Every so often I read something where someone states that part of being prepared should be trying effect changes in ‘our communities’ and ‘the lives of our neighbors’ so that if something ugly does happen we have more people ‘with us’ than not.
It’s a personal issue, but I’m pretty much done with trying to convert anyone. I’ve stopped being concerned with what, if anything, will happen to those who are unprepared. Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that I have this interest in preparedness. If in the course of knowing me, and sometimes discussing the topic, they haven’t come to the conclusion on their own that this is something they should be doing then there’s nothing else for me to do.
“But..but..you’d let your neighbors sit in the cold and dark?” Sure. Why wouldn’t I? It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that maybe keeping a few flashlights and batteries on hand is a good idea…that having a secondary means of providing heat in the winter might be smart….that living within your means during an economic downturn is good thinking…but if folks are that shortsighted that they take no steps to provide for their safety in times of a crisis then, honestly, I have no use for them. “But, hungry, cold and scared neighbors can be dangerous neighbors!” Buddy, if theyre unprepared enough that theyre cold, hungry and scared then theyre unprepared enough to be only a mild threat to me…besides, if things go that far off the rails I plan on being somewhere where I dont have neighbors or the neighbors are just like me.
Does this mean I cant be friends with someone who doesn’t share my views on preparedness? Not at all. For one thing you put three preparedness-oriented guys in a room and throw out the topic and I guarantee that while theyre all on the same page on execution theyre also all completely different on theory…meaning they all see the wisdom of stocking up, they just all disagree on why theyre stocking up; so even guys who are ‘into’ preparedness may disagree on the subject. But in terms of someone who regards preparedness as the domain of tinfoil-hat-wearing nutjobs? Sure, I could be friends with them..I just might be a bit ‘closeted’ about what I do. But Im not going to waste my time or theirs trying to convince them to come around to my way of thinking.
A buddy of mine in the Masons told me that their policy used to be that they never recruited. They didn’t go out and look for new members, people who wanted to be members came to them. (It has, I understand, changed over the years.) I’m the same way, I think. I’m not going to try and convert anyone but if someone says to me “You know, the wife and I have been thinking about making a few changes to be more prepared in case of [unemployment/infrastructure failure/zombies/etc]” then I’ll help if I can.
“Battlefield conversions” to preparedness do occur. When the dust settles and the floodwaters recede then lets see who sticks with it and who doesn’t. After Katrina there were plenty of people who suddenly realized that having food, water, and spare batteries on hand might be a good idea…its five years later, how many do you think stuck with it?
Speaking of like-minded individuals, whats my opinion on ‘survival groups’? I think that any group of like-minded individuals will probably fare better than individuals if everyone in the group shares the same level of dedication, vision, discipline and responsibility. Didja catch that? Nothing about gear, food, guns, or ‘standardization’. Group cohesiveness doesn’t come from gear, it comes from the participants.
What makes any group cohesive starts in the hearts and minds of its members…everything else is secondary. This is why so many groups (or cells, or factions, or whatever term you prefer) are comprised of people who share an intense and deeply rooted connection. For many, its religion ( as evidenced by the islamofascists and christofascists with their bombings and shootings), for some its family (the Westboro Baptist Church nutcases spring to mind) and in some cases its both (the Amish, Mormons). Next time you get into an elevator look around at the four or five other people in there with you and imagine having to rely on them, in a group, for your mutual protection and survival. Not terribly inspiring, is it? Of course not…it’s a random collection of strangers with no common interest. (Other than the presumably common interest of ‘not dying’.) My opinion is that if you were to start a group of like-minded individuals that group has to be ‘organic’. Meaning that you cant just pull names out of a phone book, conduct interviews, and put together something viable. Organic means that it occurs naturally….odds are that you already know a few people who share your ideals, that you have established relationships with, and that you can ‘be yourself around’. Lenny who works at the supermarket who shares his political magazine subscriptions with you, Greg who works at the gun shop and competes against you informally at the range when you go shooting together, Neal who retired from the Air Force and quietly gardens at home and discusses world politics with you over lunch every Friday….odds are that, consciously or not, you’ve probably already created a network of friends that includes people who would be interested in the camaraderie and advantages offered by having close group of like-minded friends. The problem with this sort of ‘group by association’ becomes obvious pretty quick – you probably don’t know ‘all the right people’. You may know a cop, a doctor and a plumber…but you don’t know an accountant, an electrician or a lawyer. (And don’t kid yourself, those folks can be a tremendous asset.) At that point you’ve got to start recruiting from outside your close-knit circle and that’s where the problems start. Is there a simple answer? Not as far as I can tell. The military tends to promote cross-training to allow one specialist to fill in passably in another specialty…an insular group may have to go the same route. Make a list of skills and if no one in the group meets that skillset have someone dedicate themselves to learning it. That’s an extreme way to go but I’m pretty certain there are groups out there that have done that.
Is there a reason to even be interested in being part of even a loosely-knit group? Theres a line from Startship Troopers – “Sergeant Zim says, correctly, that any group is weaker than a man alone unless they are perfectly trained to work together.” In this case they were referring to hand-to-hand combat but some parallels can be drawn. One person who has been into the preparedness lifestyle for years will probably come out of your average disaster better than the previously mentioned elevator-load of strangers. However, lets say those five strangers in the elevator were actually five friends who have known each other for years and share an interest in preparedness. They’ve talked it over, gone over plans together, made large bulk purchases, maybe get together at the range once a month or go on camping trips together in the summer, discussed scenarios, taken some training courses, etc, etc. As a group, will they fare better than the single individual? Maybe…probably, I think. The five of them, teamed up with their combined resources and talent, will probably have an easier time of it than the guy going solo. However, the guy going solo will have it easier over the group of unprepared strangers.
There are, of course, tradeoffs. The biggest and most looming tradeoff is that anytime you bring anyone ‘onboard’ you are compromising your own personal security. You’re letting someone know that you have, most likely, large stocks of food, ammunition, guns, gear, fuel and a dozen other things that you’ve probably been taking great pains not to let people know about for quite some time. If the person you are feeling out turns out not to be of a like mind then you’ve exposed a part of your life that you really are probably better off keeping hidden from strangers. This is why, in my opinion, the best way to ‘network’ is through the already established channels of longtime friends and family. When you’ve known someone your entire life, like a family member, or for many years, such as a trusted friend, youre probably going to have a much, much better handle on whether theyre drinking the same flavor Kool-Aid as you are.