A view from Mexico

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In the United States, mainstream Y2K activism and public opinion have tended to marginalize "survivalists," those who are preparing to defend themselves, often in isolation, and with violence if necessary. Survivalists and the mainstream have little contact, and tend to view each other with suspicion, or at least discomfort.

It's also a truism that many Americans don't know a great deal about what conditions are like elsewhere, even as close as our neighbor to the south.

I thought it would be interesting to share this correspondence I have been having with a man named Arnaldo, who contacted me from Mexico. He is dealing with a situation where, in his part of the world, the social order is so unreliable today -- for reasons unrelated to y2k -- that family self-defense is a necessity of life.

It's a complicated world, too much so for simple labels or categories. What might be dangerous paranoia in one situation could have a different meaning in another setting. Here is a fascinating glimpse of one man's community approach to a difficult situation. I've assembled several pieces of mail; the result is long, but I think you will find it good reading. (By the way, if you read on down you will spot some interesting uses of the term "resiliency.")

Arnaldo would love to hear from you.

-----Original Message-----

From: arnaldo [mailto:arnaldo@cozumel.com.mx]
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 1999 3:23 PM
To: halim@y2kcommunity.org
Subject: Y2K communities

Hi Halim,

We are setting together a rural community formed by 35 independent 5 acres farms and my own at the center with 50 acres. I have many years of experience on this kind of communities, living or visiting them from Africa to Asia and also in South America. The present one is located in Tabasco State in Mexico. We choose Tabasco for many different reasons and I will like to exchange information with your groups. We're more concerned with the almost complete autonomy and self-support, with a wide variety of foods produced there. Of course the weather is very benign with our crops and water is plentiful, with a rich and deep soil. We covered also the security aspects, helped here by the availability of very cheap labor and between owners and laborers we'll be around 100 families. We4re building for the farm and ranch hands even better houses than our owner neighbors have. Producing much more food than possibly we'll be able to eat, preserve or give away and paying very good salaries (less than a Social Security unemployment check in the States) we're buying a fierce loyalty and also the local police are our gofers.

Unfortunately we developed a security system before the Y2K concern and beyond, because the unstable state of public security here. We're very experienced on this matter and I like to learn what are your groups doing about it.

I like to participate in any forum or info exchange group or individuals. Please,let me know how to do it.


-----Original Message-----

From: Halim Dunsky [mailto:halim@y2kcommunity.org]
To: arnaldo

Sounds like a very worthwhile venture. Buena suerte.

I'm not sure what exactly you are referring to in these comments about security:

> Unfortunately we developed a security system before the Y2K concern and
> beyond, because the unstable state of public security here. We're very
> experienced on this matter and I like to learn what are your groups doing
> about it.

An active and interesting discussion forum is the Milennium Salons, http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a.tcl?topic=Millennium%20Salons .

-----Original Message-----

From: arnaldo
To: halim

Hello Halim,

I said unfortunately because we develop an expertise in security systems and daily safety operations out of necessity. The public security in Mexico in the last four or five years desintegrated and arm robberies, kidnappings and burglaries become familiar. Some people did nothing and many of them are now statistics but some, like ourselves refused to be cornered and butchered like frightful sheep and took action.

We have a restriction here about fire arms and in consequence, the criminals are the only ones well armed. But every person living in rural areas are allowed to legally own a 22 caliber rifle and a shotgun. Of course we cross the boundaries of strict legality many times, but we can't have all the weapons I like to have.

Anyway, our system works in concentric circles of security, with only one access gate, operated by a gate-keeper, who lives with his family by the entrance. A visitor arrives. He must use the electronic doorbell with CCTV in order to be accepted. We can answer the system by radio anywhere in the fields and from my house through the CCTV. The gate-keeper opens the first gate and the visitor's car drive into an space between the first and the second gate. The second gate can't be opened if the first isn't closed. The gate-keeper can't open the second gate, only we can from the house or from our vehicles. If the gate is forced an alarm system goes off. After the second gate lays an underground vehicles' detection system and shall set a second alarm sound. The intruder must drive more than 500 yards uphill. A road bordered by beautiful flower bushes. Just in case, the flowers camouflage a double line of spikes which will destroy any tire, if the driver wants to go through it. By now all the hands and my family shall be shooting at the incoming intruder's car. From everywhere in the fields. It is true that a rim-fire rifle doesn't have the power of a good assault rifle, but high speed, hollow head bullets, raining from a dozen rifles are a serious thing. Also the mexican peasants are very proud marksmen and totally fearless. From the actioning of the first alarm, the police, the army post and our own neighborhood security system are alerted. Police here is well know for "shooting first and asking questions later".

At the end of the road a five acres garden surrounds the main house. The fence is an alarm system by itself, with trip wires, infrared beams, et cetera. The garden houses flocks of geese, another alarm device. They eat grass, can't be enticed by a beefsteak or a bitch in heat and anyway, who had eaten a roasted dog, this side of the world?

The house has a wrap-around veranda 10 feet wide totally enclosed with mosquito screen. The whole veranda has a motion detection system.

At night the garden fence system not only activates a sound alarm but a flood lights array from the roof of the house. The house always remains dark. We have day CCTV(low light) and night vision cameras. Of course night vision goggles too.

The surrounding farms all have at least a gate-keeper, some perimetry system and arms. All must have hand held radios, carry portable phones and panic buttons.

This was the ugly part. I like to exchange ideas and information with some groups and individuals interested in a better living albeit the problems we're all facing. We are not planning to have less or to be contented "with what we can get by". We're moving to the country to live better and with more enjoyment, nor less. We're not making sacrifices, on the contrary. Because of time limitations we have here(damm telephone company), to navigate on Internet, I'll appreciate if you can put-up my e-mail address on some forums. I can write to anyone but it's almost impossible for me to enter in some of the chat groups or even to reach the forums through Netscape, Explorer or similar.

I'll appreciate your comments. Thank you in advance.


-----Original Message-----

From: halim
To: arnaldo

Your story is a very interesting one -- this is a picture of life in Mexico that not many Americans get to see. I'd like permission to share your story with people on my mailing list.

Many -- maybe all -- of us are interested in a better life, but that means different things to different people. To help me put you in contact with people you might enjoy talking with, it will help me to know more about the kind of life you are looking to build. Are you an organic farmer? What kind of culture are you building with the others on your farm? What directions do you see the world heading and how would you like to influence that?



-----Original Message-----

From: arnaldo
To: halim

Hello Halim,

Permission granted, of course. My only concern is my broken English but if you feel it's understandable enough, it's OK with me. I like if you can post the whole letter, maybe someone start to write to me from there.

You were asking to know more about us. Yes we are organic farmers, but again with a little twist. For years and years I planted more seeds than necessary (being the seeds very un expensive) and using a japanese technique of "zero labor".

My philosophy is: I plant five seeds when I need one. One for the birds, one for the mice, one for the ants, one for me and one for security. Suppose we're planning to plant a lot of 20 yards by 100 yards with corn. Instead of using a mechanical cultivator (expensive, noisy, gasoline and a lot of sweat) I make a lot of 20 by 20 with electrical fence and put some pigs in there. They will eat all the grass and roots upturning all the earth and at the same time fertilizing it and making hams and bacon. If there is any strong bush I throw a handful of corn or rice in it and they will destroy anything. After two weeks I move the pigs to the next 20 by 20 lot and I plant the first one. When we plant corn we also plant at the same time beans. The beans will hold to the corn stalk and we don't need to use any other support, necessary if we were planting beans alone. And so on. At the end I have five lots planted with two weeks difference between them and a at harvest time I have fresh corn and beans for two months and a half, the pigs are growing fine, happier than being confined in a pen with cement floor and I was able to read a book under a tree instead of sweating under the tropical sun roto-tilling the soil. Of course after we eat as much fresh corn and beans we can, give away by the bushel, and put to dry the rest from each 20 by 20 lot the process starts again, this time we bring the cows into the first lot and when we move the cows to the second lot we put the pigs in the first one. The second harvest could be potatoes. This will give you a brief idea how we manage our farm. We don't care about incubators, the hens are doing it for thousands of years and they are doing it fine for me. Of course I'm told the incubators are more effective, but usually the people saying this is also selling incubators. I 've raised thousands of chickens and the only time I didn't enjoyed it was when I did it at an industrial level. I believe in windmills, photovoltaic cells, refrigeration, air conditioning if necessary, good food, good wine, sometimes cuban cigars and use my time in our carpentry and stained glass shops, at the kitchen and shooting the breeze. I despise agro-chemicals, politics and big cities' rat race. Once upon the time I was there, I was a bank president, but those are sins of youth, forever behind and forgotten.

I would like to say we're developing a truly democratical organization but unfortunately I can't put my family future in the hands and whims of a group that when formed I knew little about. Maybe with time we'll evolve in something like that, but now is a kind of feudal system where the lord has his say and everybody can discuss all subjects and decisions but my word is final. Of course I'm not a tyrant, and is an obligation of anyone trying to join our group to find out about it. We screen all candidates. First they must be interested in the same basic premises we have. No religious, political or supremacy fanatics. In fact no fanatics of any kind. No chemicals, no raising of dangerous animals like emotionally unstable dogs like dobermans, fight dogs, lions or big cats, falcons and eagles, et cetera. i.e.:If they want to raise minks they must get their installations approved, mainly the fence, because I've seen 15 turkeys and a bulldog slaughtered in one night by a loose mink. They can't put the stables and pigs next to the neighbor house. The lots are 5 acres each and they can buy more than one, we don't want people to live next to each other. Of course we're all equals and every one owns his land, but we're trying to find people sharing the same goals we have.

After the first screenings, questionnaires and a lot of correspondence exchange, a visit to the farms is a must and after that if we approve them and they approve us, we invite them (the whole family) to spend a couple of weeks with us. That's the final test. If we and them are mutually and finally approved we sell them a lot and help them to build their place. They are the lords of their land, but I'm the lord of the group. It's interesting refer here to the wording of submission(I don't like the word)the nobles of Spain use to say to their king:"We, being equal to you, and together being stronger than you, swear our submission to you..." That's the idea. I take the general decisions, the ones who may affect the whole group, with their consent and knowing that if I became a tyrant they will overthrow me.

As a final comment, we see the world going down on one of the cyclical waves humanity have. Nothing will be totally lost at the end, but we refuse to live the time we have to live, suffering, in fear or in need, just because we were unlucky to live at this time. We are really concerned about the religious fanatics around the world. We despise all fundamentalist(of any creed) who feel is an act of God to kill the unbelievers. We don't feel superior to anyone but we won't accept to be inferior to anyone either. I hope this helps a little to start to understand who we are and I like to know about your groups and what their ideas are, about farming, about life in general and about the world and the universe. You have permission to post and share this letter and any other we may exchange.

Thank you for your help. I hope to know more about you and your people and maybe we can develop a "second front" here. Remember we can harvest the whole year, we don't have snow or freezing temperatures and that the animals grow steadily the 12 months of the year. i.e.: A one hectare pond, 5 ft deep produces 5 tons of fish a year!

Good luck,


-----Original Message-----

From: arnaldo
To: halim
Subject: comments


I'm trying to catch-up with hundreds and hundreds of pages received about all kind of events on your organization. Being on a list no doubt connects one to the y2k world, but it seems only in the States. It's OK with me. You're by far the closest, bigger and most important neighbor any country can have. That's one of the reasons I wanted to know more about what's going on there. When you move my friend, you certainly make waves.

You were asking me about our position on different subjects in reference to y2k and beyond and on the world in general.

I'm enclosing a letter you sent to a TV station because we can see where we're standing on a lot of different subjects you mention there.

-----Original Message-----

> From: Halim Dunsky [mailto:halim@bigmindmedia.com]
> Sent: Sunday, November 08, 1998 9:18 PM
> To: townmeeting@komotv4.com
> Subject: Y2K
> Thank you for devoting time to this important issue. The
> discussion was a bit chaotic, despite the good efforts of the
> host, but this in fact reflects the limited ability of our
> society to deal with difficult situations of this type.

Exactly that's the point why we selected the "lords" system. I know it sounds weird to talk about lords and lesser lords, but we feel we really understand what problems we are facing and we are not trying to fly a Boeing 747 by a committee formed by 300 passengers. I'm sure it will not be everybody's cup of tea, but this is our Boeing 747 and these are our rules. I don't want to face my family and tell them we're doomed, close to be killed, raped, robed or tortured just because I made a mistake trying to be fair to everyone. The "limited ability of our society to deal with difficult situations of this type" is the key. You got it right. [Note from Halim - this isn't what I meant. I was referring to our difficulty in dealing in the media with ambiguous, complex situations.]

>The two important orienting questions are, "What kind of problem are we
> facing?" and "What responses are appropriate?"
> First of all, it's important to understand that the underlying
> computer problems are not the imaginary creation of some people's
> fevered need to find a focus for free-floating anxiety. The
> individual date problems in individual programs and devices are
> not terribly complex, but there are a huge number of them, many
> more than will be found and corrected in time. (Your panelist's
> assertion that few problems have actually turned out to exist is
> stunning in its inaccuracy and indefensibility.) The difficulty
> of fixing these problems is compounded by the distortions of time
> pressure, budgetary limitations, staffing shortfalls, lack of
> documentation, multiple input/output connections with other
> systems, new problems introduced by supposed fixes, and a legal
> and business climate that makes it virtually impossible for
> insiders to come clean with bad news. Proper testing requires
> both isolation and interconnection and is time-consuming and
> expensive. Some large companies are doing relatively well with
> their own internal systems; many more, along with most small- and
> medium-sized businesses and most world governments from the
> national down to the local level are doing poorly. Major
> departments in our own federal government have been given
> severely negative performance appraisals by the GAO.

Again perfectly defined. Don't you feel you're on the Titanic and the captain and the officers are telling you that everything is under control and you don't have to be concerned?

> But what's going on here is not just a matter of some unknown
> number of computers having trouble, or of some unfixed computers
> infecting others with bad data (although these are real issues).
> What we are looking at is a prospective complex systems failure,
> which is much more difficult to assess or deal with. The delivery
> of food, water, power, transportation, health services, defense,
> and so on, depend today on a massively interconnected network of
> globalized systems of trade, distribution, and finance. Nobody
> can know how serious the computer problems will be, but more
> important, nobody can know how the overall system of systems will
> respond to numerous, simultaneous, unpredictable failures and the
> dislocations that ensue. Immediate impacts that may occur such as
> loss of heat in the middle of winter are likely to be followed by
> gradually evolving disruptions. What happens to your bread
> supply, for instance, if the trucks can't roll because the
> gasoline supply is hindered by the difficulty of importing oil
> from countries whose infrastructures are disrupted because their
> governments and businesses didn't prepare adequately, or because
> farmers can't get the next year's supply of hybrid seeds,
> fertilizers, pesticides, tractor fuel, or crop loans?

OK again. I agree. But what I want to know is what you people are doing to prevent all that? We did a lot. We move to the country. We produce almost everything we need to be fed forever. We produce all the energy, water, fuel, et cetera we may ever need. The world can stop and we'll be going on, maybe without TV, but with hundreds of movies and educational programs, thousands of books, with our own shops for carpentry, blacksmith, mechanics, electrician, plumber, supplies of all kinds, a wine cellar with ten thousand bottles of good wine, tools, seeds and animals. We are well protected as you know. But my concern could be, how much I must up-grade our defense system in preparation for the time when the millions without food start to move looking for it? How long it will take to the remains of the "society with limited ability to deal with this problems" to become a mob or a mob of bands?. The survivors will be resilient and hard to stop. It's not better try to accomplish something with them now, to help them to survive in comfort from the beginning and not wait until they are a pack of wolves marauding at my door? [Note from Halim - Absolutely. It's important now to work to help preparedness be widespread, regardless of whether we think the deterioration will be bad enough to lead to marauding behavior or not.]

> One of your panelists asked, "Why focus so much anxiety on the
> year 2000? There are all kinds of problems that could occur." In
> a sense, he's right. The world system is indeed fragile, and
> deserves our concern independent of Y2K. Even the best-informed are
> unable to deal with the current global economic crisis--even that
> is already too complicated. The system has been designed for
> profit, not resilience. Y2K is likely to provide a series of
> shocks that will simply make the situation worse.

I agree again.I feel the y2k shall only accelerate what was coming regardless. The terrible, unthinkable problem is: How do you think crazies like Muhamad Khaddafy, or the fundamentalists moslems, or the supremacists checks, or the russian maffia are going to react if they see the slight possibility to catch Uncle Sam with the pants down? Anyone may have the bomb you know. They have the money to buy it many times. The problem this people don't see is what will happen when you lower your guard. The best deterrent of the WW3 was the way the States were ready to fight, and then you don't have to fight. Now it seems that everything could go out of our hands and very quickly too.

> So what do we as individuals do about it? Some of your audience
> and one panelist favor doing nothing--and of them we can only say
> that it is going to fall to the rest of us to help them cope when
> the time comes. Your other panelist and audience members seem to
> favor family preparedness. This is a better strategy, but it has
> certain limitations. Many people will not be able or will not
> choose to make preparations in time. Do you want to be the family
> with a stockpile of food and cash in a neighborhood full of
> hungry, angry people? And there aren't enough woods left to run
> away to. No, this is a difficult situation that can best be
> addressed if, among other efforts, we work together at a
> community level. We need to get to know our neighbors, work
> together to make our plans, and prepare to help those who need it.

That's the key. Because our special circumstances we decided to move to the country and leave the cities we now have a semi-rural neighborhood, acting together, working together and ready to fight together. Don't trust those who say they will do nothing. Of course they will not, until they decide that's their duty to kill a neighbor because they have to feed their family. I hope we are far enough and surrounded by thousands of miles of a land producing food in such exaggerate quantities, we won't be feeling the first impact and anyway all our families and close friends are over 900 people. If worst come to worst, we have a second haven in Argentina, and my friend that's as far as you can go before Antarctica.

Reading all the mail I have the feeling you people are organizing everything very well, with reunions, committees, designating posts like in a new government, having covered dishes reunions, and even a fair, but are you sure of the resiliency of the people? Are you sure they are not going to react in panic and make a mistake that will endanger everybody. How far goes your commitment to be fair and an "equally opportunity survivor"? We feel that if some people say they are not going to prepare I would help them if the opportunity arises, I'm not endangering anyone in our group and if they can hold themselves and be of use to our group.

I know you're talking about suburbanites who feel the major problem would be a little tardiness on the mail delivering and maybe be forced to eat tuna salad sandwiches for a couple of days "like a picnic". I hope to God they are right and I'm wrong.

I'll appreciate your insight and comments.



-----Original Message-----

From: halim
To: arnaldo

Arnaldo, thank you for your long letters. I am amazed that you have my letter to the TV people. I remember only sending it to a small number of people, but I guess in this Internet world, things really get around.

I am taking some time to answer you carefully. Will get back to you soon. Am also getting ready to send out your mail to other people who might be interested. I'm sure they won't all agree with you point by point -- and in truth, I don't agree with you point by point, either -- but that will make for interesting discussions, no?

-----Original Message-----

From: arnaldo
To: halim


Thank you for your quick answer. I was thinking that maybe you were so outraged with my opinions you weren't willing to write to me.

I'm sorry if I sound too extreme, but you can't expect the same calm disposition of people who were never endangered by their human environment, than from others who must plan each move in order to save their lives. Not to go to work using the same route everyday, not at the same hour. Have your kids wear satellite locating devices, looking at your rear view mirror as much as your windshield, having your wife take aggressive survival driving techniques, change your car for something more substantial who might endure a run-off-crash and many other things.

I'm normally a calm and happy overweight guy of 60, whose hobby are books and more books, but I read somewhere that if you have a dog and you start throwing firecrackers around the poor animal, after a few hours you'll have a totally different kind of dog.

I'll love to exchange ideas with other people doing more or less the same and I'm not afraid to accept my mistakes, but I expect to learn through all this and not engage in a lot of arguments about the rightfulness of what anybody is doing.

Thank for your time. And again, I hope I'm wrong, but in the meantime...


Tune in to "Y2K - So Goes the Neighborhood" on Next Step Radio

Halim Dunsky halim@y2kcommunity.org
Executive Editor, Y2K Community Project http://www.y2kcommunity.org

Building Communities for Y2K and a Sustainable Future ..........................................................................................................................................

-- Halim Dunsky (halim@y2kcommunity.org), April 13, 1999

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