Saturday Snippet: Surviving when the devil dances


Selco Begovic survived the horrific internecine warfare in the Balkans during the 1990’s – not without a lot of mental scars that he’s never completely shaken off.  He’s written several books and a number of articles about his experiences that I regard as invaluable for anyone seriously interested in how to cope with hard times, and prepare for them as best one can.

In “The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival: The Brutal Truth About Violence, Death, & Mayhem You Must Know to Survive“, Selco distilled much of he’d learned about surviving in a war zone into a single volume.  (I reviewed it back in January last year, if you’d like to read more about it.)

In a follow-up book published earlier this year, “SHTF Survival Stories: Memories from the Balkan War“, Selco expands on some of those aspects and goes into further detail.

He’s also distilled his in-person courses into a third book, “SHTF Survival Boot Camp: A Course for Urban and Wilderness Survival during Violent, Off-Grid, & Worst Case Scenarios“.  It’s only just been published, so I haven’t read it yet;  but I’ve already bought it, and I’m looking forward to getting into it.

Selco’s books make uncomfortable reading (to put it mildly!) for those accustomed only to modern First World city life, who’ve never been challenged to cope with difficult conditions (much less stay alive in them).  Nevertheless, as I said in my review of the first book, almost two years ago:

“I’m intimately familiar with the stresses of disaster, both natural and man-made, and what they can do to people and societies … Selco … perfectly describes how things went to hell in a handbasket with almost no major warning signs – only trends that most people (including himself) dismissed as temporary or passing problems … This is an indispensable book for anyone wanting to understand how a situation such as that … can (and will) strip the veneer of civilization away from anyone and everyone, and force us all into a survival mode that we’d rather not even think about. When it’s a matter of survival of the fittest, and every person or family for themselves, it’s… it’s very bad indeed. I know. I’ve been there multiple times, and seen it for myself. I’ve seen how it changed me.”

I can’t recommend his books too highly.  They’re essential reading for anyone interested in emergency preparations, even for a lesser crisis than civil war.  They’re also definitely relevant to the schism in US society we’re experiencing at present.  If that schism should go any further, these might be grimly prophetic books indeed.

Here’s a chapter from his second book, in which Selco looks at the USA and discusses the potential for things to go disastrously wrong in our fragmented society.  Given the mayhem we’ve seen over the past few months, with BLM and Antifa disrupting cities and society in many of our cities, and the enforced political correctness being imposed on our speech, social and news media, etc., his perspective is grimly realistic.

USA: Looking in the Balkan Mirror?

For years I have been following news from the survival realm all over the internet. One thing is for sure: every day in those years when I read survival news, I could conclude, based on the headlines, that the world is going to chaos and end in the next week, next month or next year.

And still we are here discussing things while we have all the comforts and commodities. Let’s say we are doing fine.

But now, for the first time, I have a feeling that the world is going to chaos really soon.

Too many things are seemingly moving inside global calculations, and this time we could be close to a “big one”.

No matter how much food, ammo, training and skills you have, when SHTF you are gonna be surprised. Most of us have been in the mode of preparing for something that is not happening for years, and when it finally happens there is going to be a period of a shock for the folks, and in that period a LOT of people are going to die.

Since most of the folks who read my stuff and subscribe to my courses are from the US, things that are written here are meant for them mostly, but not exclusively for them.

Every now and then I get questions about similarities between the situation in the US and the Balkans before SHTF. And I have read a couple of good articles about the same topic lately.

Since I have a lot of people that I can call good friends, and they are from States, I am going to point out some things about my Balkan SHTF and possible US SHTF.

There are some serious and worrying parallels, even we are talking about two different systems.

The System

“The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness… This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground, he is a protector…having a mob entirely at his disposal…” – Plato

I have lived in a system and country where we believed that we are all equal. Different nationalities, different religions etc. Melted all together to make one “big and prosperous” nation, to be great and equal… united.

And then leverage of world forces simply changed, and suddenly we are being taught that differences between us are more important than similarities and “one nation.” Old historic battles are been taught again, and one group suddenly is more important than other and so on and so on.

And then came “leaders” or saviors that led us against others. After years of carnage, here we are again with almost the same leaders.

I have been through the war and met many folks on every side shooting because they have been told that the other side is evil, and yet all sides are the same at the end.

Rich are richer, poor are poorer. Nothing changed. Nobody learned anything.

Big Circles and Small Circles (and your decisions)

Again and again, there is a big circle and small circle. You may have the illusion that you are controlling things in a bigger circle, but it is only an illusion. What kind of government you’re going to have and what kind of politics they use in the next years is not up to you, you just have been smartly led to believe that you can make the change.

It is like that…

In the end, it all comes to the matter of power and possession, and you are a just small piece of everything, you are a small part of the tool.

Over the years I have learned that it is more important to have one more month of food stored or one more skill learned than to waste time on worrying who is going be elected.

It is a waste of time. When the SHTF they are all gonna do the same, more or less, oppress people and take their rights and liberties very easily.

Your Rights

Living in a society where you have certain rights and freedoms for years is a good thing.

The bad thing is when the SHTF and you lose all those rights in a single day, you may find yourself so shocked that you simply do not know what next to do because you had those rights for many years, it became totally natural for you to own them.

Having lots of conversations with friends from the US, I concluded that the majority of common folks simply do not understand that all your rights can be lost in one day.

And not by the evil invaders from space, or Russians or whoever. Your government can take them. In one day.

The majority of folks simply do not see this as a possible option, and even preppers there who understand it may look like weirdos because of this viewpoint.

Do not get me wrong, I would love to live in a country where I can buy weapons easily, where I have rights to protect my home, where I can say freely, more or less, what I do not like.

I like that very much. Actually, I admire it.

What I do not like is the feeling that most of the people think it is written in stone and it cannot be changed.

In short, the things that I like most about the US are going to be the biggest loss when the SHTF, and not only the US.

When the SHTF there is going to be a lot of surprised people, a lot of shocks.

Your Perception of Future SHTF and the Prepper Movement in the USA

I cannot get rid of the feeling, that majority of people see SHTF as big fun, shooting while drinking beer, with additional testing of all of their cool gear.

I see that in blogs, comments, forums, documentaries, movies…

I had more than one participant in my courses who told me, “This is not fun, it is hard, and not so pleasant.”

I had people who have been preppers for 30 years and never considered the fact that when the SHTF, it is going to be smelly all around you.

There’s been a man who advises a skateboard as a ‘good’ transport through a SHTF city, a man who thinks that 30 brand new gold coins are going to get him through problems on his bug out trip, and so on and so on.

Now I am not mocking the people who stated all the above. What I do not like is believing in “facts” that are not checked.

If you have never been through SHTF, you may not have the idea that it is quite hard and unpleasant. Where do you think people and dead animals are going to be buried? Where will the garbage be taken, human waste and everything else? A foul smell is going to be constant.

Don’t you think offering someone a brand-new gold coin for safe passage will bring some “Ooh, maybe he has more of those interesting funny unusual gold things with him” attention?

Why don’t you try to have 10 cheap gold rings in your pocket instead, and offer one at every checkpoint? One that you directly pull from your finger with the words, “Here, take my wedding ring. Just let me pass.”

Is a guy going to think “oooh, maybe he has more of those his wedding rings in his pocket?”

The same things go with trade. Examples are numerous.

Common sense is something that is missing mostly in “mainstream” prepper movements, and I understand that it is a business. It is about money.

But folks, choose carefully what advice you are taking as real.

For the average beginner prepper, the USA looks like paradise. A place where you can look and find the correct information, also look and find correct equipment for future SHTF, but that also brings risk because there are more false and wrong information and mindset than right.

Personally, I like what can be found in the US because, in most of the cases, I know what is good or bad, but for beginners, it is much, much harder.


I want to add kind of conclusion for this very hard topic, because it is wrong to put things right with a generalization:

It is going to be very ugly, much uglier than my SHTF experience here, simply because the ‘fall’ when the SHTF is going to be bigger. The distance between modern everyday life and life in SHTF for the USA is WAY bigger than in my time. The majority of folks are soft and too dependent on the system.

The survival movement is big business, and it has become more (much more) about selling items to make you believe that you are prepared than about learning and gaining knowledge.

Incorrect perceptions about the SHTF (or at least not checked and experienced beliefs) are rooted so hard, they have simply become the accepted truths. A LOT of these “truths” are simply false and there for earning money, not for actual survival.

A good thing is that you have many more options for choosing and owning weapons, but this option can bite you back if you have weapons, but the wrong mindset, “truths,” and knowledge.

Because a whole bunch of bad people are going to have weapons too.

The majority of folks are not ready to bend the rules and adapt. There is a lot of talk about adapting, but then suddenly you get the whole bunch of folks who are thinking “I’ll do that” or “I’ll never do that” instead of “I’ll do what has to be done and adapt to the situation.”

You need to work with other folks, to have friends, group, connections – before SHTF. Survival alone is for really tough motherf*ckers.

People think they prepare for the SHTF, but they don’t, really. They are preparing for the romantic, movie version of SHTF. They want to feel cool and comfortable when SHTF, which is not a problem by itself. The problem is that they want that at the expense of real knowledge and covering of real basics.

So, you’ll have a man who has a fancy and really cool rifle, but does not know how easy and fast in a real fight it is to use 500 rounds, so he ends up without ammo in a week. Or  one who has a generator but does not have a clue how to light a fire, or the differences between fuels for a fire in terms of heating, smoking, etc.

There are many examples.

Do not look for higher reasons for the situation. You may have political options today, factions, candidates, government. But when the SHTF, all of those are empty words from some other distant time. When SHTF you will have yourself and people who want to harm you. That is it.

So, folks, make sure you are preparing for the realities. I would encourage you to start ‘fact checking’ your plans and preps today…

Wisdom in a nutshell, right there.

Working in sub-Saharan Africa for many years, I saw poverty;  deprivation;  famine and starvation;  tribal, ethnic, religious, political and ideological violence;  and many other SHTF situations.  I’m here to tell you, it was exactly the same there as it was in Bosnia.  There’s simply no way most people from a First World background, who’ve never been there and seen it for themselves, can even begin to understand how easily things can go wrong, or how bad they can get in a hurry.  Television news reports can’t convey the sights, the sounds, the smells, of societal collapse.  They’re all so mind-numbing that it’s almost impossible to describe them to someone who’s never seen them.  To truly understand, you have to experience the reality of refugees fleeing in terror and confusion from a nightmare they didn’t see coming and don’t understand.  They’re sheep, being driven by the most violent and brutal of shepherds – and many of them end up as lambs to the slaughter.

It’s happening again in Mozambique as I write these words, with the latest local incarnation of ISIS terrorizing the locals.  They massacred more than 50 people just this weekHow many of you, dear readers, are aware that there are ISIS terror cells in this country too?  Go look up who’s recently been arrested and/or convicted of supporting ISIS, and the terror plots they’ve concocted.  Think that sort of violence can’t happen here?  It already has.

It’s not just foreign terrorism that’s a threat.  When you see the violence, intolerance and mutual hatred that’s so common in our own streets and on our news media these days, be in no doubt that these are all precursors to real trouble.  If we’re lucky, we may be able to stop things at this point, and slowly regroup.  If we’re unlucky, Selco’s warnings are going to come true – and probably sooner rather than later.  Believe those warnings.  They’re real.  I’ve learned that the hard way, to my cost.

In particular, I’d like to emphasize Selco’s comments about store-bought versus real preparedness.

The survival movement is big business, and it has become more (much more) about selling items to make you believe that you are prepared than about learning and gaining knowledge.

Incorrect perceptions about the SHTF (or at least not checked and experienced beliefs) are rooted so hard, they have simply become the accepted truths. A LOT of these “truths” are simply false and there for earning money, not for actual survival.

A good thing is that you have many more options for choosing and owning weapons, but this option can bite you back if you have weapons, but the wrong mindset, “truths,” and knowledge.

Because a whole bunch of bad people are going to have weapons too.

Think about it, folks.  Think about it, and begin making reality-based plans now.  You can’t buy everything you need – in fact, you can get by with surprisingly little, if you know when and how to use it.  Preparedness starts in your head, and in your family’s.  You’ll all have to work together on this if you’re to make it happen.

“What am I going to do to keep myself and my loved ones safe if things go pear-shaped?”

You’ve got the rest of your life to answer that question . . . but the rest of your life isn’t guaranteed to be long.  In fact, if you think you and just a few relatives and friends are going to hold your city street against a much larger mob of rioting, violent attackers bent on taking whatever you’ve got, I suspect your life won’t be long at all.

Learn the difference between tough-sounding rhetoric and hard facts, between theory and reality, between discretion and valor.  I think your family will thank you for it, in the long run.



  1. Live like the Amish…no masks, no reported cases of rampant Covid, no worries about media propaganda. They work hard, eat what they grow…their life is in a constant state of preparedness.

  2. Don't forget a WHOLE LOT of luck.

    I admit I don't know nearly as much about this as any of you, but I do know a bit about how interconnected our society is, and I've read a few TOTAL SHTF situations (_Dies the Fire_, anyone?) and it seems to me that most people are simply going to die, no matter how well prepared they think they are. So you have a year's worth of MREs for your entire family, and fifty thousand rounds of ammo for every one of your ten rifles and twenty handguns? So what? This is America, not Mozambique or Bosnia or any other society where most people still remember how to do things like grow their own food.

    If you live in a small town in defensible terrain, you'll probably be ok for a while.

    If you live in a small town where everyone knows everyone and everyone thinks of everyone else as family, and it's at least twenty miles to the nearest city, you'll probably be ok for a while.

    Otherwise… honestly, how long is a family in a typical suburban house going to last against a "human wave" attack by several hundred crazed-by-hunger feral humans… or worse, against an organized attack by trained soldiers led by whatever strongman is in ascendance that week?

  3. Imagine the worst person you have ever known; someone you would not trust to help you in any situation. Now imagine everyone around you is like that person.
    – Selco Begovic

    That about sums it up.

    A friend of mine who makes his living as an attorney once told me that he'd never take a divorce case. His reason was that the nicest people you'd ever want to meet turn into absolute psychopaths during a divorce, and will do the damnedest things you can imagine.

    The deal with a true SHTF incident is that there really and truly is no one you can call, and the only people who offer help want whatever it is they think you have – and are willing to take it away from you. No, they're not bulletproof, but neither are you.

    I'd likely survive a SHTF for a short while. A little preparation would buy me a few extra days, but that's about it. Knowing my neighbors the way I do, I suspect that they are even less prepared than I am, and they certainly don't have my attitude.

    Thanks for the post, Peter.

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