In comes TEOTWAWKI. You grab your B.O.B. pack and lay feet to a packed truck and trailer toward a predetermined secret house in the boonies. After a long day of inventory, greetings, and ears peeled to the radio, you amp down from that first frightening night of your uncertain future. You lay exhausted, in 1 of 3 bed sheet curtain bedrooms, and suddenly find yourself all and sundry, plummeted into a collage of personalities and lifestyles you thought you were familiar with – but are you? In what once was your quiet home, your new place is full of distractions. “Who is that snoring?” “Who is practicing their guitar?” “Did someone leave candles burning?” “Is that body odor?” “Is someone having intercourse?” It all may sound a bit humorous now, but it won’t be so funny if you find yourself in a bad situation because you really didn’t get to know who’s in your group, and you didn’t establish any social rules for the group. I have a degree in Communications with an ongoing interest in Theories of Societies. And since I have read very little about living in small groups in survival forums, I wanted to dole out some advice about the challenges of living in small groups, and molding your group members and organizational plan into a decent stronghold- whether they like it or not.
I live in North Idaho, and in my experience I have seen only one small survival group so far that has it pretty well together as far as knowing each other. They are more like a Squad. They camp together, do drills together, run “what ifs” and gun talk over beers together. But they’re young, full of energy and free time, and mostly single. But honestly, the majority of people like me are ‘regular folk’ coming together with a few (new?) friends and family who all agree that they should development a plan, some supplies, and a stronghold of sorts in case of TEOTWAWKI. The result is more like a small village rather than a squad. We understand the value of pooling our resources -I have a flour mill, my friend has a James Washer. Plus, we create safety in numbers, hence the name, Stronghold. But, many people, like myself, have ‘default’ members who are not into emergency preparation. Some have elderly parents, or maybe an unimpressed teenager or a spouse that thinks TEOTWAWKI is a cute hobby that keeps you out of trouble. Sometimes we recruit friends of friends. And, you know there’s no way your wife is going to let her best friend get left behind, even though deep down you know she, her heels and Armani purse won’t fair well in the foxhole. But most of us don’t really have a moral choice to abandon these people if the SHTF. And that’s just the beginning of the difficulties. Now stuff them all into a small place, struggling to survive.
There are many problems with small groups living in small spaces. It’s no slumber party like sometimes glamorized in books and movies. Most real-life social structures of small indigenous tribes and even more modern communes share a lot of the same difficulties and issues that a small survival community may encounter. Here are the 2 most problematic challenges to keep in mind.
Too Close: This has many connotations, but it’s solely the biggest challenge in small tribes. Although today’s society complains about a world where people are too detached, it can be disastrous living too close. A relative can be too close. Close enough to not respect you and spend time arguing with you because you were always the “bossy sibling”. Too close that you hadn’t noticed how lazy your brother is. Too close so that you neglected to know that your aunt and uncle didn’t store any food. Too close that you hadn’t really considered the fact that your parents are 75 and really can’t do anything but drain food and medical supplies- God love’m. Or too close to dismiss your rebellious 14 year old.
Too close can also mean proximity. Close quarters can feel very claustrophobic with others around. Some like lots of light, some think your wasting light. Some want to stay up until midnight talking, some need to sleep early. Some snore. Someone might find it perfectly normal to walk buck-naked to the latrine at night. These are all the kinds of situations you don’t think about until you are there, annoyed, tired, and too late for civil organization.
Too close can also mean ‘closeness’. No one wants to hear it, but it is a big problem in tight knit communities. They get very emotionally and physically close, through hardship and locality, and through no other explanation, inappropriate intimacy can start to take place if unchecked. This was a huge problem in small indigenous Tribes where they were in very small quarters (like huts and igloos). The movie The Beach has a horrific, but realistic version of what could happen in a small community living off the grid. Granted, they lacked spirituality, so if your group has higher moral standards, the better off you are. Just make sure you all share that standard – more on that later.
Lifestyle: ‘Too close’ covers some of these issues like noise, lights, talking. But lifestyles of individuals also account for diversities in hygiene, diets, education (survival), Religion, and Ideologies (surrounding survival).
For instance, you might shower everyday, but you’d guess your friends’ friend, never showers. Granted, you might find yourself having to squeeze in bowl baths just to make you feel relatively fresh, but come on! This guy doesn’t even try! Someone else’s bad odor wasn’t what you had in mind while sitting at the communal dinner table. And speaking of dinner, whose food is whose anyway? Is it communal? Is it separate? The group must have rules.
Do you know who in your group knows what about survival? Do they have a specialty? Do they get nausea at the site of blood? Have they ever built a fire? You may very well have never even gone camping with some of these people. Some may not like camping at all! How much do you know about them? Can you trust them? Everyone must have roles
And finally, examine your survival ideology. If someone walked up to your stronghold, what ideology will they feel from your group? Are you militant? Ex-military? Or, are you passive and hope to sneak by TEOTWAWKI by quiet evasion? Maybe you’ll play the innocent group, pretending to be a gritty backwoods family getting by only because the family hunts and fishes, keeping instead large caches? If some of your group is militant, some passive, and some play gritty, has that been explained, established, or planned for? And are all of you God loving? God fearing? Do you have a son who is Pagan? Spirituality can be a direct hit on the group’s values and it needs to be addressed. Everyone must have joint core values.
All in all, the bottom line is that every group must have roles, rules, and joint core values. If you feel you are the one in your group with the most overall knowledge and desire to survive, and no one else is taking the lead. You do it. The starting place for peace in your “village” is an organized and watchful moral leader.
You obviously need a plan - back to rules, roles and core values. I’m not giving an actual plan- making strategy–there are many articles on the Internet for that. But leading your group into a few group games and activities over Sunday afternoons, a holiday, or planned game night, it will help get your plan together and help get your “uninterested” default members a little better educated and maybe even more interested!
ACTIVITIES TO DISCOVER YOUR MEMBERS AND AND IDEOLOGY: Below is a bunch of activities for your group. By looking at your people differently (as a survival member), you can better plan the roles, rules and the core values in order to write the groups organizational handbook. And take notes!
1. Identify 5 core values that the group agrees with:
Core values are the basis on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. Examples of core values are respect, integrity, security, acceptance, belonging, choice, community, compassion, power, privacy, freedom, helping others, faith, team work, contribution, et cetera.. They govern personal relationships but requires no external justification – hence, the value to you alone. If you don’t share values, you build separation. If you don’t respect others values, you can’t have good relationships. You can find lists of values online as a starter guide to print out. Ask everyone in your group to go through these values and write down the 10 top values, which have the most resonance to them. Make sure they are thinking of Work Values, not personal values (at this point). The goal is to link 3-5 values that all of you have in common. Incorporate and integrate those values into all areas of organizational rules.
It helps if you think of the most fulfilling times in your life, the most content, the most self confidence. You might find something not on your list. You will find that these are the few things in life that you will “stand up for” and argue about, quit your job for, yell at your boss over.
From that list, ask each member to pick three values, not on the work value list, that are personal values to them. These are the values we need not share, but we have to respect. In order to memorize their top values, create a “nickname”, so everyone can memorize their personal value. Try to work in this particular value with the members role whenever possible. Appreciate that persons value. Let them take control of it. Let them influence you with it. If it is spirituality, maybe they want to head up a morning of spirituality for other members. Nickname him “soulman”. If it is teaching, allow them instruct. Call her “teach” If is it learning, make sure they have lots of opportunities. Call him “Utube.” If it is nurturing or helping others, maybe there is a space for personal counseling in the group. Call her “Freud.” Freedom? “Martin”. Teamwork? “Baseball” Make it fun, and you can even do this exercise via e-mail.
2. Discuss ethical dilemmas: Make a list of things that one may encounter in a small survival group. Read it aloud at the next get together -you will get opinions!
a. After a week in the new camp, many members are “forgetting the rules” and relying on others to enforce them. What do you do?
b. Something is stolen from the root cellar. What is the call of action.
c. John pushes James, knocking him over after a grapple over jealousy. How do you handle it?
c. Aunt Mary shows up at your Stronghold, with nothing but a broom. What happens to her?
d. One of your members has a very loud voice. How do you handle it?
e. The cook is snacking on the food as she cooks it. Is that okay? How should it be handled.
f. Someone is walking down the road with a rifle. Do you sneak down and confront them as a united front, or do you stay low and let them walk by. Why?
g. Group Dinnertime. Is it needed, or should the couples have time together? When does close get too close?
h. Someone has a dog that barks nonstop. What to do?
3. Finding Your Voice: Here are a few non-board games that will help you know your members better.a. Your Message to the World
In advance to your meeting, ask all members to write a 10 minute speech. This is whatever you want to say, if you had 10 minutes to talk to the world on prime time television. Make it fun.
b. 3 sentences to a fallen world
This is a message to the world, given on a ham radio to “who knows who” after an economic collapse of the country. You hold a ham radio in your (probably trembling) hand, and say what?? Make it realistic by having them hold a two-way radio or ham radio to do it. Again, make it fun!
If you could meet anyone from history or from literature, who would it be and what would you ask them. What is it about that person that you admire?
4. Board Games: Below are a couple of commercial board games give you an opportunity to learn more about each other in different ways and educate them on survival situations.
The Worse Case Scenario Survival Game: Find out how much each of you know about a variety of survival subjects and learn more. It’s also a great opportunity to discover a members hidden knowledge talent.
Hunting and Fishing Trivia: Another good learning tool.
Scruples: A great game to find out each other lines of ethics and values. Prepare for couple to bicker a bit, which is a great way to understand their relationship too.
5. Make a list of ROLES people can take on in your group. Suggestions are positions like communications, logistics, cooking, gardening, counseling, medic, hunting, gathering. There are many lists of roles for a survival camp online. Make a list and start feeling people out for roles they might fit into and enjoy. Your Dad may not be able to dig foxholes, but he might be a great source of wisdom and council for others. And he might make a killer Huckleberry wine! Look for the strengths in the members whose strengths might not jump out at you at first. The exercises will help you know them better. Offer up these roles to those people. You may find them more interest than you imagined. My daughter has an interest in identifying plants in the wild, so I asked her if she would be interested in heading-up wild foods and herbal remedies. The opportunity for learning and leadership made her jump more passionately into the subject.
6. Find your N.U.T.s:
These are non-negotiable, unalterable terms of your organization. As a group, list at least five for the group. They are like your 5 commandments of an organization. For instance, you might agree: If you steal from the group, you leave the group. Period. No exemptions. If you are late for duty, you will pull a double shift when you get there. Period. No Exceptions ever. Make sure they all agree and sign it!
Using these techniques, and all your notes, you will be better prepared to start your organizational handbook of roles, rules and core values. It can help immensely with the peace kept at your stronghold, and give confidence, security and familiarity in a situation that can be very stressful.
HOW TO DEAL WITH “DEFAULT” MEMBERS: Whether my family and friends know it or not, they are members and preparing for TEOTWAWKI. I use the below techniques all the time and it is working. I had a friend call me the other day and asked me to watch a video they found on youtube. The info wasn’t new info to me, but I was thrilled because they were engaged, learning, and riled up!
Holiday Gifts: Give up the useless sweater, and buy them something you know they haven’t bought for themselves to survive. Like long-term food! Or a B.O.B. pack. My adult daughter wasn’t much on board with the survival thing, but I assembled her an awesome “camping” pack for her birthday last year. Among the predicable camping gear, was a complete B.O.B. pack – her friends were blown away and wanted one too! This year I’m assembling one for my brother in Seattle- a more urban-earthquake ready pack.
Books: Buy and Lend them books: Patriots, One Second After, and Back to Basics. Get the audio book if they don’t read much or drive a lot. Look for specialty books that might peak interests in their particular expertise.
Movie Night: Plan a movie night with a twist. Instead of Tron, make it The Road, or The Book of Eli or The Beach. Talk about it. I’ve also burned Youtubes for my parents, with documentaries on our economic destruction, and also on things like ‘how to plan a long term storage food cache.” And I watch it with them. Dad has decided to build a root cellar (and he’s built 2 in the past!).
The Food Bank: Ask each family to throw in $10 a week (or whatever they can afford) toward your community food bank. Each week take your $50 or so, and buy beans, rice, and others in bulk. They may not want to go out and buy stuff, but they may have no problem paying you to do it. I do this at Costco!
Activities: Invite them on hikes and just for fun, show them how to use items in your pack. Take them out shooting with your guns. Show them your stash of food goods. Get them excited and curious. Talk politics and mention videos or newscasts that concerned you. Draw them in to look for themselves without shoving it down their throats.
Make them participate. They are your family and friends after all. Go to their house for dinner or invite them to dinner, and over the after dinner chit chat and drinks, hit them with one of my six outlined activities explained for establishing roles, rules and core values.
Plan for Them: I was quite upset when my best friend didn’t have any desire to store so much as an extra can of tuna. The whole family is family to me. My initial reaction was “well don’t come knocking on my door if the SHTF!” But in realty, I know they will, and I know I will them in. In reality, I would rather die myself than to turn them away knowing they will die. So, I reduced my pride, and my pocketbook, and just starting putting away stores for them- sometimes you just have to do it. (I am grateful, however, that a year later, she is finally starting to plan for herself)!
Just remember that you can’t change them, you have to heighten the strengths that they have already. Incorporate the core values, use their strengths, and organize the group. Take the finished plan to a meeting or distribute them by email and ask for feedback. If you take it upon yourself to be a good leader, knowing and addressing the issues that come along with small group communities and good communications, they will treat you like a great leader.