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From the somewhat guilt filled comforts of Greece, I have been thinking about what I learned from the recent Cairo SHTF experience. I am not putting myself forth as an expert of any sort and, frankly, many or even most items on the list below might be flat out wrong….who the hell knows. We were in Cairo from Jan 25th until late Feb 3rd when the neighborhood gunfire became full-auto and regularly occurring. At that point, we decided that Friday prayers (the next day) might not yield a pleasant experience. We had no way of knowing that we had already seen the worst.
Lesson #1….the best weapon for SHTF is truly whatever F*&$ING firearm you can lay your hands on and it does not matter the slightest bit what it is! I had a borrowed three shot semi-auto Beretta 26" bbl trap grade shotgun. I LOVED IT. It was my baby and I truly miss it now!. That said, I would have given my left nut for my Yugo underfolder or SGL-21. Frankly, I am now of the opinion that if, in the moment, you are being AT ALL picky about firearms then by definition the **** has NOT truly hit the fan. One guy on our street only had a nice little S&W J-frame .22 and he seemed a lot more relaxed than the guys with baseball bats I can tell you that!
Lesson #2…..Good will with one’s friends and neighbors has the power to greatly enhance or even make unnecessary ABSOLUTELY ANY prep you can make (including having money). Bad will with ones neighbors similarly has the ability to completely nullify any prep (again, including having money). I am and was the lucky beneficiary and supplier of the former. As an example, one night on the street a local young cop who lived in the neighborhood asked me "where did you get that shotgun". I winked and said, "I found it". He just smirked and said, "Oh…OK". End of conversation. That’s what is achieved by six years of being the "Cool American" who takes the time to chat with everyone from street vendors, doormen, and neighborhood kids to villa owners and businessmen.
Lesson #3….Bugging out is really only an option if you are lucky enough to be psychic and see the **** BEFORE it truly hits the fan. The bug out plans you have will almost certainly physically be blocked when SHTF. Good luck getting to Alexandria after SHTF in Tahrir square or to Aswan when the government shuts down the rail network! Frankly, we almost realized we had those options before they were blocked off but by they might have been more dangerous than bugging in with our friends and neighbors and banding together to protect the neighborhood. Further, I did not want to be a "refugee" so bugging in was perfectly fine since we prepped wisely. That said, and in spite of the above, when you see an escape route, RUN (see Lesson #4 and #11)!
Lesson #9…When the players in a conflict become ill-defined, it’s time to step aside. If you know who the bad guys are, you can play this game but when it becomes a war of all against all, it becomes imperative to stay out of the game where EVERYONE loses. The Feb 2 riots that took place the night before we left were a perfect example of this. It was no longer just looters we were worried about, it was EVERYONE. Buildings were being occupied in Tahrir presumably by both sides of the conflict and I didn’t want to wait for this phenomenon to come 5 blocks south to us. If SHTF starts to look too much like civil war, it’s "game over" and time to make a change.
Lesson #11…People WILL sell you out. Be prepared for it and know that it might come from anywhere…."Friends", Relatives, or employers. Someone will almost assuredly ditch you or put you in a tight spot while covering their own ass. The toughest part of this lesson is coming to terms with the fact that at some point, it’s totally justifiable and yes even forgivable. Understand that at some point your OWN family will be the priority and that you will be the one who is selling out people you know and likely care for. I know that this is not at all a comfortable thought, but it is realistic.
Lesson #13….Diverisfy your financial position. Gold will not buy groceries (but see Lesson #14) and cash won’t buy an emergency flight over the internet. Similarly, your big neighborhood Christian grocer will get freaked out over the religious implications of SHTF and close. Guess what, he is the only guy in a 10 mile radius who takes credit cards…so have cash! Further, diversify your currencies in international terms by holding foreign currency for the place you intend to bug out too (and maybe even one or two others since you never know where you might be going). From now on I will hold Egyptian Pounds, Dollars, Euros, and Jordanian Dinar….at a minimum.
Lesson #14…Gold….OWN IT! It may not work with the grocer you barely know as a medium of exchange but it damn sure makes great collateral eg. "OK…you keep this gold sovereign and I will buy it back from you for the 200 Egyptian pounds I owe you as soon as the ATMs start working". It’s great bribe material too, though I didn’t have to resort to it, when you want to get your beloved dog on a "no-pets" flight.
Lesson #15….Silver….Keep some but only buy it in major quantity with your gold when things have calmed down and you know you wont be bugging out! Silver had taken a good dip about a week before SHTF and I was this close to buying a few kg bars the day or two before the protests started. I didn’t and am VERY glad. Silver is of course bulky and heavy and I would not have needed those extra kgs when we were finally on the move ten or eleven days later. Silver is a great medium of exchange when things have settled down after SHTF but it is not a great prep UNLESS you keep it confined to maybe a single kg of junk silver or small rounds.
Lesson #18….Stock your liquor cabinet. Do so partially for barter and good will purposes, but also understand that when a curfew is imposed during SHTF, the impromptu "revolution party" will become common. I was teargassed on day 3 or 4 and scooped up six random study abroad journalism students who were literally trapped by police in my neighborhood. The police had blocked off all entrances and exits so these red-eyed kids could literally not get home. We all went back to my apartment where, over the next 6 hours or so, my wife, these kids, and I did some serious damage to a bottle of red label. On top of that, the realistic reason for stocking up is that after a few days of staying up all night enjoying what SHTF has to offer, you will have trouble sleeping and a wee dram never hurts.