A New Breed of Survivalists

by Catherine Haug with Sally Janover

Old Homestead Root CellarThe May 26 edition of the Daily Inter Lake featured a cover story by Gillian Flaccus of the Associated Press, “Crisis spurs spike in ‘suburban survivalists’.”

The article notes that typically-suburban people are now stocking up on food and necessities in the wake of our current economic crisis. Flaccus states:

“Emergency supply retailers and military surplus stores nationwide have seen business boom in the past few months as an increasing number of Americans spooked by the economy rush to stock up on gear that was once the domain of hard-core survivalists. …

For … a fire protection contractor, that’s meant spending roughly $20,000 since September on survival gear — and trying to persuade others to do the same.”

Yes, you read that right. In a time when people are losing their jobs and tightening their spending belts, this man spent in 6 months, about what most Bigfork residents earn in a year, on survival gear.

This spooked Sally, who commented,

“After reading about all the stuff the Urban Survivalists have bought in anticipation of the collapse (totaling $20,000), I can easily imagine I’d be one of the first to perish when things really get rough.  There’s no way I could buy any of those “necessary” things. I know there are many more people like me here in the Flathead who lack that kind of money. Some will have tools and guns and more nature survival skills than I. They’ll have a better time of it for a while. I’d be on my own, doing my own personal collapse, in a big, fat hurry. 

She’s right; there are plenty people here in Bigfork who are also stocking up: on guns, ammunition, commodities such as rice and beans, dehydrated foods, medical supplies, water purification gear, emergency lighting, and so on. And many of these people come to our gatherings, to learn how to survive on basics, after the grocery shelves have been emptied, and brown-outs are commonplace.

Catherine notes:

“I have certainly made some changes at my house, but not necessarily with survival in mind. For me, it’s more a desire to live and eat in a more healthful, traditional way, not because I’m afraid of the future. I bought a grain mill and am buying grains I can sprout, dry and then grind into flour. I’ve started a veggie garden, and fixed up my root cellar so I can keep my own harvest through most of the winter. I buy 80% of my needs from local producers, including a CSA, raw milk cow share, buffalo and other meats, and eggs.

And yet, I know that if times do get much tougher, as a single woman, I’d be an easy target for those who are scared and starving. While this does concern me, I’m a pacifist and  do not plan to arm myself for defense. I’d rely on my compassion and caring for my neighbors, and the community we are building, to help me.”

Sally agrees,

“Those without are the ones who will plunder those who have, out of sheer desperation. Why should that happen? This kind of inequity is part of the old system – of the attitude, ‘I’ve got it and you don’t. Tough luck.’ That’s why I think community development should be top on everyone’s list. By community, I mean the old fashioned pioneer type where people looked out for one another, collectively working for the common good.  Like the Amish still do.” 

Yes, for us, community is essential.  Not just showing up on Elf Day to decorate the village for the holidays, or lining up for goodies during Tamarack Days.  These are important, but we need to work at community 365 days in the year.

In the last 75 years since the Great Depression, American society has become increasingly self-centered.  Never wanting to endure that level of want again, we have learned to be independent and self-sufficient. But this kind of independence cannot protect us from another economic collapse; indeed, it will likely make us more susceptible because we do not want to ask for help, nor to accept it when offered. We want to do for ourselves. We’ve forgotten how to be interdependent and rely on each other.  Trust each other.

We must remember that those who survived the depression did so precisely because they had community.  So if you’re one of those who is stocking-up your own little fortress, don’t forget your neighbor, and remain open to the community around you.

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