Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Growing Culture of Confrontation

A few days ago, I read an interesting and insightful essay entitled "Culture of Fear - Dealing with Cultural Panic Attacks," by Ronald Bailey. In the essay, he talks of Sociologist Frank Furedi's identified trends fueling the West's aversion to risk. One excerpt:
First, Furedi argued that there has been a shift in moral reaction to harm. People no longer believe in natural disasters or acts of God. Today, people suspect that someone is behind a disaster—an irresponsible corporation or a cowardly bureaucrat. Indeed, accidents don't happen anymore; they have been redefined as preventable injuries.

Furedi argued that many of us now assume that every negative experience has some inner meaning. For example, when a teenager dies in a car crash, grieving parents regularly tell television reporters, "There is lesson to be learned from Johnny's death." The lesson usually is not that bad things randomly happen to good people, but that our roads don't have enough guard rails, or that we should enact laws to prevent teenagers from driving with friends and so forth.

Furedi sees this kind of thinking as a return to pre-modern days of higher superstition, where every event has a deeper meaning. In the medieval era, the hand of God or the malevolent influence of Satan explained why people suffered misfortunes. Today the malevolent hand of government or corporate America is to blame for every catastrophe.

A second factor that Furedi sees contributing to our culture of risk aversion is that the nature of harms is represented in increasingly dramatic fashion. People are no longer expected to rise above adversity or encouraged to get on with their lives after they experience a hard knock. They are instead victims who are "scarred for life" and perpetually "haunted" by their misfortunes. Even the timescale of disaster has expanded. Anything that happens now produces consequences that you can never predict. Thus you have to be very careful about what you do today and worry about what might happen decades down the road. Treating people as permanent victims and constantly speculating about possible future harms is a recipe for social and economic paralysis.

It's really an excellent essay and seems to ring true in most regards. Certainly, a strong case for a safety-centric, risk-averse culture in America can be made coming from a number of different directions. I'll leave it to Bailey and Furedi to present that argument.

Culture of Confrontation

A perspective just as true, though seemingly at odds with the development of a risk-averse society, is one in which confrontation, animosity, and even violence is increasingly celebrated and treated as the basis for popular entertainment programs, not to mention news coverage, evolving political and business ethics, dwindling acceptable standards of juvenile behavior, and on and on.

Destructive criticism, confrontation, and exploding clashes between friends and foes all around the world are becoming the norm.

Civility and decency is increasingly viewed as being archaic and symptomatic of a weak character--a vulnerability. But I just refuse to understand or accept that. Not that I shrink away from a just fight, but for God's sake--what virtues do we fancy ourselves representing or carrying forward for our children's and our nation's future?

I'm not going into any more detail on this disintegration of values, as I am sure you know exactly what I'm talking about, and you need no further reminder from me on the sorry state of our collective identity these days. The trend is definitely downward, so it's hard to be optimistic that we can turn the corner on this anytime soon.

Consider It in Your Planning

The best way I can frame this without just letting my frustration all hang out ... try to use your understanding of the new reality in your planning and preparing.

Confrontational dynamics pervading our lives at all levels require mental and spiritual strength in the healthy individual today--that much should be clear. Keep that faith and balance in knowing that there IS a better way.

Yet, looking to the future, one must consider the possibility that we are headed for some dramatic outbreak of unrest and perhaps anarchy. It's happening within and between cultures all over the world today. The potential for it here in America seems to be simmering just below the surface, waiting to erupt unbidden if our enemies don't succeed in importing their own brand of societal disruption first.

What that means is you need to personally have some means of dealing with an increasingly violent and malevolent environment. If chaos breaks out for whatever reason in your neck of the woods, what will you do? Will you try to escape? Will you hunker down? Are you adequately armed to provide your household with some reasonable defense and/or deterrent from assault?

Think supplies and defensive strategies. Can you dig in and hold out for a length of time until the cavalry arrives? Do you have food, water, ammunition? Medications, first aid, trustworthy community bonds and support? How about such things as sandbags, body armor, and an adequately fortified shelter structure?

This IS the stuff of extremist dreams and nightmares for most others. But pay attention ... reality itself might be taking an extreme, sharp turn in the near future.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Interesting Essay - "The Coming of Deindustrial Society: A Practical Response"

Personally, the whole Peak Oil debate is on the periphery of my radar screen. I certainly accept that future energy demands vs. available resources is an issue of concern ... major concern, as time goes on. But I do cling to the notion that mankind and society will adapt to our changing environs and in fact we will continue to innovate brilliant solutions.

That is not to say, a lot of people won't feel pain along the way. After all, that IS the proven way of the human condition throughout history. Whether it is progress or regress, there is always a price paid by someone.

I came across a very interesting essay by John Michael Greer that is worthy of your time:
http://www.hubbertpeak.com/whatToDo/DeindustrialAge.htm

Some excerpts (bear in mind the author has some very strong views on the matter):

... it may be appealing to fantasize about vast government programs bailing us out of the present predicament, such fantasies are not a practical way of responding to the situation. We have to start with the recognition that the most likely outcome of the current situation is collapse: to borrow the Club of Rome's formulation, sustained, simultaneous, uncontrolled and irreversible declines in population, industrial production, and capital stock.

... Now as soon as this is said, most people who don't reject it out of hand slip off at once into apocalyptic ideas of one sort or another. These should be rejected; history is a better guide. Civilizations collapse. As Joseph Tainter pointed out in his useful book The Collapse of Complex Societies, it's one of the most predictable things about them. Ours is not that different from hundreds of previous civilizations that overshot their natural resource base and crashed to ruin. What we face is a natural process, and like most natural processes, much of it can be predicted by comparison with past situations.
But fantasy is often more palatable than reality, and most of the apocalyptic notions in circulation these days are sheer fantasy.


... the Hollywood notion of an overnight collapse is just as much of a fantasy; it makes for great screenplays but has nothing to do with the realities of how civilizations fall. The disintegration of a complex society takes decades, not days. Since fossil fuel production will decline gradually, not simply come to a screeching halt, the likely course of things is gradual descent rather than freefall. Civilizations go under in a rolling collapse punctuated by localized disasters, taking anything from one to four centuries to complete the process. It's not a steady decline, either; between sudden crises come intervals of relative stability, even moderate improvement; different regions decline at different paces; existing social, economic and political structures are replaced, not with complete chaos, but with transitional structures that may develop pretty fair institutional strength themselves.
Does this model apply to the current situation? Almost certainly. As oil and natural gas run short, economies will come unglued and political systems disintegrate under the strain. But there's still oil to be had - the Hubbert Curve is a bell-shaped curve, after all. The world in 2020 may still be producing about as much oil as it was producing in 1980. It's just that with other fossil fuels gone or badly depleted, nearly twice as many people in the world, and the global economy in shreds, the gap between production and demand will be vast. The result will be poverty, spiralling shortages, rising death rates, plummeting birth rates, and epidemic violence and warfare. Not a pretty picture - but it's not an instant reversion to the Stone Age either.
Equally imaginary is the notion that the best strategy for would-be survivors is to hole up in some isolated rural area with enough firepower to stock a Panzer division, and wait things out. I can think of no better proof that people nowadays pay no attention to history. One of the more common phenomena of collapse is the breakdown of public order in rural areas, and the rise of a brigand culture preying on rural communities and travelers. Isolated survivalist enclaves with stockpiles of food and ammunition would be a tempting prize and could count on being targeted.
Equally inaccurate is the notion that stockpiling precious metals will somehow make the stockpilers exempt from the consequences of industrial collapse. This strategy has been tried over and over again in recorded history, and it doesn't work. Every few years, for example, archeologists in Britain dig up another cache of gold and silver hidden away by some wealthy landowner in Roman Britain as the empire fell apart. They're usually close to the ruins of the owner's rural villa, which shows the signs of being looted and burned to the ground by the Saxons. As a working rule, if your value consists of what you've stockpiled, there will be an unlimited number of other people interested in removing you from the stockpile and enjoying it themselves. However many you kill, there will always be more - and eventually the ammo will run out.

... So what does work? The key to making sense of constructive action in a situation of impending industrial collapse is to look at the community, rather than the individual or society as a whole, as the basic unit. We know from history that local communities can continue to flourish while empires fall around them. There are, however, three things a community needs to do that, and all three of them are in short supply these days.
First, a community needs some degree of local organization. Our present culture here in America has discarded most of the local organizations it once had, in favor of a mass society where individuals deal directly with huge government and corporate institutions. This has to be reversed. The recent move to reinvigorate civil society is a step in the right direction. Joining or creating a local community group, and helping to revive local civil society, will help provide your community with voluntary networks of cooperation and mutual aid in difficult times.

... The second thing a community needs in the twilight of industrial society is a core of people who know how to do without fossil fuel inputs. An astonishing number of people, especially in the educated middle class, have no practical skills whatsoever when it comes to growing and preparing food, making clothing, and providing other basic necessities. An equally astonishing number are unable to go any distance at all by any means that doesn't involve burning fossil fuels - and almost no one in the developed world can light a fire without matches or a lighter from some distant factory. Survival skills such as organic gardening, low-tech medicine, basic hand crafts, and the like need to be learned and practiced now, while there's time to do so. Similarly, those people who cut their fossil fuel consumption drastically now - for example, by getting rid of their cars and using public transit or bicycles for commuting - will be better prepared for the inevitable shortages.

... Those people who can use their own hands and minds to make tools, grow food, brew beer, treat illnesses, generate modest amounts of electricity from sun and wind, and the like, will have a survival advantage over those who can't. In a violent age, practical knowledge is a life insurance policy; if you're more useful alive than dead, you're likely to stay that way. The pirate enclaves of the seventeenth-century Carribbean were among the most lawless societies in history, but physicians, navigators, shipwrights, and other skilled craftsmen were safe from the pervasive violence, since it was in everyone's best interests to keep them alive.

... The third thing a community needs is access to basic human requirements, and above all food. Very large cities are going to become difficult places to be in the course of the approaching collapse, precisely because there isn't enough farmland within easy transport range to feed the people now living there. On the other hand, most American cities of half a million or less are fairly close to agricultural land that could, in a pinch, be used to grow food intensively and feed the somewhat reduced population that's likely to be left after the first stages of the collapse. What's needed is the framework of a production and distribution system around which this can take shape.
The good news is that this framework already exists; it's called the farmers market movement. The last two decades have seen an astonishing growth in farmers markets across the country - the latest figures I've seen, and they're some years out of date, indicate that farmers markets are a $16 billion a year industry, with most of that money going to small local farmers. I personally know organic farmers who are able to stay in business, and support their families on quite small acreages, because they work the farmers markets. Every dollar spent on locally grown produce from a farmers market, instead of supermarket fare shipped halfway around the world, is thus an investment in local sustainability and survival.
There are a good many other, similar steps that can be taken. Anything that provides functional alternatives to energy-wasting lifestyles lays foundations for the transitional societies of the late 21st century, and ultimately for the sustainable successor cultures that will begin to emerge in North America in the 22nd and 23rd centuries. The important point, it seems to me, is to do something constructive now, rather than presenting plans to the government in the perfect knowledge that they will be ignored until it's far too late to do anything.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ideology of Intolerance and Mass Destruction

At some point soon, Western leaders will have to drop the foolish insistence that the war we are engaged in is an ethereal long-term war on "terror." It is completely plain to see that, instead, our fate is to either endure or fall in a blunt-force clash of civilizations.

The aggressor in this mushrooming reality is an archaic religious ideology, Islam, founded in the 7th century by the prophet Muhammad. Attitudes instilled in its one billion followers demand their submission to the will of Allah. Religion and social or political realms are inseparable, and theological leaders hold tremendous power in their own proclamations, interpretations, and exhortations.

There are multiple Islamic theologies, but today, the most intolerant and violent forms are multiplying unchallenged globally, leading millions of Muslims headlong into direct confrontation with modern cultures of the "infidels."

Ideologies of Aggression

Iran's nuclear ambitions and their unabashed Islamic-justified desire to wipe Israel from the map are front and center in the world's consciousness today. So are the recurring and spreading riots in Europe and elsewhere arising out of Muslims being whipped into a frenzy over western cartoons that depict their holy prophet.

This of course does not even consider the longer-term realities of suicide terrorism and criminal aggression on innocent civilians throughout the world in the name of Allah and in opposition to America, Israel, and anything not endorsed in Islamic tradition.

The threat to our way of life from the passionate opposition and anger nourished in the Muslim world is unprecedented today and is fast reaching explosive levels. The Middle East, and Europe are the front lines today, but America, Indonesia, and Asia are also in the middle of the fight, and there is no neutral ground in this ideological war.

Lines drawn between combatants are not as much along international boundaries as they are along and among intermingled populations everywhere. To-date, few opposing cultures have been able to match the passion and fire of the most radical Muslim warriors. The West has long ago turned in its own motivating faith and moral value sets for soft, self-centered individualistic pursuits that are not only a focus of Islam's wrath, but also our own undoing in being able to mount a defense equal in reason and strength.

By denying the nature of our true enemy in this struggle and confronting our weaknesses in truthfulness, we will not have a chance of holding the line against the enemy.

How to Prepare

On a personal level, the question here is, what should we do?

If you are looking to prepare your family and household for a clash of civilizations, potential dangers that come to mind are almost too overwhelming to consider. But like with any other threat, taking it a piece at a time is probably the way to go. A very brief summary follows ...

First, this type of threat is as much about personal belief and philosophy as about physical survival. Start there by deciding where your most basic loyalties lie. Do you believe in God? Do you pray for guidance in your day to day activities? Do you feel a bond with others in your community and nation? Are you and your family your first and only priority? The questions would be many and only you can create the necessary definition for your philosophical foundation. I suggest devoting time to this now and then building on your answers going forward.

With that understanding established, you might consider that a full-blown lifestyle-threatening clash of civilizations will have obvious impact on the lives of your family. Hardships and challenges may take the form of economic downturns, supply shortages, emotional difficulty and confusion, community strife, and possibly local violence that could take a toll right where you live.

Assuming you are spiritually grounded in your faith, I might suggest that your next important steps to take would be to ensure that your household security against reasonably expected aggression is in place. That can mean a lot of different things, such as hardened shelters, air filtration, employment of your legal right to arm yourself and provide for your own self-defense, home security systems, watchdogs, and on and on. What we are talking about in this regard is as much about peace of mind as anything else.

Last, as with most any other threat we try to prepare for, we want to have in place the ability to provide for the needs of our family for at least a short-term period without having to leave our home. For this threat, stocking up on food, water, medical needs, and supplies for a longer period of time would seem to be prudent--perhaps at least a month's worth, and as much as a year or more. And don't forget to prepare to engage in an economy potentially lacking in the ability to process credit cards or checks for a time in the event basic infrastructure is compromised.

No Limits

Ideologies today know no geographic boundaries. And some ideologies know no limits or fears in terms of their attempts to achieve their goals.

Now is the time to come to grips with that and to start establishing your own personal resolve to do what may become necessary in a world going mad.

Friday, February 03, 2006

New Logo, More New Products, Same Focus ... Your Needs are Our Needs

Been pretty busy lately, and I don't expect things will slow down much anytime soon. We're building the Safecastle business brick by brick, customer by customer and product by product. Our number one priority is to make sure our customers are 100% satisfied. If we can continue to deliver on that, the business will take care of itself.

Our flagship product line is the best-in-class prefab steel NBC shelters, storm shelters, and saferooms that are protecting thousands around the country. We are moving ahead with plans to systematically take this business to the masses.

The time is right for personal security and unparallelled peace of mind as offered in our shelters to go mainstream. It'll be a slow process, but with time, we think America will once again embrace civil defense--on a personal level.

A promising art student helped us out with the new logo ... what thinkest thou, fair readers?



Be sure to check us out regularly for the latest new gear you just might need someday: www.safecastle.com