The following article has been graciously contributed by Fernando Ferfal Aguirre. Fernando lived through the hyper-inflationary meltdown in Argentina and shares his wisdom in his book The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse, as well as regular updates at his web site Surviving in Argentina .
Editor’s Note: With the many possibilities for natural and man-made events that can lead to local, regional, national or global crisis, it is often difficult to identify what is happening and what the consequences of certain events may be. As preppers we are always on the look-out for a potential disaster or emergency – it’s what we do. This is the nature of our chosen lifestyle. It is both a blessing and a curse. While most of us who prepare will likely be ready to deal with an emergency situation and minimize our panic while we respond to the crisis around us, our curse is that any event, no matter how insignificant or in the periphery it may be, raises our sensitivity levels, perhaps at times to extreme levels. There’s a lot of noise, confusion and misinformation out there, and sometimes it may lead to unnecessary stress.
In the article below Ferfal provides a little bit of relief for those of us who may look at every financial or economic occurence as the potential trigger that devolves the entire system into meltdown and chaos. While we never know what will set the entire system ablaze, so our view is that it’s better to be overly sensitive than ignorant, Ferfal’s first hand knowledge of a currency and societal meltdown on a national level gives us a critical view into what such an event may look like, the signs that will precede it, the sentiment and behavior of the people in the region, and what you can do to prepare. It’s not just about storing food and guns, but also being aware of our surroundings and the changes in society as the system around us becomes unhinged. With Ferfal’s help, we have another important piece of the puzzle. It’s an important piece, because in the event that the situation begins spiraling out of control, you’ll see it coming.
Socioeconomic Collapse and Preparedness Timing by Fernando Ferfal Aguirre
Fernando, I really enjoyed your book, (so have my parents, my wife, my friends and a dozen people in my office). It is very well written and packed with useful information. In fact, your book occupies a place in our law firm’s bookcase next to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Your book and your blog bring credibility to the debate over whether and how to prepare for a financial or other collapse.
One topic I have not seen covered deals with the timing of events. Most people I know who “prep” talk about “bugging out” and scenarios that rely on “triggering events.” Even in your case, you had a fairly short window of time during which time the currency collapsed. A currency collapse would definitely be a “triggering event” to almost everyone I know. In the last two years, however, I have come to believe we are in slow decline here in the U.S., and that there will not be a single “triggering event” that signals the time to start wearing my body armor (or whatever other example you want to use). The endpoint will be the same, but perhaps less dramatic than in Argentina. The problem is, there is a lot of danger and mayhem between now and what may be the final collapse of U.S. social order, perhaps even a generation. I am worried that in a slower, more orderly decline, it will be difficult to match my level of security with the level of threat. Many more people, even well prepared people, could be taken by surprise.
Most of the skills you recommend to your readers are good life skills that all people should have to enhance the chances of daily survival, even under normal circumstances. That said, constant, extreme vigilance is not anymore practical than having Uncle Bob come over and help me guard my house 24/7 WTSHTF. While I am raising my children to be watchful and vigilant, there is a whole different level of vigilance I would apply if I lived during a triggering event like a currency collapse. For example, I let them play outside with their friends in the neighborhood without adult supervision. To disallow that would be unhealthy to their development, and the threat to their safety at the moment is not extreme. If the dollar were worthless and crime rampant as you have described in your book, there is no way I’d let them outside without an adult.
My question to you is this, assume I have taken all the advice in your book and acquired the skills, equipment and commodities to survive a pretty long time; what would be the top five or ten subtle changes in society, government, or markets that would cause you to go from a normal state of awareness to the “never let your kids out of the house to play in the back yard level of awareness?”
An economic collapse in many ways is similar to the decline of an empire regarding how complex it is to prepare for it. Unlike defined disasters, natural ones like Katrina or man-made, there’s no clear beginning to it. It is a complex, multilevel event that in some aspects may have a clear trigger or milestone (such as defaulting or bank holidays) but on other aspects it may have been cooking slowly through inflation and unemployment for months, even years. Certain economic events may be easy to pinpoint, but how does unemployment affect people, when will this cause an increase in crime, or affect me directly leaving me without income? When will crime stop being only a factor related to the harsh economy and also be influenced in terms of how violent it becomes due to social hatred because of social polarization? Then there’s also the consideration that it may have been affecting people in different ways based on socioeconomic level and location in the country. Calling such a situation complex is an understatement.
Given such complexity and all the variables impossible to ponder, all you can do is stay informed, learn to tell the different signs and know how to interpret them so as to know what the future holds within a certain margin of error.
Things to look for would be unemployment, rumors from people within the banking and financial world (some of those rumors saved people millions when our economy collapsed) crime and what type of crime is taking place, corruption, debt and inflation. You must also become pretty skeptical regarding the information the main stream media provides. Who OWNS such media channels? Who are their sponsors and advertisers? What political agenda do they have or slightly tend to favor? If the media says the economy is doing wonderful but people on the street are barely getting by and you see more industries moving abroad, do have your doubts.
All these events and signs do tell you something. Don’t wait for the official SHTF day, in socioeconomic terms that simply will never happen, you will simply look back one day and realize the world around you has already changed. That is indeed how people will be taken by surprise. People sometimes talk about rule of law and no rule of law times, as if it were an on/off switch. One day everything is fine but the next week, ups! No ROL folks, so its madness out there, I’ll wear my MOLLE vest with armor plate to work and leave my Keltec 32 in the safe and pick my 1911 instead, carried in a drop leg holster or attached to my vest of course. People that think this way are the ones that will indeed fail at protecting their families today, ROL or no ROL. If you suffer a violent home invasion in an upper class neighborhood like the Petite family did, does it really matter if some nutcase declared that ROL is still in effect, or that it isn’t? Preparedness is now folks. Modern survival is the way you analyze events, make decisions and ultimately live your life from day one, not after an event. In states where its legal to carry, I would get my CCW permit and carry today. Doing so won’t bring any disadvantages to my lifestyle. My kids playing in the street with friends unsupervised? I´d be honest with myself. Can my son defend himself from a social predator? I wouldn’t leave a 10 year old kid unsupervised no matter where I live. How about 13 or 14 years old, and the general area you live in being pretty safe? Then I might be a bit more flexible.
What would be the top five or ten subtle changes in society, government, or markets that would cause you to go from a normal state of awareness to the “never let your kids out of the house to play in the back yard level of awareness?”
Unemployment: If unemployment is over 15-20% there will soon be serious social changes involving desperate people.
Poverty: Are half the people around you poor and looking your way with resentment? In Argentina the numbers are still pretty bad. 50% poor and 25% below the poverty line. Of the remaining 25% only 3% make enough money to life a life standard similar in quality to what middle class Americans are used to. Watch out for poverty and not only what the newspaper says or what the president announces. Do you see more people begging on the streets, more dumpster divers? How about shanty towns or tent towns? If you have any of those close keep an eye on your kids, your property and yourself.
Inflation: Right now Argentina ranks at the top 3 worst inflation in the planet. That’s a sign of bad times to come. We have unions forcing higher wages that chase after ever increasing prices and still losing millions keeping an artificial exchange rate with the dollar around 1 to 4,2. When the peso devaluates again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go to 7 or 8 pesos per dollar. Rising inflation is perhaps one of the final stages before the collapse, and something Americans should pay special attention to.
Businesses and Infrastructure: Are roads being repaired, parks kept tended to? Do you see a general sense of decay in the overall infrastructure? Neighbors keeping their houses well kept are a sign of good times. When the economy collapsed here in 2001 middle class people wouldn’t even buy a can of paint let alone remodel, and it showed. Things like stores closing and going out of business, shops boarded up, sometimes being replaced with cheapo discount stores.
Crime and Rumors: Crime will be a clear indication of you having to go from yellow to orange in terms of awareness. Now, it may not appear on the media as much as it should and negative news may be avoided entirely by news groups trying to be “team players” with the government. You on the other hand cannot afford the pink shaded glasses. Pay special attention to the local gossip and rumors, and when something catches your attention try verifying through other sources. Who got mugged, robbed or suffered a home invasion. Don’t wait too long. Once you know this is happening in your general area take the extra precautions you know you must take.
You can still have a pretty normal and happy life in spite of being forced to be more cautions and more aware given the circumstances. I believe its much better to take those measures while still enjoying the things I can, than taking the easy road and not doing it, and maybe one day regret it.