Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Singing Kumbaya while Rome burns

Of all the interesting and unrealistic scenarios that people envision when thinking about an economic crash, the most amusing and naïve is that people will finally meet their neighbors and they'll all embrace each other in peace and harmony and sing Kumbaya around communal meals.

Doubtless this comes from whitewashed fairy-tale retellings of the hardships of the Great Depression, during which friends, relatives, and neighbors often did share communal meals (stretching out their scarce foodstuffs as much as possible) and thus (so the stories go) achieved the universal peace and harmony so beloved by the Progressives.

But the reality is, a truly hungry person is far more interested in stealing his neighbor's bowl of rice than singing syrupy camp songs.

Last year I conducted a miniature experiment. I took to lurking on a progressive forum that addresses spending habits and consumerism. The members of this forum are dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint by reducing their purchasing habits. It’s a sentiment with which I largely agree, though I approach the subject from the opposite end of the societal spectrum

So anyway, last year I posed a question on this forum, namely: If the bleep was to hit the fan and you were unable to leave your urban or suburban environment, what would you do?

The answers were mostly sensible, given the nature of the forum. Many responders said they already had sufficient stores of food and water to see them through a couple of weeks of societal disruptions. But some of the replies were ludicrous bordering on the hilarious. One person confidently told how he would start foraging for wild greens. Um, wild greens? In Los Angeles or Chicago? Do you really think you can survive on filthy polluted plantain leaves growing in sidewalk cracks, assuming you even know what plantain looks like? Okay, fine, whatever.

But the silliest response was the woman who said she would form a community with her neighbors and they would all band together to help each other survive. There were a lot of “Hear, hear!” replies to this post.

Which got me thinking – why do people think everyone will be interested in holding hands and singing Kumbaya after a crisis? To be fair, it depends on the nature of the crisis. After 9/11, a lot of people truly did respond that way, but that’s because our immediate needs for food, water, medicine, etc. were not affected. But if our physical survival was at stake – if food or clean water was unavailable through the sources we normally use – then my suspicion is no one will have the slightest interest in singing folk songs. It would be every man for himself, perhaps in a distressingly literal way.

Now let me clarify my position. I’m all for community. That’s the whole reason we enjoy our neighborhood potlucks so much. We love our neighbors. We help each other out. We band together when there’s a crisis. We trade tools and equipment. We share garden seeds and surplus produce. We teach each other skills like canning and milking. We celebrate each others’ triumphs and mourn each others’ tragedies. And – here’s the key – we’ve been doing this for years.

In other words, we already have in place the framework and structure of this mythical “community” because we made the time and effort to forge those ties ahead of time. But if we waited until a crisis happened before connecting with neighbors, those ties would be fragile or nonexistent – and practically impossible to create out of thin air.

This is just a personal suspicion, but I think the Progressives who want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya have a different definition of “community” than I do. I once read a post on a different forum which addressed the issue of moving to a more rural area. “I am leery of the really conservative areas because the culture is not always favorable to sharing and community-mindedness, which will be survival values,” wrote one person.

I found it fascinating that the conservative values of independence and self-sufficiency are interpreted by Progressives to mean we don’t share and aren’t community-minded. Should this person ever move to our neighborhood, I think he would find we share all the time and are extraordinarily community-minded. Or maybe we aren't, at least by his definition. The thing is, our sharing and community ties are voluntary. Except for the bounds of Christian charity, we are less inclined to help those who think we owe them something simply because we’re the same species. Progressives never “get” this. They would rather the “sharing” and “community” be mandated, i.e. forced. Big diff.

Communities can spring up, but they cannot be based on communal – i.e. communistic – ideals. Communism dictates that everyone pools his resources into a common pot, and then everyone withdraws from that pot only what he needs. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” is the precise phrasing (Karl Marx).

But what if I have little or nothing to contribute to the pot, and you have lots and lots? Naturally I’m going to be delighted by my good fortune in having a whole pot to dip from; and you’re going to resent the hell out of me for taking some of your self-earned loot. That’s human nature, and that’s why Marxism is a crappy idea.

I recall an article called “What Is The Best U.S. State To Move To If You Want To Insulate Yourself From The Coming Economic Meltdown?” While the article itself is fairly basic, the comments that followed were fascinating. It showed a strong resentment between existing towns and “outsiders.” A Montana native wrote, “All you rich folks from California have built your own enclave around towns like White Fish and Kalispell, trying to build little Californias instead of seeking to be a part of our communities. When it hits the fan Montana would be a great place to be, but remember that your survival could very well depend on your neighbors so make friends now and develop some strong ties in your community. The best way to build social capital is to be helpful or friendly to someone else first.”

A counter opinion was encapsulated with this comment: “Some of you people posting here are absolutely full of yourselves. You are nearly all xenophobic and hate all outsiders. Your ignorance about others and even what is happening in your own states is appalling. No, I would not want to live around most of you, you stupidly think that your guns are going to save you, but you’ve yet to use them, proving that your all full of s***. This kind of thinking and the other comments I’ve read just proves to me how some of you really are. Ignorant, xenophobic and paranoid. Your sense of community is “just us,” thinking you can create enclaves without understanding. You all FORGET that we are ALL in this together, like it or lump it. Everybody needs someplace to be. You think you “own” your communities. Well, you DON’T. It’s still a free enough country where anybody can still move wherever the hell they want. Wake the hell up and realize that we all want and we all need exactly the same things. Community. Culture. Cooperation. Opportunity. Climate. Water. Land. Food. Shelter. Protection. It’s no different for any of us. You may not like [me] or I may not like you and we may not get along, but so what? We don’t have to. But I can damned well live anywhere I want (still) and so can you. If you do not like what is happening to your community — then educate the people that live there. I speak from my own experience, having lived in several of the places mentioned on this comment thread. You cannot prevent outsiders from moving in, and if they do, you are far, far better off making friends and connections with them then insisting they go live someplace else.”

(And this person wonders why he’s encountering so much hostility from the locals?)

I truly believe “community” will be critical to survival in a “bleep” situation. No man is an island, and no family can survive totally on its own. That’s because no family can have every skill and every tool and every resource in endless supply. But if a community has among its members someone skilled in medicine, in sewing, in canning, in hunting, in milking, in gardening, and in endless numbers of other skills we don’t appreciate until they’re not available, that community will be far more likely to not only survive, but thrive.

But those ties of community must be in place ahead of time. Yes, many places are clannish and won’t accept outsiders – but I’m talking about making ties where you live now, not about relocating (that’s a whole different subject and/or blog post).

So to everyone who wants to band together with his or her neighbors and sing Kumbaya over a communal pot of soup, I suggest you get busy right away. It’s never too early – but at some point it will be too late.


  1. Anyone in an urban or suburban situation (when it all comes crashing down) will have the instant added burden of having a group of people around them that are "lost" because their usual technology suddenly disappears......most rural people already have learned to overcome some of those conveniences by sheer location....in either situation, it all comes down to the personality and attitude of the people as to whether a community can form in either place......selfish egomaniacs aren't going to succeed in either place, when things go sideways.....

    As nice as it is to suggest urban/suburban people get acquainted sooner rather than later, if you've lived next to someone for over a year and haven't already, then it's going to be all the more difficult to just suddenly begin......

    Alot of the good advise on the moving to rural areas blog/comments fits perfectly with this blog, too......

  2. Great post, as always. I'd like to point out that when the SHTF after Katrina hit and people didn't have access to grocery stores, looting and rioting commenced. Then the majority went to the stadium and waited for the government to bail them out. I wonder, what will happen when/if it is the fault of our gov't that our food and shelter is taken/destroyed? Those that haven't thought of this situation will be out in the cold (or stifling heat) and utterly at a loss as to how to handle the situation.

    I really DO NOT understand how liberals got the idea that conservatives are hateful, selfish, racist people. I just don't. I'm sure there are some somewhere, but I've always encountered very kind, compassionate folks. You make a good point when you say they want charity to be mandated. I have a problem with that, just like I have a problem with the fact that my tax dollars go to paying for things I patently disagree with.

    In my experience, it's the left who are the most selfish, utterly ignoring and trying to silence the patriots of this country.

    And the whole 'You're conservative so you must only care about yourself and your money' thing? We're poor as hell from all our taxes and ridiculously high insurance mandates in our state, and we STILL give to those in need, despite the fact that we have nothing to give. We've gone without a few meals to help people out before, I'm not opposed to doing it again if I feel it's the right thing to do (and we don't receive gov't support, we work for what we have). I'm so sickened by this entitlement mentality that's sprung up. I'm not saying there aren't people who deserve aid, but I can't stand constantly being told what a terrible person I am simply because I believe people should help themselves (and not to the contents of others' wallets).

  3. It is a little difficult to tell about a group based on who posts on its boards.

    Within conservative circles the libertarian groups tend to be over represented. They often come across as far more hostile and more individualistic than I suspect much of the general population that would describe itself as conservative.

    Take for example the Mormons. They are generally described as a conservative group, and have a general policy of keeping a one year supply of food on hand for emergencies. But I have never heard a Mormon bring up the issue in a personal discussion.

    Many of the "liberals" you meet are concerned about a societal breakdown. I suspect many of them are better prepared than people realize. The community activist types are no more (or less) realistic than the hide in their cave survivalists. They probably have a better skill set in working with government and quasi-formal government groups. In some distressed settings that can be a very useful skill.

  4. Patrice, another good post that may make some city dwellers think a little. Dr Savage is right , liberalism is a mental disorder and proof can be had from recent events in New York City where a riot broke out at a Wendy's over a food fight. Once the stores have exhausted their inventories you will see mass looting and killing, perhaps cannibalism. The Kumbaya crowd with little or no way to defend themselves will slip down on the food chain to the animals created by the welfare and social systems. This little town I live in North Florida has some predators as well, city black and Puerto Rican gang bangers imported from New York City over the last twenty years. They engage in criminal activity now and no doubt would have to be removed quickly if anyone would want to try to ride out the storm here. To be realistic trustworthiness will be under a microscope even for long term neighbors and out of the population that had prepared for such a disaster, probably twenty times that have done nothing to prepare. You would think with the tropical weather we get here it would be prudent to prepare but sadly it is not the case. Case in point New Orleans. Our populations have become fluid over this last couple of generations, people moving to and fro and that makes community almost impossible to achieve. I have tried many times to form a disaster committee here in town but everyone is a ostrich with their heads buried deep in the sand. If there is any light, it may be in the fact that we will watch other nations implode before we do as they go broke. This would buy us a small window to prepare for our eventuality of chaos. Not much of a window mind you but enough time to get with family and trustworthy friends for self preservation. Being xenophobic allowed Xenephon and his ten thousand survive a perilous march through the Persian empire and is as prudent today as it was in 350 B.C. The poster who claims that we are a free country is right. Until TSHTF and freedom and civility go out the window.

    Had Enuff

  5. Great post, Patrice. This is one reason why we have decided to stay put rather than move to another area. We have tons of friends here, we love our neighbors and feel responsible to help them (they are both elderly, retired military couples), and if we moved to another place, we'd be building new relationships. That's something that takes a lot of time - something that we probably don't have much of.

  6. Well written article. I am blessed to have good neighbors, and a real community.

  7. Another brilliant and insightful post Patrice.

  8. "But the silliest response was the woman who said she would form a community with her neighbors and they would all band together to help each other survive."

    Would that be the Crips, Bloods, or Latin Kings?

    Excellent post, Patrice. :)

  9. All you have to do is look at some of the surveillance videos from retail stores on Black Friday to see what's going to happen. Can you imagine what it will be like when people are after a bag of rice or a loaf of bread, when they're willing to trample each other to death for the latest electronic gadget?

  10. That Californicator can certainly live anywhere he can afford to buy land, even next door to me, but if he expects ANY social interaction with me and mine, he'd best learn to speak in a far more respectful manner, because I still have the right to NOT befriend or help such an intolerant bigot. If he moved to China, I am QUITE sure that he would be falling all over himself to blend in and behave as the people do there in order not to offend them, but he seems to find it utterly impossible to conceive of the necessity to do the same in a different neighborhood in his own nation. Instead he goes out of his way to insult people he hasn't even met. Funny how that works...

    Xa Lynn

  11. Guess I'm more of a cynic than most. You can PLAN for anything and you can HOPE that people will remain as they were pre-SHTF. Unfortunately, what actually HAPPENS is often quite different.

    Some people handle stress relatively well. Others have a hissy fit if their power goes out for an hour. If you're going to form friendships with your neighbors, seek them out when the electricity is off or the water pipe is broken. See how they behave under minor inconveniences. If they are having a hard time coping with simple annoyances, shun them as potential partners in a survival situation.

    Just as an umbrella's worthiness is truly tested under a downpour, so a person'a mettle is tested under adverse situations. Seek out those who grin and bear it. Not those who grumble and swear at it.

    Anonymous Patriot

  12. As usual, excellent post. I am so thankful for my community and the fact that there is a group of us who can depend on each other, actually LIKE each other and stay in contact with each other. But it doesn't hurt to look around and see what we need to do to make sure we are keeping that community spirit alive. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. This is pretty good seed for a WND article Patrice. That spectacle in D.C. of opposing parties sitting together made me go to bed at 7:00 pm central time. For the kicker the biggest city in my state had a recall election on the same day. The Mayor being recalled was a carbon copy of Obama(white version). He is so crooked that he may be forced out by the law before he finishes paying off his millionaire supporters. I am disappointed in people.

  14. Though I get the bigger point, the part about foraging for wild greens in the city isn't entirely as wacky as it sounds. We spent a summer vacation visiting my brother and his family in the Seattle area. They lived in an apartment in the middle of the city. We arrived the first day in time for dinner, and as we needed a couple of things anyway, asked if we could pick up anything at the grocery store. The response was "vanilla ice cream." Done. When we arrived my brother was absent and I inquired as to his whereabouts. "Oh, he went to get the blackberries we're having with the ice cream." I said, "Well, we were just AT the store. Why didn't you tell me when we called?" Before his wife could answer, he walked in the front door, bucket in hand, scratches up and down his arms. Apparently there was a small vacant lot within walking distance that was overgrown with volunteer wild blackberries. In the middle of the city. Coming from Tucson - where NOTHING grows, even on purpose - we were in awe.


  15. Some people are idiots. There, I said it. I agree with everything you've said here--all of you. When someone is going to be fighting for a loaf of bread to feed their children it will get ugly. There is no way around it. =( And it makes me sad to know that.

    But it's not my fault. I work and take care of myself. I don't expect hand outs the way a LOT of people in my community do. I'm teaching myself to can and I'm planning on putting food in my walls--under the eaves, you know?--and deep in my closets so that I can prepare for my family. I'm getting those food grade buckets and starting to store stuff so that we'll be able to survive if it gets as bad as I think it will. I'm just going to keep the bare minimum out so that no one will every really know what we have put away. Will I share with people? Some yes and some no. Why would I share with someone who has never even talked to me before? The reason I believe I'll have to hide what we have is because there are a lot gangs around here now and I'm convinced they'll try to take what my family and I have worked for. A separate room won't be good enough because they'll just come in and "shop" if they can see it. We can't really get guns up here to protect ourselves either without it being a HUGE hassle and then fearing that you're on some kind of list.

    I live in Massachusetts--or what I call--the "You Don't Even Know How To Wipe Your Bum Right Without the State's Help State". Everything is so liberal here it's ridiculous and everyone here actually believes that they deserve to have everything handed to them. Why wouldn't they when the welfare workers are actually telling people that they will make more money by not working? I'm not kidding--it's happened more than once to several people that I know.

    It's no wonder we want to move to New Hampshire.

  16. Had Enuff--I know what you mean--my city gets all of Boston's "problems". Very frustrating when you can actually see the crime rate go up and you know it's because of the people coming here from the other cities. God knows that I'm not prejudiced, but I feel like people will think I am when I mention how crime has gone up since so many Puerto Ricans and Koreans moved here from Boston and the surrounding cities.

  17. One thing I have never understood about liberals and communists is that they seem to think a bunch of people getting together somehow creates more finite resources. If 20 people each happen to have $20 and they pool together they have $400 but still average 20. Same could be said about food or whatever. A bunch of unprepared people banding together won't make them more prepared, at least when it comes to finite stuff.

    Skills on the other hand are different. My neighbors can benefit from my defensive skills, tactics, etc. I can benefit from the neighbor gal being a master gardener or great with small animals. Mutual self interest as well as a neighborly desire to help can get a lot done in this area.

  18. II would classify Katrina as a lesson in the need for a bug-out plan. What would you do if all your supplies were underwater? The community came together and food spots were quickly set up but there was no way to communicate them to the masses. It should be noted that churches were the fastest at getting help set up. They were able to lean on the preparedness of their members to provide for the many in need. When I think of preparedness, it's not just about me.

  19. Xa Lynn you need to calm down girl. My blood pressure shot up about 30% after reading your post. Of course the world is full of injustice. How are you going to make it better with you gone from here? You are needed here so you need a thicker skin. I will remember you. Take Care

  20. I agree with Xa Lynn. People move in to a rural area an immediately start to make it like what they left and wonder why they aren't welcomed with open arms.

    As for russell1200 just what will your community activist ["The community activist types ...... They probably have a better skill set in working with government and quasi-formal government groups."] contribute when the the question is growing food or putting up shelter for man or beast if there is no government to supply hand outs? If some one has nothing to contribute (skills or materials) to the common good that is just what they should receive.

  21. Jesus said, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me."
    I get a whole new perspective when I imagine that what I'm doing to a person is just as if I'm doing it to Jesus.
    If I were to deny food and shelter to someone solely because I didn't agree with that person's past choices I'd be denying food and shelter to Jesus.
    I wouldn't feel good about that.