Natural Disasters

Survival of the Fittest: There Is No Etiquette in Surviving | by Marley K. | Sep, 2021

Recently we’ve had quite a few natural disasters in our failed state, and it’s becoming more apparent America isn’t going to be equipped to handle all the needs of its citizens. I’ve been warning people for quite some time to be prepared for anything and everything as White Supremacy refines itself, but par for the course, folks consider me an alarmist. I read history. I know America hasn’t learned any lessons. I know this nation enjoys repeating itself.

I’m old school, hailing from parents of humble beginnings. I remember stories my great grandfather told about growing up during the Great Depression, and I recall how he lived his life. My great-granddad kept cash in the floorboards of his house, change in socks and jars, didn’t have electricity in his home or running water, and used oil lamps to light his home at night. My granddad grew his own food, raised and slaughtered his own animals, pumped his own water from his well on his land.

“Daddy,” as we affectionally called my great-granddad, never thought much of industrialization. He wanted nothing to do with modern living. He saw no need for it. Daddy would say to my mother regularly, “Don’t you never trust the government.

I had no idea why he would say that to my mom so much. I was young at the time but old enough to know it was a lesson my mom should’ve been adhering to based on the tone in his voice. My mother had a car and a license, made sure she wore fancy clothes when she visited him to prove I guess she’d arrived, and I’m pretty sure we were dressed in our finest frocks too so she could show him how much better her life was from the old days when she lived with him as a little girl. My mom grew up poor, and it appears she was doing all she could to forget where she came from. Daddy was a sharecropper for a spell, and I’m not sure if he was a slave. He was definitely old enough where he could’ve possibly been. One thing about Daddy though was that he knew how to survive.

Surviving to some is living to others. No matter how you live, every individual should have the skills and wisdom to survive, understanding that sometimes there are no rules when it comes to survival. Sometimes we survive because of pure luck. There are many reasons some survive and others do not. Having a fit mind is as important as having a fit body when trying to live. Judging others trying to survive has nothing to do with any of it.

Surviving is ugly. Ask someone who survived the Holocaust. Ask anyone who has survived wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, wars, massacres, or even a bad divorce. Surviving isn’t pretty. As things in America get worse, man-made disasters begin happening more frequently, and our political leaders fail to care for the people they are elected to serve, the ugly side of humanity will reveal itself. Sometimes survival is ugly.

Recently, there was a social media discussion complaining about the lack of etiquette and consideration for other patrons at a gas station during the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Let me tell you all something when it comes to survival, no one owes you anything, not even consideration. It’s every man for him or herself when shit hits the fan. If a man has to get gas for two generations for his family, he doesn’t owe me or anyone an explanation, nor should I judge him in the line in front of me. If someone in the store gets all the water and there is no store limit, well, it is what it is. I lose out if I didn’t get any.

If all the food is sold out in the grocery, shame on me for not being prepared sooner so my family won’t be without. When folks are trying to survive, they do what they have to do. Those who have the resources and the willpower to find what they need for their household will do so. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve had to get up at 4 am to hunt water before a storm comes here in Florida or to gather things I lack because I decided to wait until the storm got closer to know for sure if we would be impacted. I didn’t want to spend unnecessary money on supplies if I didn’t need to. I paid the price for my decision.

I’ve had to go to some of the most non-traditional places to buy things for my household because the places I regularly shopped ran out and never restocked. I did it. Sometimes it took all day to find one item, but I did what I had to do. I was making sure I could survive if I needed to.

My good ole country gal wisdom with the help of gems from my parents and ancestors gave me the knowledge to get what I needed. A lot of folks weren’t that fortunate. I witnessed people standing in stores crying because they needed diapers for their babies and they were all gone. One of the sad things about survival is often poor people can’t afford to survive until payday, and even then it’s difficult. I witnessed a lot of folks who couldn’t afford to stock up when warnings are initially issued. Disasters don’t happen on payday or wait until you have enough money to buy extra shit to survive off of. Here in America, we hoard things which is a terrible thing to do, but again, it’s called survival, not a buffet. Also terrible are stores that live by their just-in-time (JIT) business model during a crisis. They often don’t order until the shelves are almost empty, making it impossible to meet the demand of consumers during a state or national emergency.

The people in the eye of a storm who don’t have such skills or knowledge will stand around and complain about the people who get what they need by any means necessary, respectfully I might add. The early bird gets the worm when you’re trying to survive and it’s not always pretty or easy, but if you want to survive, you do what you gotta do!

Surviving is a lot of work too. If you haven’t been preparing you’re behind the power curve. We live in a failing state. Are you ready to live in a violent state? Are you prepared to live under Martial Law for weeks or months? Can you afford to buy food during inflation? Could you survive several days with no power, no phone, no water? Can you survive and mind your business without judging the way others are trying to make it? The answer is likely no. We Americans are so judgemental motherfuckers. Most Americans think we should mind everyone’s business even though we can barely mind our own.

This mindset often gets us into trouble. We also use precious brain cells on someone or something that can’t help us survive. I’ve been thinking about surviving our collapsing state, especially as a Black woman. I thought it would be helpful to discuss surviving from a practical standpoint. If you’ve never lived on the streets, relied on the kindness of complete strangers for your survival, or been poor, grasping survival may be foreign to you. The one thing you need to know is that it’s not going to be a fashion contest and toss your personal morals and values to the wind.

Nobody cares about what you think when they are desperate.

When times get tough, the tough survive. There will be the people who watch others survive, and then there will be those people who are working to survive. Speaking of work…

Understand surviving takes work. There is no easy path to surviving anything. To survive a failing state, you must plan to survive. To survive a bad divorce, you need to have a plan to come out on the other side of it. To survive a hurricane, sometimes it takes months and even years to plan on surviving the big one, gathering all the things needed to survive one crisis or disaster. If you want to survive, plan on working hard, this includes thinking things through critically.

Survival requires critical thinking skills. One thing Americans lack is critical thinking skills. We live in a society that works on making life easier. We attend schools that teach us how to be good followers. Our mothers are helicopter parents hovering over us like needy toddlers until we go off to college. We teach our children about “stranger dangers,” and that someone is always looking to do something bad to them. America teaches us to live in fear most of our lives and how to be dependent on someone else for our safety. Someone does everything for us. If we so desire, we can apply for social safety nets to help us when we get in a jam. We don’t have to worry about surviving.

With ease comes fewer opportunities to use our natural critical thinking skills. Kids today will never know what their parents knew because parents work hard at making sure their kids don’t have to know. Survival for them will be a lot more difficult because they had everything was done for them, including the thinking. Things our parents taught us we’re working hard to forget because we believe they were cruel, too harsh, and unnecessary now. You need to be able to think quickly and critically to survive, and a lot of us have diminished skill sets. Those who can’t think critically will not survive the next few years and they’ll catch hell making it to the future.

There are no rules when it comes to surviving. When I first moved to FL, the first thing I did was prepare for hurricanes. I lived on the river in Southwest Florida and knew my home could flood at any time. I also lived very close to the Gulf of Mexico, so I could be directly impacted by a hurricane. My first experience in Florida living among people with means taught me quickly that there are no rules when it comes to surviving. People will do what they gotta do and to get what they need for their households, and people with money will never care about the rest of us. If you think folks are thinking about following some informal rules in times of crisis and instability, you have another thing coming. If you keep the bar low, you’ll never be shocked or disappointed.

Toss etiquette to the wind in survival mode. Random acts of kindness often occur during the most difficult of times, but people are also the rudest during times of crisis too. When most folks are trying to survive, their mindsets change almost immediately. Folks expecting survivors to be nice and considerate are going to be in for a rude awakening. The other problem with surviving is folks have their own ethos they live by and they expect others to live by it. You’re always going to be disappointed waiting on other folks to live up to your standards. Lastly, judging people trying to survive is just wrong. No one knows the circumstances of any random person we see in the street trying to survive during a disaster.

The story of the person complaining about gas was a classic example. Some people have multiple generators to run things at their homes. Ain’t my business. Others have farms and they may need to power some things to keep their businesses going. Some people here in Florida have wells that need electricity to run pumps that pull the water out of the ground. Those require a separate generator which requires fuel. People with wells need to power separate from the house generator so that so folks can have clean drinking water and water to flush their toilets.

Some folks are looking out for elderly parents who reside in a different home. Maybe the person you see buying extra stuff is getting stuff for family members who don’t have the money to buy stuff or they are working and unable to shop for themselves. There are a million possible reasons people collect more consumable goods than we believe they should or that’s reasonable for individual and/or household consumption. It’s absolutely none of our business. Again, there are no rules to survive. Worrying about someone being considerate in times of crisis is wrong. Getting what you need and taking care of your household is all that matters.

Minding your own business during survival is essential. I know this is hard for a lot of people, but they should really try it. Worry about your own survival and leave everyone else alone. Don’t mind someone else’s grocery cart. Don’t mind their gas cans. It’s not your business that they are buying a case of tissue even though it pisses me off too. Maybe that person has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If the store runs out of what you need, just go elsewhere. Minding your business and fixating on your own needs is your one and only job. Minding other folks’ business is a waste of time. There is a time to be a savior and a time to be a survivor. Learn the difference.

Waiting on the government is not a survival plan. Surviving is a full-time job. If you can’t tell by now, the government is in over its head, you’re insane. No one is coming to save you. In Florida, they tell us to be prepared to live 3–10 days without any sort of government intervention. I appreciate the heads up that no one is going to save me. I know I’m on my own in advance, so there are no excuses for not being prepared. The government protects the richest first, the poorest last, so if you’re poor, poor leaning, or if you belong to one of those unprotected classes (i.e. African Americans), you should have your own survival plan. The government takes care of White folks first. That’s its number one function, so don’t be offended, be ready to protect yourself if you don’t have the privilege or the proximity to Whiteness to receive accidental coverage.

Money (cash) should be stashed in your home safely in the event you need to get on the road quickly, stop for items in sketch areas, or if you have an unexpected expense that arises due to a disaster. If there is no power, your ATM card won’t work. You should have an evacuation plan on where to go in the event you have no money. Know what non-governmental resources are available in your community should you need them.

Never be afraid to ask for help to survive. If you need help, ask. You never know if someone has what you need to make your life a little better. While surviving is about taking care of your own, never be afraid to ask for help. We should never be too proud to accept help either. What will help some of us make it through these next few years will be the kindness of a few strangers. Be open to receiving and extending support if you can afford to.

Know friend from foe. When you are trying to survive, everyone has the potential to be a bad guy. It can be the person who rudely cuts you off in the store to get the last few cases of water, the cashier hoarding toilet paper for her friends and family at her job, or the rude person in line before you at the gas station. Likewise, the mean-looking motorcycle dude could be the kindest soul letting you cut the line or that mean person you saw coming into the store may be wealthy and could offer to pay your grocery tab. Staying focused on surviving and being respectful with zero expectations from people is how you survive.

We don’t know who our friends and foes will be when we venture outside of our homes into the wild during times of crisis. Assume the worst and expect nothing when in survival mode. What may look like an enemy may just be your new friend and what looks like a potential friend may just turn out to be an enemy. Learn to judge people. It could save your life.

There is no right way to survive and there isn’t a perfect way to survive. When the chips are down, you just do it. People don’t always have etiquette or manners when trying to survive, nor should we expect them to have any. Attempting to control folks’ behavior during stressful times or expecting people to be kind under duress is unreasonable. When it’s time to mount up and start hunting my last few pieces to make my survival outfit complete for the upcoming event, I try not to place my unrealistic expectations upon others. I don’t judge people and I damned sure don’t expect folks to have manners. When folks are trying to survive, the last thing they are concerned with is being kind to others.

I applaud those who can keep it together. I’ve seen people being kind to one another and courteous in stores when shopping (but only in Black and Brown stores I must say) and it never ceases to amaze me. Being polite makes dealing with crises a little better. Be able to adjust your attitude to your environment. When dealing with savages, survive the savage way. When dealing with caring folks, survive with care. Don’t flip scripts.

Not having expectations of people who are not paid to help you makes life easier for everyone. The only people we should be concerning ourselves with outside of the people we are trying to save are the people who don’t show up on time if at all when it’s their job to do so.

No one is obligated to be nice to you when they are trying to survive. That’s not how survival works. Survival is about the wisest, the fittest, the strongest, and the fastest. You may not all those skills at the same time, but you definitely will need them at some point during your survival journey. If we happen to be all of these things then great, but if not, you should be surrounded by people who compensate for your shortcomings.

Only the strong survive is a true statement. Passing judgment during times of crisis is a waste of time and makes you look weak or jealous because you didn’t have your shit together. If we’re all trying to survive, keep your judgment to yourself, mind your business, and consider the person next to you may have a helluva lot more things to care for than you do. Do no harm with your words or your thoughts. No need to send bad energy to good people trying to survive just like you.

There is no etiquette in surviving, especially in a failed state, so get used to that. Things are going to get a lot worse in America before they get better. Instead of judging folks for surviving, perhaps you should be preparing yourself to survive too. Time is running out.

Marley K. 2021

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