Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse

I've been meaning to do a review of The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse, by Fernando "FerFAL" Aguirre for quite awhile now.  Well, here it is.

Most of the survival guides which I've seen, such as Tappan On Survival or the works of John Wesley, Rawles (he spells his name with the comma) recommend heading for the hills in the event of a socio-economic collapse, or better yet moving out to an isolated rural location before the SHTF.  This recommendation is based on the theory that if the economy collapses, the have-nots will soon turn their attention to the haves and loot them for food, luxuries, and the womenfolk.  Thus, it's best to maximize the distance between yourself and the urban looters who will come for your stuff once their foodstuffs and supplies are exhuasted.

FerFAL takes a different approach, one worth listening to, because unlike Tappan or Rawles, he has actually lived through an economic collapse.  In his case, it was the 2001 collapse in Argentina, and its aftermath.  Rather than telling you to move to a rural retreat, FerFAL recommends you stay in "civilization" and enhance your skills to cope with how society evolves after a collapse.

One very important point the author makes regarding isolated rural retreats is that if you are attacked, help is a long time coming, and likely won't arrive until well after the criminals are long gone.  Examples of this are white farmers in rural Argentina, South Africa and Zimbabwe, who have suffered horrific home invasions in recent years.  If you're located in an urban area or a suburb, there is a much better chance of help arriving in time.  As with many things, choosing where to live is a balancing act and you need to weigh this factor, along with many other.

Although Argentina's economy collapsed in 2001, by and large the country did not devolve into some Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Although crime skyrocketed, people figured out ways to cope.  For example, private security became a booming  field.

While it may not be The Wasteland, property crimes and robberies have become much more common in Argentina.  FerFAL spends a lot of time discussing how to deal with this, from situtational awareness to carrying a pistol for self defense.  American survivalists often fixate on the best rifle for a SHTF scenario. In reality, the most important gun to have in the one you can take with you.  IOW, a pistol.  FerFAL favors a Glock and also likes the Argentine FM Hi Power (a Browning Hi Power produced under license from FN).  In general, he likes high capacity modern pistols since there are numerous cases where a good guy is confronted with several assailants.  Here in the US most defensive gun uses don't even require shots fired since criminals are generally loather to confront someone resisting with deadly force.  In the aftermath of an economic collapse, criminals may be more desperate, and thus more willing to take risks.  This is something to take into account if things ever get to that point in the US.

That said, after you get a suitable pistol and holster, you should still have a suitable home defense rifle or shotgun.

Aside from the dramatic increase in crime, one thing FerFAL emphasizes is that in the aftermath of an economic collapse, one of the keys to survival is adaptability.  In other words, you may need to change how you make your living, and may need to do a variety of things rather than holding down just one job.

FerFAL also discusses the use of precious metals (PMs) as barter material/alternate currency after a monetary collapse.  Reading his take on this (both in the book and on his blog) caused me to reevalute my own position on PMs, which I'd previously dismissed.

FerFAL's book is not without its faults.  The book is self-published.  English is not his first language and it would benefit from the attention of an editor.  There's also some coarse language which some people may find offputting.  That said, this book is unique (or nearly so) in that it is based on the real life experience of living through an economic collapse.  As such, it deserves a spot on the shelf of anyone concerned about the direction in which the US is heading.


Mo said...

Excellent review and perspective. Thanks for making me aware of it.

I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!

Tony said...

I haven't read the book, but I have read FerFAL's writings in his blog. One thing that is important to understand when reading his opinions is that just because something has worked well enough in some circumstances, that doesn't mean it is the optimal way to do things. Some people seem to place this guy on a pedestal because he has lived through an economic collapse in a country, without considering the fact that the guy is not some sort of survival expert who can do nothing wrong, but rather a regular bloke who lived through some difficult times. There is value in what he writes, most definitely, but every now and again I am left wondering whether the reason something worked for him was simply that it was never really tested, and if another way to do things would not be better.

To touch something written in this review, living in an urban area without an economic collapse going on around me, the notion that "help" would arrive in time to be of any use is... Well, let's say I'm pretty doubtful about that. I could get lucky, of course, but even in normal situations the budgets are small and resources of first responders - whether police, EMT or fire department - are stretched thin. Add a serious financial situation on top of that and you can bet the same organizations budgets are cut even more. Choosing to live in an urban area during an economic collapse on the basis of emergency service response times sounds very iffy.

Despite these issues, I would recommend everyone thinking about survival scenarios to familiarize themselves on FerFAL's writings. It appears to me that when Americans discuss survival, the discussion often becomes a very unlikely Mad Maxish escapist fantasy. FerFAL's writings bring a lot of realism into the discussion. "How can I continue to make a living" becomes a much more relevant issue than "what's the best rifle caliber for zombies at 400 meters"...