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Haiti, Third World Violence, and the SHTF

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By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook

News about the situation in Haiti keeps circulating and making waves among the international community. It’ll soon be replaced by another issue of the moment, but it’s everywhere now, and even celebrities and artists are rushing to show support for the “wonderful Haiti,” praising the disgraced country’s enchantments.

Daisy’s report on the explosion of violence on the Caribbean island had commenters expressing their views as well, with many mentioning worries that something similar can happen in the US. She and Selco returned to the topic last week, posing a couple of rather pertinent questions at the end to stimulate the debate:

“Do you use the situation in Haiti as a possible example of how bad the SHTF could really get? Or do you have a bunch of reasons why you believe you are different or somehow exempt from such things?”

My intention in writing a post to answer that is not to create a polemic, much less antagonize. It is just to provide a different point of view and why I think it matters for those who want to stay prepared for this specific type of SHTF.

To answer Daisy’s first question –

Yes, it makes sense to use Haiti as a case study.

As well as the Balkans, Lebanon, Argentina, WW2, or any other war or disaster. We take these and other historical events and analyze how far humans can go to create and survive SHTFs. Even though we’re doomed to repeat history, we can and do learn a lot from it individually.

However, I am of the opinion that something like that cannot and will not happen in the US, Europe, or other First World Nations. Not in the foreseeable future, if ever. Not even in less prominent and developed countries like mine (Brazil), Mexico, or Argentina. In other words, I see Haiti, Ecuador, or the Balkans as the exception.

That leads straight to the second question, and to me, it’s more a matter of probability than exemption. To be clear, I believe no one’s exempt from anything, so the Haitization or Balkanization of the US is possible, only highly unlikely.

Here’s why I think this.

Some stuff happens to X but not Y, and that applies to people as well to different nations and locations. Before getting into the why that is, let’s review some accepted facts:

  1. Humans are capable of great violence and evil.
  2. Society keeps destructive instincts under control. Repression systems, infrastructure, and a production system exist for the collective’s good and to provide the conditions for civilization to advance.
  3. Once the “thin veneer or civilization” disappears, it’s all-out chaos, the regression of civilization. If the repression system or the production chain breaks down, that’s SHTF.

However, while thin, this “veneer of civilization” (the system) is stronger and more resilient than we think.

That’s particularly true in more advanced and wealthier (i.e., First World) nations, but as I said, also in ones a few stages below in development. Countries with solid traditions in democracy, robust institutions, and stronger educational and technological foundations go into crisis, shake, and tremble. They may even go to war, but they don’t fall as easily into anarchy.

We may debate the fact that Western institutions and values are discredited, being challenged, or under attack and the impact that process has on the pillars of modern civilization and the dynamics of society. Fine, but we cannot argue history so while all that spells “crisis”, it has happened many times before and doesn’t necessarily mean order and law will crumble in these places.

Things like social unrest, political instability, corruption, huge debts, and glitches in finance and the economy have been par for most of history. The older generations may have forgotten, and the newer ones are unaccustomed to that, so the whole Fourth Turning thing looks and feels like the end of times. But that’s just the normal state of the world. We’re living at the peak of civilization, and it keeps moving forward despite setbacks.

The idea that the status quo is strong and flexible may challenge some accepted notions, but history proves it.

I’ve said it before: the state has tremendous power, even in less functional countries. It takes a lot to challenge that power in any meaningful way and even more to bring it down.

What happened in Haiti and Ecuador is inconceivable in the US, UK or Europe because the conditions aren’t there. Residents of these places will never see warlords and gangs threatening the government, breaking into prisons and freeing thousands of inmates, barbecuing their enemies in the streets, or terrorizing the population at large. There will be issues with mass immigration, the economy, crime, and social unrest, but not a total collapse of authority and order.

It would take something really big, most likely of natural order (a huge CME or something), to create these conditions. In that case, yes things could deteriorate fast and hard but that’s not what I’m talking about. And even in that case, it could, not necessarily would.

This is an exception, not a precedent.

An SHTF like Haiti is less a matter of exceptionalism and more about precedent and vocation.

I’m not an expert, but something of that nature and magnitude has never happened to a superpower in modern times, so history seems to prove that theory. It’s hard to imagine it can happen now just “because it can happen anywhere.” Some things do, others don’t: widespread barbarism and cannibalism aren’t exactly exceptional in Haiti, but they are almost everywhere else, even during tough times, and that makes a big difference, too.

I’ve already argued why I don’t see a civil war 2 in the US anytime soon. Some people get mad at me for saying that, but it’s my opinion, and I did my best to base it on arguments, point by point. There’s nothing black and white about these matters, so I’ll admit that a civil war is more likely to occur in the US than a Haiti-style SHTF.

The same logic applies to the possibility of war breaking out in Europe: it’s not exceptional, in fact it’s happened countless times in a not-so-distant past so objectively the conditions are present.

Another example: political coups were common in Latin America (I was born in the thick of a military regime lasting from 1964 to 1985 in Brazil). It’s 2024, and former president Bolsonaro may go to jail for allegedly plotting a coup after last year’s elections. I won’t go into detail because the whole thing – the plot and the investigation – is a circus. Just mentioning it, but that’s the point: flirting with this kind of crap is part of Latin American culture. Determinism aside, that explains a lot of why we’re seeing that kind of crap surface again. However, things never even came close to bad here as they get in Haiti.

As Daisy noted, crap is always hitting the fan somewhere. Democracy, education, culture, economy, institutions, and society are at different stages in countries worldwide. Naturally, some places will see dictatorships, others hyperinflation, others wars or coups, and so on. That’s how the world works.

What about cannibalism?

Many expressed their horror and disgust with the news that cannibalism had become widespread in Haiti as it fell into chaos. Others questioned the veracity of these reports. Cannibalism is a social taboo and a constant topic in preparedness and survivalism, so what’s happening?

First of all, many of the videos circulating are old or fake. But some are real, meaning it’s happening, which shouldn’t come as a shock considering the history, the tribalistic nature, the primitive culture, and the current development stage of Haitian society.

Second, the gangs ruling Haiti have a lot in common with the cartels and criminal factions that exist in most of Latin America. Hence, gut-wrenching brutality and violence dispensed by gangs, criminal factions, and cartels to their enemies. Barbecuing and feasting on the corpses of your enemies is just one such case. I’m sure some of you have seen worse and know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, mutilation and exhibition of the enemy’s violated corpse are used to send a message, humiliate and inflict fear on the opponents and shock society. Barbaric practices have been common since the dawn of time and persist to this day in places where violence is the norm – Haiti, but also Third World favelas, prisons, and disputed territories. It clearly isn’t the norm in the First World.

Import the Third World, become the Third World?

Not so much. I’m not saying a large influx of immigrants (legal or illegal) over a relatively short time won’t impact the standard of living and bring deep and broad changes to any society because it will. Even more so to already overburdened, overstretched, and highly indebted nations, which is the case in most, if not all, Western countries right now.

That’s happening now.

But these are also the countries with the best infrastructure and the strongest institutions. So again, this wave can damage and weaken any country, even a superpower. Though this process will make the First World more like the Third, it’s unlikely to cause it to collapse entirely, and that’s a big difference.

Open borders, moral decay, economic and financial crashes, government and institutional corruption and inefficiency, organized crime (I’ll be talking about this in an upcoming article): these are in my opinion the most severe threats to First World nations, particularly the US and Europe. The consequences will directly impact the citizens.

But Haiti? I can’t see how.

Conclusion and final thoughts

This post may seem like a Third Worldization vs. Balkanization debate, but it’s not. It could be more like Third Worldization + Balkanization, as the two are closely related—more so than most people think anyway.

Admittedly, I see Thirdworldization as a more prominent issue, not only because that’s the kind of SHTF I’ve been through for half of my life and see now happening here and everywhere else, but mostly due to the fact that it’s a forerunner of other full-scale SHTFs caused by humans.

It’s also cyclical and widespread. No nation or population is immune to becoming poorer and more dysfunctional. I defend some may be exempt from other types of SHTFs – to be clear, by probability, not exceptionalism,  divine mandate, or something. Crap can hit the fan anywhere, sure, it’s just more frequent and the consequences more severe in some places than in others due to a series of factors.

That’s not to say everything will be fine in the First World, but again, that’s life on planet Earth, and we’ll survive. Unless you live in a real, actual sih*thole, Haiti is a sad but distant reality, so relax and enjoy that privilege. Keep praying, helping your family and others around you, following the events and trends, studying history, and preparing accordingly.

What do YOU think?

So, what are your thoughts about all this? It’s a fascinating discussion, and we’d love to hear your opinion. Just how bad would a SHTF in America become? Would we see pockets of Haiti-level violence? Would it be widespread? Would it be nearly impossible?

Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

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