Sunday, May 27, 2012

Preparing for Doomsday

While watching NatGeo's show "Doomsday Preppers", which features Americans who are preparing for various disaster scenarios, I got to thinking of what might be practical or prudent and what seems like a waste of time in prepping for such possibilities.

Most of the people featured on the show are preparing for a specific type of calamity such as martial law, overpopulation, financial system collapse, earthquakes, disease, even solar flares. Most of their strategies rely on hunkering down or finding a place to hide out for months or years. This strategy in general doesn't make a lot of practical sense to me for several reasons.

First of all, if chaos were to come to pass, you'd have to be able to protect your little fortress against mobs, individual insurgents and even government forces; not very likely. Also, if your prep involves some sort of hidden bunker, you'd have to be able to get to said bunker. Even if you do, and you successfully hide away for a few months, what then?

I think a more prudent approach to preparing for the downfall of civilization as we know it would be to quickly put together a new form of civilization or cooperative. The preparation for this is much less time consuming, less expensive and more utilitarian than guessing what calamity might befall mankind and creating an appropriate hole to crawl into.

In the event of chaos, the first order of business would be to get in touch with people you trust, who can help you protect what you have and acquire what you need. You'd have to form some sort of mutual defense pact. But before you can even do that, you'll need a set of terms and conditions; a sort of constitution that you all agree to abide by in exchange for mutual cooperation. They should be short, sweet and to the point. This would not be some 2,000 page document filled with legal jargon, but a list of basic principals upon which everyone could agree; something akin to the Bill of Rights, written in language that everyone can easily understand and that can be applied just as easily to a neighborhood as to a city or an entire nation.

We have a good example of what happens when forethought is not put into a basic set of guiding principals in the "Arab Spring". Egyptians overthrew a dictatorship, but had not reached any consensus on what should follow. They scheduled elections to form a new government without knowing what the new government would look like, what it's powers and limitations would be, what the rights of individual citizens would be. Now they've had their first election and it's down to a choice between a member of the old guard and an  Islamic fundamentalist. This is probably not what the "freedom fighters" had in mind.

If you're truly worried about the collapse of society, try imagining waking up one day without a functioning government. You and some neighbors get together to try to figure out what to do from here. Would it not be helpful if one, two or more of you had already composed a draft of an emergency mutual cooperation agreement? Even if there were significant differences, you'd have a starting point for discussion. Maybe you find common ground. Maybe you agree to form two or more different groups based on different sets of guidelines. Either way, you'd have a leg up on randomly forming mobs or people just wandering around clueless or even folks hiding in an underground bunker somewhere in the middle of Kansas whose only common bond is that they all coughed up the $1 million fee.

So, if you're worried about the possibility of apocalypse in your lifetime and don't know what to do to prepare, perhaps you can gain some peace of mind by composing your own constitution. If you were going to put together a group of a few dozen individuals or families, what would the ground rules be? What would be the purpose of a governing body? What would be its limits? Would you favor private property and free enterprise or a more communal arrangement? These are things you should have straight in your own mind before you agree to be part of a group. What type of group would you want to join? If you were forming a group, what type of folks would you like to join you? You can't put together a group of like-minded individuals if you haven't defined what "like-minded" means.

With a little forethought you can arm yourself with the most powerful tool/weapon ever devised by mankind. The power/ability to freely associate and voluntarily cooperate for mutual benefit.