1. The authorities are not your friends
-- especially not the federal authorities. Expecting them to help you is like expecting a hammer to drive you to the airport. A hammer drives nails. Authorities dominate. If they help you with one hand, it's only so they can brutalize you twice as much with the other hand. In any crisis, the totality of what they do will be worse than if they had completely left you alone. Do not
put yourself in a position where you depend on them.
2. Ordinary people are competent and decent
when you strip away the system and the stupid roles it requires us to play. A catastrophe is a huge opportunity for us to learn to help each other as equals, for people suddenly free of jobs and cars and television to rediscover their aliveness, to come together and build something beautiful.
This will not be permitted. It's the Federal Emergency Management
Agency. People with their survival needs met and
free time are a huge threat to management. The reason they sent troops to New Orleans instead of food and water, the reason police violently broke up groups of people who managed to come together and take care of each other, the reason they sealed off the whole city except for official evacuation buses in which people were treated worse than cattle, is the same reason you have to have a job to eat and occupy space, and the same reason they had to kill the Indians: It is so deeply ingrained in human nature to build cooperative non-coercive communities, that the domination system cannot afford to give us an inch.
3. "Roving gangs" happen but they're overrated.
They do not attack hard targets and fight to the last man like in the movies. The "lawlessness" in New Orleans confirms what I wrote in The Slow Crash
, which is just what anyone can see in history: Even when people are starving, it is very rare that someone will kill to steal food. Low-status sociopaths attack easy targets: a pretty young woman will be raped. A rich tourist will be robbed. If you're defending a private home or business with a grim look and a big gun, you almost certainly won't have to use it.
4. The key to survival is mobility.
Do not expect to stay in your city or house. Yes, the survivalist's fortified compound will easily stand up to the roving gangs -- except the roving gangs with badges and uniforms, who are trained to go forward
when challenged, and who do
attack hard targets and keep coming. But the nice thing is, they usually give you plenty of warning to get out. The sooner you go, the easier it is to go on your terms.
You need another place to go, outside the area of the expected crisis, and a way to get there, and a backup way to get there. A third and fourth place would be a good idea. You need to be able to both plan and improvise. You need friends in other regions who you trust, and who trust you.
The great hidden lesson of Katrina is the value of the bicycle. Supposedly people got stuck in the city because they didn't have cars, but I was told by someone who evacuated New Orleans by car that traffic moved only 3-5 miles per hour. You could go that fast on foot (though you still need a place to go) and two or three times that fast on a bike. Bicycles can carry more people per hour over a bridge of a given size than any other technology, with much more energy efficiency, and without any gasoline or electricity. This will become obvious if the large bike-riding populations of Minneapolis or Seattle ever need to flee a disaster. For some people that message will come too late.
5. The system is not fragile.
Many of the collapsists would have predicted that a hurricane that destroyed New Orleans and crippled the oil drilling in the Gulf, plus some refineries, would have sparked economic Armageddon, or totally collapsed America. All it did was move us three spaces forward in the long, slow Armageddon that's been going on for years. So far the only effect in my area is that gasoline is 20% more expensive -- but people are still driving just as much.
Even though the system is overstressed and breaking down in almost every way, it has great inertia, a huge mass of habit that can absorb hard blows and channel them into many slow changes.