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He’s Not Wrong: My Very First Negative Review

I am pretty stingy with my money. Outside of certain items, I am very much a minimalist by preference, so I tend to think about things in depth before buying them, debating whether I need them, and how much I need them. This is even more so the case with training classes I take.

One of the due diligence steps I take, when considering any purchase, is looking for reviews of the product. Obviously, I look for positive reviews, but equally important to me, I look for negative reviews. You see, when I find something that no one, ever, has anything negative to say about, it makes me suspicious. Especially in the world of for-profit Internet search engines, where I know manufacturers and sellers can pay to have negative reviews of their products buried in the ether.

One of the things I have done, on a reasonably regular basis, is look for negative reviews of my classes and books. I haven’t been able to find any, and it bothered me, because someone, SOMEWHERE, had to have had a shitty experience in my classes (even if they were just bitching about the weather or range facilities—which have been pretty damned austere at times…), or thought my books sucked. I’ve never been able to find one.

Then, the other day, I noticed a comment on the blog, that was a negative review. AWESOME! And—to be clear—I am extremely grateful for this reader, even if my response below makes it sound otherwise.

I am in the curious position where I won (for free) a copy of Forging the Hero in hard copy. It was a fascinating read, and about 3/4 was solid information. I would pay about $20 for it. Truthfully it’s entertainment. As are amateur radio, gardening or gunsmithing books. Sure, there could/will be a scenario where these skills allow me to survive, but in early 2018 as I write this, all of the above come out of my “hobby” budget.

Back to the book. There weren’t any secrets, but a good deal of research backs up the conclusions (as it should). It’s really a comprehensive explanation and perspective. You can inexpensively read/listen to material by Jack Donovan and others and arrive at a similar perspective on “modern tribalism” (if that’s a term).

I’d recommend it to a friend, but at a time when nearly any published work from human history is available on Kindle for < $20, there is some sticker shock. You’d think it was a university text book on communist gender studies given the price tag.

Thanks for the writing the book, and if you are badly offended by my opinions, then best of luck during the “post-industrial” era.

 

Here’s the thing: He’s not wrong…sort of.

First, let’s talk about ebooks. For awhile, we offered the ebook version of Forging the Hero as part of a package, when buying the hard copy. I detest ebooks anyway (although, I do have a Kindle), but the real problem with ebooks, from an author’s perspective, is intellectual property theft. There is at least one pirated copy of Forging the Hero floating around on the Internet. Ironically, it is, or was, hosted on a White Nationalist site, according to the source who informed me about it. There isn’t shit I can do about that now, because it simply is out there. That’s not the end of the world, but it is a pretty fucked up deal for a dude to spend the effort and time to write a fucking book, only to have people steal the proceeds of his effort. So, I’m not going to make it EASIER for people to do that. So, yes. My book is more expensive than some of the others that are tangentially related to its subject matter.

 

Let’s parse the rest of the review though.

You can inexpensively read/listen to material by Jack Donovan and others and arrive at a similar perspective on “modern tribalism”

This is interesting, coming from someone who allegedly read my book. Perhaps he didn’t notice that Jack wrote the fucking Foreword of the book, and mentioned that it is a more hands-on approach to the theory and philosophy he discusses in his work? But, hey, that’s cool. There ARE a lot of dudes writing on the subject, from a variety of angles, currently. You SHOULD read their books. You should damned sure read Jack’s books. What you won’t typically get from them, that you do get from FTH, is the annotated research notes that go along with it, supporting the arguments and positions. Maybe you don’t want, or need those. In that case, then no, you shouldn’t spend $40 on a textbook (which, as Pastor Joe Fox, of Viking Preparedness pointed out in a video recently, is exactly what my books are.).

 

Truthfully it’s entertainment. As are amateur radio, gardening or gunsmithing books. Sure, there could/will be a scenario where these skills allow me to survive, but in early 2018 as I write this, all of the above come out of my “hobby” budget.

This is the crux of the reviewer’s statement, and it also the absolute, most truthful aspect of his review. For many people—see my article on Craftsmanship in Preparedness—this IS a hobby. It’s an entertaining hobby, that allows overweight, middle-aged, middle-class, adult men to play dress-up in multicam, and pretend to be stone-cold mankilling JSOC Jedi warriors, fighting off roving bands of pillaging Communist Jihadists. In that case, the reviewer is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!! Spending $40 for a book, that is going to tell you that you are approaching your hobby from the wrong angle, is ABSOLUTELY a stupid fucking idea.

I don’t approach preparedness as a hobby. Students who have been in classes, and some readers who are actually friends and acquaintances in meatspace can regale you with stories of how “not a hobby” this is for me. I recognize that it is not a matter of “could/will.” Like the perspective presented in my books, I—and my wife and children and the rest of the inner circle of my tribe—recognize that this is not some potential future calamity we are facing. Just like I discussed, in nauseating detail in Forging the Hero, we are already living in the “ShadowRun Cyber-Punk Dystopian Future.”

If you are serious—rather than a hobbyist suffering from the middle-class myopia that “this isn’t REALLY going to get any worse. It has to get better”—I am going to lay claim that my books are absolutely worth the price I charge for them. If you are a hobbyist—whether self-admitted, like the reviewer, or not—then no, you shouldn’t buy my books. They ARE expensive, and the work required to put the concepts and skills described in them is WAY more effort than you are going to put into a hobby.

 

Thanks for the writing the book, and if you are badly offended by my opinions, then best of luck during the “post-industrial” era.

 

I’m not offended, at all. I am surprised it took so long for someone to write even this negative of a review of the book. I am grateful, because it actually kills two birds with one stone. It helps discourage the hobbyists from spending money that they will feel would be better spent elsewhere, on some piece of MOLLE/PALS capable gear, no doubt, and because it means there is FINALLY at least one negative review of something I have produced, so people like me don’t get the idea that I am paying Google to bury negative search results.

The reality is, my books ARE expensive. They could be cheaper. If I decided to let someone like Lulu (who does the printing these days) handle the distribution side of things as well, I could charge less. As it is though, handling that side of things, even though it costs more for the buyer, meaning I sell less, allows me to pay the teenage kid of a clan member to handle the sorting and packaging on my end, contributing to the current and future strength of my clan and community. That is a sacrificial trade-off I am willing to make.

As far as the final clause in the sentence, that was obviously intended as a final parting insult? I am doing particularly well in the post-industrial period. My family is housed in a good home. My clan is well-fed, thanks to the valiant farming efforts of my wife, and the winter weather seems to have finally broke, so I can get shit done.

Sincerely, to the reviewer, you have my thanks.

To readers, again, he’s not wrong. If you view preparedness as one of your hobbies, you should definitely, DEFINITELY not buy my books. And, you DAMNED SURE don’t want to take one of my classes, if that is the case. They are even harder than reading the books.

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Hold Your Horses! Critical THinking is HARD!

In both The Reluctant Partisan, Volume Two (in the chapter on Intelligence Analysis), and in Forging the Hero (in the chapters on building good “fortune”—hamingja—through good decision-making), I made the point that, one of the most important tools we have available is the ability to “wargame” our own positions on things. It is hard, especially with our most cherished beliefs, but we CAN play “Devil’s Advocate,” and find the chinks in our own philosophical armor, in order to figure out where we are making poor choices. That’s what I am going to do for a moment…

I was having a conversation with John Meyers (who I shall herein refer to as Meyers, because if I say “John,” or “JM,” it will get confusing as shit, really quick, even for me), who writes for ZeroGov occasionally, the other day. We were discussing an article at Patrick Henry Society website, by the lovely Kit Perez, about the futility of the typical gun rights rally.

In the course of the conversation, I made a comment to Meyers, about the fact that, as ineffectual as rallies and protests are, maybe people would eventually catch on that “…ignoring drama, and just living your life in accordance with your values might actually be the best path to real freedom?” I went on to lament “That’s crazy! What about ‘muh rallies!’ and ‘muh representative republican democracy?’ Because that has worked out so well for people…”

I went on to point out that cognitive dissonance is only dissonant if you recognize it, at least at an unconscious level. The fact is, someone who is so conditioned to “respe’t mah authoritah!” of the .gov, that they legitimately do not have even an unconscious recognition of the dissonance.

An example of this can be seen in something I noticed late last night.

A federal judge in Massachusetts just upheld Massachusetts’ Assault Weapons Ban, claiming that it was entirely Constitutional. Last night, I noticed a post on social media, shared by several RKBA advocates, saying that the original poster hoped that the case went to the US Supreme Court.

Be careful what you wish for…here is some critical thinking for you, presenting the problems with that, before we look at a solution…

(To preface this, I am not an attorney. I have never been to law school, and I am not admitted to the Bar in any state. If I am mistaken in any of this, and the attorneys among us want to correct it, feel free. To be clear though, by “attorney,” I mean “those people who have their names appended with juris doctor.” Not barracks and jail house lawyers.–JM)

Previous to Heller v DC, the last case the USSC heard, specific to the Second Amendment, was the 1939 US v Miller, involving the interstate transportation of a sawed off shotgun, by a known bank-robbing moonshiner (and to be clear, I have zero issue with moonshining…). In the Court’s decision, they said, “…it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment…” Ignoring the fact that, apparently, the justices were unfamiliar with the use of “trench brooms” in World War One, this is important, because one of the arguments commonly—and correctly—used by RKBA advocates is, “the 2A is NOT about hunting. It is about military weapons in the hands of the citizenry,” which the decision in Miller seems to support. Right?

Well, here is the problem…at least 20 times a day, I see or hear RKBA advocates point out—accurately—that AR15s, and semi-auto only AK47s, etc, are NOT military weapons, because they are not capable of select-fire, and they are NOT in common use by any military force in the US, specifically BECAUSE they are not capable thereof. Anyone see the problem yet?

In Heller v DC, the Court’s decision refers to Miller, “Miller stands only for the proposition that the Second Amendment right, whatever its nature, extends only to certain types of weapons. It is particularly wrongheaded to read Miller for more than what it said…”

In other words, my very non-attorney comprehension of this concludes that, the Court sees this issue as something akin to, “Sure, bring us a case that involves semi-auto only rifles, like AR15s and AK47s, and watch how fast we uphold every ban on them brought to us, setting precedent for further bans…”

The worse part is, in the interest of making fence sitters who lean to their own side feel better about this issue, the RKBA side has repeatedly pissed in their own oats, by taking great pains to point out that “No, really! These are NOT military weapons! That is just fear-mongering!”

The point of all this, of course, is not that I personally feel the Court was correct, in either Miller or Heller. Ultimately, the point is, I don’t give a shit what the Court says. I have to live my own life, in accordance with my own family and tribal cultural values, and when those values contradict the law, as handed down from on high, by the Court, I have to decide which is more important to me.

So do you.

You can go and protest and whine, and plead with your masters….err…sorry…I mean, “demand that your legislators…” not do what you don’t want them to do, but if you are going to take that route, you better make sure you can afford to bribe them….err…sorry…I mean, “make larger campaign contributions for their reelection…” than the special interest groups can. Or, you can say, “fuck them,” and live your life, according to your own values. If that means having “ALL THE GUNS!!!!” then, by all means, spend all of your extra funds on firearms. If you need to go elsewhere to get them, then go elsewhere. If you need to buy them on the black market, then buy them on the black market (to be clear, I am not suggesting that…I am just saying, if that is what is important to your values, you need to find a way to be intellectually honest with yourself, in pursuit of your values.)

If you are going to live in a place where firearms, or certain types of firearms are illegal though, and you believe you might ever…EVER…have to use them in defense of life, limb, or property, I would suggest you better spend just as much time planning on how to hide the evidence of their use and presence after the fact, as you do in poring over the websites and forums, deciding which cool-guys accessories to slap on them.

At the same time, as we live through the demise of the Empire, you could be more efficient. You could simply focus on becoming as self-sustaining, in your chosen communities, as possible, reducing your interactions with the System, to the greatest extent possible. This is done by building the tribal ties and networks discussed in Forging the Hero, and simply living your life, in accordance with the values you believe in. It doesn’t mean you won’t EVER have contact with the System, but the more you reduce it, the less common those interactions will be, and the sooner the system fails the rest of the way, under the weight of its own baggage and corruption.

Craftsmanship in Preparedness

My buddy Greg Ellifritz, of Active Response Training, posted a book recommendation a few weeks ago, for an ebook called Locusts on the Horizon. Greg being one of the few people in the world that I know of who may read as much as, or more than, me, when he said it was “one of the best preparedness books out there,” I took heed, overcame my hatred of ebooks (it is only available in that format), and read it.

While there are some baseline premises I disagree with the authors on, I agree with Greg. It is one of the best, most level-headed approaches to preparedness that I’ve seen. As I discussed in my books, while the occurrence of a single, instantly-identifiable “SHTF” trigger event would be remarkably convenient, it’s not likely. Even in the case of an event that popular prepper porn novels make out to be THE event—solar flare, EMP, economic collapse, etc—the fact is, collapses of major civilizations take years, decades, and even centuries to fall all the way to “dark ages” status. That’s not popular, and it’s not convenient, but it is reality.

“But! Violent struggle in the streets!” “But, mah second civil war!” “Riots!” “Collapse of the Dollar!”

Sure, all of those are bad, but, especially at the local level, none of them are really “TEOTWAWKI” either, in most places. Sure, parts of major metropolitan areas are going to get ugly. A lack of potable drinking water from the taps. Absence of police presence making violent crime more likely. Control of whole neighborhoods by criminal gangs and cartels. A breakdown in the infrastructure system. Squatting by newly homeless people…Yeah, that’ll be different…

Guess what? That IS the norm, right now. You think an EMP going off is going to make it worse? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m betting on not. In fact, in a lot of ways, I suspect life for the residents of shithole ghettos in large urban areas will get BETTER after an event that draws more attention away from them, when the shadow governments that are already in place, in the form of criminal cartels, can move about more openly. No more pretense of divided loyalties between the government, the relief agencies, and the local gangs. The gangs will stomp out unaffiliated criminal actors in a hurry. Sure, it’ll be despotism, and if you’re an attractive female of breeding age, it’ll probably suck for the indefinite future, but, as a general thing, that’s just as true now.

What benefits will accrue the inner city? They have a new governing body in place that has a proven track record for getting a niche product into the community, under difficult conditions. Are groceries as profitable as drugs? Not right now, but in the event of a major event? It’s not like drug dealing gangs are in it because of the drugs. They’re in it because of the money, and the power the money brings them. How long do you think it will take a local gang to switch over from smuggling drugs to smuggling carrots? Hell, they don’t even need to smuggle carrots. They can get their mamas and grannies to grow them on the roofs and in the deserted lots.

Rural places? The power goes out in my neighborhood when a good storm blows. A cartel safehouse was raided and busted less than a couple miles from my house, last year. There was over $2 million worth of contraband on the place. My neighbor told me that our other neighbor had something like 50 head of cattle rustled out of his pasture, in broad daylight, two months ago. The closest town to us has signs in the front yard of several businesses and houses openly acknowledging the corruption in the municipal government. You know what people do?

They live. They have backup generators, or they are off-grid completely. Of my six closest neighbors, every single family raises a serious garden every year (as in, somewhere over 100% of their annual intake of vegetables. Some gets sold, some gets canned for storage, some gets given away), and every family raises their own chickens for meat and eggs. Half have a larger meat animal on the place as well, either beef cattle or pigs. Three of the neighbors have a family cow each.

You know what folks do here, when they hear a gunshot or two at 0200? They sleep through it. If you are awake to hear it, you just assume it is somebody shooting a raccoon in their feed bin. The only thing that will change in this neighborhood, when “SHTF?” We won’t bother calling the Sheriff, the next morning, when we have to shoot a meth head breaking into the house (which, knowing some of my neighbors, may not be a change, actually…)

Suburbia will probably suck in the event of a a major catastrophe, but, for the most part, folks will not suddenly be running off to the woods with their bug-out gear. They’ll be sticking around, in denial about what is happening, for quite some time. Probably until it is too late to get anywhere else. The smart ones will keep their generators turned off, and hide the fact that they have food left, and a garden in the backyard.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing some of the concepts in Forging the Hero with an acquaintance who is a self-identified “prepper.” He was curious about my stance that, while it would be awfully convenient, the deus ex machina of some major, obviously world-changing, cataclysmic event was probably NOT going to be the cause of TSHTF. While those things can, and probably will happen, and while they will have major impacts, for the average American, they’re just not the harbingers of the final fall of the Pax Americana—for a variety of reasons, but not least because, while the Empire still has the power to have influence around the world, the Pax Americana is demonstrably, irrefutably gone, and even the Pentagon admits it.

“Well, but…if you aren’t preparing for an EMP, or a global pandemic, what ARE you prepping for?”

“Dude, I’m not prepping for anything. I’m just living a life I want to enjoy.”

“Well, but why do you live off-grid and grow your own food? Why do you have all those guns? What if the shit never hits the fan? Aren’t you going to feel kind of dumb?”

“So, if I grow my own food, provide my own electricity, choose to live my life and raise my kids, in accordance with my family’s values, rather than let someone else do those things for me, I should feel like a dumbass?”

“Well…it just seems like a lot of work!”

“It’s less work than going to a job I hate, to make money for someone else, and using the sloppy seconds to buy the things someone else tells me I need.”

I went on to explain to him, just as I explained in Forging the Hero, when it comes down to brass tacks, “survival” is an impossible task. The incontrovertible truth is, “no one here gets out alive.” It doesn’t matter how much food you have stored, how many guns you have, or rounds of ammunition, or how many Israeli Battle Dressings you have stockpiled. Stuff doesn’t have nearly the effect on fate that decisions and good decision making do.

My interest isn’t in magically prolonging my personal physical existence. My interest is in passing down the values that have made my life worth living and enjoying, to my children and grandchildren-to-be, so they can pass it down in their turn. That forces me to focus on the process of preparedness, rather than the products.

Have you ever met a no-shit, real-deal craftsman? The dictionary defines a craftsman as “a person who is skilled in a particular craft,” but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the dude who loves what he does. He loves the process as much as the product, and will take however long it takes, to do something the “right” way, instead of simply trying to get it done the quickest way.

I’ve been fortunate to have met more than a few in my life. As a young man, I knew a lot of older folks who were genuine craftsmen. Blacksmiths, stone masons, wood workers, etc. As an adult, I’ve met even more, although in the more current iterations, ironically, most of the true “craftsmen,” I’ve met have been younger folks, male and female, in their twenties and thirties. These are people I’ve met who have given up on the crass mercantile consumerism of the current state of civilization, and in their search for meaning in life, have foregone the “need” for the latest iPhone and new car, and focused on refining their skill in their craft. I’ve met leatherworkers, blacksmiths, cobblers, carpenters, and woodworkers; horse trainers, and even a tailor, all leading this resurgent drive towards quality and craftsmanship. I talked about this briefly in Forging the Hero, where I mentioned a book that I recommended, The United States of Americana, by Kurt Reighley.

As I’ve gotten to know some of these folks, there are a couple of interesting things that have stood out to me, as it relates to preparedness in the current decline. We’re going to focus on two of those, in varying degrees, but we’re mostly going to focus on the more critical of the two.

This is the fact that they—universally—believe that the “secret” to finding satisfaction in their craft is in not being satisfied with it. They are not driven by the completion of any given product, but in the process of creation itself. One of these young guys, a stonemason, has become a pretty good friend of my. He was self-taught, but has been subsequently very, very successful, with some pretty amazing achievements in his professional portfolio, but also a considerably healthier bank account than most of his peers who followed the more modern approach to careerism. We were talking a few years ago, and he mentioned a conversation he’d had with his mother, when he was first starting out, that stuck with me (for the record, this is not a verbatim record of a conversation someone recounted to me around three years ago. It’s the best I can recall, and the tone and meaning of the conversation are the same).

“I was getting really frustrated on my first bridge build. It wasn’t anything particularly novel or challenging, but it was the first one I’d done, and it was taking way longer than I thought it should. I was getting really upset; with myself, the project, and everything that happened that I felt slowed down my work. I was bitching to my mother about it one afternoon, and said something about, instead of the masonry thing, I should probably go back to school and finish my degree.

“My ma looked at me for a moment, with her ‘Ma Look,’ and said, ‘You realize you might be dead by morning, right?’

“Now, I don’t know about you, John, but it isn’t every day that I hear my mother say something like that, and I was pretty speechless for a moment. Being my mother though, and not shy about talking, I didn’t have to worry about the conversation lagging…

“’Quit worrying about how long it is taking,” she went on. ‘You might never get to finish it. You could die in your sleep tonight. Enjoy that you are doing something you love to do, instead of sitting in a cubicle, contemplating cutting your wrists.’

“John, I’ve tried to follow that advice ever since. It’s served me well.”

His recounting of that conversation with his mother has stuck with me, for several years now. I never really “got it” though, until recently. I’ve always been a pretty goal-oriented guy, after all. I certainly didn’t get any connection to preparedness. It is all about the process versus the product. It’s performance-based, instead of outcome-based.

People who focus on the product of preparedness do it because it gives them a feeling of “doing something,” without requiring too much concerted effort. Then, they can get back to their beer, popcorn, and football games on television. They “took care of it,” in the only way they know how. Now, they can go back to focusing on being comfortable. Except, it doesn’t work that way.

They don’t care about the process, because they don’t actually expect a catastrophic failure of the American imperial civilization. They just want to believe that they can outlast some short-term disaster, until things “return to normal.”

Folks, this IS normal, now. Trump isn’t saving shit. While I’m not really one to go “I told you so…”

I told you so.

Seriously though, nothing has changed, except our current Dear Leader has a different letter behind his name, and, by all appearances, is slightly more unhinged than the last one. Now, don’t start the hate mail yet. I’m certain, down to the depths of my soul, that POTUS believes he is doing the best for the country. I’m not even getting into an article about why that is demonstrably untrue (maybe I will soon. That would make a good S3C article).

We have a president who openly said, fuck due process, let’s take the guns! We have a president who is letting his DOJ ban/confiscate a firearms accessory that will probably lead to basically every aftermarket accessory being banned under the same ruling. Good thing Hillary didn’t get elected, or gun rights would have been eroded! (FTR, I think the bumpstock is dumb, and owning more than one, as a toy, may be prima fascie evidence of mental retardation.)

Remember how everyone was worried that, if Hillary got elected, we would end up in a shooting war with Russia? So, a few months ago, the US Air Force ran a bombing mission in Syria that killed something like 500 Russian “mercenaries.” What do you think we would do if Russia bombed 500 American “contractors?” This week, POTUS just tossed the Russian diplomatic mission out of the country, because of British allegations that the Russians had attempted to assassinate a former Soviet agent living in England. You want to start a war? Kill a bunch of their people WHO ARE NOT ATTACKING YOUR COUNTRY, and then, a couple months later, look for any pretext to kick their diplomats out. Phew. Good thing we didn’t get Hillary.

A couple months ago, the population of Hawaii got an alert that a ballistic missile was inbound and “this is NOT a drill!” By the end of the day, people were making jokes about it, and cranking out memes on socila media. The first step to normalizing an uncomfortable experience or sensation? Making humor out of it.

It’s become normal now, to expect to see on the news that some dude shot up a school, or a church, or a night club. We don’t even blink anymore, for more than a moment. Instead, it instantly becomes the basis for more polarization of the population, increasing the possibility and probability of sectarian violence right here in America.

Ah well, let’s just go watch the ball game. I’ve got my beans, bullets, and band-aids stockpiled.

Preparedness, in the real world, is not about the product. It’s about the process. It is about learning skills, and developing prowess and expertise in those skills.

You take a fifty year old dude, with a basement bunker full of stuff…survival rations, guns, medical supplies, etc, that he paid for over a few years, with his factory assembly-line job paycheck…then you take my stone mason friend from above. Toss them both into a time machine, and stick them ten years, hell, five years, into the future. You know who is gonna come out ahead? The twenty-five year old stone mason. Not because he is younger. Not because he is fitter. I know a lot of “normal” dudes in their fifties that are damned fit and strong.

That dude with the basement full of stuff? He just wants to hold on until things return to normal and he can collect his pension and Social Security check. He is only interested in the product of preparedness.

That young guy though? He might have a basement full of stuff too, but he’s into the process. He already accepted that he doesn’t get a retirement fun, and Social Security isn’t going to be there. He’s accepted that the six years he spent working towards a degree, that his parents and teachers told him would be essential, was a waste of time. He’s already moved on, found a sustainable trade that he enjoys doing, and chased it. He’s adaptable.
Back about the time I started writing this blog, I was talking to a dude I worked with about retirement and the insolvent, doomed future of Social Security. I made the comment, “You know, I’d gladly ignore all the money the government stole from me for Social Security over the years, knowing I’m never going to see a single check in return for it, if they’d just start phasing it out, and quit stealing my money.” That dude came completely unglued. “That’s bullshit! That’s my money! Fuck you! They can’t do away with Social Security!”

The product of preparedness is all the shit you can buy at Prepper Shows, Gun Shows, and from various online vendors, like Ready Made Resources (and, no, I’m not shit-talking Ready Made. They were just the first company name that popped into my head). It’s the two-year supply of freeze-dried food, the Berkey Water Filter, with twenty-thousand gallons worth of filters, the Israeli pro-masks with an extra set of filters, and the ten thousand rounds of 5.56 and 9mm you buy and stockpile, for WTSHTF.

The product of preparedness is the beans, bullets, and band-aids that you can purchase, pack away, and call the job “done.” You’re by-God prepared! That is what preparedness is, for far too many people, in my experience. Folks drop a few months’ worth of pay on a bunch of stuff, then go back to work the next day, at a job they hate, in a cubicle they despise, for a paycheck that barely allows them to buy all the shit they don’t really need, but still feel obligated to buy.

My wife and I were driving past a strip of outlet stores the other day, and she pointed out that, she’s never understood the allure of outlet malls. My response was, “Most people fucking hate their lives. They have been convinced—propagandized through a lifetime, into a genuine, deep-seated belief—that buying shit will make them feel better. So, they anesthetize themselves by spending money they don’t have, to buy shit they’ll never use.”

That’s the same principle in action.

You think that dude, who was a “prepper,” with a safe full of guns, “six years” of freeze-dried food, and a pretty decent medical cupboard, has accepted that his “normal” is now abnormal? He had the products, but he wasn’t interested in the process.

We need to become craftsmen of preparedness. We need to accept what a friend of mine, who is in his fifties, ironically, mentioned to me recently, when he heard me using the term “post-industrial” rather than “grid-down.”

“You know, John, you’re right to change the verbiage. ‘Grid-down’ implies that it’s coming back. People don’t get it. When it goes, it’s gone, for good. Certainly for the lifespan of anyone currently alive.”

We need to accept that “WTSHTF” isn’t some hypothetical future catastrophe. We’re in the midst of it. There is no “acid rain-washed, dystopian future.” There’s just “now.” There’s just “normal,” and “normal” is simply “what is.”

There will be readers who want to argue that things aren’t that bad. They’ll say I’m being hyperbolic and exaggerating. They’ll say the Republicans will save us. They’ll say that President Trump will save us.

For fuck’s sake! Look around. Take off the rose-colored glasses, forget the bullshit fairy tale promises your mommy made you, and look around, objectively, and think. More Republicans voted to continue warrantless spying on American citizens than did Democrats, in the last vote. Accept what is, is, and start loving the process of preparedness.

One of my favorite current writers on the socio-economic future is John Michael Greer, the former author of the now-defunct The Archdruid Reports blog. I don’t agree with him on everything, and I think some of his core premises are flawed, but even coming from widely divergent backgrounds, we’ve reached a lot of similar conclusions. One of his books has a title that I’ve pretty much come to accept as my personal lifestyle mantra: Collapse Now and Avoid The Rush.

That is focusing on the process, rather than on the product. When I look at a project that needs to be done on our farm, the first question isn’t “how long is this going to take?” The first question I ask is, “How can I achieve this, so that in ten years, or fifteen years, if I can’t get heavy machinery, or fuel for it, how am I going to maintain it? How will my kids maintain it in thirty years? What about my grandchildren, fifty years from now?”

A lot of people I know, especially those involved in Permaculture and organic growing, are loathe to use heavy machinery on their places, because it’s not particularly “Earth friendly.” I’d rather use the heavy machinery now, in the short-term, and have a system in place that doesn’t require heavy machinery to maintain in the long-term.

It’s not about “what do I need to buy/make/procure, so I can live longer?” It’s remembering “You could die tomorrow.” It’s thinking about, “how can this be maintained after I am gone? Will it be able to be maintained after I am gone?” If not, it might not be a project worth doing in the first place.

When we talk about training, we spend a lot of time talking about standards and performance metrics, and righteously so, because those are important. One of the things I’ve repeatedly returned to though, is the importance of “soft standards,” or focusing on, no matter where you are today, being better tomorrow. That’s the process, rather than the product. Too many guys want to go, “Well, I can shoot El Presidente in X:XX seconds, so I am good to go.!” That’s focusing on the product. Another way of phrasing this…focusing on the process, and not the product, is to use Pat McNamara’s terminology of Performance-Based Training, rather than Outcome-Based Training.

Why do you want to be prepared? What is the life goal of being prepared? Once you define that, start living your life in accordance with that. If you’re tired of listening to politicians make promises that you know turn into lies? Quit listening to politicians.

If you’re concerned about GMO foods, stop bitching about GMOs and Monsanto, and start growing your own food, or buying your food from stores that don’t stock GMO products, as a matter of policy. If you’re concerned about not being able to buy guns in the future, then stop buying Double Espresso Mocha Lattes at Starbucks, and set that money aside to buy guns, before they are no longer available.

Focus on the process, not the product, and recognize that the process is simply living your life in a way that will allow you to achieve what you are trying to achieve. Collapse now, and avoid the rush.

…to be continued…

More Drills Drama

If you subscribed before the drills went out today, and have not received an email yet, please contact me at nousdefions@unseen.is with a valid working email address, along with name/information from your order. Some emails didn’t work, but I THINK we have everything working now, other than those.

 

John

Subscription Drills

Today’s installment of the subscription drills just went out. If you have subscribed, and not recieved it, or the last installment, please contact me so I can remedy that situation. I know at least one person subscribed before the last installment, and didn’t recieve theirs. I THINK I got that fixed, but again, if not, let me know.

John

 

Also, since people keep asking, subscription order form is located at

here

One of the things I have tried mightily to avoid is turning this blog into a business venture. I left sales of the books in the hands of another for several years, because I didn’t want to turn this into a commercial venture, where I was focused more on entertaining customers and convincing them to buy books than I was in simply putting out what I believe is good, valuable content.

I’ve received a lot of suggestions from readers that I should liven up the book covers, to make them more attractive, to draw buyers. I’ve been told I needed to jazz up the site, or kick out more content, even if it is shorter and shallower, just to keep people engaged. I’ve been told I should produce t-shirts and sweatshirts and patches and stickers, and more, all to make the blog commercially viable.

Not interested. I wasn’t interested in the beginning, and I’m still not interested. It’s bad enough that I have to deal with selling and shipping the books now. I have gotten emails from three or four people who’s orders have not been received yet. I have communicated with them, and when I return home tomorrow, as I informed them, I will get to the bottom of it, and make it right. The last thing I want to deal with is MORE of that. So, we are NOT going to turn this into a more commercial site.

I will continue to write and post articles when I have something to share with you that I think is worth sharing.

However….

I have also received a lot of inquiries about the availability of upcoming classes. As it stands, I currently have two classes scheduled, both private. We may have open enrollment classes this year, but as of now, there are simply none scheduled. When I have informed folks of this, a few have asked for other options, so I have decided to run a test concept for me. We are going to offer a one-year subscription for training drills. For those that subscribe, there will be two drills a month, emailed to them, on the 1st and 15th of each month, beginning with the first drill after your subscription.

These drills will range from pistol and carbine drills to combatives and PT, and small-unit tactics drills. Each drill will include a task, conditions, and standards statement, as well as a description of how to actually execute said drill. Most importantly, each drill will include a statement of purpose, describing the WHY, or what purpose the drill is intended to fulfill in training.

Occasionally one of these drills will be something that was described in one of the books, but most of them will be drills that we use within classes and our local community, for training. These are not all going to be super-duper, high-speed special operations drills that require you to be a hard-dicked 19 year old Ranger to succeed at. These are drills that are used, regularly, to train folks in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and older, of varying levels of physical ability.

Cost of the one-year subscription is $120, which sounds like a lot, until you break it down, and realize it is $5/drill. I’m not going to pimp this subscription, beyond this discussion. I’m going to try it for a month, and see if there is adequate interest, so if you want in, by all means, go to the store site and purchase the plan. If, at the end of that month, there is not enough interest, those who have already subscribed will have their subscriptions filled for a year, but I will no longer offer it on the store site.

 

If not, no harm no foul, I’ll still be writing the blog.

Courage is a choice.

By the time you read this, I would be surprised if there are many in America, let alone among the readership here, who are not aware of the fact that, during the recent mass killing at a Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, several deputies of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, including at least one School Resource Officer (SRO)—whose primary duty, at least in theory, was to protect those young people of his community—stood outside, even as local municipal police officers moved into the building.

Initially, it was pretty quickly known that one deputy, the SRO, had never even attempted to enter the building, once the gunfire began. Quickly—and righteously—he was labeled a coward. Just as quickly however, more than a few notable people, across the Internet and media—including some with stellar combat records themselves—jumped in to the fray in his defense, pointing out such things as their experiences having seen other brave men finally run out of nerve, and etc.

My response to this is two-fold, as we will see below.

Rather quickly though, the news leaked out that it wasn’t just the SRO, but two or three other BCSO deputies besides, also stood outside, even after local municipal officers arrived on scene, and initiated entry into the building. Now, it was pointed out that perhaps, after all, it was simply that they were following department policy, to wait for SWAT in such instances. As more information comes to light, this does appear to be the case, along with a host of other egregious wrongdoings on the part of BCSO that—if they did not lead to this event, then, at the very least, contributed to it, and made the outcome far more gruesome than it might have been.

I am not going to waste a lot of time, effort, or bandwidth discussing the niðing behavior of the deputies. They are all cowards, and department policy be damned. You do not take the gifts—pay and benefits—of your community, in return for the expected duty of protecting them and—especially—their children, and then, at the moment the bell tolls for you, decide department policy and officer safety trumps those obligations. Doing so makes you an oathbreaker and a coward, by any reasonable definition.

I am not particularly a fan of “the police,” but neither am I a “cop hater.” I count a number of sworn officers amongst my friends, and at least two within my innangarð, making them oathsworn brothers, rather than simply friends. I understand the importance of “officer safety,” and I don’t begrudge a peace officer ensuring his safety, within reason. However, like myself, and every other man I know who puts a gun on their belt in the morning, and steps out, ostensibly ready to provide protection for those around him—especially if you are receiving compensation for said service—deciding that “officer safety” trumps doing your duty is the definition of cowardice.

Again though, I am not spending my supper time with my family on writing about them. Instead, I am going to discuss some things, from my own experiences and observations, that relate to this, in the context of the prepared citizen, recognizing our current position in the normal cycles of history.

To whit: courage is a choice. It has been said that courage is like the fuel tank on a vehicle, and eventually, if you use enough of it, you simply run out. I don’t know how perfectly accurate that is, but it is a good enough analogy for the moment. Here is the thing about that analogy though, and the point of this: like a fuel tank, you can refill the reservoir before it runs out—or even before it runs low. Running “out” of courage—especially in an occupation or role that demands physical and moral courage—is no different than running out of gas…it is a choice, and rather simply remedied, by topping off the tank regularly. If you read this blog regularly, I will take the liberty of assuming that you have chosen to identify yourself as someone who intends—when the time arises—stand to protect your innangarð, however you define it. This article is intended then, to discuss HOW we might make ourselves more ready to do so, without becoming niðings, when the moment comes.

I have previously written at least one article with Aristotle’s famed quote, “We become what we do,” as the title, and it is a line I have mentioned numerous times over the years in my writing. It is a core part of my personal philosophy on life, and has been since my grandfather said it to me decades ago, before I even knew who said it first (seriously, until I was in my thirties, I thought my grandfather had made it up.).

So, what does that have to do with the choice of courage? We are not born intrinsically courageous. If anything, our evolutionary biology programs us to be rather craven, into at least adolescence, as a survival mechanism. Due to our inherent physiological shortcomings as “hairless apes,” who lack fangs or claws, until we are old enough to manufacture and wield tools, natural selection has made it the role of the adults of our tribe/clan/pack/community, to protect us from harm.

For most of humanity’s existence, the majority of humans have understood that those “bumps in the night” are not just random noises. SOMETHING made those noises, and sometimes those things had claws, fangs, and a taste for the succulence of human flesh. It was understood that the role of any man who considered himself such, was to go out and hunt down and slaughter those things that might harm the young of his tribe or clan or community. It was the duty of every woman, no matter how domesticated she might be; no matter how happy she might be keeping the hearth clean and welcoming, to stand ready to pick up her husband’s extra shield and spear, and stand in the door of their hovel, hut, or fortress, and slaughter those beasts that came looking for the flesh of her offspring, when her husband was absent.

I doubt few Americans, even today, do not have—buried somewhere in their brain—an image of a brave pioneer woman, nuzzleloading rifle in hand, standing in the door of a small frontier cabin, ready to shoot down any marauding intruder, bear, wildcat, wolf, or man.

The problem in America, as with every other great civilization in history, is that we—like our forebears—abrogated that responsibility to a selected corps of “protectors,” in favor of doing less dangerous, “more rewarding” tasks like banking and arguing before a courtroom, fixing someone’s plumbing, or working on their computer problems. Even my farmer neighbors, those stalwart representatives of our yeoman agrarian past, when a predator stalks their livestock, are as likely to call in the game warden as they are to simply shoot, shovel, and shut up.

This then, is the most important lesson given the American people by the niðings of Broward County—and perhaps the only thing of worth they’ve done in their lives, if I had to guess—and it is one that many of us have been telling people for a very long time: no one is coming to save you. You are responsible for your safety, your family’s safety, and the safety of your community (and if you think any of those stand alone, then you are a fool).

How then, do we ensure that, when the bell tolls for us, we make the “right” choice, and choose courage over cowardice? We begin by ensuring we have filled the fuel tank, and then we top it off at regular intervals, rather than letting the needle ride the “E.” We choose courage—moral and physical—in our every activity, every day.

My experience—and every one with similar backgrounds that I have spoken to about this subject has agreed wholeheartedly—is that, in the moment, running toward the sound of the guns—real or metaphorical—was not particularly difficult. The choice had already been made, and the pattern of behavior set in place through repetition.

In a nutshell, making the choice of courage, rather than cowardice is as simple as “always choose the harder path.” We are, at our most base, lazy. Again, it is evolutionary biology at work: the less we do, the easier it is to store calories for the winter starving time. Getting out of bed, in the morning is, at a very basic level, an act of courage. We are accepting that we might expend calories that will not be replaced, which could—ultimately—result in death from starvation.

That’s not the choice I’m discussing though.

It’s not a particularly widely known fact about me, and certainly not something anyone expects to hear from me, given my professional background, but I am horribly, deathly afraid of heights. I am scared to climb a ladder, or stand on a table. I don’t even particularly like standing on a chair, to change a lightbulb. I had two particularly bad falls, as a very young child, both of which resulted in broken bones. This resulted in the very natural aversion to repeating the experience.

Despite this though, I managed, for almost a decade, to remain on airborne status in very active special operations units, as well as fast-roping out of helicopters, and even spent a significant amount of time, in and out of the service, as a recreational rock climber. I have roofed several multi-story buildings, both with and without fall protection in place.

Now, ultimately, military parachuting is—statistically—a remarkably safe activity. Since 2004, the US Special Operations Command has had a mere five static-line fatalities, and only 16 deaths from free-fall accidents. When considered in light of the number of successful landings that occur in any given year within the SOF community, that makes dying in a parachuting accident somewhat less likely than dying from being struck by lightning, and significantly less than dying in a traffic accident driving across town.

Despite that, I’m seldom scared of driving, and I don’t have a qualm in the world about being outdoors in a thunderstorm. Fear is not rational. Not succumbing to fear however, I posit is entirely rational. Courage is a choice.

How then, do we make the decision to charge the sound of the guns, when it is our time to leap into the breach? The same way I made the decision to overcome my terror of high places, and not only volunteer to go on airborne status, but to remain there. The same way I can stand on the top of a parking garage in a metro area, and look down, without having a panic attack: we choose to not be cowards.

I have discussed it in the past in articles, and it is often derided as posturing, but I stand by the statement, as have other experienced people in the training industry: hard, uncomfortable, potentially dangerous training and activities, force us to fill our courage reservoirs. Brazilian jiu-jitsu training builds physical courage. It is distinctly frightening to be choked into unconsciousness. At an evolutionary level, we understand that being unconscious leaves us susceptible to whatever someone else wants to do to us. Being put into a position where we know only the goodwill of our training partner is stopping them from rendering us helpless or even dead, is frightening. Putting yourself in that position, by choice, is choosing courage.

Pain is scary. It is our body’s way of screaming at us, “Danger! Danger! Danger!” At an unconscious level, we KNOW getting punched in the head is an invitation to being rendered unconscious, just like being choked out. Getting repeatedly punched in boxing training is frightening. Especially against a significantly more skilled sparring partner or coach, when we are basically powerless to stop the assault, our brain registers that we are at their mercy, until we learn more and advance. Putting yourself into that position, long enough to learn and advance, requires making the choice to be courageous.

Making the courageous choice is more than that though. Making the choice of courage is also about moral courage. It is standing by your convictions, even when others around you succumb. Most people talk about this, yet every day, we see people succumb to pressure to bend the rules or violate their own beliefs. Like courage, cowardice is made up of small choices, and the more small choices to the wrong that we make, the easier it becomes to make wrong choices when the stakes actually matter.

An example of this I’ve seen a lot, is when someone who brags constantly on their honesty and integrity discovers that a store clerk gave them too much change. Rather than going back and giving back the incorrect extra, they chalk it up to “my good luck.” Well, that’s fine, but it puts the lie to their integrity, doesn’t it? They engaged in a commercial transaction of X amount of money in return for goods or services, but the other party made a mistake, and rather than be honest to the contract, they took advantage of it (and yes, for the record, I make it a point of returning to the cashier when this happens, if I don’t notice it at the register and repair it then. Courage is a choice.). Moral courage is as important as physical courage, if not more so.

I got stopped one evening recently. When the officer approached the vehicle, he asked if I knew why he stopped me. Since I knew I wasn’t speeding, I assumed it was because I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, and informed him as much. He laughed and said, “Well, no. I didn’t know that. I stopped you because your tail light is out.”

“Well, now you know I wasn’t wearing my seat belt either.”

I didn’t get a ticket for either violation, but he could have written me the ticket and added the seat belt infraction, since I had already admitted it. That’s okay. I certainly wasn’t going to simper and cower, “Gee, no, officer. I have no idea why you stopped me.” (I get stopped for not wearing my seat belt, a lot. Since I don’t ever speed, any time I get stopped, I just assume it’s for that. I KNOW it’s a ticketable offense, and I don’t care. I am willing to accept the consequences of my choice to not wear my seat belt in urban traffic. Courage is a choice.)

When someone uses an excuse like the murder of children to try and rob you of your ability to protect your community, I would offer that, rather than hide behind “it’s my right!” or any other excuse you have been handed by others, choose courage, and simply tell them, “No.” I have reached the point where I no longer engage in debate with those who demand I give up my best weapons to protect my people. I won’t argue with them about the Constitution. I won’t argue statistics with them. I won’t argue the morality of using armed police officers to take guns away from people. I simply tell them, “No.” It is not easy, initially. We all want to be liked and likeable, no matter how misanthropic we try to portray ourselves. We want to reason and rationalize with them, so they will see things from our perspective. Don’t bother. Be willing to be the pariah they want to make you. Courage is a choice. Just say, “No.”

At some point, it is time to accept that you will not change their minds, and compromising is only resulting in more victories for them, so stop compromising, by having their discussions, on their terms. When someone tries to bring up the idea of registration, confiscation, or bans, just say, “No.”

These seem like small, petty things, but they really aren’t. They are deposits in the fuel tank—or savings account, if you will—of courage. Courage is a choice, and everything you do that requires you to exercise physical or moral courage, builds that balance up in your favor.

Cultures of Courage

Ultimately, as in so many other ways, we are social creatures by design. “No man is an island,” as the man said. No matter how well-intentioned you are about making courageous choices, if you surround yourself with cravens, you will make a coward’s choices. You may chalk it up to “department policy,” or “well, everyone is doing it,” but at the end of the day, you are making the choice, and those around you are not only facilitating it, they are encouraging it.

In Forging the Hero, I spent a lot of time explaining the concept of innangarð, and that our tribe/clan/community is defined as those who share our values, as evidenced by shared traditions and customs. If you identify as part of a tribe, or “inner circle of trust,” no matter how lightly, that practices behavior (customs and traditions) that evidence cowardice as a value, then you will succumb to the ease of cowardice.

This is entirely too easy to do in today’s wider society. We are too often not accountable to anyone, and we are bombarded with media and entertainment images of people who succeed because of their lack of integrity and cowardice, rather than in spite of it. It becomes very easy to fall prey to the allure of the easier path. We must then, choose to surround ourselves with people who will hold us accountable. When you tell a story about “getting one over” on a sales clerk, and laugh about it, your friends—if they are really friends—will greet the tale with the stony silence of disapproval. If you are screwing around on your wife, your real friends will not laugh it off and cover for you. They will beat the shit out of you. If your wife cannot trust you, why the fuck would they trust you? Courage is a choice. Choosing good companions, oathsworn brothers, to stand in the shield wall with you is one of those choices.

My Christian friends would call it good fellowship, and I cannot argue with that. Choose to surround yourself with people that will hold you accountable for making courage a choice, and making courage a choice becomes easy. If you choose the coward’s choice, they will shame you until you remedy it.

Conclusion

It has become a ridiculous cliché in the training industry, and the wider gun culture as a whole, but at the end of the day, it is true: each of us is responsible for our own safety. While I know—for a fact—that there are individual officers across the US who are courageous men and women that will not hesitate to run to the sound of the guns, if the Florida shooting did nothing else, it showed any person honest with themselves that counting on the police to come to your rescue is a fool’s errand.

Gun up. Train. Surround yourself with a culture of courage, amongst others that will hold you accountable, and choose courage in the small and large, so that when your time comes to confront the dragon at the gate, that you will sally forth, even if armed with nothing more than your wits and the courage of your convictions. Courage is a choice. Cowardice is a choice. Choose.

Choose to be like Aaron Feis, the unarmed assistant football coach who used his body to shield fleeing students, sacrificing himself to protect the youth of his community. Choose to be like young Peter Wang, the JROTC cadet who stood proudly in his uniform, and held open the doors as an escape route for his classmates, sacrificing himself in the process of helping his community. You think those two men weren’t scared? They CHOSE courage.

Fuck the niðings. Honor the courageous.