When I first wrote about the burden of truth and knowledge, I was referring to the weight that we, as preppers, carry on our shoulders as we attempt to make sense of the world around us. Since then, time has marched forward and not much has changed.
There is a sense of uneasiness among the informed masses that take the time to open their eyes and view the truth about our global economy, world hunger, Wall Street corruption, corporate shenanigans and the ever-growing threat of a world wide Armageddon. The question is still asked: What are we preparing for? And the answer, in truth, is “we don’t know exactly”. There is a coming tipping point but its shape and form is a bit vague.
Today on Backdoor Survival, I am pleased to bring back Richard Earl Broom, with another thought-provoking “think piece”. He and I have some thoughts on how to carry this concept forward to the next level but first, grab a cup of coffee and read his timely muse on “Building A Culture of Preparedness”.
BUILDING A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS
Often on the prepper blogs there is a pressing question by contributors, when will we know… this is it? In other words, to borrow from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, when will we recognize that we have finally hit the “tipping point” with an event that could really bring things down?
This is the fundamental question many preppers must ponder at some point. It has no determinate answer, but rather sits in your gut as an uneasy feeling. Is this it? Am I prepared? What do I do now?
My belief is that this moment will be hard to recognize and most likely come from a direction most of us are not looking. I think it will be what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls in his books a “black swan event,” an event that comes as a surprise to us, as something we had not anticipated, and then we rationalize about why we missed it and its significance.
I believe massive catastrophic events (e.g. a nuclear attack, a global pandemic) are the least likely black swan candidates. We are looking in that direction all of the time and doing all we can to prevent them. If they ever occur, we will most certainly know we are “there” right away and act. Rather, I think the most likely black swan, the cause of a tipping point, will be an unexpected collapse caused by a cascading event that starts in an innocuous way and then slowly undoes us. This will be much harder to recognize.
The mathematician Edward Lorenz considered one of the primary theoreticians about a concept called Chaos Theory, demonstrated by his research that small changes, cascading over time in very large and very complex systems, could ultimately result in a much greater effect.
He coined the term, “The Butterfly Effect”. The common example used to explain The Butterfly Effect is the mathematical ability to show how the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings in some remote part of the world could, over time, be the origin of a hurricane.
As we stock and store, as we figure the how and the what of prepping, I feel we must also spend more time thinking through the “what if?” We should not just prepare for what we expect could happen, but also what we don’t expect to happen. We need to learn to be able to look around the next corner while we are still walking down the street.
What could a malware attack on bank’s international information systems and databases potentially, ultimately result in? Think of this in terms of a chain of events:
Initial Event –> Immediate Impact –> Cascading Impacts –> Ultimate Possibility
What if your ATM quits working someday and your credit card won’t process? Not for a day, or two weeks or a month, but longer. The sky will not fall right away, but out of the blue you are suddenly dependent on the cash you have on hand. So will everyone else. What happens when you finally run out of cash? When everyone does? Are you ready to barter? What are your set-aside items for this kind of a potential event? Can you spare them? At the end of the day, where could we all as a society find ourselves?
After Hurricane Sandy long gas lines formed in the areas in New Jersey that still had power and could operate the pumps at their stations. Things were, for the most part, orderly. There were enough working gas stations in the region to support the less fortunate.
However, what if all the electricity in a five hundred mile radius was out due to an unexpected event and you could not get gasoline? Communications would be limited because people would be on battery or generator power. Deciding what to do, or where to go, would be very difficult. It could very quickly become ugly. Few would dispute this.
If you consider our incredibly complex global society with all of its many facets – food chains, financial systems, communications systems, transportation systems, the internet and so on, these make up the structural underpinnings of our civilization. Yet, they are all vulnerable to disruption. I think the black swan will most likely come from the collapse of one of these very complex, but essential processes.
Where does that leave the average prepper who doesn’t sit around during the day thinking about such things as Chaos Theory or the cascading effects of a yet to materialize black swan event? How do you learn to better recognize the “this is it” moment? That moment when others rationalize and dither away about what they are seeing on their TV screens, but you would know right away that now is the time to act quickly, and equally important, know you are ready.
I think we need a kedge. We, as a community, need to start kedging.
A kedge is an old nautical term. It is what sailing ship’s captain’s did when the wind stopped blowing. It was how they kept the ship moving until they caught some wind. The captain sent part of the crew out in a long boat carrying an anchor until they were well in front of the ship. Far enough out, the crew in the long boat dropped the anchor into the water and the crew left on board pulled on the chain and moved the ship forward. They did this until they reached a position where the wind was blowing again.
To do nothing meant they just sat dead in the water hoping for the best, waiting on their fate to be determined by other forces.
There is an identifiable set of asymmetric risks facing us as a society: terrorism, financial crisis, severe climate, pollution, unexpected changes to the food chain and so on. While it is not possible to envision each and every possible, distinct chain of events for these broader risk categories, you can certainly examine common scenarios and likely chains of events in a structured, disciplined way to measure your preparedness against them.
I believe the prepper’s anchor for our ship called “Preparedness” is to toss out into the water, in advance, more thoughtful community discussions about the “what if this happens?” kind of an event based on these potential threats.
Forward-thinking discussions that expand our understanding about what could be the ultimate impacts of a discretionary event are at the very core of any decision about whether we are reaching that “this is it” moment, need to act now and are prepared. Moreover, if we routinely engage in this kind of wide-ranging thinking and structured discussions as a community, we will learn far more from each other than we ever can alone.
How do we do this?
One of the things I did both as a military officer and a business professional was to develop for my colleagues and clients exercises and war games that tested our preparation for an event by examining the soundness of the strategy and tactics we planned to follow. I did this by developing potential scenarios, like the examples above, with a set of questions to challenge our thinking about our preparedness if such an event ever did occur. I then asked the players, how would you respond? If you knew this was going to occur, what would you do now, in advance?
It made them all think more deeply about these potential risks. They debated courses of action and shared ideas. The discussion and debate, the sharing of ideas, was extraordinarily powerful and we usually came to a group consensus about what we would all likely do given a certain set of circumstances. From each other, we discovered the holes in our planning and preparations. More important, if the real event or something similar ever did ever occur, having already discussed this possibility, we generally knew what the consensus for action was and how we would respond as an organization.
For preppers exercises and war games can be done in different ways, during a live gathering of preppers or on a blog using an exercise facilitator with an entire prepper community playing together online. Develop a scenario, ask questions, challenge each other’s thinking, share ideas, and come to a group consensus about the best course of action. But…there is even a larger potential benefit then just this for all of us.
If you have ever watched the TV show, “Mad Men,” on many levels it is both fascinating and a little horrifying. We did act that way. We drank too much, smoked, and ate whatever we pleased. Exercise was that occasional game of tennis or golf. This has all changed for the better. We pay more attention to diet, nutrition, exercise and avoid doing the things we know hurt us. Over time, as a society, we developed a culture of health and fitness. It took us years, but we made the cultural shift. What caused this was that we all raised our level of understanding about causes and effects and the ultimate impacts of poor choices about heath and fitness.
To achieve a similar kind of a societal-wide transition for better preparedness, by fostering the community discussions that I am proposing in this article we could, over time could start to create and begin to build an overall culture of preparedness.
To do this we need to start doing thoughtful kedging with community exercises and war games about the potential risks and threats we face, that we can match our preparedness against. Until we learn how to challenge both our individual and our group thinking and raise the level of understanding as an entire community about all of this, I worry we may have not yet prepared enough.
By: Richard Earl Broome – All Rights Reserved.
About the Author: Richard Earl Broome has lived an extraordinary life rising from an Army private to an Army colonel who served on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States as a member of the National Security Council staff. This was followed by a successful business career as a disaster recovery/business continuity expert. He now lives in a small community in Montana and is on the faculty at Montana State University.
THE NEXT STEP
One of my greatest concerns is that when the stuff hits the fan and we reach the tipping point, all of our sacred preps and lessons in self-sufficiency will be meaningless within the context of a less informed and less prepared society. Those of us living away from urban centers – whether in small homes like mine or on substantial acreage – will fare better, at least for the short term.
But what will happen after that? What will happen when the tentacles of a massive EMP or the fingers of global pandemic reaches our own backyard? In my view, all of the reading, learning, and prepping we have done will not be worth a darn without the dimension and yes, intelligence, of human dialogue and strategic action.
The question is: how do we do that? Is it even possible to mobilize the like-minded and formulate a solution in advance of the tipping event?
THE FINAL WORD
Two years ago I said:
Many of us find that our shoulders are not strong enough to carry this burden alone. And yet we attempt to do so in the very best way we can. We stock up on food, we learn survival and coping skills and we become accustomed to living with less not because we have to but because we may be forced to one month, one year, or even ten years from now. It can be a lonely journey.
How lovely it would be get up each morning, put on a happy face and go about the day. With a few extra dollars in our wallet, perhaps we would purchase some new shoes or go spend $100 on a night out on the town. An emergency fund? What is that? Pay off credit card debt? What for? Just keep on smiling, keep on having a good time and assume that if something bad happens, the government or those crazy preppers will take care of us.
And so, if you are like me, you do your best to carry on in spite of it all. Some days are better than others.
In this short span of time, I have come to realize that this burden of truth and knowledge has, if anything, become heavier with each passing day. In the spirit of optimism, I hope that together we will find a way to share this burden, and become all of the stronger for it.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Here are some items for you’re your grid-down bucket list.
Leaving The Trees: Richard’s book is a fictional account of the meltdown of global society, as we know it. It has at its root cause a malevolent Chinese cyber attack on global financial networks and systems – an attack so bad that everything to spins out of control. This is the first in a series with the second book coming out soon.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference: The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. In this book, Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon.
One Second After: For many, the novel “One Second After” was a game changer that convinced them of the need to be prepared. I did not realize until now that the price for the Kindle version was only $2.99. If you have not read this book, you really should.
Coleman Mini Lantern: You already know that I have a think about flashlights but this is a slightly different take on portable lighting. It is 7.5 inches tall lantern and weighs just seven ounces, including batteries. And boy does it give off light. Inexpensive (less than $10) plus, it is a genuine Coleman.
Coleman PefectFlow 1-Burner Stove: This Coleman One-burner Propane Stove is an easy-to-use portable stove that should meet almost any camp cooking need. The PerfectFlow regulator provides consistent cooking performance by producing a steady fuel stream, even in cold weather, high altitudes, or when fuel is low. Equipped with one 10,000 BTU burner, this fully adjustable stove will last for 2.2 hours on high or up to nine hours on low.
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