October 24, 2011

When Shit Hits The Fan

Ever seen one of those apocalyptic movies in which the world as we know it falls into complete anarchy and chaos, and wondered how you would personally cope in those situations? Whether it's an alien invasion, a meteor threatening to destroy the Earth, an imminent nuclear or terrorist biological attack, the spread of a highly infectious virus, a natural disaster of catastrophic consequences or a worldwide financial meltdown, some seem to be better prepared than others.

These individuals have somehow amassed the necessary skills and possess the know-how and mental preparedness in order to not only survive but even thrive in these extreme situations, and so they become the main characters of the story while thousands and perhaps millions of others play their insignificant part as extras. These are the unlucky ones who get caught in a crossfire and catch a bullet intended for the protagonist. Could be just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time but in general, it seems the better prepared have a greater chance to beat the odds.

Most of us prefer not to even think about such scenarios. Fair enough. But know there are a whole lot of people out there who have been preparing for a long time for that moment if and when all hell breaks loose. Granted some of the situations depicted in Hollywood movies seem so farfetched, even the most prepared don't stand a chance. At this point you might think to lay down and await certain death would be the best option. But it would be impossible to deny the very essence of our human survival instinct. Difficult to imagine our Paleolithic ancestors giving up because it was just too damn cold during the last Ice Age to even attempt survival.

Without wanting to sound crazy and alienate my few loyal readers, if not too late already, all I'm saying is that it would not hurt to have some sort of a plan if we were ever caught up in extreme and dangerous situations. Ideally an elaborate escape plan, knowledge, skills, equipment, tools and provisions that might allow us to get out of potentially unsafe circumstances and improve our chances of survival. Rest assured nearly every billionaire in the planet has his own little private island somewhere remote used not only for vacationing purposes but also to stash away food and provisions in their nuclear-proof bunkers. Their private planes and helicopters not only serve as a comfortable means of transportation for the time being but also as a convenient escape medium if required. Is it possible that these people know something that the rest of us ignore?

Most of us have plenty to worry about on a day-to-day basis and are more concerned with how we'll get to the end of the month, so starting small may be a good option. Sometimes as simple as learning to defend ourselves with our bare hands or understanding the basics of first aid and CPR which can be quite useful even in everyday life.

The problem is we have become victims to our own clever creations. Lazy yet demanding, addicted to the pleasures and shiny brights lights of modern life. Probably not even God imagined it would become as easy as flipping a switch when he said "let there be light!". Technology has made it so easy to go about our daily chores that we have forgotten the value of hard work and skilled hands. We understand what it's like to be independent when we no longer live under our parents' roof, pay our bills and provide for our basic necessities, but we have no idea what it's like to be self-sufficient.

In an apocalyptic scenario, urban areas would quickly become dangerous places to be in. Millions of people crowded in relatively small areas. All fighting for survival and for that last piece of bread by resorting to any means necessary. One only needs to go into a supermarket in Miami after a hurricane warning has been issued to get a taste (in a much smaller scale) of what that would be like. People become quite vicious. They say we're social animals but at times like these, I can assure you that our animalistic nature would prevail over the need to gather socially or belong to any group. As Polish writer and journalist Tadeusz Borowski once wrote "There is no crime that a man will not commit in order to save himself".

In these situations, safety becomes almost as important as procuring food, drinkable water and suitable shelter. To be in decent shape and be able to defend yourself would certainly increase your chances of survival. I'm not advocating the use of firearms but knowing how to point and shoot a gun (if you can get your hands on one) might serve to get you out of a few sticky situations. To borrow some ideas from Neil Strauss' book "Emergency" (highly recommended), knowing how to turn a credit card into a knife, pick a lock, open a padlock with a soda can, hot-wire a car, lose a pursuit vehicle, defend yourself from attack dogs and escape from flexicuffs, would only enhance the probabilities.

Guess one doesn't need to be very smart to understand the need to get as far away from the city as possible if faced with a crisis of this magnitude. But for those who manage to survive and get out, how many would last longer than two weeks out in the wild with only their bare hands and clothes on their backs without understanding at least the very basic notions of survival in the wilderness? We're talking DIY (Do It Yourself) but not the type you learn from putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea. For starters, if you know how to make a fire you'd be one step ahead of the rest in a scenario where you find yourself with no electricity, lighter or matches. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Now you have a fire to help guide you in the darkness, keep you warm if it's cold, and cook the food which might help you hang in there a little longer.

Basic construction skills might come in handy when you're faced with the daunting task of building shelter for yourself. But before you even get to that point, you'll need to have built the necessary tools out of stone, wood and whatever other materials you can find. And what about procuring food and drinkable water? Imagine if you had to hunt for food. Those who have tracking skills and some experience hunting/fishing may have a lesser chance of going hungry, while you might have to be content with eating the wild plants and berries you gathered if available, providing you're able to differentiate those which are edible from the toxic and potentially deadly ones. Additionally, it would help if you know how to clean and butcher the animal, and the principles of food conservation. Basic navigation skills, like how to find your way around without a compass, might also be useful.

I'm sure surviving in the wild is no easy task but it can't be impossible if our ancestors did it millions of years ago with a much less developed brain than we presume to have nowadays and certainly less resources. Even our grandparents did things with their hands which we would not dream of doing ourselves these days.

The quicker one becomes aware that there is even the slightest possibility of any of these extreme scenarios coming true and that even the best-willed government and relief agencies might not be able to provide citizens sufficient help, the more one understands the importance of developing survival skills and learning to become more self-sufficient. Many of these life skills might even be useful in less extreme everyday situations. The task may seem overwhelming at first but one can always start by taking baby steps in that direction.


  1. I'm that guy in the movie that survives... I looove survival!

  2. Making a mental note to stay close to you WSHTF :)

  3. You should make an emotional note to stay close to me despite the inevitable shit flying. LOL