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Team vs lone wolf

The past several weeks here at RM Ranch have been spent in meditation and quiet introspection re-assessing what we want to achieve, do and experience. A big part of that has involved evaluating our approach to preparedness. We’ve come away from that with what I hope is a clearer vision of what we want and a better approach for achieving it. A big part of that has been the realization that we were approaching preparedness in a way that would have, probably, not given us the advantage we want if things were to go well and truly south. We’ve had to change our approach.

We’re inclined to favor bugging in over bugging out. There are some reasons for this, some of which I’ve mentioned before. While it might be necessary at some point to bug out, to grab a bag and flee (ideally to a predetermined location), I think most circumstances will support just staying put. Our approach is to have a bug out plan, but to anticipate staying put as the most likely course of action. None of this is really a change for us.

The change has been the realization it’s arguably one thing to build and maintain an urban homestead when circumstances are relatively stable. We can do that with just our family. It’s another thing altogether if things fall apart. Under those circumstances we need more people. We need a team*.

A team has advantages over an individual (or even a couple or small family) when it comes to survival in truly hard times. There’s the obvious fact that regardless of how capable you are, no one can remain awake and alert 24/7. A team allows people to sleep, even if only in shifts. Having to be “on” in survival mode all the time and for an extended period is exhausting, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Beyond that, teams with the proper skill sets and resources, can produce far more than any individual. Security, food and other goods, in excess of the bare minimal requirements for survival, are the product of teams rather than individuals.

As noted above, skills are an issue. More than that, they are a necessity. As much as I might like to believe otherwise, I simply cannot do everything. Nor, out of the list of things I can do, can I do all of them equally well. A team, especially one that is formed carefully, provides not only a broader selection of skills, it also provides skills in-depth. This is very important, and something we here at RM Ranch were overlooking. What happens, for instance, if the only person who knows how to garden breaks his/her leg? The answer, of course, is “nothing good.”

Anyway, we’ve started building a team. We’re proceeding slowly because we’re trying to get people who meet at least three criteria.

First, they need to have an interest in preparedness. There’s nothing to be gained by talking someone who doesn’t view preparedness as a legitimate (indeed, essential) concern into joining your team. They aren’t likely to be focused on what needs to be done or willing to dedicate to preparedness resources they might otherwise put toward something else.

Second, they need to have skill sets that contribute to the team. This means they need not only some skills the rest of us don’t have (this is the “broader selection” mentioned above), they also need to have some skills that already exist in the team (“skills in-depth”).

Third, they need to be a good fit for the team. If a group of people actually wind up having to live in close proximity to each other during a time of stress and possible danger, the ability to get along with the other team members is vital.

Each one of these things has come with its own challenges. One of the most notable has been a situation in which we’ve approached a couple, only to learn that while one of the two meets all three criteria, the other half of the couple does not. Sometimes, the other half simply doesn’t see preparedness as a worthwhile pursuit or doesn’t see it as a legitimate part of a lifestyle. Other times, this person has no skills that the team really needs (or of which it needs no more). And, of course, sometimes the other person just isn’t a good fit. In these cases, the team has a choice to make. Do we approach the first person anyway, knowing that he/she will be bringing the “other half of the equation” with them, should the SHTF? How badly do we need the skills of the person we approached? How badly do we need another set of eyes/ears? I don’t think there is a single answer to these questions. They’re questions each team will need to answer for itself and in regards to each potential new member.

As time goes on I’ll share here our experiences with the team building part of preparedness. Hopefully, any mistakes we make will be mistakes you’re able to avoid.

*It’s important to realize you need a team whether you bug in or bug out. In fact, I think that as important as a good team is when bugging in, it is even more important if you have to bug out. With the possible exception of some very rare people and circumstances, the lone wolf (or “lone couple”) approach to survival in truly hard times is a good way of ensuring you (and the other half of your couple) die alone.

We will now regulate you into peace and happiness

From the Washington Post

“Germany officially unveiled a landmark social-media bill Wednesday that could quickly turn this nation into a test case in the effort to combat the spread of fake news and hate speech in the West.”

This is not freedom. This is not liberty. This is oppression. This is collectivism. This is subjugation of the individual to social utility.

You can read the article here. And people still insist we should be more like Europe?


A harsh mistress (with apologies to R.A.H.)

The marketplace is not your friend. It’s not your enemy either. It simply doesn’t care. It is one of the most absolutely neutral things in the universe.

The marketplace tends to reward you in proportion to the value you bring to it. Oh, some people will interfere with this from time to time, but over long periods of time, it rewards value. It doesn’t really care about people.

Just like it doesn’t really care about people, the marketplace doesn’t care about your needs, wants, dreams, hopes or your aspirations. All it cares about is the value you bring. Dream big all you want. Unless your dreams produce value, the marketplace won’t reward them.

Skills are what make you valuable to the marketplace. Skills are everything in the marketplace. They define the value you bring. Dreams, it turns out, are not skills.

Some of my skills are a lot of fun to exercise. Unfortunately, they don’t pay very well. I have other skills, not nearly as much fun, which pay far better. Why? They are more valuable to the marketplace. If those skills become obsolete tomorrow, they will cease to pay well. If I want more money, I need more and better skills. So do you.

The marketplace, like history, has some lessons to teach. Also like history, it doesn’t care if you learn them or not. Not learning them, though, is going to cost you and will cost you far more than money.

If the marketplace is not your friend, then what is it? It is, more than anything else, a harsh mistress.

NOTE: If you haven’t read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein, you’ve missed out on a great book. You should go buy it now.


Who knew there were so many operatives

One of my pet peeves is terms that get overused (unless, of course, I overuse them, in which case they are “well-used” at worst). Of overused terms, one I particularly despise is the word “operative.” Here are some relatively recent examples.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over? It’s like a Robert Ludlum novel.

Changing your personal narrative – philosophy

It has been a while coming, but this is the next installment in my “how to change your personal narrative” series. As with pretty much everything I write on this topic, there’s a decent chance you’ve already read something similar to what I write here. That’s okay. When it comes to “what life is all about” and “how do I get the life I want” type questions, there’s really nothing new out there. Jim Rohn used to say he wanted to “talk about some old stuff.” I figure, if it’s good enough for Mr. Rohn, it’s good enough for a redneck kid from North Carolina.

Today’s topic is philosophy. Please understand that when I use the word philosophy, I’m not talking about the writings of some dead guys who used big words to explain concepts that were hard enough to understand before they got hold of them. I have previously defined philosophy as “everything you know and how you choose to let it affect you.” To that I added “…it is what you know and how you act based upon what you know.”This is the definition to keep in mind for this post.

Let’s start with this: we know a whole lot more than we can do. This has some real world implications for all of us. For instance, while I may know how to save money for the future, I may also know how to live beyond my means (or I may at least know that each of these is possible). But, while I know both, I can’t consistently do both. Likewise, while I may know how to run the Operating Room for a major medical center and how to run a full-time hypnosis clinic that sees people for 8-10 hours every day, I can’t do both at the same time. This is why the definition of philosophy matters. We can only act on a portion of everything we know.

Since we can only act on a portion of what we know, and since the things we know (whether experientially, by what we’ve read, by what we’ve seen from others or by what others have told us) can greatly influence us, it’s important to know what those things are and how we’re letting them affect us.

Let’s pretend for the moment your definition of a successful or well-lived life, the life you want to live, includes doing as little as you possibly can to make money and living as simply as humanly possible. And yet, you seem to always find yourself working long, hard hours in a job that pays far more than you believe you need. Why would you do such a thing? Well, let’s further pretend you were raised by Depression era parents who worked diligently to instill in you both a work ethic that was perhaps excessive and a need to achieve material success. These two things, I submit, would be in conflict with this hypothetical life you want.

Here’s another example. Pretend you want to make a lot of money. In this case, we’ll define “a lot of money” as a consistent 7 figure personal income. Let’s also say you grew believing honesty and integrity are vitally important. At the same time, you grew up in a time and place where the common attitude toward those with a lot of money was that having a lot of money was proof of being dishonest. It was proof the person with a lot of money had schemed and cheated his way to wealth. Financial success, then = dishonesty.

In both cases, a person could find himself/herself sabotaging their very best efforts to achieve what they wanted. Why? Because your subconscious mind, the part of your mind that is concerned, not with what is right or wrong, good or bad, or moral or immoral, but with what is familiar, keeps bringing you back to what is familiar and psychologically comfortable. It keeps you doing things that are consistent with your philosophy.

What then, are we to do? If it is a person’s philosophy that determine what he/she does, regardless of what he/she wants, how is that behavior to be changed? Fortunately, there are some answers.

For the person who really wants to know, who really wants to increase his/her self-awareness, it is possible to learn what your philosophy is regarding almost any aspect of life. More than that, not only can you know your philosophy, you can change it.

How to do those two things, knowing what your philosophy is and changing it once you know what it is, will be the topics of the next post in this series.

Objective ethics?

I try really hard to not be rigid. Truly, I do. At the same time, I was raised to believe some things truly are categorical imperatives. We didn’t call them that and I have some doubts as to just how many of my relatives could have told me who Immanuel Kant was, had I even known to ask. What I did know, was this: there are some things one simply does not do. Ever.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize some things are perhaps not as black and white as I once believed. Really, this has been more of a realization that I don’t have all the answers to all of the questions. Growing up is like that. As a person of Christian faith, who is closer to 80 than 18, I’ve reached the point of being relatively comfortable with not only saying “I don’t know,” but even with a section of scripture that, in a different context, expresses what I now see as a great truth. In Isaiah 55:8 we find “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.… I’m okay with that. Regardless of a person’s view of spirituality and faith, there are, at least currently, some things we simply don’t know. Some things, though, seem constant, at least to me.

Sarah Hoyt’s blog features a guest post by Caitlin I. Woods. Dealing with situational ethics, she makes the point that eliminating objective right and wrong is a dangerous and usually unnecessary step – for most people, most of the time, there is no need to argue circumstances dictate what is right and wrong. Can we devise a sufficiently convoluted hypothetical situation in which objective right and wrong are at least questioned if not abandoned? Of course. In fact, that’s how she opens.

“Is it wrong to steal if it’s to feed your starving family?

No, no, wait—I mean, what if you *really really* needed the food, and you had no alternative way to get it, and you had a huge extended family that was going to die, *literally die* if you didn’t procure food for them *right now*. And you live in a hideous dystopic world where the powers that be are intentionally starving everyone, and the only people who have food are the ones that are actively starving

everyone else, and…”

She follows with what is arguably the best response to any hypothetical situation clearly designed to lead to arrival at a predetermined conclusion.

“Stop. Just stop.

Yes, I’m sure it’s possible to posit a world where the only reasonable alternative to death is theft, and even a world where any moral person would cheer the decision. You win. I will completely and totally agree that it is theoretically possible to come up with the circumstance.

So. Freaking. What.”

She gives a quick overview of the problems with the question asked, pointing out that in the real world, the one in which you, I and  presumably those who would question the existence of objective right and wrong live, there are almost always options beyond the ones the hypothetical offers.

“I think the best comparison is really something like… I don’t know, gravity. The effects of gravity vary wildly depending on where in the universe you’re observing it. In a black hole, it is an astoundingly inescapable force that even light is powerless against. On Deimos, a human could, unassisted, attain escape velocity.

For pretty much all practical purposes, though? Gravity is 32ft/s^2, and anyone who needs to deal with it being different than that will certainly know it well enough in advance to be able to make the proper allowances.

In the same vein, while it’s possible to come up with a circumstance in which it isn’t wrong to steal… it’s not here, it’s not now, and it’s a circumstance none of us are likely to come across. Ever. Let me put it this way: While we can have an argument about whether it is more moral to steal than to allow someone under your care to die of starvation, there are *so many millions of options to take* before that’s even remotely an issue that I’m astounded at the sheer fatuousness it requires to come up with the circumstance.”

I know that in my case, the “there are no other options” limitations placed on me by such questioners really annoy me. As a result, I usually reject the premise(s) of the question. I hate it when people try, overtly or otherwise, to shove a given belief or position down my throat.

Then, she calls the whole thing what it is – an attempt to destroy the very concept of objective ethics. It’s not simply a silly question you’re asked in a situation like that. Nope. It’s an attempt to force you into accepting as true something you’d normally reject, thereby calling into doubt a far more basic belief – that there can even be an objective ethic.

“But it’s not fatuousness. Not really.

It’s an inherent, knowing attempt to destroy the entire idea of things being always right or wrong *at all*.”

I encourage you to read the entire posting. It’s well worth your time. I think, in many cases, people are for some reason unable to accept that something can be wrong and yet virtually unavoidable at the same time. In my opinion, it is for things like this that the legal arena, for instance, has jury nullification. Maybe there are times the conflict is not between whether a thing is right or wrong, but between something being right or wrong and necessity.

I’m reminded of the story, probably apocryphal, about New York Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia. I have the text saved to my computer. Sadly I don’t remember the source. The story goes like this:

“In the middle of the Great Depression, New York City mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, strived to live with the people. It was not unusual for him to ride with the firefighters, raid with the police, or take field trips with orphans. On a bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told the mayor that her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving.

However, the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”

LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous hat, saying, “Here is the ten-dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day, New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren. Fifty cents of that amount was contributed by the grocery store owner himself, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.”

Read the rest of the post. It’s worth your time and consideration.


Don’t be weird

I want to talk about network marketing…

Okay, not really. What I really want to talk about is liberty. More specifically, I want to talk about how to increase it or spread it to more people. To do that, however, want to talk about a concept related to it. But first, a story.

I know a number of people who were, and are, successful network marketers. By “successful” I mean the following

  1. They work with real and legitimate companies
  2. They offer goods or services people would buy even if there were no business opportunity attached
  3. Through their work, they have had a real and positive impact on their lives and the lives of others
  4. They have all followed the same basic plan for achieving their success

One of these people always offers the same advice to those who choose to work with him:

“Don’t be weird”

That’s it. That’s his advice. Oh, he talks about other things, the “how to” part of running a legitimate and successful business like his, but this is the one he focuses on.

How does this relate to liberty?

Every single one of the people I mentioned above has built his or her business to the point of earning 6 figures a year by doing, broadly speaking, the same thing. They found somewhere between 3 and 5 people who saw things the same way they did and taught them how to “do the business,” and they started with the people they knew. Now, they would, even after finding those 3-5 people, continue to search for others who saw things the same way, but it was those 3-5 who ensured they would reach what most people would consider a significant income. Additional people simply meant more reach, more impact and, yes, more money. All of this is particularly true of those who were not possessed of an overwhelming or almost other worldly level of charisma.

Many of us in the various liberty/prepping/homesteading movements have wondered how we manage to  bring about change on a national level. How can we increase liberty? How do we help people become more prepared for some reasonably to be anticipated natural disaster? How do we show people the joy and freedom of homesteading? I submit the following is a valid way to proceed.

  1. We take care to live lives that don’t appear, to outsiders, to be one-dimensional
  2. While we don’t avoid talking about our lifestyle choices (homesteading, prepping, what have you), we also don’t talk about them every time we meet people. Instead, we let them come up as a normal part of a conversation in which they are appropriate topics. Then, as with all other topics, we avoid going off on some long-winded monologue about the joys of raising chickens or what we view as the coming _______(insert catastrophic event of your choice), or any of a thousand other things.
  3. When people tell us, in the course of the above-mentioned normal conversation, they just don’t see the necessity of having a pantry with “X” months of food, we do not
    1. Tell them they must not love their families or liberty
    2. Walk off obviously shaking our heads in disbelief
  4. We find, during the course of normal, everyday life and conversation, 3-5 people who see things the way we do. We help them get to the point they will do the same thing. By the way, the first 3-5 who say they agree with us will almost certainly not be the ones who actually stick with homesteading/prepping/spreading the word.Afterward, we continue to look for others, but the 3-5 is enough. More committed people just makes things change more quickly.*
  5. We stay in this thing “for the long haul.” That shouldn’t be a big challenge for us. After all, our homesteading and preparedness are lifestyles instead of mere fad following, right?
  6. We remember we will have our greatest effect if we remain a true grassroots movement. The grassroots progression, I submit, is local –> state –> regional –> national, not the other way around!
  7. We remain absolutely committed to a simple principle: Don’t be weird!

Liberty, I have decided, is a concept many people have not seriously considered. Oh, they like the general idea, but they haven’t really given it a lot of thought. If we dump everything we know and believe about liberty on people who aren’t ready to hear it, look at just some of what we’re likely telling them (well, at least it’s some of what I’d be telling them), what we are asking them to believe, much of which they may have never considered.

  • You can’t trust the government you’ve always been taught to trust
  • You can’t really trust the political party/ideology with which you likely identify
  • Freedom and liberty come from accepting absolute responsibility and accountability for your decisions and actions
  • The government has no legal obligation to ensure your safety as an individual
  • Everything you allow others, whether individually or collectively, to provide you, also provides them ever-increasing control over you and your life
  • Laws, all laws, are ultimately backed up by the threat of deadly force
  • None of us have any right to the fruit of another’s labor
  • The world owes us nothing
  • To be truly free, to truly exercise liberty, we must allow those with whom we have the strongest of disagreements to likewise be free

This is, I think, a lot for many people to wrap their heads around, especially in practical terms. It might sound fine when discussed in some theoretical or academic discussion. It can look a whole lot different when we are challenged to live it out in real life.

So, if you want to bring about change, if you want to help increase liberty, don’t be one-dimensional. Don’t let your enthusiasm for your lifestyle and message lead you into dominating conversations. Don’t be rude. And, above all, don’t be weird!

*NOTE: Finding “3-5 people who see things the way we do” is most emphatically not code for suggesting people start forming anti-government “cells.” That would be truly weird, very counterproductive and not conducive to the spread of liberty. So, I’m not asking you to be part of any such cell. If you give some hint you want me to be part of such a cell, I will likely give you a very special gift I and other veterans have reserved just for people like you.