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 parts of the population decided against vaccination (a novel gene therapy that provides time-limited personal protection and no protection of others) the rhetoric escalated. A politician of the CSU party tweeted
Impfen macht frei (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
asocial a term invented by the National Socialists to devalue classes of undesirables as inferior and harmful to society. The term “Volksgesundheit” was suddenly used everywhere, despite its tainted past and better words available to describe public health. Patriotism 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. 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 awaken tribalism, the wish for discrimination and segregation, and hate in people, what will starvation or fear for life through violence do?
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 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 (On the loss of freedom) by Raymond Unger, I decided to invest more in 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 for green energy will worsen the problem soon. Germany had two Brownouts (near Blackouts) in the last two years that could be prevented by transferring energy from neighboring countries.
And Blackouts are yet one possible threat to civilization. A solar flare might destroy our grid and computers, as Bret Weinstein describes in his article. 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 due to wars and catastrophes, hacker attacks on infrastructure, 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.
I’m not betting on politicians to be able to solve a crisis quickly (or at all).
I think we all got comfortable — and I’m not excluding myself from this. We depend on our phones, buy new things instead of fixing them, love convenience, and order food or groceries online. This is even more true for people living in cities. We expect things to work, transportation to be fast and good, and 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 mentioned on a podcast 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 to the wall. My friends and I built fortresses and bunkers in the forest and played war. I remember a school friend who 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 in 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 rifles, 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 the most uncomfortable thing they experienced.
Preparing for a Blackout
Countries like Austria or Switzerland prepare their population for a Blackout. 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 that shows what happens during a Blackout. The film mentions what an Austrian citizen should have to be prepared for:
- 10-15 l of water per person
- Camping stove and fuel paste
- Plenty of canned food and dry goods (pasta and rice)
- First aid kit
- Trash bags
- Hygiene items
- Emergency power generator with diesel supply
- Protective clothing (mask, rubber gloves)
- Radio with batteries
- Flare gun
I can check off everything on this list except the flare gun and power generator because they are impractical for a city flat.
My Survival Equipment
This list is a good start, but I decided to stock up on more things. I tend to buy things in stock, 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.
I have an extensive amount of food in stock, all things I regularly consume and restock.
- Couscous (1 kg)
- Asian Noodles, e.g., Mie, Ramen, Somen, Soba (3 kg)
- Pasta (5 kg)
- Rice (6 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)
- Water, glass-bottled (20 l)
- Apple Juice, opened it lasts 6 months due to a vacuum (40 l)
- Orange Juice (10 l)
- Breakfast Juice (10 l)
- Dark Multivitamin Juice (10 l)
Additionally, I have equipment for cooking and food. I bought titanium equipment from a company called Boundless Voyage which is lightweight, small, durable, antibacterial, 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 precious purchase is a portable camping stove. It’s small and can cook with wood and alcohol. But I additionally bought a gas cooker and a few gas cartridges for easy cooking in case of a blackout for one or two weeks.
I have a pack of lighters and fire steel to start a fire. I have a 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 be used as a hammer, pick, and weapon. I bought later additionally 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.
For basic shelter I bought a tarp tent and a Snugpack Special Forces 2 Sleeping Bag. I have a waterproof pad and a camping mat. My rain poncho can be used as a tarp.
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.
I bought a military rain poncho, recommended by a Green Beret, which is large enough to be used as a tarp. The 60 meters Paracord I bought can be used to create a temporary shelter or for climbing.
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. I bought a few physical maps to reach my bug-out location by bike.
When I was a teenager, I bought a US military compass that I own. Additionally, I have binoculars and a monocular.
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 important because without energy all communication breaks down. With no cell phones or landlines, the only way of getting information from emergency teams is a radio or CB radio.
Tools & Weapons
The description of the second week after a Blackout is unsettling. Police and military will be occupied with protecting nuclear power plants and securing important governmental zones, and hospitals. The rest will be a lawless war zone.
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, my Higonokami, a Japanese pocket 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 (Japanese 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 are part of my equipment.
My favorite books on the topic of self-sufficiency are the books of John Seymour. He was a British farmer and author who wrote brilliant, 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.
I plan to bug in for 1 to a maximum of 3 weeks. Should the crisis not be resolved, I’ll move to my bug-out location in the countryside. It has options to hunt or keep animals, plant and harvest crops, and vegetables and not starve to death.
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 food and equipment for the worst case.
Update (June 2022)
This year I came across the concept of a “bug out bag”, first I heard it in a video about a Digital Bugout Bag. A bug-out bag is a portable kit to survive an emergency for at least 72 hours.
If something bad happens, you might have a few minutes or an hour to leave your home. That is not enough time to bring all my items out of my cellar and pack. Additionally, if the energy is down, it’s hard to find your items in total darkness. This means you need to be ready and packed. I created an encrypted, digital bug-out bag on two SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB microSD, holding all my important files.
Next I bought a waterproof 45L Military Tactical Army Backpack with two additional Molle bags, a foldable Molle bag, a Molle bag for my drinking bottle, an outdoor first aid kit, and a chest bag. The bag is huge and holds all items previously stored in my huge wooden box. Additionally, I bought a bag for my bow, that holds bow tendons, arrowheads, hand/arm protection, and other equipment. I have two arrow quivers, one for easy access and one for safe transportation.
And yes, I bought the Gadsden flag sticker additionally. It’s the flag used by Libertarians around the world. The snake design and the words
Don’t Tread On Me is a warning of vigilance and willingness to act in defense against coercion. 😂
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. ↩︎
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. ↩︎
Björn Hendrig (2020): "Corona" und "Volksgesundheit", https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Corona-und-Volksgesundheit-4705250.html. ↩︎
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. ↩︎
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. ↩︎
Raymond Unger (2021): Vom Verlust der Freiheit: Klimakrise, Migrationskrise, Coronakrise. ↩︎
Bret Weinstein (2021): How the sun could wipe us out, https://unherd.com/2021/07/how-the-sun-could-wipe-us-out/. ↩︎
Aris Roussinos (2021): This is how civilisations collapse, https://unherd.com/2021/11/this-is-how-civilisations-collapse/. ↩︎
Der Spiegel (2017): G20 in Hamburg: Eine Stadt im Ausnahmezustand, https://youtu.be/ojToYs6nCnk. ↩︎
Österreichs Bundesheer (2021): Blackout - ein weiträumiger, eventuell gar europaweiter Stromausfall, https://youtu.be/mHWcOQ_7Y-U. ↩︎
Christoph Hanslik, Matthias Dechant, Andreas Wetz, and Paul Poet (2018): Ist Österreich auf einen Blackout vorbereitet?, https://www.addendum.org/blackout/. ↩︎
Paul Poet (2019): Was passiert, wenn der Strom wirklich länger ausfällt, https://youtu.be/UQR9xXNKojw. ↩︎