There was a war in the mid-1600s you’ve never heard of, ending in the near-extermination of the Erie by the Iroquois and others. Captives were sold into slavery and thus disbursed from the Cherokees in the Carolinas to the Senecas in Canada. All that remains of the Erie are place names—a lake, a city, a canal and so forth—and fugitive traces for linguists and historians to puzzle out. This is common. This is the way of the world. We’re all made from fragments of such disasters.
History whispers its horrors plainly if we properly understand it. There are no victories without defeat, and defeat goes deeper than victory. Julius Caesar sometimes commented on this in his dispatches from the Gallic Wars. Our own time has had Mao, Pol Pot, Himmler, Beria and a long list of others who, unlike Caesar, were not warrior-builders so much as agents of annihilation, our darkest fear.
The signature event of survivalists is bugging out on Doomsday Morn, the harrowing dash to their fortified bolt hole as society collapses in a fiery heap behind them. For preppers it’s the remote homestead with gardens and solar panels, a comfy redoubt to weather the storm with grace and style. Either may be part of a militia, bands of brothers training to defend their own in Mad Max times. All are responding to a partial, almost optimistic understanding of the coming disaster.
DC has plainly stated, in public documents, they will requisition food, transportation, equipment, supplies and involuntarily servitude of any kind, in any amount, to whatever extent that pleases them in a “national emergency”. Their control of the cities would rest on food distribution and essential services, then as now, and the rest of America would be stripped to make it happen. This is, plainly said, calculated annihilation, held as not only necessary but just.
DC considers their power base—the urban west and east coasts and a few colonies in between—to be the real America, supported unwillingly but rightly by deplorables living elsewhere who would otherwise act solely from pathologies born of willful ignorance and native ill will. In other times and places “deplorables” were the “untermensch” or the “masses”, always seen as a dangerous, undifferentiated hive, uneducable but trainable, to be cowed and dazzled by turns, and in extremis better mourned than saved.
Compliance with DC’s quotas would become law enforcement’s number one priority. It would fall to the military to deal with organized resistance, which history suggests is a near-certainty. Calories and survival are nearly the same thing. The European undergrounds of World War II grew into effective forces only when workers and foodstuffs were transferred to Germany. Propaganda had no effect, it was seen for what it was: kidnapping, slave labor and looting. And so it would be here.
DC needn’t target survivalists and prepper communities directly, they’d feel the follow-on effects. Towns and villages forced to ante up their quota to support the cities wouldn’t endure famine when known stores of food and supplies were retrievable. Those preppers who didn’t voluntarily hand over their deep larders “for the common good” would find armed committees at their door. Nor should they expect equitable treatment, they’d be condemned as unconscionable hoarders, feasting while toddlers with empty stomachs cry the night away.
In a catastrophic collapse none of this causative chain would be uppermost in anyone’s mind. We necessarily deal with effects, not causes, because we live in the short term or not at all. There may be countervailing long-term events we can’t envision from this side of the chasm. It would, however, be foolish to count on them. Before recovery can begin the collapse must first find its “rest state”, as water finds its own level, likely a long and ugly see-saw process, deadly in its details.
Survival strategies as we know them today are all good enough, going in. And “good enough” is the gold standard. But should the disaster continue unrelieved, classic survival communities with valuable assets and permanent facilities would tempt the fate of the Erie. It’s not for nothing disciplines associated with “Escape & Evasion” are the default basis for survival, meaning bushcraft, stealth, anti-tracking and the like, perhaps exampled by loosely allied groups of a dozen or so each, cycling with the seasons between proven but minimally developed sites, the twenty-first century’s redux of Depression Era migrants.
The ifs, ands, and buts of retro-survival on a large scale are fascinating but outside this essay’s scope, and my intent, so I’ll end this with Rule One: stay away from crowds. Like the speed of light, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.