This is an article our host (yours truly) wrote for "Survivalblog" in Dec of 2010, I'll share it with you. It's a wee bit long, but I believe it holds a lot of ideas people rarely prepare for, and would serve as a good base for deeper discussion on such matters. -Kelly
MORALITY WHEN THE SHTF - Will the real BG please stand-up?
You don't have to read many gun blogs before you are faced with discussion regarding "BG's". The context will reveal that we are not talking about a rock band with a particularly high-pitched vocalist, but that a BG is forum-speak for "Bad Guy". In these discussions you'll find that BG's are always in desperate need of having an end put to their pathetic lives, and that they are nothing really but a target waiting to be acquired. But does reality reflect logic? Does every BG have an angry scowl and use someone's beautiful daughter as a human shield?
Life, unlike some forum discussions, is chuck-full of grey areas, shadowy concealments, and moral dilemmas where right and wrong can be difficult or impossible to distinguish in the short time to takes to apply draw, front-sight, press, front-sight. We don't like to hear that. We prefer to think that when the waste hits the whirler we'll know exactly what to do, but reality screams otherwise. Ask any combat veteran or beat cop about reality versus training, the tunnel vision and hyper-awareness of a genuine adrenaline dump can greatly affect one's perceptions of the situation at hand, and severely limit our ability to find the coherent choices we may need in those split seconds that tick by so slowly in hind-sight yet are over in a blink in real-life.
We train for just such reality. We prepare for just such circumstances. We train so that muscles do their job even if minds turn to butter, just like we prepare so that we'll have the particular supply in hand the moment the need arises. Yet there is an issue of preparedness which few people intentionally train for, and fewer still take the time to ponder in any degree comparable to how they worry about food, ammo, or shelter. That issue is morality.
Morality is completely irrelevant if the BG is always readily identifiable, like the sinister dude on those full-color paper targets which are so popular, but bad guys are never so simple to spot. More people have lost their lives at home and abroad to unexpected encounters with a smiling stranger than with an obviously motivated mugger. Now if the bad guys are hard to spot, don't think the good guys are always easy to distinguish either. To further play into this difficulty, remember that YOU are a stranger to a great many people, and in TEOTWAWKI any stranger might decide you are a threat to be shot first and questioned only afterward. To these concerns we must realize that morality is the straw that braces the world from tumbling into darkness. Morality is also a very relative term, and an even more fluid target to try and live in even a relatively peaceful world like most of us enjoy today, to say nothing of a post-disaster, or dollar-starved, social environment.
How does one prepare for such a world? How do we train for the situations we might face regarding a fallen or collapsing moral structure? If truth be told I fear some of our own good folks sometimes. When I hear some prepper buddy talking trash about BGs in the context of complete legal ignorance of even our existing laws, it scares me. When that same individual seems to get a twinkle in his eye at the thought of zero prosecution in a weak or fallen local civil structure I start maneuvering my kids away from him, because here is one that might be a bit too trigger happy.
Want a practical example? Assume everything fell and the crops are growing well in your little hide-away. You return from a hunting trip and find a man with a rifle under one arm and load of your fresh produce under the other. The trigger-happy hero wannabe draws his .45 and taps two rounds center-mass, thump, garden fodder? Does he even consider that fifteen minutes later the mother of that fifteen year-old "man" might be at his feet wailing the loss of her son? Can he take-back those bullets when she explains that they had company coming and needed to borrow a few things. Knowing he was away on a hunt they had assumed they could barter appropriate payment when he returned, but instead the lad is dead. He'd brought a rifle because everyone carries a rifle now when they are alone... it's a different world when the SHTF, and our trigger-happy "friend" wasn't morally ready for it. He did not train his mind & heart to work in tandem with his body.
TRAINING DAY - SEVEN EVERY DAY IDEAS TO "PRACTICE"
Obviously every day is training day when it comes to morality. Any trip to Wal-Mart or visit to a neighbor's home is an opportunity to practice one's judgment of the intents of others, while putting your own best manners all the way forward. On a practical level though, it's hard to train without narrowing the focus. Like all our other prepping, we should specify the particular needs and scenarios we might face. For this, I'm going to narrow the moral field to seven specific areas, not in their particular order of importance per se, but I'll discuss them in the order in which they build upon themselves to form a full moral foundation. Others might divide these differently, or might disagree with the ones I put forward, but that is training in itself since the real world is nothing but differences of opinion on how we should all get-along.
I won't bother explaining the source for my ideas at this point, since it will be clear by the time we reach the end of the article, but keep in mind all throughout that general morality is not the possession of any particular religion or sect, it is the factor which sets every man apart from the animal kingdom. The very fact that an individual can form words into language and thereby communicate his own most personal thoughts to another individual is light years ahead of even the best communication among beasts. Likewise though, the necessity of words and language in such communication is also the loose thread that can pull the entire garment to pieces, so we must be careful. We'll build one piece onto the next, in order, and with reason, we'll construct a concept about morality which, if communication proceeds in peaceful lines, will permit the discussion to grow, and the ideas to be perhaps steered toward a far more useful implementation than is suggested here where only my one mind is spewing the ideas.
Since we are talking about BG's, let's begin our journey with the foundational idea of life. Our concept holds that life is afforded only to individuals, and for life to continue it must, without exception, be subject at various times to the will and whim of other individuals. For our first moral analysis let's consider the abrupt termination of life we term as murder. For society to thrive, before or after a fall of any kind, we must not tolerate "murder".
ONE - DON'T MURDER
If we must not tolerate murder then it is vastly important that we properly define murder, so let’s call it the intentional termination of a human life without justifiable cause. Such a definition helps us differentiate taking a human life versus an animal life, something we’ll deal with in greater detail later. It also helps us focus on the motive behind taking this life, when we must stop to consider whether such an act is “justifiable” we come face to face with society. The very term “justifiable” implies that there is some entity other-than the one taking said life, an entity to whom the homicide must be accounted to. Most any of us might “justify” homicide several times a day, during brief lapses from rational thought, but knowing the matter would be judged by others makes us all think twice (God-only knows how many ill-tempered managers have been saved from a “death by stapler” through such efforts of conscience). Like the example of our trigger-happy friend in the garden, an individual might justify lethal action within his own mind during a particular situation, but it can be another thing altogether to stand among your peers and explain exactly why you pulled the trigger, what events led-up to it, and what other options may have been available. Depending on how bad things get in TEOTWAWKI, our neighbors and any remaining law-enforcement might be a bit more lenient than now, but we should hope that they keep a rational judgment of such things, and that we don’t see the better aspects of society fall to fear and panic.
What “justifies” the application of lethal force? Most likely the same factors we consider now, would apply just as well in times of massive societal stress, but the situations might be more frequent, and more severe. Specifically, there are three clear indicators an individual must consider in those split-seconds when he is “choosing” whether to defend with lethal force. This BG might indicate the ABILITY to kill or maim, having weapons or known skills. He must also show the INTENT for grave bodily harm, displaying or verbalizing an immediate threat. Finally he must have the immediate OPPORTUNITY to exercise his ability & intent.
If all three of those reasons are present, ability, intent, and opportunity, AND you cause the BGs death, then you might not face prison in our current American system, but there are always factors which can complicate things, and there is rarely indisputable evidence that you made the right choice - how much more so in a world fallen into potential chaos? Will your peers be thinking rationally or will we default to the Old West 1.0? If so you might be able to “get-away with” some bad choices (which trigger-happy folks look forward to); but keep in mind that evil can likewise turn your way with little recourse of justice if we fall that far morally. Will the BG put all his cards on the table in time for you to make a clear choice? He might sneak-up with a smile, all three indicators might not be present, and ignoring your gut could get you dead.
Here is where it’s vitally important that we “train” even for moral actions. In a world where any stranger might be a murderous BG you need to have more options than just live and let live, but when that world is also inhabited by people of generally good character we also can’t adopt a kill or be killed attitude. Good training is to take day to day situations now, and apply them to your best-guess post-fall neighborhood. There’s a strange car in the drive, how should you enter the house? Should you drive around the block and reconnoiter via phone or observation? Do you have access to the tools and ideas you’d need to resolve this? What if a stranger catches you chopping wood in the backyard and is quickly approaching, should you draw your .45 and shout for him to reach for the sky? Do you carry a pistol while you chop wood?
You don’t need to actually act-out these scenarios, but at least play them through your mind a few times. What moral issues might you face if your family is potentially held hostage? You might be physically prepared by having weapons stowed in your car or an outbuilding, but are you morally prepared? Would you enter guns blazing & risk killing family? Would you snipe the supposed BGs through a window and risk escalating a simple scavenging mission into an ugly blood-bath? How would you react to the sudden introduction of a random stranger to your daily routine? What actions could you take that would balance hospitality with awareness of the potential threat? Be creative.
Those who have trigger-happy tendencies should man-up and recognize the trait in themselves now, before the SHTF, and train themselves to spot the good in folks before they wind-up in an ugly situation where they were blind to the innocent intentions of someone whose life they ended too soon. In contrast, those who have milk-toast personalities and get squeamish at squashing spiders should also man-up and realize that if they truly hope to prepare for the rough times ahead, they need to train their moral-center now, so they can be ready to protect those they love. We can prepare our stored goods, and can train our bodies, but the readiness we need to have morally can only be forged in the furnace of day by day application and creative mental considerations. There truly IS “a time to kill, and a time to let live”.
When it comes to homicide, some people are natural-born-killers long before they ever learn to use a weapon. They have trained their minds everyday by looking for excuses to hate and hurt. Such people see end-game scenarios as a place to play-out bloody fantasies. Others see the coming times as a cleansing of society, the natural result of greed and elitism, but an event which can right the wrongs which politics and wealth couldn’t touch. Such people want to help put the pieces back together after a fall, and their minds, though aware of potent danger, are honed to find ways to build community, and strengthen the moral foundations of their neighborhoods – they look to strengthen life, not end it.
In that respect, moral-training should be constantly looking for creative ways to resolve difficult situations. That might mean thinking outside the box when it comes to family disputes, looking for new ways to respond instead of just doing what dear old Dad did. It might mean trying extra-hard to keep a smile on your face when you feel offended during some menial act of commerce. Such things may seem silly and small, but it’s the kind of mental self-control we train for at the range when we swap mags between strings of rapid-fire target practice. You work at something till the muscle-memory takes-over even under stress, and your mind is a muscle which can be worked in the same way.
TWO – DON’T STEAL
Stealing, more so than murder, helps us to really begin to see how morality can begin to blur the lines a bit between the good guys and bad guys. Even thugs view the taking of a human life as a pretty serious thing, but when we begin to talk about taking property a lot of otherwise good folks find peculiar ways to justify what is undeniably theft. So to make matters clear, let’s define “stealing” as taking what belongs to others. In some respects, theft is just a lesser form of murder - I mean really, even life is only our possession temporarily, none of us keep it forever, we eventually give it up as we do all our belongings. So do we take life more seriously than property, or are we really much more serious about our belongings than we realize?
Anyone who has ever had anything of value taken from them knows the flood of emotions that can pour into your mind. It’s easy to start fantasizing about catching that person red-handed next time. That’s part of why some states have castle-doctrine laws, but there can be a wide gap between legal and moral justification behind protecting one's property, and so much the more when it comes to stealing the property of others.
In our pleasant pre-fall world we often blow-off "little" thefts. Printing that personal document on your bosses printer, or intentionally wasting time at work, are technically theft. Cheating on your taxes to avoid paying more than your rightfully "owe" Uncle Sam might be rationalized in a time when we all feel over-taxed, but let the IRS catch your tricks and there will be legal recourse. Morally speaking, there is a big difference between actually justifying something, and only rationalizing it. When the fan starts flinging foul things our personal ability to morally distinguish between justifying and rationalizing might be the difference between life or death. Lets consider some examples.
The teenager in the garden of our trigger-happy friend, was he stealing? Technically yes, in that he didn't have permission to take those veggies. But before we label him as a BG we should realize there must have been some rational belief on the part of his mother which led her to believe it would be ok to work-out the details later. Her rational mind surveyed the need to feed her guests, weighed it against the fact Mr. Trigger was away for a while, and concluded it was not really stealing but just a trade in process. There is no way she would have rationally considered that her dear son would be shot dead by their normally friendly neighbor.
Lets get ugly now and build a post apocalyptic scene of mayhem and murder. Society collapsed almost overnight, before you could even get out of Dodge, and you are finally working your way toward the safehouse where you plan to meet-up with others. Your family & belongings are in the Travel-all when it runs out of gas on a back road, very near a farm house. Your keen observations detect no signs of life at the farm, and your "Hello the house!" has raised no response. When you carefully enter the house you find a murdered family, Everything indicates that scavengers took what they wanted very quickly and moved-on. A quick survey of the premesis reveals no survivors, but lots of important items the BGs missed. Now the question, do YOU become an instant BG if you "take" anything here?
Ponder this. Maybe there are survivors who just wandered into the timber to mourn, will they return to find nothing to survive on because YOU stole it all? Does the fact that someone less moral than yourself could stumble along an hour after you leave it all untouched and take it anyway play into your thought process? Human beings have already adapted all manner of fine excuses for our immoral behaviors, how much more so in TEOTWAWKI?
With all moral questions it's best to keep things simple and stick to the facts, so let's apply our simple definition to the ugly scene at the farm. If stealing is "taking what belongs to others" then clearly the folks to whom this "stuff" belongs are no longer claiming it, that makes the property in question something more like "lost items". Hopefully even in collapse (maybe especially in collapse?) we will live by the golden-rule, so consider if you lost something, you would hope the finder would want to return it to you. We write our names in things because we hope someone will return it to us if it's misplaced, but in this case we know the owners because the stuff is ON their premesis, and while the deceased might make no claim of the the lost items, a mourning survivor might return any moment. Like the mother of our teenage veggie-gatherer, we have rational beliefs about our situation, we can assume beyond a reasonable doubt that there are no survivors, and thus help ourselves - there would likely be moral justification for this.
Playing it a little further though, assuming a survivor did indeed return, and he caught you in the act of pillaging his home during his time of grief. If that survivor is armed you now have more moral questions to ponder. From his perspective (and legally) you are trespassing, you are stealing (unbeknownst to you till now), and he might easily rationalize opening fire on you and yours! Things could go from ugly to gruesome in seconds as this survivor fulfills the honest desires for vengeance any of us might play with in such a situation. All your rational intents have taken place inside your own mind, and within your family discussion, the survivor is not privy to your insight, he sees only more looters and his own red grief. You might still be a good guy in reality, with no immoral intent to steal, but had you practiced this scene in your mind before the fall you might have considered putting a sympathetic look-out in place. Your look-out could watch for returning survivors or more looting BGs, carefully discern which one this is, and intercept them in an appropriate manner to avoid any loss of life. Who knows, perhaps this lonely survivor would make a providential addition to your little clan of like-minded friends; and at the very least he could certainly use the presence of good people as he works-through his grief.
Economic collapse, or the fall of the many powers which keep modern society in-check needn't mean it's time to throw morality to the wind. In fact the opposite should be, we should all the more uphold moral ideals, since such would be among very few foundations left to stand upon in keeping our humanity intact and differentiated from the animal kingdom. In that light we should appreciate that the root of theft is greed for more than we have at hand. Greed is the most likely candidate for ushering-in collapse in the first place, why should good and moral people play that same game? Thus applying factors of greed in our scene at hand, and assuming no survivors present themselves, how much should one "take" from the farm before continuing on our merry way? If you find yourself in need then likely others are in the same need, so is it morally good to take everything you can carry, including the last can of Who-Hash? Consider leaving things for the next guy, maybe even stacking them in plain sight with a note of encouragement. If one believes in providence then we needn't be greedy. Our every kind act will only influence a better road ahead for us and for those who follow-after. If one doesn't believe in providence then surviving a collapse like we are describing can be a living Hell, with one torturous day leading into the next, with existence as the final goal - that can make for a very sad life.
Again, today is training day for this moral faculty. A person should practice recognizing ownership of items, and appreciating the payment for services as a part of what one owns. Likewise, we should be careful to consider the motives of our judgment when it comes to sharing what we have at hand. Not every charity is a rip-off, so one should judge carefully. When looking for good opportunities to give charity, try not to be lazy about it by only giving to those who come begging. The world is full of needy people who would never ask for a hand-out, and maybe they have need of some item you possess more than they need your cash. Remember, some day you might be in need, and at such a time we can hope that providence smiles on you in the same measure you smiled at others.
THREE - DON'T NEGLECT JUSTICE
There is a verse where God commanded the Jewish people saying, "Justice, justice you shall follow, so that you may live and possess the land". The idea is implied that if His people neglect keeping justice they can expect trouble measure for measure. In the context of that command God also told them to "appoint judges and officers in all your gates". Regardless whether one lives their life by such words, it seems obvious that the principle is one that works very well when applied with care. Our great nation set a standard for such justice when the Constitution was penned, but it seems that in recent years we have neglected the proper care necessary to assure that justice is followed. In that respect I see several important reasons for this failure, and each is outlined subtly in the quotes I just made from the Bible.
First, we seem to have lost sight of what "justice" truly is. I prefer to read the Good Book in its original language, and there I find that when it says "justice, justice" we are actually translating a word which we usually translate to say "righteousness". When we think of justice we should naturally think of what is "right", what is proper, what is moral; but sadly today we tend to argue cases based on what is "legal". To follow justice in terms of "righteousness" though, is about more than just legal concerns. Of course righteousness implies a religious connotation, and those without religion, or those who hold a minority view in regard to religion, might take offense; but in fact, the religious value of righteousness relates at a higher level than who is right or wrong about "God", it rests at a level which admits that each man is accountable. In that light every individual must consider his actions in every respect. A secular man should be concerned about his place in the community, and should abide by its laws. A religious man should have the same concerns, and in addition concern himself with his standing before God almighty.
Secondly then, we must consider that those who wish to follow justice, will from time to time be required to exercise decisions in questionable matters. As we discussed regarding murder and theft, there are times when the line between right and wrong is difficult to discern. If righteousness effects individuals as they relate to the community and to God, then how much more so the judges and groups which will serve to assure that justice is followed in a righteousness manner?
If society collapses then our existing justice system may likely follow suit. The current system is pretty wacked already, but at least it's a system. When collapse comes any remaining authorities may introduce martial law, and we can't delve into the details here for how to deal with life in those confines, so let's think smaller, focusing on the local level. When the SHTF a great many municipal funds will be weak or empty, forcing the shut-down or minimizing of police & fire departments (entire states are currently facing nearly this degree of trouble already [Kelly adds: since the writing of this article many communities have shut-down fire companies & police precincts, and stories of woe can be told]). So the question at hand will become "How can we maintain justice"? On a local level, where individual communities have need to govern themselves in the absence of State or Federal help, people must be willing to agree together as a community regarding how justice will be served, who will administer the tough decisions, and in what way we should expect such servants of justice to labor. Jails and prisons, probationary officials, and a great many other servants of justice work behind the scenes now, but with no paycheck they may have to find other ways to eat. Without such systems local justice may not have the luxury of extended trials and lengthy appeal processes. Good people may be forced to do the best they can when deciding matters of legal consequence, and situations like that can separate the good guys from the BGs pretty quick!
Thirdly, the Biblical command to serve justice was to be measured "in your gates", meaning that each community was to appoint its judges and establish justice for itself. Difficult cases could be taken to regional and national levels for consideration, but the day to day judgments were made per the needs and understanding of the local community, in the context of the underlying moral code God had given in Torah. In TEOTWAWKI the 613 commands given at Sinai would be neither practical nor applicable to any gentile community, but the underlying principles of morality which are common to mankind should certainly enter our discussion.
If history proves nothing else it bears record that mankind has a way of complicating things. We are prone to add tiny bits and pieces to beautifully simple ideas and processes until the beauty becomes lost in layers of details. Such has been the problem with politics and religion since the dawn of history. When the SHTF, perhaps the details can melt-away and reveal the shining simplicity of moral virtue. It's hard to imagine, but the very attempt by good and godly people to live together peacefully in a world gone to Hell, might be enough to rekindle the embers of the ancient virtues of simple morality. With the collapse of religious systems morality may be reduced to the lowest common denominator, but that is NOT to say morality is out the window, (as BGs might prefer), rather it brings those who wish to live in community to a CHOICE - are they willing to look their neighbor in the face and know that the simple moral codes they have in common are more important than the dogmas which separated them before the SHTF?
Of course "the Devil is in the details", and men will always have disputes, but if a simple code of moral conduct is well-known and established, and each community upholds that code to the best of its abilities, then disputes can be settled without the need of bloated legal systems. The moral code I have been writing about up to this point is based in the seven Biblical commands given to Noah, and are known in Jewish tradition as "The Noahide laws". Living such a code in TEOTWAWKI would not necessarily make a Christian less Christian, nor should it be offensive for a Hindu or Buddhist, because we are not talking about doctrine here, but about righteous behavior. Jewish people should not be troubled by gentiles living this code, since they allege these ideas were given originally to Noah, and were reiterated by Moses at Sinai, (in fact it could be argued from Genesis that all gentiles were aware of this code already, and lived it to varying degrees from Adam’s time).
Having already discussed how three of the seven Noahide laws could be applied, its easy to consider the rest of them in a similar context. If we can assume that the best situation for mankind is to live in community, and not entirely seclude his family during troubled times, then applying this code of conduct would allow most any individual or group to get along with outsiders who adhered to the same code. Different communities might vary somewhat on their application of certain details of this code, but the general practice of these standards could aid the interactions from one community to the next for commerce and trade, since knowing the boundaries for behavior is crucial in any cultural interaction. Murder and theft are obvious problems in most any culture, and the remaining four laws are captured within the concern for justice, given that we should hope not to offend our neighbors if we want to live peaceably.
FOUR - DON'T BE IMMORAL
Moving-on in this seven-part code, we can appreciate that "immorality" is often a dividing factor in today's society, and could make for difficulties even within a single community, nevertheless when several communities try to interact. Again though, we should seek common ground in this issue, and as it relates to Noah, the common ground was in the command to "be fruitful and multiply". There is really no moral truth required in realizing that the physical union of a man and woman can bring offspring, but how to formalize that sexual union is varied in many ways by cultures and religions.
Marriage is the most common way to formalize a sexual couple's decision to mate, but to truly appreciate marriage one has to step away from his own culture and appreciate that marriage as we know it has gone through some pretty radical transformations since Noah's day. I have never walked through goats blood with another man in order to finalize a marriage contract for our children, but I suppose their are ancient beduins who would find it peculiar for me to hand-over my daughter to some fella to watch them proceed with a marriage ceremony. Truth be told, even today our own cultural experience can easily blind us to the core value of what marriage is all about, so it isn't hard to imagine how our views on marriage might need to adjust if the SHTF.
Life must go on, and that is not all about gardening and setting-up watch posts, someone must make babies, and raise children while we adjust to whatever chaos might strike, and any of my single-parent friends are quick to admit that the task is much easier as a couple. If one can imagine a community banding together to help protect each other’s crops and livestock its not a stretch to consider they would likewise guard the local gene pool. Marriage might be able to shed some of it's religious formalities if necessary, but its not likely that a man would tolerate an adulterer, or that every unwed daughter would be free to bed whoever catches her eye. In a world where food and other essentials might come at a high cost of labor and trade, the idea of bringing more mouths to the table would be taken very seriously. With birth being tied directly to sex, the latter might become more of a privilege for the worthy, rather than a past-time for bored.
What we roll our eyes at today, might cause heads to roll when the SHTF, so those who are morally practiced to restrain their lusts might have a serious advantage. Let's face it, sex is not impossible outside the bonds of matrimony, and is often practiced for reasons other than procreation, so lets get practical with this idea as well, and apply it in a world gone to Hell scenario. Its not hard to fathom that some people who enjoy today's permissive societal standards for sexual deviations would love to seize the moment if law enforcement gets toned-down or disbanded. This is all the more reason to live in community and to uphold justice, since the fathers and husbands of the world aren't likely be peaceful if predators start stalking around. Who is the "bad guy" in the eyes of a community when a girl from a respectful family is deflowered or becomes pregnant? Is it only some wandering pervert who sneaked past the guards, or is the neighbor's heavily hormoned teenage son just as potentially bad?
The girl isn't married, she might not even be promised or engaged, so technically its not adultery, but that doesn't make his advances a good moral choice. Is she old enough to safely bear children if pregnancy occurs? Is he able to help care for them, and do his part in the community? His inability to restrain his youthful urges might itself prove him a less than worthy mate, and the world around them is an unforgiving place for those with weaknesses. Even if she, in her pining love, consents to his advances, the responsibility for their decision could easily effect the entire community, especially if pregnancy and complications should arise.
The moral choice to engage in sex could carry very serious consequences, how grave then, would be the moral choices of those who would engage in relations which are more deviant? How should the community look upon those men who would let their lusts burn toward younger girls, or toward boys? Responsibility in the context of procreation isn't even the question in such a scene, but only selfish, greedy lust. Perhaps some communities would be more morally permissive than others, but it is hard to believe those who fail to rein-in diviance would survive long, and they would be hard-pressed to expect much cooperation with neighboring communities.
Clearly any community which hopes to uphold justice would need to establish standards for sexual relations, and would be required to respond quickly and seriously when established moral lines are crossed. If the moral standards are not kept the entire community is as much at risk as if their homes were unguarded or their crops left untended, good people would suffer, the BG becomes hard to identify, since either those who were immoral should be punished, or those who permitted their treachery.
FIVE - DON'T BLASPHEME
Western culture has primarily two moral foundations, based on two unique cultures: Greek, and Jewish. The ancient Greeks had reached the height of intellect in their time, concluding that morality means what is best for society; since their day though, history has proven that ethics steered by the needs of the time can foster incredible evil in social settings. Such moral ideals can be twisted to support Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, or any other regime where an elite few live greedily off the wealth generated by the masses. Jewish culture though, refused a moral standard which shifted with the ideas of men, and recognized that morality must come from beyond the human intellect, it must come from an Eternal Being Who rewards human accomplishment in keeping with His Divine standards. Such standards, though we might find societal benefits in them, are ultimately based solely on God's design.
It is sometimes hard to picture a society rising from the ashes of collapse with the ideals and intentions of "God" at their core. It can conjure images of a wildly religious people who are prone toward mindless rituals, who are led sheep-like in a post-apocalyptic world by wild-eyed shepherds. Yet the Noahide laws are quite the opposite of that picture, instead they encourage people to set-aside superstitious ideas and think for themselves about the day to day situations they are facing. This puts the rise from ashes squarely in the hands of the common folks of the community, the moral choices are not dictated by long lists of evils to avoid, but by farmers and shopkeepers with the best interest of their neighbors and community in mind.
Still, it is hard to see the idea of blasphemy as anything but religious, yet in reality, this too is a moral choice. In our American Society we enjoy the luxury of a freedom to speak our minds, and think for ourselves, even if our words and actions might offend those around us. We naturally see the opposite of such freedom in the milk-toast world of some who passively permit any and all offenses against themselves with no retribution or remark. The luxury of free speech must of course be upheld, and a healthy society is a balanced one, but to what degree? If we buy our groceries at Wal-Mart then I can damn my neighbor to Hell when he offends me in some way, but when we live in community and barter or share what we can with one another, then it is imperative that we should be careful about meaningless offenses, either in taking them or in giving them out.
Any post-fall community might have citizens with a vast array of religious values and theological ideas, and while healthy debate over such things is fine in the pubs and around dinner tables, a great deal of chaos can ensue if people take lightly the religion of his neighbors. Today an Atheist and a a devout Catholic can share a property line and have no real need to engage one another in conversation, but in the world we prepare for they might desperately need one another’s help and camaraderie. Dare the one look down on the other for his faith, or for the lack of it? For the sake of common need both must strive to not offend in religious matters the same as they would not think of crossing sexual boundaries with his neighbor's wife. If we can concern ourselves with offending our neighbors, then surely we can avoid offending God as well. If one has no belief in God then surely he can at least play nice for the sake of those around him who do hold such values.
Blasphemy then could be defined as an impious utterance or action concerning God, or the act of cursing or reviling God. If the members of a community are willing to think before they blow-away someone with an armload of veggies, and willing to curb his desires toward a neighbor's hot-looking daughter, then surely we could also take serious moral consideration about religious values. To be practical, the bad guy in this case might be some one who shares an off-color joke that threatens to divide good friends, here is a place to guard our tongues as well as our doors.
SIX - DON'T WORSHIP IDOLS
Granted we don't find a lot of altars to strange deities in American culture today, and the temple prostitutes so common to pagan religion went out of style a long time ago, but that doesn't mean we can ignore this subject if we hope to build a solid core for our fledging society. In the same way we avoid impiety for the sake of others, we should be able to limit our expression of religious tastes. We take for granted the many symbols of religions today, because in modern society these become little more than marketing tools, and at most they represent ideas and events of a particular religion. These are not usually a necessary part of the actual worship, and for the sake of conscience could be eliminated if push comes to shove. A bad guy here wouldn't need to be a Satanic priest threatening to spill the blood of a child on his altar, he could be far more subtle. [James W. Rawles rightly adds: Modern Western societies have obviously developed many contemporary idols, including money and celebrities.]
SEVEN - DON'T EAT MEAT FROM A LIVE ANIMAL (TREAT ANIMAL FLESH PROPERLY)
I'll grant this idea may have less application in our day, but if we consider its historical root we might be able to glean some appreciation from it. Like our mythical post-collapse world, Noah was rebuilding society after the catastrophic flood, and in the historic shadow of a world where immorality had truly run amok. He may well have been the world’s first "prepper", having worked on his ark for one hundred and twenty years before it ever floated. Genesis related that Noah was the first human being permitted to eat meat, where Adam and Eve had been given the same command to be fruitful and multiply, and they had dominion over all the animals, they were granted a strictly vegetarian diet. Noah though was told by God that animals were now on the menu (granted He says it more eloquently), but that they should not be eaten while they are still alive. This basically says that we shouldn't remove a chunk of meat or a limb from some poor beast without first ending it's life.
This is more important than we might realize at first glance. Remember how seriously we take the idea of ending a human life? That care is part of what makes-up our humanity, our moral base, but how far does our respect for life go? If conditions dictate that mankind needs to forage from the ground like an animal for a period of time to stay alive, is he reduced to the level of a beast? No, we should of course recognize the priority of man over the other living things thriving on our planet, but we should also appreciate that each life is brought before us by the grace of God. Today I can buy meat in a package and not even think about the long hours of hard work by crews of people who carefully kill and carve some unsuspecting bovine into my juicy T-bone, but when I'm hunting, and the life of some beast is in my hands, or farming and its time to put-up some bacon, it is important to appreciate the animal whose life will soon be supporting my own.
I should strive to make a clean kill, and to not be wasteful of the remains. In many ways the hunt or harvest of a living animal, and the labors of bringing it's meat to my table, should be a constant reminder that none of us live on our own. We breathe in and out, but even the energy to do so must be maintained constantly, and I should be glad to have that which feeds my need. If my heart can grow too cold to the spilling of blood for the purpose of maintaining my life, then how long till I fail to appreciate the sweat of my family or neighbors who help me labor toward that goal? LIFE is a powerful thing, but we hold it loosely in our hands far more often than we realize. Our own life would start to wane as soon as we fail to lift the spoon to our mouths, and the life of a "bad guy" might be either strengthened or spilled by our simple judgment of his intentions, a motive which is rarely as clearly revealed as we think, and which we must take care to judge rightly even during these days or moral training before the SHTF, yet even his life should be judged with respect - especially considering how easily mistaken i can be in labeling him a "BG".
Those of us who see the end coming, rarely think of it as such literally. I for one think the "end" is simply a collapse of systems that haven't worked and are designed precisely by greedy elitists to "not work" for the average Joe. To such folks we the people are no more that the analogous "copper tops" of The Matrix, We are an energy source from which they draw the power for their machines. The energy is our labor, and the power is the capital (spelled "dollars" in America) we use in order to eek-out existence from day to day. That power turns the gears of a vast network of machines, but the joke is on those elites, because as long as they are dependent on us for energy they have no real life of their own, they are truly machines and must therefore constantly devise new ways to avoid our inevitable waking from the slumber they have synthetically produced for us. When the day comes we realize that we can live without the many and various venues of entertainment which lull our sleep, their number will be up. But when that day comes we must prove ourselves more than just bi-pedal animals, we must be moral beings, capable of building a world which is better than the one upon whose ashes we would build.
The author is a toymaker who lives on the edge of a very average midwestern town with his wife and four children. He’s been prepping for a number of years, and more recently enjoying the application of community ideals as more like-minded folks band together for fellowship and ideas.