Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fisking Stupidity (concl.)

10. Trust your instincts
"Be careful who you go into the backcountry with. Some people just have it stamped on their foreheads: "I am going to die in a wilderness accident." "

And most of the people who fall into that category trust their instincts too.
"I have a great sense of direction."
"I know where we're going."
"I don't need directions or a map."
"I know a shortcut."
"This way is easier."

Flying by the seat of your pants is a recipe for a short and messy end.
Those signals are seldom subtle. And if you're going into the backcountry, or embarking on anything where survival may be part of the equation, with anyone you aren't better than in terms of travelling safely and responsibly, you've just climbed into a foxhole with someone braver than you. And you deserve what happens afterwards.
Don't trust your instincts. Prepare beforehand for things going sideways.

11. Know Plan B
"When undertaking anything risky, always have a clear bailout plan.Whatever the criterion, make sure it’s specific. Then, when you’re brain’s not working well because of stress or exhaustion, you’ll still make the right decision."

Right. Gotcha. Like f'rinstance, if you're out sailing, and the weather gets ugly, pull an ocean liner out of your back pocket to get home safely. Keep a hot air balloon gassed up and hovering in the back yard, because earthquales can happen anytime. Always ride to the ATM in a tank because of muggers. Thanks a pantload, Chief.

If you're under stress or exhaustion to the point your brain's not working well, you've either planned extremely poorly, or you've probably already passed the last good bailout point. Most decisions at that point will be varying degrees of bad.

Survival is best accomplished in two ways:
First, by being somewhere else, whenever foreseeably possible;
Second, by not doing stupid things once being somewhere else is no longer an option.
Otherwise it's not survival, except in the sense of not being a jacktard.

12. Help others
"Psychology professor John Leach writes in his book Survival Psychology that in disasters, natural and otherwise, doctors and nurses have a better survival rate because they have a job to do and a responsibility to others."

Uh huh. So, how'd that plan work out for firefighters and policemen helping others inside the WTC on 9/11? How does it work out for doctors and nurses when terrorists enter a hospital to kill people?

Yes, helping others is good: once it's safe to do so. Running through a burning building, into machinegun fire, or chasing tornadoes and hurricanes is best left to professionals.

The biggest way to help others in any sort of emergency is to not make yourself a part of the problem. Which frequently involves either not getting into someplace you shouldn't have gone, or getting the hell out, as fast and as far as you can get, once the place you're in is a bad idea. If you have room and time to grab a bystander or two, good for you. But when the plane is on fire, or the rhino is charging, having everyone hold hands and walk towards safety together probably isn't going to cut it.

13. Be cool
"Siebert wrote in his book The Survivor Personality that "combat survivors . . . have a relaxed awareness." People who are destined to be good at survival will get upset when something bad happens, but they will quickly regain emotional balance and immediately begin figuring out what the new reality looks like, what the new rules are, and what they can do about it."

Newsflash: combat survival is generally pure luck, because everybody there is at the point of "relaxed awareness", 24/7/365, because the reality is that there aren't any rules. The few who aren't relaxed yet aware die with a surprised look on their faces.

And people who are destined to be good at survival are someplace else when something bad happens. We knew Katrina was coming ashore for 3 days. With a bicycle, I could have been in Arkansas when it hit New Orleans. With a car, I could have been in South Dakota or California. I'm unaware of any serious Katrina flooding at Little Rock, Mt. Rushmore, or Palm Springs. I'm thinking there's a lesson there.

14. Surrender, but don't give up
"The concept of surrender is at the heart of the survival journey. While that may sound paradoxical, it starts to make sense when you realize your limitations. A good survivor says: "I may die. I’ll probably die. But I’m going to keep going anyway." "

Once again, a good survivor avoids putting themselves in a position to die.
And when circumstances change that, they don't say "I may die. I'll probably die."
They say "I'm going to kick this thing's ass, and tell a helluva story in the bar afterwards. And if I die, it'll be despite my best efforts, as an bloody or emaciated corpse with my fingernails ripped loose from trying to claw my way to safety, or in a huge pile of hot brass surrounding by the corpses of everything that tried to do me in, with my weapons bent and broken after using them as clubs."

The only thing to surrender is the illusion that you're in control of the universe, which most folks in Westernized high-tech life take for granted all day every day. If you don't start with that ridiculous assumption, there's nothing to surrender when things get sporty.

_ _ _

I left the author my thanks for this article at the site, noting that I'd had a hard copy of it printed out, which I'd referred to when trapped in a horrible meeting. I then set the pages on fire, which set off the alarms, was rescued by firefighters when the meeting was abruptly adjourned, and I was safe back in civilization rather than facing another minute in the interminable Meeting Of Death. Which was the best use I could think of for this article under any circumstances.

I don't think the NatGeo moderators will publish it.

But if I were trapped with the author in a survival situation, I think the best reaction would be to carve him into steaks and bait, so that at least one of us would make it.