Functioning During a Breakdown of Society

There are many disaster scenarios which are thought to have the potential to cause a general breakdown in society. People have proposed everything from food shortages to an EMP attack, with a financial collapse somewhere in between. But depending on how you define it, experiencing an actual breakdown in society is both rarer and more common that we think.

Let me define what I’m talking about here. A breakdown in society is really a breakdown in law and order. That means that the government is unable to properly police society, acting as a deterrent to crime and punishing criminals accordingly. On one end of the scale, we see that regularly in places like Chicago, where gang violence accounts for a steady stream of shootings. It’s also happening in downtown Portland, where the leftist mayor and police chief are allowing ANTIFA to take control of the streets, without opposition.

Another place where we see a breakdown in society is in the wake of just about any major disaster, such as a hurricane. Government officials are unable to meet all the needs in such a time, so looters and other petty criminals have a field day, breaking into homes and stores and stealing things.

However, on the other end of the scale, the examples I’ve just given are actually rather minor breakdowns in society. Not only are they localized, but in most cases they are limited in how long they last. In no way do they qualify as a major breakdown in society, such as what is happening in Venezuela today, as people suffer in poverty imposed upon them by a Communist government.

Perhaps one of the best examples of a breakdown in society, caused by a financial collapse, is that which happened in Argentina, during their 1999 – 2001 financial collapse. Crime skyrocketed at that time, as 25 percent of the population was unemployed. The economy was in a shambles.

Desperate people, they say, do desperate things, and that’s what happened in Argentina. It became dangerous to allow children to play outside. Law abiding citizens locked their doors at sundown and weren’t seen until the next morning. Drivers would slow down for stoplights, but would keep driving through, once they saw it was safe. People did what they had to, in order to protect themselves.

But while 25% of the population was unemployed, with some of those people turning to crime, 75% was still gainfully employed, making a living. Runaway inflation made it hard for these people to live at their normal level of comfort, but they adapted and lived. These people had no reason to turn to crime, but rather were trying to protect themselves from those who did.

This is where things can get a little sticky. When law-abiding citizens are forced to defend themselves from criminals, it can end up where the criminals become victims and the victims are criminalized. If you or I were to shoot in defense of our families in such a situation, we would have to be sure that it was necessary to take that shot. Otherwise, we could find ourselves in a situation where we are charged with the unlawful death or injury of someone who we are trying to defend our families from.

While the possibility does exist that there could be a major enough TEOTWAWKI event that law and order breaks down and stays that way for a number of years, it is highly unlikely. What is much more likely to happen is a situation where there is a short-term, partial breakdown, leaving us in the position of lacking effective police protection. But, and this is the important part, the courts and police will still be operating.

What that means is that there is no situation we can expect, where it will be possible to shoot someone, even in self-defense, without facing the potential of criminal prosecution. In other words, even in the worst situation you can imagine, chances are that you will go to court and have to prove that your actions were taken in self-defense.

With that being the case, it only makes sense to apply the same rules of engagement in a post-disaster situation, as we would use every other day of our lives. Yes, that puts us at risk of being shot by a criminal; but we’re already at risk of that. At least we won’t find ourselves as the criminal.

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Jake Buckland

Honors. B.A. Criminology, M.A. Disaster and Emergency Management. 10 years Army (7 years Communication & 3 years Intelligence). 7 years Federal Government (Public Service & Emergency Management). Expert Author - Practical Emergency Kits

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