There are two ways to sleep well at night ... be ignorant or be prepared.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Be Prepared"

Think about it ... it's interesting to note how western society has come to view "preparedness" in recent years ... how far we have come, and how foolishly deep we as a culture bury our heads in the sand.

It wasn't that long ago that our instant-gratification culture, brought on by the technological maturation of "just in time" supply lines, was but a fanciful science-fiction plot detail. Communities then were actually built on internal cooperation and interdependence. And households lived everyday with a comfortable focus on the changing demands that tomorrow might bring.

This transformation has been longer in processing, but the end to the period of proud American self-reliance arrived perhaps about 15 years ago or so.

It's still easy to recall how, years ago on a community level, some folks specialized and thrived providing what others couldn't for themselves. Yet most everyone tried to make do, learning the widest range of life-skills possible to build their lives brick by brick. And helping others to do the same.

Of course, it was necessary to develop oneself in hands-on skill sets, and it was a fact of life that members of communities complemented each other to the point that, together, they could provide each other with much of or most everything they needed to live. Indeed, it's very possible that money was less a valuable commodity in those days than time and ability in terms of building true quality of life.

Alas, high technology and economies of scale in product manufacturing, distribution, and transportation, as well as the advent of persuasive mass communication channels and techniques changed all of that.

Today, there's probably not a community of any size in America that would not be very hard pressed to be able to feed and support its own members. In fact, given the wholesale exportation of our manufacturing capability overseas, the nation itself would be extremely challenged to provide for our own if international trade was to suddenly grind to a halt.

Still, conventional "wisdom" says, it doesn't matter ... it can't happen, right?

Well, at the risk of obvious oversimplification ... it's an extremely complex and interdependent world we find ourselves in today. When things are running as a masterfully engineered, well-oiled machine is capable of doing, the very sound and feel of it humming along endows us with confidence we can't help but embrace.

But as any technician will tell you, the more elaborate the design, the greater the likelihood SOMETHING will go wrong eventually. And in the case of our brave new global economy, the countless multitude of components are made up of imperfect human beings, not perfectly machined steel parts.

So here we are, living the dream. It's a beautiful life when we don't even HAVE to leave our well-appointed homes to pull in a paycheck or to make the multitude of purchases that keep us fed and clothed. It's all literally at our fingertips today. When the world is our personal oyster, we need only venture offline if we choose to pursue our "right to happiness," causing us to partake of interesting diversions wherever those whims might lead.

Preparedness is a High Credit Limit

Today's definition of "being ready?" ... It seems prudence is a line of credit and a full raft of insurance policies.

The old ways of planning for future needs, and perhaps even anticipating potential downturns or disasters is a quaint characteristic of less advanced cultures, right? Root cellars, full pantries, a barn full of tools, implements, and materials. It wasn't that long ago that even fallout shelters were the norm.

But that was then. This is now.

We've got it all figured out and we don't have a worry in the world. Leave the big picture planning and long-range contingency arrangements to the experts in charge of it all.

Taking Real Precautions

Unfortunately, I believe this is all a fair reflection of what mainstream America has become. It's real and pervasive, this eternally numb, but sunny outlook. It feels good today, but how will it feel tomorrow?

Fortunately there do remain folks out there who practice personal preparedness to the extent they are able, with the realization that America is more vulnerable today to accidents or intentional attacks resulting in possible total system failure. But it's no longer a group effort.

Communities are no longer equipped to withstand a full system-level disaster. They are wholly dependent on assistance from outside. But is it not possible that a disaster, natural or manmade, could far surpass local definition to become regional, national, or even global? Of course it is. Those scenarios have made a lot of people big bucks in Hollywood, but being on the big screen doesn't make some of them any less plausible.

What would be the prognosis in your community if the food and supplies stopped coming in, and the "system" had little chance of recovering in the near-term?

It's not a pleasant "what-if" to contemplate. But for those who do take the time to think through the possibilities, personal preparedness planning is the only option.

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