After The Collapse – Who Will Your Neighbors Be?


Brandon Smith

Dr. William Stockton celebrates yet another birthday surrounded by family and friends in the midst of a grand suburban paradise. The party is warm, and the evening is filled with joy and merriment. These people singing his praises, laughing and imbibing generous amounts of spirits, are neighbors he’s known for over 20 years. He understands them well, or at least, he thinks he does….


The good doctor, as his neighbors often point out with a jabbing chuckle, is a prepper; a brand of survivalist who participates in the day-to-day routine of mundane American life while using his spare time to safeguard against unforeseen disaster. His friends view this behavior as an amusing curiosity, an eccentric hobby, but none take it nearly as seriously as William does. It’s not that he is paranoid; far from it. In fact, William Stockton is a professional, a man of sense, and a man of family. He merely lives in an era of great potential danger, where nuclear war and societal collapse are anything but fantasy. Stockton takes these issues into account as an individual, and acts according to the severity of his environment. Much more than his neighbors, he represents legitimate rationality.

Unfortunately for the doctor, and for those who live around him, the days of wine and frosted cake are about to abruptly end as a Civil Defense emergency bulletin blares over the wire. The reality that today’s comforts could disappear in the blink of an eye sets into the minds of the frightened listeners. And soon, we begin to witness the TRUE character of those William once held dear.

This scenario might sound like a familiar consideration to many of us, but for now it remains the stuff of nighttime TV. So begins a rather prophetic and ingenious episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “The Shelter”…


The fascinating thing about “The Shelter” is that it is one of the few short stories showcased in The Twilight Zone (a science fiction program) which hasn’t a single element of science fiction within it. “The Shelter” is terrifying exactly because it is NOT a product of wild imagination, but a representation of social fact that cuts to the calcium rich bone of our culture, even 50 years after it aired on television.

The cold hard truth is, much of our country is completely unprepared for a crisis of any considerable proportion. While the 1950s and 1960s held the specter of immediate full scale nuclear war, and thus a highly persuasive incentive for preparedness, the new millennium has hardly been anything to sneeze at. Economic collapse is just as destructive to a nation as an atomic bomb, if not more so. The likelihood of social unrest and the long term implosion of our financial system is greater today than it has been in any other era of American history. So much so that even our currency may evaporate along with our standard of living. Those who prep today are acting in as much a logical fashion as those who built shelters during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The knee jerk conclusion here by skeptics of the prepper lifestyle will be that the bunker owning citizens of the “red scare” days wasted their time. That obviously, there was no nuclear holocaust, and all their careful planning was for naught. Or why not bring up the media generated hysteria of Y2K, which played on the public’s utter lack of general knowledge concerning computers and U.S. infrastructure to inspire a widespread prepping panic? Did that farce not prove the absurdity of the survivalist mentality?

The answer is no, not really…

The eventuality of collapse is not the issue. Though America today has zero room to maneuver as far as inflationary printing and debt based spending are concerned, and economic instability is inevitable according to the fundamentals regardless of any practical or impractical political measures that could be introduced, the crisis is not our focus. Our focus is, and always has been, independence and self reliance regardless of the circumstances. Through national prosperity, or national pain, the key to survival is to never make assumptions. To never count on your environment to remain hospitable. To keep catastrophe in mind, even if others around you do not.

One vital aspect of survival that often goes unaccounted for by even the most astute preppers, however, is the issue of community. When the last vestiges of normal society crumble, will you be surrounded by friends, or foes? The difference is not always apparent, as Rod Serling noted in the brilliant episode of the Twilight Zone above. The question then arises; how do we know who to work with, who to trust, and when to keep our mouths shut? When the going gets brutal, who will have the guts to stand firm, who will run, and who will stab us right in the back if they get the chance?

Being a prepper for some years myself, and working with a myriad of character types, I have found that certain personality signals and quirks should be addressed in those who live around you, or those you plan to associate with. Certain kinds of people can be pure poison for any survivalist or any organization striving for practical solutions to collapse. Look at your neighbors and your associates carefully and with some objectivity. Do they fit any of the below profiles a little too well…?

The Lemming

This person lives life to the fullest, which by their definition essentially means working 9 to 5 in a job they despise with co-employees they hate, going home to watch reruns of The Apprentice while drinking away the pain of inadequacy, and bathing in the warm oily coconut butter glow of mainstream news before sinking into their soft feather bed of political ineptitude and dreaming sensible dreams of cult-like consumerist mayhem.

This kind of neighbor will likely freak at even the most non-invasive philosophies. Mention of voting for third party candidates (or Ron Paul) draws googly eyed expressions of disbelief, as if you just broke wind at their dinner table. Conversations of possible economic collapse inspire in them reactions of either complete dismissal along with skeptical cackling, or shrugged shoulders and passive solutions. They buy into anyone who happens to be in a position of petty authority, and would jump into a septic tank filled with rusty nails if someone in an expensive suit or a white coat told them to.

In a post collapse situation, this person will immediately look around for the first truck he can find filled with FEMA goodies. If he finds no government handouts are coming and that he is on his own, he will transform from a lackadaisical and humorously obscure human being into a rabid ax wielding (yet still humorously obscure) murdering food stealing two legged weasel. You do NOT want this person knowing who you are and living within 100 miles of you during a time of instability. They WILL show up at your doorstep…

Commonly spoken phrases include:

“I just want to have fun and not worry about stuff like that…”

“If we stay positive, it will all blow over…”

“That could NEVER happen in this country…”

The Rambo-Lite

A real badass…in his own mind. Unfortunately, not all activists make good neighbors for the well grounded prepper. This “survivalist” is all talk and no action. All bark and no bite. His training methods consist solely of You Tube videos, shopping expeditions to Cabelas, and a trip to the shooting rage once every three months. He talks a good game, and may lure you into a cooperative agreement by regaling you with his ability to memorize information from Gun Digest, but when the full fury of a financial firestorm is unleashed, he will let you down in the worst way.

Rambo-Lite is like most men, in that he seeks opportunities to prove himself, and to one day, he hopes, be looked upon as a kind of hero. There is nothing wrong with this. However, being usually overweight or out of shape, our little friend is too lazy to pursue the skills necessary to fulfill such a destiny. On top of this, he often has extremely overblown delusions of grandeur, and feels no need to heighten his knowledge. Why train when you already know everything? He is the kind of prepper that makes real preppers look bad.

Rambo-Lite has all kinds of gear, all kinds of advice, but will whine through the night during a cold winter march, never stay on task, never listen to the sage wisdom of those more experienced, and run at the first sign of substantial danger. Ultimately, he is an obstacle, not a comrade. When looking for neighbors who will provide mutual support in hard times, look elsewhere…

Commonly spoken phrases include:

“I don’t care about any of that! I just want to shoot blue helmets!”

“All I need is my hunting rifle and my bowie knife…”

“I don’t need to store food. I’ll just take other people’s…”

“I used to be a navy-seal-air-force-ranger-marine-scout-sniper-jiu-jitsu-master…”

The Cynic On Steroids

As if things aren’t bad enough, some people have to make them worse by constantly pointing out how unavoidably “doomed” we all are, and that the act of survival is in itself a waste of energy. This neighbor is quite aware of the scale of the dangers we face down the road as a culture, but instead of taking proactive measures to prepare and to help others around him, he does nothing, and revels in the thought of widespread destruction. The warped dynamic of the modern American lifestyle has not been kind to this person. Of course, it has not been kind to most of us. Our Cynic reverts to a childish methodology of nihilism because he believes he has somehow been dealt a worse hand than anyone else, and the only thing that will satisfy him would be a hailstorm of napalm across the face of the planet.

Rarely leaves his home to organize with other activists, but when he does, the urge for most people to sink a fist into his scowling face is almost irresistible.

As excited as this guy is to see the world burn, he is actually very afraid of dying. Strangely, like most eugenicists, or members of PETA, in his darkest fantasies, he imagines a future in which nearly everyone meets a horrible gurgling end except himself. Unscathed by the genocide, he skips along his merry way in lush fields of dandelions and bunnies to meet the celebrity woman of his dreams (or any woman who will feel forced to settle because there are so few men left alive).

It goes without saying, this neighbor is not going to be of much service to anyone. Confronted with very real doom (namely his own), and realizing that his dreamworld musings of a day when he will have the Earth to himself are not going to come true, he will blame the closest and most successful preppers around him for his misfortunes. He won’t ask for food, and he won’t try to take it by force either. Instead, he’ll turn you in to the authorities (if there are any left), or, he’ll attempt to snatch away what he can from those people weaker than him (if there are any left).

Commonly spoken phrases include:

“We’re all going to die anyway…”

“They have tanks and predator drones! You’ll be wiped off the map!”

“No woman is smart enough to understand me…”

The Snoop

Ah yes, my favorite! Every neighborhood in America has one of these dastardly specimens. Every apartment building, every city block, every gated community. The Snoop is like the Lemming in that they almost pride themselves on their unwillingness to listen to reason or consider facts, but the Snoop takes this one step further. Not only will you find them sneering at those of us who express independent or anti-establishment views, but they will also go out of their way to bring trigger happy SWAT teams to our doorsteps. These are the people who actually call Janet Napolitano’s “See Something, Say Something” hotline thinking they are good samaritans.

The Snoop has been the mainstay of every tyrannical government of the last century, from Mussolini’s Italy, to Franco’s Spain, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, etc. Today, the Snoop is being tapped by the DHS and the Obama Administration as a resource once again within the borders of America itself.

Snoops fancy themselves amateur detectives. They will ask odd probing questions that seem out of place in regular conversation. They will form superficial friendships that feel even more fake than many neighborhood relations tend to. Disapproval of your politics will be met not with arguments, but with silence, and increasing distance. Snoops reveal themselves through their addiction to gossip. Eventually, you will discover from other neighbors that they slander you constantly behind your back.

Under normal circumstances, this is something to be laughed at and ignored. But, post collapse, it is something to be very concerned about. Snoops aren’t looking for advantage, like the Cynic. They are looking for vindication, and approval. They desperately want to be a part of a collective, and revile anyone who displays outward individualism. If turning you in, or organizing others against you, will bring them a pat on the head, they will do it.

The Snoop is a coward, and will never confront you directly. But, he or she will try to use the force of the state or the community against you if you offend their twisted world view.

Commonly spoken phrases include:

“We really need to keep our eyes open for terrorists…”

“I hear the terrorists are using white people at bus stations now…”

“Liberty Movement? Isn’t that one of those homegrown terrorist groups?”

The Idle Enthusiast 

Some people are absolutely gung-ho about supporting activist projects or organizing for mutual aid, until the situation requires patience and effort. Then, they disappear from the scene, never to be heard from again. Most movements, especially grassroots movements, are rife with this behavior. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon after its moving at full speed; they don’t want to have to push it uphill. The same goes for prepping…

Getting the Idle Enthusiast excited about the prospect of community growth and survival training is not difficult. Getting him to show up to provide needed assistance is another matter. Without fail, this character will make numerous offers to carry a mission forward, and will fail to follow through on almost every single occasion. After a while, you find yourself astonished when they accomplish ANTHING, no matter how small the task.

Their prepping list is always half finished, their training is always half finished, and their promises are always half finished. The strain of asking them to apply even the most remedial effort becomes so painful that you’ll begin entertaining thoughts of violent pillow smothering and strangulation.

The Idle Enthusiast is the kind of neighbor who will volunteer for the most arduous projects. At first, they’ll leave you pleasantly surprised, and then, they’ll leave you hanging.

Commonly spoken phrases include:

“Don’t worry bro, I got this…”

“I’ll have that done in no time…”

“Oh man, I totally got sidetracked…”

The smart prepper understands well that going it alone is not an option, at least not for the long term. Thus, we are required to build relationships with those who live near us. If we cannot find enough like-minded souls in our immediate vicinity, then we must relocate to a place where this process is more viable (at least, if we want to survive). Staying put, wrapped in a web of tract homes or city dwellings filled with dangerously unaware and unprepared people is not an intelligent post collapse strategy. Retreat planning without proper group support and indigenous support is not only a logistical nightmare but a surefire avenue to discomfort of the terminal variety.

Think carefully about the kinds of people you want to have around you in the wake of disaster, and the community you plan to participate in after the smoke has cleared. The decisions you make now may be the kind you are stuck with for quite some time through events that will test your endurance and your very spirit. The more friendships we forge today with those who are prepared not just in supply, but in mind, the safer we will all be tomorrow. The company we keep in the days ahead is not a factor to be taken lightly…

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