation. This is a gigantic “biggie” which encompasses ALL of the above. Economic factors aside (which are monumental all by themselves) if resolved, still fails to account for the challenges and difficulties of relocation and the undue stress that this places upon ALL the participants. However, relocation is very often a prerequisite and thus, impossible to under estimate.
6) Familiarity. The lack of communication, understanding, expectations, realizations, habits, hangups, hanger on’s (extra family members, kids, troublesome friends, etc.) create extreme problems. Includes non-humans too (dogs, birds, cats, family ‘pets’).
7) Impatience and lack of bonding. Most groups form in a hurry, based on a perceived need and almost always, a sense of urgency, which fails to address ALL of the above. Such groups are destined for disaster and failure.
Groups are stronger then individuals, but you must carefully consider what you’re asking for – and expecting. And what people say – and what they do are two entirely different things. Stress can produce the very worst and the very best in humans. You have to know that your fellow members won’t crack under pressure. Most of them probably will.
I strongly advise AGAINST forming a group from people that do not live close by that you cannot get to know personally, intimately and slowly. Time is against you right now to do this, but I still hold this opinion based on years of personal experience.
If you are going to form a group, start with family. Then close friends. And close neighbors. Beyond that, forget it. It probably won’t work. It almost never does.
There are many different kinds of preparedness groups in the US, usually based around a common belief or perception. However, close examination will often reveal that the same belief is not enough. Nor is the same politics, religion or expectations. Most of these groups implode. The human dynamics come into play when you put people together and you quickly find out just how compatible you really are.
I could (and have) written an entire book on this subject, so I suggest you carefully consider what you’re asking for. Don’t ask for a copy, I don’t circulate it anymore.
Groups must hold common values, morals, beliefs and have clear lines of communication, leadership and problem resolution. All that, plus all of the above.
Be careful. I am not advising against it, but this is a Pandora’s box and once opened, can be deadly. Remember, groups implode, killing off each other, sometimes literally. Massive pressure is also created by society, law enforcement and others from without. Eventually, cracks appear and self-destruction ensues.
You are as well off, if not better, sticking with family, close neighbors and friends. These ‘groups’ already have the ‘localness’ requirement (essential), lines of communications, understanding of habits, belief systems, ethics and many other very important factors, including private property (even personal property). These groups are far from perfect (no group is), but they have a better foundation upon which to build then putting together relative strangers.
I’m am certainly not against forming groups – in fact, I think they are essential. It’s the ‘how’ they are formed that is often overlooked and what it means.
I’d like to gently comment that the examples of camp, military, sports, college, business, etc., all have the same characteristic – and that is the support structure that exists within and without these ‘organizations’. Take away that support structure, ie., societal collapse, and all of that ‘outside help’ that all of these organizations rely upon to function correctly and you have a sure-fire recipe for disaster. There have been even rogue military groups that have impoded with the surrounding support structure collapses. Groups function ‘best’ when the surrounding infrastructure continues to provide. Take that away, and any group is subject to implosion.
Which is in fact, exactly what happens when such organizations are stressed beyond their intended capacitity, capabilities and expectations. This scenario is extremely likely in our near future.
Human relationships are built upon trust, communication, understanding and needs. This last point is almost always overlooked. A lot of people work because of needs, put up with a tyrant boss or crappy working hours based on this fact alone. Given the choice, they’d be doing something else. Which of course, is the option they choose at first chance. This can happen in a group too.
They are in fact, already working for ‘survival’ with a tremendous ‘outside support system’ in place. Take away that outside support system (grocery stores, gas stations, doctors, cars, entertainment, comfort food (junk food), law enforcement, potentially all of it) and they won’t be showing up for work or anything else. In fact, who and what they really are will reveal itself rather quickly and sometimes quite violently.
This is why ‘knowing’ your support group intimately is going to be so important – people that can truly be relied upon and trusted and won’t leave you in a lurch or turn against you. I cannot emphasize this enough.
In crisis, the issue of needs (survival) becomes of paramount importance and the concept of ‘self’ asserts itself in myriad ways. The lack of a supporting network will really change people and I can pretty much state with assurance – you won’t like it. And they won’t like you either. The change will be abrupt, brutal and harsh.
Survival is personal warfare, not in the sense of ‘attack and destroy’, but in the sense that all the rules are thrown out – if this is really a survival situation. We saw this with 500 law enforcement officers quitting during the Katrina disaster. It just didn’t matter anymore when their world was totally destroyed. We saw looters, assassinations, rapes, murders and probably much more. Many were caught and went to jail irregardless. And that was in a regional disaster, actually fairly localized compared to what could occur on a global scale now.
Loyalties got thrown out with the dirty flood waters and people reverted to self-preservation mode very quickly. Of course, not everyone did (or will), but many did, bearing in mind that they all expected rescue. What about when there is no more rescue? No more larger society to come tooling along and fix the problems? This is when things will really reveal themselves, the will to live, struggle, survive and go on will be the daily challenge, hour by hour, minute by minute.
It’s when the food runs out (or runs low) that people will start getting really afraid (and really wierd). Food is comfort, safety and security. Food is life itself, few really seem to consider it’s critical importance or fragile nature. Civilizations and tribes throughout history have risen and fallen according to the food supply (duh!). I emphasize this because that is the very issue at risk. Humans can live without power, and humans can even cope with climate change (to an extent), but 6.8 billion humans cannot live without food that was raised with cheap power, cheap petroleum, vast distribution systems and predictable climates. When these go away, and they will, cheap energy, vast crop lands, affordable transportation, distribution systems and stocked shelves disappear, desperation will set in. And then violence will set in, with a vengeance.
America’s homeless rarely starve to death because they have sources of nutrition available to them (and because we won’t let them starve). I’m not suggesting that it’s pleasant or easy, but they do manage to live, because there is still a support structure in place that they can glean off of. Total collapse would change all of that, this paradigm of a vast, integrated and functioning infrastructure that provides for the minimal or maximum needs (depending on your status in life) won’t be there anymore. Food is the basic element (and water of course). As collapse becomes more enhanced, you can expect food rationing and empty shelves in time. During disasters now, this always happens.
And when the commercially produced food runs out, desperation will set in. Cold showers, or skinny dipping in a lake are tolerable, but hunger is not. Expect people to fight each other and wipe out most of the wildlife. What climate change doesn’t kill, humans will. And then they will turn on each other, some sooner rather then later.
I only want to make the point that crisis is a time of turning, a time of revealing what character is in people and whether or not you can trust them with your life, or if they will be selfish and sacrifice you because of their needs.
It can a very innocuous and innocent request that can get you killed. Let’s just say that a pandemic outbreak has hit the States, everybody everywhere is quarantined and ordered to stay home. What happens when you’re neighbor comes over? What do you do?
If he’s clueless, he won’t realize the danger he represents, just knocking on your door, asking for something to eat. Or water. Or medicine. Or toilet paper. Innoccuous request, but under pandemic, absolutely deadly.
You need people who are paying attention and understand their ‘role’ and ‘responsibility’, otherwise, you risk disaster.
So, our imaginary clueless neighbor, decides he doesn’t like you ignoring him and figures he’ll just help himself, smashing through a window and trying to enter your house to find whatever it was he needed. Suddenly, your isolation and quarantine is broken and you’re all in danger. You’ve got a big problem – brought upon you against your best desires. You’re going to have to handle it.
This is why trust is so important. Hand in hand with trust is communication. This tiny example reveals that you have to ‘know’ your neighbors, they can’t be putting you (and then themselves) at extreme risk. Expect a lot of people to continue to do some really stupid things. This will only worsen as collapse ensues.
None of this applies to the same degree when there is an ‘outside support’ structure in place. Your neighbor can simply go knock on another door, walk to the store, call for help, something, anything. He’s got other places to turn to. And so do you, if it happens to be you that needs something or help. But take that all away, take away all forms of social organizations and agreements, all available goods and distribution points, all means of safe travel, all means of constraints and limitations, potentially everything, and the social dynamics change radically, instantly.
Trust cannot be bought in a survival sitatuation, before or afterwards. Trust is earned, the hard way through time, committment, loyalty and experience. Societal collapse will expose every lie, distortion and assumption you can possibly imagine. Trust will be suddenly of paramount importance, but the factors necessary (time) will be gone.
Get started now if you intend to do anything at all. You’ve little real time left and what remains needs to be used wisely.
Family has always been the core for groups and will remain so. Blood is thicker then water. For most families, the commitment is already there and the desire for the family to live will be there too.
Important reminder and a good code to live by. Watch what people actually do. Applies to absolutely everyone. Not what they say, but what they do. This reveals their true heart and intentions and why you can see right through them so easily. Lying, backstabbing and gossip in a survival situation will get you very dead. Pay attention to this now.
Survival groups will form, but I no longer believe that small groups will survive. I’m not suggesting that the commentary above is wrong, I’m stating that small, isolated survival groups will have a very hard time of it because of a lack of diverse skills, security, infighting, resources and even opportunities to ‘better’ then situation.
Community survival has many advantages to small groups and I think this is a far better solution then winging it on your own or with your family. But even with the community, there is still the core groups. Community survival will (probably) be built upon these core groups, made up of many families. This is in effect, what we have today in our small towns.
A community will have a better chance because of the diversification of skills, labor, land and resources. They will also receive and wield authority and recognition of that authority, whereas a rogue band of survivalist won’t. This is going to be pretty important as lawlessness will be very prevalent.
Communities will also be able to setup barter, trade and labor exchange (even slavery, ie., “work for food” if it degenerates to that). Medicine and medical treatment will be top priorities for the members. I’d expect fiefdoms and warlords eventually too. History has many examples of nations resorting to such “law and order”. Law and order will be replaced with what works. A lot of our stupid laws and rules, permits, regulations and restrictions will be tossed right out the window. And a lot of would-be tyrants will try to take control. Get rid of them, by any means necessary (I am serious). They are and will be a serious danger to everyone. The community will function best when everyone works. Respect is earned, not implied or demanded. Leaders that do not lead, but dictate, orchestrate or tyrate should not be tolerated by anyone. We’ve got enough of these leaches now, there won’t be any need for them in the future.
Communities will also have far better growing capabilities then small bands, marshaling labor and resources on a larger scale. They will also be able to deal with defensive issues against raiding parties and ‘outlaws’ (the small survivalist bands) far better then smaller groups. There will be both safety and oppression in numbers (just like now). This is one of the big advantages of communities over ecovillages by the way, I’ve yet to hear about an ecovillage that is prepared to meet the needs of the surrounding community, or even to adequately defend itself. Ecovillages will be quickly overrun and consumed by hungry people.
The solution for survival isn’t a loner approach, or even a small band or tribe (unless you truly manage to isolate yourselves and stay that way and are willing to work like hell trying to stay alive). The solution is community based.
Find a community that you can become a part of and integrate yourself and family into that community. This community will need to have plentiful water as stated in Part I of this series. It will also require fertile soil, something I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet. Importantly, the community will need to come up to speed very quickly with the issues of community survival if it is not already.
Some communities are already ‘on their way’, particularly in Cascadia. I don’t know all the details, but they are working towards sustainable living and have both plentiful water, good soils and decent growing seasons (for now, climate change may change that, thus you may find yourself moving again in time). The big problem with Cascadia is population, tidal waves and earthquake / volcanic possibilities, there are simply far too many people there and nearby that will migrate in to feed. This will be a huge problem in the US especially and in Europe.
However, most communities are totally clueless on sustainability and will think you’re nuts to even suggest it. This is where the survival groups will come into play. Picking a community, forming survival groups with the intention of ‘converting’ the township as circumstances force them is a good strategy. They’ll get on board because they will have to. And if they don’t, they will have either left, killed you, or died themselves, but they’re not going to ignore the collapse, nobody is.