After completing his survivalist regimen, Strauss now has the skills to deliver a baby goat, gut it, cook it on a fire made from rocks and a toothpick, and wash it down with water collected from a piece of plastic and the sun. He can fashion a knife from a cigarette and knows the secrets of how to escape to a well-armed fortress in a far flung corner of the world in case things really go off the rails in this country.
We reached him by phone earlier this week to get some survival tips and find our what’s wrong with our government’s disaster planning.
Your book seems to have a Libertarian bent. Do you not think the government can be trusted to keep us safe?
I don’t see myself as belonging to any political party. My personal belief is that the government does a decent job maintaining the basic structures of society, but we can’t rely too much on it. We all tend to trust that everything’s going to be okay, that the infrastructure they provide will be fine and that highways and dams will work. From a survival perspective though, the government’s biggest failures are with emergency services plans like the Department of Homeland Security’s National Response Framework.
How is it a failure?
You should think of disaster on a local level. With the federal government everything has to pass through dozens of agencies.
That’s funny, because in your book you train yourself to be a free agent.
Mainly what I learned is that you’re on your own. This isn’t a survivalist conspiracy theory. I mean, FEMA says this. And last year there were 75 declared disasters in this country, things that were too big for local and state governments to take care of.
So, what happens when there’s an emergency? What are you trained to do now?
Well, I’m now trained as an EMT, and the first thing that’s going to happen is my pager is going to go off, and the search and rescue team that I’m part of will go and help out. If, say, there’s a Metrolink train crash, we’ll go down and help the victims. But you shouldn’t be a free agent when you’re working on a massive disaster. There are no heroes in those situations.
You tried to live as self-sufficiently as possible while writing the book. Now that it’s out, are you still living that way?
I have chickens, I have fresh eggs and I can make cheese. I have pet goats. I made some connections with these permaculture communities that are entirely self-sufficient–even when you go to the bathroom there are separate places for both functions and both are re-used. The urine is composted in straw and used in the garden for growing vegetables. The solid waste is dropped in a worm bin and the worm droppings are used to fertilize strawberries. Everything is recycled. And you have to wash the strawberries really, really thoroughly.
It’s certainly not the easiest way to live. There are a lot of laws that prevent you from being self-sufficient. They limit the amount of rain water you can re-use because it’s supposedly government property. The laws are there in case they want to crack down.
I can just picture the rain squad busting you! But there does seem to be a real sense of community that comes with a survivalist mentality.
It’s a throwback to the depression when people relied on each other more. When resources are scarce, we know times are hard but everything is right there for us. That’s the difference between a utopian culture and a dystopian survivalist mentality–there are rules in place to prevent people from their own destructive nature.
Do you have a negative view of human nature?
I started off with one. But being part of a search and rescue team has made me think people can be inherently good.
So, how often are you really going to need to know how to kill a goat?
The truth is I may never need to use these skills but it’ll make me a better dad and grandfather and I had fun learning and experiencing everything. The good news is if I don’t use these skills, that means everyone’s safe–including my goats. If I do, then I’m prepared.
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