Editors Note: The following guest article has been generously contributed by Matt Sevald.
Reading the article “Bartering With Your Soul” by Pat Henry really struck a nerve and got the gears turning for me the other night. I believe it is an inspired gift for Pat’s writing to have such an effect – in fact, his easy-to-understand beginner’s guide and level-headed approaches actually broke the camel’s back for me and got me acting on Prepping instead of just reading about it and feeling discontented with the way I believe the world is headed. I appreciate that about The Prepper Journal because there are plenty of other places to get a dose of anti-government fear mongering and “rednecks with guns” stereotypes on the internet. I think the best advice Pat doles out for those willing to listen is to diversify your plans regarding the threats or dangers for which you prepare, a take on the old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. This seems like common sense (to have a general form of preparedness rather than to bet the farm on one specific scenario) but even the best of us sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees.
The Bartering article reinforced that for me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Pat rightly put forth the hypothesis things may not even begin to resemble for quite a while the economic systems of Little House on the Prairie. Not only that, but even a modern day black market-style scene might not even be feasible as people distrust one another and either have nothing to trade or don’t want what you’re willing to give. Maybe they’ll rob you, or murder and rob you, or murder and rob you and steal your wife or daughters. Or maybe no one will have any gas left and will have to carry everything on foot since there isn’t an abundance of Conestoga wagons and draft horses. Maybe the bazaar we are relying on in our plans can’t be a reality until a great deal of time filled with work passes. But isn’t this the fairy tale we’ve all envisioned for our dystopian future selves as we brush off the rubble and blaze a new path to a better civilization?
Prepping is More Than Just Gathering Items, it is Thinking Ahead
Time and again it’s been said preps are only going to be useful for the emergency at hand. If a hurricane knocks the power out for a couple days, odds are all the guns and ammo may not be necessary, though urban areas tend to devolve into rioting and looting much sooner than other areas. Odds are, though, you won’t need 6 months’ worth of food. Likewise, if a blizzard closes the streets, fifty cases of toilet paper won’t be needed either. However, these things are good to have because of the “what if?” factor. Pat likes to use the EMP catalyst, so I’ll go with that because it is actually what spurred my idea for this article on in the first place.
Imagine waking up one morning and nothing electronic works. It is revealed that some terrorist group has caused a coordinated EMP attack knocking out electronic infrastructure across large swathes of urban centers across the country, most notably the eastern and western seaboards. The Government is still in control, but reeling with having to do things like they did after WWII. Some military and essential Federal sites were hardened, but the vast array of civilian communication system cores are shot, leaving hundreds of millions of people without basic utility services or ways to exchange information. Our financial machine – and the economy it powers – comes to a violent halt.
In this scenario, Uncle Sam still holds the reins. The Feds are a bit slower in reacting but our Government is extant. The longer this goes on the more stress Government will feel as it deals with ensuring defensive measures are still in place, with getting food, water, and emergency aid shipments going, with re-establishing the grid, and with handling the riots that are sure to come as people go hungry, but America is a land of hard-working, intelligent people who will be able to right the floundering ship after a time. America, perhaps changed, will still be around.
If we’re honest, do we really imagine that the Federal Government would allow itself to cave in because of such a scenario? Not only is it the Government’s job to persevere during catastrophe, but it is filled with very powerful, very rich, and very influential men and corporations who like living high on the hog. They don’t want their livelihoods interrupted and they’ll fight tooth and nail to remain king of the hill. They would react very intelligently, if heavy handedly at times, to control the chaos and ensure that they remained safely elite. What’s more, I believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans would let them do it, too, so long as the lights came back on, we didn’t have to crap in the woods, and Netflix continued to stream “The Bachelor”. Not really a lot of breathing room for the bartering economy to gain hold on a long-term, wide scale level, is there?
But That’s Just One Scenario
In all likelihood, no terrorist group is going to wipe out the grid in multiple cities. Even nation-wide coordinated infiltrations and assaults like the Tet Offensive in the Vietnamese homeland, being supported by Communist China and the USSR, didn’t have the ability to do the kind of damage we are talking about for this TEOTWAWKI scenario. Furthermore, this attack would be on our homeland, and American patriotism might galvanize us against any rioting. We’d probably be driving our personal vehicles to the affected areas with baskets of homemade bread and bottles of water to alleviate the suffering of our fellow countrymen. Our military would annihilate any sort of rag-tag group of terrorists within a week, no matter how organized and funded they were, and that’s if gun-toting American citizens didn’t form posses first. Those two oceans separating us from the rest of the world are one of the greatest blessings America has ever had.
So how do we get massive, high-altitude EMP strikes on a great number of our cities and electronic infrastructure? It is my opinion that the only group capable of doing that is a modern nation-state armed with nuclear weapons. We’re talking a planned act of war. It’s not just some group trying to cause havoc; it’s a dedicated, trained, supplied enemy who wants to take us out. Not only are they launching ICBM’s at us to take out our electronic infrastructure, but the only logical next step is to send invasion forces across the oceans which have long protected us so that they can conquer that which they rendered ineffective before we fix it and retaliate with ground strikes.
Let’s argue that China’s in need of more lebensraum as Hitler put it, and they decide they want to wake the sleeping giant in his cave. During the fighting you can bet there’s going to be martial law and a whole heck of a lot of controls on local economics. There will be black markets but the Government will still be in place, so we haven’t reached a collapse yet. If America wins the fight, then we go back to the first scenario where Patriotism is strong and we deal with harsh laws as we rebuild just so long as life gets back to what we think is normal. But if America loses that fight we’re going to be occupied by a foreign army wanting our resources, our land, and our homes for its own use and people. It will be like the newer version of the movie Red Dawn where Americans are put on lock-down to collaborate with the occupiers until the immigrant waves are shipped in to replace us. We’re not going to go live in communes trading with each other because the occupying army will hunt us down and kill us or imprison us. Our freedom would threaten their very way of life. History teaches us that marauders go where the land and the wealth are. If the US Government doesn’t exist to protect us, someone will be moving in, with force, to take advantage of the power vacuum, and doing so with 21st century technology. This doesn’t bode well for our hypothetical bartering community.
Dissecting the Dream
Why then do Preppers envision a future where we are going to be living like we’re in the 1800’s on our homesteads? I believe it is because deep down that’s what we really want, so we plan in case our dreams come true. By not rationally thinking about realistic outcomes, we allow our denial to fuel our escapism. I for one am very disillusioned with the economy. I’m 31 years old with a family, we own a house and two cars, our children attend Christian private school, and my wife and I work nearly a combined 100+ hours a week to pay for it all, not counting all the time spent doing extracurricular activities with the kids and my 30 hours a week in nursing school. We bust our humps and spend most of all the paper money on bills and garbage that society tells us we need. We are blessed, and our bills are not ridiculous, but our income is low enough that we struggle paycheck to paycheck.
I long for a simpler life. I envision that life being on a 40 acre homestead with some woods and a stream or a pond, a milk cow, a couple bacon pigs, some chickens for eggs, some meat rabbits, and some sheep for wool so I can make clothing. I can see myself growing my own vegetables and legumes with a well and solar power. I’m ignorant, but not totally unaware, of just really how much work that will take, but my lot in life right now moves me to say I’d rather spend 16 hours a day to reap the benefits of my labor for myself and my family doing something for what I feel are the right reasons, rather than slaving away at a city job under fluorescent lighting for fiat currency fueling materialism. And don’t get me started on government regulation. Perhaps some Preppers are in the same boat.
Continue prepping, continue planning. These are intelligent things to do. But make sure to analyze your own biases every so often to make sure you haven’t started down a dead-end street.