There’s a saying ‘To Assume makes an Ass out of U and Me’. I hate that saying, because it’s stupid and because it uses the American ‘ass’ and as far as I’m concerned that’s a donkey. I think that the saying should be ‘Assumptions will mean you starve to death or die of cholera’ but admittedly that’s not very catchy. However, it is much more accurate. Making assumptions probably won’t turn you into a donkey, but it will get you killed.
You hear it all the time, from your ill-informed ‘friends’. ‘Oh, I’ll be fine’ they say. ‘I’ve stocked up on weapons’ they laugh. ‘I’ll just hide out in my house till the army comes and saves me!’ NO. NO. YOU’LL DIE. You’ll die because you are stupid, which means we won’t really miss you, but foolish assumptions can get even the smartest and most well-prepared person killed. Sit down, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Lesson 1: Don’t assume anyone else is coming to help you.
Because they probably aren’t. It’s that simple. Every day, thousands of people tell themselves that they’ll be fine because they’ll just wait till the army/the government/someone else fixes all this nonsense. They are going to die. Don’t be among them. The Powers that Be may survive, but they’ll probably be more focussed on life inside their luxury bunkers than sorting out the mess above-ground, but hell, they may not even survive. If you assume they’re coming to help you, you’ll take stupid risks, like staying in your crumbling house as the radiation-mutated hordes surround it. If you don’t make that assumption, you’re more likely to keep yourself out of dangerous situations.
Lesson 2: Don’t assume people are nice.
People are actually pretty terrible. Just look at what happens in war-torn third world countries for a bit. I’ll wait. Now you’re done weeping/retching/whatever you’re probably thinking ‘Oh, but that couldn’t happen here!’. You think? Really? Imagine your city, with no food and everyone scared because awful things are happening and no-one seems to be helping. Sure, it’ll be the people who are monsters who snap first, but soon enough everyone will realise it simply isn’t worth it to be altruistic. They will slowly stop caring about anyone outside their circle, and when that happens, you’d better be willing to bet they’d sell you to a rape gang for enough food to feed their kids for a week. You see, if humans are honest, no-one apart from ourselves and the people we know and love actually matter to us, and in the noise and fear and filth of survival we can forget nearly everyone else. I mean, I’m not planning on being a monster or anything, but if it’s a choice between you and one of my friends I will cripple you so they don’t catch up with us. On a related note…
Lesson 3: Don’t assume someone is useless (unless they really are).
There’s a lot of caveats to this one, but the simple thing is to remember something we are taught at childhood and promptly forget so we can replace it with bigotry and nastiness: don’t judge a book by its cover. Simply put, just cause someone looks useless, doesn’t mean they are. They may have skills you’d kill to have in your group. On the other hand, just because someone is 7 foot tall and made out of muscle with a steely glint in their eye doesn’t mean you actually want to have them around. They may be a selfish coward, whereas the weedy one with a limp may be an excellent doctor, or able to throw a knife through someones neck with pinpoint accuracy. BE CAREFUL. Check peoples abilities at all points. I appreciate you won’t always be able to perform a rigorous batallion of tests on everybody ever, but just keep an eye on them, and be willing to drop dead weight as soon as possible.
Lesson 4: Don’t assume you’re safe.
So, you have your compound. You’ve spent a lot of time barricading it, and it’s as perfect as you can get it. You relax onto your filthy mattress, safe in the knowledge you need never worry again. STOP. You are not safe, you’re just SAFER. Making assumptions at this point will mean you become lazy about safety and security, or worse, arrogant. Never become lax in your safety protocols! Everyone should train in weapons regularly, even ‘Limpy’ from our previous example. There should aways be people on watch, day and night. There should be daily checks on the fortifications to ensure there are no gaps and no weak spots. Weak spots should be immediately reported and covered. Any new incomers should be checked for disease and watched for a long time before they are trusted. The water should be kept covered and guarded. Assuming you’re safe means you are anything but.
Lesson 5: Don’t assume water/food is safe and plentiful.
Even when you have got to the famring stage you shouldn’t assume this. You were probably cautious in the earlier stages, but you may find yourself relaxing now. Don’t. Keep your stocks of food full of dried tinned and preserved goods, in case of a crop failure. Keep your water guarded, and ensure you have a still or two to distill it in case of disease. Make that you have enough water for everyone for several months should your supply become foul or dry up. It’s better to have too much than too little.
There are many other assumptions that could get you killed, but I think I’ve covered the most common and dangerous ones here. Should you ever find yourself going ‘Oh, I’ll be fine!’ Just stop and think your plan through. Always be on the lookout for sneaky assumptions, because you don’t want to die.