So I’m driving along the other day, and my daughter starts asking questions about stuff she’s heard about in the news. She’s thirteen, and painfully aware of the sucky economy, polarized political situation, Obama, and so forth. She looks at me and says, “Dad…if the wheels do come off and we have another Great Depression, what happens then?” Out of the mouths of babes. That stopped me for a moment. Or three. I said, “Honey, I don’t think anybody knows. The world suffered through one Great Depression. We can do it again. It won’t be the end of the world.” That was about as comforting as I could get, because I was turning the question over in my mind, wondering about it just as she did. Only I have the benefit of reading a lot of history, talking with my late parents and grandparents (who lived through it), and knowing that things are a lot different now than they were then. Sort of. So the question remains, what happens if the wheels come off?
Nothing like opening a can of worms, first thing in the morning, eh? Well, to get down to brass tacks, we first have to speculate on what ‘wheels coming off’ really means. By my definition, it would mean something that would be the End Of Life As We Know It. In other words, something that would push the economy into the abyss, by way of a breakdown in the government, riots in the streets, a paralyzing attack on our country/infrastructure – in other words, something catastrophic. I don’t know what, and I don’t know that specifics matter here. I’m not talking about an alien invasion from Mars, seeing a giant meteor heading for a bullseye on Planet Earth or something equally unlikely. Just something like the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression.
If you’re a fan of the late, lamented TV show Jericho, you’d have seen that it wouldn’t take a whole lot to rend the fabric of our lives. In that show, nukes took out our major cities, and with it, the government, the infrastructure (the electrical grid, transportation, food distribution, communications, et cetera). But that’s an extreme example. We saw with our own eyes how transportation can be crippled on 9/11. And something like that could have easily triggered things like a run on the banks, looting, profiteering (well, that DID happen, actually.) I think it’s far more likely that we have soaring prices for gasoline and electricity, hyper-inflation, food shortages, and eventually, riots, when there’s not enough food/food stamps/welfare and Social Security checks to go around. But what then?
I’ve lived through a couple of natural disasters. Fortunately, I’ve not had to pick up what’s left of my house after a hurricane or tornado. Nor have I had to barricade my house in fear of looters. But I know people that have lived through that. And it’s scary. You know, you get up in the morning, and expect certain things to be true – the sun rises, the water comes out of the tap, the lights work, that sort of thing. When it doesn’t, that has a way of rocking your world to it’s core. Add into the mix the potential of people breaking into your house to steal your stuff, and it can go from zero to freaky in about the blink of an eye.
So what do you do? Well, I’ve done some thinking on this. And what I’ve realized is I’m woefully unprepared for the worst that could happen. And I’m not much better prepared for even a minor rip in the fabric of our lives. Yes, I own guns. And ammo. And a Jeep, for that matter. But I don’t have enough non-perishable food to last more than a couple of days, and I’ve got about a day’s worth of water. That’s not good. And my financial liquidity is fairly non-existant right now. (If I could buy gold, I would, but that takes money.)
Let’s not get too far afield here, and limit the scope of our ‘what-if’in’ to self defense in a time of chaos. I have made a couple of decisions that, for better or worse, I hope will help if we get into a catastrophe. First, I’ve made a conscious decision to limit the number of calibers of ammo I need to stay in the game. Right now, my go-to weapons use .45 ACP, 12 gauge shells, and .22LR rounds. Oh, and for backup, .38 Special cartridges. I figure .45 ACP and .22LR are the most common, most plentiful, and easy-to-find ammo in the country. Ditto for 12 gauge shells. (On the other hand, if there’s a run on .22LR, .45 ACP, and 12 gauge shells, I’m screwed.) But at least I won’t have to worry about keeping a stock of every possible rifle cartridge, handgun cartridge and such, just to make my mini-arsenal run.
I live in a ‘safe’ neighborhood. But I’m aware that this counts for jack, should we be overtaken by some disaster that does something as simple as causing blackouts. Nothing like a little power outage, city-wide, to bring out the lawlessness in folks. So I am looking at my home, and I’m not liking what I’m seeing. I have security lights (useless in a power outage) and some decent locks. But from a strategic point of view, my house is not set up to be easy-to-defend. Too many windows (great for light – not so great for defense), too many blind spots, and no easy way out, should it be time to bug out. Not much I can do about that.
Which brings up my next big thought – how much preparedness is TOO MUCH preparedness? I am not one of these guys willing to go off-grid and live in a cabin in the woods, based on what might happen at some undetermined point in the future. Conversely, I’m not willing to go the ostrich route, and bury my head in the sand, hoping a crisis will never occur. So my thinking goes along the lines of the way the government plans for things like the flood ratings for property. Playing the odds, how likely is it that we’ll have a tornado? Odds aren’t that great, for I live in “tornado alley.” Hurricanes? Not this far inland. Fire? Always a potential problem. So having a bug-out kit (extra batteries, a little cash reserve, change of clothes, emergency food rations, first-aid kit) is a great idea. And basic theft deterrence/security is a great idea for the home. But past that? I don’t really know. I’m trying to figure out how much is too much. That would be a lot easier if I had any faith in our government. But since those in power (on both sides of the aisle) seem blind to the idea that you can’t spend your way out of debt (with a small handful of Tea Party caucus people and a few fiscal hawks on the Democrat side sounding the alarm), things look pretty bleak. And that brings me back to what my daughter asked.
You see, the difference between life the day before and the day after any disaster is largely the same, save for one important difference. Perception. The day before the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression, there was “irrational exuberance” in the market. The day after, everybody thought they were broke. If something bad happens, we’ll all keep breathing. The sun will continue to rise every morning. The world will continue to turn. But the biggest thing that affects our ability to keep going will be perception, and that, paradoxically, is the hardest thing to plan for, and the most difficult to control.