When Collapse Goes Wrong!
Given the recent prediction from Michael Ruppert that the oil economy is about to collapse following the predicted model of Peak Oil, it seems prudent to hurry up and write this. This is partially a continuation of the previous essay, and partially a counterpoint to it. If you haven't read my previous posts, please check the links to them that I'll post below.
What we need to discuss is what can help us when our efforts to soften collapse aren't enough. We need to talk about hard collapses, and subjects of defense and security for individuals and community in this sort of situation. I think it's also smart to discuss these subjects in general, because being able to defend yourself and your 'tribe' lessens your dependence on the exploitative and violent government systems, and deprives them of some of their attempted monopoly on violence. It can also just simply keep you alive.
This essay is going to have more technical components than most of my previous ones. In part it's because the subject warrants it, but it's also because it seems the shit is hitting the fan right now, even if we won't get splattered much until a few months from now. I therefore feel the need to help you all prepare yourselves in the best way possible, and giving you the best advice I can to help you make your own decisions about that. It's something I largely avoided for a time, focusing on all the other essential survival skills. All of the things I've discussed for softening collapse are also just smart things to do that will help you through a hard collapse as well. And the subjects of this post are also applicable and useful in soft collapse scenarios, but much more so in a hard collapse.
I've been wanting to write something like this for awhile anyway, because I've noticed that the subject of defense and security is completely taboo in the sustainability scene, and mostly absent in radical political scenes these days (to my knowledge basically since the Civil Rights Era). The former I can credit likely to the insistence on dogmatic nonviolence that so many naturalists shove and have shoved down throats for decades, or perhaps simply the denial that not thinking about it will make it disappear, the latter likely caused by decades of psychological operations aimed at demonizing militants willing to defend themselves combined with popular images of ultra-conservative zealots preparing for the Second Coming. I do, regularly enough, hear the politically active discuss the right to self- and community defense, and even the political power in being armed, but all save a few every actually bother to take measures to defend themselves and their families. To put it simply, the lack of the will to fight to defend your very life has been brainwashed into civilized humans, just like any other domesticated animal, and I want to tear that particular aspect of domestication to shreds.
So I want to discuss with all of you, and urge you, to think realistically about defense. I want you all to be able to defend yourself because I want you to survive, and I don't want those that do survive any coming hardship to be the racist, sexist, homophobic, hierarchal capitalists and religious zealots. I want those that live to be the people who will actually work with me, or work on their own, to build sane, sustainable, egalitarian cultures post-collapse. And I don't want to do all the defense work myself!
Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.
-from Derrick Jensen's Endgame
This culture creates a lot of sociopaths and violent personality types. In fact, it encourages it. People who exploit others to "get ahead" are praised and rewarded, particularly when it takes the form of doing business. But even for those who aren't businessmen, abuse and control is the normative form of relationship in this culture. This is particularly true for those who have more privilege in the society, and especially when dealing with those who have less. This is the hierarchy of violence I've written of, articulated by Mr. Jensen, manifest in macrocosm with the government of occupation's attempted monopoly on violence, and in microcosm in countless homes and streets.
People with privilege who don't recognize it, or see it as natural, or deserved, and particularly if their wellbeing and income depend on not recognizing it or seeing it as natural, will feel threatened when that privilege is taken away. They may attempt to reassert it. In the case of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we see that racial hierarchies of violence manifested in response to the imposed collapse of the city. Numerous reports came out after the fact of gangs of white men shooting numerous black men, with the professed excuse of stopping looters, despite overwhelming accounts that many were just out to shoot black people.
I don't have easily available statistics, but I know that incidence of rape and domestic abuse go up during a hard collapse. Again, violent, this is sociopathic types asserting their dominance when it's threatened. We see some of the highest rates of rape in countries that have gone through severe economic hardships, like small scale collapses.
Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.
-from Derrick Jensen's Endgame
I'm as much worried by those in power as I am by those lacking food or asserting dominance. Scratch that, I'm way more worried about those in power. This includes corporations as much as it does government, insomuch as there's a difference. For one, they are trying to assert power, in another, more broad way. They are trying to stay in control. With this culture's psychotic, abusive tendencies, it seems highly likely that both those in power trying to keep that power, and those other psyhopaths looking to gain power, will attempt to use violence and coercion to achieve their goals. They can quickly switch from friendly fascism to a much meaner kind. Considering that those in power already have massive weapons, and that they've proven time and again that they care more about power than human and non-human life, I see no reason to assume that they'll go quietly, meakly, into the night.
The powers-that-be use violence every day to maintain this insane system we call civilization. Those of us at the heart of empire perhaps don't see it directly, because the bulk of the violence perpetuated by the rulers is exported to the periphery of the empire's reach. We see this in oil wars and puppet dictatorships. I said in the last essay that the collapse of civilization will mean the drastic reduction of violence by empires trying to maintain their hegemony. The other side of that, though, is that the violence of the empires sometimes turns inwards towards its own subjects, either in attempt to maintain control, to vent its collective anger like an abusive husband does, or both. It is possible, though, for many soldiers and police to simply defect when they can't be paid any more, and we can only hope that AWOL troops don't decide to use their skills and stolen firepower to set up fiefdoms.
(Luckily, some military units are learning permaculture, and hopefully the philosophy along with the skills, as it could mean people versed in both defense and sustainable food production capable of setting up decent communities)
Premise Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism.
-from Derrick Jensen's Endgame
At this point it seems stupid to even have to debate with the dogmatic pacifists that will certainly object, claiming that violence only begets violence and throwing a mountain of quotes from Gandhi and Dr. King(selectively, as those quotes from King chosen by white pacifists are only ever those that make the white power structure feel good). So I'll only give it a small amount of my time (since Derrick Jensen has already done a better job), and let dogmatic pacifists know that their shit doesn't fly here.
Violence does not necessarily change you. Fighting back against an attacker does not turn you into them. Killing attackers is sometimes the only way to stop them, so violence can stop violence. And even Gandhi once said "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
That's all I'll say about that.
We as sane communities attempting to forge together some sort of sane, sustainable, and egalitarian existence for ourselves need to understand that not everyone else is, and that some people are evil. Some people will behave in an evil manner whether collapse is hard or soft, even on the (impossible) chance that collapse doesn't occur. In collapse situations, some people will likely become desperate to simply stay alive, and given this culture's conditioning they'll get violent. These people simply trying to survive aren't likely to be the major cause of our need to defend ourselves, though. It is those people who are attempting to assert the privilege and dominance mentioned above, or who simply have no concern for other beings and have no problem hurting and killing them to gain power for themselves (as many of them do indirectly today with economics). Some sick people inflict pain for fun.
It follows that communities and individuals need to establish ways to defend themselves from attackers. The most obvious aspect of this seems to be simply being armed. The presence of effective weapons alone is often a deterrent (I wrote elsewhere of the number of sexual assaults stopped each day from women simply pulling guns on attackers).
For most of the people reading this, the most readily available and practical weapon available is a firearm. Firearms are relatively easy to operate, requiring minimal training. They aren't cheap, but they aren't yet prohibitively expensive, either. Most working class people can afford one or two, even if they can't afford to target practice that often. They are also somewhat level the playing field; a small woman will do just as much damage with a particular firearm as a large man, given the same training. Actually I've heard more than once that women tend to have better aim (so I plead to all my women allies to train so you can protect me!)
It needs to be mentioned every time someone talks about guns for defense and/or hunting: learn to use them as safely as possible. They are very dangerous if used or handled incorrectly. Taking a course on firearms safety is a good idea, even if most of the stuff is common sense.
I have a few recommendations for people getting firearms. The first is that everyone should have a .22 caliber rifle/carbine available to them. It is perhaps the single most useful survival firearm, used mostly for hunting small game but also capable of doing damage for defense. It also makes little noise compared to other firearms, and the ammunition is very cheap. In particular I recommend a semi-automatic gun, like the Ruger 10/22 I recently bought. The AR-7 survival rifle is also supposed to be pretty good. The most common home defense firearms are 12 gauge shotguns, though 20 gauges are good too and are lighter. The 12 gauge can use a variety of ammo types, and is a very standard hunting gun. They also depend to be fairly inexpensive for the ammount of firepower you get. Depending on the shell type, you can hunt most types of game, and it's a highly effective weapon at short and medium ranges for intruders, in fact viciously so. And finally, a proven military style rifle is always a good idea for defending a homestead. I say military rifle because many of them are capable of taking abuse without malfunctioning. Some of the military surplus guns are affordable, too. I went with a semi-auto AMD-65, which is a modification on the most common rifle in the world, the AK-47. I hear that a Mosin-Nagant can be bought for $100-150.
I also think it's really important to understand as much as you can about firearm mechanics, or at least have someone in your community who does. It's about as useful as having someone around who can fix cars, and they tend to overlap. If it is too expensive to arm yourself, prohibited in your area to own firearms, or you just want to expand your community's defenses, it is really usefuly to be able to make firearms. There are a handful of sites and books that have basic plans. Shotguns are the easiest to home-produce. Generic disclaimer: obviously I won't tell people to go break laws; you're all hopefully smart enough to figure out whether or not to break laws depending on your own circumstances.
Also consider weapons like pepper spray, clubs, knives and other blades (I recommend machetes for both practical tool use, and as weapons), spears, longbows, and crossbows. Hell, even a heavy pipe will do. Firearms might be highly effective, but there's always a place for the big stick. Molotov cocktails are just glass bottles filled with gasoline (and often motor oil or some other thickener) with a rag for a wick. With the collapse likely being caused by the oil economy decline, I doubt making a ton of these will be practical, but knowing the basic premise behind them is good. And again, that's illegal, and I don't condone it outside of emergency situations. But definitely use whatever means you feel necessary to keep your family and community safe.
Not all of defense is armament. Understanding defense is at least as important as having functional weaponry. A defensive position can amplify the defensive capabilities of a community's firepower many times. In particular, I suggest learning about funnelling attackers and creating chokepoints. There's a reason the military puts up so many of those sandbag walls; they create cover, and can force enemies to go certain ways and slow their approach. The Mohawk Warriors at Oka in 1990 created barricades out of wrecked cars. Tires packed with dirt and stacked up, like is done to create the walls of a earthship, are effective barriers for defense.
Body armor is highly useful, of course. Modern kevlar vests and tactical armor originate in homemade experiments using the fiberglass linings in truck tires. Famous Hollywood bank robbers used armor made from tires, which apparently was quite effective. I've read instructions for saturating tight-knit felt with silicon caulk, which apparently binds the fibers so they disperse force like kevlar. Atilla the Hun's soldiers used layers of silk to catch arrows. The Inca made armor that was combination basket-work and thick wool, which reportedly stopped musket rounds as well as steel breastplate, and at half the weight. The main thing to understand is how armor works, which is by force dispersal. Combinations of hard materials with interlock layers have huge potential, even if they'll be bulkier than kevlar.
Finally, when you have no chance to stop an attacker from overtaking you, you need to get away. Stealth, avoidance, and evasion skills will be useful to individuals and maybe even small groups, but medium to large communities probably won't benefit much from the skills. More important for larger groups will be some people occupying attackers, perhaps with suppressive fire, while the others escape.
I hope this piece didn't come out sounding too much like some crazy manifesto or the ravings of a gun nut. But I care less about that than getting intelligent people to be honest about the need to defend themselves, and how important it will likely be in the coming decade. Food, shelter, warmth, and clean water are certainly more primary than security, but security can be more urgent when the need arises, and when you need it it's too late to start thinking about it then. Please start thinking about it. Please start taking measures to defend yourself.
Essays of mine to read:
Community Organizing and Planning for the Future
An Appeal for Community
Tyranny, Exploitation, and Unsustainability
Collapse, Hard and Soft Collapses, and Why You Should Care
The Survival Podcast
No Bullshit Survival Library