1. The myth that weapons are the most important thing
Firearms should be treated just like catastrophic health insurance. You should own them hoping that you never need them, but just like insurance, if you need them, you need them badly. And, just like with hypochondriacs, there is a certain segment of society that can’t seem to look beyond the terrible events that would necessitate using a firearm in self-defense at more likely occurrences. To make matters even worse, popular culture and the media both suggest that violence during survival situations is normal, and that hardship always brings out the worst in others.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The most common survival situations are brought on by diseases, accidents, and various kinds of disasters. With the exception of civil unrest, none of these situations require being armed. Yes, we can all be mugged walking down the street or we can wake up in the middle of the night to a home invasion, but these events are fairly rare. The average, reasonable person is much more likely to fall down a flight of stairs or get hit by a car than they are to be the victim of a random life threatening attack. No gun, however large, is going to help you relocate a dislocated shoulder or keep your house from burning down.
There are exceptions, of course. People who live in dangerous areas are, in fact, more likely to become victims than others in more peaceful areas. But that’s a given and people have the ability to make their own choices as to where they choose to live. Indeed, if the FBI statistics are to be believed (and most of the time they aren’t), we will all likely fall victim to fairly serious crime at one time or another. However, despite these somewhat sobering numbers, a possible violent crime occurring once in a person’s life is a far cry from the guaranteed eventualities of illness and financial burden, both of which can greatly impact survival and quality of life.
So, from a survival perspective, while firearms are useful tools and can prove to be vitally important, they should take a definite backseat to almost all other preparations, especially if one has no indicators to the contrary.
2. The myth that it will be every man for himself
Most of the people responsible for giving everyone in the survival community a bad name are the same folks who focus on the self-defense aspects of survivalists. It doesn’t help that these same people are also the primary focus of the media, and together these strange bedfellows have led the rest of the world to believe that survivalists are all unwashed white folks with mangy beards who live out in the woods in rotten cabins with their even mangier dogs.
The media loves to focus on these people because they represent danger and radicalism. They did the same thing when they focused on looting after Hurricane Katrina, and in doing so implicated entire neighborhoods in criminality. Neither representation is accurate and certainly should not be used to classify large segments of society. The problem is that the participants in either group, and the populace at large, don’t recognize that they are anomalies. In other words, the handful of gun toting survivalists who live out in the wilderness lprobably really believe that they are making reasonable preparations for a world ending calamity and the looters in New Orleans probably believed that they were entitled to what they were taking, while the media does what it can to make either group seem larger and more dangerous than they really are in order to gain viewership.
Neither group represents how the vast majority of society functions. Despite frequent and well-publicized occurrences of self-centered behavior, humans are intrinsically group animals and we rely on each other to survive. Even though the media takes great efforts to obscure this fact, America’s communities function fairly well and are essentially peaceful. Our communities work and we need them to survive.
Except for a few historical examples, I can’t think of a single person (and certainly nobody I personally know), that does not rely on other human beings in their daily life. Whether we like it or not, in order to be competent, healthy, and happy, we need a high degree of tolerance and civility towards others, something that certain members of the survivalist community (and, indeed, any community), seem to be lacking.
3. The myth that you will rise to the occasion
Surviving a genuine, full-fledged large scale crisis is, by its very nature, a difficult undertaking and there is a significant difference between just surviving a situation and being a hero. Too many folks are caught up in the glamorized militaristic and self-defense fantasies which represent idealized heroism in our culture. This type of heroism, as most people understand it, is nothing but a Hollywood myth. No matter how brave a or careless a person might be, nobody, and I mean nobody, goes into a life or death situation with any degree of enthusiasm. Sure there are those people who are so moved by adrenaline or even sheer mania, that they can accomplish impossible feats, but that’s reaction, not bravery. Bravery occurs only when someone is scared out of their wits and still takes action, regardless of personal consequences. Such individuals are to be honored, but they also tend to have short lifespans.
I’ve never spoken to a single person that had been involved with heroic action (and I’ve spoken to a lot of them) that was proud of what they had accomplished. In fact, some of them seemed downright embarrassed. Not too long ago, for instance, I was speaking with a former military officer who had risked his life to save that of a child. When I asked him if he would do it again, he answered: “Sure, it was a kid.”
When I asked him if he would have done the same for an adult, the response was accompanied by a cocked eyebrow: “No. They made their own bed. Let them lie in it.” In other words, even a known hero has his personal limits. Which brings up another point — everyone, and I mean everyone, has their limits.
Socrates pointed out that men might be brave in battle one day and less than brave the next. Discipline and dedication can help calm quaking hearts, but even the best trained men and women will still break when their limit is reached. It happens to everyone. More to the point, survivalists aren’t taking parts in organized battles…their goal is to stay alive. Whether or not they are brave should be a non-issue. When it comes to reality bravery has much more to do with ego than it has to do with staying alive. Leave the heroics for the movies.
4. The myth that you can live off of the land
This is one of my favorites. So many people think that they can live off of the land in the event of a catastrophe. Let me tell you, I’ve tried it, and it just isn’t possible for any length of time. The knowledge and skill necessary to live “naturally” is extremely difficult to obtain and even more difficult to put into action. Living off the land should only occur out of dire necessity and never by design.
At this point I would like to remind everyone that none of the first settlers in the United States would have survived without the provisions they had brought with them or help from the local natives. And that was during a period when the land was barely inhabited yet full of fish, game, and edible plants. Since that time we have essentially denuded our landscape (just about every tree has been chopped down and replanted more than once). There are hardly any bears left, turkeys were only recently reintroduced to large segments of the country, and overall fish stocks are at their lowest points ever. To think that a person could survive off of these paltry pickings alongside another 300 million famished Americans is ridiculous. Anyone that suggests otherwise is fooling themselves.
5. The myth that you can hold off multiple armed marauders
Fighting multiple, dedicated opponents is difficult, regardless of your training and prowess. Successful, unarmed fights against multiple attackers generally take the guise of running street battles where the victim uses the environment to limit their opponent’s numeric advantage, getting in the occasional blow at the opportune moment. Such a strategy can’t be relied upon and should be viewed as a last ditch, neck saving effort.
The only way to take on multiple opponents with a reasonable chance of success is to bring along an equalizer. A man with a solid understanding of how to use a knife or a stick can hold off a number of unarmed opponents. However, if you’ve got a weapon then the other guy probably does too. We live in a nation where 70% of men carry pocket knives and there are probably 400 million firearms in civilian possession. To imagine that a serious fight will occur without someone resorting to a dangerous implement is a fantasy.
As humans we have limited senses and abilities. Studies have shown that in an ambush situation even the best shooters are generally only capable of hitting two aggressors before they are eliminated by a third, and this is with the aggressors in the line of vision. To imagine that a poorly trained shooter could do any better against multiple, dedicated assailants that are not directly in front of them is simply not reasonable. Defending a static position without support is nothing short of a death wish unless one is better equipped, trainer, and more dedicated than their opponents, and even then the odds of success are extremely slim.