|History of Survivalism|
To understand the survivalist movement you have to travel back to the days of when our ancestors fended for themselves and it was necessary to be a self-reliant individual or part of a group. While some have speculated that a sudden set of cataclysmic events spurred 'survival' instincts it is fair to say the Ice Age was a defining moment. The glaciation of the ice caps caused massive migration - The Survivalist of the current Great Age was thus borne.
From the ice age times until the rise of the city-states the Europeans who spread out across the land prospered. Small trading settlements bartered from the western fringes of China to outer Siberia and westwards to the retreating glaciers. Hunters, gatherers and traders all co-existed in a survival matrix in this way, nomads and other primitive tribes alike. Small family groups to large communities in towns, often fortified and circular, were the trend for the European people, while square construction was the look elsewhere typically.
The world's population was small then allowing a hunter-gatherer existence to thrive, this fueled the Survivalist mindset as there was no time for easy comfort but only to struggle, thrive and survive. Each newborn, each new generation had the inheritance of survival handed down to them. People often speak of the hard-work ethic, but it was the ancient survivalists that helped it to the next level.
This went on for thousands of years and as the glaciers retreated completely (by about 10,500 BC) something happened in Mesopotamia. It was here, from about 7,000 BC that trade increased, especially in the Mediterranean. Towns grew into small cities, agriculture began to thrive. Science also was researched from the learnings and experiences. Egypt for example flourished brilliantly despite being assailed from its borders. Populations grew and the dawn of ruler-kings became realized. Jericho and Damascus being two of the earliest cities rising from the settlements. Yet perhaps Babylon was the most well-known. Like other cities in the Levant it thrived due to the Euphrates river, fertile lands and a settled climate. As it grew the population reached in excess of 200,000 and with such a number so came the need by the ruler-kings for control.
The first codified laws were passed in Babylon too in 1750 BC by Hammurabi. There were 282 of them and soon the written law took over from the spirit of the law. For the Northern Europeans who had settled around the Mediterranean they too became influenced and soon cities like Athens.
The City Vs The Heathen
The Roman Empire was the first to emphasize an ownership concept of their capital city Rome to a large expanse of territory. The independent tribes of Gauls, Germanics and Britons (plus many more) despised being enslaved or beholden to another. For the civilized, urbane Romans they had a name for the barbarians living their own way beyond Rome's control. They called them barbarians or later 'Pagans', a pejorative word used by the early Christians to voice their oppositon to the polytheistic gods (as opposed to the monolithic). For the Germanic word which they referred to themselves is Heathen which means 'They who live in the Heath'. It can also be read to mean 'He who is free' if one is liberal with the context.
For despite not living in the opulance of Rome or the Cosmopolitan zest of Babylon the Northern Europeans had small trading networks thriving across their lands. Archaeological discoveries in recent times have proved that the Gauls for example had large towns for crafting and trading with other peoples, including even Romans! In Distant Eire trackways have been discovered allowing easier travel and commerce across the boggy, but useful peat bogs rich in fire-giving turf.
To understand it another way it was the ways of the countryside against the will of Rome. The Survival-minded Barbarians held the line at the Rhine with devastating ambushes and weathering great punitive raids launched by the professional Romans in return. The Gauls, Dacians too fought hard against the Romans as did the Britons. As the Roman Empire collapsed in the west a barbarian resurgence was followed by the White Christ missionaries who preached a watered-down version of the Semetic beliefs. Some of the independent-minded Heathen folk distanced themselves from this by exploring and colonizing Iceland and Greenland, even reaching Newfoundland.
For better or worse Europe was in the direction of feudal overlords, land-bound serfs and those who enforced the king's will. The nations quarrelled and grew to become empires as the tribal-orientated ways faded. Survivalist values were channeled into the necessary duty of following the destiny of the country instead of the tribe. The advancements flourished though, one on top of another as it seemed like the basic foundations of old were becoming more and more distant. America was colonized and once again a spirit of the Survivalist rose up to see the American colonists seize a new world for themselves. It was like history repeating as the masses of British Redcoats were humbled by Heathen-like skirmishers.
The Survivalist Movement
Following the great empires and the great conflicts that went on down the centuries a climax was reached in the early 20th century. Here technology and bitter rivalry saw catastrophic blood-letting take place. WW1 and WW2 being a crucible-like mini-epoch fused into many things. This though, takes us to the cusp of contemporary Survivalism; The Survivalist Movement!
The 1950s and 1960s saw nuclear war become a very real possibility. Fear of this drove many people to build fallout shelters, store household food and practice civil-defense. This was the first wave of the WW2 aftermath where returning veterans now faced the prospect of a war with the USSR and Communist allies. The survivalist movement began to crystalize into a growing consensus. A separation from any reliance on authority for help which would not come if a disaster was severe enough. The 1930s depression and dust-bowl also greatly influenced the psyche, serving as a further warning not to become complacent. was that knowing how to survive a total breakdown of society was now established as important.
The end of the 1960s and the mid-70s saw a number of combat veterans return disallusioned to the USA. The war in Vietnam had gone badly with the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the American Society had changed greatly. There is uncertainty as to whether the survivalist movement was a conservative response to the leftist-liberal policies from both poltical and activist quarters or if it was driven by the rising tide of White Flight from the cities.
Whatever the cause the Three big figures in the Survivalist Scene back then were Kurt Saxon, Mel Tappen and later in the 1980s and 1990s 'Bo Gritz. It was about now that the term survivalist and survivalism came into the lexicon, Kurt Saxon coining both phrases. Another term common to the time was 'retreater', used to describe leaving a large, populated area to the safer area of a countryside retreat. This term never caught on like survivalist did though. Mel Tappen advocated a retreat from the cities to a more self-sufficient lifestyle in defensive areas. His Rogue River compound still exists to this day.
In the 1980s the prosperity and resurgence of conservativism saw a fade in the counterweighted survivalist scene as many got behind the Dream Big ideal. It wasn't until the 1990s that things changed. It started in 1992 with the Ruby Ridge stand-off (resulting in three deaths - One US Marshal and two from a survivalist family). Only a year later the Waco Siege saw many innocents killed following an ATF debacle which saw armored vehicles deployed. The resulting firestorm killed dozens and brought home to Americans that the big government they once trusted was now being deployed against groups perceived to be a 'threat'. The retaliatory bombings by Timothy McVeigh in 1995 killed and injured hundreds. With the demonization of survivalists, the militia-movement and anti-government groups the watered-down term 'prepper' enters the lexicon.
By the end of the 1990s Survivalism was becoming more mosiac than ever as the hardcore element gave sway to a larger slice of the survival movement - The Era of the Prepper had arrived! Preppers are those preparing or indeed have prepared for disasters from the comfort of their home, the looming Y2K bug sent many into overdrive stocking-up on supplies like electric generators. Interestingly, after 2000 when the Y2K bug never materialized it looked like preppers, survivalists and indeed survivalism in general were relics of cold-war paranoia. If anyone was laughing at them they didn't laugh too long or hard, as a year later 9/11 happened. A city being attacked by outside forces using planes was unprecedented, along with the grounding of the entire airline industry. After 2001 ended even mainstream media began taking the idea of disaster preparedness seriously.
The internet maturing and the 2004 lifting of the 'assault weapons' ban spread a curious mix of ideas and exotic weaponry into civilian hands. Where before it was magazine subscriptions, military-experience and geography that often tended to help grease the cogs of survivalism, now the boundaries shifted again. TV Shows and even some films now widen the appeal of Preparedness and doomsday-type scenarios. Many internet sites now proliferate the internet concerning survivalism. Perhaps more profound is the fact that in the USA Survivalism is almost considered mainstream, or at least more in the public awareness.
The Financial Crisis of 2008, The NDAA act of 2012 and the decreasing influence of Pax Americana all point to a time of uncertainty not only in the USA but in the world at large.
The second Iraq War in 2003 to 2011, and the 9/11 retaliatory campaign in Afganistan (much like the Vietnam War decades before), has seen many thousands of war veterans return home disallusioned. Some of these, along with constitutionally-loyal policemen have joined the Oathkeepers. Some considerthem to be a second wave of the militia-movement or perhaps more accurately a Jeffersonian Paramilitary.
The recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri have demonstrated that the unrest in America's heartlands is another reason to prepare for the worst. Yetunlike the LA riots where it was Korean businessmen protecting their businesses, this time it was the Oathkeepers who stepped up to the plate!
Norse Survivalists of Olde
Ruby Ridge - An American Tragedy