Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Survival -List

A few years ago, friends of family or family of friends (names, locations etc. withheld) attempted to recruit me for their survivalist cell. On paper, I'm a pretty good candidate- military combat medic; some experience growing and killing food for myself and my family, some formal training in herbal medicine; tracking; survival training; tactical team leader. Most importantly, I've done it before.
That was also the problem: I've done it before.
Some of you won't remember, but in the seventies the world was supposed to end any second. We needed to stop all pollution because the emissions (now called greenhouse gasses) were bringing on an Ice Age. The same math which today shows that there must be alien life was used to prove that nuclear war was mathematically inevitable by 1995.  There was absolutely no chance that there would be any oil left by 2000 and unless we could achieve ZPG (Zero Population Growth) immediately, mass famine would destroy civilization.  All of that without even bringing into the equation the inevitable economic collapse promised by euro-dollars and the lack of any standard (gold or silver) for currency.  Oh, and "stagflation" with both unemployment and inflation in double digits.
My parents bought into this and I was raised on eighty acres in the desert with a creek.  Seven miles to the nearest town, forty to the nearest town with more than 500 people.  Graduating class of six.  We were very nearly self-sufficient for food, water and shelter.
So being raised from the time you are small being told the world was going to end and seeing it not happen on a daily basis makes me a little skeptical of survivalism as a philosophy.  Reading enough history to know how commonly people chose to believe the end was at hand over the centuries just added to the skepticism.
I like survivalists.  I have more in common with them than I do with whiny, needy people.  I will always think of J.J. Rowlands (read "Cache Lake Country" if you ever get a chance) as the real naturalist and Thoreau as the whiny, rich kid poseur.  And besides, if things ever get really bad, we will need people who kept the old skills alive.  When a hurricane or a flood hits there should be one person on each block who kept their first aid training current and stockpiled some food and medical supplies.
Being actively recruited got me thinking about what if's, and one late night with some friends and some beer we started The List of all the people that would show up at our door if there were a major disaster. (I may not be a survivalist, but habits die hard and we're pretty well set up.)
The List had names and what each person would bring to the table.  Medical skills. Gardening. Pilot. Carpenter. Electrician. Some just said simply, "Hard worker" or "loyal".
A few were labeled WLBS.
"What does that mean?" M asked, poking at the sheet.
"Worthless Lazy..." I started
"They have no value? We'd turn them away?"
"Ummm, no.  The 's' stands for sausage.  Everyone has value."
We all contribute in our own way.


Anonymous said...


Mark Jones said...

I hope I rank at least slightly above WLBS on the list!

I've come to the conclusion that a lot of people buy into end of the world scenarios because they simply can't wrap their heads around the idea that someday the world will go spinning merrily on without them. They can't deal with the idea that their society, their nation, the world, will soldier on even when they're as long dead and anonymous as J. Random Ancient Roman. So any world that would survive them would have to be some post-apocalyptic nightmare that no one would want to endure anyhow.

Kai Jones said...

Heh. Don't you think getting to your house after the zombie apocalypse shows some worthy survival skills?

I could do it with what's in my bugout bag at work.

Anonymous said...

In your growing-up situation, was that kind of end-of-the-world scenario always hanging over your head?

Just curious because, to my understanding, there is a difference between "survivalism," which is more of a reactionary movement, and primitivism, which is more of a moving towards a primitive way of life for whatever reasons (health, ideology, etc.), and not really tied to deadlines or prophecies. Some overlap, but distinct differences. Wondered if you had any experience with the latter.

Patrick Parker said...

zombie apocalypse indeed! Rory, I really enjoy this blog and I can't wait to get my copy of your book. I have featured your blog on my February 2008 Promote Three blog post:

Keep it up!

BTW, what kind of spice would you put into a zombie butt sausage?

Kai Jones said...

Patrick: I think the obvious answer here, on so many levels, is jerk spice.


Rory said...

David- yeah. I never got very good at knapping obsidian, but I can make cordage, tan hides, build shelters and boil soup in deer stomachs. The differences and similarities (between survivalism and neo-primitivism) are something to think about and possibly write about. The thing about doing it and depending on the skills is that it de-romanticizes it very quickly. Really living off the land, especially if you are fending for others, is hard work and often cold and it itches.

Patrick- I'm flattered. Thanks for saying nice things. I was thinking fennel, carroway, pepper (lots) paprika, garlic (lots)... and then Kai gave the perfect answer.

Kai, Mark, Ted.- You'd all be welcome at Rancho Pockylips.

Anonymous said...

"Really living off the land, especially if you are fending for others, is hard work and often cold and it itches."

Yeah, I sampled it a few years back and came out rather scathed.

It's interesting to encounter people who fall in love with the philosophy but don't have the experience, and then on the other hand to encounter people who've had the experience and leave it behind. Attempts to live closer to nature (for whatever reason) get a lot more grey than they would seem from afar.

Drew Rinella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drew Rinella said...

Okay, sure you might keep me around for sausage, but I'm going to spend every last minute of life I have smoking pall malls and eating mergansers. I'll be the nastiest tasting sausage you ever ground!!!!!