Thursday, January 12, 2012

How To Survive The End Of the World As We Know It (James Rawles)

I saw this sitting on a center stand at the library, and thought it might be interesting. Rawles is a survivalist expert, former U.S. Army Intelligence officer, founder/editor of, and a preparedness consultant for some very wealthy clients. That alone told me that this book was no joke. Rawles does lean towards the stereotype of a cultish doomsday prophet, but he seriously knows his stuff, and if you can avoid being sucked down the eddy of fear-mongering and what sometimes feels like an apocalypse- obsession, you might actually learn a thing or two about how to take care of your family during an electrical ‘grid-down’, economic depression, oil/gas shortage, or some other disaster scenario.

Rawles begins the book with a description of possible dystopian vignettes that I found to be very persuasive. He refers to the ‘thin veneer of civilization’ which, when peeled back, will reveal desperate hordes of people, reduced to animal instinct, who would be ready to do whatever it takes to survive and provide for their families. What would you do to feed your starving child? What would you do not to live with your neighborhood’s sewage pouring into your home? What would you do to make sure your family doesn’t freeze in the night, or die a long and agonizing death at the ravages of some simple virus that a small dose of antibiotics would cure? That’s enough to scare many people into barbaric acts and a lifestyle unconscionable in scope (not to mention acts quite possibly unconscious in intent since the only way to perpetuate some crimes is to repress them as far as possible from consciousness and debilitating guilt). For real examples in America, read some stories from the Katrina/New Orleans disaster. It seems clear to me: if a grid-down occurs for a long enough period of time, we are all pretty much S.O.L. without a good plan.

Now, let this be said, this book is close to an exhaustive list of considerations for the survivalist, and by no means can be followed assiduously except by the very wealthy, very retired, and I would add, very obsessive personalities. Swallowed whole, which is not necessarily how the author intended this book to be read, it is utterly impractical and unrealistic for moderate-income households and relatively busy lives. The value-restructuring that would be necessary to prepare fully as the author advises, even in his ‘Plan B’ recommendations, would implode family/relationship time and any sort of a positive outlook on life. We’re talking about stockpiling 20 years of vitamin fortified, diet-balanced food in underground vaults, camouflaged campers, behind rows of books in the home, buried in decoy packing boxes in the basement, hidden inside a gutted couch—and meticulously rotating out that food when its shelf life is exhausted. That’s just the beginning: chainsaw with all safety gear, earth-tone wardrobe, all forms of fuel, several vehicles, a small arsenal, home alarms, lighting, filtering and safe rooms/vaults. There’s even directions on how to dispose of dead bodies (gloves/goggles/apron, double wrap the body in garbage bags, and…bury in the backyard AWAY from the water). You’d seriously have to lead a double-life (double-boring!!) to make this all work.

My point is—this shouldn’t be used as survivalist manual as much as a guide. You simply can’t start reading this thinking that you can do it all— not only is it impossible for most people, but it would also be a mind-blowing waste of life…even if ‘grid-down’ comes sooner than expected. The emotional/relational/ temporal capital required to stage a ‘back-up life’ would quickly drain a person’s recourses, health and present happiness. No sense in wasting good times in order to survive the bad times. A bit of good planning and prudent choices would be enough to save this book from hysteria, but anything more than that might turn you into a troll.

I was, however, convinced of a few needs. 1) A handgun. If things get bad, I believe the risk of looting and assault will increase as a very real possibility. I think it is imperative that every home have some means of defense that is enough to stop a big body cold in its tracks, be it beast or man. Theoretically, and philosophically, I can shoot and not feel bad. I could even wish an attacker well in the next life, but I believe in a sturdy defense in this life for myself and my family. 2) Water sourcing skills and water filter. 3) First aid kit with antibiotics. 4) Tool kit with bolt-cutters and duct tape. 5) Salt lick to draw animals. Experts say it’s absurdly-easy hunting.

Even while Rawles doles out end-of-the-world exhortations, he interestingly enough includes charity clauses, and even ends his book with an altruistic reminder to “give charitably”. He believes in ‘covenant community’ as a synergistic survival tactic—more specifically multi-family co-ops, as a small community coalition is more sustainable at the outset. Beyond even a utilitarian view of generosity, he believes in sharing as a means to maintaining spiritual health and ultimately beefing up one’s credit with God. His credence in eternal rewards and the virtue of love is almost enough, in my mind, to make me think more kindly on his habit of swinging manically on the cord of the village bell screeching “We’re all gonna die!” There might also be a mini savior-complex going on here; but if things go to hell, I for one wouldn’t be afraid to ask him for help. And who knows, I might even bow to him if he asked nicely. We’ll see. I’ll play it by ear.

One of the best pieces of information I gathered was on the subject of emergency preparedness on a tight budget. Check out the link on

Population density maps for ideal retreats:

No comments:

Post a Comment