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By Eugene P. Wigner
A renowned physicist and civil defense analyst probes behind the mask of apathy in the United States. (Originally printed in the first Journal of Civil Defense, May-June 1968, Vol. 1 No. 1)
I have often tried to explain the need for a vigorous civil defense effort, why and how such an effort would go far in preserving peace and how it could save many millions of lives if war should come nevertheless. “Why Civil Defense?” would be an apt title for this subject because we want the civil defense effort to be strong and vigorous. But my subject is also the opposite: “Why No Civil Defense?”. What are the roadblocks? Why isn’t the civil defense effort as strong and effective as we would like it to be? Why is there not a popular demand for it? There are, it seems to me, three principal reasons for this.
The first reason is the power of the anti-civil defense establishment. What provides this strength? What are the motives of the establishment?
There are, of course, those who would like to see our country become a second or third-rate power, the nakedness and vulnerability of its people forcing its government to accede to the demands of those governments whose people are better protected or who care less for human life. Persons who have these desires are, however, small in number, and they contribute but very little to the undeniably very great strength of the anti-civil defense establishment. Can this establishment muster valid arguments against civil defense? I think it can, and this is the reason for citing this cause for our lagging civil defense efforts as the first of my “principal reasons”.
If we install shelters, store food and other supplies, we make preparations against an attack on our country. Such preparations naturally set us apart from those against whose attack we protect ourselves and render it more difficult to develop a true friendship between the governments of communist countries and ourselves. This is the theory of Festinger, often derided by social scientists, but I do think there is something to it even if not in the extreme form propounded by Festinger. It is, of course, true that the hate propaganda of the other side also interferes with the development of the true friendship, and it is sad – very sad – that this is never criticized by the anti-civil defense establishment.
The second reason why the civil defense effort is not more vigorous and why there is not more public demand for it is that it is unpleasant to think about disasters, particularly disasters as severe as nuclear war. Let us note that insurance policies offering compensation in case of fire are called fire insurance policies, but that the policies protecting our families in case of our death are called life insurance policies. No similarly euphemistic name has been invented for civil defense, and it would not help much if one were invented. Building shelters would remind us in any case of a great and terrible calamity that could befall us, and we all are reluctant to think about such calamities. Why dig a hole in the ground where one may have to live for weeks if one can, instead, walk in the sunshine? We have a tradition for work, and many of us enjoy it, but we do not have a tradition of thinking about disasters which may strike us. However, whereas our reluctance to face the temporary nature of our sojourn in this world does not, as a rule, shorten our lives, our reluctance to protect ourselves may bring war nearer.
The third reason that we do not take civil defense very seriously is that we are all too conceited. Sure, other people have been stricken by disasters, other nations have been wiped out or subjugated. But this cannot happen to us, we say. It is not even decent to think about it. I once went to see the now deceased Albert Thomas, who prevented a good deal of civil defense legislation from being enacted in the House of Representatives. He listened to me for a few minutes and then said: “Take it easy, young man, take it easy. This country is so strong it does not need any civil defense.” Most of us would express this self-defeating doctrine less clearly and less bluntly than did Mr. Thomas. But what he said is present in the minds of all of us. On a peaceful day like today, when we are absorbed by so many more pleasant thoughts, is it not unreasonable to think about some country attacking us with nuclear weapons?
In a very real sense, I believe, it will be a test of the democratic ideal whether our people can resist burying their heads in sand or not, whether or not they, can muster the foresight and maturity to carry out the unpleasant and unpopular task of protecting themselves, their country, and their freedom against dangers which seem far away. Nothing but illusory comfort can be gained by closing our eyes to these dangers.
- Eugene P. Wigner – 1963, Nobel Prize in Physics won for contribution to theory of the atomic nucleus and elementary particles specifically the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles.
A John Farnam “Quip” – July 7, 2017
“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance, when the
need for illusion is deep.”
It represents enormous conceit to believe that police can do anything
to stop crime, particularly violent crime. What we do is deter/displace it.
We discourage it at a particular moment, and thus move it to other places.
That’s about it!
There is nothing we can do to “make people obey the law.” All we can
do is make them wish they had. In most of Western Civilization, our
tools for accomplishing the latter are extremely limited and largely
ineffective, and becoming less effective all the time!
As individual Operators, we can make ourselves, our routine, and our
personal environment, as invisible and unattractive as we are able, to both
conventional criminals and violent leftist political ideologues. There is
little we can do to influence world events, which are currently more
than a little frightening and ominous.
Something every Infantry Officer learns early in his career:
“Any position can be taken, when the attacker is willing to pay the price.”
Thus, sufficient determination and commitment will overcome all
“access controls.” When VCAs must be physically stopped, you will have
no choice but to personally, decisively effect the “stopping”. You’ll
get dirty, maybe wet!
“Proactive security” is mostly myth. Some still insist that people with
evil, violent intent can somehow be “detected” shortly before they
carry out their terrible crimes. Mostly wishful thinking, and “false positives”
create all kinds of civil-rights issues!
The only reliable predictor of individual future behavior is
individual past behavior. Best advice is to have nothing to do with
people who have displayed toxic behavior in the past. Get away from
them, and get them out of your life!
1) The only authentic “first responders” to precipitous, violent
criminal acts, are prospective victims directly at the scene, at the
critical moment. Even then, they are effective in preventing/limiting
carnage only when armed, trained, alert, and pivotally decisive.
2) Imagining that it is possible to predict/prevent spasmodic, violent
criminal acts through “scientific preemptive measures” represents a
fatal fantasy. Don’t bet your life on it.
3) Imagining that “access control,” no matter how sophisticated nor
formidable, will suffice to protect you from harm, represents another
4) Imagining that police/security personnel will arrive “in the nick
of time” represents yet another fatal fantasy.
5) Imagining that it is somehow “immoral” to effectively defend oneself,
including the precise application of deadly force, is a foolish concession to
naive liberals/leftists. Liberals are only too anxious to “sacrifice”
the lives of others (but never their own), in order to “preserve their
6) Only the well-armed, well-trained, aware, and otherwise
well-prepared have any chance of living through a violent attack by
traditional VCAs, or as we’re seeing in increasing numbers, violent leftist ideologues.
“There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and
dishonest men. Any man who says the world owes him a living is
dishonest. The same God who made you and me made this Earth. And, He
planned it so that it would yield every single thing that people on it
need. But, He was careful to plan it so that it would yield up its wealth only in exchange
for honest labor.
Who insist on sharing that wealth, while contributing nothing, are dishonest.”
John S. Farnam, president of Defensive Training International, is one of the top handgun instructors in the world. He has personally trained thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel, as well as non-police, in the serious use of firearms. In addition, he has authored four books on the subject — “The Farnam Method of Defensive Handgunning,” “The Farnam Method of Defensive Shotgun and Rifle Shooting,” “The Street Smart Gun Book,” and “Guns & Warriors – DTI Quips Volume 1.” (For all book orders, contact Vicki at email@example.com)
By Paul Seyfried
I don’t know where you are reading this—on a desktop computer or mobile device—but for the sake of argument, let’s say a convicted felon is kicking in your door right now. The only weapons you have to fight him off are the items within a 3-foot circle of your current position. How much trouble are you in?
I’ve said it before: If you are more than three seconds away from your primary self-defense weapon, fix that right now.
My primary defensive weapon is a firearm. But that is only a tool. More important is your understanding of the righteous use of violence as it applies to legal self-defense. In short, are you mentally ready to fight? Will active self-defense be your default setting when the time comes? Gear and gadgets do not matter if you are not ready, willing, and able to use them. If, in the face of great and immediate danger, you don’t automatically reach for a weapon, look for cover, and start thinking about your defensive options, you will be well behind your attacker when the fight starts. That’s no good.
Too many people get caught in sequential thinking that goes something like this: What is happening? Is this really happening? This can’t be happening. I don’t believe this is happening.
By the time those thoughts bounce around your head, you are swinging seriously behind the attacker’s fastball.
Right here and right now clear your head of all that crap. Make the decision to accept that bad things happen. They can happen to you. Understand that when you see, feel, or even sense that they are starting to happen, you need to take action. The time for thinking about what is happening has already passed and you need to take some action or get into the fight.
This does not mean that you need to charge into an aggressive confrontation. Taking action can be as simple as crossing the street to put some distance between you and a potential threat. If you carry your firearm in a purse, get your hand on your gun early and be ready to draw if the situation warrants it. Think about taking defensive action. Self-defense is more than fighting, and it starts with the idea that you will someday have to fight.
In self-defense circles we talk about mindset all the time. There is a reason for that. Think about this: Your attacker is a predator. Before he strikes he stalks, assesses the risk, seeks a suitable location, and waits for the most opportune moment. He has planned his attack and counts on the fact that his element of surprise will give him the advantage. To defeat this type of predator, you need to be as vigilant as he is cunning. You need to be prepared. Most importantly, you need to be willing to act with equal violence and aggression to stop the violent assault. If you are standing there flat-footed trying to figure out what is going on, your chances of winning the fight are greatly reduced.
And make no mistake about it. I want you to win the fight. I don’t want you to simply “survive.” This is a fight for your life. You need to prevail. You do that by being prepared.