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Is it Crazy to Worry About the Golden Horde?

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For years, I have listened to people in prepping circles talk about “The Golden Horde”. What is that you ask? Well, the golden horde is a concept that as far as I can tell was introduced by James Wesley Rawles. I like Mr. Rawles – have several of his books in my prepper library and I have been going to his website for years. Mr. Rawles is the writer of several prepper fiction novels (Patriots, Survivors), and probably the first survival book I ever read How to Survive the End of the World As We Know it . He is also the owner of the popular survivalblog.com website. Mr. Rawles’ golden horde concept roughly says that if we have a TEOTWAKI type of event, the major population centers will soon see a mass exodus of people out of the cities and into the surrounding countryside because the cities will be unlivable. The thinking will be to head to the countryside where there is more room, less violence, more food and a safer existence than in the cities.

The historical Golden Horde was a Mongol tribe back in the 13th century, but for the sake of Prepping and how the modern interpretation of this concept could apply to you, I will use Mr. Rawles’ own words in describing what he meant by this concept:

Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week’s food on hand, he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn’t fired in years, and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap. There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate. Where will he go? What will he do?

Odds are, Joe will think: “I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few weeks out of each year.” So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: “I’ve got to go to where they grow food.” So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won’t survive. But some of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.

Now, with that context I will try to give my perspective on this question because I have heard a few of my fellow bloggers, some with no more expertise in this topic than Mr. Rawles or anyone else for that matter, give their opinion that is it foolish to think that the cities will disgorge themselves of people in a TEOTWAWKI event. They argue that people will sit and wait and never leave major metropolitan areas for all number of reasons. They say it could be they are too used to being catered to and will just sit waiting for handouts to come from the government. Others say that the roads will be blocked so there is no way to leave. Not wanting to be left out on the fun, I’ll give my own unlearned opinion below.

What is the Event we are talking about here?

As with all things in life, the situation you are actually faced with will determine the available choices you have or more appropriately, what choices you are forced to make. To say this entire concept is without merit is foolish I think and it shows a lack of imagination to say that this could never happen. I can easily see situations that would force people to leave their homes or cities and if you only have one potential disaster in mind you aren’t seeing the big picture. Everything depends on the disaster as I have said before so while one event might not cause any disruption at all, another could change the world. People are fleeing all the time so this isn’t some bizarre concept that lives solely in the realm of prepper fantasy.

YazidisFleeingAugust112014ReutersViaTimeMagIn Mr. Rawles’ mental exercise he was using a power outage. What caused this power outage? We don’t know but it has been long enough that for Joe, “his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap.” We have to assume the power has been out for a long time or the outage was extremely severe and the Just In Time inventory has been depleted. Utilities are out so a major city would get ugly fast. Have you ever seen a sanitation strike in New York? He goes on to say “there are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed.”. Now, imagine this Joe Sixpack is living in a major city when this happens like New York or Los Angeles.

Do you really think there won’t be people leaving if these things were happening? Do you honestly believe in a city of over 8 million people that nobody is going to leave that type of disaster? Even if we are only talking about 10% of the entire population that decides based upon the information they have (maybe we were attacked by terrorists with an EMP) that they need to get out of the city no matter what, you are still talking about 800,000 people. That’s only 10% of one city!

Let’s go ahead and continue with the theory that this is New York. We have to assume from Mr. Rawles’ mental exercise that since he said that this is TEOTWAWKI,  that the same thing has happened across the country. This isn’t a small power outage caused by a storm that brings the power back in a few days. Now take the 10% from all the towns around New York and New Jersey and add those together. Can you begin to see how an event like this could trigger a “horde” of people moving into the countryside to escape the riots and lawlessness?

Where you live matters

In real estate, you know the phrase… Location, location, location. Where you live matters just as much as the event that causes the crisis or the crisis itself. If you live in the backwoods of Tennessee, you probably don’t have to worry about hundreds of thousands of people making their way out of the city, but what if Memphis and Knoxville were looking for a place to go?

Back in 2013, the Business Insider showed a map of the most populated counties in the United States. They used the census data to determine that over 50% of the population of our country lives in just 146 of the over 3000 nationwide counties. Do you live near one of these?

 

Half Of The United States Lives In These Counties

Half Of The United States Lives In These Counties

It is my belief that with the right disaster, the Golden Horde concept is very likely. I can easily see having to worry about people fleeing major cities if you live near some big metropolis. Now if you are out in the middle of East Jesus, then you probably don’t have to worry about it as much, if at all. However, that doesn’t mean it is crazy for anyone to worry about the golden horde. It might be crazier to think you know everything and everyone else is wrong. It is wise to research it though and find out for yourself if maybe there is something you need to plan for. Where do you live? Is there a big blue spot near your home?

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  • Jack Bower

    It certainly does depend on the disaster. I live in FL so my major disasters are hurricane related. I don’t live in a flood zone but in 2004 we had 2 straight weeks without power (ever shaved by candle light? NOT fun). We all stayed put and carried on with our jobs. Admittedly, that’s not a TEOTWAWKI situation by any stretch.

    Let’s assume that we were attacked by an EMP, though. The govt would survive as many/most of their critical lines of power, communication, and logistics are hardened against such an attack. And once things settled down and relief efforts began to come in from our allies where do you think they will distribute? Out in the country? Nope. They’ll go to NY, LA, Boston, Miami, etc. And since my home town is home to a large air force base then that would likely be used as a hub for regional relief which would dissuade many people from leaving the city (depending on the disaster and how long it takes for relief to begin).

    I’m not saying that I disagree with the concept of the golden horde. In fact I think it is probable in many cases. I am just saying that one must look at “what happens next” when applying the GH theory and planning what one is going to do.

    • Thanks for the comments Jack,

      I don’t really believe the government wouldn’t survive, but in what capacity? Even if they were perfectly fine, had zero problems with people or logistics, you have to look at numbers and even a fully functioning government will have problems if nobody else is functioning.

      As far as relief efforts from our allies, you would have to assume they would be or would be able to get to us. Best case scenario something like that would take weeks I imagine and people would be going crazy well before that. I realize that anytime you get into hypothetical like this there is probability and reality and to your point, we really won’t know anything until we get into and maybe through any event like this. I guess I tend to think of worst case scenario in some cases but hopefully we wouldn’t see that and like you say, things will start flowing again quickly and life will resume. That’s my hope.

      Pat

      • Mike

        The “golden horde” concept is simply fiction, and doesn’t jive with what history and case precedent have shown to be what really happens.

        CIties pretty much never empty out spontaneously, regardless of how bad it is. The very rare exception to this is when people are forced to evacuate on government orders. People tend to stay where they are, and they tend to die where they live.

        If they are starving, they can’t go far, the same also if they have no fuel.

        What history has also shown is that governments don’t just evaporate, and they will maintain power at the muzzle of a gun if necessary. Cities are power bases, and even if it causes people to die from hunger, governments like to keep people in the cities.

        They will restrict movement, up to the point of shooting anyone who tries to leave without a travel pass. A couple of dozen men with machine guns, a tank, and orders to shoot, parked in the middle of a freeway WILL stop the flow of people. If you look at any modern city, there are a finite number of choke points where you can seal off the flow of people into and out of a major city with a surprisingly small number of troops.

        THAT is what history has shown to be the much more likely scenario.

        • Richard

          Think about refugees then take a look at the UNHCR web site. Lets assume that you don’t trust them but the numbers are probably right. Think about troubles in the last 70 years and the vast numbers of people who just picked up and left. Think of Katrina. Think about the mass migrations during the late 1940s in China and when India and Pakistan divided. The movement of the Palestinians to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria when Israel was formed. The vast movement of people in Cambodia after the Vietnam War. The refugees in Yugoslavia in the 90s. All of the refugees in Ruwanda during the time of the Tutses and the Hutus (sorry about the spelling). The refugees in Turkey from the current conflict in Syria. I am talking about tens of millions of people here. You might say that (except for Katrina) none of that happened in the West so it doesn’t matter. Maybe. Maybe their houses didn’t have electric lights but it was theirs and it was a roof and they picked up and left. In the event of an emergency is New York City going to send out government people in trucks to purchase food when there is no fuel for trucks and people who have food in the Midwest want to keep it? How does this work? Do you think that people in cities are just going to quietly starve to death? If you live in the country, are you prepared to bet your life on that?

        • Austin McMahon

          once military stops getting a paycheck they too will abandon their post, especially if they have their own families starving.

  • gman

    the horde will have seven components.

    1a) the classic golden horde – strangers who have no idea of your status.

    1b) the personal golden horde – relatives and neighbors who know what you have and where you are.

    2) lucky individuals and beginning preppers who have guns and thirty days of food and who find you.

    3) ad-hoc teams of lucky individuals and beginning preppers who have guns and thirty days of food and who find you.

    4) displaced preppers. those who were prepared but have been driven from their homes and are now searching for yours. they know what to look for and how to find you.

    5) libertarians and anarchists who will be on a mission to eliminate any remaining form of human organization they can find.

    6) crazies. paranoids, murderers, psychotics, arsonists. they may be up-front crazy or they may infiltrate your group and murder you in your sleep. they will set random fires, take one or two sniping shots and then walk away, or leave out poisoned food or sabotaged ammo.

    7) raiders. those who are prepping now to survive, not by storing or producing goods, but by taking yours. they already know all the resources in their area, including yours, and have infiltrated the major prepper groups, including yours. they will be based on racial gangs, sheriff’s departments, swat teams, reserve armory cadre, and former military units. they will have numbers, training, experience, mg’s, bmg’s, mortars, nvg, optics, fuel, comms, av’s, and perhaps even drones.

    • Patrick Henry 2014

      I take issue with your number 5, libertarians and anarchists have nothing in common. Libertarians do want organization, whether personal or government, their issue is they don’t want government to interfere with natural liberties and expect government to protect those liberties. Anarchists want no form of government. A libertarian wood be supportive of self reliance and group organization to protect life liberty et al

      • gman

        to pat henry and patrick henry (same person?)

        what you describe as “libertarian” I recognize as “conservative”. I would call them confused conservatives who equate the liberalization of the republican party with a failure of conservativism, who therefore seek an alternative political philosophy, and who think they see that alternative in libertarianism.

        many if not most actual libertarians are simply anti-people. they don’t want limited government. what they want is unlimited government in themselves, a six gun on their hip and no policeman in sight. they are not pro-freedom. they want unlimited freedom for themselves and everyone else had better not cross them. they are not pro-personal-responsibility. they simply want no-one else to touch their lives in any way except on their terms in their time at their request. they are the kind of people who think their wives and children are their property, who shoot the neighbor’s cat if it wanders into their yard, who refuse to pay taxes but use public property anyway. oh yes, if they get a chance these people will indeed take advantage of the situation and be on the hunt to put down any remaining human organization that crosses their sight, in the name of their own personal freedom from everyone else. a man alone may live as he pleases, but ten men may dictate to him – and to live alone as they please libertarians will make sure that those ten men never assemble.

        • No we aren’t the same person but we are using the same name apparently. The Patrick Henry of old was more of my version of Libertarian than what you describe I believe. I think what you describe is an Anarchist who likes to run around smashing windows in but I don’t believe I have ever heard of those type of people described as libertarian.

          I picture the character and principles of Ron Paul, not anyone destroying anything for the sake of chaos. I guess we will have to see which one of us is right in the end.

          Pat

        • Richard

          “what you describe as “libertarian” I recognize as “conservative””.

          No offense intended but you either have not read much about libertarians or you did not believe what you read. Same about conservatives. I fancy myself a conservative. I don’t want to see government go away but I want it to be a lot smaller.

          I want government, “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.

          We have $3,800 billion dollar federal budget. Only $675 billion are for the common defense. About $2,400 billion dollars are for medicare and social security and that is because Congress has been raiding SS for about 60 years. I think that the federal government is doing a lot of stuff that it should not be doing. In my opinion, the CFR and all of the tons of US code are way over the top of the “Establish Justice” phrase. I think that the ACA should not be in there.

          If you actually believe what you wrote describes libertarians and conservatives, you probably do not like us very much. Perhaps you should try to get out and meet some people. I think you will find that most conservatives are pretty reasonable people. At least we think we are 🙂

    • Gman,

      Thanks for your comments, but I don’t know where you got that impression of Libertarians. When is the last time you heard a Libertarian call for eliminating human organizations? Maybe reducing government? I have heard them call for eliminating taxes, eliminating wars, eliminating stupid laws that jail people who haven’t harmed anyone but your statement with respect to them seems to come out of left field.

      I don’t even think anarchists will be doing anything but trying to survive after a catastrophe. If the world is already in chaos what would they have to do? We would be living in Anarchy.

      Pat

  • Steeve Johnson

    I lived in Houston, TX when Katrina hit New Orleans and the two cities are 350 miles apart. The influx of refugees was enormous and most stayed and did not return to Louisiana. I know they had time and warnings to fill up with gas but I-10 became a parking lot and many people became stranded and never made it to Texas. Then 1 month later hurricane Rita came through and headed straight for Houston. every road out of Houston was a parking lot. motorists were stranded and every store within a couple miles of the main roads was sold out of water and gasoline. No one could get restocked because the roads were blocked. More people died from heat exhaustion and dehydration than from the hurricane. Fear changes people and I have seen this “golden Horde” on 2 occasions. It is very real.

  • &@$?

    Apparently I’m forced to post a comment just to sign up for the newsletter. Nice.

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