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Friday, June 12, 2015

Chaos: Ten Things To Remember When The Rule of Law Ends

No legal blog is complete without addressing what you must do, when the Rule of Law ends. Call it The End of Law. No matter the jurisdiction, no matter the cause, the question and challenge are the same: What do you do?

Assuming your loved ones are safe and secure, immediate physical survival has been achieved, but not guaranteed for long. The breakdown of civic order and The Rule of Law means that every assumption you have about civilization must go out the window. The benefits of post-modern civilization, the presence and concern of law enforcement, fire departments and paramedics, quickly vanish as those first responders tend to securing the safety of themselves and their own families. In an Anything Goes world, everything changes. So here's a quick checklist of items and issues to remember.

First, immediate physical safety must be assured in order to have both immediate and prolonged survival. I'm talking about staying alive. Whether it's shelter from life-threatening natural disaster or man-made chaos, you need a barrier between you and the danger. 

Second, depending on the situation, you'll need transport to a safer (you hope) place if your immediate location is neither secure nor tenable long-term. This requires first answering whether you can get out of your present location. Do you have a vehicle, and if so, how much fuel do you have right now? Then you have to think of your destination, and assess your chances of actually getting there at all. Fleeing a somewhat secure location in the hope of an assuredly-safe replacement carries the downside of getting exposed to mortal dangers. Now is a good time to ask: Do you have weapons? Do you know how to use them? You will have to assess your resources, and the odds of success against the risk of perishing.

In the case of a total breakdown of civilization, the benefits and conveniences of location in civilization are cruelly reversed. Cities become high-risk zones from which escape may become impossible and in which access to anything else needed for long-term survival may be very difficult. While needed staples may be present, the problem is large hordes of competitors. You'll have two problems: Getting what you need, and fighting off attackers who may easily seek to kill you for a tin of sardines. Remember this if you're thinking of staying in an urban area, or leaving a safe countryside for "the city" in search of something you think you need.

Notice what I have yet to mention: food, water, medicine. Those are somewhat longer-term concerns. Your ability to do without them will vary based on environmental and personal health conditions, and indeed they will become primary concerns soon, but only after immediate safety and survival have been achieved. 

Water becomes the first non-immediate concern once your immediate safety is assured. Is the water safe? You may not have the option to boil it. Drinking non-potable water carries numerous risks, but so does the risk of dying from thirst. If you have bleach, you can use that to disinfect water. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends six drops of bleach per gallon of water. 

Once you can turn to food, when you can pursue it, and to the extent you even have a choice, prioritize food with respect to four considerations: protein, perishability, vitamins and portability. Dairy and refrigerated products will spoil very quickly if they haven't already gone bad. Fruits and vegetables can also rapidly spoil but I would take them for their nutrients. Given their bulk relative to their nutrition, I would consume them quickly rather than store them. Other items, like nuts, pack more nutrition (and protein) for their size, and are a much better bet to store and carry. 

Medicine may be the toughest item to secure. Pharmacies and doctors will not be available and it is likely that pharmacies and drugstores will be a favorite target of looters. There is sure to be a black market for these and any commodity. Just remember: In The Age Of The End of Law, there won't be any consumer watchdog to turn to for help. It will be the ultimate in caveat emptor -- buyer beware. 

Once you can worry about amassing these basic resources, the questions become where to get them, and how to get them. Can you acquire them within your safe location or must you find them outside? In The Age Of The End of Law, institutions like banks and conveniences like ATM and even electricity may be functionally obsolete. Money, credit cards and even Bitcoin may be totally worthless under such dystopian conditions. The electronic devices of the Information Era will become the newest antiques, useless except as paperweights once the power shuts off and stays off. You may be reduced quickly to bartering physical commodities to get what you need, assuming it's even offered. You may be scavenging for the basics without any assurance of their quality or safety. 

Beyond that, start thinking about getting candles, matches, batteries and clothes. Candles provide light and some minimal warmth. In a winter scenario you may be in darkness up to 15-16 hours a day even in the middle latitudes. Batteries will power flashlights and may be the last resort for power. Look for a transistor radio. Anything digital may not work. The older the product the more likely it will work (what a paradox). As for clothes, your emphasis should be on two things: mobility, and protection from the elements. You may be reduced to walking indefinitely and over rough terrain or dangerous ruins. The natural elements may be as varied as anything found on our planet.

Start looking for chemicals and substances with multiple uses. That jar of bleach may have been very inexpensive in the market a few weeks ago; now it may be an indispensable disinfectant. Iodine is similarly very useful. And salt is an excellent food preservative and solvent. 

Finally, surviving in The End of Law requires some extreme changes to your way of thinking. In fact, thinking may be a fatal flaw. You may not have time to think, only to act and react. Instinct, not necessarily intelligence, may be critical.

Understand your primary -- maybe your only -- objective is simple. Survival is simple: Just don't die. So your mindset is just as simple. Act quickly, decisively and methodically. Emotions will only impede and delay you. Either could be disastrous. Catastrophes require an enhanced emotional intelligence that not everyone has. And you know what? Many people die in emergencies, disasters, war zones and the like, because of horrible judgment or an incapacity to respond properly to mortal dangers. 

Meet the challenge, or meet your Maker.  Let go of any assumptions about the past, how things should be and anything beyond the immediate horizon.  Survival is a here and now proposition.  And the more equipped you are to make the right judgments and act on them, the better your chances.

Eric Dixon is a veteran New York lawyer who describes himself as being in the business of judgment. 

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