Walking the line between human and animal

As many long term reader or members of my survival course know, I like to talk about important but some maybe call “not so spectacular” part of survival that is not so much fun like for example talking about latest guns and gadgets.

Today I want to talk about dignity and what it means in survival scenario. Before I talk from own experience, read the extract below from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin who describes what happened after his unit freed the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during second world war.

At the moment of his writing every day hundreds of people still died and it was place of pure horror.

It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

Importance of still being human and not become complete animal is often overlooked part for people who prepare for long term survival. I had over one year to fight against becoming like rats around our house during war.

Expect to become more like animal

You can have all equipment ready for SHTF, ammo, weapon, gear… you can even be perfectly good trained in lot of different skills and fields and still when SHTF you can end up dead in the first days just because you what i call „refuse to believe“ whats happening.

It is that state of mind when man simple do not want (or not able) to comprehend new situation.

It can be one quick life threatening situation like folks attacking your home and you just waited few seconds too long to shoot some attacker, and then you are dead, end of the story. Or it can be whole process of failing to recognize new world around you and new rules (or absence of rules) and then again you just not doing correct things for the situation, and again you end up dead.

Example would be that when SHTF you are trying desperately to have and use power generator and light all rooms in your houses just because it mean normal life for you. And that normal life is gone, and trying to bring it back in that situation usually means more troubles.

Holding onto all comforts and behavior you are used to can be dangerous.

To make long story short, what I am trying to say is that you may be trained and equip like SEAL member and still you can be killed easily from some 70 years old dude, with even older rifle just because you were surprised when SHTF with amount of destruction and violence and you did not seen that old dude coming (or being so evil).

On the other side that old dude maybe lived through couple of SHTF events in his life, and he knows when it is time to act without hesitation and mercy.

There is still fine line you have to walk between losing your human side and becoming pure animal.

One of the things that changed a lot when SHTF is fact that everything became really dirty.

It was something like slow process, first people tried to keep it as clean they could, but without all normal services, like garbage trucks, running water and all other community services that make normal living soon it simple became impossible.

Later all garbage was used somehow, but in beginning it started piling up everywhere, when you add to that ruins on the street, human waste and dead bodies it was very ugly picture.

After some time, we started to accept dirt outside and it then was priority to stay clean and keep clean only inside that small circle inside your home, and when I say „clean“ I do not mean „clean“ like today. Maybe as clean as we could be.

For example simply moving through the city in the middle of the night meant that you needed to crawl, jump, hide, walk or run trough all kind of things, and very often some real nasty and dirty things.

Many times I was hiding on places so dirty that stench was almost paralyzing, once in the middle of the night I jumped behind some wall because sudden shelling, and when I jumped there I realized that I landed on dead guy.

His face was smashed with broken wall, and partially buried, place there was so small that I had to actually lay on him for some 20 minutes. He died probably when wall from the house collapsed after some shelling, who knows.

Fire from the shelling was so strong that I actually loved that dead guy and that place in that moment. I almost hug him while I was trying to be as small as possible because pieces of steel and rock were flying around me just like some crazy rain, while my stomach was rising and floating from the detonations and smell.

All I was saying at that moment was „thank you, thank you, thank you“ like some magic words, and I even was not aware who do I thank to, that dead stinky guy, my brain for noticing that small space, or God for saving me.

Today years and years later I still carry that smell inside my nose. But I did not move from there before danger was gone. It is survival and luckily I was already used to dirt enough to just stay with that dead guy.

Some folks just stopped to care about cleanliness and hygiene completely. So for them washing and cleaning become something like not wanted luxury. They went complete animal.

They simply stopped to care about these things, so I also knew some guys with look and smell so awful that even dead guy smelled like parfume store.

It was easy to surrender to stuff like that, I mean in trying to keep yourself clean.

But it was stupid not only in terms of the hygiene and illnesses, also by surrendering yourself you admit that you do not care anymore, and when you admit that you are only few steps from becoming animal with what you do too. People give up on themselves.

For me being as clean as I could be had something like preserving one of the last connection with “normal” life, with life before sh!t hit the fan, when things like neighbors, breakfast, car etc, were just things we took for granted, like things that always gonna be there unchanged.

Of course I was aware that being clean is important in order to stay alive because all diseases problem, no doctors hospitals etc. but on some psychological level it kept me sane and it kept me normal man.

Even in survival situation you need to still care about few little things to keep your dignity, to keep spirit up, to not lose yourself. If you stop caring about everything it is like disease that eats you.

When I came back from trading or scavenging in the city, I would clean or wash myself thoroughly in my yard before entering my house, again of course because common sense, hygiene and diseases, but maybe even more important I tried to keep all chaos and violence, suffering outside of my home on some psychological level.

I try to stay out of the everything, or actually I tried to keep everything outside of my home, like some ritual. I would keep the clothes for outside in bag, my boots were in one corner, never entering my room in it etc.

One of my relative wears pink slippers (mittens) when he was home sometimes, he would say that he just felt that everything is fine when he wear it. It was spooky and strange to see him in pink slippers while outside world is going to hell, but we all have some strange ways I guess to keep ourselves sane. Maybe wearing those slippers after he was forced to shoot some folks kept him sane, reminded him on some normal times when grandma wear it in the evenings.

On the other side, like I said in beginning if you stick too much to old habits you are not doing best for survival too.

So if I had to be animal, I was animal. It was about survival. For example there was a period when I eat just to survive, like animal, without paying attention what I eat or how. If I found some food I ate it in quick way, if there was some food with worms in it, I would eat it in dark, without looking what I eat etc.

Point was (and still is) to be man, but to be ready to be animal if you are forced to be animal, and thats it. It comes down to being flexible, adapting to situation and I hope this helps to crush the idea some Hollywood or fantasy survival scenarios show that survival is about being complete animal. No, it is fine line to walk.

You can (and you have to) have as much hand sanitizers, soap, disposable face masks etc. as you can but you can still end up dead if you are not ready to accept fact that one day you might be forced to „hug“ dead guy in order to survive, or eat roast rat or pigeon.

Once next collapse comes many people will wake up to reality and struggle to be human like they were or become animals and as skilled survivalist I hope you will walk fine line in between. The people who were walking that path were and Im sure will be those who have biggest chances to survive.

Tactical gear vs skills for survival

Being able to fight and survive when SHTF means lot of things. Of course it means to be trained, well equip and ready to fight.

But there is some misunderstanding (just like with many other things when it comes to SHTF and survival in general) when it comes to what you suppose to have with you while you are moving through dangerous area in which you might have to fight in a survival situation.

There are countless discussions on forums about what to have, AR or AK, and what is better, with what weapon you have more chance to win, kill, survive, what kind of pistol, caliber etc.

For example I have used both rifles (AR years later after my time in war), and I prefer AK, but it is better option for ME, maybe not for you because of many reasons.

And of course most of those discussions do not make too much sense, actually people discuss wrong things there. It is a bit like mountaineer discusses every little bit of detail of climbing gear before going up his first mountain. After that he realizes more or less every harness works if it sits properly.

Everything today is about what other folks saying is good for you, not what is really good for you, what make sense for you.

So you can see well working business of selling weapons and gear for SHTF, with assurances that you will survive doomsday only with their gear and weapon.
Now do not get me wrong, you ll need good equipment and weapon, but thats it about this topic, nothing more. What is much more important you will need clear head and common sense to survive SHTF.

For example there are literally hundreds type of pistol holsters. For SHTF I prefer old style leather (Soviet) pistol holster. With all dirt, jumping, squatting, crawling, rain etc. It is just make sense to use it. It is nothing fancy, I dont look very tactical but it has time proven design that works. Like the AK bayonet that I talk about in my survival course that I used for many things.

Think about running for few miles while someone is shooting at you. It is something pretty hard on your body. And if you dragging lot of fancy stuff on you, you gonna end up dead probably.

What you wear when SHTF can easily put you in danger, so it makes sense to wear things that can help you when it comes to fighting but at the same time that does not give you look of special forces dude. Remember also that by having things that clearly look interesting (cool, good, new…) it makes you interesting, and thats bad.

There is much more sense to think about what kind of footwear you gonna have then to read about what is more deadly AK or AR. Both of those gonna kill in good hands, but if you are wearing wrong kind of boots you not gonna be able to operate with full capacity and that is bad.

And I always preferred idea of being more maneuverable than to have extra stuff with me while moving trough urban terrain in post collapse city.

Many people very easily forget fact that fight in urban environment is very dynamic thing, in other words lots of physical activity is involved, and while you are trying to shoot someone other folks try to shoot you too.

Two predictions from me here.

A lot of people have bug out bags they can not carry for solid 10 hours while escaping their city and lot of people do not pay enough attention to fitness and think good shooting only gives them big advantage in fire fight.

Some people can not improve fitness because they are older or handicapped but also these people they need to make up for lack of fitness with thinking.

They need to pay much more attention to proper information, so they can move on time, not in hurry. They have to be “more alarmed” and even if not necessary bug out before everyone else.

And they MUST have those stashes on the way, so they can have option of carrying nothing but “refueling” on those stops. I mean where other folks have 1 bug out route and two “back up routes and 5 stashes or none, they (older folks) need to have 1 bug out route and 5 back up routes and like 15 small stashes on the way.

I have seen many times how people throw away precious stuff in the middle of the fight just because they are too slow, too restrained while maneuvering.

Having the TT pistol and AK worked great for me in that period, maybe it is gonna work good for me again, but important thing is that I am ready to adopt new things, ideas, equipment and weapon at any time if I see that it is gonna work better for me. I practice my skills now and do not get obsessed about gear.

Do not get killed because you stick to something stubborn just because someone told you it is great for you.

And of course think about that „small“ things that gonna make big difference.

Things like proper boots, socks, pants, simple bandana (can be used for many things) can make big difference. Or rain coat can mean a lot if you forced to use it as a temporary shelter in some destroyed house without roof, while raining.

Whenever I come across discussions about „tactical equipment – what is better?“ I remember things like my neighbor home made „sling“ holster system for his Scorpion gun made from his daughter rubber jumping game, or holsters for kitchen knives made from book covers and similar things.

It is not about that we need to go back to stone age with equipment and be mean. It is about fact that people with ability to adapt have more chances to survive. It is not about that it is wrong to go for cool equipment. It is about possibility that grandpa with 70 years old rifle can kill you, no matter your cool equipment.

So basically just reminder to spend more time on learning skills or refining skills instead of researching and buying gear.

My favorite quote is latin:

“Omnia mea mecum porto”
“All that’s mine I carry with me”