When SHTF, your Neighbors are NOT on your team

When SHTF your Neighbors are NOT on your team.

Introduction: The Paradox of Proximity

In an ideal world, when disaster strikes, our community bands together to form an unbreakable shield. Our neighbors, those familiar faces we greet every morning, transform into our saviors, allies in the face of adversity. However, reality paints a different picture. When SHTF, your neighbors are NOT on your team.

Leading a group is like balancing on a tightrope. Lean too much on authority, and you’ll face quiet pushback. Be too laid-back, and people might only look out for themselves. The trick is to build a team where everyone feels valued but still follows a common goal. This means choosing members who share your values, giving clear and motivating instructions, promoting teamwork without falling into ‘mob mentality’, and being fair while still holding the reins firmly. In a survival scenario, these leadership nuances become even trickier. The heightened stakes and primal instincts can overshadow structured teamwork, making a balanced approach more essential yet challenging to maintain.

Unless you are a truly seasoned leader with massive resources at your disposal, staying in your neighborhood will practically guarantee your death because after only a few missed meals any one of your neighbors will be liable do something desperate, and violent to take what you have.

The Descent of Maple Avenue

aerial view of city during daytime

The Maple Avenue community had been a symbol of peace, trust, and collaboration for years. Elegant homes, manicured lawns, and the occasional block parties were the norms. But when an unprecedented economic collapse hit the country, that serenity was shattered.

Samantha, a well-prepared single mother, had always been the outlier. While her neighbors relished in their luxuries, Samantha spent her weekends attending survival workshops, storing non-perishable food items, and mapping out evacuation routes.

Distrust Shadows the Avenue

Just three days into the crisis, scarcity began to rear its ugly head. Supermarkets ran empty, ATMs were lifeless, and gas stations became battlegrounds.

The Smiths, a seemingly affable family living next door to Samantha, had always hosted the best Christmas parties. But when desperation set in, Mr. Smith came knocking, asking if Samantha had any spare food. She cautiously gave some, hoping to keep a low profile.

However, word spread, and before she knew it, her front yard was filled with desperate faces.

The Strain of Unequal Resources

By the week’s end, a dangerous hierarchy emerged. Those who had more resources, like Samantha, became targets. The Hendersons, a couple from the end of the block, tried pooling resources, aiming for unity. But disparities were evident. Some had hoarded valuables; others had almost nothing.

Fights broke out over trivial matters, as the weight of past grievances resurfaced. The Johnsons and the Garcias, once tennis partners, clashed over an old landscaping feud, which in this tense environment, escalated alarmingly.

The Collapse of Community Spirit

With chaos looming, Samantha knew she had to act. Remembering her survival strategies, she covertly packed essentials and initiated her exit strategy.

One morning, the community woke up to find her house empty. Samantha and her children had vanished.

Weeks later, as some semblance of order returned, tales circulated of Samantha’s escape. Some envied her foresight; others criticized her for not sharing her plans.

The real lesson of Maple Avenue, however, was the grim revelation that when survival is at stake, familiarity and past camaraderie are no assurance of loyalty.

The Game of Telephone: More than Just Child’s Play

When SHTF your Neighbors are NOT on your team.

We’ve all played the game of ‘telephone’ in kindergarten or first grade. A message begins at one end and as it’s whispered from one child to the next, it inevitably gets altered. By the end of the line, the message often becomes hilariously distorted, teaching kids an early lesson about communication errors. What’s truly fascinating is the child who, whether intentionally or inadvertently, changes the message for amusement, attention, or sheer boredom.

Lessons from the Game:

  1. Unintended changes happen: Just like in real-life crises, things don’t always go as planned. Information gets distorted.
  2. Malicious intent: There are those who deliberately spread misinformation, causing panic and mistrust.
  3. Trust issues: As we cannot verify the original message until the end, we’re forced to trust each participant. A significant lesson in the importance and fragility of trust.

This seemingly innocuous game becomes a microcosm of society. It’s an early indicator that when SHTF, misinformation can become a powerful weapon, and trust, a double-edged sword. The Telephone Game & The Communication Problem (System Tinker.)

Robert Greene’s Strategy #5: A Deep Dive


The problem in leading any group is that people inevitably have their own
agendas. You have to create a chain of command in which they do not feel
constrained by your influence yet follow your lead. Create a sense of
participation, but do not fall into groupthink–the irrationality of collective
decision making.

Robert Greene

Moving beyond child’s play, Robert Greene’s 5th strategy in “33 Strategies of War” delves into the intricacies of leading and being part of groups. Here’s an in-depth analysis of his words:

  • Balancing authority: Too much or too little can both be detrimental. In desperate times, a community needs both a decisive leader and inclusive decision-making.
  • Avoiding Groupthink: Collective irrationality can lead to poor decisions, especially when SHTF. Diverse perspectives are crucial.
  • Appointing the right lieutenants: The importance of trust is reiterated. You need individuals who can carry out your vision without blind subservience.

Greene’s insights throw light on the challenges faced by communities during crises. Neighbors, despite best intentions, come with their own agendas and survival instincts.

The 33 Strategies of War in Under 30 Minutes | Robert Greene

Scenarios to Consider When SHTF

The dangers lurking in our neighborhoods during a crisis aren’t just speculative. History and sociology provide insights into potential scenarios, which include:

  1. Resource Grab: Desperation leading neighbors to covet and even steal resources.
  2. Misinformation: Rumors and fear resulting in unwarranted attacks or ostracization.
  3. Paranoia: Close-knit neighborhoods breeding distrust when resources are scarce.

Resource Grabs and Neighborly Bonds Under Strain

In times of crisis, the lines between friend and foe can quickly blur, especially when essentials are at stake. While many of us like to believe that strong community ties will hold firm during tough times, history has shown that desperation can override even the strongest bonds. When resources are scant and survival is on the line, those living next door might not remain the allies you once believed them to be. The concept of ‘resource grabs’ sheds light on this dark side of human behavior and serves as a sobering reminder of the challenges one might face in a SHTF scenario.

people in ice hockey stadium

Resource Grab Example #1: The 1977 New York City Blackout Chaos

July 13, 1977, started like any other summer day in New York City, but by nightfall, it turned into chaos that the city had never seen. A series of lightning strikes on power infrastructures plunged NYC into darkness. With the entire city blacked out, the situation rapidly descended into anarchy.

Overnight, looting and vandalism ran rampant. People broke into supermarkets, electronic stores, and other businesses, taking whatever they could get their hands on. More than 1,600 stores were damaged, and over 3,000 arrests were made. What’s more alarming was that the chaos wasn’t driven by hunger or necessity alone, but also by opportunity and mob mentality.

Firefighters battled more than 1,000 fires, and the city sustained damages estimated at $300 million (over $1.2 billion when adjusted for inflation to today’s rates). When the lights came back on, the city faced a harsh reality: the social fabric can be incredibly fragile during crises.

The 1977 NYC blackout is a stark reminder of the speed at which urban centers can devolve into chaos when resources are scarce or when law and order are temporarily disabled. It emphasizes the need for individual preparedness and community cohesion in face of unexpected adversities. 45 Years Ago tonight, A Blackout Struck New York City (The New York Times.)

Resource Grab Example #2: The 2020 Toilet Paper Rush

white paper with i love you print

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, as the gravity of the situation started to hit the U.S., a rather unexpected shortage arose: toilet paper. Supermarkets and online stores ran out of stock almost overnight. The images of barren shelves, where once stacks of toilet rolls stood, quickly became symbolic of the panic and uncertainty that gripped the nation.

But why toilet paper? It wasn’t a direct necessity to combat the virus, like masks or hand sanitizers. Experts believe it was a mix of genuine concern over lockdowns, a herd mentality response to seeing others buy in bulk, and the psychological need to exert control over an uncontrollable situation. The rush became so extreme that there were reports of physical fights breaking out in aisles, leading some stores to limit purchases or increase security.

Beyond the immediate logistics, this rush signified a deeper issue: when faced with uncertainty, even in modern society, our primal instincts can take over, leading to irrational hoarding behaviors. The 2020 toilet paper frenzy serves as a reminder of how quickly “normal” can be disrupted and how vital it is to prepare rationally and maintain community solidarity during crises.

Misinformation: The Hidden Enemy Next Door

a view of a body of water with a city in the background

When disaster strikes, accurate information becomes as vital as food and water. However, in the chaos that ensues, rumors and false narratives can spread faster than verified facts. These can pit neighbor against neighbor, causing unwarranted panic or actions based on half-truths. While we’d like to believe that our close community would stand united, misinformation can quickly sow seeds of distrust, turning even the most tight-knit neighborhoods into battlegrounds of suspicion. Understanding the destructive power of misinformation is crucial in navigating the treacherous waters of a SHTF scenario.

Misinformation Example #1: The Spanish-American War and the “Remember the Maine!” Slogan

In 1898, the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor became a significant catalyst for the Spanish-American War. The immediate cause of the explosion remained unclear, yet American newspapers, particularly those owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, were quick to place the blame on Spain. Sensational headlines and exaggerated stories—known as “yellow journalism”—fueled American public opinion against Spain.

The slogan “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!” became a rallying cry, and the U.S. declared war on Spain shortly after. Later investigations suggested that the Maine explosion was likely an accident, possibly caused by a coal bunker fire, and not the result of any Spanish interference.

This episode underscores the power of misinformation, especially when amplified by influential media outlets, to sway public opinion and even lead nations into war. It’s a testament to the necessity of rigorous fact-checking and the dangers of letting unchecked claims dictate major policy decisions. ‘Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!’ (U.S. Naval Institute.)

Misinformation Example #2: The 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the Reddit Detective Fiasco

people running on road during daytime

In the aftermath of the tragic 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the desire to identify the culprits ran high, not just among law enforcement, but also among citizens. This collective yearning for justice and closure led to an infamous incident on Reddit, where armchair detectives took it upon themselves to identify the bombers.

Utilizing available photos and videos of the event, Reddit users zeroed in on several individuals, most notably misidentifying a missing student named Sunil Tripathi as a suspect. This misinformation spread like wildfire across social media, leading to harassment and undue stress for the Tripathi family.

Ultimately, the real suspects were identified by law enforcement, and Sunil Tripathi was later found to have no connection to the bombing. This incident highlighted the dangers of crowdsourced investigations without checks and balances, as well as the rapid spread and deep impact of misinformation in the digital age. It serves as a stark reminder that in times of crisis, unchecked narratives can lead to harmful actions and deepen divisions in an already tense environment. Hey Reddit, Enough Boston Bombing Vigilantism (The Atlantic.)

Paranoia: The Silent Divider in Crises

white spider web on black metal frame

Amidst any crisis, fear is an expected response. However, when that fear turns inward, morphing into deep-seated paranoia about those around us, it can fracture even the most cohesive communities. As resources become scarcer and uncertainty prevails, doubts about neighbors’ intentions might emerge, leading to heightened tensions and potential conflicts. Trust, once a given, becomes a luxury, and every interaction is viewed through a lens of suspicion. This section delves into the psychological quagmire of paranoia and how it can erode the very support systems we rely upon, highlighting the dangers of allowing unchecked fears to determine our interactions in a SHTF scenario.

Paranoia Example #1: The Los Angeles Blackouts and Neighborhood Chaos of 1992

The Los Angeles riots in 1992, which erupted after the acquittal of police officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King, was a perfect storm of societal frustrations, racial tensions, and systemic issues. But amidst the larger backdrop of this chaos, there were countless micro-stories of paranoia influencing neighborhoods’ actions.

When the city’s power grid was compromised due to fires and damages from the riots, vast areas experienced blackouts. The veil of darkness, combined with the already tense atmosphere, escalated the fears of many residents. People began boarding up their homes, not just in fear of rioters, but also wary of their own neighbors.

Stories emerged of communities setting up makeshift barriers and checkpoints, questioning anyone and everyone about their intentions. The absence of streetlights and the constant wail of sirens created an atmosphere where trust was the first casualty. In some neighborhoods, residents formed vigilante groups, challenging anyone they deemed “out of place.” There were reports of confrontations and accusations, often solely based on paranoid suspicions without any concrete evidence.

Such an environment underscores the fragile nature of community trust. In the face of widespread crisis and fear, even longstanding relationships can be strained or broken, replaced with doubt and suspicion. The LA Blackouts of 1992 highlight the severe implications of paranoia, reminding us that when the chips are down, the bonds that tie neighborhoods together can quickly unravel.

This song was about the same event:

Paranoia Example #2: The California Drought and Water Watch of 2015

two men near trees

California experienced one of its most severe droughts in history between 2012 and 2017, with 2015 being an especially critical year. The state imposed mandatory water restrictions, and communities were asked to reduce water usage drastically. As reservoirs dried up and once-lush landscapes turned brown, a new kind of neighborhood watch emerged: water vigilantes.

Residents began monitoring and even reporting each other for perceived water wastage. A neighbor washing a car or watering a lawn during restricted hours would quickly find themselves the subject of scrutiny. In some neighborhoods, anonymous notes would appear on doorsteps, chastising homeowners for their water usage. The state even launched an app where citizens could report wasteful neighbors, further intensifying the atmosphere of distrust.

This heightened state of surveillance caused a rift in many communities. Friends and neighbors who had once shared barbecues and block parties were now casting each other in roles of accuser and accused. The fear of being reported and the consequent hefty fines added to the general paranoia.

The California drought scenario underscores how quickly trust can evaporate in a community under external pressures. It served as a stark reminder that when resources become scarce, the bonds of neighborhood camaraderie can be strained, leading to an environment of suspicion and tension.

Putting Stress in Historical Context: Why It Is Important That Being Stressed Out Was Not a Way to Be a Person 2,000 Years Ago

Primal Urges: How History Reveals Our Raw Response to Crisis

people walking near fire

Understanding stress in the context of survival is essential, especially when it comes to gauging reactions and strategies for a SHTF scenario. Looking back 2,000 years ago, our ancestors faced a very different set of stresses. Theirs were immediate and tangible: hunting for the day’s food, defending against predators or rival tribes, and seeking shelter from the elements. In those days, stress had a clear cause and a clear solution. But how does that primitive stress response affect our behaviors in modern crises?

Primal Reactions in Modern Settings

Our brains still carry the same fight-or-flight response mechanisms as our ancestors. When faced with an immediate threat, our bodies produce adrenaline, sharpening our senses and preparing us for action. However, in today’s complex societal structure, not every problem has an immediate solution. The result? Lingering stress and often irrational reactions.

In a survival situation, like when SHTF, those old primal instincts resurface, leading to behaviors that might seem out of place in a civilized setting. This includes an innate territorial instinct – the need to protect one’s resources, be it food, shelter, or family.

Your Neighbor’s Stress and You

woman sitting in van while holding baseball bat

So, when disaster strikes, your neighbors, just like you, will revert to their most basic survival instincts. Their brain will prioritize their family’s survival over anything else, including neighborhood alliances. They’ll be assessing their food stores, the safety of their shelter, their access to water, and more. In moments of scarcity, sharing might not be their first instinct.

Your amiable neighbor might become fiercely protective of a water source. Another might hoard essential supplies, fearing for the future. Some might even become confrontational if they believe you pose a threat to their family’s well-being. It’s not personal—it’s primal.

The Fragility of Trust Amidst Crisis

Merely depending on neighbors due to past acquaintances can be a treacherous bet in times of calamity. As tensions escalate and survival instincts kick in, trustworthiness should be scrutinized:

  • Past Grievances: Historical disputes may unexpectedly reignite, potentially with lethal outcomes.
  • Resource Disparities: Possessing more or less than those around you can render you vulnerable, either as a potential mark or as a reliant party.
  • Skill Deficiencies: Not every neighbor possesses valuable expertise during crises. Such disparities can spark strain, especially when considering the dynamics of survival alliances.

How to Survive the Unthinkable

When disaster strikes, the unpredictable chaos can be overwhelming. Yet, in the midst of uncertainty, your preparation and strategy will be the anchor holding you steady.

1. Decipher Your Surroundings

To survive, one must first be aware. Knowledge of your environment, especially the people within it, becomes crucial. See your neighbors not just as acquaintances, but as potential variables in your survival equation.

  • Neighbor Insight: Take time to understand the assets, limitations, and motivations of those around you. It’s not about judging, but about assessing risks and opportunities. In a situation where resources are scarce, recognizing potential threats early can save you from unforeseen troubles.

2. Design Multiple Plans

One cannot rely on a single strategy in a landscape that’s constantly shifting. The more adaptable you are, the better you’ll fare.

  • Adaptive Blueprints: Don’t limit yourself to a singular plan. Think of various escape routes, multiple safe zones, alternative communication methods, and contingency plans for different scenarios. Preparing for multiple outcomes ensures you’re not caught off guard.

Your Strategy: The Beacon in Chaos

Remember, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” These steps aren’t just theoretical advice but essential tools in times of adversity. By truly understanding your surroundings and planning for a range of possibilities, you are arming yourself against the unpredictable. Your neighbors, regardless of prior relationships, may not be on your side. But with foresight and strategy, you can be on your own team, and that’s a winning start.

Conclusion: The Stark Reality of Trust in a Crisis

When SHTF, your Neighbors are NOT on your team
When SHTF your Neighbors are NOT on your team

Crises strip away the veneer of societal norms and expose raw human nature. When the chips are down, the intricacies of trust, survival instincts, and stark self-preservation come sharply into focus. While your neighbors might have been friendly faces during the calm, they could swiftly turn into competitors, or even threats, during a storm. The most vital tool in your survival toolkit? Self-reliance. It’s not about isolation but about preparation. The reliance on your own skills, resources, and foresight not only increases your chances of survival but also ensures you won’t be caught off guard by misplaced trust. In the unpredictable whirlwind of a crisis, understanding and preparing for this complex dynamic is not just wise; it’s essential. Your survival might just depend on it.

See you soon!

💖 Alana