Part II: Expectations and Psychological Framework
Part I laid the case for the US, and the world, progressing into a HIGH threat level, with the implication that a SEVERE threat level would eventually emerge from it and/or override it completely due to a “black swan event”. Part II will focus on what we can generally expect at each stage, and the psychological framework that often gets overlooked.
1.) Local Breakdowns LOW to HIGH threat level
This is the most basic stage, and could be due to any number of factors. Breakdowns are already occurring in many places in the US and around the world but will continue to get worse, as outlined in Part I. Effects at this stage are unevenly distributed, but can include such things as rising prices, deteriorating social order, disruptions/shortages, and adverse weather events - which can/will lead to an increase in confrontational violence and fear, and much more evacuations, refugees, and local emergencies. At this stage it is still possible and more likely to have the ability to drive to a relative or friend’s house outside one’s usual area and “group up” or end up at a hotel/motel, a church, or a refugee camp or aid station. Even in extreme cases where one’s home or community is destroyed or unlivable they will still be able to relocate.
2.) Major Collapse - HIGH threat level
In what I am terming a ‘major collapse’, most major public services cease, but only in one geographic area. Examples could be failing infrastructure, high impact weather events, a terrorist attack, and/or hacking/cyber warfare taking out parts of the electrical grid. At its worst, this stage could cause mass displacement and migration. Areas with access to resources could become targets of resource wars for energy, food, water, and material resources. It could cause the dominoes of economic and social collapse - which would cause political instability, revolutions, failed states, social unrest (riots and civil wars), increased crime, military action, and other conflicts. This is easy to imagine when thinking of the world stage - it could happen “over there” - but is more difficult to imagine happening in the US. In Part I of this Threat Assessment we began by quoting the IMF Managing Director, who warns of a major new threat: the “complete fragmentation of the global economy into geopolitical blocs, with differing trade and technology standards, payment systems, and reserve currencies”, saying that this “will send shockwaves throughout the globe.” This is what we mean by the worst case of the Major Collapse stage. These things are on the near horizon for the US.
3.) Total collapse - SEVERE threat level
All major public services cease. This could be due to a total grid-down scenario, due to cyber attack, a nuclear EMP terrorist attack, or something equally fundamentally widespread. If this occurs quickly it will only be days until we are in a true WROL (Without Rule of Law) scenario. If it occurs more slowly (over the course of weeks, affecting region after region), there will be massive migrations and a likely rebuilding of the US into geo-political ‘blocs’ controlled by various parts of the military who each claim themselves to be the law of the land. This would be the IMF Director’s vision overlaid onto American soil - different trade and technology standards, different currencies and laws. This vision seems unlikely, due to the interconnectedness of our banking, trade, and energy systems. All major public services ceasing in an entire geographic region would no doubt spread to the entire nation within days. Think of the federal response to big hurricanes in a single state, or riots in a single city. There is no hope that in a much protracted and wide-ranging scenario affecting multiple states it would be resolved.
This will invariably lead to a WROL scenario. National Guardsmen would not report to duty stations, nor would police officers or anyone else. Those who do would find themselves overwhelmed and without resources leading to desertions. Stores would be unmanned quickly if banking systems stayed down. In a WROL scenario no one will be out there to help you or to call if you get in trouble - no police or military or firemen coming to your aid, cell phone service spotty or unavailable. This could occur fairly quickly from a grid-down scenario, or something like a significant oil price shock, a total banking failure, or a total market meltdown. The swiftness with which social order will erode will be far more shocking in person than it is on your favorite TV program.
Psychological Expectations and Framework
Events of a HIGH and SEVERE threat level will throw all of us into a severely shocking, unpleasant, and disturbing reality. We naturally want to avoid ideas which cause pain or discomfort, but we must admit the possibility of certain events. We must acknowledge our fears, anxieties, and grief, and channel our thoughts and energy into a productive path forward. We will experience loss on a scale not seen before in living history: the loss of a way of life, the loss of comfort, the loss of normalcy, the loss of dreams for the future, the loss of expectations about the way life is or should be, the loss of status, and the loss of physical wealth. You will see your neighbors, your loved ones, even yourself, go through the stages of grief: denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, and depression, in various ways, until the best of us come to acceptance.
On a fundamental level, this is why people become preppers: they realize that the one thing they can control is their response; and their preps become balms for that underlying tension. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people like this simply buy cool stuff that helps ease their cognitive dissonance rather than do the psychological preparedness necessary to actually survive. A reliance on stuff will lull you into a false sense of complacency and get you injured or even killed. Most people who have a sense that they should prepare for a hard future have a shed full of survival gear (or a garage, or a closet, or an attic, etc) and no contingency plans. They think simply having it makes them prepared. Prepping is a booming business model - they want to sell you stuff; but their focus loses sight of practical expectations. Inevitably, having the right tools for the job is far more desirable and efficient, but having the right expectations, the right mindset, and the ability to adapt to a radically different way of life are far more fundamental.
What Will Happen:
It’s hard to contemplate, but here’s a short list of the things you won’t find most other places, (rehashed from ThePrepperJournal): Hopelessness will lead to skyrocketing suicides. With no police security or court systems, violence will become endemic. With little or no hospitals or ambulance services, bodies will pile up. When toilets no longer flush and garbage collection ceases, garbage will pile up. And that’s only the first week or two. In the next stage, lice, fleas, flies, rats, stray animals, pestilence, diseases, and infection will be rampant. People will drink unclean water, eat rotten food, and live in unsanitary conditions. Hiding away from it all may work for a couple of weeks at best, but there will come a time far sooner than you think when hiding isn’t enough.
Within a month at most, most people will run out of their medications. Almost 77 million people in the US are on prescription psychiatric medications - the vast majority of them between the ages of 25 and 65. This includes ADHD meds, antidepressants, antianxiety, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. Think of the implications of this on a mass scale. There are even a great many people who have issues but are not on medication for it. In a SEVERE threat scenario people will go insane because they lack the coping skills to deal with it. They may be dealing with it at a lower but adequate enough level with their medications, but when they run out it will be a different story entirely. Side effects of stopping these medications can last for months or even years in some cases.
And that’s just the normal day-to-day expectations that aren’t all that shocking. Even normally “good” people will eventually become looters and do things they otherwise would condemn, but it is the more brutal and sinister and barbaric tendencies that will be more concerning. Some people will actually look forward to opportunities to riot and have crime sprees. Not only will displaced people evacuating large population centers become a significant problem, criminal gangs will predominate as well. The entire idea of ‘ownership’ of one’s house, food, possessions, and land will be reevaluated by mass numbers of people who think ownership is earned through taking what they want. Cults and religious extremists will proliferate, sexual exploitation and human slavery will make a comeback, even cannibalism will likely affect some areas.
After a Major Collapse, all semblance of society and with it our understanding of law and order will be destroyed and rearranged. There will be a return to less tolerant systems of justice. Your community might be the police force, the judge, and the executioner. You may find yourself along with your neighbors in the role of dealing with the bad guys. There will be more of an ‘eye for an eye’ way of thinking in society. Small groups will team together and create a strict, enforced code of ethics. Public executions may become much more common, and swift.
There are certain expected but damaging and harmful types of emotional reactions that will become liabilities very quickly: things like indecisiveness, sentimentality, machismo, panic, and fantasy. We must combat these through pre-planning, checklists, humility, calm, and reasonable expectations. The number one thing to do is deeply contemplate this stuff, to adjust your mentality before an event occurs, and focus on your attitude.
As GreyWolfSurvival puts it:
“Poor attitudes can directly affect your group’s survival. Do you like hanging around with people who have a bad attitude? Well in a survival or SHTF scenario, that’s going to be even worse. You need to work together to survive. If you or someone in your group has a bad attitude, the others won’t want to hang out with them, will be less likely to take risks to help them, and won’t want to bring them into the decision-making process as easily. You need everyone’s input and everyone’s effort when surviving in a group.”
Small communities of like-minded people are safer and much more productive than a single person or family. Depending on how they form though, these groups may be good or bad. If a group of people are able to provide what someone needs to survive, people will join them regardless of their ethics or how they treat people. It is our responsibility on the individual level to figure out who will be an asset and who will be a threat. And we will have to make life-and-death decisions about it on a daily basis. Decisions we make today while everything is “normal” will be far different than decisions made when your life, or the life of your loved ones, is on the line. Dale, at The Survivalist Prepper, puts it this way: “The rules for ethics and morality will change. In general, people are followers and will do what society deems correct. In a disaster situation, people (including us) will have to live by a different set of rules.” When a situation is life or death, a person will easily rationalize stealing and even killing if it means their survival. We ourselves may have to do this. In prepper circles there is a morality scenario talked about where a woman and her children come to the door asking for food, while her husband is hiding around the corner waiting in ambush waiting for you to drop your guard.
These are things most people don’t realize, and it will be up to you to get together like-minded folks and convince your neighbors that certain things are necessary to cooperate on. You are going to have to think about concentric rings of security - your living space, your building, your block, your neighborhood, your community. You will have to drastically, probably very quickly, change your ethics and moral standards. You will have to balance your priorities very differently. This will be a huge adjustment; if you are reading this then you will certainly be ahead of that curve, but it will still be difficult beyond what you expect, and you will have to deal with family members and friends and neighbors and community members who are going to be way behind the curve. How you deal with it, and how you deal with them, will ultimately impact how - and if - you survive. For most people, what’s coming will blindside them. The severity will shock them beyond anything they’ve ever experienced before, no matter how deep their previous trauma. Industrial civilization itself is ending, and there has never been anything like it in the history of the world. All the systems that are geographic (grid systems), national (the economy/banking), and global (trade, imports, etc), will inevitably fail and we will have to make due with local solutions. We will have to face a world-changingly profound loss of energy, even as demand continues to increase and our population is about 8 times what it was only 200 years ago. When these systems fail we will go back to a pre-industrial way of life, except we will have 8 billion people rather than 1 billion, the vast majority of which are completely dependent on these systems to sustain us.
This unprecedented and extraordinary growth has allowed a lot of technological marvels and enabled the society we live in today. But it is doing unthinkable damage to our planet. And it will not be, historically speaking, long lasting.
At this point it should be abundantly clear that we are going to experience a crash/collapse of "the way things are." The only thing to do now is talk about how we can manage the transition to a far different future that is rising up to meet us whether we are ready or not and whether we have prepared or not. We can make this transition overall easier, if we willingly radically change… but make no mistake, it will require radical changes. More and more individuals will equip themselves to be able to handle the transition and can make their communities more resilient and prepared to deal with a world that is very different from the one we inhabit now. There is no solution, though there are some paths which are better and wiser than others. What we need is rapid emergency planning coupled with a plan for longer-term adaptation.
Facing our dire future can be overwhelming, but at some point we must accept it and act. The usual first step on the preparedness ladder rung is to store some extra food and water. This is essential, but woefully inadequate compared to the necessary psychological preparation previously outlined. While we are still in the GUARDED threat level, get prepared with those physical preps as much as you can while you still can. What good will your money in the market do you when the stock market collapses, the money in your bank account when the banks shut down, the grid goes down, or the prices of goods and services rises so much that your funds become increasingly worthless? Again, this requires radical changes to our thinking. Readjust your expectations and make your actions aligned with what has been presented in this assessment. Our lifestyles of going to the grocery store every week or multiple times a week is absurd when we know the price of food is going up and about to explode in a few months time. When we know shortages are going to occur in unprecedented ways, it is ludicrous to continue acting as if it won’t. When the threat level rises to HIGH it may be too late - a crisis has already hit. Be vigilant towards that in-between ELEVATED threat level and be ready to act when it is warranted. Once the threat level has gone to SEVERE it will only be days before madness consumes the world, weeks until all life as we have ever known it will be turned on its head. At the beginning stages of that, we must be prepared to face the hard questions: Will we kill otherwise innocent people to keep our loved ones and our trusted community members alive? Will we sink into indecisiveness until we watch them starve or become slaves? Will we have too much grandiosity or sentimentality to abandon our home base, all our physical preps, to avoid a roving gang of looters we have no chance of defending ourselves against? When the mother and her child come to our door begging for a can of beans with her armed husband waiting around the corner, will we doom our family by giving her a bunch of food (thereby indicating we have stuff worth looting), or by screaming at her to go away (thereby causing resentment which can lead to violence)?
We must face these scenarios now, talk to our tribe about them, and come up with solutions and plans of action - for every scenario we can conceive of. We will need to be disciplined in a way that is fundamentally altered from the way we routinely live our lives today. We have been able to be lax in our behavior and generous in our ethics while we lived in abundance, but that laxness can get us and those we love killed quickly in a SEVERE threat scenario. The way people live their lives keeps them emotionally occupied while their health deteriorates and their minds grasp at vague shadowy threats they cannot define or adequately prepare for. Let's change that dynamic and start filtering the bullshit out. Get healthy, get a plan, know your threats - and then go about the business of responding to and preparing for those threats.
The future is going to be far different than the past. The next decade is going to look vastly different than the last decade. This blog is about the transition.
If you like what you see, contribute to making this blog a success here:
Physical Preps and Tools
Prepping Priorities - Physical & Psychological
2022 US Threat Assessment Part II
2022 US Threat Assessment Part I
GONE Bag: Get Out Now Emergency
Tactical Gear Considerations
Interview with Derrick Jensen
2020: A Marker For Collapse
Firearms And Our Future
Thermodynamic Failure: Phase 2
Firearms and Defense
Explaining Peak Oil
The Significance of Renewables
What Will The Future Look Like?
What Do The Experts Say?
Hope is Complex and Fragile
Personal Change Does Not Equal Social Change
Why Genesis 1:28 Doesn't Apply
It's Not About Running Out of Oil