Thursday, April 18, 2013

The 5 Stages of Preparednes Part 3:3 The Mad Max Scavenger

Don't forget to check out ALL of my Last Man On Earth Studies posts!

It's been MONTHS since I had an LMOE (Elmo, as I call it...for Last Man on Earth) post.  No particular reason. Just been busy.

Last time we talked, we were discussing the Jeremiah Johnson Mountain Man. The man who stands alone and survives with essentially nothing but the clothes on his back and his skills alone. Shortly before that, we covered the Doomsday Bunker Dweller. Those would be the people striving to live the easy life after the forthcoming apocalypse by spending their hard earned time and sweat on decked out bunkers.

We discussed the pros and cons of each, in depth. Essentially what we have seen is that these lifestyles are much more dynamic than their label. Not only that no one will fit squarely in any of these, nor that these lifestyles are discrete in the basic definition. What do we mean? it isn't realistic to build a bunker and to live in it for the rest of your life...or even years at a time. It isn't realistic to escape to the mountains and forge a living on your own. It isn't realistic to be the person that we are talking about in this post. Fact is, most people will be a combination of these, though ultimately, aligning more with one than the other. It's the law of averages, I guess. But, still makes good reading and thinking fodder.

So far, we have identified these 3 lifestyles: Those that prep way ahead and sit back, those that don't prep but have the skills to live by the sweat of their brow, and those that don't prep and don't have the skills or situation to survive other than to scavenge, steal, and kill. We have discussed the two formers but not the later. That's why we are here, right?

Who is Mad Max? If you really have to ask, I am very disappointed. Only the most famous of all the post-apocalypse heroes! It was the jumping off point for Mel Gibson.

 I won't go into the movies that much. You can goggle it easy enough. Heck, you can buy the movies off Amazon for next to nothing.

Who was Mad Max, you ask? Ok. The short and simple answer? He was a survivor of the apocalypse who gave up a home life when his wife and child were killed in exchange for living on the road. He scavenged food, gas, and weapons. Sometimes he stole. Sometimes he killed. A true mercenary to the bone who would deal with anyone for the right price. He is one of the first bad good guy types in cinema.

So, why use him as an example? Well, he demonstrated the required lifestyle and attitude required to make a living when a home life wasn't presented. That doesn't mean that he couldn't have. In fact, in the movies, he had ample opportunities to settle down. Whether or not we really know if he was able to make a living (we assume so, as per Mad Max) we know that he preferred this lifestyle.

Who does this lifestyle suit? Those that don't or can't prep. That's pretty much everyone. Those that can't or don't live in the wild without human made pre-apocalypse goods. That's also pretty much everyone as well.

Let's get a little more in depth to that last paragraph. Not everyone has the ability to prep for the time needed to let things settle down. Most people who survive the whatever-it-may-be will have a mighty powerful urge to eat and drink pretty quick. As in, within a few days. Weeks at the most, if you scraped out your entire pantry of stewed tomatoes and cream of chicken. Being able to prep comes down to a lot of factors, money being the key, but space to store is a large one. If you live in an apartment in the city, or even a cracker box house in the suburbs of a major city, that ain't you. Fact is, 80% of all people live in or adjacent major city. You could have all the money in the world, but getting a zoning permit for a bunker probably isn't going to happen. So, being a Doomsday Dweller is almost entirely out of the question if you live near a major city. Also, being able to be a Jeremiah Johnson Mountain man is awfully hard to do in a city. If you are one, getting out of the city may prove to be a pretty tall order. It goes back to our much earlier conversations about knowing when to get out. for the sake of argument though, let's say you live in NYC and you survive. Where you going to go to scratch out a living that doesn't depend on human made foodstuffs? Central Park? Yeah. You and everyone else for the first few months. Besides, being around other humans isn't really your style. And, when things get tough, they get dangerous. When the tigers and lions of Central Park Zoo run out, what do you think is next on the menu? Check that. That door swings both ways.

Does that mean that mostly everyone would be a Mad Max Scavenger? No. Let's not get it twisted. Just because most people, by default, would be scavengers because of location and ability, doesn't make them Mad Max. Mad Max was successful. He thrived when others perished. Slowly, the mortality rate of everyone who survives the cataclysm will grind to zero. Only the witty, strong and the ruthless survive this lifestyle.

So, we mentioned a few adjectives that describe Mad Max. Being this man requires you to be witty and quick. You don't have to be intellectual gifted. You do have to have common sense and you must be an alert and rational person. I guess I need to explain that a little more. Mad Max doesn't have to know how to build an automated water reclamation and filtration system. Mad Max does need to know how to set up a plastic tarp and funnel the early morning dew into a funnel. Mad Max doesn't need to know how to set a snare to catch a meal. He does need to know how to avoid traps set to catch unsuspecting victims like himself. He doesn't need to know the finer points of how to grow okra. He does need to get past eating rats. He doesn't need to know the eating habits and fall patterns of deer. He does need to know how to identify probable locations for other humans and their habits. He doesn't need a bunker full of foodstuffs. He does need to know where to look where others have not. He doesn't have to know how to entertain himself for weeks and months on end while in his bunker. He does need to know how to keep himself sharp to watch around every corner and to know the subtleties of escape and evasion inside the city.

That's a long paragraph full of differences. I hope you can see the similarities and dissimilarities.

Most importantly, Mad Max must be cut throat and ruthless. When he spots someone he doesn't know, he pulls the trigger first. Better them than him. He doesn't share. He steals when he has to, violently if needed. After all, when only the scraps are left, the meanest dog is the one who eats.

I think that should give a pretty good understanding of who we are talking about. Let's talk Pros and Cons.

  • Little work
    • Yep. It doesn't take back breaking work to be a scavenger. That makes it particularly attractive to most everyone. Find the food, eat the food.
  • No previous training needed
    • Anyone can be a scavenger. And you will see it. All walks of life from Hollywood starlet to a gutter snipe. All need to eat. All need a dry place to sleep. Only some will be able to become the person who has to, and almost known will know they have it in them until that day. You don't need the money of a prepper. You don't need a life time in the woods on a farm of a Mountain man. You just need to be breathing. And mean. And wily.
  • Not locked in to any one area
    • Not hard to understand. When the supplies dry up, you pick a direction and start humping it. Unlike Mad Max whose success was based on driving automobiles, this will come down to making the right choices for where to go. That doesn't mean the geographical direction, or even the city, but even down to the routes chosen every day. There is nowhere to defend as the other lifestyle choices have. Someone moving in on you? No problem. Pack and move out.
  • No expenses up front
    • It's already been mentioned, and it doesn't seem that important...but it is. You don't need a bunker, or a stash of food. You don't even need a gun. You just need to know where to get it and be ready to get it however possible.
  • Initially, a readily available amount of supplies to pilfer
    • Supplies are literally everywhere. While everyone will flock to super markets, these will sell out. Most people will struggle with the "what now". Not a frugal and thrifty scavenger. A person in a port city would know that even small fishing boats have good stocks of nonperishable food. Unhook that gang plank and relax!
  • Susceptible to weather
    • With no fixed shelter, no fuel stockpiles, every night and every season brings all new adventures in staying alive and well
  • Extremely dangerous
    • You are in almost completely hostile conditions at all times. Sure, everyone will band together....for awhile. But when food dries up, so will friendships. Give it a few months and it will be cut throat. Literally. The more you move through unknown lands, the more chances of being hurt. Not just by other humans, but just by slips trips and falls.
  • Supplies will disappear
    • Especially in large cities. It won't take more than a few months before people start eating rats. Or starve. A scavenger has to stay on the move in order to stay fed.
  • No end game
    • You can't scavenge forever. You get older every day. It will lead to a very slow, very lonely, very painful death. One of the most picturesque visions that I can put you on is from Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". Just search for "the old man on the road". Bleak outlook on the truth of the matter.
  • The human condition
    • You have to be a loner to survive. Let's face it. Maintaining the pace of eating to scavenge and scavenge to eat is a precarious game. Compound it with dependants.....yeah. But, the fact is, humans want to be around other humans. And if you are popping them in the back to make sure you don't find a knife is yours makes it tough to meet friends or otherwise.
  • Unpredictability
    • Tomorrow you could find the treasure trove that lasts forever. Again, I quote "The Road". The man and the boy found an awesome hidey hole filled with goods. But, they identified that it was only a matter of time before someone found them and killed them for it. At least on the road they could see others from a long way off. That's the way of it. Anything good is worth killing over. Better not make yourself a target. And just as tomorrow you could strike it rich, you could also wander into the wrong alley and meet a bunch of sadistic cannibals. You just never know. Go play a game like "Fallout". You will see...even in a unpredictable life can be in the wasteland.
So, that's it. This is the easy one to do, yet I admit that I have sat on it a bit. It's straight forward. It's elegant, in it's own simpleton way. I didn't want to over complicate it nor undervalue it. Its dually important because most of you will be this person. Whether or not you are successful is up to you. Again, no one will fit directly in one of the 3 lifestyles that I have outlined, but most will be very close to this one. Why? Well, because it's a numbers game. Most people live in big cities. Most people don't have the money or space or ability to build a real shelter. Nor do they have the land to put one up where it won't immediately become a target.  Most people don't have the skills to live on their own in the mountains. Most people can figure out how to scavenge at least for a while. Some of these will learn to be cut throat. Some will learn. Most will struggle with being wily. I know that is a funny word to most, but quick wits and decision making makes all the difference in a situation like this. This mostly about how to turn any disadvantage into an advantage or at least a stalemate, from bad weather to traps.

I hope you all have enjoyed covering each of these 3 types of people. They all have definite pros and very real cons. Seems to me that they all have more cons than pros. That's important to note, too, because most of us think that the end of the world would be the best thing to happen to us. It's not.

The world will be a different place, and the thing that I keep saying about ALL of these people is that they must be sharp, cold, and calculating. Period. Everyone is a potential enemy. Every decision is a deathtrap. So, know the pros and cons of each of these before you decide who you will be.