Rethinking The Golden Horde Theory

In his book, “How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It” editor James Wesley Rawles writes:

“If the entire eastern or western power grid goes down for more than a week … edited for brevity… I forsee that there could be an almost unstoppable chain of events:

– Power Failures, followed by
– Municipal Water Supply Failures, followed by
– Disruptiong Of Food Distribution, followed by
– Collapse Of Law And Order, followed by
– Fires And Full-Scale Looting, followed by
– Massive “Golden Horde” Out-Migration from Major Cities

“As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be a massive outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into the hinterboonies.”

“Joe [Six-pack] will think, ‘I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere up in the mountains where some rich dude only goes a couple of times each year.’  So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valle, 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, Joe will think: “I’ve got to go to wheer they grow food.’ So places like the Imperial Valley, the Williamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will suddenly get overrun.  There will be so many desperate Joe Six-packs 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.”

It’s definitely an interesting theory.  So, where does Rawles get it wrong?

rush hour

Look at the picture above: When the SHTF… you’re not going anywhere unless you were lucky enough to get out before things started to fall apart.

Remember: We’re not talking about a typical hurricane evacuation or even a regional earthquake.  It’s: The End Of The World As We Know It.

No rule of law.  No highway patrol.  No AAA when people’s cars break down and block the highway or run out of gas.  No gas, period.

Depending on how things shake out, recent events suggest that the masses will sit in front of their homes and wait for the government to tell them what to do.  If they don’t hear anything from the government, they’ll sit and wait for the power to come back on, hoping and praying.  After several days– and as the reality of their situation and panic begins to set in– the roads will already be clogged and impassable.  Look at the picture above again: Nobody’s going anywhere.  By the time Joe Six-pack realizes he needs to get out… it will be too late.  The big cities will have become a death trap and for the vast majority of people: Nobody will be getting in or getting out.  

rawles1Cars will be abandoned as they either run out of gasoline or get pinned in a mother-of-all-Carmageddon.  As people realize that they can’t get out of the city, the rioting and looting will intensify.  Neighbors in more civilized areas will initially band together to prevent “unknowns” from driving through or walking through their neighborhoods.

For those who got stuck on the highway, do you think they will continue to walk toward their destination some 200+ miles away?  I don’t.  Most will realize that they’re in no physical condition to take on such a trek on foot and instead will opt to return to the their homes in the city.

After days of power failure, no municipal water, no food, diahrea from drinking unfiltered water, withdrawal from medicines and anti-depressants and a generalized poor level of fitness and preparedness… rumors will spread.  “The Army is bringing more food!”  “I’ve heard they’ll have the power restored, tomorrow!”

At that point, do you think the dehydrated and weak masses will take to the road on foot as part of a, “Golden Horde”?  Will these walking dead really have the energy to head out on foot to the bread basket of Central California or the more moderate elevations of Prescott or Sedona?

Highly unlikely.  They’ll stay where they are and hope the rumors of rescue by the government will eventually come true.

A week… two weeks… perhaps three weeks later, will they then be in any shape to form a golden horde and walk to the hinterlands?


Remember… the roads will be closed.  So, these hordes of people who haven’t eaten much in weeks, can’t stop defecating and (most likely) can’t stop shaking from their withdrawal of caffeinated soft drinks, prozac and cocaine… are expected to walk hundreds of miles schlepping their AR15’s and their Walmart sleeping bags and then wind up at your favorite ski resort with the energy left over to turn it into a “free fire zone”?

I just don’t see it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Rawles is absolutely correct when he suggests that you live get out of the big cities and live at your retreat.  I also agree with him about where your retreat should be located (hint: Not at a ski resort or tourism destination!)

But as for the Golden Horde?  More like the Golden Huddle.

  1. I agree with every word you said…except that ultimately, when it all shakes out there WILL be survivors in the cities. What that number is, who knows? Those that do make it through the round one will look at their situation and know that it is not sustainable. I believe they will then gear up and head out to greener pastures. Now you are dealing with the strongest, most desperate, and the battle hardened. You know, the same reprobates that are the strongest, most desperate and battle hardened today. To me this is far more unsettling than the typical “zombies” portrayed in survivalist lore.

  2. I agree with you. But it won’t be a hoard, it will be roving gangs of survivors. How large and how many is anybody’s guess, I just don’t see it as being a horde.

    I also think there will be clusters of small groups within the cities who figure out how to make it work (assuming the city isn’t a complete wasteland).

  3. Best wishes on your blog, but I think you might want to re-think things yourself.

    The Golden Huddle you’re thinking of were the types seen at the Superdome during Katrin; they aren’t the problem, they’re just pathetic. They’re also a tiny fraction of the potential Golden Horde.

    But a slow or rapid societal meltdown is going to look like the free-for-all at the beginning of the Hunger Games contest. The ones who survive early on are going to be the most brutal, homicidal, ruthless predators.

    Now, if only there were some magical means of transport that got great gas mileage, like 50-100 MPG, and would allow someone on it to thread their way between and around all those annoyingly stopped lines of traffic.

    Something like, oh, maybe a Harley or Honda motorcycle, or the like…

    Of course, anyone riding alone on a bike is going to be easy pickings for anyone wanting to take it away, so pretty soon, the folks who group up will fare better than the ones trying solo or small groups.

    Fortunately, of course, there aren’t any homicidal groups of thugs riding motorcycles, or else…oh, crap, there are!

    And L.A. isn’t the only megopolis from which you’ll have million-plus pools of potential refugees. And unlike L.A., a lot of other cities aren’t obligingly surrounded by oceans and barren deserts to whittle down the riffraff. In fact, most any city over 100K is too big to feed itself, so if power and/or food distribution go down, they’re all going to be hemorrhaging people outward along roads in all directions in increasing numbers.

    If, or rather when, enough people want out bad enough, they’ll commandeer anything with the heft to bull a way through all those stopped cars, whether it’s a semi-truck, an armored transport truck, or whatever comes to hand, and with or without Mr.T-style welded on car catchers. With a little Hillbilly Armor, there isn’t much on the road that a simple 5-ton dually pickup truck couldn’t push out of the way, so unless someone rolls over a bulldozer or three, there’ll always be a way to shove your way through unless the cars are literaly bumper to bumper and wall to wall, with no gaps. Take a closer look at that picture, note that even jammed traffic is still 50% open spaces, and think of all the freeway chases where idiots drive between cars just to get away from the cops.

    Anybody that thinks everyone is just going to obligingly stay put and die in place is doing the preparedness version of whistling past the graveyard. And blind hope is a poor form of preparation.

  4. I agree, nobody can state with certainty know how TEOTWAWKI will shake out. I do feel that he normalcy bias will doom millions in the largest cities. They will sit waiting for help or looting the closer areas until you get to that “magical ” 3 to 8 week window and hunger starts moving into starvation. Remember this society isn’t anything like the “Greatest Generation ” more like the “Weakest “. Yes there will be survivors and undoubtedly they will likely be some potentially nasty characters. Hordes? Not likely unless one of our more resilient “allies ” like China or Russia decides to acquire the resources left behind and sends some “Peace Keepers” to help us.

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