A Story of Modern Collapse: Venezuela, circa May 2016
Warning: This article contains graphic imagery which may perturb some readers.
Venezuela is in turmoil.
For preparedness purposes, this article will focus on what is happening in Venezuela from a "prepper's" perspective; that is, daily life struggles on the ground. If you'd like to find out precisely what is happening there economically/politically, I'll post a few links at the end.
The Venezuelan economy has tanked. Around 2012-13 it started a slow burn. Partially due to government policy and mismanagement (hello socialism), partially due to sanctions. The bottom line is resources are completely drying up. The stores have little to no food at this point and what they do have is quickly looted. Rationing for subsistence level food stuffs and power/fuel has begun.
Venezuela, like Argentina circa 2000, is not a backwater third world nation. They have (or have had until recently) modern conveniences like air conditioning, vehicles, food and even tourism. So keep this in mind when reading the terrible things happening there, which we are sure to hear more about in the coming weeks. This is a modernized, quasi-western society of real people with children, jobs, hopes and dreams -- not a primitive tribe living in a jungle.
As early as 2012, (link to story from The Guardian, London) people were starting to notice certain things disappearing from store shelves and becoming much harder to come by; things like toilet paper, rice, and coffee. At this point, things have worsened into full on food riots at this point (mid May 2016), where government subsidized food stores are seeing long lines, supplies are dwindling, and things are becoming desperate.
Preppers often talk about being aware of "when the balloon goes up". This means keeping your eye on the news, ear to the ground, and waiting to see symptoms which indicate something more serious may be on the horizon. We are talking about severe stock market drops, big moves in the commodities markets, bank closings/restrictions, etc.. It would appear that Venezuelans have experienced a slow burn collapse which started three or four years ago.
In contrast to the 2000 Argentina collapse which happened overnight for the most part, a slow burn gives you more time to shift resources, possibly even relocate, or otherwise get your ducks in a row. The down side to a slow burn is the danger of haphazardly blowing through any stored resources you may have so when you do run out, you find yourself in the apex of the crisis and in the same boat as everyone else.
This brings point number one: Continue to purchase goods and maintain your normal buying/acquisitions against all odds in all scenarios until you literally, simply cannot purchase goods any longer -- because that is the point of true crisis. Do not burn through your stores simply for convenience or out of hubris. Only use them when you cannot obtain resources elsewhere, whether due to inavailability, or for security concerns.
Many of our clients/readers already understand the level to which society, i.e., people, can, have, and will fall during a true crisis. If you have not understood and accepted this fact yet, if you have not allowed your mind to create (or you have no personal experiences which allow you to understand) the desperation of a starving mob, or the instinctual and irresistable human drive to feed oneself and one's family and what it can lead us to do....I suggest you give yourself a moment to have a reality check -- it may save your life in the future, at the price of a few uncomfortable moments with your imagination in the present.
Back to Venezuela, 2016. Looting (mainly for food), rolling power outages, and civil unrest are the concerns of the day. It may sound elementary, and it is of course, that we find food to be the number one concern in Venezuela today. We can't really live without it. Venezuelans find themselves waiting in long lines and fighting each other violently when it's distributed.
Point number 2: People will do whatever it takes to get food. This next part may be distressing to some readers, but here's what one Venezuelan city's mayor said according to The PanAm Post:
"Ramón Muchacho, Mayor of Chacao in Caracas, said the streets of the capital of Venezuela are filled with people killing animals for food.
Through Twitter, Muchacho reported that in Venezuela, it is a “painful reality” that people “hunt cats, dogs and pigeons” to ease their hunger.
People are also reportedly gathering vegetables from the ground and trash to eat as well."
Remember, these people are not savage tribes living in the wilderness. They are largely a westernized society, Catholic -- "normal" people, with cultural differences to the U.S., of course. They do not, however, eat dogs, cats, and pigeons as a matter of habit. That's what they are doing right now. I'm not saying this for shock value.
Native Americans and other peoples have routinely eaten canine as a meal -- and from my understanding, it's quite good. We in the west of course relate too closely (over the past 100 years anyway) to canines as family pets, so the idea is disgusting to most of us. As for me, if I had to, I would certainly eat canine. It goes to show just how desperate Venezuelans are at this point. They do not want to eat dogs and cats, to be sure; again, this is to demonstrate where peoples' minds will go when faced with starvation.
(This photo taken from an oversea traveller's diary. Canine is a viable food source.)
(A photo from a pigeon cook book available online. It's like quail.)
The above says a couple of things. 1. People will do abnormal things to keep from starving and to feed their family. 2. If things get bad, there are alternative food sources which we may not recognize on a daily basis.
There was an interesting study done 1944-45 on the physiological and psychological effects of starvation on humans. (Linked here.) Bottom line? Food deprivation will make people crazy. Here's an excerpt:
"Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis as measured using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression.:161 There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe, though the subject was unsure if he had done so intentionally or accidentally). Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation.:123–124 The participants reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities, although the standardized tests administered showed no actual signs of diminished capacity. There were marked declines in physiological processes indicative of decreases in each subject’s basal metabolic rate (the energy required by the body in a state of rest), reflected in reduced body temperature, respiration and heart rate. Some of the subjects exhibited edema in their extremities, presumably due to decreased levels of plasma proteins given that the body's ability to construct key proteins like albumin is based on available energy sources."
If things continue the way they are going, I would not be surprised if you hear about isolated cases of cannibalism. Naturally, the Venezuelan government, as well as the U.S. government (due to the Senate's role in continuing the damaging sanctions against Venezuela) both have a stake in suppressing such news from reaching our ears should it in fact occur -- it is an inevitable fact, however, that after about 2 weeks of starvation a significant percentage of "normal" humans will resort to cannibalism (e.g., the Donner party). Scary, yes, but it's also reality.
OK, let's lighten it up. What else are people doing for food?
Point number 3: Foraging is a viable way to get food. We offer an Edible Plants class here at Omega. There is myriad food laying right at your feet on a daily basis. We all know dandelions are edible -- the entire plant, including the flowers and roots. Plantain is another common broadleaf. An 8oz cup of steeped pine needles in water contains as much vitamin C as 5 entire oranges!
I think something may be getting lost in translation, literally, when they say in the PanAm article (quoted above) that Venezuelans are "gathering vegetables from the ground and trash to eat as well," because it makes it sound like the vegetables are part of the trash they're picking up off the ground, but I'd be willing to bet it means that they are foraging for food that is growing around them which normally went unused!
Foraging the trash might also work too, however. A lot of good food goes to waste. It marks the difference as well between urban and rural survival scenarios. There are different resources and habitats which deliver different options. If you're in the city, don't forget to look in unwanted, heretofore unthought-of places for food.
Point number 4 -- the last point: If you walk away with one piece of information from this article and Venezuela, let it be this... It can happen here.
Drought. War. Famine. Starvation. All of these things have happened so many times in every corner of the world throughout history. We are quite spoiled here in the U.S., by the grace of God. I fear this scenario would rip our country apart because of how spoiled we are. While the world is not full of tribal savages, two-thirds of the world lives at a much more subsistence level than we do here and therefore they are able to cope more easily with restrictions in resources. They are somewhat used to it.
We are not.
Articles you may like to peruse:
Early article from near beginning of crisis.
Recent article from a commie news source (still scathing).