Paladin Press’s Interview with James C. Jones
My latest book titled “The Live Free Book of Total Survival” is due to come out from Paladin Press this winter. The publishers are making it the featured book for their next on-line and printed catalogue and wanted to include an interview with me as part of the promotion. The publisher’s questions turned out to be very provocative and provided an opportunity to share some opinions and historic perspective with the readers. Paladin had to edit the answers a bit to fit their space. I have include the entire unedited interview questions and answers along with two additional commentaries that I hope you all will find informative.
- How long have you been involved in the self-reliance movement? How did you get involved?
I had a challenging childhood that forced me to be self-reliant and independent at a very early age. I don’t remember not having some kind of survival pack. Living poor on the Southside of Chicago gave me my urban survival training and my outdoor activities that included, rock-climbing, caving, rafting and primitive camping provided the rest. Survival/self-reliance as a movement started in the background of the social and political upheavals of the 1960. I helped organize Live Free USA in the late 1960s. The organization evolved from an outdoor survival club to a general survival and preparedness education group. That is now a tax-deductible, not-for-profit corporation. Their website is at www.AmericanSurvivor.org
- In that time, have the essential principles changed, or simply their applications?
Certainly the principles of personal and family self-reliance and independence have not changed, but the acceptance of the need for preparedness and sustainable self-reliance has change dramatically.
In the 1960s through the 1980s the general public felt that they lived in a fairly secure world threatened by one singe danger (nuclear war) that might or might not happen. This made various form of denial the prevalent mindset. Survivalists were regarded as paranoid or even dangerous. I did a lot of TV, radio and print interviews trying to explain that we were just responsible citizens that made everyone safer. The movement as such was a small outlying subculture at that time.
In the later 1990s the threat matrix of economic decline, political instability, depletion of resources, terrorism, epidemics, civil disorder, unemployment, shortages, natural disasters, effectively destroyed the public’s sense of safety and confidence. These were disasters that were happening to them or their neighbors now. Denial became much harder to sustain and preparedness and self-reliance offered real advantages and benefits. This is why the movement is growing, evolving and becoming a mainstream force for the future.
- What is the biggest obstacle to people adopting a more self-reliant lifestyle?
I get that question often when I do presentation for community groups and preparedness expositions. The biggest obstacle is just getting started and letting go of dependency and vulnerability. People are often overwhelmed by needing so much knowledge and supplies. I tell them to go home and fill some clean containers with water, buy some candles and start designating canned-goods for emergency use only. It’s a start. Set a budget and a list of preparedness improvement goals. Do something. Do it now. Keep getting better. Of course I have handouts and references to help them
- How do you organize all the essential knowledge a person needs to be self-reliant and survive emergencies in 10 principles—or, actually, 11 principles?
The ten principles are distilled from a variety of sources, observations and experiences. They could be expanded or compressed, but ten is a manageable number to organize and communicate the mental and philosophical foundations of a survivor in times of crisis as well as daily life. Of course that eleventh principle “Never Give Up” is often the most important.
- What is the first step that you would advise a person to take in the quest for emergency preparedness?
If you are reading this and hopefully reading my book, you have already taken the most important step. You have left denial and started to take control and responsibility for your own future in a hazardous world. One of my personal mantras is “happen to things before they happen to you” Of course things will happen to you, but if you are happening and proactive and mission oriented, these happenings will not stop you.
- How important is the mental component of survival?
The mental attitude is pretty much the whole game in survival. I do a lot of studying of past disasters and human behavior. Often the only reason some people died was there inability to move from denial through deliberation and on to decision and action. They often had the knowledge and means to survive, but not the spirit and will to act. People who have experienced disaster or hard times have been shocked into being natural survivors. Others usually need training and determination. This is why I developed the ten principles program.
- In the early days of the survivalist movement, Americans feared the doomsday scenario of the Russians bombing us. What is the biggest fear of most Americans today?
I think I answered most of this in question number-two, but the real issue is that this combination of developing and potential threats are all connected so that only one or two of them happening will trigger many of the others. For example: a cyber-attack or EMP would start an economic collapse that would generate civil disorder that would shut down the grid and create epidemics. Any one leads to the others. No matter what you are concerned most about, you need to prepare for them all and maybe even all together.
- How has your experience as an EMT and Industrial Safety Manager informed your survival practices?
I started working at a rather large chemical plant back in the 60s. I guess my survival thinking led me to making safety improvements. This lead to a lot of certifications, promotions and awards. I did a lot of hazard analysis, incident investigation, emergency planning and accident prevention work. I was able to apply survival ideas to industrial safety and industrial safety science techniques to survival. This gave me a unique approach to both. Some of my ten principles and many of my articles were inspired by my safety management experiences and observations. I also became an EMT, Certified Hazard Control Manager and HAZMAT Technician. All that added to my background.
- Are preppers different than survivalists?
We were doing what we do before the term “survivalist” became popular, then in the 90s it was “preppers”. I like the term “self-reliance practitioner”, but it’s not as catchy. My problem with “prepping” is that it is defensive. You are prepping for a particular thing or things to survive and recover. Not good enough. Survivalists live the philosophy and think differently. We apply survival principles to everyday life and assume that the expected disasters and the unexpected disasters will happen and that we will deal with them and retain our values and freedoms. Survival is more than just staying alive.
- A lot of what you include in this book seems like smart advice for ordinary, day-to-day life and not just for crises. Do you see a strong connection between those who have successful lives and those who survive extraordinary challenges?
I find it amazing that most people and families muddle along, without defined missions and goals. I am a big advocate of a mission centered life. How do we know what success will look like if we never established the objective. Your survival and preparedness program should be built on the idea of perusing your mission and reaching your goals in-spite of the challenges and disasters that you may encounter. Don’t just survive it. Own it. I came to realize that the application of my ten principles had actually work for me and others even though they were not defined at the time. Yes, these are sound principles to live by on a day-to-day basis. Those I know who have had a lot of trouble and “bad luck” inevitably violated one or more of the principles.
Added Qs and As
The following questions were not included in the interview, but add my personal views of our future.
- How do you see the future of the preparedness, survival and sustainable living movement in the coming decades?
This is now a mainstream movement and will be a major factor in how Americans survive, adapt and endure thorough the challenges and disasters that they will face. The younger generation must embrace self-reliance, responsibility and independence or be dragged into a very dark future
- What are you hopes for Live Free USA in the years ahead?
I devoted a significant part of my life into building the organization and its relevance and future importance is just now becoming imperative. I can only hope that others will step forward and take it to the next level. The movement needs a not-for-profit, advocacy and support organization to unite and network the various groups and elements in our common cause. Certainly the enemies of self-reliance and personal independence are well organized, united and well financed. We need to be also.