Dear Mr. Trump,

First let me say congratulations on a winning a hard-fought, difficult campaign against a formidable opponent. The entire world was watching and you managed to pull off a fairly decisive victory.

I voted for you, but I confess I only reached my decision in the final days before the election. There was good, and bad, about both of you as candidates.

I write to point some things out. I have read and studied and listened to people, exhaustively, in the days prior to the election. And I came to some conclusions about why you won. I hope you will, by some miracle, be able to read this and digest what I’m about to point out.

I don’t believe you won on the basis of the standard Republican platform. And your victory shouldn’t be viewed as a total rejection of the Democrats. It should rather be viewed as a rejection of both Democrats and Republicans as we have known them in the past 16 years or so. The increasingly partisan approach to government has long since quit working.

You won because the people are tired of the constant entrenchment from both sides of the aisle. They no longer want business as usual from the Federal government. They want progress on issues that affect their lives. They want Congress to work together, to quit shutting down the government to strong-arm the opposition, and realize that neither Democrat nor Republican are dirty words.

You, a complete DC outsider, steamrolled the Republican opposition in the primaries. Why? Because the people want Washington shaken up. This election boiled down to a complete outsider vs. the consummate Washington insider, and your victory thus comes with a mandate: fix it.   

That mandate is really simple at its core. Lead the government in a direction that is not detrimental to the lives of its citizens. Help Congress enact policies that help us, not hurt us. End the pervasive deadlock that keeps bills from being passed. Bring transparency and openness to our governmental process.

When I hear the Republicans want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, that’s one example of what I mean. That would ultimately hurt us in the long run. Those are two of the most successsful government programs ever enacted. It would be political suicide to tamper with them. Far better to fix them than to scrap them or turn them over to people who will take a portion for profit. It’s not believable to listen to the government warn that Social Security is about to be insolvent, when Congress took money from the SS funds on multiple occasions. That’s our money, mind you. Not the government’s.

Obviously, one huge issue is the Affordable Care Act. Of course, it’s been anything but affordable for a lot of people. There are no easy answers here. Let me share an experience I had. Among other things, I worked in EMS, in both 911 systems and private ambulances. One call, private ambulance, had me picking up a German gentleman who visited Raleigh, NC and fell and broke his hip. We arrived and I went to get out basic patient information sheet and insurance information and was told everything had already been paid for. I looked at the nurse quizzically and she nodded, “His insurance has already paid us and the transport costs. Just bill us.”

I was shocked, how did it get paid so quickly? Before he was even out of the hospital?  His daughter explained during the transport. “Everyone in Germany has insurance. It’s very efficient. But because everyone has it, the costs are much lower.”

“How low?” I asked.

“About $140.00 a month.”

Yeah, it’s that awful socialized medicine we’ve heard so much about. But at this point, hell, if our insurance could cost $140.00 a month, I’d take that all day long.

But no, I’m not advocating a government-run, single payer system. Point is, while many folks are against being forced to buy insurance, they are really upset at the astronomical costs they’re now faced with. The ACA addressed nothing in the way of cost containment. If you’ve seen The Big Short, with Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Steve Carrel, you know how crazy the housing market bubbled before it crashed. Housing costs went up and up and up, and then the crash happened. As a real estate investor you certainly know  all about it. I suspect the medical industry is riding a huge bubble at the moment, and there will be hell to pay when it finally bursts. The healthcare industry appears headed in the same direction as the housing market: massively inflated costs with a dwindling supply of new customers and cash, and often very high risks among those buying insurance. When the average savings rate is now negative 1.3% among Americans, you have to ask, exactly how are people supposed to pay insurance premiums that cost more than mortgages, and withstand $3,000-$5,000 deductibles to boot? The money just isn’t there. This is a market reaching critical mass. All the signs are there if one is paying attention.

We need positive steps towards healthcare cost containment. Period. If there’s anything to be gleaned from this election, I’m convinced this was an angry electorate. They don’t need healthcare costs stopped. They just desperately need them dialed back to livable amounts. What we have is simply unsustainable.

There is another thing I think needs to be addressed. There’s a lot of talk about growing the economy via tax breaks for large corporations so they can free up cash to pay for more workers and create more jobs. That’s fine, if they keep that end of the bargain. All too often jobs still wind up going across borders or overseas. My personal feeling, however, is that this is an arrow shot that is a bit off target.

If you really want to grow the economy, focus also on the 80% that is comprised of small businesses. I owned a small business myself, and the taxes I payed in addition to Social Security, Medicare and others were a significant burden. I know guys having to work crazy hours instead of hiring additional workers because the math isn’t adding up. When eighty percent of our economy is driven by small businesses, it’s simply common sense to ease that burden for us. We’re not asking for the moon. My own desire is simple: a lower tax rate that doesn’t stifle my cash flow, and a much simpler way to file and report income, taxes and Social Security/FICA. The cost of paying an accountant is another headache for very small businesses like mine. Make it simple enough that small business owners can do it all themselves.

There are many, many other things I could address, but I’ll content myself with just one more. This is a country deeply divided, and this is a time we need to hear healing words. The racist, sexist, Islamaphobic and misogynistic words and even assaults that have occurred across the county need to stop. And you can prove yourself a leader by directly addressing them in a press conference and other means at your disposal and bring significant shame to those who belittle, insult and abuse our fellow Americans. Yes, you are a divisive figure, for better or worse. But you can, by your words and actions, promote healing.

Steve Bannon as senior counsel is one such example. He’s probably none of the things the liberal media has portrayed him to be, but the very association of him with Breitbart and, by extension, some of the people that cling to it is going to invite that very kind of speculation and backlash. The President simply cannot hire someone who is a lightning rod for controversy. It just creates more fodder for the rabid elements of the press. If you really want him, fine. But he needs to address these things as well, and distance himself from the radicals, decisively.

Of course, almost every administration has hired lightning rods before. It’s hard to avoid. But it’s not hard to work to gain trust, and addressing and condemning the radicals and their acts would be a good way to start.

I hope you read this, and maybe think it over. I hope you understand I’m just an average American joe, who has bills to pay and a life I want to live. I hope you can settle in and begin taking positive steps that will benefit all of us, not just a select few. I hope you realize we elected you precisely because you are an outsider, and we desire significant change in how D.C. does business.

I hope our county will be better off in four years.

I hope.
Sincerely,

Morris Haywood

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Have you noticed how home architecture has changed in recent years? We used to have homes with doors to each room. That’s rare these days; we’ve opted for something different, an open floor plan. No longer are families separated by walls and doors, they can see each other and communicate across vast spaces because of the absence of walls separating living and dining and kitchen areas. Only bedrooms seem to maintain the privacy status quo. 

I see a direct correlation between this phenomenon and our current social situation. We are no longer a people clustered in private, unseen groupings. Indeed, what was once visible only to a select few is now visible to all, thanks to the advent of the computer age and more specifically, the rise of social media.

Gays, lesbians, blacks, whites, rich and poor, middle class, Native Americans, Latinos, all seem to have a voice in the cacophony of social media. Everything is out in the open. No one is hidden anymore. With that comes the rise of special requests, the demands for change, the plurality of America reaching for a certain singularity. 

I was quite surprised watching the election returns, and yet I wasn’t that surprised. Disclaimer: though in my Facebook posts I declined to say who I voted for, I will do so now: I did vote for Trump. And why I voted for him is the result of a very anguished and tortured process that led me to think of Clinton, Johnson and only grudgingly, to Trump. I only made that decision just days before the election. Why? After all, he’s not anyone’s perfect candidate. Far from it, in fact.

And in this election, I wasn’t huddling behind a closed door in my own room. Neither was anyone else. We were walking around in an open-floorplan house, very aware of what our friends and neighbors were up to. This, quite frankly, is a new thing. The revulsion and exasperation we felt is precisely the result of our love of social media, and the stripping away of all that was once quite private. We’re not hiding, anymore. 

What follows are my takeaways from this very strange election.

1. Both Parties were repudiated. 

Those who are decrying and horrified that such a candidate as Trump could possibly be elected need to realize one thing: This wasn’t a repudiation of Hillary Clinton and Democrat platform ideals. Far from it. This was a repudiation, yes, but it wasn’t just against the Democrats. This was an outright revolt against the Republicans as well. Think about it, Trump defeated 16 seasoned politicians in the primary races, GOP stalwarts all (except Carson), handily. How was this possible? Trump, an outsider, a non-politician! 

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The voters were saying in very clear terms, “Okay, Washington, you’ve had your fun. But you have ignored us, all of us, for a very long time now, and we are sick of it. We are telling you your job is to represent us,  not the rich special interest groups who fill your coffers with cash and do so expecting special favors. We are telling you to stop shutting down the government like a bunch of crybabies when you don’t get your way. We are telling you to stop casting people who receive benefits (millions) as leaches when you allow corporations to receive basically corporate welfare (billions) and allow them to avoid paying their fair share. We are telling you to stop giving benefits we paid for to folks who are here illegally. We are telling you to stop raiding the Social Security fund, failing to pay it back, and then claiming the system is ‘broken’ and tell us we need to make do with less in our Social Security check. Less?? (One question, Washington: How?) We are saying, you need to get back to the business of real government, finding real solutions to real problems that affect real people.” 

2. Breakdown of the civil order. 

The voters were also saying in very clear terms, they are tired of the so-called protests and riots and road-blocking every time a police officer shoots a black person. The nation is weary of these so-called protests–fueled by instantaneous social media–which were in fact riots which led to looting, burning and beatings of whites and others. Many, not all, of these shootings were justified, but I’ll be the first to admit I think our police training is in need of overhaul. There have been those too quick to shoot without working to de-escalate situations, and that is a shame. I think there is ample room for discussion here. But discussion becomes quite limited when half a city is going up in flames and  Molotov cocktails are being thrown. This “us vs. them” mentality needs to go. Certainly, there are bad cops out there. And there are bad people who are black, white, Latino, Asian and so on… I’ve said it before, no one has a monopoly on virtue. But America is tired of the rioting and looting and burning of our towns. I don’t see much constructive discussion coming when the police feel the need to double down on people because they’re out of control. And real conversation is sorely needed in this day and age regarding how police respond to threatening situations. The Democrat’s failure to distinguish between legitimate protests and destructive rioting did not go unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans. And sending representatives to funerals of young black men killed while in the process of committing crimes is a slap in the face of all who live their lives peacefully and according to the law. 

3. Emotional voting begets emotional responses

Look, I get it. People, especially young people, get excited over their candidates and their issues. But I have to sound a note of caution: Emotive voting is dangerous, because it leads to emotive responses if the beloved candidate loses. In every election, someone will lose. That’s the way it works. I know, it can be bitterly disappointing. Heartbreaking, even. But to have to run to a “safe space” to have a “cry-in” over the lost election is absurd. You are adults. You cast a vote. Your vote counted. If you didn’t win, that’s the way it works. Sure, be upset! Commiserate with your friends, have a drink or two, shed a tear, and then begin planning for the next election. This isn’t a vote for homecoming queen, this is serious business about the future of our country. Getting caught up in a “movement” is fine, but movements come and go. My hope is that young folks will temper the desires of their heart with the logic in their heads. 

Corollary to that is the response to the election. Protesting? Burning the flag? Blocking highways? See Number 2, above. Let’s be honest. Protest is something to do when there is an actual wrong committed against you. Your vote was stolen? Protest. Ballot boxes burned or dumped in a lake? Protest. You were turned away from a voting site by bigots determined to prevent you from voting? Yes, absolutely, protest. But you don’t have a mandate to protest just because you don’t like the outcome of the election. 

And on the other side, making derogatory comments, spitting, painting “White Power” graffiti and other nonsense is even more repulsive. Celebration is one thing. Spitting on people and calling them names and taunting them with threats of deportation is quite another, and despicable. That just makes those who do those things the very racist jerks they were portrayed to be by the media leading up to the election. Celebration is fine. Celebratory gloating and assault are decidedly not. People like that sicken me even more than the losers of the election protesting. 

4. There really is a longing to return to the days of Mayberry and Ward and June Cleaver, but not for the reasons you think…

I read over and over prior to the election that there was an element that wants America to return to the simple old days where we could live like Andy Taylor and Opie, or Ward and June Cleaver and Beaver and Wally, with all that wholesome goodness. Invariably, this was dismissed with scorn and derision as though someone professed they believed the earth was flat. Seriously, those TV fantasies were as fictitious then as now. But that said, there really is a longing to return to those days. But it has nothing to do with women’s place being in the kitchen and and blacks (and other minorities) “knowing their place” and the white man “reigning supreme.” None of that. At all. It has to do with basic economics. Because for all that period’s faults, one thing is very true: One decent job could pay for a house, pay all the bills, buy a car and a TV set and decent furniture, and buy plenty of food, and still have enough left over to save for college and retirement. If there are folks looking back and longing for the good old, days, that is why. Not the racist, sexist, homophobic crap. They want to quit having to work four to five jobs between two people just to make ends meet. My grandfather lived to be just over 90. He and my grandmother were simple folk, they worked in the hosiery mill and farmed a bit (peanuts and other crops) and went to church on Sunday. When they died, well, I don’t know exactly how much they saved, but it was nearly half a million dollars. Yes, you heard that correctly. They lived frugally and socked away nearly half a million dollars in 6o years of working.

That is what people want. They want that kind of opportunity for their lives today. It won’t come, not in this lifetime. But if we could convince our leaders that our lives would be better if we had that kind of economic opportunity once again, well then, imagine what our lives would be like. 

Yes, I know, wasn’t Clinton promising that? And would not her ideas be just as likely, if not more so, to accomplish that? Time will tell. She lost because I think people viewed her as a vote for the same old, same old Washington crap. She’s the consummate Washington insider, and this election was about rejecting that. 

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5. Obamacare hurt. 

I suspect that this election turned on one thing in particular: the exorbitant cost of healthcare. The promise of better, and lower costs of, healthcare never materialized for the middle class. In fact the opposite happened. Many on the lower end of the salary spectrum qualified for subsidies to offset the costs, but after a certain point, people were on their own, and the total costs were disastrous. Seriously, deductibles reaching $3000 to $5000 per year? Exactly who has that kind of money laying around? And insurance premiums, once a percentage of, say, a monthly mortgage, are now often way above the cost of a mortgage. Who can afford that? And now, of course, if you can’t afford it, you get slapped with a big penalty. That’s where a lot of the anger came from. Having the insurance companies release figures saying that people’s premiums were going to rise drastically again just before the election probably doomed Clinton more than anything. 

6. There really is a great divide.

This election fell along very sharp lines: rural vs. urban. Not white and black, not rich and poor, not gay vs. straight or most any other binary division out there, save one. It was the hip urban areas on the one hand and the poor vast, rural country on the other.A quick look at the map bears this out. And this also corresponds to some extent with education. Fewer folk in rural areas have college degrees, which makes sense. There are fewer jobs that require a degree in a small town in Iowa, for example. But one huge mistake the liberal elite made was to assume “uneducated” actually meant “dumb.” Thus they tended to classify Trump supporters as dumb, racist, homophobic, xenophobic and so on. To their misfortune. 

Look, I worked in EMS. In many cases the highest education there is an associate degree from a community college. Most didn’t have that, just the required certification courses to work in EMS. Yeah, I met some dumb folks. But the majority were smart. Very smart, often. I have three college degrees and with all my education, there were people, men and women, I worked with who clearly were smarter than me. You’d better be glad, too. After all, these are the folks who will save your life when your heart stops beating.

All too often, “uneducated” is code among the elites for “dumb,” but I know for a fact that is the most unfair and idiotic classification one can subscribe to. And those who subscribe to the elitist views “We’re right, our views are the only ones that matter, anyone who doesn’t agree with us is just plain racist and sexist, etc.” really don’t understand. Since the mid 1990’s when NAFTA went down, these rural Americans have felt the boot of the American Oligarchy on their necks, and the last thing they needed from the Bush and Obama Administrations was more weight on that boot. But it came in the form of fewer and poorer job choices, outrageous healthcare costs and the inability to ever get ahead. To dismiss the plight of these rural Americans is just plain wrong, and the elites who made light of their situation got a serious wake-up call on Tuesday. Rural America scratched its head and asked, “White privilege? What fucking white privilege?” 

7. Trump supporters are a bunch of racist hicks. Not!  Hillary supporters are a bunch of libtards who want to give away all our money to illegals. Not! 

This election was dominated by social media. And it was by far the craziest I’ve ever seen. I saw some of the ugliness really come out in 2012, when people were actually calling President Obama a n****r and a coon. No holding back, there. Really, there’s no excuse for that shit. But it cut both ways, especially this time around. And the mainstream media played right along. “Trump is a racist!” people would scream. But consider the source. A mainstream news outlet reported Trump wanted to deport illegals. True, he said that. Then liberal bloggers and websites started with, “Trump is against Latino/Hispanic people!” And then the Facebook posts start, “Trump is a racist!” Then, “If you support Trump that makes YOU a racist, too!” See how quickly one statement turns to dirge? Consider the sources, folks. If your only source of info is the echo chambers of like-minded liberals or conservatives, you will never get a clear picture of the truth. And the truth is so sorely needed in this day and age. Yes, Trump has said some deplorable things. But so has Hillary Clinton. Remember the book from one of her Secret Service detail describing how rude and nasty she was to the people under her? You get a good measure of how a person really is by how they treat those in a lesser station than they are. And it’s not very good ethics to treat those who serve you with contempt. So yes, both candidates got a lot of mud slung at them via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the biased news sources. Oh, screw that. They got a lot of shit slung at them! To me, it was childish, immature, and ultimately unnecessary. The truth is, Donald Trump is a compassionate man who is well aware of his good fortune, and has helped people from all walks of life in countless situations. And Hillary Clinton really cares about people and especially helping minorities and those of various nationalities find a place in this country, as well as helping lower income Americans rise above their stations. There is good about both of them. The election didn’t need the level of vitriol it obtained to determine that. Ultimately, none of that mattered. What did matter is that the people rejected a Washington insider and chose to elect a Washington outsider. They spoke to him clearly: shake it up. In a big way. 

8. The Electoral College really is needed

I’ve seen so many posts on Facebook lately that the Electoral College needs to be abandoned. Why? Take a look at the map. An ocean of red with tiny islands of blue. And yet if the vote count remains true, Hillary won the popular vote. So why don’t we just do away with the Electoral College and just accept the popular vote? Sounds reasonable, right? 

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Almost reasonable, but no. 

Look at the map. The red areas totally dominate. It’s not even close. And that’s important. For if we did away with the Electoral College, the entire election would be determined by people living in a very small geographic area. As one of my friends put it, if you did away with it, the entire vote would be determined by the State of California. Not exactly my recipe for a fair election. It seems our Founding Fathers knew what they were up to. They foresaw this very kind of situation happening. It would be mighty tiresome watching to see who the cities would elect, year after year, and the resentment would grow, and grow, and grow. Because no one else would ever have a voice. Ever. 

 9. Yes, Virginia, there is a conclusion

We have so much work to do. Our education system is in shambles, our infrastructure is crumbling, banks and Wall Street rake in billions in bubble economies which leave people effectively broke, there is a massive salary divide between top level managers and the average worker, our healthcare system is a joke, the list goes on and on and on. I began this essay with the observation we’re no longer living in blocked off rooms, so to speak, but in a new reality of open floorplan living. Our lives are no longer private, by choice. We tweet and Facebook everything from meals to bowel movements. We create memes to destroy our neighbor’s candidates and we tweet false facts. Just like the housing crisis was a bubble that destroyed America’s economy, we are living in an inflated sense of our own words.

But just because we have a voice doesn’t mean we have, or deserve, an audience. And that inflation of many people’s own words crashed in a big way Tuesday. So many folks never saw it coming. In the last days before the election, I began to suspect the tide had turned for Trump. One Facebook post did it for me, from a guy I know who was shocked at his new insurance premiums. His wasn’t the only such post, but the level of response to his statements made me think, this is a very angry America. 

All of us were wrong to so blindly trust the Federal Government to solve our problems. Of course, the Native Americans knew that a hundred years ago. So, how do we fix it? 

Communicate. Tell the corporations you disagree with their prices, and why. Or their cheap products, and why. Tell the boards of directors of corporations you disagree with their failure to pay decent wages. Tell the banks you will take your business elsewhere if they continue to charge exorbitant fees. Tell the grocery stores we will not purchase poisoned and dangerous food products. And so on. This election isn’t over. Every time we venture outside with credit card in hand we are voting approval of our current system, or not. Tell your Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen you like or don’t like what they are doing, and more importantly, tell them what you think needs to be done. You get the idea. You aren’t dumb. Speak! Shout! Let your voices be heard from the Capitol Hill rafters! 

All I know is, our system really hasn’t been working for a very long time, but Donald Trump is only one person. Real change begins with us. 

Get busy.

 

 

 

Machines are gonna fail…” James Dickey, Deliverance

I have never considered myself to be a “survivalist.” I don’t even like that word, with its connotations of ultra right-wing militant groups or left-wing commune types scraping a living in a post-apocalyptic world. The word just has too much baggage attached to it for me to take it too seriously as a noun describing normal folks such as myself. I’m just a middle of the road American guy, political label appliques not necessary!

But the truth is, I am a survivalist, of sorts. That is to say, I have given thought to what might happen if the big Collapse were to occur. And more importantly, how I would prepare for it. I wrote a novel once on the subject, half-finished for now, but it describes life forty years following a massive collapse of all systems as we know it. So, two years ago, I began researching this topic.

I think the first thinking I did on the matter came from reading Stephen King’s brilliant novel, The Stand. Not too long after that my grandmother gave me a Reader’s Digest book, Back to Basics. I just picked it up at her house one day, and she noticed how I was absorbed in it, and she said, “Take it home. You might find some good information in there.”

She was right. The book is an excellent resource for living a self-sustaining lifestyle, “off the grid,” so to speak. Everything from building a cabin to farming using hand tools to making a small generator to create electricity is included in the pages. Great tips on how to can vegetables, cook over a fire, and other great tips for surviving. It is not a survivalist treatise, but rather aimed at those who wish to be more self-sufficient. And of course, should disaster strike, we will be self-sufficient, with only ourselves and our prior preparedness to get us through.

There are a lot of scenarios in which society and indeed, civilization itself, might be wiped out, at least as we know it. A complete, worldwide financial meltdown. Plague or disease. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP), or perhaps a natural occurrence such as a super-volcano eruption or an asteroid strike.

Financial meltdown seems to be the most likely presently, followed closely by the possibility of a super-volcano eruption. (Pretty much all of Yellowstone National Park is one huge lava dome, and geological evidence suggests it erupted 1.2 million years ago, and again 600,000 years ago. You do the math. Studies have indicated Yellowstone is beginning to rise upwards, the top of a massive magma dome.) A volcanic eruption of that magnitude or an asteroid strike would destroy life as we know it completely, producing giant clouds of dust and ash that would obliterate the sun for as long as two years.

Financial meltdown of the type I’m talking about would mean all infrastructure would be halted for non-payment, and then remain frozen as businesses were unable to restart deliveries and other crucial means of maintaining the business structure. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine what would happen. One hundred percent inflation would mean deliveries would cost thousands instead of hundreds of dollars, and things like bread and milk would hit ten, twenty or thirty dollars for a loaf or gallon. And if you think it through, you see the ramifications that would have. Electricity would be shut off, and then everything begins to fail.

No need to go into detail about all the possibilities, it is enough to know that if things got that bad, the world we know would cease to exist. And that’s scary.

I, for one, would want to try to live through it as best I can. But how can I do that when the stores all close and the food runs out?

I’m not meaning this to be a “we’re doomed” treatise of any kind. I am only saying the possibility exists that things may one day get that bad. And if it does, how do we survive? That’s the core issue.

The plain fact is that many won’t. The diabetics (especially Type 1 diabetics) will die without insulin. Cancer patients will die without radiation or chemo or other therapies. Heart patients will go into arrest or arrhythmias and die. And then starvation, infection, accident and disease will take their toll. Two books I highly recommend, both very entertaining reads, are King’s The Stand and Bill Forstchen’s One Second After. The Stand describes life following a deadly plague. One Second After exposes what happens if an EMP weapon is set off against us. Both accounts are harrowing and gripping, well worth reading.

But those who do survive, well, how do they pull that off? And then keep surviving afterward?

It’s all theory, of course. But the truth is that in such a case, preparation is everything.

My sister got me thinking on all this. I came recently for a visit to help take care of the kids while she was on a business trip. Before she left, she showed me a few things around her home. In one hidden place she pulled out an envelope containing well over three thousand dollars. “Emergency money,” she explained. “If it all goes south and banks fail, I will have enough to get out, and away.” Then she pulled me to a closet. I was stunned when she opened the door. Boxes upon large boxes of staple foods were piled high. Flour, rice, pasta, beans, water. Canned goods. It looked like somewhere between five hundred and a thousand pounds of food.

She’s been slowly stockpiling it. Instead of buying a box of spaghetti, for example, she buys several boxes of it, using some for consumption and others to save “in case.” She will have enough to last several months, maybe up to a year.

So, she got me thinking. She’s being neither alarmist nor running scared. She’s simply taking a pragmatic approach. And it triggered some thoughts of my own. What follows is my own checklist of what anyone must do to survive a societal collapse.

  1. Food. Obviously, we need food. Stockpile the non-perishables. Large quantities. Fifty-pound sacks of flour, rice, beans, dried potatoes, etc. Canned goods, even meats. (An old can of chicken dating from the turn of the twentieth century was found recently, unopened. Some experts decided to to test it. Though the taste had decreased somewhat, the chicken was perfectly preserved and edible.) Even out-of-date canned goods can be used for quite some time, though caution should be exercised. And in all cases, dry bulk food must be stored in airtight, moisture-free, food-grade containers. Following that, seeds, seeds, seeds! We will have to plant vegetables. Stock up on corn, cucumber, squash, beans, peppers, watermelon, any and all kinds of vegetables and fruit seeds that can be stored. Non-hybrid seed is important, because many engineered seeds don’t reproduce well, or at all. Planting will be necessary when Spring comes and there is still no infrastructure.
  2. Water. Hand in hand with food is drinkable water. One can live without food up to thirty days. Without water, a week, maximum. There needs to be access to a lake, or pond or fresh water stream, or a good well. Of all those, a well or a rapid stream are the best, as they cannot become stagnant or algae-infested. One would need means of transporting it, as well. Buying some plastic blue kerosene cans (new, never used for fuel) and labeling and using them for water is a good idea. That idea came from good friend Frank Uroda. It makes transporting and pouring water much easier. A house with an old, hand drawn well is a great, as is one with a hand pump well. (Google “driven well;” they are easy and inexpensive to build if the water table is high enough.) Lacking that, a place with a stream close by is ideal. That is the only thing my house lacks. I would have to walk a bit to the nearest stream. But access is vital. Without water, we die. It is that simple. So a water source and possibly means to purify water is critical.  Rain collection barrels are highly recommended in any area with decent rainfall totals.
  3. Protection. Yes, this means weaponry. Guns, in other words. I’m neither a gun nut nor a pacifist. I own two guns, both inherited from my maternal grandfather and my father. A rifle and a pistol. But I am not satisfied they would serve me well in a catastrophic event. So, I plan to get something with a little more firepower. Nothing really fancy, mind you. The best tip I ever heard regarding a weapons choice for survival was this: “Don’t buy a fifteen-hundred dollar gun and a couple of boxes of ammunition. Buy a four-hundred dollar gun and a ton of ammunition.” But don’t even think of trying to find one if all hell breaks loose. Get it before hand, practice with it, and keep it well-oiled and ready, just in case. And it is not just for protection. Consider we would have to hunt for food if the supplies of groceries ran out. The gun is necessary for survival, both for hunting food and fending off intruders. The assumption for owning a weapon, of course, is that law and order will have broken down. This would be expected in a post-apocalyptic world. Only the strong will survive. A good gun means even those lacking in physical strength might be stronger, at least for the short run. So a well-made, medium-to-large-caliber gun or two is critical. My guns are both .22’s, great for plinking and for small game like turkey or geese or rabbits, but for deer or bear or self-defense, not so much. Corollary to this are other weapons. A good, sharp, large knife. A bow and arrow. Ammo will only last so long, and then supplies of sulfur and magnesium and other ingredients of gunpowder will have to be found. A strong bow and good arrows are just as deadly. Quieter, too. And a knife has a million uses in the wilderness. Get a good one.
  1. Transportation. Some means of getting from here to there. Not every place will be suited for life following the Collapse. Especially the concrete jungles of urbania. The cities will empty out, and for good reason. The population is too dense, and supplies of food simply too low to sustain life for very long. Many will have to relocate to places where game and fish are plentiful and land is suitable for farming. Food is always the primary concern. Gas will be rationed or non-existent. If it appears Collapse is imminent, having a full tank will ensure your vehicle will get you at least away from the city. Owning a bicycle or secondary means of transportation is an excellent idea, for one reason: Following an electromagnetic pulse (either via weapon or massive solar flare) cars built after 1976 or so simply will not work. An EMP would destroy the computer circuitry and electronic ignitions necessary to run them. An older carbureted model with points and condenser would be much better in that case. I have modern car, but also a motorcycle that does not depend on the electronics to run. Another aspect bears mentioning here. A car is nice, but not necessary and once the gas runs out, it’s obsolete anyway. A large, well-constructed backpack might be necessary for a life on the move.
  2. Communication. Following something like an EMP, all telephones and radios and TVs (except old analog ones) will cease to work. Cell phones, computers and power lines may be destroyed. If communication should break down, the savvy person will have arranged a predetermined location for family to meet. In my case, I would want them to come to my house. Though it is the smallest it is also the most ideal for my immediate family. There are streams close by, a huge, empty field behind my house ideal for vegetable gardening, I have a pair of small tractors with plows, woods and forests are close for hunting, and there are tons of tools for building and construction. Communication is something that won’t be possible, in some scenarios, so having a predetermined gathering place is crucial. Otherwise, we won’t know what has become of our loved ones. And that place needs to be practical from a survival standpoint. One item would be very helpful, and it’s cheap. An old analog CB radio can be found very cheaply indeed. Get one for the home base and one for each vehicle. They can run off car batteries.
  3. Medication. This is a tough one. Many, many people have illnesses and ailments. The sad fact is many of them won’t be able to survive without their medications to keep them alive. It will be important to stockpile any and all drugs in sealed containers in freezers until the end happens. This can be done over time if one doesn’t need the prescribed dosage at all times. I can skip my prescribed dosage every once in a while. I have put aside those pills for a rainy day. But it’s critical to have them if things go south. Some people (diabetics) will die within weeks without them. Others will take much longer. And some others, just a few days or more. Other drugs: if you’re prescribed antibiotics, for example, and you wind up not using them all, freeze what is left over. They might be needed later, for two reasons, your own personal use, and other survivors’ use. In One Second After, the townspeople decide to ration the remaining stocks of drugs only to those necessary for the community. Those too old, or too young, to contribute, would not be given life-saving drugs. A sad, horrible choice to make, but necessary. One might expect this sort of thing to happen. Sadly it already happens far too often when insurance cuts people off. I once found a diabetic dead in his home, twelve hours after calling EMS earlier and then refusing to go to hospital. He was scared of a big bill. Instead, he decided not to go. He died shortly after the truck left. My ambulance was called back to the scene about twelve hours later. He had been dead at least ten hours, by my estimation. So, keep medications on hand and ready to move, if need be.
  4. Clothing. This is a big one. Bill Forstchen, a historian, writes that footwear was a deciding factor in some battles in the Civil War. That is something I’d never considered, but in a future without new shoes, the old ones will have to last a long time. Get a pair (or several!) of heavy duty, well-made boots or shoes that will last. The cheap work shoes from Wal-Mart that sell for $29.99 will not fall into that category. Also, consider cold weather gear. Even in the South we get single digit temps, and it occasionally drops below zero. But the high humidity of the South greatly increases the cold index to make it feel much colder. So, make sure you have some heavy duty jackets and sweatshirts, thermal underwear, socks and other gear. We won’t have central heat anymore. We’ll be huddled around a woodstove or a fireplace.
  5. Home. It may seem this would be the most important, but it isn’t. Someone living in an apartment in New York City doesn’t really have a home. It will be too dangerous to stay there. Many modern homes are simply not built for living without electricity. If you live in a modern home with a vent-free gas fireplace without a chimney, on a tiny lot with little land, don’t plan on staying there very long. You won’t be able to light a wood fire and gas will likely be unavailable. You simply will not be able to be self-sufficient. I would anticipate a highly mobile, nomadic society for awhile, if order isn’t restored within a few months. People will travel in search of places where there is food and water and heat. It’s that simple. Homes built with functional fireplaces, though, or even a decent flue chimney, are going to be much preferable for the long haul. Hence my belief my own home is ideally suited. I have a hole in the wall where a wood or kerosene stove once sat, and a nice, brick flue chimney to vent smoke and gases. The home itself needs heat, and it is not hard to construct a decent heater out of a 55-gallon drum, so long as it vents properly. More preferable still is to find an old, cast iron unit with at least a cooktop or two on it. But let’s face it. The Native Americans who owned this land (of whom I am a descendant) lived here many thousands of years without truly permanent homes. Lean-to’s, tee-pees, wigwams, and other forms of protection from the elements were all they needed to survive. The home need not be fancy, just well-equipped. Consider also a smaller home is much easier to heat, another reason I think my own is a good choice. It boils down to the kind of lifestyle we have then. We may have to move frequently to find food. It’s hard to say. If a horde of gunmen come and steal what we have, it is definite we will have to. So the actual home is a bit further down on my list, knowing full well it isn’t the most important element of survival. Food, water, medicine, and clothing to me actually come first. One can live in a tent with no problem, if one is protected from the cold. That said, I do believe an effort should be made to keep a home stocked and ready, even if it becomes only a way-station. The hunkering down portion of the Collapse will last an undetermined time. It might be over in weeks, or months. Or it might stretch out years. It really will become a matter of survival of the fittest, and strongest. One thing is certain. Most people keep about one to two weeks of food in their pantries. That will run out very quickly indeed. And then what? The mother with a young child could likely become a cold-blooded murderer if it meant more provisions for her baby. Starvation is an ugly thing. Another thing needs pointing out. We do not live with stores vastly stocked with groceries anymore. A new concept introduced in the 1970’s has meant micro-managed supply chains. You buy a jar of grape jelly at the store, a computer sends a message to the distribution center to send a jar to the store on the next trip. According to James Westley Rawles, survivor blogger and author of How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It, this means on store shelves, for the most part, what you see is what you get. No vast quantities stored in back rooms like in the old days. The back room is merely for unloading the pallets. The store shelves will be emptied in a matter of hours or days following a catastrophic event. So, food scarcity makes staying in one spot very uncertain. But the more food one has, the less necessary it is to move. So, pick out a home and stock-and guard it-it well!
  1. Other items. The home, or way-station, should be stocked with extra medications (aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, cough remedies, vitamins and extra personal meds), blankets, pillows, some entertainment items (games, books, puzzles, etc.). There should be a lot of lanterns and candles. The plain, basic kerosene lantern is a good choice, and can be run off off a variety of fuels. Kerosene, lantern oil, degraded diesel, even certain kinds of cooking oil might even work. I do not know, but I would not use anything but kerosene or lamp oil unless you have a SAFE way to test it. Fishing equipment is a must, as well as sharp filet knives and skinning equipment. Chainsaws, regular wood saws, cross-cut saws, and other types of saws are needed. Remember, heat requires burning wood, so some means must be present to cut the wood. Hammers, saws, wrenches and other basic tools will likely be needed as well. Be on the lookout for a big, cast iron kettle, one that can cook gallons of stew at once. They can also be used for washing clothes. A big tin tub has many uses, especially for bathing and storing freshly caught fish. Matches and lighters will be very important. A Bic lighter can last for months, but a good Zippo lighter is windproof and reusable, and can also be used with different fuels. They require a good stock of flints to work, though. Dishes, pots, pans, cups and eating utensils are needed. A percolating coffee pot will really help the cold mornings.
  2. Hope. The single biggest thing one needs to survive the collapse of the world as we know it is hope. Depression kills, and those consumed by the woe-is-me approach to life following catastrophe won’t last long. One with hope brings life to those around him or her. So stock up on it, accordingly. It isn’t found in a store, or a warehouse or in a hideout bunker. It’s found in the folds of the heart.

All that stated, the most distressing thing one can think of when talking about survival is fact that a lot of folks simply won’t make it. Disease, murder, starvation, infection, injury, accidents and so on will claim many. I am likely one, for the reasons of my health. I can make it awhile, but a seizure disorder (of the worst kind) means death is inevitable for me, unless there is a natural sedative that works like my medications do. Barring that, I might have to consider an exit plan. Repeated seizures cause brain damage, increasingly significant ones. Rather than face remaining life as a drooling idiot, I’d rather go out on my own terms. So yes, if it came to that, I have a plan. But only if I have no hope left at all. And no, I won’t discuss what I would do. But if, God forbid, it should come to that, I will notify my loved ones and talk it over with them. And even prepare my own resting place so they are spared the labor required to do it. And I would let them know when, so my body isn’t a bloated, stinking mess when they do find it. In other words, I would not be inconsiderate even in death. That’s not my style. I say all that only to say this: for some people, a dignified exit might be the better option, rather than facing death in excruciating pain, drawn out for days or weeks with no medications to help.

The will to live might be an issue for many, as well. Some of us are simply better equipped mentally than others. There is a toughness there in these people. You can see it in their eyes. I was visiting my sister not long ago. She lives in a very nice, high-security building. You have to have an electronic key fob to get anywhere in the building. I got in the elevator one day and forgot to touch the key fob to the pad, and the elevator still worked. I realized the system must have been placed on override for some reason, or had shut down and defaulted to non-secure status. Another resident got on the elevator with me a day later. I nodded hello. She started to reach with her key fob to activate the button and I said, “I don’t think you need it. I’ve haven’t needed to use mine since yesterday. Must be off.” She gave me look of pure terror, and skittishly exited the elevator when she got to her floor. She’s a perfect example of someone who is likely not to survive a catastrophe. Just the thought of her precious “secure entry” system not working nearly sent her into a panic. Can you imagine what throngs of rioters and looters would do to someone like that? She would likely hole up in the apartment, eating dwindling supplies of food, and when finally venturing out, finding all was gone. People like that have placed too much faith in the system.

As I mentioned, I’m not a doomsayer. I think the odds are we will be fine. I do hope so. But I am also highly aware of current events and trends in markets, and one such trend that has me very scared is the fact we are living in a bubble economy. The solid underpinnings of market security (gold standard, mutual funds, bonds, real estate, and other stable, blue chip investments) are long gone in favor of high-risk, high yield instruments of hedge betting, creating gigantic inflations of credit dependence while at the same time driving interest rates to all time lows and derailing the underpinnings of overall economy. In short, the rich make large, quick, easy profits while devaluing the dollar for the rest of us. When multi-million dollar bonuses are given out to executives in the same year in the same banks Congress had to bail out because of faulty investing practices, you know the crap is headed for the fan. And we’re all going to get sprayed. Add to this the threat of terrorism, natural disaster, or other catastrophe, and it simply makes good sense to be a Boy Scout in these times.

Be prepared.