Sunday, January 13, 2013

Daily Briefing For Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Chapter From My Next Book
I keep a folder on my computer desk top with musings on a variety of subjects.  I keep telling myself I will write another book someday, but the reality is that "someday" ain't any time soon. 
Back in late 2011 and early 2012 when I experimented with a newsletter format, I wrote more in depth pieces about preparedness.  And I don't mean just the how-to stuff.  I wanted to get beyond that and branch into analysis of news and trends.  I don't think I was very successful.  No one came to me and said "Based on your newsletter, I've completely bought into what you're saying." I found it somewhat cathartic nonetheless, using the newsletter as justification to spend more time researching and analyzing what was happening around us.
One of my high school English teachers, Ron Smith, had us journal once a week about whatever subject fancied us.  Up to that point, I'd never sat down and committed my thoughts to writing on a regular basis.  I found that experience helpful; in a sense, blogging is the new journaling.  And because I travel a lot, I often sit with my laptop on a plane or in a hotel room and "journal" as we called it back then. Much of the end product is useless, yet every now and then I come up with interesting observations.     

One day, flying home from a business meeting, I wrote out the high points for a chapter I simply entitled "On Citizenship."  To date, it's been one of my more favorite writing efforts. 
I'd like to share it with you below.  Before you read it, ask yourself: am I preparing so I can be part of the solution after an emergency, or am I preparing just so that I'm not part of the problem?  I would suggest to you that good preparedness isn't about guns or water or storable foods or canning or victory gardens.  Good preparedness is good citizenship.  And good citizens look for ways to help, even in times of crisis.

While none of this is novel to most of you, it may be food for thought for many in the preparedness community.  Many in this community - the "I've got mine so screw everyone else crowd" - have grown rather self centered, but not because they are selfish.  I suspect this happens to most of them because they've been chided or ridiculed by society so often for expressing a desire to be more self sufficient. This results in a desire to emotionally retreat from our civic duties and instead focus on one's self. 

I totally get that mindset.  I've been guilty of it myself.  But as we ponder the deeper reasoning behind our efforts, we should all take a mental inventory and ask ourselves: to what extent to we plan on helping others in a crisis?

My thoughts on citizenship and preparedness are below.  What are yours? 
1.  You, and you alone, are responsible for your safety, well-being and happiness.  It’s not the government’s job, church’s job, nor your family’s job to provide for an adult’s well-being.  You are ultimately responsible for your situation.  We are all born with some sort of gifts as well as limitations.  What we do with them is up to us.  The attitude we choose to have towards life is just that – our choice.  Those whose preparedness plan is nothing more than following the instructions of government officers and depending on it for food, water and shelter will be sorely disappointed in the quality of their lives post disaster.  Just ask those in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
2.  Followers are a dime a dozen.  We need leaders.  People associate being a leader with holding some sort of elected office in government, the local PTA or HOA board.  We can all be leaders without ever holding office.  Leaders are the ones who demonstrate good citizenship, a willingness to work hard to help the community, exhibit wise thinking and knowledge, and inspire others to do the same.  Don’t be afraid to do these things.  We have plenty of couch sitters and ass scratchers in society.  We need more people out doing – leading a scout troop, teaching a Sunday School class, or even picking up litter on the side of the road.  Our movement is short of leaders offering solutions other than buying some land out in the middle of nowhere and becoming a homesteader (again, I am not being critical of those who do this; I just don’t think it’s realistic in our society for large numbers of people to do so.)  If you want to see more people being self-reliant, lead your own effort to make it happen and to encourage others to do so.
3.  Help others, even when it’s sometimes inconvenient to do so.  Be charitable.  Tithe.  Offer to help your friends when they need something.  Help them when they move into a new home or need a ride to the airport.  Have them over for dinner.  When you help others, you demonstrate you are concerned with their well-being.  This makes you more effective when you encourage them to prepare.

4.  Build relationships.  Write notes to people to let them know you’re thinking about them.  Reach out to those who are ill.  Take an interest in their kids.  People listen to whom they trust and value.  By building relationships, we put ourselves in a position to effectively encourage people to be more prepared for emergencies. 
5.  For those who have done a lot for you, do a lot for them.  Some people are givers by nature.  If someone has done a lot to help you or your kids, do the same for them to the extent you can.  Don’t be a taker.  Acknowledge their contributions to you by going the extra mile for them.  Effective preparedness in the suburban environment requires a sense of community.  The givers are the people you want on your team.


6.  When you commit to doing something, see it through.  Your friends and neighbors need to know that when (your name here) says they will do something, you can take it to the bank.  If you say you’ll man the grill for the neighborhood barbecue, by all means show up and do it.  When you say you’ll provide beverages and snacks for the school’s fundraiser, do it.  The world is full of people who agree to do things and flake out.  Don’t be a flake.  You are a survivalist. Survivalists are not flakes.
7.  Never stop seeking the truth.  A big chunk of what you think you know is wrong.  Information and innovation changes the way we think about and do things.  Never be satisfied that you know enough about the economy, politics, or God.  Never assume all of your opinions are correct.  Have enough character to be willing to re-examine what you know to ensure you are on the right track.  In a grid down situation, you will need every ounce of your analytical abilities and knowledge.  Don’t shortchange yourself by failing to grow mentally.

8.  Never stop self improvement.  Work incessantly on physical fitness, spiritual development, your physical appearance and health, your attitude towards life and others.  Operating under emergency conditions will require you to function at peak performance in every aspect of your life.  Condition yourself now for that contingency.
9.  Be in the know.  Know what the weather forecast is.  Know what’s happening in the financial markets.  Know what political issues are front and center at all levels of government.  You may get precious little warning before an emergency.  Not being a total dumb ass as to what’s going on around you will help you prepare.
10.  Toughen up.  Being prepared for an emergency requires a tremendous amount of mental, physical and emotional toughness.  It’s not the time to be weak.  Learn to do difficult things without complaining.  Things are not nearly as bad as you often think they are.  Nor are they as bad as they could be.

11. Get a gun and know how to use it safely and effectively.  When seconds count, the cops are minutes away.  The gun is one of the greatest life safety tools ever invented.  It can give an 80 year old woman a fighting chance against a 25 year old thug.  If you fear guns, it only means you need to learn how they work.  Seek out a good instructor who can help you learn.  Effective and safe gun ownership isn’t hard to learn, but it does take a commitment to do so.
12.  Be able to provide for your family’s needs in a grid down environment for at least 90 days.  Originally when I wrote this, I felt you should be able to provide for your family for an entire year.  However, I’m a realist – most people will do well to be self-sufficient for 90 days.  If you can manage on your own for three months, you can weather all but the most catastrophic emergencies. 
13. Be happy in your own skin.  So many today live through the lives of others, enabled by the growth of reality television.  If you’re constantly improving yourself, you are making the best with what you have.  Be happy with that.  Don’t fret over what you don’t have.  It won’t do any good.  It will also condition you to not fixate on what you’re lacking during a protracted emergency
14. Get in shape.  Most of us are overweight and in poor condition.  I know this from seeing the waistlines of many of us walking around in public.  I also see it when I look at the guy in the mirror.  Getting in shape costs little and is one of the most effective preparations you can make for a crisis. 
15. Be a good steward of what you have.  This includes not only your finances but also your home, your body, your tools, and the environment.  Make the stuff you own last.  Ensure that what you have is reliable and in good working order.  The power outage affecting your neighborhood is not the time to realize your generator isn’t working due to neglect.  Eat healthy.  Get regular check ups. 
16. Read good books. Reading fiction from time to time can be stimulating, but books on such subjects as politics, the economy, history, spiritual matters, psychology and how to do things are far better for you. 
17. Learn new skills that would be beneficial in a crisis.  Welding, first aid, solar electricity, gardening, wood working, making repairs around the house, fire fighting, ham radio, and preparing food in a grid down environment would all be helpful skills to have.  If you can do some of these things well, your help will be in high demand in an extended crisis.
18. Be a model citizen.  Vote.  Be courteous in public. Don’t be a jerk.  Don’t litter.  Don’t do anything you don’t want caught on surveillance camera and shown on the local news.  Respect the rights of others, even if you don’t agree with their cause.  Look for ways to help people.  Your 30 seconds of assistance to someone may help them in some fashion that’s worth far more than 30 seconds of your time. 
19. Share your knowledge with others and encourage them to prepare.  There are countless ways to do this.  My wife and I once had our supper club group over with a disaster food preparation theme – we demonstrated a variety of storable foods and alternative cooking methods to our friends.  Forward articles to them on various threats we face and ask “what’s your take on this?  Do you think this is something we should be prepared for?”  Let them know that while you’ll do you what you can to help them during an emergency, you won’t be able to provide for all of their needs in a crisis.  They will need to be prepared to take care of themselves.
20. Never stop instilling positive thoughts and ideas into your kids.  This may not seem like something a survivalist would concern themselves with.  You need to do so.  Your kids need to understand they are special, strong, and capable of handling any challenge thrown at them.  Note I am not saying you should coddle your kids, turning them into mush.  They need to understand hard work and failure.  They also need to understand that you love them regardless and that you think they can thrive during life’s challenges.  Set a good example for them.  When you make a mistake, own up to it.  They need examples of how to handle failure and mistakes, too.


21. Never forget the sacrifices of those before you.  A tremendous number of Americans have given their lives so that we could be free.  A tremendous amount of our ancestors have worked hard and lived earnestly in order to put you and me into a better position than they were in.  For example, my parents were rather poor when my father was in dental school.  My mom made his lunch for him every day, and to save money, she packed his sandwich in an old bread wrapper she re-used every day for that purpose.  Years later, when I heard that story, I began packing my own lunch time sandwich in an old bread wrapper, as a daily reminder to me to be thankful and appreciative of the sacrifices my parents made to give me the opportunities I have today.

22. Confront evil with extreme prejudice.  Note I did not say “confront evil with extreme violence.”  We must confront evil in order to eradicate it.  Confronting it with extreme prejudice means dealing with evil in a purposeful manner.  Bring it to people’s attention.  Demand it be stopped.  Take action to the extent you legally and morally can to end it.


23. Find what motivates you and use that to your advantage.  We are all motivated to prepare for different reasons.  Some of us relish the opportunity to challenge ourselves in a grid down environment.  Others are motivated to prepare to protect their families.  Many prepare because they want to help others in the community.  A few prepare out of a general sense of bad ass-ness.  Find what motivates you – even if its fear of a zombie apocalypse – and use that as your motivation to push your preparedness efforts.


24. Avoid violence, but be prepared to protect you and your family from imminent serious bodily injury. Colonel Jeff Cooper famously wrote “we are not conditioned to kill another person.”  Taking another life, even in defense of our own, is an unnatural act.  It requires a mindset to do so in order to protect you and your family.  When the time comes you need to be capable to what is necessary to preserve you and your family’s lives.


25. Show no favoritism towards the poor nor disdain towards the wealthy.  Consider Leviticus 19:15: "Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly."  Class warfare has permeated our political debate.  It’s unbiblical to favor one group over another based solely on their financial status.  If you’re guilty of this, stop it.  In a full blown crisis, the poor person who has handy-man skills becomes rich.  The wealthy person you detest could have resources you may need to survive.  These two individuals may need each other in that situation. 

26. Pay attention to your surroundings. Where is the nearest exit? Can you describe the suspicious person you see at the neighborhood?  What is the license plate number of their vehicle?  Does that mom with two little kids at the grocery store need your assistance?  Survivalists are attentive to the world around them. 

27.You can take a small flashlight, a pocket knife, and a cell phone almost anywhere in America.  Learn new ways to use these items effectively in an emergency.  Never leave the house without them.

28. Make an every day carry (EDC) kit.  Have it nearby wherever you are.  Most of us will never have to fight our way out of a crazed gunman at the mall or live through a protracted economic collapse.  The odds are much higher that you will have to bandage up a neighborhood kid or make a quick repair of a pair of eyeglasses at work.  Survivalists prepare themselves to handle large and small emergencies.


29. Choose your close friends well. Earlier I mentioned the need to build relationships with a variety of people; that suggestion still stands.  When it comes to choosing your close friends, choose well.  Choose people who value good citizenship like you do.  They don’t have to be survivalists, but they do need to share your core values.  They need to be people who are givers like you, not takers.  They need to be solid, reliable, stand-up kind of people.  As my friends back home in Tennessee used to say, “true friends are the kind that show up when you ask them to meet you somewhere with a shovel and not ask any questions.”  Don’t look for people your own age, profession, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or race.  Things like that don’t matter when the flag goes up.  You need to know they pack the gear – mentally, physically, and emotionally – to help out in times of trouble.


30. Know what you will do in the event of a fire, severe weather event, emergency medical event, or threat of violence.  Learn how to do CPR and use a fire extinguisher.  Get a weather radio and use it.  Think about what you’d do if there were an act of violence in the various places you visit daily.


32. When you travel, have a set of emergency supplies that stay in your suitcase.  Some emergency foods, a small AM/FM radio, some first aid items, a few extra batteries for your flashlight and radio can come in very handy during an emergency when on the road.

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