FATHER OF YO MAMA
Jesus, how old are “yo mama” jokes? Anyway, here I am talking to Ave in the comments section and Kurt Saxon is brought up. “Father of Survivalism” is bandied about, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Which prompted me to do research ( when you surf the web, you are playing, looking at porn, or being an idiot on Facebook. When I do it, it is called research ). At best, Kurt was the father of the term rather than the movement, but we can still remember him fondly nonetheless. So this article is for the sake of historical accuracy rather than an attempt to detract from any of his achievements. I love Kurt. He was the only one who ever, ever and I mean friggin EVER, gave two craps about poor people trying to survive. Everyone else is/was pretty much a whore for the elites, passing unthinkingly the propaganda of class warfare along. Oh, look, if you don’t buy everything my advertisers advocate you’ll simply die ( okay, that is more indicative of blogs than published survival books. With books, the attitude is the same which just means they are pimping consumerism for the New York publishers which serve the elite. If they aren’t, they are merely too stupid to think for themselves and just parrot the others thinking ).
Howard Ruff did pass on tidbits of redneck/frugal prepping, but they were incidental. He was all about gold, which was three months minimum wage per ounce back then compared to barely over one, today. So you couldn’t be poor to follow most of his advice. I’ve never encountered another true Po Boy survivalist guru other than Kurt, and I’ve been in this game since 1979. Back then I read of Kurt through gun magazine ads, and by the end of High School had encountered Clayton and the Soldier Of Fortune magazine offshoot survival publication which I believe was “Survive”. I don’t think it lasted too many issues, but I did use one of its articles on a group survival retreat in my architecture class ( as little good as all my mandated Trade classes did, at least I was exposed to a variety of them. Enough to know it was definitely the military for me ). And honestly, I don’t even think Kurt knew what he was doing as far as teaching frugal preps. He was pretty heavy into cottage industries, be they old timey preparations of explosives or furniture. He didn’t have a lot of time for prepping, per se. He was into saving money to live cheap NOW, but he didn’t cover frugal prepping in depth, really. He touched on it but that wasn’t necessarily his focus. Nonetheless, he was the only one.
Okay, let’s go back to the 1960’s. You’ll perhaps remember Harry Browne of such fame as the Libertarian Party candidate. He was giving seminars on “surviving monetary collapse” in 1967. His 1970 book “How you can profit from the coming devaluation” was a forerunner of Ruff ( the more you learn, the more it seems Ruff had few original ideas but was great at marketing. Twenty years before Rawles time ). Also in the 1960’s, a fellow by the name of Don Stephens popularized the term “Retreater”. He wrote for the “Inflation survival letter”. The two seemed to work together, or at least knew of one another, a hard money guy and a retreat architect. That sounds suspiciously like a Survivalist to me. Now, that term hadn’t been coined yet. And both “survivalist” and “retreat-er” were used interchangeably for a time, kind of like Survivalist and Prepper are today. But Saxon didn’t publish anything until 1973, three years after Browne for a book and six years after Browne’s seminars. So how can he be considered “the father of the survivalist movement”?
At most, he was the father of the title, not the movement, and he was only one of several to cash in on the panic of the times. He might have been the poster child in the media, like Rawles is today, but that is marketing, not blazing a pioneer trail. Browne and Stephens were the grandfathers of the survivalist movement, Kurt at most the father. And while survivalism was new, it wasn’t the first plan/concept at surviving. I’d call “survivalism” as a concept different in that it embraced systematic collapse and the first time the individual rather than a group was surviving. Prior to that, there was nuclear war survival. As soon as the Soviets got the atomic bomb, folks were first concerned with survival in any meaningful way. So from the early 1950’s until the mid 1960’s with Stephens and Browne, folks were concerned with surviving a fallout period prior to grouping back together for survival. All “survivalism” did was divorce itself from that group effort and direct its attention to the individual. As in, “society is screwed but you can save yourself”.
I don’t believe the death of JFK was the pivotal moment in American society when The Dream Died. Kennedy was as corrupt and asshat-ish as any other politician. Perhaps more so, if you follow his infidelities and family history ( I think the Camelot bullspit is from the same forces attempting to make Washington, Lincoln and FDR look good ). The Vietnam war was much more important, as it was the first pointless meat grinder war that was opposed in a widespread fashion. WHY it was opposed, WHY society was fraying, I can’t answer concretely but I would imagine it was all economic. Obviously, we weren’t doing super wonderful right up until 1971’s gold de-link. There had to be a lot of recognition of economic problems for Browne to support himself with his writings and seminars. If the economy was so good, race riots alone wouldn’t have mattered as much ( not that they helped, a rerun of the 1840’s Negro Soiling Our White Women fear mongering ). Combine the two and I can see the reason the survivalist movement was birthed in the 1960’s.
Again, prior to the mid Sixties, surviving nuclear war was a group effort. You huddled under your desk, or in a public shelter, or in your back lawn fallout bunker ( or more likely, basement shelter ), waited for the fallout to degrade to safe levels ( or, 1950’s safe levels, which considering the endemic chain smoking alcoholics that were the norm, was probably a bit on the high side ), then joined back up, said the Pledge Of Allegiance, and returned to Being One With The Borg. From the mid-’60’s, social cohesion was frayed enough to allow the selfish idea of retreating to be established. We were no longer Us but Me. After twenty years, the lead we had at the end of WWII in manufacturing was gone and even with our huge oil production we had economic issues aplenty. The payola was gone, and hence so was the ability of the herd to cluster together for safety. The rats started jumping off the ship. And that was in the Sixties. The Seventies got a LOT worse. The Sixties were just an economic contraction coupled with an unaffordable colonial war we tried to fight on a WWII level, but with much fewer resources after a long Cold War.
First, in 1971, we left the gold standard. That just started the decade off swimmingly, didn’t it? “The Limits To Growth” came out in 1972 ( which spawned Kurt Saxons 1973 book on famine in the cities and then Ruffs 1974 book on famine in the USA ). For the first time, systematic collapse became a popularized issue/fear. 1973 was the first Oil Shock. Kurt started publishing his newsletter “The Survivor” in 1975. All else followed. So, yes, Kurt was the first in the 1970’s AFTER the collapse started, but Harry Browne was the first PRIOR, with his 1970 book “How You Can Profit From The Coming Devaluation”. And we’ve already talked about his 1960’s work. Not to forget Stephens and the retreat movement at the same time. They were ahead of the game, others including Kurt getting rich after the game started. Rawles was just the first POPULAR author in the 1990’s to regurgitate the 1970’s survivalist movements teachings, with Waco and Ruby Ridge the only real motivator of anything different. I’ll remind you that my paper newsletter started in 1992, but I was never famous other than in the ‘zine field in that particular niche.
It is interesting how little information on the survivalist movement is out there on the Internet, seemingly mostly sanitized. I found no search items for the early periodicals. Even on E-Bay. Wiki was good for some dates but also included very questionable ideas, such as the 1930’s having survivalist birthings. We are left with mostly the current Prepper BS, which is Survivalism Lite As Approved By The Elite. Sounds like a good Soviet purge of information, the only source recollections of old guys soon to die off. You have all the Cold War civil defense information out there, skipping ahead to current practices, with the whole middle period mostly buried, ignored or wiped, so as to erase the concept of systematic collapse. The harder their efforts at suppression, seemingly the closer we come to the actual condition. Just a bit of food for thought.
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