It may sound like a weird jargon, but it isn’t. TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) is a notion that’s been on everyone’s mind for quite some time now. Especially since we’ve entered a devastating pandemic that is very likely to induce massive transformation of the lives we thought we knew how to live.
When you google TEOTWAWKI or SHTF, you’re in for some confusion. Usually, you’re going to read all kinds of fatalistic prophecies, most of which are supposed to scare you into spending cash. The equation is simple: they seek to capitalize on your fear and make you consume more and not less.
Even though we are all preppers here at SimplySurvival, we’re always a bit wary of trumpeting the apocalypse every time something bad happens. The world will probably survive like it did so many times in the past. But that doesn’t mean it will stay the same. And it especially doesn’t mean that you should (or could) go on with your life, ignoring the grim reality around you, as if nothing happened.
It goes for our current state of affairs too. Every documented pandemic in the history of humankind has left the world a different place. The bubonic plague intensely tormented the whole of humanity for over six centuries, and there are sporadic cases even today, at all of our doorsteps. (Luckily, it’s also easily cured with our BFFs, antibiotics – as long as we have them, and as long as they keep working.)
Like everything else, it was terrible while it lasted. But it taught us some important lessons about sanitation. Lessons we could no longer afford to ignore.
- Are We Going Through TEOTWAWKI Right Now?
- 9 Common and Not So Common Tips for Prepping Before It Happens
- Conclusion: Not Everything Is Doom and Gloom!
Are We Going Through TEOTWAWKI Right Now?
We’ve been there countless times in the past, and there we are again. Is this pandemic the Event that’s going to finally tip the balance? We can’t know for sure. The snowball has only just started rolling down the hill. We don’t know what kind of monster it’s going to unleash by the time it makes it to the bottom.
Maybe we’re looking at a few years of severe but manageable health crises and recession. And maybe, just maybe, it’s going to unroll a whole different experience for all of us – or even the end of experience in itself.
In other words, is it a potentially short-term, fixable SHTF situation, or a full-blown, irreversible TEOTWAWKI?
The global world we’re living in has countless perks, and it’s been pampering us well. Anything you need is just a couple of clicks away, even if it’s manufactured in China or Bangladesh. What you do for a living may impact people a world apart. But all of that could fall apart very easily.
(When) Will the Bubble Burst?
Globalization is nice and gratifying, but it has a flip side as too. Our comfort may come to an end, and much easier than we thought was possible. All it takes is a border closure on most or all sides – which we’ve already witnessed. The current crisis has yet to show its ugly face completely, since it will likely turn into a recession worse than the 2008 bubble burst, and even the 1929 Great Depression. When thousands of companies fail and hundreds of millions of people lose their jobs, it’s a serious blow to the fragile world economy whose main fuel is confidence in the market.
Social phenomena are always interconnected, and one bad thing rarely comes and goes on its own without disturbing or even shattering the system. Don’t believe that our system can fall down that easily? Even local disasters such as hurricanes manage to cause huge disruptions at the local level, breaking down the infrastructure, affecting our supply and distribution lines, clogging up or even totally disabling the health system. Multiply these effects by a thousand and you’ll realize how grave a danger may lie before us in the not-so-far future.
That’s when WROL (Without Rule Of Law) might happen. Or the turn of events may lead into WROL’s total opposite – EROL (Excessive Rule of Law), when states decide to take advantage of their citizens through authoritarian means. Both of these scenarios are best experienced from afar.
9 Common and Not So Common Tips for Prepping Before It Happens
Let’s get one thing clear: some catastrophes leave no room for survival. If a giant asteroid (the kind that triggered the K-Pg extinction event, killing off the dinosaurs along with three quarters of other species) were to hit our planet tomorrow, most of us wouldn’t die a quick and clean death. But when the temperature rises significantly and the poisonous gases start piling up in the air, there would be no place to hide. All of us – humans, plants, animals, would be in for a very slow and painful death.
But there are other calamities where you can somewhat increase your chance of survival:
- economic depressions
- massive earthquakes
- volcanic eruptions
- nuclear and other wars
- terrorist attacks.
To really make it though, you need to have the know-how and are willing to do what it takes.
1. Self-Sufficiency = Off the Grid
This is probably the best option for all kinds of catastrophes. Whatever happens to the world, cities are always the most fragile hubs of human activity. With nature, the game is relatively straightforward. Either you can flee a disaster or you can’t. But with people all around you buzzing in a human beehive, you stand a chance only if you’re strong enough to defend yourself or if you turn into a crook. That’s why it’s often wise to bug the hell out.
Alas, living in a retreat in some god forsaken part of the backcountry is much tougher than it sounds. Providing yourself and your family with everything – from food and water to energy to basic health items and weapons requires a comprehensive set of skills, as well as tremendous agility and perseverance. This will be the greatest challenge you’ve ever faced, trickier and less forgiving than any job imaginable. To make it out there on your own (or even better, with a family or a small, closely knit community of people trusting each other), you will need enormous amounts of knowledge, sharp situational awareness, as well as a strong and healthy pair of hands.
Need some kind of roof over your head? Who doesn’t, but you’ll have to build this one yourself. Is it cold? You’ll run out of your propane supplies eventually, both for cooking and heating. Well, say hello to the primitive skill of building fires! Are you hungry? Hunt your food – or grow it yourself. Getting sick? There are all kinds of natural remedies if you know where to look and what to look for. What about waste disposal and sanitation? You have to come up with a solution if you don’t wanna end up in the lurch due to common bacteria.
2. Get Those Printed Books
Out with the new, in with the old! The good ol’ Gutenberg would gain an even greater clout if he was alive during TEOTWAWKI. Ebooks are convenient. But a catastrophic event that would cut the power would make them even less useful than the ancient, handwritten manuscripts.
If you didn’t do it already, you need to cobble up a nice collection of books that don’t run on electricity. It’s best to prioritize survival books as you’ll depend on them for almost all your daily activities. But if there’s some spare room, you can squeeze in some fiction too. The soul needs nourishment just like the mind.
One of the must-haves in this department is James Wesley Rawles’ classic “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It”. Coincidentally, it’s one of the foremost titles that contain this phrase. Also, Rawles is one of those visionary (or just sensible?) people who warned about a huge pandemic that will shatter the world and humanity – and he did it a full decade ago. Which makes it that much more difficult to consider this pandemic as a “Black Swan” event that caught us by surprise.
He’s also the author of the territory known as “American Redoubt”, comprising Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, as well as parts of Oregon and Washington, as the safest areas to move and establish a retreat.
3. Arms and Ammo
I’m sure you’ve met those badass survivalists who spend tens of thousands on the latest fancy firearms so they could brag about it to their friends.
Sorry to disappoint, but from a common sense perspective, those guys are wrong. A weapon that has stood the test of time will also stand the test of wear and tear. Also, a super heavy beast of a gun may do wonders in a war, but it will be worth zilch if you can’t carry it on your person at all times – while hunting, gardening, wood gathering, or herding your cattle. Keep in mind that you’re not a soldier (unless you are). You’re a person trying to survive, and that’s a way subtler (and demanding) skill than employing brute force.
You should definitely have more than a single firearm – at least a pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun. (Just make sure they’re common-caliber weapons, as you’ll stand more chance to acquire ammo down the road, or even barter it for something else if you can spare.) But there’s no need to buy 20 different guns and rifles for TEOTWAWKI. Much more important is to stock up on ammunition. It will be scarce, and its value will soar.
4. Don’t Forget About Medications
You may have heard of the phrase “beans, bullets, and bandages”. The first two will sustain and protect your bare life. But the third is no less important, as it also makes the difference between life and death.
We tend to forget how easy it is to succumb to even the most trifling scratch in a world without antibiotics or Neosporin and Benadryl. Painkillers are another must-have, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs and fever reducers. Basically, you should have an IFAK per every family member. That should keep you going for a time. And by the time you run out of your medical supplies, you will have picked up some knowledge about natural remedies.
If you suffer from a chronic disease, you’d better have years worth of supplies of your medications. Even if the health system restores one day, it may take years.
5. There’s Safety in Numbers
I’m sure you’re ready to trust your buddies with your life over a pint of beer. But when things get ugly, friends and neighbors are often the first to turn on you. Especially if they’re aware that you’re a prepper who’s likely to have hoarded plenty of food and essentials.
So, teaming up with friends is not always a good idea for survival. Your immediate family are probably the only people who won’t stab you in the back when push comes to shove. Especially if they depend on you for their own survival.
But then again, an average American family of dad, mom, and two kids can’t successfully defend their retreat forever. However deep in the wild it is, chances are one or (often) more intruders will stumble across it some day. After TEOTWAWKI, most people will leave the urban zones, seeking a safe haven. When they find a fully developed homestead, they will be that much more eager to take it over. That’s why you need at least a few adult and capable people to control, monitor and, if need be, defend your home and land, day and night.
Well, some preppers have come up with a solution and it’s called MAG – short for Mutual Assistance Group. It’s a small community tied together by the intention to survive AND the awareness that they can only do it together. It’s not easy to form such a group or establish the rules by which everyone must abide.
If you want to do it before TEOTWAWKI (which you should), the most important rule is to set up stages for these relationships. Don’t reveal sensitive information until a candidate earns your trust. Ideally, you should have loyal people with different skills in the community: physicians, gunsmiths, gardeners, farmers, teachers.
6. From a Bug Out Vehicle to a Humble Horse
A bug out vehicle isn’t just a great means for leaving the urban zone and reaching your retreat. It’s also a handy way of traversing and searching through the (hopefully vast) land you settled into. In time, however, you’ll run out of fuel or some crucial part will break. Even if you’re one of those preppers who prefer dirt bikes, they also need fuel. Plus, they are excessively noisy, which can attract unwanted visitors – and keep you from hearing them on time.
If your retreat was on a plain or prairie, a bicycle could be a viable solution. Alas, plains aren’t very good places to hide from prying eyes. Mountains work much better, but transportation is trickier there. That’s where a horse (or even a donkey!) jumps in. Life post-TEOTWAWKI will probably look a bit like life in the first colonial settlements on the American continent. If you need to get from A to B, four legs are better than two.
7. Out With the Wisdom Teeth
It probably doesn’t sound like much of an urgency, but wisdom teeth can turn your life into a nightmare if not extracted early on. Especially in an environment with no dentists around to operate on your wisdom teeth. And there’s no pharmacy store next door to grab some antibiotics. In fact, there’s no next door at all. When left to your own devices in the wild, you can die from the smallest scratch, not to mention a nasty tooth infection.
Of course, other teeth also require your attention. Stop postponing your visits to the dentist. Unpleasant though they are, living in a world without them would be even more unpleasant. Perform your regular maintenance while you still can!
8. Stock Up on Seeds… Yep, Heirloom Seeds
A survival garden goes hand in hand with a homestead, and it’s a no-brainer. But people often tend to forget that plants grow from seeds. And you can’t just stumble across a handful of heirloom seeds out there in the wild.
Why heirloom, you may ask? Taste and nutrition are certainly worthy considerations, but not the only ones. Unlike hybrids, heirloom seeds are much more suited to the whimsical nature of a small(ish) survival garden. They are also open-pollinated and self-reproducible. Of course, they are also more expensive and harder to find nowadays, but it’s not impossible.
Tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, carrots, cucumbers, onions and garlic, grains, spinach, various fruits… All of these plants are a must for any homesteader. Not only will they provide enough vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, but will also help you feed your livestock.
Stockpiling seeds have another advantage besides growing your survival garden. If our civilization starts going down, seeds will be worth more than anything you may own. Forget about your cash savings or even gold – seeds will be your best currency when bartering. Which brings us to our next point…
9. Bartering As a Way of Life
No matter how meticulous you are in your prepping efforts, you’ll still have to leave out a great many things from your supplies list, and eventually run out of others. What if there are no ATMs and banks OR jobs that could help anyone earn any money? Or there’s an raging inflation that makes your cash worth nothing by the time you reach a store? The barter economy will step in.
And what can you barter? Anything, really. From surplus food to tools and ammo to meds – whatever you have to offer, there will be someone who needs it. If you really insist on keeping cash, make sure it’s nickels. Even if the economy falls down entirely, they will be worth something simply because they are made of metals.
Frankly, bartering is not even all that bad. It used to be the only form of trade back in the ancient times, before we came up with standardized currency. The only reason why it’s going to be harder for us is that we just aren’t used to it.
Conclusion: Not Everything Is Doom and Gloom!
This article is not supposed to make you panic. It just proposes a few basic directions for you to focus on right now. Like I said, we are not typical doomsday mongers. Unless humanity gets completely wiped off the Earth in a single blow, it will always find a way to survive – and sometimes even thrive. The instinct to survive is hardwired into our brains. All it takes to start working is a trigger (pun intended). But a skill or two won’t hurt either.
If TEOTWAWKI were impossible to survive, you and I wouldn’t be here. Our ancestors have lived through many such events. Your great-grandparents have been through two world wars and have likely experienced poverty on a scale you can’t even imagine from the comfort of your couch.
Maybe we’re in for a more extreme upheaval, but some of us will manage to survive even that one. (And, paradoxically, it’s not always the most prepared who make it.)
So, we should all keep one thing in mind as we go about our daily prepping business. Even if things never go back to the way they were after TEOTWAWKI, they may eventually evolve into something similar to what we know – maybe just as lousy, but in a different way. There’s even a small chance they will turn out better. And if we live to see it, we should do our best to make that happen.