Let’s say that TSHTF and we find ourselves deep into not just the brown stuff but an extended Level 2, possibly a Level 3 situation. Fortunately, you have the supplies and the skills necessary to ensure the probable survival of you and the other members of your group.
So far, so good.
But what about the other people, everyone and everywhere else in the country? They have neither the supplies nor the skills, and they are facing a high probability of failing to survive the upcoming winter (always assuming they don’t starve prior to then).
Okay, so you know that your small group of, let’s say, 20 people can’t possibly turn around and support the entire 300+ million people in the US. Neither can you support the maybe 5 – 10 million people in your state, the 500,000 people in your county, or the 100,000 people in the nearest city, or the 2,000 people in the nearby small town. Those are easy issues to agree upon.
Enough of the easy. Let’s move on now to the hard – to the challenges you are most likely to confront and need to resolve. Note that the scenarios below assume that your ‘community’ shares a number of communal resources – perhaps these would include living in the same retreat structure, sharing food communally rather than having individual stores of food, and sharing water and energy as well. In such cases, what one person does obviously impacts on other members of the one community.
If your ‘community’ is more like a tiny village, with a cluster of separate dwellings for separate families, and each family being responsible for its own food, water, and energy, but the community as a whole coordinating defense and food production type matters, then clearly each family has much more flexibility as to how it manages its own situation.
Adding One More Community Member
What happens if say your spouse’s brother (or, for that matter, your own brother) turns up and asks to be admitted to your community?
Your spouse pleads with you to let him join you, and for sure, what you have for 20 people will also be fine for 21. Your spouse even says ‘I’ll share my food with my brother’, although no-one seriously expects that is exactly how the food would be re-divided. What do you do? Welcome the guy in, or risk a major failure in your marriage and turn the guy away?
We’ll guess that most people will take the path of least resistance, and let their brother-in-law come join the community. Going from 20 to 21 is no big deal, and certainly one more able-bodied participant can help with chores and security and general community dynamics.
When One Becomes Many
Next, we need to consider the implications of this. If you’ve agreed that your spouse can allow your brother to join the community, does that mean that all 20 community members are equally allowed to invite one additional person in to the community? It would be very hard to understand what type of community dynamic would allow some people the right to bring in additional community members, but not allow others the same right.
It goes without saying that while your community can almost certainly grow from 20 to 21, and would probably actually benefit from the extra person’s presence and participation, what about if the community grows from 20 to 40? Is that feasible or not? Your food will only last half as long. You need twice as much water. You have twice as much sewage to dispose of. Your living spaces are now twice as crowded. And so on.
Furthermore, what happens the next day when your spouse’s other brother turns up. You’ve let one brother in, how can you refuse the other brother too?
Or what if your spouse’s brother (or of course, your own brother or anyone else’s brother) is married and has a wife? And a child too? Where do you draw the line?
Less Desirable Additions
What if, instead of the person being an able-bodied male who can work and positively contribute to the community, the person is instead an aged parent who can’t add any value to the community and who in fact needs support and care? We could be totally off-base here, but we suspect you’d have an even greater battle with your spouse if you refused to allow their aged mother to come live with you than you would if you turned away their brother!
You should also consider people at the other end of life’s journey. What about a young child – someone who again would be a net drain on the community’s resource for some years to come, and someone who needs to be cared for and schooled.
Or how about a regular adult but with disabilities, or special medical needs?
Choosing Between Too Many Applicants
What say five people present themselves and ask to join your community. One is a weedy nerdy IT guy, the second is a beefy brawny farm manager, the third is a dentist, the fourth is an elderly infirm person, but who turns up in a truck fully loaded with enough food supplies to feed a dozen people for a year or more, and towing a 500 gallon tank of diesel, while the fifth is a beautiful blonde woman in her mid 20s, who formerly worked as a public relations representative.
Do you have some sort of skills inventory or rating system to evaluate and prioritize who you would and would not accept? How about choosing between the empty-handed farm manager, who comes with no physical goods but lots of skill and knowledge and physical strength on the one hand, and the elderly infirm person who can’t contribute skills or physical work, but who has 500 gallons of diesel and twelve man years of food with him?
And what about the dentist? Let’s say you have a community of 20 people, and the dentist says ‘I’ll provide dental care for all of you for free, but in return, I expect you to feed and shelter and support me’. There are no other dentists in your group, and none that you know of within 100 miles of where you live.
Is the cost to the community of supporting the dentist sufficiently balanced by the benefit of having at least some basic level of dentistry resource? If you had a community of 200 the answer would probably be yes, but what about for only 20? Where do you draw the line?
What about a choice between the nerdy IT guy and the beautiful blonde? Let’s say that your community currently has more men than women in it, and many of them (and possibly yourself too) are already drooling over the sight of the blonde. If you had to choose only one of these two people, who would you choose?
The nerdy IT guy is intelligent and clever and offers to maintain your computer network, to write programs, and to help any way he can; and let’s give in to stereotypes and say, for the purpose of this scenario, that the blonde is rather vapid and not very down to earth or sensible. Her idea of cooking involves being taken out for a meal by a man, or perhaps popping something in the microwave, her idea of gardening is to water the pot plant on her balcony, her idea of prepping is to have plenty of spare shoes in the closet, and she doesn’t really have any other skills of value to the community.
What say your community group refused to allow your spouse’s brother to join the community, and so he sets up a shack immediately next to your community building, and your spouse unofficially shares food and other supplies with him. You confront your spouse, and s/he says defiantly ‘I am not taking your share of anything, I’m merely sharing my share with my brother, you can’t tell me how I use my things’.
What your spouse says is half-true, but also half untrue, because your spouse is actually now taking larger meals so as to be able to then split them, and the other supplies that your spouse has given to his/her brother are now supplies that have been lost to the community, and while they might seem to be spare today, in a day, week, month or year, they might be essentially needed but no longer available.
What do you do? Forbid your spouse to share ‘their’ food and ‘their’ other supplies?
Even More Extreme
So your spouse’s brother, and all of his family members too, have set up camp right next to your community retreat. They are a constant nuisance and interference to the entire community, and, while you can’t prove it, you are fairly certain they are stealing food out of your vegetable gardens, and in other ways stealing your community’s supplies and resources, and by their presence, affecting the overall community morale.
You confront your brother-in-law and he refuses to back down. He says to you ‘What are you going to do – kill me for doing what I have to do to survive? You’ll never miss a few carrots and potatoes, and it makes the difference between me and my family living or dying. Do you want us to die on your doorstep?’
So what do you do? This isn’t just a stranger talking to you, it is your spouse’s brother and his family. Or maybe your own brother/sister/whoever.
They make it clear to you that they’re not going to stop stealing your food unless you kill them. Do you?
There are plenty of other scenarios that also impact upon the size of your community and the circumstances associated with how you might select additional or replacement members. What say, for example, that you have 20 people who belong to your community, but only 15 have turned up at your shared retreat location.
How long do you hold their spaces, their share of everything, before you decide they’re not coming, and you then open up the spaces to other desirable community members?
Or what say part of your community is a family of four, but only three of the family successfully make it to the retreat. Does the fourth space belong to the family, to assign/sell/trade any way they wish, or does it pass back and become community property?
What happens if a community member leaves (or dies) – does the share in the community pass on to his/her family, can he sell it as he wishes, or does it revert back and become a shared community item for the community as a whole to do with as it chooses?
The Need to Prepare Community Rules in Advance
What all these previous examples have done is try to illustrate some of the type of ‘what if’ situations your community will likely encounter. You will probably have more people approaching your community on a non-violent basis, pleading with you to be allowed to join your community, than you will have violent attacks from marauders seeking to separate you from your supplies by force.
Each of these different people will come to you with a different set of pluses and minuses, and for a while you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store with so many different people, all potentially great additions to your community, seeking to join. Whereas, just a week or two prior, when life was normal, people would sneer at you and spurn your suggestion they consider joining your community, but now, all of a sudden, so many people want to be your best friend forever.
You have two problems that you need to address in preparing some rules in advance. The first problem is simply one of creating a framework to help you judge and evaluate, on a case by case basis, who you should and should not consider adding to your community after TSHTF.
The second problem is more subtle. The larger your community starts off as being, the more divergent will be the people in it and their own views about how each scenario should be handled. The rules you prepare are a way of codifying for the entire community what you’ll all collectively do and how you’ll respond. It is essential that you get the rules 100% established and fully agreed to prior to any event. If you have a code of procedures, then you can dispassionately evaluate each person’s request to join the community as and when they appear, without having to get involved in any individual personalities and issues between your existing community members. Community members know what to expect and plan for in advance, and can anticipate how cases will be handled based on the rules as they have been promulgated.
If you don’t have the rules already established, then you get trapped in an expanding spiral of exceptions (albeit exceptions to no existing rules to start with) on the basis of ‘If Joe was allowed to invite in Peter, then I’m entitled to invite in someone too’ and ‘If your friend Bill and his family were allowed to come join, then my friend John and his family should be allowed to come too’, as well as ‘I can’t believe you’re not allowing me to have my dear old dad come join us, especially after I agreed you could bring your kid sister in’, and so on and so on, without limit, until the entire community collapses into some sort of internal civil war.
The solution to this is in two parts – the first is that all decisions need to follow pre-established guidelines so as to distance the individual people and personalities from the process and make it less personal. The decision then becomes one of simply following the policy, rather than what you agree/disagree between yourselves each time. It makes it fairer for all to have a consistent approach.
The second element is to make all decisions not clearly covered by the published rules as community consensus decisions, again to diffuse the personal nature of such decisions and to make them more as ‘body corporate’ type actions that, while possibly disappointing to some, aren’t taken as quite so strongly personal rejections/affronts.
Specific Guidelines for Evaluating Potential Extra Community Members
We’ll write a subsequent article with some specific considerations for you to keep in mind when deciding who you might allow to join your community after TSHTF.
Of course, prior to TSHTF, you also need to exercise a modicum of discretion as to who you allow to join your community, but while you are building your community during normal times, one of the greatest considerations will probably be to simply grow your community as much as possible due to the three benefits of strength in numbers, economy of scale, and diversification of risk.
Please see also our article suggesting how to accept new members into your community.