"Emergency": A Book Review

Written By Nick Hodge

Posted December 10, 2011

I have a confession to make…

I sometimes look at the world through what Neil Strauss calls “apocalypse eyes.”

It’s not something I want to happen. I view it as a hope-for-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst kind of thing.

As Strauss puts it in the best-selling book Emergency:

… all it would take is one war, one riot, one dirty bomb, one natural disaster, one marauding army, one economic catastrophe, one vial containing one virus to bring it all smashing down. We’ve seen it happen in Hiroshima. In Baghdad. In Halabja. In New Orleans.

Our society, which seems so sturdily built out of concrete and custom, is just a temporary resting place, a hotel our civilization checked into a couple hundred years ago and must one day check out of. It’s an inevitability tourists can’t help but realize when visiting Mayan ruins, Egyptian ruins, Roman ruins. How long with it be before someone is visiting American ruins?

The author didn’t always think like this, and neither did I.

He goes on to say people his generation (born 1973 or later) did not have anything serious enough happen to them to consider their country at risk.

The first twenty years of this century saw World War I. Then the Depression. Then World War II. The 50s saw Korea and the 60s, Vietnam.

“And then, from 1980 to the close of the century — nothing. Or at least no war, no national catastrophe, no defining event powerful enough to pull us outside our self-centered, solipsistic world, outside of our preoccupation with ourselves and our financial and emotional well-being, outside of our comfort zone.”

You know what happened at and after the turn of the century…

As Strauss says, “History happened to us. Terrorist attacks. Domestic crackdowns, flooded cities. Bank failures. Economic collapse.”

The point of the book is to be prepared for every eventuality. Because everyone thinks it can’t happen to them.

Strauss cites Hitler, whose goal wasn’t to subjugate other countries; but rather “to cleanse them, to wipe out the so-called weak races and speed the evolutions of the human species through the propagation of the Aryan race.”

Doesn’t sound like something that could happen in the civilized Western World, but Hitler got away with it for seven years.

“Few of the most brutal periods in medieval history — from the sack of Rome to the early Inquisition — were as coldly barbaric as what happened in our supposedly enlightened modern Western civilization.”

After we fought a global war to end it, the world vowed to never let it happen again.

“In the USSR, Stalin continued to deport, starve, and send to work camps millions of minorities. As the bloody years rolled on, genocides occurred in Bangladesh in 1971, Cambodia in 1975, Rwanda in 1994, and in Bosnia in the mid-1990s.”

All the people affected thought it would never happen to them, either. And as the author keenly notes, it isn’t the event that we fear; it’s the breakdown of the social contract that would follow if the system broke down, “the snap.”

As Philip Gourevitch wrote in his book on the Rwanda massacre, “Neighbors hacked neighbors to death in their homes, and colleagues hacked colleagues to death in their workplaces. Doctors killed their patients, and schoolteachers killed their pupils.”

Just in Case

We’ve seen the snap happen on our own soil.

Rapes and murders skyrocketed in the lawlessness following Katrina. Police were recently convicted of shooting for sport an unarmed mentally challenged man. Thousands looted the city, many others were starving. It was every man for himself.

It can happen quicker than you want to think.

And it’s not just natural disasters and terrorist attacks you need to be prepared for…

Your rights and liberties are quickly being confiscated by your own government.

Consider this erosion of freedom cataloged in Emergency:

2001: 9/11 terrorist attacks; 1,200 people arrested and held indefinitely without charge; Bush signs USA PATRIOT Act, allowing the government to secretly wiretap and search the personal records of citizens without a warrant; war in Afghanistan begins; no-fly list created, eventually growing to over a million names.

2002: Male immigrants and visitors from over 25 countries required to register with the U.S. government; more than 13,000 registrants face deportation; Department of Justice allows FBI to spy on religious and political groups without probable cause; Bush doctrine of preemptive war announced; Homeland Security Act passed; Department of Justice memo authorizes torture up to “serious physical injury” in overseas interrogations.

2003: Iraq War begins; Department of Homeland Security established; Operation Liberty Shield detains visitors seeking asylum from 34 Muslim countries; Bush continues to centralize and expand power through the unprecedented use of executive privilege and signing statements, which enable him to ignore or reinterpret bills that have passed Congress.

2004: Department of Homeland Security begins affixing electronic monitoring ankle bracelets to thousands of illegal immigrants; government outsources domestic intelligence collection to private companies to circumvent laws restricting spying on citizens; US-VISIT system requires all foreign visitors to be digitally photographed, fingerprinted, and checked against a computer database on entry; photos of prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib prison surface; subsequent Red Cross investigations find evidence of prisoners being sexually abused, set on fire, and forced to eat a baseball at Guantanamo Bay.

There’s an undeniable correlation between these actions and the Nuremberg Laws.

It’s not paranoia or conspiracy. As you’ll learn in the book, plenty of billionaires see the same correlation and are preparing themselves and their families to live without “the system.”

One of the billionaires is Spencer Booth, who refers to himself as a ‘B Person.’ He and several other billionaires chronicled are already seeking second and third passports from other countries and making ten-year plans for escape and survival.

You should read the book for yourself, but I want to pass along a couple convincing quotes from Spencer before I wrap this up..

“A bunch of other B people are doing similar things right now. Do you know the Walton family? They own Wal-Mart. They just built an underground bunker near their home in Arkansas. They even have a helipad in case they need to evacuate. If something does happen in America, it may be difficult to get out. So we’re taking flying lessons in a few months. I’m not taking any chances with my family. I just bought them guns, in case we have to shoot our way to the airport. I’m executing a ten-year plan to make sure everything that could go wrong is protected against. It’s about creating revenue sources and residences in multiple locations, so that if you have to flee one country, your daily existence won’t change.”

The book ticks up over 400 easily-digestible pages. I read the whole thing during a roundtrip flight to San Francisco and back.

In addition to convincing you (I don’t need convincing; I read for support) why such skills and plans are necessary, Emergency provides a good launchpad to learn and enact them.

From acquiring dual citizenship to surviving in the woods for a week with only a knife, Neil Strauss did it — and begins teaching you how to do it as well. He pursues offshore bank accounts and hard metal assets, as well as shooting skills and EMT training.

As Strauss tells readers in the prologue:

Today I can draw a holstered pistol in 1.5 seconds, aim at a target seven yards away, and shoot it twice in the heart. I can start a fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together. I can identify seven hundred types of footprints when tracking animals and humans. I can survive in the wild with nothing but a knife and the clothes on my back. I can find water in the desert, extract drinkable fluids from the ocean, deliver a baby, fly a plane, pick locks, hot-wire cars, build homes, set traps, evade bounty hunters, suture a bullet wound, kill a man with my bare hands, and escape across the border with documents identifying me as the citizen of a small island republic. When the shit hits the fan, you’re going to want to find me.

I’ll be available, too.

I already have many of those things covered.

And before you write this off as loony, take one last look at a passage toward the end of the tome:

I used to wonder if Kurt Saxon, Tom Brown, Bruce Clayton, and all the other survivalists I met ever regretted dedicating their lives to a skill set they never had to use. But now I know the answer. They use those skills every day. Because after three years of searching and learning and accumulating, I’ve learned that it isn’t actually survival these skills bring. It’s peace of mind. I now know that I can take care of myself and my loved ones. But until the day comes when I have to do that, I’m going to be taking care of everybody else.

Being the man — a real man — is a great feeling.

Call it like you see it,

Nick Hodge
Editor, Energy and Capital

P.S. I can’t do the entire book justice in this small space, so please read it for yourself.
P.P.S. If want you get a look at some of the products Neil Strauss used — or get them for yourself — click here.

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