Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend who knows I’m a prepper/survivalist, and he asked a simple question: “Why is survivalism such a big deal now?”. At first, it caught me somewhat by surprise, but then after giving it some thought, I realized it was a valid question to ask. Also, as it turns out, my friend was genuinely curious, because he is like millions of others who have absolutely no idea what Prepping is, or why people do it. He didn’t understand the goal behind it, but thanks to that bullshit Doomsday Preppers show, he had come to the idea that preppers are all people who are waiting in the wings, salivating for the time when this country’s government fails, and the US dollar fails, and their local community’s authorities/police/etc. fails, so they can hunker down on a big pile of canned goods and guns, and shoot a lot of other people who (they're convinced) will come try to take their stuff. I explained that actually, the truth is a lot more complicated than that.
I shared with him my own viewpoints, which are a productive of extensive, exhaustive research: books, YT videos, articles, blogs, forums, and so on, as well as my own experiences and observations in my life. All of that research leads me to one major conclusion: survivalism and prepping are so huge now, because people are scared. Multiple big events in the past ten, fifteen years have shown us that our world and our way of life is a tremendously fragile place. Terrorism. Bombings. Shootings. An economy that seems never to swing back towards full prosperity. Gas prices the highest they’ve ever been. People out of work everywhere, people you know, in industries you thought were immune to poor economic conditions. A government that continues to make fiscally bad decisions. A national currency that continues to be inferior with relation to the currencies of other First World economies. All of this wrapped up in a Society that seems more concerned with what Miley Cyrus was wearing at the MTV Music Awards, than they are with whatever latest silly bullshit our politicians are pulling over on us, like say, this whole latest debt ceiling fight that’s (once again) threatening to shut down the government.
However, the most important point is the first one: the fragility of American society. Now, this may just be Doom’nGloom, but honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at all of the people filling up their cars at all the gas stations along your route home, or looking at all of the people who filter in and out of all of the grocery stores in your city every day, or all of the big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target with their endless, endless shelves filled with goods of every kind, to understand a few things. One, all of these goods and services arrive at your door, and to those stores, as a result of an incredibly complex series of systems for the creation and transportation of those commodities. One misfire at any of a thousand different points could cause the whole system to collapse. We’ve all seen what happens when that happens, thanks to Hurricane Katrina steamrolling over New Orleans. For that matter, Katrina also showed us how poorly run most of our government is, from the local infrastructure all the way up to FEMA’s inability to respond to a disaster of that magnitude. It took days before the Federal government was even able to arrive on the scene. Absurd. Lastly, all of those goods and services that are made available to you, are the end-product of an influx of resources and raw materials into the other end of this complex system. You would have to be pretty dense to be of the belief that those resources will just keep flowing, forever.
Americans take so many things for granted, that it’s a severe shock when those things stop working, or go wrong. I see it every time a hurricane hits the Southeastern US, when people make runs on the stores for batteries, canned goods, and bottled water. I've watched people get into fist-fights because a car came down a side-street and cut into a line of 20 other cars at the gas station.
And that’s the problem. This mindset has taken a complete hold over us. Something breaks? Eh, I’ll just run to Target and get another. Oh, we’re out of Zip-lock bags? I’ll just get some more tomorrow on the way home from work. My gas-tank is near empty? Not a problem, I’ll just fill up at lunch tomorrow. We don’t have any food in the house? It’s ok, there’s a grocery store right up the street, so I’ll just run and get us some stuff for dinner. Don’t forget to take out the trash to the curb tonight, it’s trash day tomorrow. Honey? Come get ready for your bath, I’ll just get the water running! Hey, those darn neighbors making all that noise, I’m calling the police, they’ll come sort that out! My car’s looking a little dirty, think I’ll use my hose to wash it down. All that potable water down the drain, but who cares? I’m picking up Donna tomorrow night and want my car to look good!
When those things break, stop working, or become unavailable, people tend to absolutely lose their shit. Yes, it’s great that we live in this sort of luxury, where everything is available to us pretty much 24-7, and we’re supported by an infrastructure provided by Government. At no point in the history of the world have people ever been this pampered. But, it’s also made millions of people completely dependent on that system. So, as I said, when it inevitably fails due to any number of things, people tend to, you know, flip the fuck out. Anybody who has ever gone to a store right before the news says a major hurricane is supposed to make landfall, or had their neighborhood utterly obliterated by a major tornado, or had floods sweep their town away can tell you all about that. Lines at gas stations all the way down the block, those fist-fights when people try to cut in, empty store shelves, more fist-fights over the final flat of canned green beans, emergency services not available to help you if you need them, power in your house is out, so your electric stove isn’t working, so you can’t cook that freezer full of frozen food that’s thawing out because the power’s been off for several hours, I could go on and on. People have no idea what to when their nice cushy amenities fail.
So, when I’m asked why Survival is such a growing trend, my answer tends to be that it’s been a growing trend since 2005, when we got a front-row seat for the terribly and tragically complete clusterfuck on all possible levels that Katrina was. It’s why more people than ever before are becoming interested in prepping and survivalism, because it’s starting to make a lot more sense to people who were blind to it before, back when there hadn’t been many major challenges to the System. Oh sure, there were still floods, hurricanes, power outages, and so on, but we hadn’t seen a major US city totally get bent over and violated so completely. The government wasn’t able to save all those people, and resources dried up quickly. Ask anyone who was stuck in the NO Superdome whether they thought they were being taken care of by the System at that point. So, in short, when things go bad, no one is coming to save you. So, you’re going to have to be able to do it yourself.
I have been fortunate, in that I was raised in the Boy Scouts to be able to survive in a wilderness setting just fine. Researching wilderness survival has always been more about keeping my skills fresh. It is the area of urban survival that I’ve become more interested in over the last couple of years, because that’s really what my current living situation is. So, I’ve been learning all I can about it. Now, in closing, I’d like to say that I’m glad survivalism and prepping are becoming more mainstream subjects, because frankly, I dislike the mindset or opinion a lot of people have that just because you want to be prepared, you must be some wackjob fringe element who’s stockpiling AR-15s and ammo, waiting to be in a shoot-out with the Feds. Or worse, you’re some wackjob fringe element who actively wants the United States of America to fail, so you can be the first one to tell everyone “I told you we shoulda gone back to 19th century-style living, and returned to good old fashioned conservative fundamentalist Christian values!” Thankfully, people are coming to the realization that not all of us are wackjob fringe elements! Most of us are folks who just see possible hard times ahead and want to be ready for anything, as much as we can. If you're not already one of us, it's time to do some research, and find out what you might be missing.
Stay safe out there.