Post Shtf Society: Corruption as a Way of Life

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I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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I read often in discussions in survival forums that people say that people from poor countries have easier transition into chaos and collapse scenarios. I agree. One of the reasons is that they already live in some sort of shtf scenario every day.

Today I want to tell you about major aspect of what keeps broken systems going all around the world. Corruption.

When resources are few and many people want something and person who decides who gets it is short on stuff too (or just greedy and there is no one who enforces law) then you enter into world of corruption.

I think it is important part of understanding how things work in corrupted systems. This does not only help you in post shtf scenario but even when you travel or move to what I call „unorganized countries“.

I live in one so this is something like everyday school of survival, after the Balkan war my country never recovered. If both parents work full time and you still sometimes do not have enough money to feed your kids something is wrong.

Anyway, I hope you can benefit from my experience of living in such broken system. First thing:

„I have certain rights!“


This is first and most important rule of surviving in unorganized country. You do not have right to anything. Right of freedom of speech, right for job, right for some protection from the law or any other „right“. Now do not get me wrong, laws are same like in any other European country here, and they say that you HAVE all of the rights, but reality is different.

You need to fight for all rights, and find a way to make them work for you in some cases.

You are only one man with whole bunch of other people who are all equally jobless, tired of crime, political nonsense and many years of hopeless economical situation.

So at the end you find out that only thing that you can do is to blend in, to act like most people. If you want to live you are gonna have to bribe people on every step, you are gonna have to accept bribes.

Sounds bad? Unmoral? Read on.

If you want to work in some company you gonna need to start to look for people who have connections with people from management in that company. The person in the management who decides who gets job knows that having work is worth something but he will not ask directly for bribe. No matter what qualifications, somehow he will just not give you job.

Nobody openly accepts bribe in most cases because its against the law. You need someone the person from management trusts and then send the bribe through this middleman.

You are giving money to the middleman, he is giving money to the management guy. Rich management guy gets richer, middleman takes cut and if middleman did not screw you, you get a phone call when you can start working.

If you are lucky enough there is gonna be just one middleman between you and management guy, because if there are more middleman you need more money. Everybody is taking their cut.

After you get, actually after you buy that crap job, you start to work for crap salary that is clearly not enough for feeding your family. So you are starting with small things in your circle or network of people you know. Small wrong things.

For example if you are policeman you are gonna have something around 600 USD salary per month in country where you need 1300 USD for living for family with 3 members per month. And that is living under poor conditions.

So you start to “close your eyes” on some things. Small things. Taking bribes for traffic tickets, then you gonna cover some drug dealers in your street, then you gonna figure out that you can earn more if you take out some infos and give it to some guys, for example just to call some guys and tell them where next police raid gonna be, some drug action.

If you don’t do this, your colleague does and you have to explain your child why there is no decent food on the table.

This is how it is for great majority of situations in unorganized countries. As soon as you plug into that weird and corrupt system you gonna have better chance to live, to feed your kids.

Another example. If you are having some bigger money and want to start some job, for example lets say you want to open some small business or whatever, bakery shops. OK law says you gonna need some licenses from state, some workers, some building, equipment etc.

So you go to government offices or whatever and start to work on paperwork and licenses, and you figure out that on every step those people making problems for you. And you may ask yourself why? I want to start normal job, to earn honest money, to give job to 10-15 people and they cause all these problems?

And sooner or later you realize that whole system does not give sh!t for your intentions, because every small or bigger clerk want bribe for his stamp on paper. Or in other case your paperwork gonna be strangely lost somewhere, or you gonna be faced with some weird sanitary regulations or whatever.

So you finally bribe people, have all paperwork, rent buildings, employ workers and start to work. After 10 days you gonna have some inspector coming over who says that you do not have suddenly all what it takes for doing that business, because some of your paperwork is not correct. And of course you need to bribe again.

Anyway if you are not part of that weird corrupt system you are going down.

If you have mother who is sick, and she needs to go to hospital, you will find out that no room in hospital is available, and that she can come in for next month, not before.

So you are looking over to your friends who have some connections there, with some physicians. And you offer some money over that friend to some physician, and miracle, there is a room free in hospital for your mother on same day.

Then what you need is only to find some nurse there and offer something to her, so you can be sure that your mother not gonna die in the middle of the night because some equipment malfunctioned or whatever.

OK if you decide to go to police and talk about fact that somebody asked bribe from you because of whatever you will be welcomed. Police guys there gonna listen very carefully to whatever you have to say, after you finish with your story they gonna take all notes, and say to you that you fulfilled your duty as law abiding citizen and that you did right thing because this region is suffering because of corruption, crime etc etc.

And then you are screwed for real. Suddenly some small junkies gonna start to threaten your kid on the way to school, local police officer always stop you and ask for funny things and mistakes in your driving or find problems with your car. You can find your car without wheels or maybe even burned out. And if you still trust in law and order you call police, and circle is going again and again and again.

And then one morning you wake up with the great idea that you are living in a sh!t country, and it is time to start to act like everybody else. Do not hear, do not see, do not talk. You plug yourself into corrupt system and become part of everything.

So you are starting to do small scams with your employers, tax scams, you find connection in taxing department, bribe guy there, steal from your employers, split cut with that dude from taxing department.

Your employers start to steal from you, whatever they can. And again circle is going on.

Point of living in unorganized country is how many people you know, I mean how many people with connections. You can become rich or powerful by just being the man with many connections. Corruption becomes not only part of system, corruption is the system to get things done.

In order to finish whatever job, you gonna need connections and bribes, smaller or bigger. And at the end to survive you become one of those people with connections. Man who can finish some business that helps others.

You are finishing jobs for people, sometimes for money, sometimes for favors, sometimes for friends, and you are expanding network of people you know. Word “human capital” gets new meaning. More people you know (people who can finish something) more power and money you have.

If I order something from Ebay in 80% I have chance that item gonna be held in customs, and some ridiculously high tax for that gonna be sent to me, import tax or whatever, usually 20X more tax then value of order. So I need to find some guy there and offer him maybe 2-3x value of order in cash, and order can be mine.

It is in every aspect of society, you can not live without it.

And I mention only very harmless examples of corruption…

Already living in corrupt system and making things work through people you know is one of the reasons why it is easier for people in unorganized countries to live better through consequences of collapse. People have already adapted to fact that they need connections to make pretty much anything happen.

So how does this information help you? I hope this article gave you basic understanding how corruption works in real life. This can help you when you travel, when you want to make things work in unorganized countries and also should give you ideas for your preparations. Store some “presents”, think about skills you can learn that you can trade as favors. Corruption will be big part of post shtf society… at least in beginning before law is enforced.

If you have questions or stories about how presents helped “someone you know” to make things work, please share in comments.

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30 Responses

  1. Great post Selco. I live in a country (NZ ) which is very civilized and is one of the least corrupt in the world ( lucky me). People think they have LOTS of RIGHTS. They have no idea how lucky they are.. I often think.. they should go to India… and talk about all these ” RIGHTS” and people in the street would look at them like they are crazy. The people would think… well that’s very nice… but first we would like to EAT.

    My brother worked for aid organizations in the 3rd world.. the poorest. He had to pay bribes to the officials ( often military) to be allowed to work to give aid to these countries. A gold Rollex ( better be a real one) would be a nice “gift”. Some New Zealand friends were very upset about this “waste” of aid $…my brother said .. “do you want to be here for a month and achieve NOTHING?” It becomes just a cost of doing business.

    1. Actually, it is the Socialistic aspects that make this work. The “inspectors”, the “licensing” etc. It sounds very much like Ayn Rands idea of the “Power of Pull” over the power of money.

    2. Danne you are TOTALLY wrong!!!! Real capitalism has to have respect for private property, including intellectual property such as inventions just for one example. If that respect does not exist — if people can just STEAL your ideas or your inventions — then you won’t bother inventing anything. When enough people do the same, progress totally grinds to a halt.

      Look, I am a schoolteacher… I used to live in a state in the northeast of the USA, a state called Rhode Island. I went to school, got excellent grades, worked well with the kids, came up with great ideas…all as a substitute teacher making crap wages. No matter how hard I tried though, I could not get a job offer, not even an interview! I looked around and saw people who didn’t give a shit about the kids, who joked about how they cut corners, who openly told me they only became teachers for the pensions and the summers off… they were the ones who had permanent jobs.

      Now, who runs the public schools in RI? Same as everywhere else: the government. That means politicians and bureaucrats are in charge. Those permanent teachers got their jobs because they had connections, they knew someone in power in government or they were their cousin or they helped them raise funds for re-election.

      Please understand: there is not one single teaching job in the state of Rhode Island that is above suspicion. Every one of them is tainted, without exception. I eventually said “the hell with it” and went across the border to another state, Massachusetts. I had to drive long distances for those jobs, sometimes 100+ miles a day for months on end. But still, I got hired. How can this be? How can I cross an artificial line on a map and somehow be a different person? Answer: I didn’t change, the place I was looking in changed. It’s almost like Rhode Island is one of those “unorganized countries” of which Selco speaks

      In one state, the government was completely corrupt; in the other one, not so much. In one state I had no chance at all; in the other one, I had a shot at least. But in BOTH cases, it was the government that decided, not “unfettered capitalism” In fact, if it was just a matter of starting your own school and attracting paying customers, I’d be a millionaire by now, since I am better at teaching than 99% of the teachers out there. This is not a boast, just a fact. Even just inside the government rules I have to live by, I can teach math, history, geography and computer science. If there weren’t all these hurdles to jump, I could also teach astronomy and physics. And in all cases, I have generated intense loyalty from my students, even those who hate school and won’t respond in any other class.

      But the fact remains, government dominates teaching at all levels in this country. And since the depression began — and it is a depression, make no mistake — there have been wholesale chainsaw massacres of teaching ranks, especially in the northeast region where I am from, bit also in the south where I now live. This has made the remaining teachers more willing than ever to use every dirty trick to keep THEIR job, even at the expense of their “colleagues”. This is part of the reason I moved south, at the expense of making 1/3 less money than I used to. It’s also part of the reason I will leave this profession at some point: I am done making shit money working for dysfunctional organizations who are controlled by bungling, dumbass polticians who are good for nothing but posturing and making speeches.

      I do not know exactly what i will do, but whatever it is, I will be the best at it. And GOD willing, I will be less bound by government drones, and more buoyed up by real free enterprise, where if you’re smart and hardworking you can get somewhere

      1. A monopoly is a monopoly. Whether it is achieved through government or through capitalism it makes little difference when you are on the receiving end. Playing to win is how I like to think of it. Make choices that will get you results and balance your risks. Tying yourself to some kind of ideology is great, but you might just get tested on whether you really want to die for that idea. That’s your choice to make that play.

        It always pays to know people. Make friends, get to know people in many locations in life. Don’t go around offending people or being a rude asshole. Some call that politically correct, I call it having manners and/or charisma. I’ve been lucky to have a diversity of friends in many stations in life. You never know when it comes in handy. All my best jobs have come from knowing someone. Your skill matters, but the door is not open without that connection. This is in the USA, mind you.

        Just a few thoughts. Great article Selco as always, Thanks!

  2. The graft, corruption, greed and bribery happen here in America, too. It is not as obvious day-to-day, but it is going on never-the-less. When I was an Army Supply Sergeant, I was in everyone’s pocket at our Supply Support Activity. Christian Brothers Brandy for one guy, Coors Light for another. We were not stealing stuff, merely avoiding some lengthy, cumbersome channels that hindered logistic processes. I can honestly say that I never profited from anything personally. My unit always got the proceeds. When other companies were out of garbage bags, paper plates, cleaning supplies, administrative stuff (copy paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, Chemlights, etc), I still had the necessary items to keep my unit functioning. I think that Rodney Dangerfield explained it best in the movie “Back To School”. As far as survival preparation goes, we purchased some items for trade: liquor, tobacco, ammunition and medical supplies. At this point, I would much rather have beans, bullets and band-aids than money in the bank.

  3. I probably should put this on another thread.. but this is the latest. I wonder if you could write abut what people used to improvise weapons. I am thinking about things other than guns ( which are the best IF you have one) but perhaps clubs, spears ( garden forks) , kitchen knives. In the old times the poor people did not have weapons.. so they had to use farm tools. Sometimes a silent weapon might be better.

    You mentioned in another post the you carried a small axe when you went out at night foraging. It was both a tool and a weapon. Was it a long handled axe or a short handle hatchet? I have many axes…and old axe heads.. the standard big axe is almost 2kg (4 lb) and the “boys axe” is 1kg (2lb) and I find these very handy. I looked at my hatchets and they are mostly over 600g ( 1+ lb ) and they are a bit heavy to use as a weapon in one hand. I found one in the shops which is about 500g and has a steel handle and a nice rubber grip ( which will not slip) . Light enough that I could throw it. The “tommahawks” which are sold as survival weapons seem to be much smaller which would allow much faster movement.. but they are expensive. And I’m not sure you would want to smash a door down or chop wood with one.

    Thoughts on the hand axe as a weapon? Surely better than bare hands… and something you need anyway as it is a useful tool.

  4. When I was stationed in Thailand back in the early 1960s I could see this kind of small-scale corruption all around me. I never needed to get involved, but it seemed to me that every Thai had to get involved. I rationalized it by thinking, if I need a license to do something, why should the taxpayer pay the salary of the clerk who is supposed to issue that license and turn the fee over to the government. Why shouldn’t the person who wants the license pay the cost of operating the license bureau? Why not make it open, instead of under the table? So much for the government, and so much for the time of the clerk who issue the license. However, I’ve never tried to advocate this idea anywhere. Thinking that way just made it easier to accept the corruption.

  5. I lived in the Middle East for over five years. Baksheesh was a way of life if you wanted to get anything done. All government interactions required cash “donations”, sometime quite openly, sometimes through a middle man. This extended to the military on the street (no “police”) and casual interaction with them.

    If goods were involved some of the goods were taken as tariff.

    US laws make it a crime for US companies to pay Baksheesh so, unless they decided to find a way to get around the law, they could not do business.

    A good lesson here that Americans will have a hard time with I expect.

  6. I worked as a tour guide in North Africa years ago, and Baksheesh (bribes) were a line item in the travel agency’s budget. We had to bribe the border agents to get the bus expedited through customs, the hotel manager to get decent rooms, ect. Relationships were very important, and cash was king. It was (and still is) a way of life and how things are done. Unfortunate, but unavoidable. My husband and I travelled on our own as well, and we found that mini bottles of alcohol and packs of Marlboros or unfiltered Camel cigarettes were very good “friend-makers”. The police, if you were pulled over for a “traffic violation”, prefered cash “donations” to the police union fund.

  7. A site I came across during one of my google searchs has some good prices on Axe’s, The types of axe’s designed for self protection. I hope it is ok to share a link on here and I am not in any way connected with the kultofathena dot com in any way, other than having bought some excellent weapons which btw will never run out of “bullets”. But a couple of sharpeners would be a good idea, next on my list is a decent 2″ wide leather belt.

  8. Corruption!?

    You betcha!!!

    Unfortunately, most governments (and I have been in over 40 countries) are nothing less than armed thugs, a mafia if you will, that use the semblance of law to oppress their so-called citizens (U. S. A. included), just look at the IRS and how it opperates and you’ll see.

    Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves while we are being taxed, lied to, strong armed, stolen from and told to believe we are free. Home of the brave and land of the free is bullsh*t. Illegal taxes, fees, permits, licenses and restrictions are all mdesigned to enslave us economically with hidden chains, but chains none-the-less.

    A two party system that is totally owned and controlled by corrupt individuals, corporations and the military complex, while we, the dumbed down, McDonald fat, sheeple baaaa, baaaaa, baaaaa, about football games and the latest stupid reality show.

    Tears run down our faces while we pretend to care about the troops returning home from war while at the same time these men and women are rejected time and time again for decent paying jobs. Many have lost their homes to the same corrupt banks that claim to care and all the while our own government and president (the commander in chief) turn their backs and cut the benefits of those who have served and paid the price of their corruption and the lie of our so-called ………freedom.

    How damned stupid we are!

    We have become fat, ignorant, lazy and spoiled………………….ready for slaughter!

    And, my friends, that is what is going to happen. Within the first few months of SHTF I estimate that 100 million americans will die from shear starvation and the elements, after that, another 100 million will be murdered in the FEMA re-education camps just like the killing fields of Cambodia and China, the Gulags of Russia and the concentration camps og Nazi Germany.

    Run away?

    Bug out!?

    To where?

    You better be ready to fight and it starts with you and me and others who can still see the truth. It starts with a movement, an idea, a concerted effort to send a message.

    What is the message?

    VETO Washington!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Vote Every Traitor Out

    That’s right, vote every politician out of office at the same time!

    And vote your neihbor, your brother, sister, dad, the plumber, auto mechanic etc. in.

    Other than that, we haven’t any other choice other than to take up arms.

    God Bless You All

  9. I spent a lot of time in Mexico. A small ‘tip’ ‘for your coffee’ was always a smart thing to do. A bottle of scotch was a major gift. Don’t over tip. They will wonder what you have that is worth the extra.

    1. I agree, very good. Do not over tip because you are gonna raise questions. Usually people will think that you are completely “out of business” if you are over tip. Or even worse, they will think you have some other intentions with them. Part of everything is to know “usual” amounts.

  10. We in the US are for the most part woefully unprepared for living this way. Also, we are a heavily armed society, with somewhere between 300 million and 400 million privately and legally held arms. That’s a lot of “no I won’t pay” that can be backed up for a time at least. I hope we don’t find out how that will play out here, as I fear it could be bloody.

  11. Very interesting post.

    I work as a family physician in Canada, which is possibly one of the least corrupt countries in the world, but even here we are not immune to it. When working on the East Coast of Canada a while ago, I was surprised and touched when some of my patients, who were fishermen, brought me gifts of lobster during the fishing season. I didn’t ask for these gifts but I appreciated them. Then I noticed a strange thing: all of the lobster-bearers were patients on prescription narcotics, although for valid medical reasons, of course, like back pain, or old injuries.

    Was this corruption? I’m not sure. Did it ever influence my decisions? I’m not sure. But I know that if one of my lobster-bearing patients had come to me saying they had “lost” their narcotic prescription overboard, and would I issue a new one before it was due, I would have found it difficult to refuse.

  12. I just want to say, thanks for putting this topic into your newsletter/website. I’ve worked in the Middle East for a number of years. This is exactly how it is and has been for centuries. Your statement about people thinking they have “certain rights” is spot on. I find Americans do not understand this concept you’ve described. Once again, thanks for putting this reality into words.

    1. Americans who live in large cities on the east coast know this concept. The further away you get from the capital cities of the original 13 colonies the fewer Americans you will find who understand it. Generally speaking. Cities with large immigrant populations are an exception. We call it “graft”. British call it “sleeze”. Turks call it “backsheesh”.

  13. Just a quick hint, as i saw you posting about using a lithium based flashlight once.
    DO NOT, i repeat DO NOT use old and discharged batteries in a lithium light.
    MEASURE the voltage of the batteries before using them.

    Read this forum for what happens if you do not:

    And if they vent, pull out a gas mask, ideally a chemsuit, but definitely gloves, and get some fresh air into the building. Only when the smoke’s cleared GO IN WITH A GAS MASK AND DISPOSE OF THEM.

    Hydrofluoric acid in the air ain’t something you mess with.

  14. I am curious to know just how to offer a bribe… what does one say to the police officer / well inspector / register of deeds / etc? What are some of the “prices” for various services?

    There isn’t much of this happening in my rural county in the Appalachians of USA, at least not openly. Although everyone knows that this is a one-party county, and that if you are of the opposing party and are open about it, the guys mowing the road sides are more cavalier about tearing up your fences, and it’s harder to find local work, and so on… And it pays to have friends if you’re building a large housing development and you want to scrape off the top of a mountain to make an airplane runway (for example).

    I have been working for an attorney for the last few months, and I’ve gotten to know one or two people from the local government, and I’ve come to decide that a) it’s best to avoid government offices whenever possible and b) knowing people and being extremely nice to them makes a big difference. (Never argue with a bureaucrat.)

  15. Im from an East African country and I am yet to find a description of corrupt systems that is more accurate than what I have just read, It was just as if he was talking about my country….but then again, all humans act the same way given the mentioned situations…irrespective of where they may be located on the globe

    Great work Selco

  16. Re: Ebay. So funny you mention that.

    I sell shaving razors overseas. When I started, I would sell them in single units (qty 1 for $10 for example). Didn’t sell very well. But over time I learned to sell in quantities of 4, for a good price (say 4 for $30 plus post) and I only sell overseas. The quantity of 4 gives “one for the customs” in eastern Europe countries. So most of the time the buyer will get 3 in their package (as customs helped themselves to 1), customers seem happy with this “exchange rate.” So I sell a lot of razors over there.

    More than qty 4 doesn’t work because then customs just keeps them all (seeming too rich again).

    My shavers are too expensive for US customers but very popular to Russia, CR, Serbia, Ukraine, etc.

    I didn’t get it at first but then a Russian customer explained it to me several years ago.

  17. Now days I see this all the time in US politics and business. There is always some scandal or rumor. If some company does something really bad and it makes the news the fine seems paltry compared to the harm it caused or the money to be made. Makes sense though in a corrupt system.

    Sometimes it seems like cartain laws are there to protect something, some group or another but in the end it is just closing the door so that others may not enter. Other laws are enacted to stop one thing while opening it to another thing that is much worse. I don’t have to go into detail, we all can think of an example.

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