Urban Survival  

 Urban Survival  
When most people think of survival skills it is in the context of suddenly finding themselves in the ‘Wilderness’ some distance from any form of civilization, and having to use special techniques to live off the land until they can get back to the perceived safety of a town or city.  Few, if any give a thought to actually surviving in the city itself, especially if they live in a relatively stable and peaceful environment within it.  But things can change very quickly in today’s interconnected world and a natural disaster, or human-caused catastrophe can quickly throw unprepared people into a survival situation if only for a short period of time.  
Some groups have seized on and magnified the likelihood of this happening, frequently compounding it with a spiritual path or religious outlook that predicts doomsday, or an apoplectic scenario will happen shortly.  The timescale tends to vary depending on the perceived threat, and the dictates of their creed, but usually it is predicted to be in the near future and that only the prepared will survive.  To this end they store large amounts of food, seeds, tools and, in some cultures, weapons, to enable them to survive when society breaks down.  This level of preparedness has lead to them being termed “Preppers” by the mainstream media which frequently lampoons them and their lifestyle.  
Although I don’t subscribe to most of the scenarios postulated by the preppers I feel there is still a lot we can learn from them.  You might not need a year’s supply of food or more put by for an emergency, but it makes sense to keep a cupboard full of dried food, tins, and in date medicine if you need it for those times when the supply might be interrupted.  For instance in winter, or other seasonal time when transport networks might break down for a few days to a few weeks.  As I commented the other year to someone asking “What will the people who prepared for the end of the world in 2012 do with all the food and other items now that nothing has happened?”. “Then they’ll be really, really, well prepared for any catastrophes such as flooding, severe storms or other situations that will leave most people with heating, lighting, or food problems." 

Even though I live very close to a major road network, near a port, and only a short distance from a major airport, come the winter we make sure we have at least one cupboard full of tinned food. That, and having ways of purifying water and keeping warm if there is any interruption in the infrastructure for any reason means that I am reasonably well-prepared for any emergencies that may happen while I am at home. Other Pagans I know have added other items including amounts of cash in small denominations and coins, cached in or near their home, generators, and even rainwater collection systems either as water butts or underground storage tanks complete with special filters. It all depends on how far you are from major transport hubs, how independent you want to be, and how long you think the emergency may last.

Fortunately most urban survival events are of relatively short duration such as missing the last bus of the evening and having no means of paying for a hotel or other temporary accommodation. Lack of funds may also preclude waiting in any café or other so one of the safest options is the local graveyard. This may seems surprising at first, but is the standard practice of stranded Armed Forces personnel including Commandos and Royal Marines because the area is relatively deserted due to most people’s fear of the dead. Due to the high levels of psionic energies associated with graveyards thoughtforms can build up there with remarkable ease drawing on the local cultural beliefs and psychological focus. So it helps that as a Pagan you can let the latent energies and entities in the area know that you are not going to do any harm and also don’t fear them.

In more built up areas different tactics may have to be adopted. You may have to forgo sleep as there are few places around where you can do that safely, two and four legged scavengers operate in most city centres at all hours of the night which rules out any quiet corners. More than one backpacker has told me stories of finding what they thought was a quiet area in the city centre and having a nap only to wake up to no backpack or, in one case, no shoes either! If you have to stay in that type of area – to catch the first bus of the day for example- then the best thing to do is look for fast food chain premises. Unlike cafés there are several brands that stay open all night in city centres, or for significant portions of it, and they frequently run promotional deals where if you peel off stickers from the food and drink containers you may win a free meal or drink. Surprisingly (to me) a lot of customers leave these untouched and they can be picked up from tables after people have left, or out of the litter bin, provided you return the container afterwards.

Taking this one step further is the art of dumpster diving* behind restaurants and fast food chains. As an urban survival technique it has advantages and drawbacks. The advantage is that you can frequently find wrapped and safe to eat food often still warm from being cooked, this is because operating regulations that say that most ‘fast food’ must only be available for sale for 15-20 minutes to ensure freshness. The downside to this is that the dumpsters are usually in secure areas and if there is a way in the local Freegans**, and others usually know it and can get a bit protective over what they consider one of their main food sources. However, if you can convince them this is a one off situation they may be helpful not only with access to the food, but to other resources to make your temporary plight less uncomfortable.

The main drawback to dumpster diving is the mess it can make of your clothes. In a short term urban survival situation the tidier and more “respectable” you appear the better chance you have of not being a target for any of the local scroungers and law enforcers public or private. As with survival in “The Wild” the important this is strength of will and the belief that you will make it through and emerge with more skills and a greater confidence in your ability to cope with unfamiliar situations. It’s also an unrivalled chance to practice contacting the Divine, spellcasting, and other magickal skills , such as fascination and glamorie, to influence events to pan out the way you want in a real world situation. In a small way it can also help you appreciate how our ancestors had to function in a world that required them to live without the technology we take for granted and developed their skills to effect the world to their benefit.

*Dumpster diving
Literally rummaging around in bins and dumpsters behind commercial premises for useful items and food. Not as disgusting as it sounds since the dumpsters behind shops and restaurants are usually full of old and discarded stock rather than domestic rubbish. Nevertheless it still makes sense to only scavenge securely wrapped and packaged food with no holes or damage, and that is reasonably fresh.

Practitioners of Freeganism, the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded but is still safe to eat. Mainstream Freegans do a lot of dumpster diving for not only food, but other useful items discarded by commercial concerns that can still be pressed into service for everyday use.

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