Fail to Prepare: Prepare to Fail

When one has a website called Embracing Collapse, it should be inevitable that at some point the idea of handling personal, local, or global disaster should crop up from time to time. I guess this is one of those times.

A dear friend of mine upon leaving this area passed me a coin that said some Latin bumf on it. “Premeditatio Malorum” on one side and Exile, Torture, War, Shipwreck on the other – he thought it appropriate for me. It comes from the following quote:

What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events…

Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.


Though these days I generally consider Western philosophy the lowest form of thought, I tend to agree here. Change is inevitable, and the trying pandemic – amid the horrific death toll and mishandling from many world leaders and organisations – has cast light on the crippling failure to adapt at a personal and collective level for many of the world’s inhabitants.

This leads me perhaps obliquely to the concept of a being a “Prepper”. Aside from being an inherently mockable title, it could be surmised that the prototypical prepper (I honestly can’t be bothered capitalising that term any longer) is in a state or perpetual readiness. It’s my position that nothing is further from the truth and they are an excellent example of quite how poorly the modern human brain functions: revelling in the certainty of a delusion.

While likely there are multiple sub-categories of prepper, the kind I’m referring to are the stockpiling loner type. An alternate title for prepper could be Tactical Hoarder. I have personally known a couple of these archetypal dickheads, weighted towards firearms and ammunition above all else. For others it may be food, water, nuclear or biological threat protective gear or surveillance equipment. From what I have seen and understand, this so called preparation is a fortress built on a matchstick foundation: I’ll be safe here.

This view is equally as myopic as a fresh out of a Netflix binge normie who, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, went from whining about overflowing bins, noisy neighbours and their miserable job to whining about not being able to travel anywhere or visit anyone (not that they ever did) and hoping ‘things will get back to normal soon’. Both appear to me a total failure to see further than their own nose.

Your normie has been drifting through life by the current of moral and societal fashion, trying to keep their head above water. Your prepper has been attempting to wade upstream while moonwalking on loose shale. Both are headed for the waterfall. When they get there the same unmistakable sharp stab of panic will inject battery acid into their veins as they plummet flailing into the tumult below.


For a significant percentage of the privileged West, dangersaster is absent. No danger, no disaster. This absence is juxtaposed with a low grade anxiety about every little thing without any concept of what that might actually be or how to handle it. As we know, there are four dangersaster reactions:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze
  • Fawn

The Netflix normie default will appear to be Fawning. Grovelling for the life they had before all this unfair bad stuff happened to meeeeeeeeeeeee. The prepper will appear to be Fighting. Tooling and suiting up in preparation for the inevitable onslaught of marauders coming to take their [whatever they deem valuable] from them.

Ready for Anothing

In reality, both are Freezing. Rooted to the spot with no adaptability. One thinks they aren’t ready for this, one thinks they are – both suffer from the same denial mechanism that the reality in front of them isn’t the one they believe they inhabit. I want to focus on the deluded prepper more than normie, as it seems to me hubris is a significantly more terminal affliction than despair. Fair warning here: the discussion is going to slide towards the apocalyptic side, but hopefully circle back to practical everyday suggestions before our interest meters (yours for reading, mine for writing) run out.

I’m going to base this on my perspective as someone currently living in Southern California and as such has to think about earthquake and local fires. It’s further reinforced by a second hand understanding of first hand experience of devastating earthquake in Christchurch in 2011 and collective general observations including the recent Tsunami warning that hit the North Island of New Zealand this month (March 2021).

Fly, You Fools

So let’s say your lone wolf Ready For AnythingTM prepper has their canned food, supposed survival manuals, traps, cameras, guns, ammo, generator and bunker in ‘the middle of nowhere’. Their entire concept of preparedness is built on the premise that they’ll be able to stay there. When you and I look at actual disasters, what is the first thing that happens? People get the fuck out of there. Suddenly, if we look back at the whiny normie, they have the upper hand. They may be the most incapable human on the planet, but their predisposition to go with the status quo means they are likely at the very least to do what everyone else is doing.

Get the fuck out of there.

Gun people are often under the impression they are going to be defending themselves / their family / their “property” (imagine being backwards enough to think you can own part of the planet lol). A piece of education provided me by a pipe smoke wreathed World War II veteran and expert woods-creeping poacher was:

“If you’re going to fire a shot, boy, you’d better make sure it’s only one and you’re not there for long after.”

Jan Zielinski, 1925-2002

Loud bangs tend to attract attention. You can go and verify this with your local Tier 1 Special Forces Operator if you like. As soon as you go loud, there’s no putting that attention back in the box. So the ‘defend my [whatever]’ prepper just set a timer on their life and the lives (if any) of those around them. At some point my gun prepper has to reload, sleep, eat etc. If they’re generally being a dick and shooting at people in one place, they’re going to be safe and comfortable right up until they aren’t – at which point they may have opportunity enough to reflect on how they burned time, money and relationships to create a well appointed straw house in the face of impending hurricane.

Team Mates

While lone preppers are making a noisy last stand somewhere, let’s take a minute to think about thinking. If things get bad for us, it could be the case we are no longer able to find an answer to our immediate problems by visiting our friendly The Internet. This raises the question of what do we actually know and what are we capable of? What skills do we possess that may translate to the immediate and longer term survival of ourselves and those that surround us?

It’s important we understand that as individuals we know how to do very little. We rely on others on a micro and macro level to fill in the blanks so we’re able to get on with our day to day time-wasting. Other people make transport, electricity, buildings, food production and sanitation work. I don’t do any of that. At a micro level, I’m able to troubleshoot most tech if it turns on. If it’s dead, I’ll be unlikely to resurrect it without access to spare parts. I’m going to guess you’re mostly in the same situation. I was going to say boat. Can you build a boat? I can’t. I don’t know any boat builders.

My RPG characters are typically significantly more well-rounded than I am. They can craft all kinds of shit. They have diverse skill trees that synergise well with others in the party – something that’s fairly essential for staying alive in games like D & D or MMORPGs. Real life appears for most to be the inverse. We chase a degree in Pointlessness and plough the same furrow until it’s six feet deep. This is a classic symptom of individualism. Works fine until the shit hits the fan.

At the risk of spelling it out, my point here is the importance of having a Team. This can be twitter mates, work colleagues, neighbours, actual friends you care about, but it’s significantly more important than hoarding tactical bullshit and waiting to die in the face of your own overwhelming stupidity.


Before you start worrying about understanding how a kettle or toilet works, let’s take a step back and start simple. There are five keys to (initial) survival of bad things that we want to have a handle on:

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Shelter
  4. Food
  5. Fire

There’s further a rule of 3 along the line of lasting 3 somethings without x. 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 hours without shelter (in shithouse conditions), 3 weeks without food. If I was going to start to create a skill set, I’d make sure I knew how to and was equipped to breathe, how to access and carry water, understood the rudiments of shelter building, how to hunt or locate, prepare and fucking cook food and finally have a number of firemaking tricks up my sleeve, because there is still nothing that boosts morale like a cuppa round a fire. With these bases covered, things can be less grim in short order. There’s no significant financial investment. All you need is a couple of bits and bobs to get rolling. If you have a gap in the knowledge, that’s where your Team comes in.

Witness the Fitness

Back when fantasising about humanity being torn apart by the undead was cool, before it turned out loved ones dying en-masse isn’t actually all that fun – some gym guy whose name escapes me wrote an article on how to train for the Zombie Apocalypse (yay!) It tickled me because it was a less-than-subtle ego trip related to why strength training (the author’s weakness) was not as important as endurance training (author’s preferred method of training).

An underlying premise was: “I know Navy SEALs. They average 135lbs, are lean and can run all day.” That was the answer to surviving the Zombie Apocalypse lmao. I don’t know what fucking SEALs my guy has met, but the ones I know are not little thin people. Further, there are a few other variables missing here. These cats have access to cutting edge equipment, have an inordinate capacity to suffer and have billions of dollars worth of training under their belt for a very, very specialised line of work: zapping bad pixies in hostile environments. Let’s not use them as an example then shall we not?

As I hinted earlier, there is a common thread in disaster scenarios: migration. Of the 4 responses to dangersaster, Flight is the important one. This needn’t be the exhausting and pointless act of ‘running all day’ like my gym bro / cardio man suggests. We just need to be able to get the fuck out of there. That further means we need to be able to take what we need with us.

The fires around California and recent Tsunami warning in NZ showed locals doing their best to get the fuck out of there by jumping into their vehicles and sitting in a traffic jam. Driving was off limits in the 2011 Christchurch quake because it was far too dangerous. Reluctance to move on foot with minimal gear is another subtle form of Freeze and again illustrates a failure to comprehend the reality of a situation.

In this respect, “Fitness” means what it actually means: suitability to a task. This casts a very different light on fitfluencers (?) convincing you to look or train a certain way. It also highlights the importance of reserves. Those of us who may be self conscious in bikini season are likely to be carrying more mass than others. That translates to energy reserves when the shit hits the fan. We might not be able to run all day, but if we’re in a scenario where that’s necessary the likely outcome is dying while tired anyway.


To round all this out, we need to be clear that the environment in its current state isn’t improving. Disasters could become more frequent and if they do, a few very simple things done now could exponentially improve our collective chances of long term survival. None of them are tactical hoarding. None of them are dieting. We need a go bag, some fundamental skills, an unfashionable body mass index, a Team and the ability to walk the fuck away from danger.

Adjust your existence accordingly.

Hit me up or comment below if you’d like to discuss this further.

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