Charity and responsibility

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Made another trip to the Mormon cannery the other day. There were more people there  than at any point I recall in my brief time going there. However, despite the crowd and the apparent increased usage at the cannery, they were well stocked with the usual foods. I’m actually sitting pretty well on most of the types of foods they carry. It really has come to the point that one of the main reasons I go is to be around people who share a similar mindset as myself. They older gentleman running the place, for example, is great to talk to…he’s into amateur radio, takes preparedness very seriously, and will try to convince anyone he can that they need to stock up not only for themselves but to also encourage their neighbors to stock up because ‘really good people can do bad things when theyre desperate’. I agree with a good deal of that attitude except the ‘my brothers keeper’ part. Unprepared neighbors may be dangerous neighbors when theyre hungry, I agree. And I’ll mention once or twice “You know, you may wanna think about stockpiling some [food/fuel/water/etc]..ask me if you need help doing so.” And that’s about as far as my feelings of responsibility towards my fellow man go. If I tell you the train is coming and you continue to stand on the tracks…well, I warned you.

Are hungry neighbors dangerous neighbors? Of course they are. So I generally try to keep most of our preparedness stuff secret from pretty much everyone outside our immediate circle of friends. And, heaven forefend, the day comes when those hungry masses are hammering down the door clamoring for our food, our water, our medicines, our fuel….man, I hate to think what that would be like and I hate to think of the ugly, brutal choices that would have to be made. Another reason to have a “Plan B” place to go if things get that bad.

What about family and friends? Do we have a responsibility to them? Tough question. I don’t believe in forcing responsibilities on people. I think we’re only responsible to those people whom we have willingly, consciously, and actively agreed to accept responsibility for. That is to say, I agree to accept responsibility for helping out certain friends and family because I say “Yes, I will do this for you.” Anyone else is, generally, outta luck. In my case this isn’t a terribly big deal because 95% of my friends are also interested in preparedness. Odds are quite high they’ll be just fine. The rest of my family live a thousand or more miles away. Its seems unlikely they’ll make the journey to show up on my doorstep to say “You have to take care of me! Im your cousin!”.

When this subject comes up someone will invariably ask “What if a stranger with her starving children showed up on your doorstep and needed food or else her children would die?” Tough call. I like to think I would have enough to spare a small handout here and there but if theres the slightest chance that giving away our own supplies would put us in a more dangerous position, supplywise, then there’s no contest. We take care of ourselves and our interests before putting a strangers well-being ahead of our own. If you ‘give until it hurts’ then I think you’ve given too much.

This begets the next progression of thought – shouldn’t we stock extra food and materials for helping out the unprepared? To my way of thinking, there is no such thing as ‘extra’ to the point that you can give it away. Certainly I am not squandering what little financial resources I have for the purposes of giving it away to strangers…that’s the governments act, not mine. If I have enough money for 100# of rice I see it as 100# of rice for me and the missus, not as 75# of rice for us and 25# for the unprepared masses. A 25% ‘tax’ on what I buy and store is, again, the .gov’s answer to things…not mine. If we have 12 months of food and are trying to make it through a disaster of indefinite length what could possibly compel me to shorten our potential 12-month lifeline when , for all we know, the crisis may go 14-, 16- or 18-months? Imagine being on a plane that is spiraling to the ground…maybe the pilot will regain control before it crashes..maybe not. You have a parachute for every member of your family. Do you give away a couple of your kid’s parachutes to someone else and figure ‘well, maybe we won’t crash and we wont need them’? Of course not.

To expect a person, in a time of crisis, to act in a manner that is counter to their own survival seems pretty irrational. On the other hand, history and monuments testify to untold amounts of people who acted in a manner contrary to their own survival for the sake of others. We call these people ‘heroes’. It is worth noting, however, that all these people did their heroic acts of their own volition. They willingly accepted the responsibility to act, against their own interests and in the interest of another, and the consequences.

My long-winded and evasive point is that although the world is a better place for the actions of those who do feel they have a responsibility to others, I don’t share that responsibility and I don’t think theres anything wrong with that. Im sure somone will say “You’re a sociopath” but thats not really the case. Some might say that I’m being amoral (not immoral). Again, no. I simply think that asking me to cut my own throat to save a stranger isn’t terribly reasonable.

Some might say “What if it were you who needed help? Wouldn’t you want people to help you?”. Sure. But, first of all, the reason I go through the expense and effort of being prepared is so that Im not that person. Secondly, should something take place where Im in that position of vulnerability, while I would hope someone would be charitable I wouldnt expect (or demand) that someone put their own safety in jeopardy by giving me a handout….much akin to the same way Im not adverse to giving a handout if I can safely afford it.

I’m not against charity. I think the world is a better place for the charity of other people. I simply don’t feel that being so charitable to the point that you risk your own safety is a good idea. I don’t feel that I should have a responsibility forced on me by others. And, finally, I don’t think that not feeling a personal responsibility to feed every person who asks for it is wrong.  I’ll be charitable, sure..but when I want to, as much as I want to, to whomever I want. And I really think there’s nothing wrong with that.

6 thoughts on “Charity and responsibility

  1. Yep….James often encourages some of our friends toward preparedness. Sometimes their response is “Well, if something happens, we know where to go!” They jest…but we now respond to that in a way that lets them know their responsibility to take care of their needs as we will be putting away for our own family only.

  2. As I was canning my sauerkraut yesterday I remarked to my son, “we don’t need a year’s worth of food: we just need enough food to get us through to the next harvest.”

    There are nearly zero scenarios where I’d be hunkered in a bunker eating stored food for a year without going out and supplementing it. I’ve got garden beds, I’ve got a hunting weapon and access to game, I’ve got fishing lines and access to a river, I’ve got fruit trees and nut trees. I’ve got canning equipment and a dehydrator and a pickling crock. If I am staying in place then I’ve got the wherewithall to provide more food.

    If I’m NOT in place, i.e., a refugee, then all my stores of food won’t help me then, either. They’re not that portable.

    All in all, I think my SKILLS are the important thing. It’s not that I HAVE food, it’s that I know how to GET food.

  3. I quipped that to someone once when they told me about preparedness. Then the thought took hold and it lead me to getting prepared myself. A year later I mentioned it to them and I think they were relieved. 🙂

  4. Read in Survivalblog a while back a story from a guy who offered a couple friends/family a place to hide out from Katrina. Turns out they invited a few more families telling them ‘we know a guy where we can stay’ The awkwardness of the situation almost boiled over a few times but the guy showed remarkable restraint. Way more than I would have.

    The way I see it the 50% or so of my income the government takes away from me by force in the form of a dazzling myriad of taxes more than takes care of my charity committment. If the Red Cross, Food Bank, State/Local/Federal, Churches, LiveAid and whatever else is out there can’t take care of them then I can’t either.

    Those friends and family that give me the ‘we know where we’re going to go’ line are told in no uncertain terms that they are not invited, and if and when they do show up it better be with some sorority girls, pizza, beer and mucho guns and ammo. If not then Hasta La Vista baby.

    My home and supplies are for me, the wife/kids, grandkids and their significant others. Ten in all. All good shots, tradesmen, hard workers, quiet and polite. Don’t need or want anyone else.

  5. Sometimes their response is “Well, if something happens, we know where to go!”

    That “joke” bugs me, and I think the reason is that for some people it’s not truly a joke. Ha ha, only serious. I have yet to come up with a reply that’s socially acceptable but still true. My favorite so far is “Good luck finding us.”

  6. I had that problem myself..I was talking to two people I’m close to at work..and mentioned how I keep a well stocked pantry. I was not talking about s/p or anything of the nature..I was simply talking about how I jump on good prices and stock up (which is true). I said it made me feel good to know that if a hurricane or something came along that took stores out of commision for a day or two, I wouldn’t have a problem. One of them said “Oh well I know where I’m coming then”. I told them I wouldn’d feed them. Luckily they do not know where I live.

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