Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Emergency: A Gunnie Book Review

I first heard about this book at Michael Bane’s site. Bane’s review got me interested enough to buy and read it. Meanwhile, Smallest Minority reviewed it and mentioned it, so this is a double, maybe even triple, “me too” post.

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, by Neil Strauss is not a survival manual. It has a few pointers in a continuing comic strip that includes some useful ideas; how to cut flexi-cuffs with paracord (only if whomever cuffed you is dumb enough to restrain hands in front), how to turn a credit card into a knife, how to make a ghillie suit, etc. Beyond these rudimentary points there is little that will actually save your life.

Instead, Emergency is about a liberal writer’s voyage into self-reliance. Strauss grew up in Chicago where if you needed to fix something you called the building super, if you needed to defend yourself you called a cop. After 9/11 and Katrina he began to fear dying in a disaster. As a lefty, he feared that “Bushco” could somehow force into cattle cars and blamed Bush for a slow Katrina response. He wanted to do something that could help him avoid such a fate.

He looked for a way to get a second citizenship (and eventually succeeded) in case he needed to bolt the country. He realized that if he needed to do so, he would have to survive until he could make it to his second country. He began collecting information and attending classes.

Along the way, he learned that not everything was as it seemed. He learned in Los Angeles’s CERT training that government would take three or more days to really help people. So much for Bush and Katrina.

He decided he needed to learn how to shoot and went to Guncite for training. He wanted to learn how to live off the land and went to Tom Brown Jr.’s tracking school. He realized he might need to provide medical assistance to himself or others and became an Emergency Medical Technician. He learned knife skills and how to slaughter a goat.

Along the way, he found out that to become self-reliant he had to rely on many people who had the skills to teach him. He also became a better citizen. He became someone who could and did stop at an accident scene and give aid.

He never gave up on his politics and I no longer agree with those politics. Yes, I gave him a couple or few dollars when I bought his book, but he has lessons to teach.

Chief among these lessons is that you must learn to survive from other people. Books can only take you so far. As Tom Brown said (quoted on p.253), “You can walk into any store and there are buy five survival manuals you can buy that will kill you.”

It behooves anyone who is interested in learning what it takes to become a small-s survivalist to read this book. It outlines a journey that many of us could take if we had the time and money.

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