Who is my neighbor?
If a rough sustained period of severe economic uncertainty arises, we will all have to re-evaluate “Who is my neighbor?” When people are fearful, it is very scary to risk helping someone you don't know. If supplies are limited, and given the duration of uncertainty cannot be known, and the intention of the other person is unknown, and the security of the person helping is flimsy, all of those will realistically factor into the decision making process.
Obviously, the better prepared each of us is, the less we'll have to help or be helped by others. I've talked about that a lot, in practical ways to both store up food, but also to learn skills that will help you adapt and ride out a storm. If the storm lasts very long, our apprehension will rise based upon the vagaries of chance, our size of community, and the intensity of the storm.
Responding and not reacting will help you cope. Most of the time, people are people, not a horde of zombies, and the storm will be a temporary one based upon where it hits and how hard and its duration. The better your skill level and supplies, the better you'll cope, and be able to assist others.
People will tense up, because people like to be around their friends and family. People like to be around people who are like them. People like to be around people who look like them. The ones who knock on your door, the ones who gift you with supplies, the ones you encounter while harvesting from the wild, the ones who can trade items and skills, will not be like you. If you can find common ground and respect each other's differences, and not worry about things like age, ethnicity, sex, religion, etc then you will all cope better.
People are afraid of each other. We've all been reminded that we all are different. The news used to be on for a few hours a day. Now it's on constantly and we can search out all kinds of news based upon the immediacy of the Internet and the people other than paid journalists who blog. That means people today are inundated with information, and in that morass of information, it can feed that feeling of being afraid.
All of us can find justification for any idea that flickers in our minds. Think that the world is an evil place of rapists, looters, murderers, fanatics, crazies, etc...well you can easily find those news stories. Of course while they may be true, and mostly there are elements of truth within them, in reality it's not the whole story. The most exciting news items are ones that are about anger and violence and conflict. No one writes a news story with any following about all the great things that happened today. While some of us love to hear those stories, they are not as juicy as the other. People are wired to love a scoop or rumor and the fact that it's only partially true and subject to interpretation and mostly doesn't pan out ...doesn't matter.
Bad things happen, and get repeated, and these feed our fears and make us afraid. If the SHTF, that feeling of being afraid may actually hurt your survival. All successful groups that survive happen based upon teamwork, community, some specialization, all knowing some generalized skills, and respect. We might not love each other, we may not like each other, but we do tolerate and work with each other.
If not, then we have to make it as lone wolfs and that's a very tough way to make it. Some did live lonely lives on the prairie with occasional visits from strangers passing through but even those folks went into town on a seasonal basis for community. If that's the way you think you'll survive, then you'd better have an enormous skill set to draw on to survive. Eventually your children will want friends, get sick, you'll need something you can't make, get lonesome, and you'll have to adapt or die.
Sure things might be chaotic even deadly if the SHTF. I sure wouldn't want to live in a large metro area or even a town of larger than 50,000. Based upon carrying capacity, the normal supply reserve, and people's skill level, it will be very hard for the citizens in a city of greater than 50,000 to make it...if the storm is bad, lasts long, and people freak out. A few people who decide to give in to their shadow selves could make life miserable or horrific for many people.
While I have enjoyed living in large cities because of the culture there, I'd much rather visit on vacation than live there. With high unemployment, strapped state budgets, crime increasing, and desperate people, I can't see that living there is a stable situation. That's just a country boy weighing in using common sense.
If things are bad, most people will want to stay based upon inertia. It takes time for a situation to ramp up, and for that to provoke enough of a flight or fight response, and then to respond in kind. That usually means people delay leaving an untenable situation based upon denial and false hope. Then because people are wired the same, many people will simultaneously get the same idea to bug out, but will have no idea where to go. Then others won't be able to leave because their family doesn't want to. Then others can't because of jobs. Others will be fearful or unprepared to leave based upon their ability to protect themselves. These are all things I've discussed in better detail earlier.
For some people, they're either correctly wired to be prescient and will bug out based upon a plan to a known safer zone, or they're worriers who will. It takes a lot of parameters and money and luck to make this work. This is a one way road, since the idea is leaving and cutting ties and implies permanence.
All safe zones need water, a growing season (good soil and temperature), the availability for tool making and firewood, an environment that will support livestock, and like minded people. Your definition of a safe zone will be different based upon personal interpretations of those variables, luxuries that you also know are located with a potential safe zone, and your abilities. If your abilities are limited, then people tend to add the need for specialists to those safe zones too.
If you're bugging out, that means you can't bring what you need, and most likely your money will be tight, and you're in an unfamiliar area. This means even if you have skills with plants and animals, your ability to know their habitats, behavior, migratory movements, food sources, dens, will have to be re-learned.
You will become the strangers, competitors for the carrying capacity, and most likely distrusted, despised, and unwanted by the local people. Since those people tend to be gun owners, who know the terrain, food sources, watering holes, and usually have higher skill levels, you can expect trouble. This has played out in history numerous times with any immigrant group. Even if you look like the people where you are going, unless you have a rare skill like being a doctor, then you can't expect to be welcomed.
If you're a mad survivalist packing heat, don't come knocking on my door. You'll be very unhappy you did. Seeing the standard youtube survivalists wannabees, they look to be in ill health: mentally or physically or spiritually, and I doubt they can make it. Real survivalists will not seriously entertain making it in that way. They've done their own analysis and made contingency plans.
Real criminals will make it, because they're experienced at it. They've chosen that lifestyle and made their money in illegal ways and violence to maintain it. In the absence of lots of money to sustain and create new income, but the availability of supplies in concentrated areas like the metro areas, most of them will stay there for a time. Smaller criminal groups will form organically based upon necessity and ethos, and most likely an experienced criminal will lead them. Most big organized groups have gone semi-legit by laundering their money. They'll be like fish out of water in the country.
Some people with military or law enforcement experience, but with sociopathic behavior might band with rural folks, and that group would be very dangerous. Having weapons, rural skills, and a warped mind, they will be the most likely reason a community forms to repel them. Since most military and law enforcement people that I've know in rural areas are the exact opposite, they'll be repelled like rabid dogs.
Many country people will temporarily feed young children a small portion of food based upon obvious malnutrition and compassion. From experience, I've seen country folk do extremely magnanimous things, ignoring differences, because they were raised that way. If you're a city person, and you expect to come and be assisted in any major way, that's not based upon reality. If some areas are more stable, and people rise to the occasion, then more help will be given. It's really down to how much is available there in that place. There's a lot of you, and you eat a lot, and we just can't feed you. Sorry. At most, if you were a hoard, you might get a day or two from trying this. It's self-defeating as most food is raised in rural areas.
In the Civil War, it was common for the military to seize local supplies to feed troops. This might indeed happen, but there are limited ways of dealing with it. I can't even go there. It's based upon historic fact, so it's plausible, but not probable. It didn't happen during the Great Depression, so while it could happen, well.... The present politicians, the slow ramp up of the police state, and the military operating as police locally concerns me.