There is something I do not fully understand in the American culture, and this is the prepping phenomenon. I do not think there is an equivalent elsewhere. Here I will try to make sense and provide tips if I can.
Acquiring survival skills
In every culture that I know of, the elite warriors are trained to survive in any condition. Search and rescue teams have particularly advanced training. The survival training often includes physical fitness, navigation in different environments, fluency with all kinds of transportation, medical first aid, some hunting and gathering skills, and some specific skills which may vary.
As civilians, citizens, and parents it is our duty to help those in need:
- Initial medical assistance
- Psychological help and crisis management
- Emergency repairs of car and home equipment
- Outdoors safety including some navigation skills
I understand these needs. I personally acquired some of them and saved several lives. There are some tips in some advanced courses as I find relevant to the subject.
Autonomy and anxiety
While in Israel we are kind of trained to deal with weapons, civilians do not hold guns. I do not own a gun and I do not really need one. I trust the forces whos duty is to protect me to fulfil their jobs.
This is not the case in the USA. Americans have a deep mistrust for their police forces and are not sure that their doctors will be on their side in the moment of need. Not trusting in someone’s competence and compassion is something I can understand. Here the lack of trust goes deeper, as do some demarcation lines in the society.
Instead, Americans trust their own fiercely protected autonomy. Some Americans basically self-administer medication and bear high power firearms, hunt and cook their food and perform all sorts of dangerous activities. We are not talking about ex paramedics, soldiers, and commanders who at least got some relevant training. Everyone in a relatively sane mind with valid citizenship can do this and often sees in it his patriotic duty.
The conflict gets deeper
The lack of training is evident. I kind of hate to think about the number of people who die from the wrong medications. Guns are used for suicide twice as much as for anything else. Policemen have a deep and justified fear when dealing with potentially armed people under influence, and they execute excessive violence. Ordinary people protest. The fear is spreading. Now, this is a part of the American system, so Americans found a unique way to escape.
Since 1950 some Americans build and upgrade underground shelters, while others escape to rural areas where they have control over the environment. Both are learning survival skills which is great. They also buy huge arsenals of weapons, which contributes to the tension.
I would not feel safe if I knew that poorly trained and heavily armed militia patrols the streets of my town. Possibly the stress of that knowledge would suffice for me to own my small private arsenal just in case.
This is not a vicious cycle as there are plenty of calm and decent men and women who actually know what they are doing. Amen…
Is learning a solution?
Some blame the high costs of education, as a great barrier for young and creative people from poor neighborhoods. As described in this article. creativity can be measured independently of education and intelligence. Even people from poor families can use their creativity to cross the status barriers without formal education. Some of our books and courses are extremely cheap so that everyone can learn to learn better.
Curiously, students who were assisted by reverse discrimination scholarships and passed despite poor grades are not less competent and successful compared with their more privileged peers. I guess a wide range of experiences, creativity, and social skills are great assets.
Survival education for urban dwellers
If you live in a city, shooting training or cold weapons mastery can get you killed. Anger, fear, and gunpowder is a dangerous mix. It is safer not to be a threat.
I guess that people get hurt when they do not have enough information and training. Ideally, I would suggest the following urban survival kit:
- Critical thinking to deal with gaslighters.
- Psychological first help, enough to stop toxic people and suicidal thoughts.
- Minimal medical education, just enough to find reputable sites with a correct list of symptoms and understand the instructions there.
- Financial management, so that you will always have a surplus to share with others.
- Programming and tinkering skills to build the gadget you cannot find.
- Guitar playing, not to get bored where there is no TV or electricity. Boredom makes people do stupid things.
- Cooking creatively, from any kind of goods. Bad food can cause serious health problems and restaurants are not always available.
I guess these particular skills can help in all situations…
Indoors or outdoors?
Staying home is usually safer than going out, and staying in a city is safer than going outdoors. Not that there are fewer dangers, but we have significantly better survival chances. If anything goes wrong, it is relatively easy to get help. Health issues are more likely to happen than other kinds of hazards.
If you like to stay outdoors, there are significantly more survival skills you may need. I can only guess. During my military training, I learned some shooting, navigation, and other skills, but I really suck outdoors. As for growing your own food, it is also not for me.
I had two terrorist attacks within 100 meters from my home (2 dead, 20 wounded), and I still feel safer indoors at home than anywhere else. Hack, I knew a lady whos nephew was swallowed by a croc in safari in Africa, and he discharged from special forces…
To stockpile or not
This is a serious question in our household. It is a good idea to have enough goods to survive for a short while no matter what. Our communications are vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorist acts. Usually, communication lines recover within days. So it is a good idea to have a “goto” kit for at least a week.
Anna’s parents live in a very small settlement and they stockpile food and garbage. They live alone in a big house and the house is filled with stuff that used to work 30 years ago. I think their junk is actually going up in price, as you cannot find anything like that. It is very likely that about half of the food in their fridge is way past the return date.
I prefer to buy just enough to get a serious discount. This is more than I actually need, but I always find a way to use stuff.
Anna hates stuff we do not need. She does not really like to throw, but she really hates to buy.
Somehow we always find a compromise and have just enough of everything for two weeks. We live in the center of a small city, and have every store imaginable within 200 meters from our home. I guess if we lived in a sparsely populated area we would have everything for 3 months…
Prepping going mainstream
The term on wikipedia is Survivalism.
In 1960s Americans started to prepare for a nuclear disaster and build underground bunkers. Then came the oil crisis and pioneer skills got trendy. The scouts were dismantled only recently. After 9/11 attack some American started to build houses in rural areas being prepared for any sort of apocalypse. Then came zombie movies, and apocalypses got a new face. And then came the COVID 19 crisis with a risk of death from simple human contact. Sitting in a lockdown is less comfortable than staying outdoor far from other people.
Now we can expect all sorts of doom, but so far the modern society has been very resilient. Our ancestors survived WWII when the big cities were bombed, several pandemics which caused more casualties in cities, a couple of revolutions when the cities were starving with communication lines cut off.
It is only natural that between the pandemic, economic crisis, and social injustice some “shit will hit the fan” soon. Yet, does this justify extreme actions?
I guess that all of us need some sort of survival skills. It is always a good time to learn. Yet, the skills with the hight return on investment should be helpful in all situations, not just a possible apocalypse.
I love knives, all sorts of knives, so I will take my metaphor from the world of knives. In some sense, the swiss knife and not the commando knife is the ultimate survival equipment…