Recently by Thomas Luongo: Separation Anxiety
Well, you torture yourself with what’s behind you
Torture yourself with what awaits you,
Dragging that guilt everywhere inside you
Anxious of the goals that always elude you
Your mind will find a way to be unkind to you somehow
But all we really have is happening to us right now.
~ Marillion, Happiness Is the Road
Having spent years preparing and worrying about what the dreaded Day of Reckoning was going to look like had a subtle yet profound effect on me. When you live with something for long enough, you kinda get used to it being there, like some homunculus sitting on your shoulder urging you to do things you would never have thought to do previously. And there’s a danger in that. You become comfortable living in a heightened state of anxiety, forgetting to stop and remind yourself just how great being alive is and enjoying the people and things you have. Spending all your time devouring/researching different techniques for survival and resource gathering will muddle your priorities; making everything seem like the single most important task to accomplish right now…dammit.. OMG! I’ve spent years beating myself up because I haven’t been as successful as I thought I needed to be in gathering what I felt was adequate to the task. A lot of energy that could have been spent productively was spent in self-recrimination and self-doubt, compounding poor decisions with others. It is this realization of wasted time that has changed my attitude towards the u2018pocky’clipse’ and my place within it.
Simply put, I saw myself reflected in someone else and was a little scared.
My wife’s family has come together with us recently to embrace the vision of the future that I had and we’ve decided to pool our resources around our home and property. I’d like to think that we set a good example but it doesn’t matter, though it was a bit gratifying. What does matter is watching someone else go through the same stages of development you did and realizing where you are in relation to that and why it is that they thought you were bug-nuts crazy five years previously. All of a sudden, I found myself being the voice of reason and restraint prioritizing our task list from the flood of, admittedly, good ideas that were being proffered; playing the same role my wife did for me.
I fell back on my extensive self-training in basic economics and realized that everything has an opportunity cost. There isn’t enough time or money in the world to do all the things we’d like to do, be it learning the piano, playing with your kid(s) or preparing for the crack-up boom and bust. All the enthusiasm in the world cannot substitute for the time needed to acquire and become proficient with a new skill. As well, money cannot substitute for knowledge. It can help speed things along, but that is all. You have to learn how to grow food on your land, as every plot of land is different. You have to learn how to shoot your guns, no amount of reading can substitute for rounds put down-range. Etc.
As I like to say, all knowledge is fractal and the more you learn the more you realize just how little you know. Each new discovery opens up a host of new questions begging for answers. This is especially true when learning how to farm! Seeing the big picture is the easy part. Boring into the guts of what it takes to become even adequate at one or two particular tasks is where the work comes in. What a shock, becoming an expert at something you have no knowledge of takes a long time. Again, no matter how talented or intelligent you think you are, there is no substitute for time and attention to detail.
This brings me to the cottage industry of internet survival experts that has flourished in the wake of the Fed’s New Depression. My attitude about this has changed considerably as well. It is obvious that they are preying on those newly-minted Chicken Littles who are, rightfully, scared about the near-term future; hyperbolically describing their particular area of expertise as the most important thing you can do to prepare. They do have subscriptions to sell and Google ads to promote. The gun sites are the worst, in my opinion. Forever touting their personal choices (and love of guns and shootings) in terms of life and death, conjuring up scenarios, which have an infinitesimal chance of happening to any of us (unless we go looking for trouble), as things to rationally prepare yourself for. In my opinion, while you absolutely need to train with your gun, it is the right attitude and mindset you need to cultivate in order to use it properly. That can’t be taught in an article. It’s like these people have walked out of the mythical land of plenty promulgated by leftist-anarchists like The Venus Project and have forgotten that we have jobs, kids, dogs and what normal people call, "a life,’ when they talk about how much you need to train with your weapon. Ammunition is bloody expensive if you haven’t noticed.
To me, your gun must be first, comfortable to hold and shoot. Anyone who does not stress this is not worth reading another word from. My wife and I each have 20 ounce hammers, hers is an expensive, anti-vibration one, while mine was the cheapest one on sale that day, but it fit my hand perfectly. I can’t drive a nail straight with hers, while I can drive literally anything with mine. I love my hammer in a nigh-inappropriate way and without it, my house would never have gotten finished. I won’t start a project without it. Same thing with our handguns. I can leave my CZ-85 Combat lay around for years, pick it up, put some clay targets in tree branches, step back 20 yards and hit them all without thinking much about it. It is simply perfect, even with the stock plastic grips. I can’t hit the broad-side of a bull’s butt with her Beretta. Gods forbid you hand me some awful 1911! I know this is gun-sacrilege but I hate them. I know I’m using a u2018hole-poker’ (9mm) rather than a u2018man-stopper’(45ACP), but I’d rather poke a hole in a guy with my CZ than not stop him with a 1911. Pick a gun you like, get comfortable with it, practice with it intensely at first, do maintenance at the range and spend the rest of your time asking yourself when you’d be capable of pointing it at another human being and pulling the trigger, because that’s the biggest obstacle any still-rational person will have to self-defense.
Would I like my farm to be totally self-sufficient in the event of a complete breakdown of services and society? Sure. Do I have the money and time to make that happen? It is to laugh. I don’t have the time to become a sharp-shooter. I’m not prepping a u2018bug-out’ bag and I’m certainly not going to drop $20,000 on an off-grid solar power system. In the end, I’ve come to embrace The Pareto Rule. What can I do to 80% prepare for what I think I’ll need that will cost me 20% of my available capital? In other words, where can I get my biggest preparedness bang for the non-proverbial buck. This approach keeps my prodigious imagination in check.
More importantly, what am I preparing for? What do I really think is going to happen and given my circumstances what should I do to react? I can’t tell you how to answer that, but I can tell you that stockpiling 2 years worth of MRE’s is probably a waste of money. In response to my first article in this series, many of the people who contacted me offered to me that I wasn’t alone in this; that I had family and friends to rely on. They were, of course, right. I came to realize this through time. Our actions (and ideas) had consequences and affected those around us to want to find their place within our division of labor. I guess it is that whole, u2018if you build it,’ thing. Well, in my case it was.
I’ve decided that I can’t prepare for the total breakdown of all things good and decent. I won’t go there. Moreover, it’s not cost-effective and likely a waste of my precious time on this planet. The most surprising thing that happened on my way to the pocky’clipse is that I’m not preparing for it anymore. I’ve come to realize that I have to have faith in people’s ability to adapt and be resourceful; responding to the incentives before them. We’ve built so many great things because of our ability to press our personal comparative advantages, it seems silly to think that that will not continue in the face of some kind of monetary spasm. If capitalism truly did build everything good in the world, and I subscribe to that belief, shouldn’t I act accordingly? If I’m wrong. Oh well. There was likely nothing I could do about it anyways. The priorities we’ve set now involve shoring up the basics of food and water while having those preparations serve as good uses of our time/money in case we’re wrong, hedging our bets and changing the overall direction of our lives. I’ll go into the specifics in a future article. There is always that possibility that the Sword of Damocles will not fall as hard or as swift as we think it will. In such a case, all that bottled water and ammunition will look pretty silly won’t it?
Thomas Luongo [send him email] is a professional chemist, amateur economist and obstreperous recovering Yankee residing in North Florida.