Comment Of The Day: “Exactly How Much Are We ‘All In This Together’? The Golden Rule Vs. ‘Look Out For #1’”

The above image is for “Fallout Shelter-The Board Game”

Last night’s pre-dawn post inspired this one (it’s just after 5 am here) , another thoughtful reflection on the ethics process from enigmatic commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod.

Here’s his (it’s?) Comment of the Day on the post, “Exactly How Much Are We ‘All In This Together’? The Golden Rule Vs. ‘Look Out For #1’”:

Whenever we encounter an ethical conflict, we need to take a look at the bigger picture, figure out what the most ethically effective way to deal with the relevant liabilities is, and then scale that principle back down to the current situation.

If we ever encounter a situation where people really do need to seek shelter, each family should ask itself, who do I most want to offer shelter if they need it? Those people get first choice. If they pass, then the family reaches out to the next group they care about. And so on. People can’t just wait for situations to happen to them; they need to ask themselves the hard questions about who they prioritize and why.

Having done that, everyone should prepare themselves to help in other ways, to offset the help they can’t offer through the space of their home. These ethical situations don’t take place in a vacuum. There are plenty of options for people to help in various ways and coordinate to make sure people get what they need even if it’s from someone they didn’t know. Benefactors can go shopping, donate money or food, organize, offer listening ears, et cetera. It’s amazing what people can do for each other when they put their minds to it.

Meanwhile, the virtue society needs to practice for dealing with the liability of dealing with disaster is “exposure”. One connotation of exposure is that when a group experiences a small crisis in relatively controlled circumstances, society as a whole can help out and learn from it more easily. Society is vaccinated, so to speak, against a larger version of the disaster once they know how it works–provided, that is, they take advantage of that knowledge.

However, it’s not necessary to actually experience a disaster in order to achieve exposure. If you identify the weakest points in your civilization’s infrastructure, you can set up backup measures and contingencies without knowing what could disable the main systems. That’s something I notice is conspicuously absent from modern society. Communities collectively fail to discuss crises or prepare for them by investing in strategic resources and training. Who here has ever done an emergency drill in their own home? /keeps appendages lowered

Granted, I’m not the best person to help directly with the liability of disaster (unpredicted physical obstacles). I specialize in dealing with the liability of stagnation (limitations on thinking), which in this case means that I try to get people to start thinking about how to deal with all the liabilities, and how to teach the skills and design institutions for actually doing that effectively.


9 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Exactly How Much Are We ‘All In This Together’? The Golden Rule Vs. ‘Look Out For #1’”

  1. For some reason WordPress says my comment is posting but it doesn’t show up on the site. Here’s what I was trying to post on EC’s COTD:

    “Communities collectively fail to discuss crises or prepare for them by investing in strategic resources and training. Who here has ever done an emergency drill in their own home?”

    Having retired from a career in public safety / law enforcement, I can attest to the truth of that statement, its accuracy hinging on the word “collectively.” Public safety agencies almost everywhere bought into the “emergency management” philosophy a couple of decades ago. Each County and city in my region has comprehensive “all hazards” emergency plans that are constantly being revised and updated. Every public safety / public service agency has its own contingency plans for responding to varying crises, within the overall plan, and any change in an agency’s plan is scrutinized as to its impact on the overall plan. Hospitals, public health agencies and community volunteer organizations are included in the process.Drills are conducted on a regular basis to test the plan or particular aspects of it. All this is coordinated by an Emergency Management Agency, backed up by a similar state infrastructure. The public information aspect of emergency management has not been overlooked. The emergency plans are available online. Public comment and input are welcomed and encouraged. Social media is being used for emergency notifications. The point of “collective” failure, as you allude, is at the personal and family level. Most people don’t access the mountain of information that is readily available. Very few private citizens attend or participate in the public meetings related to community response to crisis. As a society, most of us are too comfortable, too complacent, too busy, too distracted , and too reliant on the supposition that “someone” (“the government”) will take care of us in a crisis. Most don’t make family emergency plans or have emergency drills in their homes for various contingencies. Very few family vehicles have a “get home” bag and few family members are trained in the use of firearms, first aid and basic survival skills like shelter building, fire-starting and water purifying. In other words, people are failing to take responsibility for their own safety and that of their family. Knowledge in all these areas is readily available, but so seldom utilized. As a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, churchman and one blessed to have an abundance of experience and training in relevant areas, I would consider it unethical for me to become a member of the unprepared masses, or for me to allow my family members to be unprepared. I’ll likely be using my stimulus payment to buy more preparedness supplies. Any effective community response to crisis preparedness has to have roots in individual and family preparedness.

    • Thanks, James! I think we’re on the same page. I find myself disturbed by the extent to which civilians (myself included) lack a culture that can adequately deal with liabilities like disaster. A vocabulary to help people think about the risks they face is only the first step; we’ll need to reinforce the practice of spending time to prepare for various types of obstacles and crises.

  2. James.

    I stopped participating in community meetings that sought public input for two reasons: 1. quality citizen input is ignored if it is at odd with the “experts” conventional wisdom 2. Many meetings devolve into blame sessions.

    As for planning for emergencies the plan must reflect the situation with which you are faced. Having a go bag in a pandemic is useless when your governor says you can’t leave your house. In a hurricane or fire the go bag is useful but what is indespensible is a credit card that is not maxxed out.

    In an apocalypse or war on our soil all bets are off. I own no fire arms but I know how to use one and can find one if needed. I carry extra pounds around me so all I need is water.

    Preparing means you have identified your priorities. For me it is making sure my wife and pets are safe. (Not necessarily in order) then our papers nothing more. Trying to prepare for every contingency would require constant planning , that is why the cop on the beat or the fireman don’t plan they train to act on another group’s plan.

    Preppers have freeze dried food, ammo, firearms, magnesium firestarters and all kinds of other gear. I carry a credit card with a high limit and no balance. I like to travel light.

    • A credit card is great but having lived in S. Florida for 18 years and prepared for countless hurricanes what you really need to have on hand is cash. Credit card machines, ATMs, etc. typically do not work after a natural disaster. Personally, if I were to extrapolate a hurricane situation into an “end of days” scenario – it would be all about the cash, baby.

      • La, I agree. Cash is king but if we go to extremes then cash is worthless. The next universal medium of exchange is a precious metal like gold or silver. But it is heavy and untraceable if stolen.
        Having a full tank of gas, credit card and the knowlege of when the weather event will hit should be adequate except for those choosing to ride it out. So you make a good point what you need is a function of your plan. Plan to stay you need a lot more stuff. Planning to evacuate out of zone of harm means life is only modestly affected

        Now in the unlikely event of a ELE in which government is gone barter is the only coin of the realm.

    • Chris,
      I wasn’t touting a go bag, or any of the few specific items I mentioned, as the “be-all and end-all” of prepping. I was just pointing out some of the most basic things that most people haven’t done or thought about. I have only been a prepper since 1990. To make a comprehensive list of the preps my family has in place would take more space than everything else that you and I have written here. It would include all that you mention and much, much more. It reflects the investment of time (mostly) and material of nearly thirty years, to the point that it has become a way of life for us. If only I had a bunker and a foil hat, I might qualify to get on television! My governor hasn’t ordered us not to leave our homes, but if he should, I am ready.
      Most individual public safety personnel may not personally plan and prepare, but I know many who do. The work plans they respond to are related to the protection and safety of the community as a whole, not toward the protection of their families specifically, so if they care about their families they had better prepare.
      In the public meetings I attended related to emergency preparedness, alternatives to the conventional wisdom were always welcome as long as they were presented coherently. I regret that your experience was not as constructive. I would (reluctantly) be numbered among those with considerable expertise within my former area of responsibility, and while I don’t consider myself to be the sharpest knife in the block I am smart enough to know that I don’t know everything. A local prepper group I meet with bi-monthly (a skill-and-information sharing group) is composed entirely of private citizens, although many are retired from public safety and/or the military.
      Preparedness information is easily found, but too seldom accessed and acted upon. That was my point.

  3. Thanks, Jack! I’m hoping society will start taking the liabilities of scarcity, disaster, stagnation, and conflict more seriously, so I’m working to raise awareness so that we can address them deliberately with investment, exposure, transcendence, and ethics.

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