How to Prepare for the Worst Case

I tended to have a more positive image of human nature than Thomas Hobbes, I believed in sharing, cooperation, and “The Wisdom of Crowds”. But since Corona, I had to revise my idea of human nature. I can’t believe how easy it was to scare more than half of the population with a virus that has a more than 99,98% survival rate to forget all their virtue and liberal values.

The thing about civilization is, it keeps you civil. Get rid of one, you can’t count on the other.

Amos Burton (James S. A. Corey), The Expanse, S5.6: Tribes

When a third of the population decided against vaccination (a novel gene therapy that provides time-limited personal protection and no protection of others) the rhetoric escalated quickly. A politician of the CSU party tweeted Impfen macht frei[1] (Vaccination sets you free), words that echo the crimes of the National Socialists.

Oliver Welke, the host of the comedy show “Heute Show” called unvaccinated asozial[2] a term invented by the National Socialists to devalue classes of undesirables as inferior and harmful to society. The term “Volksgesundheit[3] was suddenly used everywhere, besides its tainted past and better words available to describe public health.

Patriotism[4] was quick en vogue again, after being left for years to right-wing parties.

Noam Chomsky called out in a public interview to segregate unvaccinated from society and starve them into submission.[5] Shortly thereafter Austria and Germany introduced lockdowns for unvaccinated. Austria went even further and introduced mandatory vaccination for everybody.

People are tribal. The more settled things are, the bigger the tribes can be. The churn comes, and the tribes get small again.

Amos Burton (James S. A. Corey), The Expanse, S5.6: Tribes

If a virus with a mild illness can awake tribalism, the wish for discrimination and segregation, and hate in people, what will starvation or fear for life through violence do?

Praemeditatio Malorum

I have a personality that likes to plan as if things might not go as planned. In Stoicism, this technique is called praemeditatio malorum and it’s considered a good practice to think and act at least sometimes as if things might go wrong.

Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.

Seneca, Letters from a Stoic (p. 178)

The Stoics had techniques to train and prepare mentally and physically for potential future challenges. This makes one resilient and panic less likely if things go wrong. The Stoics were trained to eat basic food, wear basic clothes, or sleep on the floor from time to time to train in this mindset. Hard physical work or demanding physical training are other good ways to toughen the body and mind. It helps to learn to be uncomfortable.

Blackouts & Other Threats

Recently, after reading the book “Vom Verlust der Freiheit[6] (On the loss of freedom) by Raymond Unger, I decided to invest more into my security and safety. Ungers’ book has a chapter about the consequences of a Blackout and it’s not an easy read.

We throw around the term “Blackout” when the energy goes out for 10 minutes, but people are not aware those aren’t Blackouts. A Blackout is dangerous, life-threatening, and society-destroying. After one week the first people will start dying, after two weeks we would be back to the middle-ages with warlords and the rule of the strongest.

Float to the top or sink to the bottom. Everything in the middle is the churn.

Amos Burton quoting Lydia (James S. A. Corey), The Expanse

The whole European energy grid is in a bad state. The push to green energy will worsen the problem soon. Germany had two Brownouts (near Blackouts) in the last two years that could only be prevented by transfering energy from neighboring countries.

And Blackouts are only one possible threat to civilization. A solar flare might destroy our grid and computers, as Bret Weinstein describes in his article.[7] It’s much more likely our civilization might end from a solar flare than global warming or an asteroid.

Other things might be natural disasters like floods or storms, social uprising, riots, disrupted supply chains[8] due to wars and catastrophes, hacker attacks on infastructure, or the prospect of a future war with China.

Enough reasons to start thinking about what to do if “shit hits the fan”. I’ve seen how poorly the German government handled the 100-year flood in 2021, the Corona crisis, and how our soon-to-be chancellor Olaf Scholz failed as mayor of Hamburg to protect the city when hundreds of Antifa rioters unleashed violence on the city for multiple days during the G20 Summit in 2017.[9]

I’m not betting on politicians to be able to solve a crisis quickly (or at all).

Getting Comfortable

I think we got too comfortable — and I’m not excluding myself from this. We depend on our phones, buy new things instead of fixing them, we love convenience, and order food or groceries online. This is even more true for people living in cities. We expect things to work, connections to be fast and good, the next hospital to be nearby. We never think or even like to think about how things might go wrong.

But cities will quickly turn into deadly traps in case of catastrophes. That’s what I’ve learned from The Walking Dead. Leave the cities when something happens. I think the CEO of Oracle once told that he has a packed motorcycle in his garage in case of emergency. Forget your car, that’s another thing I learned from The Walking Dead, there is always a traffic jam of cars on the road out of a city. You need a bicycle or motorbike to survive.

Boy Scouts and Military Service

Because I’m over 40, I had the “privilege” to be born before the internet and before personal computers were common in every household. Until the personal computer arrived when I was a teenager, I was outside. I created bows and spears and learned how to shoot with them. I practiced throwing knives until they kept sticking in the wall. My friends and I build fortresses and bunkers in the forest and played war. I remember a school friend needed to visit the hospital after a stone hit his head in a war scenario.

I was a boy scout for many years and got my first knife when I was 7 or 8. I stayed in boy scout camps for long cold weeks during the holidays in Denmark or mountains and forests in Germany, where we build bridges and slept in tents. We baked bread and had watered down tea. The next supermarket was miles away. I never liked it too much, but hardship builds character.

I did obligatory military service for nearly a year, learning to shoot with pistols and guns, crawling over wet meadows, and freezing in the snow in cold winter. I fell into a cold river while crawling in darkness through a forest. I didn’t like that either but don’t regret the experience. Germany discontinued obligatory military service, which is why younger people have no clue what I’m talking about. For them a bad WLAN connection is probably the most uncomfortable thing they experienced.

Preparing for a Blackout

Countries like Austria or Switzerland prepare their population for a Blackout.[10] Germany doesn’t care, our politicians think all is fine and no action is needed. We don’t even get sirens running on the yearly alarm day. Austria produced a documentary[11] [12] that shows what happens during a Blackout. The film mentions what an Austrian citizen should have to be prepared:

  • 10-15 l of water per person
  • Camping stove and fuel paste
  • Plenty of canned food and dry goods (pasta, rice, etc.)
  • Passport
  • First aid kit
  • Trash bags
  • Hygiene items
  • Emergency power generator with diesel supply
  • Protective clothing (mask, rubber gloves)
  • Radio with batteries
  • Flare gun
  • Knife

I can check off everything on this list except the flare gun and power generator because they are not practical for a city flat.

My Survival Equipment

This list is a good start, but I decided to stock up more things. I tend to buy things in stock. Mostly out of laziness and convenience. I always use the same shampoo, why not buy three at once? Why not have things that hold longer times?

I have a huge military ammunition box that holds my equipment. Parts of it I own for more than 25 years, other things I bought recently.

Food

I have an extensive amount of food in stock, all things I regularly consume and restock.

  • Couscous (1kg)
  • Asian Noodles, e.g. Mie, Ramen, Somen, Soba (3 kg)
  • Pasta (5 kg)
  • Rice (2 kg)
  • Potatoes (2 kg)
  • Cans with stew, meat, goulash, and soup (10)
  • Chocolate, dark (1 kg)
  • Bread, deep-frozen (2)
  • Buns, deep-frozen (16-20)
  • Eggs (10-20)
  • Nuts and legumes (500 g)
  • Sausages, air-dried and deep-frozen (700 g)
  • Beef, deep-frozen (2 kg)
  • Duck, deep-frozen (2 kg)

Drinks

  • Water, glass-bottled (20 l)
  • Apple Juice, opened it lasts 6 month due to a vacuum (25 l)
  • Orange Juice (10 l)
  • Breakfast Juice (6 l)
  • Dark Multivitamin Juice (6 l)

Cooking

Additionally, I have equipment for cooking and food. I bought titanium equipment from a company called Boundless Voyage which is lightweight, small, durable, anti-bacterial, strong, and resistant to heat or cold.

I own a set of drinking cups, a pot and pan, a pot with a lid, a drinking bottle, cutlery (including chopsticks, a straw), a pan plate, and a water filter.

Fire, Heat & Light

My most precious purchase is a portable camping stove. It’s small and can cook with wood and alcohol. I have a pack of lighters and fire steel to start a fire. I have an easily flammable wood block to start a fire when it’s wet.

A pot hanger allows me to hang a pod over an open fire. I bought solid fuel to survive the first few days before I need to chop wood.

For that I own a wood saw, a wire saw and a set of Tomahawks. They are not the best to chop wood, but can also be used as a hammer, pick, and weapon. I’m thinking of buying a good ax.

I own a Maglite flashlight and a radio with a crank that can produce bright light without any batteries. I have a bag with 100 tea lights, to have light during a Blackout.

For winter, I own a pocket warmer with a pack of hard coal I have since I had to do guard duty at the military for 4 hours straight in winter. A piece can burn and give heat for many hours.

Movement & Orientation

I have two bicycles, an older mountain bike with a suspension fork and a new Cube Hyde Pro city bike with a belt drive system. Those should be sufficient to leave the city when the energy is not restored after a week.

When I was a teenager I bought a US military compass that I still own. Additionally, I have a binocular and a monocular. I’m thinking of buying a physical bike map of Germany.

Medicine, Health & Security

This category lists equipment like a first aid kit, emergency blankets, and a whistle. Additionally, a tactical pen and tactical credit card, a 20-meter rope with an anchor, multiple carabiners, a waterproof tarpaulin, a folding spade, and 3 packs of toilet paper. I have those in stock since people got crazy with toilet paper in the first lockdown.

I own a pocket radio with crank, solar, and batteries. It supports all common frequencies and has built-in LED lights, a warning light, and a siren. It can load batteries via the sun or physical labor. This is useful because batteries are always empty when you need a flashlight. But this one doesn’t need batteries, the crank is enough to get it running.

I learned in the documentary that owning a radio is very important, because without energy all communication breaks down. With no cellphones or landlines, the only way of getting information from emergency teams is a radio or CB radio.

Clothes

I have two leather pants, military camouflage pants, a T-shirt, a jacket, a jungle hat, and two camouflage nets to conceal myself. Abdominal protection and tactical gloves complete the equipment.

Defence

The description of the second week after a Blackout is quite unsettling. Police and military will be mostly occupied with protecting nuclear power plants and securing important governmental zones, and hospitals. The rest will be mostly lawless.

My theory is that people behave and are friendly as long as the crisis has a foreseeable end in sight and nobody is starving. But still, bad people will start looting and plundering. With no possibility to call the police, you will be on your own. Locking yourself into the flat and hoping nobody forces their way in is one option. But what if the food runs out or you need water or wood?

That’s why everybody should have at least basic skills in martial arts to be able to defend themselves and their family. I started doing martial arts at the age of 12. Karate was my first martial art. I trained it for 8 years. Then I switched to Ninjutsu because it’s an authentic martial art and not a sport. I learned kicks and punches, levers and throws, and handling weapons. I trained for 12 years in that martial arts before I stopped. I’m not the best martial artist, but I know enough to do a lot of damage to an attacker.

Because I always loved knives and swords I own a few. They are all legal by German law. But besides a pocket knife, you are not allowed to carry those outside your property in Germany. I own a Ka-Bar combat knife, a Kukri military-style machete, and a few more. The knives that can be carried every day are my Laguiole en Aubrac, a beautiful French knife, and a Swiss Army knife.

I own a blowpipe and a recurve bow with a few dozen arrows. I always loved shooting with a bow and I’m good with it. I have wood and carbon arrows and bought a pack of hunting arrowheads. A quiver and protection gear complete the set.

As I mentioned in the wood and fire section I bought two Tomahawks which can be used as weapons.

Since I started Martial Arts I love Japanese Swords. I got my first blunt sword at Christmas with 12. Today I own a set of Daishō (jap. 大小, big-little), which is a Katana and a Wakizashi. They are hand-forged from carbon steel and unbelievably sharp. One of these swords can cut a human in half.

You can expect me to move around the wasteland like Michonne from The Walking Dead in case of mayhem.

A sharpening stone and sword care set is part of my equipment.

What’s Missing?

I miss more equipment which I will buy in the next months that need more research. I need a tarp tent, a waterproof mat, a sleeping bag, a hammock, and a good, large backpack.

My plan is only thought through for the first few weeks or a month. For a long-term problem, I plan to go back to my family in the countryside. It has options to hunt or keep animals, plant and harvest crops, vegetables and not starve to death.

Books

My favorite books on the topic of self-sufficiency are the books of John Seymour. He was a British farmer and author who wrote fantastic, illustrated books like The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, New Self-Sufficient Gardener, or Forgotten Arts & Crafts. These books teach how to be self-sufficient.

Another fantastic book is The Book, a project I supported on Indiegogo. It’s a 400 page illustrated guide on how to rebuild civilization.

I own a version of Der Reibert from when I was in the military. It’s a useful book with thin paper with all information about warfare, survival, navigation, and more.

The Bushcraft series is a series of useful books about survival: Bushcraft 101 , First Aid, Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild, Advanced, and the Illustrated Visual Guide.

Conclusion

I don’t idealize or look forward to catastrophe, that is sure. I prefer having my warm flat, good food, Netflix, and the internet.

But I want to be prepared. Civilization is sewn with a thin thread. It doesn’t harm to at least stock up some food and equipment for the worst case.


Footnotes

  1. Barbara Mooser (2021): Skandal im Netz: Abgeordneter Huber im Twitter-Gewitter, https://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/ebersberg/falscher-hashtag-skandal-im-netz-abgeordneter-huber-im-twitter-gewitter-1.5388590. ↩︎

  2. RND (2021): Oliver Welke in „heute-show“ über Impfverweigerer: „Leider irgendwie asozial“, https://www.rnd.de/medien/heute-show-oliver-welke-kritisiert-impfverweigerer-leider-irgendwie-asozial-DKSKOLVJSNFZRATN7KT5UH4OZE.html. ↩︎

  3. Björn Hendrig (2020): "Corona" und "Volksgesundheit", https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Corona-und-Volksgesundheit-4705250.html. ↩︎

  4. Albert Link (2021): Bin ich kein Patriot, wenn ich mich nicht impfen lasse?, https://www.bild.de/politik/inland/politik/kritik-an-spahn-bin-ich-kein-patriot-wenn-ich-mich-nicht-impfen-lasse-77336652.bild.html. ↩︎

  5. National Post Staff (2021): Noam Chomsky says the unvaccinated should just remove themselves from society, https://nationalpost.com/news/world/noam-chomsky-says-the-unvaccinated-should-just-remove-themselves-from-society. ↩︎

  6. Raymond Unger (2021): Vom Verlust der Freiheit: Klimakrise, Migrationskrise, Coronakrise. ↩︎

  7. Bret Weinstein (2021): How the sun could wipe us out, https://unherd.com/2021/07/how-the-sun-could-wipe-us-out/. ↩︎

  8. Aris Roussinos (2021): This is how civilisations collapse, https://unherd.com/2021/11/this-is-how-civilisations-collapse/. ↩︎

  9. Der Spiegel (2017): G20 in Hamburg: Eine Stadt im Ausnahmezustand, https://youtu.be/ojToYs6nCnk. ↩︎

  10. Österreichs Bundesheer (2021): Blackout - ein weiträumiger, eventuell gar europaweiter Stromausfall, https://youtu.be/mHWcOQ_7Y-U. ↩︎

  11. Christoph Hanslik, Matthias Dechant, Andreas Wetz, and Paul Poet (2018): Ist Österreich auf einen Blackout vorbereitet?, https://www.addendum.org/blackout/. ↩︎

  12. Paul Poet (2019): Was passiert, wenn der Strom wirklich länger ausfällt, https://youtu.be/UQR9xXNKojw. ↩︎