“When you live in a place like this — small, by itself — you’re brought up to give help, not wait for it. When your neighbor needs something, he needs you. The person he knows. Not the army. Not the police. You. And if you’re not there, someday you’ll have to look him in the face and explain. The Germans didn’t know us, and they believed they could not lose. They believed they’d never have to look anyone in the face and explain. They’d never have to pay for what they did. And I believe that is why we defeated them” — Yiorgos Pattakos, Greek resistance member on Crete — Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougal
This may sound like a quote from a far off time. You may think it doesn’t fit into today’s world right now, but this quote should resonate more than ever in the present day.
Superhero movies are currently in vogue. The new Avengers movie is expected to smash box office records. These movies star people with special powers that can save the day. Maybe there’s something much more to them than this.
Maybe these stories drawback to a time when everyone was a possible hero. A time when everyone was this the first responder. These stories might reflect the fact that everyone can have a special power within them; the power to save those around them.
This ‘special’ power may not even be something that special. It could just be knowledge and awareness.
Greek Resistance On Crete Against The Nazi Invasion
In WWII the Germans invaded Greece, then Crete. After the British retreated from mainland Greece, which fell quickly, they escaped to Crete. The Germans expected this island to fall quickly as well.
The island didn’t fall quickly and put up a powerful defense. At one point, as Christopher McDougal recounts in his book, the German general commanding the operation was about to shoot himself it was going so badly.
Once the British were chased off the island, they’d soon find out it wasn’t just the British who were fiercely resisting them. The Greeks on Crete had been fighting off invaders since the time of Alexander The Great. These new invaders with planes, guns, and tanks would soon find they were no different in the Greeks’ eyes. The Germans thought they occupied Crete; in reality, Crete occupied them.
The Germans would have to keep about 30,000 troops on the island to keep the Greeks pacified. Even with this massive troop buildup, the Greeks continued acts of sabotage, raids, and killing small groups of troops. A group of Greeks aided by British Special Ops also managed to make a high-level German General disappear off the island.
The Greeks were their own first responders in a time of need.
The man who made the initial quote, Yiorgos Pattakos, delivered a donkey to the Greek resistance to help on an important mission — the kidnapping of the general.
A donkey, really? What kind of help is that?
That’s the thought a person in modern society might have and it’s understandable. What good is a donkey? In the time around WWII, a donkey on Crete was a big deal. A bigger deal than you can ever imagine.
The village where Pattakos was from depended upon that animal. It literally was their economy. If something happened to that donkey, it could mean disaster for that small village.
Why would Pattakos and his village risk so much? Why wouldn’t they just say no and let somebody else do it?
Pattakos and his village were the first responders, not anyone else. As Pattakos said earlier, the thought of having to face their neighbors to explain why they didn’t help was more important than the donkey. It was even more important than their own very livelihoods.
It was also worth risking Pattakos’ own life and a possible squad of Nazi soldiers burning down his village.
The History Of First Responders
The idea of a first responder per se is a relatively modern invention. The modern equivalent of what we see started in 1979. It wasn’t always there. There wasn’t always this professional well trained group coming to save us.
The first paid fire company in the United States was created in 1850. Although there were many firefighters before this in the country, they were volunteers. In other words, the community was their own first responders.
If you’re a history nerd, you may see old pictures of bucket brigades. These large groups of men and women weren’t made up of professional firefighters or first responders. They were the neighbors around the fire. They assembled on their own and became the first responders. Before the times of a modern fire department or fire engines, neighbors assembled to battle fires. See the quote below from Ben Franklin.
“The brave men, who at fires, are active and speedy with their best advice and example, or the labor of their hands arbor most in my thoughts. Not a fire happens in this town, but soon after is seen and cried out. The place is crowded by active men of different ages, professions, and titles, who as of one mind and rank apply themselves with all vigilance and resolution, according to their abilities to the hard work of conquering the increasing fire. See there a gallant man who has rescued children from the flame. Another receives in his arms another poor scorched creature escaping out a window…Here are heroes and effective men, fit to compose the prize in any army, and to either lay or defend a siege or storm”
— Benjamin Franklin, founding father and co-founder of the Union Fire Company, 1773
Obviously, technology has improved and we have professionals now who specialize in fighting fires and rescuing people. However, that’s not the point. The point is that people were originally trained to come running to their neighbors’ aid and not to wait. Waiting for someone to come and save you is a modern concept.
Even today, the majority of the United States fire departments are volunteer workers. Neighbors are taking it upon themselves to be the first responders. Ordinary people putting on a cape or a suit of sorts to save the day. This idea of you yourself being the first responder is not odd or out of the ordinary. It’s still being done today on a mass scale.
You Very Well May Have To Save Yourself
Over the span of my life, I’ve met a number of people who’ve worked for the police. They’ve been friends, members of my martial arts club, and neighbors. They’re generally wonderful people, but they can only do so much.
From speaking to them, their job usually involves getting to a place after a crime happens. They’re usually not there to prevent the crime.
Living in a Western-style representative republic, we’re not a police state. The police have to work by rules, which is a good thing. However, it limits what they can and can’t do. As a result, there’s a good chance you may have to save yourself in the off event of a crime occurring.
In a 2017 Pew research study, it was found police only solve (or clear) 46% of the crimes that land on their desk. Now think about this for a second, if they’re solving less than half the crimes that occur after the fact. Imagine how often the police are able to be there to prevent a crime before it happens.
I couldn’t find any statistics on this. I would imagine it would be hard to find and generate a statistic like this. I’d imagine it would be pretty low, just from seeing the percentage of crimes they solve. This also isn’t including the number of crimes that aren’t reported to the police.
As a matter of fact, in a 2005 New York Times article, they came to a conclusion that the police don’t have a constitutional duty to protect someone at all.
What Do I Do With All This Information?
Now, you’ve digested a lot of different information. We’ve examined how the idea of the modern first responder is relatively new. You’ve also seen how regular people would come to the aid of their neighbors in time of war and emergencies in the past.
They did this even in extraordinary circumstances, like the Greeks on Crete.
You’ve also seen that the police may not be there in the exact minute when you need them.
This information is to get the idea in your head that you are ultimately the first responder. It’s also to get you thinking about developing a certain layer of skills to become this first responder.
What skills, you ask?
- Martial Arts / Self-Defense
- Base Level Of Fitness
- Life-Saving Skills: CPR at least
With basic elements of these three skills, you can really improve your effectiveness of being useful in some type of emergency.
-Martial Arts / Self-Defense-
When I say martial arts, you don’t have to be Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris. Although it would be cool if you were and could provide awesome YouTube clips I could learn from.
A number of martial arts clubs, including mine, can teach you base level self-defense to prepare you for various events. It doesn’t require years of training to become somewhat proficient enough to defend yourself or a loved one.
There’s a Western saying that states the pen is mightier than the sword. There’s an equivalent Japanese saying that states pen and sword in accord.
Consider the learning of this base skill as a subject you would learn in school. Just as you would pick up a book to gain knowledge, you can gain physical knowledge from a local martial arts club of your choice. It’s just part of the education to make you a complete well-rounded person.
It also gives you better odds to handle a problem while you’re waiting for the police to come. There’s a good chance you will have to deal with a situation by yourself until they get there.
-Base Level Of Fitness-
According to an article from the Telegraph in the U.K., more people die from overeating than malnutrition in the modern day. I’m sure you’ve heard this statistic relayed in many other publications as well.
Civilization and technology have enabled us to do much while sitting in a chair. It’s damn near a miracle when you can see all the things you can do without getting up off your ass.
Unfortunately, we’re probably a lot less fit overall as compared our ancestors. Our jobs can be done with little physical effort. This has led a modern person to have to exercise to mimic the effects of physical labor.
As a result, exercise of some type is critical to you being able to be your own first responder.
Base Three Abilities
- The ability to run or jump
- The strength to climb or lift your own body weight
- Some sort of stamina to enable an exerted effort for a short period of time
These abilities would have been no problem for our physically active ancestors, but for us…not so much.
I’m not going to list an exact exercise plan, you can find that in other places. Actually, you can find it in endless places.
Whether you go to a gym or make your home your exercise location of choice, it’s critically important to make your body capable of the base abilities above.
If you’ve ever watched children, they demonstrate all three abilities on a regular basis in their daily play. Your workout may even involve joining in on your children’s everyday adventures.
In order to defend yourself or others, you need at least a base level of fitness. In order to escape a burning building, you may have to do some combination of the base three above.
Having these three basic abilities will give you the physical capabilities to possibly save yourself or those around you.
You don’t have to look like a superhero to save the day. You just need to have a base level of fitness to make it happen.
-Life Saving Skills-
According to the American Heart Association, 80% of cardiac arrests happen outside of a hospital. As a result, medical personnel may not be in the area to help someone in need.
That task may fall into your hands.
That person could be a stranger, maybe it could be your wife, or it may well be a neighbor or a relative. A simple CPR course may be the difference between life and death.
If the statistics from the American Heart Association are correct, those around this person may have to be the first responder.
There are a number of places willing to teach CPR to the public. For instance, the American Heart Association and the Red Cross have regular classes in many areas. A quick web search pulls up countless organizations willing to teach you.
This simple skill you can learn in a single class could be the difference between life and death.