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Sensationalism

Copyright July 2, 2012 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.

Hypothetical Newspaper

Introduction

It is a natural human tendency to be interested in things that are unusual or "sensational." That is the reason many of us either read or listen to the news each day. We are interested in knowing what has happened in the world. For example, the fictitious newspaper headlines in the picture on the right immediately grasp your attention and those headlines compel you to read the rest of the story.

This same strategy is sometimes used by famous authors. These highly respected authors present a "hypothetical" future scenario and then they state that there is an extremely high chance of that scenario unfolding in the very, very near future. Once the author has captured your attention with his or her prediction of the future then you become extremely concerned, and somewhat fearful, and you continue to read all the details that the author has presented so you can make up your own mind on whether or not to agree or disagree with his or her prediction.

The purpose of this article is to shed a little "light" on the topic of sensationalism and to discuss this topic from the following four perspectives:
  1. The Past.
  2. The Present.
  3. The Future.
  4. One Possible Solution.


The Past

  1. Early 1970s and Harry Schultz: Chevalier Harry D. Schultz is a world famous author and investment advisor. The Guiness Book of World Records listed him as being the highest paid investment consultant in the world at $2,400 per hour. He has lived in more than 18 different nations and he has been knighted five times. He also authored the International Harry Schultz Letter, a monthly investment newsletter. In my Junior year in college in 1970 I discovered one of his investment books in our University Library. It was extremely well written and over the next few months I read every book he had written that our Library had on its shelves. After I graduated from college I subscribed to his monthly newsletter. In the early part of 1975 one of his newsletters contained an explanation of the fragility of the world's utility networks and the interdependency of our transportation and delivery systems. His analysis was thought provoking and frightening. His prediction of what could happen to the societies around the world if there were a disruption in the electrical or transportations systems was terrifying. I could not find any flaws or errors in his analysis or in his predictions based on that analysis. Therefore I quit my job in Oklahoma and moved my family (wife and 3 preschool age children) onto 12 acres of land that I purchased that was located deep in the backwoods of Maine. I began clearing the land using a gas operated chainsaw and I began the construction of a rustic two room log cabin using pine trees that grew on our land. Then my wife became ill and she spent one week in the hospital and another six weeks recovering in a small three room apartment I rented in a town that was about 45 miles from our property. In October of 1975 the first snow fell and I did not yet have a roof on the cabin or a floor in the cabin. However, the good news was that the world had not come to an end. Therefore I began looking for work in the job ads in the major newspapers in the Eastern United States and I was able to find a job in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Therefore I sold my property in Maine, paid as much as I could on my wife's hospital bill (the rest I paid later), and we all moved to Florida. I was financially broke but I had a job and therefore I had hope. My experience of living in a tent deep in the backwoods of Maine left a lasting impression on me and for the next 35 years I read everything I could find about pioneer life and how to survive without all the conveniences of modern civilization. I no longer expected the world to come to an end but I wanted to be prepared if it did.

  2. Late 1970s and Hal Lindsey: Harold Lee Lindsey, born 1929, is an evangelist, Christian author, and television personality. Following is a quote from one of the books he wrote in 1977: "We are approaching the most electrifying decade of human history. The 1980s may be the most determinative decade in the history of the human race. The die will be cast as to how history is going to be ended. We have enough evidence and information available to us today, if we are really honest with what's going on, to show us that man is headed toward some sort of catastrophic climax in his long history. Knowledgeable people are saying that man will probably not survive this century." Hal Lindsey, The World's Final Hour: Evacuation or Extinction, 1977, page 11.

  3. Early 1980s and Mel Tappan: Melrose H. Tappan, III (1933-1980) was a highly respected author of the 1970s and he wrote numerous articles that were printed in "Soldier of Fortune" Magazine and "Guns and Ammo" Magazine. He wrote the books "Survival Guns" and "Tappan on Survival." He also co-published a newsletter called "Personal Survival (P.S.) Letter." Following is brief quote from one of Mel Tappan's articles: "Major cities and public corporations are being kept from bankruptcy by your tax dollars, whether you like it or not, and most of our leading international banks are insolvent by every standard except the name because of improvident long-term loans to Third World countries, backed by fractional short-term deposits of Arab and other foreign funds subject to sudden withdrawal. To round out the picture, you may want to recall that the federal government is presently spending more of your money on public education than ever before, yet increasing numbers of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. There are more government social programs paying more benefits to more people than at any other time in history, yet the recipients' demands are escalating and so is the level of violence with which these demands are underlined. Crime, especially violent crime, is setting new records and we are just beginning to see terrorism expand in this country as it has in Europe. Either by sinister design or by incredible stupidity, the fools and scoundrels we have elected to represent us in government have debauched our currency, crippled our economy and driven us to bankruptcy. As if that weren't enough, they have created a vast army of bureaucrats -- unelected and virtually untouchable -- to implement their will: a faceless horde that can create rules with the force of law simply by recording them in the Federal Register. It is through this means that government has reached into almost every phase of our private and professional lives to interfere in ways that elected officials would never dare to do directly, and it is through this means that the vigorous free market which built this country has become so fettered that it will not be able to save us from the impact of more than 40 years of unwise government social engineering and economic meddling. Although it may now be too late to stop a socioeconomic collapse from occurring in this country, it is not too late for aware individuals to take independent action to avoid or attenuate its impact upon themselves and those for whom they care. The key to survival preparedness is learning to become, primarily or alternatively, independent of the system. As Teddy Roosevelt observed, "You never have trouble if you are prepared for it." Very soon now, I believe we will have the opportunity to test the wisdom of that dictum. I hope you will join me in the adventure." Mel Tappan, August 1980.

  4. Late 1990s and Gary North: Gary Kilgore North, born 1942, has a Ph.D. in History and he is a University Professor. In the late 1990s he wrote a number of articles on Y2K and he published a monthly Y2K newsletter with about 250,000 subscribers at $129 per year. The focus of Gary North's writings was Y2K (Year 2000). A brief statement of the classic Y2K problem can be summarized as follows: Will the electrical grids around the world stop working at midnight on December 31, 1999 due to a design flaw in their computer software systems that keeps track of the year as a two digit number instead of a four digit number? A variety of experts were asked to provide a rating from 0 to 10, with 0 indicating absolutely no concern and 10 indicating a belief that the problem was so serious that major worldwide social, economic, and technological disruptions would occur. Gary North in June of 1998 replied as follows, "The litmus test of 10 status -- the far end of the spectrum -- is one's opinion of the survivability of the power grid. This is where the target stops moving. You don't need a curve anymore. Anyone who says the entire grid will go down for 60 days rates a 10." In April of 1999 Gary North added the following statement, "For two years, we were told by large U.S. corporations, 'Our goal is Y2K-compliance by December 31, 1998, with a full year for testing.' I said this was PR puffery then, and events have proven me right. ... I remain a 10." Gary North, 1998 and 1999.

  5. Early 2010s and Whomever: Please insert one of your favorite predictions here that was made by one of your favorite prognosticators. You may insert the prediction of anyone you wish. However, please don't quote me because I have never pretended to know how the future will unfold. I have never made a prediction about whether the economy would get better or worse. I have never suggested that you quit your job and move into the Alaskan wilderness. Instead I have consistently made suggestions that you prepare realistically, using common sense, for a variety of possible future scenarios and not just for the total collapse of the worldwide economy. However, many very famous people have made specific predictions about when things would fall apart, and they have made specific recommendations about where you should live to have the best chance to survive the collapse they predicted. Please insert one of their predictions here and then carefully reflect on it as you believe appropriate.

The Present

Do not believe all the doom-and-gloom predictions that you hear. The vast majority of them may not happen during your lifetime. And even if they do happen there is nothing to be gained by worrying about it ahead of time.

Instead focus on what you do have. Do not dwell on what you don't have.

Regardless of how much a person may currently have, there will always be something the person wants and that the person does not yet have, such as:
  1. A billionaire may want to own another corporation.
  2. A millionaire may want a nicer ocean front vacation home.
  3. An ordinary person may desire a new car.
  4. An unemployed person may want a decent job.
It is really, really easy to focus on what you don't have and to completely overlook what you do have. In my opinion the following items are the important ones that we should think carefully about:
  1. Health: Are the members of your family in reasonably good health? Is anyone sick? Does anyone have a chronic disease? If no one in your family is sick or in pain then you should be extremely gratefully for the good health that your family is enjoying.

  2. Food: Do the members of your family have enough to eat each day? It doesn't matter if some of that food comes from social welfare programs, or food stamps, or food pantries. If you are able to provide food for your family and no one in your family is going hungry then you should be very grateful.

  3. Shelter: Do you have a safe place to sleep each night? If you are not sleeping in a tent, or in a cardboard box, or under a bridge then you should consider yourself blessed.

  4. Hope: Do you still have hope or have you completely given up? Although this may not be the happiest time in your life, it is probably not the worst time either. Even if you do not currently have a job, if you are still looking for a job then you have hope.
Today, in the United States of America, the average "poor" person has a higher standard of living than the Kings and Queens of the distant past for the following reasons:
  1. Most of us have instant access to both hot and cold "clean" water. In the distant past Kings and Queens had to wait for water to be drawn from a well, and then wait while it was being heated, and then wait for it to be delivered to them.
  2. Due to indoor plumbing, we can relieve ourselves in the comfort and privacy of a indoor bathroom. Just a few decades ago people had to go outside to an outdoor bathroom in order to relieve themselves.
  3. We have year-round access to dozens of different types of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables at almost any nearby grocery store. These fruits and vegetables are transported from thousands of miles away and yet they arrive fresh and they are available locally at very reasonable prices every month of the year.
  4. We have access to a wide selection of international foods from nations all over the world.
  5. We have heated shelters in which to reside. Some of us also have air-conditioning.
  6. We travel over good roads in heated and air-conditioned vehicles, either privately owned or in public transportation. Many of us travel more miles in one month than a King or Queen did during his or her entire life.
  7. We have access to instant high quality entertainment on the radio and television. We can listen to any type of music instantly on demand. In the distant past Kings and Queens had to assemble a group of musicians in order to be able to listen to music on special occasions.
  8. Our public school systems are free to all of our young people and our young people can learn how to read and write and do math from the 1st grade through the 12th grade. In many of our public schools our poor children are fed a free breakfast and a free lunch.
  9. We have access to books about any topic we wish to read about. Mass produced books are a relatively recent invention and in the distant past only the wealthy could afford to read and their selection of reading material was extremely limited.
  10. We have access to over-the-counter medicines and home remedies to relieve our aches and pains. We have access to medical clinics and antibiotics that can cure most of the medical problems that killed the Kings and Queens of the distant past.
  11. In the United States of America we live in relative safety. We do not live in constant fear of being unexpectedly attacked by a hostile nation.
  12. Today the average life expectancy of a "poor" person in the United States is longer than the average life expectancy of the Kings and Queens of the distant past.
If you will take the time to put things into the proper perspective, you may realize that things are not as bad as you originally believed.


The Future

Do not believe in one and only one possible future. To do so would be silly.

Things could stay about the same as they are now, or things could get a lot worse, or things could gradually begin to get better. To the extent possible you should be prepared for the future to unfold in any of these ways.

Please do not interpret the following statement the wrong way. But if things do get a lot worse than they are today, then one year from now you may look back on today and think, "Gosh, those were the good old days. Why didn't I appreciate what I did have instead of making myself miserable by thinking about the things I didn't have?"


One Possible Solution

Stop acting like the "Lone Ranger." Stop trying to do everything yourself.

Instead allow God to help you make your decisions.

Don't just pray and tell God what you intend to do.

Instead pray and thank God for what He has already done for you. Then ask God to please allow your life to unfold according to His perfect will and according to His perfect plan.

Also remember that God is interactive. God expects you to do your part. This means you should not expect God to do everything. In other words, don't try to delegate your responsibilities onto God and then pretend there is nothing you can do because God is in control.

For example, if you need a job then keep looking for one. Don't give up. Don't worry yourself sick if you don't get a job today, or this week, or this month. Just keep praying and keep looking. Don't stop praying for a job and don't stop looking for a job. If you are offered an honest job, even if it doesn't pay very well, then you should seriously consider accepting the opportunity because another job offer may not be in your immediate future.


Conclusion

In my opinion the following strategy would be a reasonable one to pursue:
  1. If you have a job then do not quit your job.
  2. Do not move into the wilderness because you are afraid of what your neighbors "might" do during a future unexpected hard times tragedy event. I made this mistake in 1975 and it was a stupid mistake. Please use more common sense than I did when I was in my twenties. (Note: Moving into the wilderness should be your last option and it should not be done until after you have completely exhausted all your other options and there is absolutely no other place where you can live in safety. In times of great hardship the wilderness is sometimes the best choice for long-term survival. History is filled with examples of people who were terminated by their own governments because of their ethnic background, or religious beliefs, or political beliefs. In this type of situation the only logical alternative is to disappear into the wilderness until the danger has passed and true justice is restored. If you wish to have any reasonable chance of surviving in the wilderness then you should have made some definite plans on where you will go and what you will take with you.)
  3. If your family currently has more than one car then think very carefully about whether or not you really need more than one car.
  4. Buy at least one good quality gravity fed water filter so you can build your own water filtration system for about $75. Click here for some free instructions that are on my website.
  5. Consider purchasing some extra canned foods for an emergency. Or consider purchasing some Mainstay brand lifeboat ration food bars. If you are currently on welfare assistance or food stamps then you may wish to consider gradually building an emergency food reserve by setting aside two or three cans of food each week. If something really drastic happens unexpectedly in the future then your emergency food reserve could save the lives of your family members and give you the time to carefully consider all your options and avoid making a rash decision due to hunger pains.
  6. Invest in a basic first aid kit and some extra bandages. Also buy some over-the-counter medications that your family has used frequently in the past.
  7. If you have not already done so, then seriously consider investing in a firearm and learn how to use it safely. Some free information about firearm selection and how to hit a target bull's-eye are on my website here.
  8. Acquire some basic knowledge on how to survive hard times without all the conveniences of modern civilization. A variety of suggestions are available for free on my website, such as homemade soap, acorn recipes, gardening advice, and a hand crank meat grinder.
  9. Pray every day.
A significant portion of the free information on my website is the long-term result of my six month adventure deep in the backwoods of the state of Maine in the year 1975. Since 1975 I have diligently studied a wide variety of primitive skills and I have actually tried to do many of those primitive skills and I kept detailed notes of the results. This is the primary difference between the information on my website and the information available elsewhere. My advice is based on 35 years of careful study and experience. It is not simply advice that I copied and pasted on my website.

The second major difference between the information on my website and the information available elsewhere is that I do not discuss any of the traditional primitive skills that are of no practical value. Nor do I discuss skills that have an extremely low success rate. I frequently read about these skills on other websites, and in some survival manuals, and it always causes me to smile because I know that the person writing about that skill is just repeating what he or she read somewhere else and that person has never actually tried doing what he or she is recommending. If that person had actually experimented with that skill then that person should know that it does not work the way it is being described, or it only works a very small percent of the time and most of the time it doesn't work at all.

The third major difference is that my website does not include information on primitive skills that are extremely labor intensive, such as how to start a fire using friction. Instead I have always recommended that you purchase a good quality butane lighter and some ordinary matches. On the other hand, I do provide free information on a variety of primitive skills that I believe the average family might find to be extremely useful during a long-term hard times event. These skills are practical, they work consistently, and they are not labor intensive, such as How to Smoke Meat.

Over the past 35 years I have purchased and read most of the major survival manuals that have been written by a variety of people. A few of those manuals, such as the ones written by Tom Brown, are based on the author's real world experiences. But most of them are simply a copy and paste manual that repeat the same information that all the other manuals include. It is relatively easy for me to see that the author hasn't actually done what he or she is recommending and that he or she is simply repeating the advice he or she read somewhere else.

For example, my soap making recipe is based on the use of rainwater, campfire ashes, and animal fat. In the summer of the year 2007 I began testing the basic soap making recipe that was popular in the 1800s before the invention of lye crystals. The 1800s recipe would sometimes produce a decent soap but most of the time it produced a nasty mess that had to be thrown away. By systematically modifying the recipe I eventually developed a procedure that would consistently produce reasonably good old fashioned soap. That is when I published my homemade soap recipe on my web site. Since then I have frequently mentioned that a better use of animal fat during hard times would be to make pemmican instead of soap and that the best strategy would be to buy some extra soap before the hard times catch you off guard. This is in contrast to those survival manuals that recommend that you purchase a supply of lye crystals and store them for a future emergency so you can make lye soap by following the recipe that is in hundreds of different books. A person using ordinary common sense should immediately ask the following two questions: First, why invest in lye crystals and then store them so you can make some emergency soap? Wouldn't it make more sense to simply buy and store some ordinary soap that is ready to use immediately? Second, of what value will the lye crystal soap recipe be when your emergency inventory of lye crystals are eventually all used up? On the other hand, a person using common sense should realize that my soap making recipe would be of true practical value if you completely ran out of soap and you were forced to make your own. In that situation then my soap making recipe would allow you to consistently make an old fashioned homemade soap because the three required ingredients can be easily found in nature (rainwater, campfire ashes, and animal fat).

The final major difference is that most of the information I share on my website and in my books is for surviving ordinary, common hard times that happen periodically to all of us. One example is my article How to Get the Best Value When Buying Fresh Meat. On the other hand, most survival manuals are written from the perspective of what you should do to survive a complete worldwide economic breakdown, or a similar event, that brings about the-end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it. There is nothing wrong with being prepared for this type of event. But it may not happen during your lifetime. On the other hand, hard times happen to all of us at random times throughout our lives. My parents lived through hard times (the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II). Hard times have periodically made my life very challenging. And hard times are happening right now to my children (the Worldwide Depression of the 2010s). The information on my web site has helped my family deal with hard times with the minimum amount of hardship and pain and with the maximum amount of joy. In my opinion, that is all you can do when you are being overwhelmed by hard times. Minimize the damage and, to the extent possible, enjoy the blessings that are still available to you.

In closing please allow me to repeat the advice that I gave during a Two Hour Talk Radio Show in February of the year 2010:
  1. Relax. Don't panic.
  2. Avoid impulse purchases motivated by fear.
  3. Relax. But don't procrastinate. Start today.
  4. Start by making a plan and then gradually and systematically work your plan.
Please use common sense to evaluate all the advice you read, including the advice in this article. If you will take the time to think carefully about all the advice you read then you should be able to strategically select the advice that is best suited for your family and your specific situation, and you will not be making your decisions based on "sensationalism and fear."

Respectfully,
Grandpappy.



Click on www.grandpappy.org for Robert's Home Page.

Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com