I don’t write a great deal on this subject, but lately I’ve been getting the sense that the time has come to confront some harsh realities and some ugly possibilities. If you’re not in the mood for the subject this fine Friday morning, I promise that I’ll understand…but I am.
The following video, which you may have seen before, is only a minute and a half long and deserves to be viewed in its entirety by everyone alive today:
Dr. Christiansen’s point is of overwhelming importance. It echoes a statement by Rose Wilder Lane in her impassioned book The Discovery of Freedom:
The real protection of life and property, always and everywhere, is the general recognition of the brotherhood of man. How much of the time is any American within sight of a policeman? Our lives and property are protected by the way nearly everyone feels about another person’s life and property.
But whence cometh this notion of “the brotherhood of Man?” It’s not immediately obvious. Most of us can’t reason our way to it; we don’t have the intellectual horsepower. As Dr. Christiansen points out, most of us who hold to it acquire it through religious education, usually Christ’s Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
(Yes, yes, Confucius, Hillel, and others essayed a weaker version: “Do not do unto others would you would not have them do unto you.” This is sometimes called the Brazen Rule. Christ’s Golden Rule is a transcendent advance over it. ‘Nuff said.)
Do you have neighbors who are capable of overwhelming you? It doesn’t matter how, or how many. If you do, it’s likely that they could take whatever they wish from you and prevent you from doing anything about it. So why don’t they? Is it the fear of prosecution, or is it the deep-set conviction that to do so would be wrong?
The celebrated Matt Bracken wrote this essay in 2012. The thematic lead-in is terrifying all by itself:
It’s estimated that the average American home has less than two weeks of food on hand. In poor minority areas, it may be much less. What if a cascading economic crisis, even a temporary one, leads to millions of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards flashing nothing but ERROR? This could also be the result of deliberate sabotage by hackers, or other technical system failures. Alternatively, the government might pump endless digits into the cards in a hopeless attempt to outpace future hyperinflation. The government can order the supermarkets to honor the cards, and it can even set price controls, but history’s verdict is clear: If suppliers are paid only with worthless scrip or blinking digits, the food will stop.
Mobs ransacking supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores are a foreseeable consequence. Bracken gives a simple outline of the progression toward chaos:
- STEP ONE: FLASH MOB LOOTING: The ransacking of known food stores.
- NEXT STEP: FLASH MOB RIOTS: When there’s no food to steal, there’s still “acting out.”
- THE OFFICIAL POLICE RESPONSE TO FLASH MOB RIOTS: Here, Bracken sketches in a police state like unto that in The Running Man. However, he posits that it won’t be capable of reacting with the speed and coverage required. He’s probably right.
The end of the world? Not quite. Just the end of public order. But wait: there’s more!
Public order is a many-faceted thing – and the facets are interdependent. Should something formerly as reliable as Americans’ food retailing system suddenly stop serving the underclasses, the rest of what we think of as public order will crumble quickly. Arthur Sido comments thus:
When the rule of law ceases to exist, and damn son we are close to that point now, the worst dregs of society won’t hesitate for even a moment before they kick off an orgy of theft, assault, rape and murder. They are already mostly out of control but when the rule of law ceases to function, it won’t be long before the chaos really kicks off.
This will of course be most pronounced in urban areas where the rule of law barely exists as it is. There will be a tipping point where the remaining cops will be overwhelmed and so outnumbered that they stop responding to calls at all. The ferals will sense this long before media reports it, the word will spread like wildfire among the ghetto-dwellers that they capped Da’Lishush and the cops never ever showed up.
The important takeaway here is that the response time to WROL [“Without Rule Of Law”] will be far shorter for people operating on the fringe of lawlessness or already over the line anyway compared to suburbanites and others who fall under the umbrella of “law abiding.” Those who hold up “The Law” like a talisman to keep them safe will take much longer to abandon that mindset and that delay might be fatal.
And he is definitely right.
The above provides a good summary of what motivates the preparationist and survivalist communities. Note that persons in those communities are highly unlikely to live in or near to a significant city. It would undercut their preparations for security to be near a likely flash point. That is perfectly sensible, given their pessimistic view of things to come.
Their view is only slightly more pessimistic than mine.
We’ve already seen the localized disappearance of anything resembling public order. The “George Floyd riots” that destroyed large swathes of a couple dozen cities provided a mild taste of the chaos that would attend a breakdown of the food system. Imagine those riots expanded to swallow whole cities and their nearest suburbs, instead of a few districts in the cities’ cores. Imagine further that they’re not propelled by the ersatz anger of the George Floyd rioters, but by actual, belly-gnawing hunger.
If the “forces of order” cannot respond, armed Americans, determined to protect what they value, will step into their place. Arthur Sido cites Glenn Reynolds to this effect:
Police don’t actually protect law-abiding citizens from criminals so much as they protect criminals from the much-rougher justice they’d get in the absence of a legal system.
Burglars would be hung from lampposts, and shoplifters would be beaten and tossed into the gutter if there were no police, as in fact happens in countries where there isn’t a reliable justice system and a civil-society culture that restrains vigilantism. Reminder to the criminal class: Ultimately, we’re not stuck in this country with you. You’re stuck in this country with us.
And Reynolds is right and more than right: he is prescient.
A grace note: It isn’t just food supply disruption that could bring about the disappearance of public order. Terry Jones at Issues and Insights notes another possibility: our biased, two-tiered justice system:
One standard of justice for one group, but another for a different group? Even though that sounds distinctly un-American, many voters believe that’s happening today in America’s courts and legal venues. And it seems to be getting worse, the latest I&I/TIPP Poll suggests.
In June, a Golden/TIPP Poll (TIPP is Issues & Insights’ polling partner) asked Americans if “There is a two-tiered system of justice in America depending on your political affiliation and ideology?” At the time, a sizable majority of 63% agreed, either “strongly” (28%) or “somewhat” (35%), with that statement. Only 17% disagreed, while 21% said they were “not sure.”
But something intervened between that June 8-10 poll, the first time the question was asked, and the one taken from Sept. 7-9. Namely, the Aug. 8 raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate by the FBI, which took documents from Trump’s presidency along with personal effects.
The latest online survey of 1,277 voters found a significant increase from 63% to 71% of those saying they agreed that we now have a “two-tiered system of justice,” with 32% agreeing “strongly” and 39% agreeing “somewhat.”
Just 15% disagreed, with 5% saying they disagreed strongly and 10% saying they disagreed somewhat. The “not sure” responses fell to 14% from the earlier 21% reading.
When there are two de facto legal standards, one for the privileged and another for everyone else, there is no law as Americans understand it. The terrifying degree of concurrence indicated above need not grow much larger to being about a complete disaffiliation from “the law” among the “other than privileged” – and that could disrupt public order just as dramatically as riots among the “dregs” and “ferals.”
This is grim stuff. I know that. And I hate to have it front and center in my thoughts. But I must, as I have a family to protect. If you’re in a similar position, perhaps it should be front and center in your thoughts, too.
If you regard your district as “safe,” an evaluation that’s always relative, ponder these questions:
- How far is it from a significant city? (Take “significant” to mean a population of 500,000 or more.)
- How easy or hard is it to get here from there? (Consider private transportation only; looters and rioters seldom take mass transit.)
- What concentrations of valuable resources exist in this district? (Concentrated value constitutes a target for looters and rioters.)
- How many of my neighbors are armed and ready for disorder?
- Are they sensible or Pollyannas?
Allow me to close with a snippet from Robinson Jeffers:
“The world’s in a bad way, my man,
And bound to be worse before it mends;
Better lie up in the mountain here
Four or five centuries,
While the stars go over the lonely ocean,”
The old father of wild pigs,
Plowing the fallow on Mal Paso Mountain.
That “old father of wild pigs” had the right idea.