Saturday, June 29, 2013

Survivalism

First contact: good

The very first time I encountered the notion of "survivalism" was probably when watching Ray Mears' Extreme Survival (RMES) on Discovery Channel. It was closely related to bushcraft and had something to do with being able to maintain yourself healthy enough until you could bring yourself from "stranded" back to civilization. RMES was also keen on presenting the know-how not as mere military techniques but as natural lore, most of which has been lost as civilizations transitioned from one lifestyle to the next, benefiting from new technological or social changes.

Second contact: bad

Then the show ended, or I moved to some place where Discovery Channel wasn't available, and I forgot about it. And then I encountered survivalism as a negative thing: the word carried the stigma of groups of people who are eccentric at best, more likely nationalist and reactionary, and at worst... well... maybe "revolutionary" in a literal sense. There are people who feel strongly that governments are out to get them, take away their guns, their freedom, etc. And there are people who have a strong feeling that disaster will strike any time soon, be it a lethal pandemics, war, nuclear meltdown or nuclear winter, etc. These people are probably the most loony but also the most representative of what survivalism is about. Such people have gained public attention through the TV show "Doomsday preppers" and are generally referred to as Preppers. They will store years of food in their attic, stock up on guns and ammo and rehearse emergency gestures, install video cameras, etc. They are certainly crazy. I mean pathologically crazy with their behavior described somewhere in the DSM 5. But their dedication to being prepared makes them highly skilled and knowledgeable in domains like food gathering and preservation, plant lore, first aid, etc. An example that doesn't cease to amaze me: they can (and do) keep chicken eggs healthily edible for 9 months and possibly a little more.

Third contact: maturity

Then I discovered the Youtube channel of a French man who migrated to the USA a couple decades ago: Vol West. His channel (lesurvivaliste) is in French language and is truly about survivalism and not about prepping. So he's not part of the crazies and his approach makes a lot more sense, to me at least. His idea is that one must consider the risks he is likely to face one day or the other. Also, you should take into account the likelihood of such events taking place and then dedicate reasonable efforts to prepare for such events based on how likely they are to happen. For example, losing your job is much more likely than a comet (like the one that killed dinosaurs 65 million years ago) hitting the Earth. So you should spend more efforts, and probably money, on being ready for the day when/if you might lose your job. It means storing months worth of food, saving enough money to get by for whichever duration of unemployment you estimate appropriate, maybe grow some food of your own to save money, or learn how to keep your vegetables and fruits fresh for longer, to prevent waste. Other scenarios are possible like a major electricity outage, a hurricane, forest fire, or a flood (depending on where you live) which would force you to go away from your home. In this case, you could have a backpack ready in advance, which you can grab and be gone in under 10 minutes.

Conclusion:

Survivalism is a philosophy of life that can have a significant impact on how you live, how you spend your money, and make you seem a little weird (or totally nuts, if you're one of the preppers). But even if you don't feel like being part of it, there is great knowledge and wisdom to be taken from it.

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