Our world today would seem magical to our ancestors. Our needs are met almost immediately, we have clean water at the turn of a knob, heat at the push of a button, and light with the flip of a switch. Food is purchased in a box, ready to heat, and a person can prepare a meal in under 6 minutes using the microwave oven that’s a fixture in most modern kitchens.
Our world is clean, convenient, and loaded with abundant resources, things that took significant time and effort to produce in days gone by. And all of these resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We don’t even have to go out and get the resources if we live in a town of much size — Uber and Instacart will bring your conveniences right to your door.
But all of this convenience comes at a high price, one we don’t even realize exists until a situation arises in which the ready answers aren’t there, the food is not available, and the dial on the thermostat no longer has any effect at all.
Modern life destroys survival instinct. Most folks just buy the answers to all of their problems and they have lost the ability to think. Self-reliance is an act of epic rebellion against the status quo.
Quick solutions reduce problem-solving ability
In the midst of a challenge a few years back, I discovered I was out of oregano. Normally, I’d hop in the car and go to the grocery store. I’d buy some oregano, some other interesting things that caught my eye and grab a coffee on the way home to fight that mid-afternoon crash.
But, since I’m participating in the Once-a-Month Shopping Challenge, running to the store was not an option, and wouldn’t be for 3 more weeks. Since the tomatoes I was processing wouldn’t last that long, I had to think about solutions — real solutions that did not involve running to the store. (I substituted thyme and basil, by the way.)
This got me thinking about how we usually solve problems in this day and age.
We go to the store. We order a new whatever from Amazon and it arrives at our door the next day. If our central heat goes out, we plug in a space heater and huddle beside it until the repair guy arrives. When he does get there, he replaces parts instead of taking them apart and fixing them.
What does this mean? It means that the solution to nearly every problem that occurs can be purchased. Almost anything we feel that we need can be purchased, often within 30 minutes of the thought popping into our heads.
The ability to solve problems is nearly extinct
We need to get out of this replacement-based instant-gratification mindset. Because sometimes, you can’t buy your way out of a problem. Sometimes you have to fix things yourself, come up with substitutes, and solve your own problems.
The trouble is, most folks are no longer wired that way. It’s been bred out of them over the past two generations of convenience. Children are sensitive weenies, everyone gets a trophy, and the phrase “This makes me uncomfortable” is like a magic chant that people use to protect themselves from an offense of any type.
People who can solve their own problems are becoming further and further in between. In another generation or two, if we continue on this track, it will go the way of the dodo. You might catch a glimpse of an independent person here and there, but no one would really believe you saw one. Sort of like the Sasquatch.
But in reality, it’s the inability to solve problems that will mean a person’s demise. Everyone will be great, even smug in the comfort of their conveniences, during good times, but when a crisis strikes, they’ll be helpless.
Case in point: remember when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast a few years ago?
Within THREE DAYS, people were completely out of food and begging the government for help. Many were unable to survive without assistance for even a week.
When a crisis strikes, you do not want to be in the situation of the folks mentioned above. Here are 4 things you can do to enhance your ability to solve problems.
1.) Repair and substitute.
Before purchasing a replacement for your broken widget, figure out how to fix the widget. Use a whatsit instead of a widget. Figure out how things work and really use your brain instead of waiting for others to solve your problems. Start now by learning to live without running to the store or logging on to Amazon to buy a solution.
Learn to repair and mend simple household items. Learn to change a tire. Learn to cook and figure out substitutes if you’re missing some vital ingredient. Learn to use tools.
Furthermore, try to figure things out without turning to the internet for an answer. This isn’t to say that I don’t use the internet a lot. (I can’t even tell you how much of my farming information comes from Youtube.) But, learn to observe and use your instincts and inherent skills too.
You can watch videos about raising baby chicks all day long, but until you actually raise them, you don’t develop that indescribable ability to assess when something’s wrong, the understanding of their needs, and the ability to resolve concerns. You can’t feel a chick’s crop to see if it’s full unless you’ve felt when it’s empty.
This holds true with a lot more than just baby chicks, of course. Most skills are not innate. You have to try, fail, and learn from your failure before you can succeed. A lot of people have magnificent plans to “live off the land” or “homestead” but they’ve never done any of these things and their inexperience will get them killed.
You have to live your life, not just read about it on the internet.
By thinking beforehand about the things that might happen, we’re more easily able to accept them when they do occur. We’ve already prepared Plan B and can glide into prepper mode with confidence.
4.) Accept, plan act.
When disaster strikes, there are three steps you must take at any point in the crisis. You have to accept that the worst has occurred instead of retreating into cognitive dissonance. You must make a plan quickly. You must act immediately and decisively. And if your plan doesn’t work, you must start over with accepting it and move on to Plan B. Or C. Or however many letters it takes you to save yourself. (Click here to read about these three steps in more detail.)
In The Unthinkable, one of my favorite books on the psychology of surviving a disaster, Amanda Ripley wrote about interviewing the survivors who had been in the World Trade Center when the planes hit on 9/11. The main difference between those who lived and those who died was the ability to wrap their brains around the imminent danger immediately. The survivors described the last time they saw some of their coworkers. There were many people who simply could not accept the fact that a plane had crashed into the building and that they must immediately evacuate. They gathered their belongs, tidied their desks, finished reports. They didn’t feel the same sense of urgency that those who survived did, because the situation was so horrible that they just couldn’t accept it. Their inability to accept the scope of the danger caused many of them to perish in a tragic incident that other people, who acted immediately, survived.
Think about our current society, obsessed with the latest family dramas on so-called reality television and the newest fast food restaurant. How high are the chances that those folks will be able to accept a dramatic change of life, one that means that they must produce their food, dig a latrine, and solve their own problems?
Don’t let our lifestyle of convenience spoil your ability to make decisions and rescue yourself. Take steps to make problem-solving your lifestyle. Be ready for the day when the answer is not as close as a 30-minute round trip to the store to pick it up.
Don’t wait for someone to tell you the answers. Figure things out, learn from experience, repair, substitute, and create.
In the preparedness community, the acronym SHTF means, to put it politely, when the Stuff Hits The Fan. It is generally understood to mean chaotic times or extreme hardship caused by severe disasters or apocalyptic events.
For the past couple of decades, high profile mega-disasters have been hot topics for discussion in many internet forums and other social media. Movies and books about a post-apocalyptic world have presented many possibilities that are uncomfortably close to the truth of what it would be like to deal with intense hard times because of things such as pandemics, protracted war, or widespread economic failure.
Most people are not prepared for SHTF scenarios.
Time and time again, historical events have revealed how fragile the fabric of human society is and how easy it is to tear it apart. Today, we are facing a fresh kind of hell that the world has never seen before. The gears of our highly computerized and industrialized society are so tightly linked that a series of bumps in the beltway can destroy our way of life. Unchecked interruptions in the normal flow of things could quickly evolve into the dreaded scenario that is often referred to as TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It).
Most of us know people who are not well prepared for ordinary disasters, much less extraordinary and widespread catastrophic events capable of producing a severe SHTF situation.
Although 60 percent of Americans believe that preparing for disasters is very important to them, only 17 percent claim to be prepared for an emergency. The Department of Homeland Security revealed this disturbing statistic in a survey that was reported on the disaster preparedness website, Ready.gov.
SHTF will bring out the worst in people, and some will be especially dangerous.
Some of us are more or less prepared to deal with the 17 percenters, but unfortunately, there are other kinds of people who are far more dangerous. Prepare to meet them when the SHTF:
Gangs: These experienced predators are highly skilled in getting what they want and will be even more dangerous if they are driven to survive on a basic level for food, water, and medical care. History shows that chaotic times often generate widespread syndicated-style crime. When the SHTF, expect newly formed gangs that will be just as motivated as preexisting gangs.
Preppers, survivalists, existing militia, and snipers:
These groups may be formidable adversaries when their supplies run low. They may be more dangerous than criminal gangs because they have a broader skillset than most gang members.
Common thieves: Those who have made their living by stealing from others have honed their techniques to be as efficient as possible. Experienced thieves are experts in searching out and plundering their targets without being detected. If these individuals are motivated by stealing to survive, they will be a force to reckon with. Prepare to stay ahead of them in the game.
Walmartians: Many who are heavily dependent on Walmart and other big box stores may have difficulty surviving without running to a store every few days. When their pantries are bare, expect them to be wild-eyed and desperate. We are all familiar with this group; they are in almost every family and community.
Parents: Unprepared parents will probably be among the most desperately motivated people you may ever encounter. Normal parental instincts kick in when their children’s safety and well-being are threatened. Sometimes this can involve extraordinary strength and drive. There have been news reports of superhuman feats by desperate parents, including mothers who lifted extremely heavy objects such as automobiles to free their trapped children. Imagine how dedicated some parents will be to ensure the survival of their children in the face of disasters…
Seemingly helpless people: One of the oldest criminal tricks in the book is to use women, children, and the elderly as “bait” to lure unsuspecting soft-hearted victims. Seemingly helpless people have been successfully used as decoys and accomplices to gain access to a targeted home or group.
What will you do if you meet some of these people when the SHTF?
Here are a few tips to use a springboard for generating your own ideas and creative solutions that may work in your situation:
Countermeasures against Walmartians, gangs, preppers, survivalists, militia, and thieves:
You may be less of a target if it looks like you have already been robbed or don’t have anything they want. If you must be in the public eye when food is scarce, it might be a good thing if you looked just as malnourished as everyone else. Creative prep items: oversized clothing and perhaps realistic theatrical cosmetics. A very light touch of soot or dirt under the eyes and under the cheekbones can help give the appearance of being ill or deprived.
Even if you look as deprived as everyone else, keep in mind that human trafficking will ramp up to unprecedented levels during lawless times, so you should also take measures to be less of a target as possible.
Countermeasures against snipers: The occurrence of sniper warfare has led to the evolution of counter-sniper tactics. You can learn about them here.
Countermeasures against desperate parents and seemingly helpless ones: A friend of mine, TMT Tactical, shared some helpful thoughts on this tricky situation:
You have to ask yourself some simple questions:
(1) How did this “helpless person” survive long enough to find their way to your doorstep or property? That is your first red flag. The truly helpless do not usually survive for any length of time during the survival phase in a SHTF event. Certainly not long enough to walk to your doorstep (especially in a rural area).
(2) What condition is this person in? That is your second red flag. Are they injured and decrepit from a difficult journey or simply dirty and underfed? A loner is not likely to be in very good shape and may have cuts, bruises, and serious injuries. The “bait” may be underfed and dirty but not seriously injured enough to slow down their captors.
(3) What supplies or equipment is this person carrying? That is your third red flag. A lack of supplies or equipment could be an indicator they are being taken care of by some other force (group) or they may have stashed their stuff before showing up at your doorstep.
I realize that I must harden my home…and my heart. I cannot jeopardize the safety of my household. In a widespread austere situation, there will never be “just one” helpless person. Even if a stranger was truly in need, I know that I could not take care of all the helpless ones that may cross my path without compromising my responsibility to my family.
Another consideration: strangers can bring calamity to your household through diseases or dangerous mental illnesses that may not be obvious at first glance. The combination of no available medicines and no doctors can be a recipe for disaster for your family. By the time you realize something is horribly wrong, it may be too late. Is this the gamble you are willing to risk?
Because of these principles, I have resolved to never open my door to a stranger and endanger my household during extremely hazardous times. But if possible, I would like to find a way to sneak ahead of those who seem to be truly helpless and leave a “care package” along the roadway in such a way that it appears to have been accidentally lost and not deliberately planted.
What do you think?
Can you think of creative ways to reduce confrontations with members of lawless groups during a prolonged and widespread SHTF event?
Of course, I have heard more than a few people say they would respond to any of these threats with bullets. Self-defense is certainly in order but realistically, even the most well-armed can be outnumbered or may eventually run out of ammo during a lengthy event. What then? Now is a good time to brainstorm, explore ideas, and plan ahead.