If you have lived a normal life, you may only know a glimpse of your survivor mindset…
by Selco Begovic via The Organic Prepper
Editor’s Note: Below is a segment of Selco’s new book, SHTF Survival Stories. I think it’s a good indicator of the way Selco illustrates his points with real-life stories from the SHTF. This is a long piece but well worth the read. (Be sure to go here to see how to get a free mini-course when you purchase the book before Feb. 9.) This book is nearly 500 pages of experience and hard-won advice. Grab your copy today! ~ Daisy
by Selco Begovic
During the SHTF, I was a jack of all trades.
Resource gatherer, fighter and defender for my family, and also just the young man who wanted to enjoy life as much as possible in these problematic times.
In this section, I want to talk about different types of real survivalists. I don’t want to judge here. If you have lived a normal life, you may only know a glimpse of your survivor mindset – what kind of person you will be when SHTF and you fight for survival. What is important to know is that people show very different faces or mindsets when it comes to real survival.
Normal people like to think that everything can be solved by doing good, so they are trying to do good. Here it is not important whether we are talking about people who believe in God or not.
We have all seen TV shows where preppers are showing their stuff, talking about their plans for a time when SHTF.
I have seen a lady who is preparing for some possible scenario and showing her food storage and talking about her plans when SHTF. She is storing a whole lot of everything, much more than she and her family need because as she explains there is gonna be a whole lot of people who have lost everything, and her plan is to help them.
I hope everything the best for her. She is a great person. Someone who wants to help other people is a good person, period.
But when the SHTF, she is going down.
Sorry for being so negative but when people have to decide whether they die or this nice lady does, for many the answer is easy.
When SHTF, things are upside down, so it will not work as people imagine. We are all living our lives today aware that bad people exist, but that bad and evil is more or less (depending on where we are living) controlled or locked away from society. So, we are actually not aware of how many bad folks are around us.
You might be living with one… yourself.
When the SHTF, I was rudely awakened from the illusion. Actually, my illusion was shattered to pieces when I saw what “normal” people did to just survive. Bad people will be around.
#1) The Bad Man
I knew a guy before the SHTF who was a nobody. An ordinary worker from one of the industrial machine parts factories.
Actually, I did not really know him than the usual “hello” on the street, or football discussion sometimes in the neighborhood.
He lived alone, looked decent, and had a typical work and afterward “coffee house/bar with friends” life. If someone asked me to describe him, I would say “just a guy from the neighborhood” or a typical “normal dude”.
When the SHTF, he emerged as one of the leaders of a local group. And he was popular, he had something that made people want to follow him. The problem was that he had something that made bad kinds of people follow him. He was pretty much something like a psychopath.
Murders, rape, robbing and everything else that goes with that was their way of life in that time. And to make things clear here, I need to say that whenever I met him and his group out on the street I would go and hide even I knew him from his former life as a “normal guy.”
This guy was now someone very different.
It was not like a movie. I was prepared to confront them and fight only as a last option, but Batman was not living in the city in that time. Even if he was there, he probably would have given up, so the chances of a superhero versus a group of bad guys were not realistic.
Sometimes he liked to catch a guy and make him run across the open space where snipers were active. If the guy survived that (rarely) then they shot at him. If he survived that shooting too, then he would live. He called that, “God will decide are you going to live or die.”
Some people have a certain type of charisma, and he had a lot of it. When you add the fact that he was bad, or evil if you like, you got an explosive combination. He was something like a bad kind of hero, the man who weak people want to follow. And they would obey his commands. Also, when you add the fact that he provided security and food for them, that counted too.
I was once in their nest, or headquarters, if you like to call it like that. It was like a place taken from weird fairy tales, or like some drug-induced nightmare.
On the ceiling, there was a big disco ball. On the wall, there was a big target drawn with paint with holes from bullets. Some women were laying on the couch giggling, drunk or high, watching me.
On the floor in one corner, one man was laying. I was not sure if he was dead, drunk or just sleeping. I passed around him carefully. I was wearing my “I do not care” look because in a situation like that, if you showed fear you may find yourself in a bad situation. For example, these guys could make a practicing target out of you just for fun.
Also, to look too bold was not a good idea.
He was sitting in a bus seat taken from somewhere, and he had a hat on his head, the kind that you wear with a tuxedo. If that all was in a movie that I was watching I would laugh a lot.
But it was not a movie and I did not laugh.
My friend who brought me there introduced me to him and told him that I needed MREs. That friend was supposed to be my protection or something similar, but very soon I realized that, I, just like everyone else there, was dependent on his goodwill.
His first question to me was, “Are you going to her concert?”
I was confused, then he showed me a poster on the wall announcing some folk concert that happened a year ago in some different world. I did not know what to say.
He said, “I can get you tickets.”
And I said, “OK thanks”.
Nobody smiled. Some guy behind him was taking apart a machine gun and cleaning it with oil.
Anyway, we finished our deal, and I went home. While I was leaving, he said, “Do not forget to pick up your tickets” with a big fat smile.
I thought that he was crazy, but actually, he was not crazy at all. He just had a big great time since SHTF and enjoyed terrifying people to feel his power. He lived his dream where everything is allowed, where there is no punishment from society other than some other stronger and more wicked guy.
There is nothing deep and philosophical in that guy’s behavior and mindset. He was just a normal guy who turned bad because he loved power and was in a world without rules where he could play.
He lived on the bad side and lived a fast and evil life. He liked that SHTF situation.
But SHTF did not create that guy. He was there all the time. His real character just waited for SHTF to come out and play.
After some time, he ended up stabbed to death and then burned. I also knew the guy who did that, and he was even worse than the first bad man.
Now, this guy was not alone. When the SHTF, a whole bunch of weird and sick folks emerged. The point is that you never know what kind of people are living around you, or even with you.
And to make things worse, as I said, this guy was something like “normal” guy before SHTF.
Besides those normal guys who turned bad, there is a whole army of scum and criminals who are just waiting for the SHTF to happen, so they can go out and be something like small dictators.
You can be sure that they are perfectly prepared for that. They already live in their own version of criminal SHTF, with their rules. When real SHTF they gonna be ready for it, they just gonna jump out fully organized and ready to take over. They are gonna go open and be very mean.
I was surprised, though. I was like, “Why are there so many mean and bad folks suddenly?”
The answer is actually simple. Bad people are all around us. Some of them are aware of the fact that they are bad like organized crime members, gangs etc. Others are gonna see SHTF like their chance to fulfill their secret wishes and indulge in power over others.
So, no doubt once the SHTF you’ll run into a bad man from time to time, too.
#2. The Chameleon
Most of the folks who have been through some serious and life-threatening situations and survive are gonna tell you one thing: they survive it with mental strength.
Also, all survival instructors are going say that first thing in any survival situation to have is the will to survive.
It is easy to say today “I will survive” but a great majority of people do not know what the will to survive actually means.
In my time I did see some folks who just laid down and had lost the will for life. They just gave up.
When it comes to survival you have to focus on what you are good at, and some people are just good at working with other people or maybe dealing or playing with other people. The mainstream media gives everyone a picture how real survivalist need to look and act, but they’re wrong.
The Chameleon is a smart type of real survivalist.
When SHTF, the word deception has a whole other meaning and becomes powerful.
It is used in many different situations and for many different reasons. It helps some to survive but also helps to take lives.
Never form your opinion about what kind of man is dangerous based on popular images. When the SHTF, you can end up dead because some 70-year-old lady blows your head off with a shotgun.
This is how you should think, but the average man – the sheeple – don’t.
So, you can be sure that when the time comes, you’ll need to look stronger than you are. But also, sometimes you gonna need to look much weaker than you are. More options are always better.
And for all who are preparing with the attitude, “let them come,” you need to change it to “let them not come”.
There was a guy in town in that time who was very good to know if you needed to figure out where you could find something useful, or to find out what is going on.
If I needed to find something particular, for example, if I needed 10 liters of diesel fuel for something, I would first check people in my vicinity. I’d check a few guys out, do they have that or do they know someone who has that. In short, I would go out and try my luck.
But there was also that guy who always had good information about sources for trade or any other information.
The guy was shrouded in some kind of rumors, or it was more like a myth. So, you could hear all kinds of stories like, “he has important friends” or “he has some sources from the outside” or “somebody powerful is protecting him.” After all of those stories, you could easily conclude that the guy was powerful, even before you saw him.
He alone did not look mean or powerful or anything similar, but he carried this mean-looking, old-style, heavy machine gun all the time, with bullet strips over his shoulders and chest.
Anytime when I would go and visit him, I got something useful for trade or some useful information where I could go and find something.
He survived the war and I did not see him for several years. Then I met him in the mall, when he was buying some toys for his grandson. I started a conversation with him, and we got some coffee.
I asked him what he is doing now. He said he is a lawyer. I was surprised. Then he told me that he was a lawyer before the SHTF. For some reasons, I could not connect that man from the war period with a lawyer, but soon some things were clearer for me.
He invited me to his house for more coffee, and after some time he went to the basement and dragged up a big wooden box with locks on it out.
He opened it and I saw that old machine gun inside. Of course, I wanted to check it. When I took it, I saw that barrel was full of melted iron, in order to make weapon unusable.
I was surprised and asked the man why he did that. I mean, you never know when you gonna need weapon ready. He laughed and said, “It was always like that, unusable”.
Now I was completely confused, and then he started to talk.
He was a lawyer before SHTF, he never fired a shot from any weapon, and violence was completely strange to him. When SHTF in the chaos he found himself on the street, looking at how a bunch of folks were breaking into malls and shops, taking whatever is useful.
In 5 minutes, he was inside a local museum with some young people who were breaking stuff and taking whatever useful things they could. He said, “When I saw a local policeman completely drunk trying to take a German uniform and helmet for fun, I realized that we were starting to live in interesting times.”
He took the machine gun from a glass box, together with some bullets strips and went home.
Ten days later some punks tried to loot his home armed with knives and screwdrivers:
“I put those bullet strips on me, took the machine gun, stood in front of them and yelled that if they do not disappear that moment, I am gonna massacre them.”
And of course, they disappeared.
He said, even if that thing worked, he was not sure if he would be able to shoot at them. But he realized one thing. It is not important how things really are – it is important what things look like.
When all the different groups in town started to use signs – I mean small colored bands on the shoulder in order to make clear who belonged to their group – he got all those bands and markings.
When all of those groups started with some system, when to wear what, he bribed guys in order to know that system.
So, if one group was controlling some part of the town and they used red bands on shoulders on Monday and Wednesday, and a black one on Sunday on Saturday he would know that.
He used that for moving through the city, because in all that chaos if you were moving through the city during the night, and you needed to go through an area that was controlled by some group, it was very useful to have some of their signs or code.
So, he was a member of multiple groups and all those groups shared information with him. As a result, he was everywhere in the city, and he always had correct information about important things.
He knew what was gonna have a high price, or when new food aid might come in. I asked him, “How were you able to know all the information about so much stuff?” Because it sounded just too complicated for me.
He said, “What I did not know I just made up in my head”.
Actually, he was playing with prices, with demand, and the needs of the people. He dictated the prices.
After some time, because of all of his information, he became so popular that if he said that “cans are gonna be very hard to find in next month,” people believed it.
So, it was easy for him to distribute all cans at higher prices. Of course, not personally, but at the same time, he would, of course, know a man who had cans right now at a cheap price. His man. He got a cut out of most deals and that helped him to survive.
Through his network of people, he put the word out that “powerful people were protecting him.” Another illusion but together with fact that people did not want to have problems with a man who had always good information, he survived.
Also, one other thing helped. In the first period, he collected 5-6 bodies, badly dismembered by shells and put them in front of his house. He put word on the street that “some guys messed with him, but he called his powerful friends and those friends made examples of the guys to not mess with him.”
If some really strong group caused danger to him, he just left the house and waited for them to leave.
No problem, he did not have anything valuable in his house. Trading goods he kept with his “associates” and his main value was information.
His main value actually was his brain.
Keep that in mind. Before you give up because you have nothing, use your brain and try to play the system with deception. Chaotic urban survival situations offer lots of opportunity for that.
#3. Slaves and Servants
Drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, addicts, homeless people, family people, believers… good people, bad people… we like to call people by names in order to judge them and live our lives easier.
Most of the time we judge them so easily and form our opinion about them as we go without too much thought. It is easier like that. We see people doing something and think it is because of how they are. We often do not consider all the things that make them do what they do.
We see something, give that a name, and that’s it. Sometimes there is much more behind it. Someone who is bad might just have had circumstances in life that being like that is the only thing which made sense for that person. Yes, their whole way of thinking might be “wrong” or he might not act badly because he is bad, but because his kids are dying.
People judge too fast.
Not to mention that when the SHTF, it is dangerous to sort people in the easy and fast way. It can lead us to form the wrong opinion, which can lead to a lot of bad things. I learned not to judge people right away. A future friend might behave terribly the first time you meet, and a future enemy might be very nice to you.
I want to say this before writing about the type of real survivalist that I write about now. You encounter slaves and servants in a long-term survival situation because even though they go a very different way from a brave fighter… they are real survivalists and just make things work.
Many lone fighters died, and many servants suffered but survived. It’s not like a movie.
A lady who was my colleague before SHTF lived with her husband and two kids. She was in her 30s, a very nice and easy person to work with. She was my friend and we shared a lot of great moments at the job. I never saw or heard anything bad about her. I knew her husband, I knew her kids.
When the SHTF I lost contact with her in all that chaos, and to be honest I completely forgot about her. I had more important things to worry about.
We already passed the most dangerous parts of the trip – mines, mountains, woods, and no man’s land – and came into a small part of territory controlled by one of the numerous militias, loosely tied to bigger (again numerous) factions.
The guys did not give us any problems, other than very short checking of who we were and where we were going.
We had already paid for passage to “a guy who knows a guy,” so everything went smooth. We took a small rest in one of the shacks and drank hot “tea.” Actually, the exact description would be “hot dirty melted snow, with added alcohol.”
Then I saw her, my ex-colleague.
If I learned anything since SHTF that was fact that you need to hide your feelings and body language until you figure out what is really going on.
So, I did not say anything to her, and I acted like I did not know her, even though I wanted very much to jump up, hug her, and ask about everything, about her, her family, etc.
She put some rice on the table, and more alcohol in front of one group member. She was one woman in a group of some 30 men, who were armed, wasted, and pretty dangerous. Most of them did not know too much about literature but they know enough about violence.
She did not look like a prisoner, and also, she did not look scared or beaten. She also did not recognize me (or maybe did not want to recognize me.)
Anyway, about a half hour later, one of the men from the group offered me her, for a price, explaining to me that “she is the property of the leader, but also if anybody is willing to pay, she can belong to them for half an hour.”
Now if that was a movie, probably you would expect from me to shoot all of them and save her, so we could ride into the sunset.
But it was not a movie, and I could get maybe three of them down before someone blows off my head and takes my boots and rifle. And even if I could save her, she would probably tell me that she does not want to be saved.
We went through that piece of land without any problems, and I did not see her again, ever. And no, I did not pay the price to buy her for half an hour, and I did not try to start a conversation with her.
Later I found out the whole story.
When SHTF people did a lot of different things in order to survive. She became the mistress of one of the small group leaders, and also the prostitute of that group.
She was not a prisoner, well not obviously, but you also need to understand that if she left that group, she and her family would lose protection and the steady income of goods. And her kids needed to eat something.
I do not know what her husband thought about all that (he was a bit of weak guy before SHTF) but rumors were that he agreed with it, in order to survive.
So, it lasted like that for months. And they survived.
So, is that good or bad? It’s nothing. It’s survival. Blame her husband? No… because they survived. If he would have become the fighter he might have died and with him, his family.
This does not mean people should let their wives become prostitutes (there were male prostitutes too, by the way). Everyone makes their own decisions and later you always know better.
Again, here comes in not judging.
Of course, when peace and normal life came, they could not stand to live here, not after everything. So, they chose to immigrate. As I heard it, they are living somewhere in South America under different names.
Here is some more background to that.
Prostitution here was something different than in other countries, and before
SHTF you had to be a member of very rich and higher class of society or higher ranks of the political elite to be able to get into the contact with one. It was illegal and also it was traditionally very “wrong.”
So, prostitution was rare. To be a known prostitute was rare. To be a normal family woman and become a prostitute was unbelievable and almost impossible.
But when SHTF, lots of things changed.
There were prostitutes all around, not to mention women who were held as some kind of half slaves. Their position was not always the same, so some of them were not more than slaves, another one was almost powerful as the gang leader who they belonged to. There were also men who were just mascots or servants for more powerful people – but overall this was a more common way for a woman to survive.
Not all women were prostitutes, of course. Just like men, they all chose how to survive. Some were prostitutes, while others were more dangerous with a rifle than a lot of men.
But most of them chose just to stay home with their family and care for the kids. It was not something like – they need to do that – it was just that they did what they did best and what was needed, just like most of the folks in that period.
That woman I spoke about was much closer to an equal gang member than to a slave. They did not force her into prostitution. Actually, she “belonged” to the group leader, but also, she sold herself for goods, some of which she kept for herself and family, and some went to members of the gang. It was her “trade.” While other men risked their lives, she overcome her dignity and did that.
She had protection and food, and also her family home had some kind of protection from that group as well as food and other things.
She was there mainly for the fun of the group leader, and sometimes other members and customers when she wanted.
We can now judge them and talk about what every one of us would do in their situation, but we should not.
This may also be a lesson for normal times.
I worked for years in emergency services and see daily people living at the borders of normal society or even far from those borders in a different, very dark and nasty world.
It’s not that all of them are bad but sometimes in life, you have to do what you have to do, even if it only makes sense to you at that moment. It is not an excuse but it helps to remember that when your existence is under threat you might do very different things too.
I’m sure only a very few (maybe sexually very open people) really plan on going that way when SHTF. But plans, they change.
#4. The Good Boss
The last type of survivalist I will write about is about a typical leader who knew how to handle our survival situation during the war.
He was a police officer. We called him “Boss” because of his look and stance. He had 30 years of service and I do not think that he used a gun too much. But he had a palm like a shovel and he used that a lot dealing with problematic teenagers.
He was the grumpy guy with whom you do not want to have too much business. If you got caught for some minor thing, theft or whatever, he did not talk too much with you, but his look talked stories, and his hands too.
He gave people justice on the spot and got respect for that too. He made a difference for our neighborhood and was a type of police officer that in my opinion does not exist today anymore.
He and his colleagues had a patrol in a better part of the city when the SHTF, and in the beginning, they tried to restore some order in all that. But when they saw that an ambulance vehicle on call got shredded with shots, they realized that a new time had come.
They did not discuss too much but they were sure that law and order was something that was gone now, and to act like law keepers just did not make sense anymore.
They went back to the police station and took more weapons and equipment. Then they used a police van and went to army storage and took more weapons.
They separated and took that to their homes. His colleagues shook his hand and left, each fighting their own fight. He pushed the police van out of the street and went home.
He lived alone for many years before SHTF, and also being the police officer for years gave him the advantage of knowing something about mob mentality and power over people. So, he did not have too many problems in dealing with issues in those beginning days. He was alone and that was a problem. But he was smart and that made a difference.
In these days, everything fell apart in the city, all that makes life normal, and institutions were falling apart too.
Local correction youth center, something like an open type jail for teenagers was falling apart too, so young folks were leaving there.
He went there and took 7 guys from there. He used to be something like their “watcher” in normal times. He had arrested them for small-time burglaries, cons etc. He also kept eye on them when they were out of the correction facility and on streets again. Because of how he did things, he was like a father who gave them slaps here and there.
They all were kids without families. That correction center was their home or they were on the streets. Anyway, he took them to his home and took care of them in that chaos, and after some time they took care of him too. They all were around 16-17 years old at that time when all hell broke loose.
He taught them to shoot, to defend themselves, to trade, and to recognize problematic people. The fact that they been that problematic person once only helped in process of teaching. Those kids were street smart. And he was not too soft in process of teaching, in other words, he used his “shovels” a lot in process of “making people of them” as he called it.
But he also taught them never to take from someone else. He was still a policeman and kept his ideals. They never turned against him. I saw many times that real sons turn against their fathers in that time or brother against brother, but they were perfectly loyal to each other, a real family. I guess it was because they knew that only in this group could they survive.
They did pretty well because of the starting “capital” he took from the army barracks. They were people that you could visit and get a rifle in a fair trade, without danger that you would be shot in the back. Also, they were the people that you did not want to f*ck with because violence was not a problem for them at all.
“Boss” died a few months before peace came, from wound infection. All seven of his “boys” survived and I never heard that they did something bad in that time. OK, bad in a little bit different terms, maybe. Not atrocities, nothing about unnecessary violence. What was necessary is a different question of course, but all of us who survived were not the most gentle folks at that time.
One of them later in peace went into organized crime and ended up shot dead, but all 6 of the rest of them grew up and became proud and strong family people. The type of men that you would want to have for a friend.
They all refer to Boss as their father. They live today in different cities and countries, some of them even on another continent, but once every two years, they have met, all together in his memory.
And that guy from the beginning of the story, that colleague of the Boss?
He used his share of the loot from the barracks to form a gang, and they did a lot of bad stuff to the people. He finished dead, stabbed more than 30 times. Nobody remembers him or wants to remember him. It is like he did not exist at all.
In a survival scenario, you want people around you who know why the group matters. Just like early humans who knew not to fight each other or cause problems for the survival of the whole group. In the case of a Boss, the street kids already knew about survival and he was the perfect leader for them who also knew what kind of leadership style worked with them.
Now I could say nice things about how to choose your group and of course include that annoying drama person that maybe your brother or sister married because “he/she is part of the family”.
But I speak from my experience and if you want to survive, like in any other “team” your group has to work. Having a strong leader like Boss helps a lot.
Normal is gone.
Normal laws and norms of society are gone in a long-term survival situation so people who still do things because it looks good are at disadvantage compared to people who do what works and make the team stronger and not weaker. If someone makes my team weaker on purpose (not because of sickness or age) he is not part of it.
When you think about your survival group, think about who makes the best boss. Who knows how to lead the people? What works? Prepare for that too, and you are far ahead of many other preppers who think they can buy safety with money and having the most preps and gear.