Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

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  • Thu, Dec 30, 2010 - 09:22pm

    #1

    Poet

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    Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

 

I’d like to hear from people who live in areas (or who have lived in, or who have relatives who live in, such areas) with major corruption, strong organized crime, gangs, drug cartels, increasingly weaker police, lawlessness, etc. running rampant.

Examples of such places would be parts of Russia and the former Soviet republics; rural or border towns in Mexico; Cali or Medellin, Columbia; etc.

I want information on how ordinary people survive: what they need to do to stay out of trouble, what they have to do to run a business (restaurant, farm, store, etc.), store bulky things,  live safely, send their kids to school, whether they have to pay protection money, what kind of allies you need (fixers, the mayor or local police chief), etc.

(Note: I’ve posted a request about this as well, in Input on the “What Should I Do?” series., but felt initial discussions would best be handled here in a topic.)

Poet

 

 

  • Thu, Dec 30, 2010 - 10:49pm

    #2
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

Poet,

Can’t say that I’ve lived in any of those areas mentioned but I was born in Newark, NJ (“The Armpit of the East”), went to high school at a place that at times resembled “Blackboard Jungle”, worked in trucking terminals and as a longshoreman in some bad areas to earn my way through college, associated with a friend in college whose uncle was a capo in the Mafia (and who did “jobs” for his uncle from time to time), lived in a ghetto area in Baltimore while attending a professional school, and lived for a year on the fringe of another ghetto area in NY when I first started working (where another capo was my landlord and had his “business”) so I have some familiarity with the “rougher” side of life.

All I can say is that I can only offer one strategy for anyone in the situations you describe … GET OUT!  In those high conflict areas there will be collateral damage and even if you’re carrying, wearing body armor, and have the right connections, you’re vulnerable.  And obviously, with a family, you’re even more vulnerable.  And as far as raising a family without the psychology of the children being significantly impacted in an adverse way, I think it would be difficult to impossible regardless of how good the parents are. 

 

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 12:45am

    #4
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

Good question, Poet, and useful insight, ao!   I’m wrestling with this whole thing now, too, and am very concerned about it.  One of my internal mottos is “the best way to solve a problem is to avoid it in the first place”.  So as we watch things continue to degrade, and the potential for violence and social upheaval increase, my “gut” instinct is to get the heck out of Dodge before things (potentially) go to crap.  Unfortunately, I have roots where I am now, and next to no one in my immediate family or social circle even has a clue of what’s going on.  In other words, short of ditching everyone I know and love, which I am not going to do, “getting out of Dodge” isn’t a feasible option. 

About the best alternative idea I’ve been able to come up with is to add resilience to our “prep at home” strategy by coming up with some kind of a “Plan B” to fall back on.  My thought is to plan for that potential scenario when  trouble becomes so real and apparent that my circle of family and friends suddenly becomes aware that there is real danger.  At such a time “getting out” may  not only become an option they are finally willing to consider, but an imperative.  In such a situation, it would be nice to at least have the broad strokes of a back-up plan thought out and ready to implement. I guess that’s a plate I need to step up to!

I’m curious to hear others’ responses to Poet’s question…

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 12:47am

    #3
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

[quote=ao]

Can’t say that I’ve lived in any of those areas mentioned but I was born in Newark, NJ (“The Armpit of the East”), went to high school at a place that at times resembled “Blackboard Jungle”, worked in trucking terminals and as a longshoreman in some bad areas to earn my way through college, associated with a friend in college whose uncle was a capo in the Mafia (and who did “jobs” for his uncle from time to time), lived in a ghetto area in Baltimore while attending a professional school, and lived for a year on the fringe of another ghetto area in NY when I first started working (where another capo was my landlord and had his “business”) so I have some familiarity with the “rougher” side of life.

All I can say is that I can only offer one strategy for anyone in the situations you describe … GET OUT!  In those high conflict areas there will be collateral damage and even if you’re carrying, wearing body armor, and have the right connections, you’re vulnerable.  And obviously, with a family, you’re even more vulnerable.  And as far as raising a family without the psychology of the children being significantly impacted in an adverse way, I think it would be difficult to impossible regardless of how good the parents are. 

[/quote]

Ao

Great warnings. Of course that’d be my first strategy. I don’t ever want to be in such an area!

However, what do you think will happen all around us as peak oil, scarcity issues, economic depression, massive unemployment, America-becoming-a-Third-World-country, etc. starts snowballing? The place we don’t want to go, will come into being around us.

And those of us who have less resources (and few diamonds to ponder polishing) will not find it easy to “get out”. It’s very likely that wherever we may escape to, will have its own issues, anyway.

It seems you constantly found yourself in such “rougher” places anyway – at least in your youth – didn’t you? So what were some of your survival strategies in dealing with the rougher elements and staying out of trouble? (Besides always paying your rent on time.)

Poet

 

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 01:16am

    #5
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

So as we watch things continue to degrade, and the potential for violence and social upheaval increase, my “gut” instinct is to get the heck out of Dodge before things (potentially) go to crap.

As a Kansan I would say you need to get the hell “into” Dodge. Its really a sleepy little town. Smile

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 04:25am

    #6
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

Well this is my wife’s and her siblings’ account, not my own, so this account is second-hand and as best as I can remember from our conversations.  But hopefully its of some help:

My wife’s family lived in a former communist “Soviet satellite state” of sorts, which underwent a bad economic collapse in the 90’s not long after communism fell and economic support from Russia dried up.  From her description, theirs was a situation best described as a steady deterioration followed by a sharp drop.  The sharp drop was a result of the government devaluing its currency by about 40%, at which time just about everyone took all their money and bought anything and everything at the stores (just fyi my wife’s family didn’t find out about the devaluation until the day after it was announced and as a result couldn’t buy much of what they needed).  Most stores had empty shelves in a week or less and the government had to resort to rationing for some time afterwards.  The rations weren’t really enough to live on, so black market trade thrived and crime was rampant.  Now from her description it seemed like the ‘lawlessness’ was predominantly stealing, black market trade and dealing in stolen goods, and heavy alcohol abuse.  There were crimes of the violent sort increasing too, but there was some implication that high alcohol abuse was probably the root of much of it.

Theft-  Snatch-and-grab and pick-pocketing was very common (and to a lesser degree still is), but one of the things that stuck out the most was her describing how the abandoned former USSR-run buildings and industrial operations were totally gutted and stripped by the locals once the Russian government abandoned them.  Pretty much the same thing we are starting to see in the US with opportunists tearing out the copper wire and piping from unsold or foreclosed homes/businesses, except on a more complete scale where the buildings became completely unusable.  Anything and everything, from wood to scrap metal.

Grey/Black Market-  Most would consider it a ‘milder’ form of lawlessness but black and grey market trade was apparently very big, and the biggest such market is still there today (the locals still refer to it as ‘the black market’ but to Western eyes it’s somewhere between a flea market and a ‘grey market’ now).  At that time though she said much of it involved the purchase or trade of food & fuel & imported goods moreso than illegal items, so it kind of functioned as a backup of sorts where government and commercial stores failed.  Rations weren’t really enough, so going to the black market at some point became a necessity.  My wife’s family was highly educated and (relatively-speaking) well-off, but they had to go there just like everybody else to get some of the things they needed.  Some people made a living riding the trains to other countries, filling up their suitcases with whatever goods they could buy, and bringing them back to sell in the black market.  Maybe also worth mentioning, the distributed rations typically included bottles of vodka along with the food, and many, like my wife’s family, traded some of their vodka rations for other things.  Despite this vodka remained one of the most precious commodities in the black market, which sadly enough brings us to…

Alcohol Abuse-  She said there were many, many people that just ‘gave up’ and started hitting the bottle, both leading up to and during/after the devaluation-driven collapse.  I think we can all imagine the various negative societal consequences that go along with this so there’s little need to go into it.  All I think I can say is that this seems to be the thing my wife is least willing to discuss about those times, and I’m guessing this may have been the worst aspect of that period of collapse.

 

I often find myself wanting to ask her (and her siblings) so many more questions about this, but I find they all are usually reluctant to talk about it.  Usually they just say “It was very bad times” and leave it at that.  Usually I have had to push for more, and lately I have been taking it easy on that because I don’t want to push too much.

– Nickbert

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 04:32am

    #7
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

[quote=Poet]

It seems you constantly found yourself in such “rougher” places anyway – at least in your youth – didn’t you? So what were some of your survival strategies in dealing with the rougher elements and staying out of trouble? (Besides always paying your rent on time.)

Poet

[/quote]

LOL.  I did, indeed, ALWAYS pay my rent on time (and have a funny story about that very issue), especially when one of his imported Italian gunsels lived in the ground floor apartment of my apartment house. 

 

As to some of my strategies, off the top of my head, here goes:

Always stay alert and aware.

Avoid crowds, especially large, rowdy crowds.

Avoid places where bad things are more likely to happen; i.e. nightclubs, bars, public gatherings in iffy places, places where one faction is likely to conflict with an opposing faction, etc.

Avoid making yourself an easy target (either by appearance, apparel, location, time of day, etc.).

Be on good terms with others as much as is possible and especially, don’t piss people off who can make your life miserable or worse.   

Keep your mouth shut and mind your own business.

Don’t be conspicuous.

Don’t flaunt money or material possessions.

Don’t show fear but also, don’t display bravado.

Never lose eye contact with, ignore, or turn away from a threat.

Keep yourself in top physical and combative shape.

Look, walk, and carry youself in such a manner that you look more like a predator than prey, or at least, don’t look like an easy mark.

Avoid physical conflict but if you can’t escape, have no alternative, and have to engage, hold absolutely NOTHING back and consider all possible weapons (from teeth to garbage can lids to firearms and everything in between).

On the latter subject, you may want to consult the excellent threads that Aaron started on firearms and self defense issues.  

 

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 05:08am

    #8
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

Crime in Russia 1991-1994 (the dark shift to the market)

Soviet Union collapse was mild:

  • Civil war did not happen
  • Almost every family owned home (small 2 room flat)
  • Electricity, water, heat and garbage service never shut down
  • Oil refineries continued to produce small amount of gasoline
  • Farmers continued to produce food
  • Cheap bread was always available

Crime has become the norm from the moment when the government infrastructure fell apart. 

Sample 1: Taxes and barter. With inflation around 50% a month barter trade has become the basis. Barter transactions was completely unaccountable and as result no taxes was payed. Everyone is guilty of tax evasion because everyone involved in the barter trade.

Sample 2: Scrap metal for cash. Aluminum, copper, nickel and stainless steel have become very valuable. First,copper dishes and household scrap wire and then wires and motors from factories have been converted to the rapidly depreciating money.

Sample 3: Teens crime. Teenagers became extremely dangerous. Initially crime mostly happen at schools but quickly became an epidemic problem of society. Teens gangs soon leaded by adult criminals and controlled every elements of small and very small business

Sample 4: Con-games became a new reality, new forms were discovered and polished everyday. New “hooks” were based on desire to help (the old “hooks” used greed).

Sample 5: New crime objects. A neighboring family (women and her small kid) was killed. Nothing was taken except for a gold ring and food from the kitchen.

Sample 6:  Serial dad. Respectable and honorable father and husband lost his job. An obligation to feed his family lead him to new evening time job. He robbed old people (mostly women) about grocery stores. Few of them died.

Sample 7:  From american movies kidnaping burst into life. The usual price is equivalent of home price (~$20000).

Sample 8: Police crime. Severely underpaid government militia (police) quickly found their place in new society. It became the most dangerous mob around. Armed and trained with court and jail infrastructures police became a supper system for squeezing money, goods and entire businesses from population.

Old rules of survival during the Soviet Union collapse:

  1. Do not own any valuable things. Especially gold and fine jewelry.
  2. Keep low profile. No one should suspect that you have something valuable
  3. Avoid strangers. Never help strangers. 
  4. Make friends in local gangs. Provide gang with service they will miss if something happen to you.
  5. Do not drink vodka. Vodka is the most valuable exchange media
  6. Protect your home. Reliable lock, steel door and barred windows are essential but must look cheap and ugly
  7. Big and vicious dog the best defender of the family
  8. Do not look happy. Life is miserable for everyone around. 
  9. Be ready to lose everything. Health is the only value

Only falling through to the bottom you can see the beauty of life..

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 09:04am

    #9
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

(continued…)

As far as my wife’s family and how they coped with their experience, most of what they mentioned involved dealing with shortages and finding ways around that.  But in coping with the ‘lawlessness’ aspect of it, here are some of the things they talked about and a couple of my own observations during my visit in her country (these parallel some of the things that ao or scott said in their above posts).

Home security-  Theft was/is a big problem, and even though things have improved greatly since then it’s still extremely common to have heavy doors with multiple locks and bars on all windows. In my time over there I didn’t see a single apartment or home without multiple locks on the doors, even out in the countryside.

Situational awareness-  Stay aware of your surroundings and pay attention to the people around you, and be extra careful in crowds.  During my own visit last summer this was emphasized by my wife, saying pickpockets are still common and will go after foreigners in particular.  We had no such problems, but there were a number of times I spotted people nearby paying a little too much attention to us.  I didn’t take my attention off of them while they were around, and we had no problems.  Extra emphasis on this when it comes to drunks or junkies, and know how to spot them quickly.  Drunks and addicts aren’t always trouble but they’re more likely to be, and sometimes you have to go with the odds.  In fact the only times I encountered physical threats or trouble in her country was with a couple encounters with drunks demanding money.

Connections-  Having connections, both legitimate (government officials and law enforcement) and shady (grey/black market types), help a lot.  Still does in fact, which I got to see for myself over there when trying to get my son’s paperwork sorted out there.  Getting around the beauracracy and the petty corruption of officials is a part of it, as knowing the right people sometimes can save you some money and/or time (from seeing my brother-in-law in action I could tell this was critically important when running a business).  The other part is knowing how and where to get things that are in short supply or high demand.  How far one is willing to bend the rules (like buying/selling things in the grey/black market) is up to the individual and I don’t condone or condemn it, but at least in the case of my wife’s family and most others in their country it was a matter of necessity and not optional. 

Don’t ‘Stand Out’-  This is my own observation being in her country, and something I found really hard to do anything about.  In my case it was being a blond, blue-eyed pale white guy where nearly everyone else is much shorter, darker, and Asian.  I kinda doubt I would have had the encounters with the aforementioned drunks if this wasn’t the case.  The best I could do was to dress no different than most everyone around me (not hard since most wore American or Western style clothing) and not wear or carry obvious valuables.  The latter was stressed by my wife… I don’t wear jewelry but she told me to just be careful where I take out my MP3 player or pocket camera.  Common sense to be sure, though I know the other reason for it…. if the merchants and vendors smell money on us she’d have that much more trouble getting a good bargain Tongue out

 

– Nickbert

  • Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - 03:45pm

    #10
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    Re: Surviving In An Increasingly Lawless Society

 There has got to be a business Opportunity in here somewhere don’t ya think ?    Installing Home security ?     At least the established business ought to be busy while people still have money . .

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