Thursday, February 22, 2018

Best response to gun control advocates I've heard and thoughts on spree killings/mass murders

Last night NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch stuck her head (neck, shoulders and the rest of her body) into the lion's mouth at a CNN "town hall". I want to pull out this one exceptionally pithy quote, because it's the best response I've heard to those who keep demanding more gun control in the face of the failure of gun control.

"The government can't keep you safe and some people want us to give up our firearms and rely solely upon the protection of the same government that's already failed us numerous times to keep us safe. And then they also call Trump a tyrant but they say they want the president to also confiscate our firearms? Try to figure that one out."

Don't stretch your brain, because if you're able to deal with elementary logic, you know that the demands of the gun banners equate to a demand for a magic wand, and there are no magic wands.

Nothing I've heard trotted out as a potential solution since the latest murderous rampage appears to have any hope of stopping the next murderous rampage. The closest thing is finding some way to identify these men (Sorry guys, but it's us men doing this--when's the last time we had a female shooter at one of these events?) before they strike. Great idea, if someone happens to find a crystal ball. I expect that to work as well as finding that magic wand.

We've had spree killers and mass murders in the world since forever. Wikipedia has a list with entries dating back to 1543. We hear more about them now because we communicate better. CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC and a host of others are all on TVs in every place I go, or so it seems. Even my barber can't do without the noise. We know that the increased publicity about a suicide actually increases the likelihood of more suicides--it's called the Werther Effect. There's now evidence that there is a similar effect relating to mass murders. Great.

From the historical data I can find online, it seems that spree killers and mass murders, while known historically, are more prevalent in modern times, say the last 150 or so years. Why? Obviously, technology has to play some part. Being brutally honest with ourselves, it's easier to kill a bunch of people with a magazine fed firearm than it is with a rock. But that can't be the only factor, because these things have been happening for hundreds of years and probably much longer. Humans have killed humans since the Og picked up a rock and conked Mog because he wanted that tasty morsel of mammoth meat Mog had.

It appears that these occurrences have become more prevalent in the last 40 years based on data. Why is that? It isn't because guns suddenly became more available or more easily available. Restrictions on guns and gun purchases, contrary to the piteous whines of gun banners and the media, are at their highest point in US history. It also can't be because guns have suddenly become more deadly in some way. The AR-15 has been readily available in the civilian market since the late 1980s, and other so-called "assault rifles" have been available for nearly as long. If it was the guns, we would have seen this crescendo of violence far sooner.

 Looking around the Intertubz to see if I could find any academic work on the subject, I stumbled across a non-academic piece on Medium, The Cost of a Good Story: What the Mass Media Doesn’t Tell You About Mass Murder. Author Anthony Galli makes a decent case that we, the media consuming public, working hand in glove with a media in search of ever more sensational stories to feed a public that is becoming thick-skinned to televised bloodshed and suffering, have built a feedback loop that has unwittingly incorporated that "mass murder begets mass murder effect" I mentioned earlier. The result is outbreaks of spree killings/mass murders followed by periods of calm, followed by another outbreak.

He also believes that the potential mass murderer is motivated by fame, and that the media attention to the current killer simply helps to spin up the next killer. Where have we heard that before?

Galli proposes that we as media consumers need to "chide" the media every time they report on a mass murder in a way that gives the killer any attention. Don't use his name, blur out his face if he's on camera. Deny him the fame he craves. Sounds like a reasonable idea, at the very least it couldn't hurt. The trick would be getting the media to go along with it.

Galli also points out that we are easily distracted by statistics. We're far more concerned by the realistically very few people who are killed per year in mass murders, something that has pretty much been proven time after time we can do little about (other than being armed and taking responsibility for our own safety, but that's not something I think he's agree with) and yet we don't seem concerned with the 37,000 people who die every year in traffic accidents, which is something we could effect.

This's a good point. I believe there is actually a psychological term for this, but it escapes me (maybe someone else who does remember will be so kind and leave it as a comment), but we have a natural propensity to do this sort of thing.

I'm sure there may be other things I'm not think of at the moment. But we've trod this ground so often that it's getting so I can't see it clearly any more. Familiarity is breeding contempt, but it is breeding brain fog.

Can we pull a solution out of what we have so far? If we're looking for a magic wand that will fix the problem, the answer is no. We may have a tool or two that we as a society could use to help ameliorate the issue, if we could persuade the other side to listen, which I think is unlikely.

Instead, I think we're going to remain two groups of chimpanzees screaming at each other for some time to come. Each side wants something that the other either can't or won't give, so the screaming will continue. Perhaps one side will pick up some sticks and beat the other into submission. That's been tried before, and worked to some extent. Then the other side picked up some sticks and fought back, so now we all have sticks and we're still screaming.

But remember, until we do come up with some answer or some improvements, we will see this happen again. Some guy is going to want his 15 minutes of fame, and he'll find a soft target to achieve it. As individuals, all we can do is carry, train and stay vigilant.

Maybe, in the end, that's all the answer we really need.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Long-term Prepping As We Age

I believe that I've mentioned elsewhere that my earliest interest in preparedness was started by reading books like The Swiss Family Robinson and My Side of the Mountain as a young teenager. While entertaining, I can look back now and see how unrealistic they were.

One thing both books had in common is that they put one person or a small group in a situation where they had to plan for long-term survival with little or no help from outside. They had whatever supplies they had with them, whatever they could find in the environment around them and that was pretty much it. At least in My Side of the Mountain Sam, the teenage protagonist, has some help from the local librarian and access to the local town.

In my early years, say late teens and early 20s, I was in the mode of "I'll take my backpack of stuff and restart civilization on my own in the woods." Ye flippin' gods I was ignorant in those days. Thankfully I never had to actually do any actual surviving.

For some years after that, I was a lapsed survivalist. But my work in Y2K remediation opened my eyes to just how fragile our civilization could be, and I, like a lot of others, started to prepare just in case all our efforts came to naught. Fortunately, we were good at our work and with the exception of minor and easily overcome glitches, Y2K went down in history as a footnote in terms of disasters.

The door, once opened, didn't close. I had a wife and small children, and it was my duty to take care of them no matter what the situation. Despite Mrs. Freeholder's skepticism, I began building stocks of "beans, bullets and band-aids". Over the years, a number of things crossed our path that brought her to the point of view that at least some of those preparations were not such a bad idea after all, but she has never been completely on board with the concept of preparedness.

In my own planning, I've never thought that preparing for a single scenario was a great idea. I have no problem looking at the disasters that are most likely to befall you as starting points, but my prime thought has been that if you design your preparations (and for that matter, your life) for resiliency and depth, redundantly covering the basic needs, you should be able to ride out any situation that can be ridden out. Even now, as I have to reconsider what is and isn't possible as we age, I still think that is a sound methodology.

So, as we age and find ourselves with fewer birthdays left to celebrate than we have celebrated, how, if at all, should our view of prepping change? So far I see four big areas to consider.

First, as we age, we are more likely to develop a chronic medical condition. Generally, these will make the sufferer dependent on some form of modern medicine, such as drugs, either to function normally or to function at all. I've mentioned my own problem, hypothyroidism. When I run out of my stockpiled thyroid hormone supplement, I'll be next to useless in a month or so. Others, such as those dependent on blood pressure or heart regulation meds, will die in days or weeks when their supply runs out. Still others, dependent on drugs for mental stability, will become dangers to themselves or others shortly after their supply runs out.

Second, even without a chronic medical condition, as we age we are less able to put out the large amounts of physical effort that a full grid-down scenario would require. Everything that we have machines to help with now will have to be accomplished by muscle power if the grid is down. Even those among us who are "genetic freaks" and who have aged remarkably well will eventually show the strain. For that matter, so will even the best conditioned 25 year olds.

Third, disease will be another big area of concern, since as we age our immune system becomes less able to fight off invaders. While they're available, get immunizations such as shingles and pneumonia, and keep your tetanus booster up to date. If an event occurs, careful attention to hygiene will be necessary for both young and old in order to prevent disease and its spread. Cleanliness will truly be next to Godliness. Lastly, quarantine will become necessary and common once again when a communicable illness strikes.

Fourth, age effects us mentally. We are less able to learn new things, less mentally agile and overall slower mentally. Our reflexes also slow down. These things can be offset to some extent by various sorts of mental exercises, exposure to new situations and possibly dietary supplements. This does not even address the various cognitive disorders that can arise with age, such as dementia and Alzheimer's. While this is much further down the list of concerns, it may be the most frightening in a long-term scenario, because it will generally be untreatable.

Survival, especially in a long-term scenario, is hard work at any age, but most challenging for those over 40 or 45. Every author or thinker who has considered the subject in depth has predicted that the death rate in the over 50 age group in a long-term survival scenario will approach 100% within a year's time. I agree that without strong efforts on the part of preppers that this will probably occur, and in my particular situation is why I am no longer planning for long-term scenarios. I can't make it and knowing Mrs. Freeholder as I do, she probably won't either. It's a sad conclusion to reach, but fortunately I don't think our chances of seeing one of those scenarios occur is very great. My planning is concentrating on being able to survive something like a long-term socio-economic slump on terms of the Great Depression plus.

For those who are not in the same situation as we are, this is the best reason to build your community of friends who can be counted on in an emergency now. A mix of ages, sexes and skills, and within reason, a larger rather than smaller group that is physically located near each other will be the best asset to be had if things get really bad. Even in a long-term "slide" scenario, I believe this will still give you the best chance to make it to the other side. You can have all the beans, bullets and band-aids you want, but without people, I don't think they'll be useful.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Prepping as we age--social isolation and loneliness

“My last friend died last week. I don’t know one single person on this earth anymore. Not one.”

As a human being I read that story and my heart aches for that man. Not just because as a person I feel for him, but I have seen elderly people in my family and Mrs. Freeholder's family who had similar feelings. Nothing will take the wind out of your sails quite so thoroughly as your father looking you calmly in the eye and telling you that he is ready to die.

He was quite serious. His wife, my mother, had been dead for a bit over 3 years by then and his health was deserting him. I could see the signs that the end was approaching, and I think he could as well. He passed on, quietly, before another year was over.

As we grow older, we are warned to guard against many different things. Be sure you don't outlive your money. Be sure you have medi-gap insurance. Be sure you rethink your house so it's easier and safer to live with as your physical abilities change.

Exactly how can you be sure that you don't outlive everyone you know?

In some ways, that was what happened to my Dad. Sure, he had me, the only child, and my wife. He had his grandkids, who he loved very much. And that was pretty much the sum total of the people he had left on this earth. He had outlived everyone else in his family, or lost track of them for various reasons. His friends were mostly dead. Those that weren't were caught in his situation, physically unable to drive safely. None of them could carry on a phone conversation because all of them couldn't hear very well. (Winning World War II  carried a lot of prices, one of them being the hearing of the men who were on the front lines.) He didn't really know his neighbors except to wave at them if he saw them, and that happened infrequently.

I visited several times a week, we took him out to eat at least once a week (or as he became less able to get around, brought it in to him) and I called the remaining days. But that isn't much of a substitute for a social life.

It's been documented as far back as 2013 that social isolation and loneliness can be deadly to senior citizens. Continuing research only confirms that finding. I have no doubt in my mind that it contributed to my father's willingness to die. I don't think it was so much that he wanted to die, really, as it was he didn't want to keep on living the way he was living.

Even being 30 years younger than he was when he died and in much better health, I can understand. Having retired early, my social life has been rather dramatically scaled back--you don't realize how much of your life revolves around your job until it doesn't. And I had nothing ready to take the place of my "friends from work".

Unlike my Dad, I am quite computer and Internet literate, and spend probably too much time in front of a computer. While it might have opened up something of a new world for him if he had chosen to open himself up to it, it's already a part of my life, so it isn't going to add anything to my life. To the contrary, I've recently been cutting myself off from the so-called "social media", finding that it is nothing but and OCD gratification loop and a time suck when you have nothing to keep it in check for you, like a real job.

I do have my hobbies, and while they do have their social sides to them, they aren't the sort of thing that gets you out of the house a lot, except to the range, and it's pretty hard to have a conversation with earplugs in and firearms going off randomly around you. Those of you who have hobbies that are more social, keep them up. They may well be a life line as you age.

Having caught up a bit on the comings and goings at SurvivalBlog last night, I caught myself wondering how this particular concern will work out for the hardcore prepper folks who have relocated to the "Redoubt", where humanity is spread rather thinner than it is in my location.

The consideration my wife and I have been giving to moving toward larger concentrations of humanity rather than away from them (Heretic! Burn him!) have in part been driven in part by this very concern. We're looking for things to get us out of the house and out among people--concerts, ball games, exhibits of various sorts. All the things that as preppers or wise individuals concerned with our self defense we've been striving to avoid or minimize all these years. It feels...odd and alien. I haven't lived in an urban area in well over 20 years, and the concept makes the muscles between my shoulder blades tense up. Still, it's something that needs to be looked at. Aging in place isn't going to be good if it also ages you prematurely.

Fortunately, I see no danger of my turning into some lonely, wizened old man just yet. I'm looking around to see if there are jobs that I might jump into in a part time fashion, or maybe some volunteer opportunities. There is a VA hospital nearby that may need a hand. There are also a couple of small museums that might need a docent.

Let's not have any of us not knowing anyone on this earth.