Welcome to this week’s edition of the Urban Survival Newsletter, sponsored by the SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course and my monthly print newsletter, which you can learn about at LamplighterReport.com.
This week, we’re going to do a 10,000 flyover of what’s going on in the Middle East and North Africa. In short, there are riots and violent protests along the entire northern coast of Africa and throughout the Middle East.
From another self-immolation (burning) on the west coast in Nouakchott, riots in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt on the east coast, the region is on fire. As a side note, I find it ironic that Ethiopia and Somalia haven’t joined in yet.
Then in the Middle East, there have been protests and riots in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Jordan.
Many of these countries have frequent unrest anyhow…you get that when unemployment is in the 20-40% range for young males. If you’ve ever wondered how people in the Middle East and Africa could riot and protest so much while holding down jobs and earning money to support their families, you’ve got your answer. They don’t have jobs. Rioting and protesting has almost become their job. They think it gives their lives more meaning. Rioting gives them exciting stories to tell. And going out and doing something to “make a difference” gives them something to be proud of at night when they’re with their friends and family.
This is one reason why unemployment rates are SO important and why they’re one of my main barometers to gauge stability. Hungry, desperate people can be manipulated, controlled, and co-opted by insurgents bent on destabilizing governments and societies. One of the most dangerous things about large numbers of desperate, unemployed people is that they can move quickly. Since there’s no work to schedule around, and little to lose, large numbers can quickly congregate and take dramatic action.
But recent events in the Middle East and Northern Africa are definitely different than normal. The root of many of these riots (before they’re co-opted by insurgent groups) has been food prices. When insurgent groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood jump into the mix with the young, hungry, out of work crowds who are just trying to survive, it’s been like throwing gas on a fire. Tunisia and Egypt have been overthrown. Libya looks like it will be separated, if not completely overthrown, within the next week, and more could follow.
And, it’s effecting the entire world. Besides the general effect of unrest in the region, Libya is the 21st largest oil producer in the world. The US only gets about .6% of our oil from them, but that’s more than we get from Egypt or Tunisia…and it has been enough to cause oil prices to jump over 11% in the last week…actually over 20% until rumors of Gaddafi’s death caused prices to pull back on Thursday.
Part of what has happened in Libya has been a result of their geography. According to Stratfor, about 1/3 of Libya’s population is in the East…which happens to be where 2/3 of their oil is, and the other 2/3 of the population is in the West with hundreds of miles of desert in between. Gaddafi has chosen to deploy his military forces mostly in the West to control the rioting population, but that left the oil fields mostly unguarded.
Libya has little to no legitimate domestic oil industry and almost all oil production is done by foreign companies. As the violence has escalated over the last several days, and Libyan forces were moved away from protecting the oil fields, oil production operations have closed down and workers have evacuated the country.
A Quick Aside on Being a Gray Man
Besides writing a cliff notes version of what’s going on in the Middle East and Northern Africa, I’m digging into the Libyan situation for a reason. There’s an important lesson here that I’m going to take a detour to cover quickly. One of the big reasons why the foreign employees of the oil companies left Libya is that in times of widespread violence and rioting, people who are different become the target of violence.
Sometimes it’s because of skin color, sometimes it’s because of economic status, and other times it’s because of religion or nationality, but it’s an important fact to know.
I’ve got a friend from Germany who was in South Africa with his wife during rioting a couple of years ago. They were targeted because of their race, their nationality, AND the fact that they were seen as being wealthy, regardless of the fact that they weren’t. They had rocks and bottles thrown at them, one of the buildings they hid in was shot at, and they had to hide for 3 days to keep from being killed.
It has also happened countless times through the years to perpetual travelers and U.S. expatriates who moved to Central and South America…only to be killed during turmoil simply because they stuck out as being “different” and an easy target. The four American sailors killed on their yacht by Somali pirates this week is a recent example of this.
During times of unrest, it’s wise to do your best to become the “gray man.” The gray man is someone who can walk through a crowd, be seen by everyone, but remembered by nobody because nothing about them stands out.
I’ve talked about this in the past when I’ve written about identifying the baseline of a crowd or neighborhood.
I won’t go into this topic in depth today, but here are some general examples on how to blend in and become the gray man…both for now and in an urban survival scenario:
- Don’t wear camouflage unless you’re in an area where lots of people wear camouflage.
- Don’t wear a photographer’s vest loaded down with gear unless you’re also carrying a camera.
- If you carry a “tactical” bag, like Maxpedition or Voodoo, expect that people will assume you’re carrying a firearm.
- Try not to wear clothes or jewelry that are nicer than normal for the area you’re in. If you normally dress sharp for work, consider keeping a change of clothes with you in case you need to blend in.
And in an urban survival situation:
- Even if you’ve got food, cut back on how much you eat so that you’ll be losing weight like everyone else.
- If you’ve got power for lighting and nobody else does, make sure to use sound and light discipline.
- If aid groups are going door to door handing out food, take some whether you need it or not. You can always sneak out at night and leave it on someone else’s door.
- Don’t boast or gloat about your preparations and how well off you are.
- Keep track of the average cleanliness of the people and clothes around you and try to match them to the extent that it’s hygienic.
Again, these are just a few quick tips. If you have tips that you’d like to share on becoming the “gray man,” please share them by commenting below.
Back to what’s going on in the Middle East and Northern Africa and what you can do about it.
There are two more things I’m watching that are significant:
Normally, in times of global distress, money seeks refuge. Ideally, people around the globe decide that the US economy is stable and they convert their money to US dollars. The events in Libya over the last week would normally cause a rise in the dollar compared to the euro, yen, pound, and gold. The dollar went down against all four of these, which isn’t a good sign for international confidence in the US dollar.
We had a webinar on this very topic last night. It’s important and we’ll be covering it more in the coming weeks and months.
Second, Back around Halloween time, I wrote about zombie banks and how many major banks were refusing to sell of the majority of their foreclosed houses because it would make them insolvent. Well, they’re under increasing pressure to start getting all of that dead weight off of their books and their current plan is to use the spring and summer home buying season to offload “millions” of foreclosures this year according to the Wall Street Journal. As we discussed last week, this is just one of many factors that are likely to put downward pressure on real estate prices.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…don’t waste time worrying about things that you don’t have any control over. And if there ARE things that you have control over, take action on them rather than worrying about them, too. I’ve found through the years that taking action cures fear.
So, in this case, we’ve got rising oil prices…which puts even more inflationary pressure on food, more evidence that the world is losing faith in the dollar, and more cautionary news on real estate. There’s not really anything that we can do as individuals to have an effect on these situations…so don’t worry about them.
But what you do have control over is what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis to prepare yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually.
As you’re trying to decide how to spend the limited amount of time and money that you have available to devote to preparedness, I suggest that you keep these criteria in mind:
- Buy items and learn skills that you will benefit from immediately and as often as possible. An example would be to buy extra food before buying a Geiger counter. Another would be to learn the skill and discipline of maintaining a positive attitude before learning advanced gun fighting.
- This is a companion to number one, but buy items and learn skills that you will benefit from whether or not there is ever a disaster that puts you in survival mode.
- Focus on smaller, achievable goals first and big goals next. Go out and buy extra food that you already eat today…don’t wait until you’ve saved up enough to buy a rural retreat to start buying food.
- Pick skills and items that are useful in as many survival situations as possible before acquiring specialized skills and items.
- Remember that the less-than-ideal plan that you have in place and have the ability to execute, is better than a perfect plan that you don’t have the ability to implement. In other words, keep dreaming and moving towards ideal circumstances, but make sure that your plans reflect your current reality. This could be where you live, your fitness level, your finances, family situation, or any number of other factors.
Do you have any other factors that you use when deciding what skills/items to acquire next? If so, please share them by commenting below.
I used these 5 factors when I designed my family’s survival plan and when I created the SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course. The course is a practical approach to survival and preparedness that you just don’t see anywhere else. The core concept is that your survival plan should be based on where you spend the majority of your time because that’s where you’re likely to be when disaster happens…and relocating to an ideal location may not be an option.
If you like the idea of creating a survival and preparedness plan based on the reality of your current situation rather than the perfect situation you’d like to have in the future, you should check out the course at http://SurviveInPlace.com. You’ll be glad you did.
In addition, I recently launched a monthly print newsletter called the Lamplighter Report. The format allows me to go into more depth than I do in these weekly newsletters, cover topics that are too sensitive for an online format, and open up a little more about what my family is doing personally. To learn more, go to http://LamplighterReport.com.
A few of y’all running Norton/Symantic got warnings last week when you tried to access the Lamplighter Report. Thanks to those of you who let us know. There was never any problem other than that they like to blackball any site that doesn’t install their code on it. It’s not quite blackmail, but it’s one reason why I don’t use any of their products. We jumped through their hoops and now you won’t get warnings anymore.
Until next week, keep making daily steps to get prepared.
God bless & stay safe,