The SHTF Ripple Effect: How the Big Picture Affects Your Small Picture

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by Fabian Ommar

I’ll start by outlining a few events you may or (may not be) aware of taking place worldwide right now. Then we’ll see the connections between these, the crisis we’re going through, and how the different circles, as proposed by Selco, interact with each other. Let’s dive in and study the ripple effect of the SHTF.

Mexico’s Southwestern region of Michoacán

The local population abandoned their homes in droves. The stuff is hitting the fan with the ongoing war between the Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generacion (CJNG) and Carteles Unidos (CU). The situation has reached a boiling point, with various towns and villages engulfed in a wave of chaos, blood, and violence. 

Civilians are attacking the Guarda Nacional (GN) agents deployed to control the situation, turning the life of the government into hell and adding to the confusion. Blockades, attacks, vehicles on fire, arson, and constant crossfire are instilling fear in the local population. In Anguilla, estimates say more than 1,500 residents have already fled the municipality in fear. That’s 10% of the city’s population.  

Rio de Janeiro

Drug and militia fights are frequent in the suburbs and favelas in the town’s hills. Last month Brazil shocked the international community (once again) when 28 people in the Jacarezinho favela in Rio were killed during a police operation to fight traffic and firearm smuggling and illegal commerce. 

The UN issued a note condemning the action and the violence. There’s a heated debate on whether those victims were the dangerous criminals that appear all the time on the internet heavily armed with powerful semi-autos and pistols or innocent workers and family members. I honestly have no idea about that. But I see an escalation of deadly violence scaring the community.


The manifestations in Colombia are reaching a tipping point. Dozens have already died since the protests against Ivan Duque’s government broke out a month ago. Experts and insiders say there’s no end in sight. Things could get worse and spread to other regions, maybe even contaminating neighboring countries.

Here too, there’s a lot of chaos and confusion as to who is responsible for the deaths, who’s right or who’s wrong: the police and the soldiers deployed to contain the demonstrators or the more violent portions of protestors fighting each other and the authorities. For those suffering, does it matter?

The situation in many western countries is not looking good

I’m not trying to directly connect drug cartel wars in Mexico, police action in Brazil, protesters in Colombia, or crime waves in the U.S. But civil unrest manifests in many forms and various places, with increasing intensity and frequency as time passes. That’s what should matter.

I’m constantly touching on the topic of crime because it’s a very present threat. If not in every SHTF, at least in the majority of instances. When the situation goes crazy, things become unstable and more people get desperate. The institutions are cracking and under attack by a growing unsatisfied part of the population, and this is a common point in most situations currently underway. 

Confidence in the institutions is eroding at a fast pace

Authority is now openly challenged everywhere. No one seems to believe in the capacity of the politicians, bankers, regulators, and leaders, elected or not, to lead us. With a few notable exceptions, leadership has explicitly been lacking and abysmal for some time now worldwide. Worse yet: the sentiment is that all these high players deliberately manipulate the system to their benefit. 

Many theories are floating around. Conspiratorial or real, it’s hard to say. I have my own. I don’t see a highly coordinated or intentional action to cause these situations. In other words, I’m not sure this is by design any more than it is the mechanic of things, the natural cycle of history. 

I’m not trying to excuse the elites and governments of anything here, just observing the dynamics with an eye in history. That has been the way of the world since forever. Other institutions such as church (and even religion itself), family structure, traditions, education, and science are also on the low. Maybe it’s all interconnected.

Is the system rigged? 

Yes. But we must look at our role in all this.

There is a higher instance coordinating some of the policies, as always. But each part of the system is taking advantage of the context as they can, without much consideration of their actions’ potential consequences. And the ones at the top always have more power and resources, so they do what they can to keep their status quo. 

There’s no fixing the problem just by pointing fingers and casting blames. Each of us is a cog in that exact mechanism, and the victim mentality is precisely what these elites want for us. It does no good, so we should be against it and favor taking responsibility no matter what.

The truth is things have been building towards this situation for decades

That’s how the world is. The pandemic has accelerated things, and the compressed timeline makes everything more visible and clear.

There’s a conjunction of factors creating the conditions for the spreading and worsening violence everywhere: the economic downturn, the large-scale political movements, the social divisiveness, the widening of the wealth gap, geopolitical issues flaring up, and of course, the pandemic. Nothing of that is new. It all has happened many times before in history. And it won’t go away soon.

I know about all that. What does it have to do with me, my family, my lifestyle?

The answer is: everything.

If we live in a connected world, and there are conditions in place for these situations to happen and get worse, how do you imagine staying untouched by what’s going on? 

I have never been in war like Selco. But I agree with him on many things, two of which apply very specifically to the current topic:

  1. We have no power over the big picture (the big circles) but must follow the situation, so we are not surprised or caught off-guard. 
  2. In doing so, we must act and work on our level (small circle) in any way we can, be prepared, and do our best to lessen the impacts.

Do you see a wave of discontent building? 

As things accelerate, a resolution of some sort seems imminent. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with it all. And, even more so by all the work necessary to be somewhat ready and have some preparations in place. 

It is our duty to harden the f*** up and face the challenges as they present themselves.

We should expect manifestations will grow and spread, perhaps turning more serious everywhere. No one has to be a genius to forecast similarly violent, increasingly tyrannical responses by the authorities to counter and contain that, as governments and the elites try to keep the situation under control. This kind of response also seems to be common and generalized, regardless of the location, and it’s also something typical of the times we’re living. 

With this in mind, I’ll present my overall analysis of the situation and how I plan to deal with this ripple effect going forward.

The ripple effect of SHTF is vast

As widespread as these phenomenon are, places get affected differently. If we think about the major conflicts of the last century, war took place in Europe and never reached the Americas directly. But the production, economy, and politics were affected, which had consequences to the populations everywhere. Switzerland remained neutral. Brazil went under a dictatorship. The U.S. became a superpower, got entangled in a Cold War for decades, and entered multiple conflicts worldwide. Japan had two cities nuked. And so on.

This dynamic repeats at lower levels, or smaller circles, too: thanks to the concentration of people and limitations of resources (among other factors), big cities are usually hit worse during crises. Cali and Bogota are the epicenters of the manifestations in Colombia, and it’s there that the situation is more unstable and violent. 

It does not matter where you live, SHTF can happen anywhere

Some kinds of crises can erupt at or reach smaller towns and rural areas. Which is precisely what the situation in Mexico shows us. Protests, insurrections, and common crime can spread to these areas depending on how things unfold. We should never rule that out. It’s essential to be aware and never fall into a false sense of security just because you live in a perfect place.

Since everything is interconnected, significant disruptions in production, distribution, and overall supply chains can also spread out and reach rural areas and smaller communities. In keeping with the mid-level “circle,” when we think of a country, no state or city is an island. Food, water, fuel, and energy are produced in distant places most of the time. And very few (if any) locations are genuinely independent of The Grid.

Climate can also be part of the problem

Mother Nature does not discriminate. Take, for example, the Texas freeze and the droughts going on in the western U.S., and all other natural disasters potentially hitting anywhere, anytime. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Many cities in the region and even other states were affected as people fled the area looking for resources and safety. Tensions and crime rose in these places for months after as a result.

When the system is stressed out everywhere and dealing with multiple threats simultaneously (again, the economy, pandemic, instabilities, etc.), the disaster response capacity is significantly affected – to worse, of course. Anything can become proportionately larger with ineffective (or inexistent) support, delayed response. You’re a prepper, and you know that, but maybe it’s important to make others aware of this as well.

Mass migration due to conflicts, crime, or natural disasters is another issue

I mentioned the mass bug-out in the Michoacán region due to the cartel war. But what about the areas where all those people are going? What are the effects on the population and resources of these places? How much do the migrations from Syria and other conflicted areas affect Europe? How do the five million-plus refugees from Venezuela affect nearby countries? Unfortunately, no one says much about this, but it’s a factor all the same.

The same dynamics apply internally, for instance, the mass movement in the U.S. between red and blue states and from city to rural locations. Of course, with time, things tend to accommodate, regardless of the cause ceasing or continuing to be present. WWI and II had similar movements with lasting effects. These shifts and movements directly impact the situation of the areas receiving the migrants. 

Prolonged crises of any nature can also contribute to migration

If the drought persists for long enough, people living in the affected areas will lose hope of returning to normal. They will start moving in larger quantities and definitely to other places, completely changing the life in both ends of the migration movement.

When it comes to migration, we either live in a place directly affected by a severe or prolonged crisis (a bad place) or in an area that is potentially a target for migrants (a good one). Which one do you want to live in when it comes to a country, state, city, and neighborhood? A most honest analysis of that is something that everyone should be doing right now.

Connect the dots…see the ripple effect

The objective of this exercise is to stimulate connection between large, mid, and smaller circles around us. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong in my analysis. I follow the developments and try to make the connections necessary to guide me for the best course of action. 

I’m not trying to predict the future. That’s impossible, and anyone who tells otherwise is lying or trying to sell fear (or something else). We do have history as an indication. Being aware and informed without giving in to paranoia is vital to have a clearer picture of things and keep a level head as much as possible.

Perhaps the most important, though, is not worrying or fearing the developments in the larger spheres but instead focusing efforts in the smaller circles. That’s where we can do something. Will this work? I don’t know. It’s not about the results, but the grind.

Here are some other initiatives that have proven effective on the individual front, each time we find ourselves in a difficult situation.

Look at the bigger picture

Zoom out and take a distanced perspective of things to help reduce anxiety and put things in their real place. We suffer more in imagination than in reality (Sêneca). There is no evil that lasts forever, nor good that never ends. It’s cliché Portuguese saying, but also true. A hundred years from now, none of us will be around, so why bother with unimportant things, big events, and the distant future?

Focus on sensible, proven, real-life-based preparations. Get away from the echo chamber of fear, doom porn, and fantasy prepping. Take proven measures to harden your safety (home, family, personal), improve your health, sharpen your mind. Those are perhaps the only things that are really under our control. 

Get out of your comfort zone but stay connected

Practice going out of your comfort zone more frequently. If (or when) things get bad, the shock and impact will be lessened and the reaction quicker. Embrace the suck every once in a while. Go out in nature, hit the streets, see the world. 

Stay connected to your community and help others when possible and always according to your possibilities. It can be through material support or by sharing knowledge and information. Bringing awareness and emotional support becomes more and more important as the situation gets worse.  

Self-sufficiency is key

Work hard on becoming more self-sufficient and reliant. Work harder to become more useful not only for your family but also for your community and, on a broader level, humankind.

During normal times it’s not wise to expect or rely on government support. This is even more critical during difficult times when the entire system is tapped.   

Choose your battles wisely

Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into useless debates. And, don’t get attached to titles and categories. (Left, Right, blue, red, rich, poor, black, white.) None of that matters much in reality, and what’s worse: the control-freak elites, politicians, the media, the government, the big tech, and corporations use it to manipulate, alienate, divide, control, tame, and subdue us. 

I understand it isn’t easy to see some things and not take a stance. The above is not about that, but rather about not waste energy punching walls. If a situation presents something essential to manifest and take a position, take a step back, breathe, and look beyond tags and rushed judgments. Concentrate on the practical results. 

Really, we don’t pick our fights: they choose us.

Declutter your space and your soul

Maybe there has never been a better time to think things through and make a list of everything that drags us down. Get rid of all stuff that has no use, stands in the way, or demands unnecessary attention. Donate, sell, whatever. Cut expenses, save as much as possible, simplify your lifestyle. Basic is light, and light is nimble.

Remove toxic friendships and relationships that “vampirize” us. Get closer to and surrounded by better company. Dedicate more to the ones who love and care for us and inspire us to be our better selves. 

Finally, enjoy life as it is now

We can change others not by words but by action: being good, positive, acting with integrity, and doing what’s right is the way of salvation and even more important (and impactful) during challenging and difficult times. Find comfort and joy in what you can.

If things are still good for you, don’t turn it into SHTF by preparing or expecting SHTF. If things are not good, focus on improvement and march on. We don’t know what’s ahead, but if we can turn the bad into good, we can also ruin ourselves by doing the opposite, so just don’t. 

How are things going for you right now? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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. 

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

Fabian Ommar

About the Author

Fabian Ommar

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