Survivalism in an Honor Culture

I dislike the term “survivalist”. Too much attached baggage that doesn’t fit me or the Village. I have gravitated more to the term, “prepper”, but with all the History Channel and other mass media extremist hype around that word it seems that it is also taking on the same extremist connotations. Maybe it’s time to find another word that is less tainted. Difficult. People who think even a little differently from the masses are always branded as extreme.

Nevertheless, if you strip out the extremist connotations, survivalist will have to do for now. I doubt that many people would reject the notion that survival

Human brain parts during a fear amygdala hijac...

is a primal instinct of not only the human species, but all life. I recently saw research that suggests strong memory recall is largely associated with experiences where the most primitive portion of the brain, the amygdala, is alerted to a sense of danger and there’s an extra shot of adrenalin. That causes a large number of synapses to fire and indelibly records the event in memory.
So, efficient memory is connected to danger and survival instinct? Cut to the chase. Everyone is a survivalist at multiple levels, even the mental/intellectual level.

OK, so maybe it’s a bit of a jump, but to read my stuff, you’ll have to get used to it. While I don’t have a great memory, I do connect seemingly unrelated things to come up with unusual conclusions.

I’m currently reading Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a book about counter-intuitive success models. Sort of a cross between the massively popular Freakonomics and traditional Horatio Alger success stories. In it are several chapters that have caused me to think about the Village, self-sufficiency and survival in a different light. One chapter deals with the Culture of Honor found in Appalachia.  This honor culture is at the root of inter-family feuds (Hatfield-McCoy) and intra-family violence. After discussing the historical roots of Appalachian culture, one particular paragraph stands out.

Survival isn't necessarily about guns.

“The triumph of a culture of honor helps to explain why the pattern of criminality in the American South has always been so distinctive. Murder rates are higher than in the rest of the country. But crimes of property and “stranger” crimes – like muggings are lower. As the sociologist John Shelton Reed has written, “The homicides in which the South seems to specialize are those in which someone is being killed by someone he (or often she) knows, for reasons both killer and victim understand.”

Murder rates higher than the rest of the country?! For someone with a strong survival instinct, that might put one on notice that this is a dangerous place to live. But, finishing the rest of the paragraph,

“The statistics show that the Southerner who can avoid arguments and adultery is as safe as any other American, and probably safer.”

Interesting conclusion. In a community like the Village on Sewanee Creek that embraces good family values (anti-adultery) and seeks harmony between neighbors, people should have the disposition and capacity to “avoid arguments”. If you don’t, you should probably re-think coming to live here, as your survival rate outside Village borders might be statistically impaired.

This observation feels intuitively correct to me, as a transplant to Appalachia.  Having struggled to understand and adapt to the local culture, I feel very safe here, safer than I have felt in many of the places I have lived. Part of that has to do with the fact that my indigenous neighbors are less affluent country folk who have lived off the land for generations and still have the old-time skills that are lost to most of modern society. But, on another level, it’s a place that actually makes sense from a personal security standpoint. Random violence, typical of urban environments is rare here. Be nice and people are nice right back to you.

For people who think a lot about survival, as in getting out of the big cities, storing food and ammo for if/when TSHTF, I suggest there is a much more important consideration. Cultural Survivalism, especially in an honor culture suggests you need to make yourself part of the community and avoid inappropriate behaviors that put you at risk. Stated more positively, follow Biblical advice such as the golden rule and “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him”  Matthew 5:25

All that comes back to building a strong sense of harmonious community whether within the Village or the larger indigenous community.

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