Just What is 'Survivalism' Anyway? -- By "Warhawke"

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This question causes a lot of confusion for people who are new to survivalist movement. The mass-media has always portrayed people in the survivalist movement as paranoid nuts. Either they show us as racist killers waiting for the day when the ‘mud-people’ can be put in their place, or religious freaks praying for the end of the world, or cold-war nut cases who think the Russians are coming to steal their women and rape their cattle. In truth, the run-of-the-mill survivalist got his start as an average person with an average job who simply looked around and didn’t like what he saw.
Survivalists are just people who know that civilization is millions of people we don’t know, getting up every day and going to work at jobs we never knew existed. If a large portion of those people cannot do their jobs, you and I will not receive the benefit of their work and we, in turn, will not be able to do our jobs and therefore others will not receive the goods or services that we provide. Pretty soon all that you, or anybody else, will have are those things that you can provide for yourself, and how much is that?
Think about that for a moment, how many times in your life have you been faced with a situation where the normal mechanisms of civilized society--things like electricity, water, heat, shelter, food distribution, transportation, etc.--have been unavailable to you? Maybe it was a snowstorm that knocked out power, or a water main break in your neighborhood, or the aftermath of a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake. Most people have experienced some kind of failure for at least a few hours. Well imagine a situation where these things are gone for months, or years, perhaps even the rest of your life. Survivalists, seeing the teetering economy of the 1970s, the threat of nuclear warfare and all the other threats to our civilization, realized that they might soon be faced with just such a situation and acted to protect their lives and families.
The problem was that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a lot of people, both in the media and in government, began to worry that survivalism was becoming too popular. You see, people who are self-sufficient make much of the government irrelevant, at least in regards to their own lives. A person who has the ability to supply his or her own basic needs, like food, water, shelter, etc. has no need to demand that the government “do something” for them. The government, on the other hand, needs people to require its services. Let’s face it, if nobody needs disaster relief, why should the government keep FEMA around? If everybody took care of their own retirement needs, where would Social Security be? Welfare, job training, food stamps, Medicare, and a hundred other programs are justified by the helplessness of many people in the face of adversity, therefore, if we are not helpless these programs would disappear (along with the taxes needed to fund them). The media, being overwhelmingly in support of such programs, also saw the danger posed by people asserting their independence.
So the media sought out the fringe element within the survivalist movement. Story after story showed the racists, the religious fanatics, the nuts who said the government was controlled by little gray aliens, and the guys who were just flatly incoherent on the subject. After years of such stories blanketing the broadcast and print media, few people wanted to be connected with the term survivalist, except for the aforementioned nuts. So the visible movement faded away. People like me didn’t stop being survivalists, we just stopped calling ourselves that.
In the early 1990s, there was a brief resurgence in the movement, only this time it was the so-called Militias who assumed the mantel, and their emphasis was not on surviving the collapse of civilization, but rather on preparing to fight what they saw as a government out of control. Instead of stockpiling food and medicine, they stockpiled guns and ammunition. Instead of wanting to retreat from danger, the militias wanted to raise the bloody flag of revolution, or at least that is what we were told. Of course the similarities between the two movements were more apparent than real, but the media once again latched on and wouldn’t let go. The Oklahoma City bombing knocked back the militia movement to a great extent, and the survivalist label was even less appropriate when applied to many of the remnants.
Then we come to 9/11 and the Anthrax attacks. In hours, people who had never before considered survivalist preparations were burning up their credit cards buying gas masks, prepared food, bottled water, firearms, and anything else that joyous salesclerks could think of. Stockbrokers were putting bug-out-bags in their Porsches, CEOs were stocking vacation homes with freeze-dried food, and collage professors were picking out shotguns and learning all about the restrictions that gun owners had complained about for years. Why? Because, like most Americans, they had always assumed that America was invulnerable. The assumption was that the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force would always prevent any attack on the U.S. Suddenly they were shown just how disastrously incorrect that idea was.
The Twin Towers were more that just buildings, they were symbols of what we believed America was. They were American power stretching far above the world and overshadowing everyone else. They were American science and technology pointing toward the sky and reaching for the stars. They were America’s gateways, like the pillars of some great temple, leading to the mightiest nation on earth. And in the space of hours, they were nothing more than dust and rubble and twisted debris. No less symbolic was the destruction we saw at the Pentagon. Its architecture suggesting a mighty fortress, it has, since its construction in the Second World War, become the symbol of American military might. Seeing that building, belching smoke, with debris scattered before it, seeing the bodies of dead and wounded American service men and women being carried away. Watching, while part of America’s foremost citadel crumbled before us, said something to America, it said that there is no one to defend us.
Perhaps the most psychologically damaging events were the Anthrax letters. We might gripe and moan about the postal service, we might make fun of the mailman, but we still see those words: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Many of us remember when the coming of the mailman was a special event, and opening the mailbox was like a birthday that came six days a week, because you never knew what kind of surprise would be inside. Sure, it lost part of its glow when we discovered that most of what he brought was bills and junk, but deep inside of us we were still that little kid who bounced up and down in front of the window when we saw that gray uniform coming down the street. Then, to our horror we saw that uniform as a threat, a gray specter that might be bearing a cargo of powdered death to our door.
On that day Survivalism was reborn, most won’t call it that, the legacy of the media image still lingers, but that is what it is. Too many of our symbols have been trashed for us to ignore the truth anymore. We are vulnerable to any number of attacks and no government can protect us. Oh sure the Feds might bust 99 out of 100 of the bad guys, but when the one that gets away is packin’ a nuke or a few pounds of  The Plague, how much difference does it make? Let us not be so eager to lay those Cold War fears to rest either. Russia is still pointing a few thousand nuclear weapons at us, while the Peoples Republic of China is building more nukes, more missiles, more weapons period, and China has never been shy about going to war in her own interests. Adding in the regional powers like Iran and North Korea, both of whom have chemical weapons, probably biological weapons, and are working day and night on nuclear weapons as well as the means to deliver them, not only against their neighbors but anywhere in the world, just how much less likely is such an attack today, as compared to twenty years ago?
Many people have begun to understand they are now threatened, not merely in the abstract, but on a very personal level. Now they feel the need to take command of their lives. They see now that freedom means being responsible for their lives, and the lives of their children. The day when they could afford to assume that someone else would make sure that they were safe and protected are gone. The idea that they may find themselves stranded somewhere, alone, hungry, in need of water, food, and shelter is no longer inconceivable. Looking into the dust of the Trade Center towers has finally given them a frame of reference for the end of the system which has kept them safe their whole lives, and they now understand that, in the end, only they can help themselves, and that is the essence of Survivalism.
You WILL survive the end of the world... Probably...
This is the dirty little secret that your parents (and government) never told you. In all but a very few of the scenarios for an end-of-civilization disaster, the majority of the human race will survive the first twenty-four hours. If, for instance, a medium-sized asteroid were to hit the Pacific Ocean, it would probably kill a billion people the first day, but that would leave five billion of us alive. That is more than the population of the earth in 1970. So, unless you live on the west coast, or near an earthquake zone, or volcanically active area, you have pretty good odds of making it through that first day. The same goes for Nuclear War, caldera volcano explosion, socioeconomic collapse, or any of the other major disasters which could wipe out our civilization.
Once you realize that the odds of surviving that first day are actually stacked in your favor, you begin to realize that the event itself is less critical to your survival than the loss of essential services which will follow the disaster. So the question of whether or not you and your loved ones will live to see old-age depends on your ability to provide the essentials of life for yourselves. This goes double for the less earth-shattering disasters which people face on a much more frequent basis, things like earthquakes, tornados, tsunami, flood, famine, epidemic, war, riot, and blizzard. Because if you look at the statistics of past disasters you find that more people end up homeless and destitute than dead, and that many of the people who do die do so because they were unable to help themselves after the event.
Now you might say, “If something bad were to happen, somebody will be there to help me. The government, the Red Cross, or somebody, won’t they?” The answer is a definite maybe, and that is the problem. In the event of a local or regional disaster like a earthquake or hurricane, the usual mechanisms of disaster-relief will undoubtedly be available, but when? How long will it be before someone comes along to provide you and your family with food and water? One day? Two? Ten? Longer? Do you really want to sit quietly, waiting for someone else to provide for you?
We in the west, especially in America, have become used to the idea that someone will always be there for us. For too long we have sat in front of the television and watched while others have rushed to aid the victims of disaster. We have reached a point where most people think that they can ignore the possibility of disaster because the idea of disaster-relief has become a law of nature to their minds. The problem is that our ability to render aid to the victims is limited. We have seen our resources stretched to the limit before both in the case of the Northridge earthquake and hurricane Andrew our disaster relief systems were strained to the limit. Reports of people waiting days for help were not uncommon.
If a truly huge disaster were to strike, say the Yellowstone caldera volcano exploding, FEMA and the Red Cross would be swamped, and then where will you be? Look at the people of New Orleans, did help reach them in time? Was the help they received enough?


This is THE question that every survivalist has asked and been asked more that any other, and for most it is the hardest one to answer. The question usually goes something like this: “Why would you want to survive when everyone you know is dead?” Or perhaps, “What is the point of living after everything has been destroyed?”

Boy if I had a nickel... The problem with this question is not what it asks, but rather what it says about the questioner. I mean, look at what these questions really mean, life after some cataclysm will be really tough and you won’t have people to help you, so why not just die and get it over with?
For myself, I could never internalize this kind of question. I thought it went without saying that one should want to live, despite whatever hardships or difficulties we may face in life. To say otherwise is to say that we do not deserve to live now, much less after our society collapses. Hell, why should we want to live in the face of any adversity? Would it not simply be easier to die than to face the slings and arrows that life throws our way? Why go on at all, when death is so much easier? The idea that I should simply decide to pack it in because I might not have the fruits of civilization at my fingertips seems as ridiculous as blowing my brains out over a hangnail.
The answer to ‘Why?’ is very simple: “Because I’m worth it!” I am worthy of life! If the world must be rebuilt, then no better man exists to carry out that task than myself! Sound egotistical? So what? I am not a man to grovel, and beg the world’s forgiveness for living. Neither should you.
In our society, too many people have succumbed to the idea that we must apologize for what we have and who we are. The idea that being raised as a child of western civilization is some form of crime, that our existence is an affront to the rest of humanity, and that only by debasing ourselves and giving up what he have for the “Less Fortunate” can we atone for the transgression of existing. Bunk! The conditions of my birth were beyond my control, thus they are no sin of mine. The actions of my ancestors were none of my doing, thus they place no burden on me (beyond ensuring that I don’t commit the same injustices myself). The condition of the world was not brought about by me, so why should I be asked to correct it? My life is what I control, and while I do not seek it injure anyone by my actions, no man may ask that I ease his burdens by assuming them. Forget the guilt they hand you my friend, it is not yours. Forget the things that others define you by, their standards are unworthy of you.
You must learn to define yourself according to your own standards of value, not the shoddy standards of others. Look at the world we live in, this is the world the people who will revile you have made. Is this the world you want? Is this a world you want your children to live in? Is this the image of what you will seek to rebuild, if rebuild you must? You must decide who and what you are, to do otherwise is to be nothing but a slave to the person who you allow to define you.
You must decide what your life is going to be about, and then you must act to bring that purpose to fruition. You must do that which you know to be right and you must reject what you know to be wrong. When you have made your decision, when you act to enforce that decision, when you discover who and what you are, then you will truly be free, and only a free man is worthy to live, instead of simply existing.
A human being is unique in all the known universe (at least for the moment), as we are the only creatures that exist in the future. Only we can conceive of the world as it will be tomorrow, or centuries after our death. No other animal plans for a time beyond the moment, this moment, only man can look beyond the eternal now. What do you look for? Do you look for a day when you will walk on the face of Mars and stare at a sky no man has ever seen? Do you work for a day when your children or your children’s children will fly among the stars? I do.
Survivalism is a path, a way of life that leads to our future. What will your future be? Will it be a future where you drift aimlessly, moving from this moment to that, praying that nothing happens? Will you live your life, hoping that God and the government will keep the world at bay, ensuring that you will have all that you need in life? I won’t.
Many people accuse me of wishing for death and destruction, of expecting only doom and gloom. Well my friends, they could not be more wrong. I am the one who carries in his heart the hope of the world. I am one who look’s at the future with optimism, because I know that, come what may, I WILL survive. I WILL carry on, I WILL ensure the survival of those I care for. I can do no less, because my love of the world and my family demands no less, what about yours?
Our society is not simply dying, it is already dead. The motor of our world has stopped and the movement we see is nothing more than momentum. Soon, one of two things will happen, we will either build a new motor, we will find a new purpose and begin a new journey towards the future, or our wheels will finally stop. Whichever happens, the future will not be decided by the looters or the animals in human shape, it will be decided by the human beings. Whether the rebuilding of our world is a physical reconstruction in the rubble of the past, or a reconstruction of the spirit which carved nations from the wilderness, it is you who must do it. When you make a commitment to survivalism, you are not giving in to doom and gloom, you are refusing to do so. The fools who spend their days trying to ignore the passage of time, who waste their days marking time at a job they hate, wasting time in pursuit of “Entertainment,” or escape reality with chemicals, they are the ones who hate life, not you. The essence of life is to experience it, not to ignore it. The essence of survival is to LIVE, not just to exist. The survivalist strives to create and maintain his or her life, and the lives of their children at the level of civilized human beings, not in the moment to moment existence of animals.
The popular stories of a post-apocalyptic world show the brutal human animals, raping and pillaging those weaker than they, and there may be an element of truth in this. Good people are less fit to live in a world ruled by brute force. Not because of a lack of intelligence or know-how, but simply because good people have no need to take by violence, that which they may gain by work and trade. The stupid, the criminal, the brutes of the world have nothing to trade, no work to perform, they have nothing but their strength. The survivalist must also find strength, strength of mind, strength of character, and strength of will. The human animals are dangerous, but so are bears, or mountain lions, but none is as dangerous as a trained human mind.
You, who are reading this, who simply wish to provide for yourself and your family, you are worthy of life. You are a person fit to help rebuild the world, and to make the new one better than the old. You are HUMAN, and I know of no greater creature in all the universe. Now you simply need to convince yourself of it. You need to know, not feel, not wish, not hope or believe, but know that this is true. You are better than the animals who threaten us all, and who seek to live at our expense, you are worth more than all of them put together. Because you can help to put the world back together, while all they can do is destroy the work of their betters.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on October 25, 2005 11:28 PM.

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