Posted on February 10 2019
World War I. The Great Depression. The Collapse of 2008. They were all Black Swans.
EMP attacks, treacherous governments, brutal flus, even sun spots—they all get more Hollywood love than the one type of crisis that has triggered more than half of all collapses: Black Swan Events.
All civilizations end. Every major civilization has eventually imploded. By our calculation, about HALF of all collapses were triggered by weird combinations of long-term stresses plus sudden, unpredicted lightning bolts seemingly from nowhere. Economists call them Black Swan Events. That means: “These Events Are So Weird, We Haven’t Thought Of Them Until Just Now.”
How do you prepare for trigger events nobody has ever considered?
1. READ FICTION.
One great way to get your mind around the threat of modern Black Swan Events is to read about them. In both the Black Autumn series (by yours truly and Jeff Kirkham) and the Day After Never series (by Russell Blake), Black Swan Events deliver knockout punches to America.
The Day After Never, Blood Honor, bears witness to a collapsed America five years after a Black Swan Event unravels civilization. A super flu, like the Swine Flu on steroids, hits simultaneously with an economic meltdown to send the world into an unrecoverable tail spin.
Deftly written and chock-a-block full of modern gun action, The Day After Never, Blood Honor proves that excellent writing and preparedness go together like a hand in glove. It reads like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but offers loads of preparedness insight. The main character, Lucas, gets pulled from his quiet, Texan survival retreat into a mysterious and violent crusade against cartels and former death row inmates. The Day After Never delivers an entertaining and educational look into a world dominated by criminals, where combat threatens day and night.
Black Autumn also takes a ride into a Black Swan Event. Two, weird nuclear events combine to shock the energy markets, then a rogue country pushes the button on a cyber attack while everybody’s looking the other way. A group of special forces veterans join up with a wealthy prepper, figuring their families will be safer inside a well-provisioned compound. But the violence of post-collapse America catches even these ultra-prepared survivalists flat-footed when they underestimate their new reality.
2. READ HISTORY.
Black Swan Events unravel societies just like ours throughout history. In fact, America has been taken to the brink of collapse seven times, and four of those times were arguably Black Swan Events (and three were not.) One of the hallmarks of a Black Swan Event is that ONLY LATER do the contributing factors seem obvious.
- American Revolution (Political Rebellion)
- American Civil War (Economic Divergence + New Senate Votes + Slavery = Black Swan)
- World War One (Imperialism + Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand = Black Swan)
- The Great Depression (Stock Market Crash + Failed Banks + Dust Bowl = Black Swan)
- World War Two (German/Japanese Imperialism)
- Cuban Missile Crisis (War with Russia)
- Collapse of 2008 (Mortgage Bubble + Fair Housing + Derivatives = Black Swan)
Just a tidbit for your prep-doubting friends: America has experienced the brink of collapse seven times in 243 years. That’s about one trip to the brink every 35 years. On average, you and I will experience two or three such terrifying moments in our lifetime. Many of us have already experienced two (Cuban Missile Crisis and Collapse of 2008.) There are Americans alive today who have experienced FOUR near collapses. Not strangely, those people are among the most-likely to have canned veggies and bulk food storage stacked in their pantry.
3. STAY MENTALLY FLEXIBLE.
When we think of a collapse, we think of big, convincing events that take the economy down in a predictable manner: nuclear EMP, killer flu, tyrannical takeovers. Human beings have a psychological tendency to believe that things we HAVE WITNESSED are more likely than things we HAVEN’T WITNESSED. It’s called the Availability Fallacy. We know nuclear weapons are around. We’ve seen scary flus. We all know the story of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. And, today, we can picture a stock market crash (though nobody pictured it before it happened.) These collapse scenarios appear to be more likely because they already happened and we can imagine them. Black Swan Events can’t be imagined, which is why they don’t factor much in to our thinking. But does that mean they’re less likely? Not if you read history…
What about a super flu along with an economic collapse (Iike Day After Never?) What about terrorist nukes combined with a cyber attack (like Black Autumn?) What if 9/11 had been followed by a massive East Coast hurricane and then a mortgage bubble collapse? That’s exactly how Black Swan Events take civilizations down.
The Roman Empire plugged along, fat and happy for over five hundred years; the largest and most prosperous empire the world had ever seen. Their demise began by hiring crappy leaders and limp military generals, mostly for political gain. Then the Romans began running low on slaves to sustain their fancy lifestyle. Germanic tribes chewed through the weakened legions and eventually sacked Rome. That was all she wrote. Roman Empire meet Black Swan Event.
Preppers prepare for what will happen, not what has already happened. More than half the time, a social collapse will defy our ability to predict it.
Don’t get invested too far down one rabbit hole (like EMP or the flu.) Read books like The Day After Never and Black Autumn to keep your mind open to unexpected scenarios. Study history, and remember that future history will be equally random.
More than anything, stay flexible. Open mindedness is the key to rolling with the punches. Things will be okay if we’re prepared for things to get weird.
After all, Rome still exists (after a fashion.)