Knowing Your Neighbors: All For One and One For All

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Sound like an old cliche? “One for All, All for One”? A phrase from the past.
But it is as valid today as it has ever been. Togetherness, cooperation, teamwork, none of those match the totality of “One for all, All for One”.
Of course there is no substitute for preparedness. As a former EMT, a person who has taken CERT training in my community, and who, as much as I can given my limited financial resources, taken the threat, for any reason, of societal breakdown seriously, I can attest to this.

I remember my instructor many years ago in Red Cross Advanced First Aid. Dear Mrs. Young.  At the close of one training session, she grew introspective. She simply talked to us. Something she said has stuck with me all these years. “If you are ever needed to perform life-saving first aid, CPR, mouth-to-mouth, stopping bleeding, it’s a good bet that you are going be surrounded by total chaos. People screaming, maybe at night, complete hysteria. The methods I’m using to teach you will mentally snap you back to this classroom; you will do the right thing at the right time. Because you are prepared”.

Well, the same thing applies to the principle of banding together in times of crisis. No man or woman is an island and that also is as true today as it has ever been.  Given the results of forty years of the “it’s all about me” way of thinking in this country, even more so. Should, God forbid, calamity in the form of a massive earthquake on the San Andreas, or a total meltdown due to a cyber-attack on our hopelessly “all or nothing” system of communications, essential utilities, or food delivery occur, our world is going to shrink to a local level at appalling speed.

Local. Our horizons are going to contract. What is happening  twenty, two hundred, or two thousand miles away will be of little concern. Sporadic radio communications, if nothing else, will see to that. It is what could be happening in your immediate vicinity that will matter the most.

It is at this point that neighbors and community provide a powerful means of protection and deterrence. In fact, it is almost certain that this will be your only source of genuine protection. Because, as the former Los Angeles Fire Department instructor in my CERT course repeated so many times, “We (the Police and Fire) won’t be there”.
There truly is safety in numbers.

But just as we try to prepare by stockpiling, food, water, filtration, medical supplies, clothing, weapons and ammunition, so too must we prepare for communal defense and support.

And the only sure way to do that, to prepare so that critical time is not wasted when, not if, disaster arrives, is to get to know your neighbors beforehand. Now keep in mind that the things I’m talking about pertain to all people, no matter their location, but specifically to people living in the suburbs. Folks living in semi-rural or rural areas, or in tornado-prone regions for instance,  already have a “helping hand” mentality to a greater or lesser degree. But suburbs encourage anonymity. Suburbs encourage the “911” mentality. Less self-reliance, less neighborliness. It is this element that needs to be overcome. It does not need to be over-the-top; if there are like-minded people on your street you will discover this. Then maybe it truly is a good idea to have a specific meeting where things pertaining to mutual defense and assistance can be hashed out.

But it can just as easily be done through the old-fashioned American method of easy conversation.  Mention that you heard about a CPR class coming up which you intend to take. Or a web site that you found interesting; how to recharge batteries, how to do this or that. Broach the subject; you might be surprised at the willing response.
Especially today, in these times in which we live. In fact, the times in which we live are an advantage in a way they were not before. When everything was great. The whole point is to provide for an awareness that catastrophe can occur so that people are not cast adrift when it does. To build the foundation on which survival will depend.

When you talk to that neighbor of yours however do not  give away too much information. Not at first. Especially anything to do with food supplies or firearms. When the time comes, you and your neighbors can get into detail; Fred takes the 8:00 pm to midnight watch, this guy takes the midnight to 4:00 am watch and so on. The specifics can be gotten into then; what is important is that you and your neighbors have already contemplated it, already have it in mind. This means less time spent blundering about, trying to come up with immediate solutions on the fly and under pressure that could very well determine whether the group lives or dies. Like Jim Lovell said about the breakdown on Apollo 13; “We could’ve bounced off the walls for ten minutes but we would’ve still been in the same position as before”.

One of the most important things to remember when the time comes, when the people in your immediate vicinity are forced by circumstance to band together is this. Crisis brings everybody’s real personality to the surface. It is going to become evident who are the weak links in the chain, who are the dictators, who are the complainers, who is in it for themselves, and who are the most steady and dependable. Somebody has to take charge, but tyrannical attitudes do not get it done. They do not increase security, they increase danger by, if nothing else, encouraging turncoats.

Whoever is going to lead has to be a combination of steel and patience, insure that resources and talents possessed by your group are spread throughout the group for the benefit of the group.  And a leader must insure that those things needed to be done are done. There may be gruesome but necessary decisions that have to be made right from the start. In the event of a major earthquake, there may be fatalities. Those who have been killed have to be dealt with, there is no choice, it will do no good whatsoever to leave bodies unburied to possibly bring down biological unpleasantness on the survivors if nobody can bring themselves to dig the grave and place the unfortunate person or persons in it. Injured people must be treated and made as comfortable as the conditions permit. There can be no debate about this. How a group treats it’s weakest, most helpless, and yes, most clueless members is a predictor of how that group will fare.

A contingent of Australian SAS recruits were sent on a five-day survival course but issued with  just one 24-hour ration pack per man to last for the entire period out in the bush. Some of the men immediately began to dig in, to consume too much of their food while others conserved from the beginning. As the exercise progressed, those who had unwisely eaten most or all of their rations proved to be a drag on the group as a whole. The instructors watched carefully; those who shared their rations to make sure everybody got at least something to eat, in spite of their comrade’s foolishness, were the ones who passed the test.

We, the people who have taken seriously the warning signs, who have tried to use the time to be ready, as much as possible, for what may well be the worst times we will ever face, must also be ready to confront our fellow citizen’s foolishness. The people who deny that our comfortable life is in any jeopardy. The people who do not want to believe that this fabulous but appallingly fragile system can ever break down. The people who, faced with the disintegration of most, or all, of their assumptions, will reveal their true characters in a mad struggle to put food in their mouths, a blanket around their shoulders, and a roof of any kind over their heads. The people who will resort to any cruelty or atrocity to save themselves.  The people who, in spite of a blithe and carefree attitude that endangers their children and themselves, will rely upon the preparedness of others to make up for it.

When one is attempting to prevent someone from going over a cliff, one may finally have to let go if that someone is going to take you with them. We may be faced with horrendous decisions that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.  Which, I might add, may be short, for all our care and preparation. Nonetheless, I for one am prepared to make those decisions. I cannot fight off every starving or rapacious person or group that descends upon me on my own. I intend to have allies. Allies on whom I can depend, and who can depend on me. Allies with whom I have already taken the first steps.  Forbearance, mercy, and kindness will be present in my actions to the extent that I can afford them. But in the end, when all is said and done, I will most definitely fall back on “One for All, and All for One”.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on September 15, 2012 2:48 AM.

Prepared For Just Any Old Thing, by Louie in Ohio was the previous entry in this blog.

Notes from JWR: is the next entry in this blog.

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