Americans are experiencing deteriorating conditions. We are increasingly vulnerable to a variety of systemic disruptions, including the possibilities outlined in the previous post. Yet, it is difficult for many people to recognize the threats, even when they are obvious to others.
I believe our failure to prepare reflects a lack of both information and imagination.
Those who are in denial will always accuse us of having overactive imaginations. People get used to the status quo, even when it is unhealthy, distorted, or dangerous. We expect every day should be like the last.
To recognize that something is not right, or that circumstances might lead to something worse, requires imagination. This is a survival skill.
Let me offer an example. James Rickards, an adviser to the Department of Defense and the CIA, has written that before 9/11 the United States had alert, well-equipped intelligence agencies staffed by smart people who were intent on protecting the country from international terrorists. They were monitoring most of the individuals who subsequently carried out the attacks, and analysts were aware that certain individuals of interest were being trained to fly airplanes.
In short, the intelligence community had all the information it needed to warn of an impending attack. The only thing missing was imagination.
It is understandable that our family and friends think we are being alarmist. They are human. However, we may find ourselves dealing with their lack of preparedness in the future. So, it is important that we pay attention to our perceptions and think through the implications.
If we do not prepare, we will not be ready.
There are numerous resources available addressing material preparations for a long crisis. They are available in book stores and on the web.
This blog (and book) is focused instead on the personal, social, and relational challenges involved: the difficulties of building stable communities committed to moral responsibility in an increasingly disrupted and dysfunctional world.
When it comes to security, this will be key.
Having little or no positive experience of community could be a real problem when trouble strikes. Even simple problem-solving beyond neighborhood property lines will almost certainly involve our neighbors. And, a strong bond among neighbors can be essential in dealing with the more serious threats to safety and security.
We may have experienced community in a church group, club, or sporting pastime, but not usually in the physical neighborhood where we live, and not in the face of threats to our safety and well-being.
We know few of our immediate neighbors and cannot depend on them. Our friends and associates are reached by telephone, email, or through social media, and may live at a great distance from us. We may not have introduced ourselves to people we see regularly on the street or in the grocery store.
Our natural inclination to be independent and to avoid troublesome arrangements has led to the widespread loss of local institutions and dependable relationships.
For many decades there have been few compelling reasons for Americans to experience meaningful community with the people around us.
If we are to create free, safe, and productive communities we will need to develop a range of interpersonal and organizational skills as well as technical ones. When things stop working we will have no one to work with except each other.
Most of us can learn how to grow food, or at least to work with others to make it happen. But, as the crisis deepens we will discover necessities that we had not thought about. Organizing our lives without electricity or a functional sewage system or easy access to safe drinking water will require that we cooperate to solve problems, and in some cases solve them quickly.
Hiding under a rock might be a good idea in a shooting war, but it will not lead to the kind of world most of us want to live in.
Next week: Security and the Use of Force.