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Why Prep

Note from Andrew:  This article was originally written as a single essay solely for the consumption of my parents, my sister and her new husband.  In many ways the writing of this essay served as the genesis for this website.

     Question:  Why Prep…why become more self-reliant?

     Answer:  Because it’s the only reasonable and logical response to an unknown future and even a cursory study of history.

Why Prep, Section I:  Introduction

I came to the conclusion while serving in Iraq that civilization is essentially an idea held in our collective minds.  When a certain percentage of any country or region’s residents lose confidence in its institutions (executive, legislative, judicial, bureaucracy, banking/financial, etc.) and common courtesies then there is a radical shift in group and individual behaviors that initiate The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI).  A side note before we continue, TEOTWAWKI is prepper-speak for dramatic change…this isn’t the ‘end of the world’ but could be a radical shift in how society operates…as in ‘as we know it.’

This dramatic change can take many forms…but one of the factors that these potential changes have in common is the potential rapidity of the change once it begins.  As an intelligence officer and student of history I have studied this phenomenon in both contemporary and historical failed states as well as seen the effects firsthand during my travels and deployments.  Those of us lucky enough to live in the United States know that we live in a great nation… but thinking that our country is so great that the laws of nature, physics and economics stop at our shores is foolish and shortsighted.

Given enough time, many of the scenarios or perils I explore in Section II of this article become not just possibilities….but eventual probabilities.  Will any of these scenarios occur in your lifetime?  Some likely will, most probably won’t … but if the choice is between making reasonable preparations and wishful thinking…I chose reasonable preparations.  Additionally, your increased self-reliance will serve you and your family well… not only in the event of a natural disaster or major world/societal change but also with the life changing or shattering events that plague individuals and families even in the best of times (job loss, illness, loss of a loved one, victimization by criminals, etc.).  I call these individual calamities The End Of The World As You Know It (TEOTWAYKI).

Will your preparations be in vain if nothing happens?  Not at all… even if you never use your preps you will reap a number of tangible rewards from your journey towards self-reliance.  Two benefits that readily come to mind are the peace of mind you’ll have knowing that you are ready and the example your actions will foster in your children and grandchildren…who may experience a TEOTWAWKI or TEOTWAYKI event…even if you don’t.

Why Prep, Section II:  Historical & Current Examples

I the Introduction to Why Prep we briefly discussed the fragility of the status quo and clarified that preparedness is not about getting ready for the ‘end of the world’… it’s about building the skills, resources and resilience to endure the transition periods following dramatic financial, environmental, societal or individual life changes.  If you haven’t read the introduction yet, I recommend that you read it before continuing by clicking on the hyperlink near the start of this paragraph..

Today we’re going to take a look at some current and historical situations and events that are/were much more survivable (financial and otherwise) for those that took the time to prepare.  For brevity’s sake I have chosen a small sampling of the historical examples available and have chosen not to include many areas of perpetual warfare (Cyprus, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Palestine/Israel, Northern Ireland, etc.).

Note:  The links included go to articles or preselected internet searches (to make results more timely) in case you’re interested in doing additional reading on that subject.  For convenience, these examples are listed by continent although many of the events/situations spanned multiple continents.

Hammer & SickleEurope:

Tunguska EventAsia:

North America:

  • US Civil War & Reconstruction.  Originally started as a battle over states’ rights…does this remind you any recent national dialogs?  While slavery was a central issue for many, the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t issued until two years into the war.
  • Mormon Persecution of the 19th Century.  Can you imagine your entire church denomination having to leave ‘civilization’ and head off into the frontier?
  • Mexico’s current lawlessness.  Kidnapping is now a major national industry
  • Recent Mexico / US Border Drug War making large areas of the U.S. along the border extremely dangerous (even worse south of the border) and some parts of the U.S. even posted as ‘off limits’ to U.S. Citizens
  • Canada’s forced adoption of indigenous children (happened in Australia as well)
  • Forced relocation of U.S. indigenous populations following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  An example of the results was the Trail of Tears.
  • Great Depression & Dust Bowl
  • Gulf Coast immediately following Hurricane Katrina
  • 2010 Haitian Earthquakes and the resulting cholera outbreaks
  • New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812 which were felt up to 350 miles away.  Three earthquakes estimated to be of Magnitude 7.5 or higher.
  • Galveston Hurricane of 1900.  The deadliest hurricane in US history.
  • Hurricane Andrew of 1900.  This is the Category 5 storm that destroyed Homestead Air Force Base, Florida city and parts of Miami.
  • Panama from independence in 1977 to the US invasion in 1988
  • Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919.  A worldwide pandemic which infected 20% of the world’s population and killed 3 to 10% of the world population.  It was especially disturbing that this strain targeted the young and healthy.
  • Hunger and starvation in all of the Northern Hemisphere following the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia…known as The Year Without Summer
  • 2011′s Joplin, Missouri tornado
  • 2012′s Colorado Wildfires
  • Severe Storms, summer and winter
  • The 1859 Carrington Effect, Solar Storm/Coronal Mass Ejection(CME) which if it happened today could return us to the technology of the 1800′s in the blink of an eye.

FARCSouth America:

Africa & the Middle East:

These United States are an exceptional Republic.  However, American exceptionalism doesn’t make us immune to nature’s fury, mutant microbes, political mismanagement, acts of war, or the laws of economics? Modern society has provided us with wonderful systems to help us live longer, more comfortable lives but the very systems that help us create our wealth also make us incredibly vulnerable and dependent.  We now rely on food and water from hundreds or thousands of miles away, manufacturing and distribution techniques that rely on Just-in-Time inventory (Kanban) systems as well as massive government intervention and debt to protect favored political constituencies.  In fact, our financial system is now so interconnected that we’re in danger from our own automated triggers for buying and selling stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives.

Why Prep, Section III:  Triggers & Stressors

In Historical and Current Examples we discussed examples of places and periods where preparedness could have made the difference between survival and suffering (or worse) for you and your family.  In this third section we’ll discuss stressors and triggers for potential The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) situations.

A stressor event is an occurrence that has the potential to change a system or society.  Stressor events happen all the time and can vary dramatically in the amount of stress or influence they place on a system.  Some examples of stressor events are election outcomes, legislation, trade wars, disease outbreaks, government spending programs, wars, acts of terror, social movements, development or loss of key infrastructure (like the internet you’re browsing), information releases (like the Watergate scandal) or changes to the physical environment (like drought or natural disasters).  From a societal standpoint, stressors often manifest themselves in multiples and if significant enough disruption occurs…they can create a situation that cascades out of control.  While it’s an overly simplified model think of these stressors from the last century:

  1. Germany loses World War I and a large percentage of its reproductive age males
  2. War damage and reparations create severe economic hardship
  3. Rise of the National Socialism in Germany bringing Adolf Hitler and his Brownshirts to power (were the Brownshirts easier to recruit due to a lack of fatherly guidance?)
  4. Election of 1933 gives Hitler enough power in the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act and assume dictatorial powers

This example from history led to TEOTWAWKI for much of the world from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1940’s and eventually ushered in the atomic age.

Don’t make the mistake of placing too much concern on any one stressor.  Very few single stressors are powerful enough to become single event triggers.  Single event triggers are events so dramatic that they can rapidly change the world in a significant way even without additional stressors.  Several possible single event triggers are:  an asteroid strike, severe volcanic eruption(s), a coronal mass ejection (CME) or wide scale electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack.

Another example of a trigger is the minor event that results from and sets off existing stressors in cascade.  An example of this type of stressor was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914.  This killing was the trigger that plunged the world into four years of war.  A minor event like this was capable of creating TEOTWAWKI (at least for Europe and the European colonies) because of the stressors then in place on society like nationalist movements, historic animosities and a widespread networks of military alliances…some of which were secret.

Generally, it’s the cumulative affects of multiple stressors and a trigger that creates cascading disasters that we need to beware.  At any given time there are a number of these stressor events ongoing at the local, regional, national and international levels.  As long as these stressors don’t reach ‘critical mass’ it won’t be TEOTWAWKI…however, even a localized event, hardship, or a family tragedy can be The End Of The World As You Know It (TEOTWAYKI).  Listed below are potential stressors and triggers that have the ability to reshape the world as we know it.  Follow the links for additional information on the net or use the comment section below to add to the conversation.

Political Triggers & StressorsTaxation

Military Triggers & Stressors

Economic Triggers & StressorsHyperinflation

  • Central Bank mismanagement.  Do you know who runs The FedPrinting money (Quantitative Easing) leading to inflation or hyperinflation.  The following countries have experienced hyperinflation in the past century:  Argentina, Brazil, China, Chile, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe
  • Food Inflation leading to a disproportionate share of household income being spent on food.  Food inflation can be from economic or other forces like drought or famine.  How are the crops looking in your neck of the woods this summer?  Another article.
  • The risk created by interconnected financial markets with the potential to create a cascading worldwide financial collapse from a single event like a bad derivatives bet.
  • Pension Underfunding especially in the public sector leading municipal governments to declare bankruptcy.
  • Social Security’s solvency issues

Social Triggers & Stressors

Infrastructure Triggers & Stressors

Information Triggers & Stressors

Physical Environment Triggers & StressorsNatural Disaster

Time

Given enough time the combination of the stressors and triggers listed above is guaranteed to create a situation where preparedness means the difference between safety or suffering…and perhaps your family’s very survival.  As we mentioned in the opening…preparedness is the only reasonable and logical response to an unknown future and even a cursory study of history…and current events.

Why Prep, Section IV:  Individual & Family Disasters

Next we discuss the personal tragedies that are all too familiar for anyone who survives to adulthood.  These are the types of individual and family disasters that affect each and every one of us eventually.  These personal disasters are no less capable of causing The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) or more appropriately, The End Of The War As You Know It (TEOTWAYKI) than the dramatic political, environmental or societal changes that we have discussed to date.

In the Introduction to Why Prep we asked and answered the following question:

     Question:  Why Prep…why become more self-reliant?

     Answer:  Because it’s the only reasonable and logical response to an unknown future and even a cursory study of history.

In Historical and Current Examples we discussed examples of places and periods where preparedness could have made the difference between survival and suffering (or worse) for you and your family.

Then in Triggers & Stressors  we discussed stressor events and individual triggers that have the potential to dramatically change life as we know it on a societal level.  These were the big perils that could affect us on regional, national and even an international basis.

Individual and Family Disasters

Think back on your life.  If you’re like me your life has very defined stages.  The transition between these stages was likely stressful even if the transition wasn’t due to a traumatic event.  While we’re only going to focus on potentially traumatic TEOTWAYKI events in most of this section, the phases of your life may look something like this:

  1. Lived at home with parents and didn’t know how good I had it.  Transition: High School Graduation
  2. Joined the Army and got to see the world, shoot cool weapons and blow things up.  Transition:  Expiration of Term of Service (ETS)
  3. Attended University, pursued learning for learning’s sake and met that special someone.  Transition:  Graduation
  4. Single and first job after University.  Transition:  Marriage
  5. Married & working.  Transition:  Parenthood
  6. Family & working.  Transition:  Empty Nest
  7. Married and working and empty nesting.  Transition:  Grandparenthood
  8. Married and working and empty nesting and grandparenting.  Transition:  Retirement
  9. Married & retired, etc.
Family & Community Support

In just a few minutes we took our hypothetical person through 9 life phases…yes the transitions were joyous events but they did signal a transition from one ‘world’ to another.  Each phase was distinct from the phase before and the phase after.  Is a life so blessed the norm?  Hopefully so, but let’s take the same person we discussed above and consider the affects that everyday, mundane disasters…the type every family sees periodically would have on their life.

The traumatic ‘transitions’ listed below have the power to create TEOTWAYKI of a different kind in your life but by becoming preparedness minded and beginning your journey towards preparedness you and your family will become more resilient and have resources necessary to weather even these mundane, everyday tragedies.

Unemployment & Job Loss

As of the writing of this article the most recent U.S. unemployment statistics available are from July 2012.  The official, U.S. unemployment rate is 8.3%.  This rate, known as the U.3 measures only those people seeking full time work.  As you may have guessed from the discussions you’ve had with your friends, family and neighbors this rate doesn’t reflect our true domestic unemployment reality.  That’s because the long term unemployed have now been removed from the statistical ‘universe’ from which we calculate the U.3.  If you shrink the statistical universe you improve your unemployment numbers…which is a good thing if your boss promised unemployment no higher than 8% and is running for re-election.

Another of the government’s unemployment measurements, the U.6, also includes those “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.”  The U.6 includes those who have become discouraged and given up looking for full time work.  As of July 2012 the U.6 unemployment sat at 15%.

Shadow Stats, a well respected private analytical firm estimates that true unemployment is currently at 22.9%.  If this number is true then almost a quarter of the U.S. workforce is unemployed which has dramatic affects on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and tax revenues.

What do all these different statistics mean to your family…not a thing unless you’re one of the statistics.  An extended period of unemployment can shake your confidence and sap your emotional strength.  Additionally, it can derail your  ongoing preparations for the big disasters and force you to fall back on your prior preparations.  However, if you take the time to prepare for any of the big disasters we’ve discussed in our previous sections then you will be in a much better position to deal with the peril of unemployment.

Salary Cut

Unfortunately this is another employment situation that is becoming more and more common.  The resilience you build prepping for the big disasters will also serve you well here.  If you take the time to turn a preparedness related hobby into a part time business you may be able to replace your lost income.  Worse case you can live off your preps until your salary rebounds or while you plan your next move

Loss of a Loved One

This is a type of loss that virtually all of us have or will experience during our lifetimes.  The emotional loss caused by the death of a family member can shake you to the core.  Compounding the emotional loss are the potential financial and labor losses.  Many of your preps will potentially ease those non-emotional burdens and by becoming more physically fit (an important facet of preparedness) you will be able to deal better with stress…even the overwhelming and emotional stress brought on by the loss of a loved one.

Chronic Health Problems, Accident, Injury or Disability

A physical fitness regimen will also help you stave off many health problems and help you rebound faster if you are hurt or sick.  Most of our health problems are related to poor physical fitness and a sedentary lifestyle.  For those issues that improved physical fitness won’t alleviate your other preps may help you deal with the financial burdens often associated with health problems.

Victimization

Even ‘safe’ neighborhoods aren’t completely…safe.  Copper thefts are a nationwide epidemic, kidnapping is the biggest growth industry for our neighbor to the South (and their moving North) and even cattle rustling is making a comeback.  I have an uncle who was robbed by gunpoint in a bank parking lot during the day in his city’s nicest neighborhood and a neighbor who had to chase off home intruders after they kicked in his front door.  Part of preparedness is opening up your eyes to the possibilities that life isn’t always safe and developing situational awareness.  By becoming more wary you will reduce the likelihood that you will be victimized but some of your preps (like keeping cash and precious metals on hand) will set you up for crime if you don’t practice Stealth Prepping.

Eminent Domain Target

As bad as victimization by criminals is…at least you expect criminals to assault you or steal your stuff.  With all of the societal changes of the last few years one thing has become perfectly clear…your property is only yours as long as your local government doesn’t have a ‘better’ use for it.  Eminent Domain is when the government seizes private property for public use.  The 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause in the U.S. Constitution requires ‘just compensation’ when private property is seized and that power has been extended to the states and local jurisdictions.  Unfortunately this power has developed into a tool tailor made for tyrants.  Over the last few years it has become commonplace for eminent domain projects to be undertaken where private property is taken from one citizen only to be sold to another for a private purposes like a shopping development.  Several municipalities and counties in California are even considering using the power of eminent domain to seize performing financial assets (mortgages) from investors.  That’s right, there’s justification out there now to seize not just your real property, but also your investments.  Make sure to have backup plans for your preps!

Destruction of Your Home

Your home is your refuge, your retreat, your castle and the place you likely keep most of your preps.  Make sure that you have adequate protection including the installation of protective equipment (smoke detectors, fire detectors, extinguishers, etc.)  and only use fire safely (and supervised) in your home.  There are additional steps you can take to protect your most important preps like storing them inside a safe room if you have one.  Make sure that you have adequate insurance protection on your home and an agent that you can trust (knows what he/she is doing and how to keep his/her mouth shut) who is willing to help you take the additional steps necessary to protect you (preppers have unique insurance needs).

Loss of Pension or Investment

It’s coming folks.  Pension underfunding (primarily public) is the dirty little secret that folks are just now starting to talk about.  It doesn’t take a Bernie Madoff or complete economic collapse to make your nest egg disappear…it can happen to anyone.  Find an advisor you trust, diversify your investments and take advantage of plan vesting schedules to take control of your own money.  Consider tangible investments and precious metals during this coming period of economic uncertainty.  Many advisors say you can’t take physical control of precious metals in a qualified retirement plan, but I know an attorney who swears he’s figured out a way to do it legally.

Taken alone, these individual tragedies are bad enough, but many of these situations are dramatically more likely to happen as the big stressors we’ve discussed in previous section take shape.  Prep for the little tragedies, prep for the big tragedies…just prep.

Why Prep, The Conclusion

In this article we’ve discussed Why Prep. We looked at historical & current examples of TEOTWAWKI, stressors & triggers that can create TEOTWAWKI as well as the individual tragedies that befall us all and create TEOTWAYKI.  I’d like to remind you that we prep because it’s the only reasonable and logical response to an unknown future and even a cursory study of history.  Additionally, I want to leave you with one final, very important thought…don’t prep out of fear…prep because preparedness banishes fear and leaves you better able to protect and care for your loved ones.

What now?  Check out our article on the Top 10 Initial Steps to Preparedness and the Top 10 Free Steps to Preparedness and keep reading Prepography daily.