The Disunited States of Prepping

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  1. #1

    The Disunited States of Prepping

    It's sometimes hard to nail down when a trend starts, when it takes off, and when it dies.

    What we call "prepping" today is actually what folks for thousands of years just called life. Living hand-to-mouth, beset by conflict, disease and all manners of uncertainty, it's kind of a no-brainer to be ready for anything. Vermin, floods, pestilence, war and any other number of unmanageable events can mean the difference between abundance and starvation.
    Royal granaries were built to keep society functioning. They were controlled by the King, and food was dispersed at His behest.
    It actually wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that most people were able to acquire and store resources easily for themselves. Canned food and refrigeration made everyone's lives more stable and less stressed. Happy days were here again.

    Of course, if you don't make food and other products, you must be able to purchase them. The Great Depression was a wake-up call to a society in transition. If you can't grow or buy food, what other options do you have?

    One thing every person has is their labor. Your skill or vocation may not always be of use, but a strong back and willing hands always are. In the 1930, the trope of "Will Work for Food" was born. So was the idiom that "There is no such thing as a free lunch".

    But there were sometimes free lunches. Charitable organizations and often individuals fed the hungry. Many were faith-based, but often it was just people helping their fellow man.

    As a last resort, the government was there as a "safety net". FDR initiated The New Deal and the NRA (National Recovery Act), and for many life got better. Later, The President espoused "The Four Freedoms", that included the nebulous 'Freedoms from Want', and 'Freedom from Fear.'

    Then as the saying goes: There goes the neighborhood.

    Social Security and Medicare were just the first weapons in the 'war against poverty'. Soon, every tool would be brought to bear, regardless of it's relevance and being appropriate in a federal democracy. The courts acquiesced for 'the public good'. The die was cast. No longer would the government simply be a safety net, or give a hand-up.
    The modern nanny state was born.

    So, what does this have to do with Prepping?

    Frankly, most people are easily lead, and will do what they are told in exchange for comfort and a perceived sense of security. But some see through this charade. Over time, as the government has offered more and more 'free' things, the attached strings became visible. Unresolved issues became clear, such as the inequitable distribution of government services, and the probable inability to even proved the promised services.

    The majority of society lives in a state of perpetual denial. They truly believe that the elaborate scaffolding holding the system up will never fail. For these people, Prepping never has and never will make sense. If there ever is a 'failure', they think that the government has the tools, ability and inclination to save society in general, and them in particular. There is no need to plan to take care of oneself and one's family, because they tell themselves that the Safety Net will always be there.

    But in modern parlance, some have taken The Red Pill. They see the fragility of modern society, and the complete inability of the government to be able to handle a large-scale structural failure. To depend on the government is not only nonsensical, but indeed delusional and suicidal.

    Modern preppers date back to The Cold War, when nuclear war was an ever-present threat. Our government told us that all we needed to do was duck and cover, and then hide out for a few days with some canned water. In a few cases, level heads saw this insanity and decided that life was too important to be placed in the hands of a bureaucrat. It may seem crazy by today's standards, but the construction of bomb shelters really made sense.

    Despite the hypocritical rhetoric about wanting to take care of it's people, NATO countries planned on "acceptable losses" of 90% of their citizens during a nuclear war. They expected 9 out of 10 citizens to die. Wanting to be one of the 1 in 10 that survived is just logical.

    It isn't like the government did nothing to help it's citizens survive a nuclear war. Most larger cities had community bomb shelters that might work for the masses. They should have enough supplies to last a few days. Then, you'd have to walk out into the radioactive fallout and start rebuilding our glorious future (The remaining 10% would be cut in half by radiation deaths in the first year following).
    There was also the plan to evacuate major cities before an attack. This pre-supposes a verified warning of an attack prior to bombs dropping. The evacuation plan would take three days. Your only hope was that the Ruskies were sending nukes over via steamer ship.

    The overall socio-political climate of the 1960's certainly did not help. In a few decades we went from trust in our government and it's leaders, to an overall jaded view of government and it's supporting institutions.

    The first Survivalists began to appear, along with an underground lifestyle that included books and loose networks of adherents. In the days before the internet, it is amazing that such movement even took place. The numbers were never large, but their footprint on society's perspective did have an impact.

    By the 1970s, Survivalisim branched-out into quasi-political groupings. And the reasons for survivalism were greater in number than just The Bomb. The Oil Crisis showed, for the first time, the fragility of our economic and energy supply systems. Nixon almost enacted price controls. Race riots had occurred with regularity. Terrorists were hijacking planes, and the USSR (that's Russia for you kids) was surging on the world stage.

    It was a scary time to be alive. And ironically tame by today's standards.

    The fact that we did survive those days perhaps played into a false sense of security. The Steady-State fallacy is hard to avoid. During the short-lived "Militia" movement in the 1990s, there was a resurgence in survivalisim. But again, most of it was politically "apocalyptic" focused, such as the events at Ruby Ridge and Waco, TX.

    But everyone had a wake-up call after September 11, 2001. In the aftermath, there were no planes flying for days. Distribution networks were disrupted, including fuel. In the wake of the non-event of Y2K, we were reminded that the wolf is always at the door. And sometimes the sheepdogs we rely on are sleeping.

    About ten years ago, there was another resurgence in survivalisim. An economic collapse, politically-divisive (for some) President, with the lore of a Mayan calendar prophesy stoked the flames of fear-based survival, now referred to as "prepping".
    Our nation was war-weary, angry and scared. We even invented a whole sub-culture of Zombies to fight against.

    Prepping became couture. It was kind-of cool. There were TV shows that highlighted so called Doomsday Preppers that owned huge tracts of land, bunkers and an arsenal.
    The Walking Dead revived the ethos of the rugged American, fighting hoards of zombies and gangs of bad guys. Industry responded by offering all kinds of products to prepare for "the zombie apocalypse". It was no longer crazy to be ready for the unexpected. Hell, if you didn't have a "Bug-Out Bag", you were a borederline bad parent.

    And the list of possible society-ending scenarios just kept expanding. Besides the tongue-in-cheek zombie threat, new scares such as a coronal mass ejection (CME) or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threatened to push society back to 1850. People began to discuss what are you prepping "for". Because, in the 21st Century, the list of world-ending possibilities truly is staggering. And honestly there is no way to be ready for them all.

    Again, interest in Survival / prepping has waned in the last few years. Some attribute the decline to the election of President Trump, making those people right-of-center more complacent. Because there has always been a political component to this. Many left-of-center folks have started prepping. For most, it's about fear. Rational, and irrational fear.
    With the Steady-State Bias, when your guy is in charge, you just feel safer. It's total bullshit, but humans are emotional creatures.

    It will be interesting to see how the public reacts up to and after the US 2020 election.
    Our adversaries across the globe are not stupid, and they know that during a time of domestic unrest is the perfect time for their shenanigans. What might happen, who knows?

    What I do know is that as I write this, a monster storm is churning in the Atlantic Ocean. Our helpful government officials reminded everyone to have at least 7 days worth of supplies on hand. Because they know that there are folks that they won't be able to get to for a long, long time. It was disheartening again to see all the panic buying. Most folks still aren't ready for disasters. And it takes the government admitting it's inability to provide services to wake people up.

    We didn't die in a thermonuclear war. There was no race war. No government coup. No Mayan or zombie apocalypse. We made it. It's now the end of history and we are all safe... not.

    I am troubled by the cyclical nature of society's view of preparedness. You can't pick what to get ready for, and you might not see it coming. Perhaps society is truly broken and individuals are incapable of taking care of themselves. Maybe they are just too lazy and can't be bothered. It's possible that folks are just overwhelmed so they give up.

    I just don't get the complacency. If I was going on a trek of unknown duration, and I had the opportunity to grab a water bottle and granola bar, why wouldn't I? Would I decline them simply because "Why bother? I'll probably die anyway."?

    It's just unclear why folks need to run to the store in an emergency to get stuff they should already have. Are we conditioned as a society to only panic on demand?
    We are surrounded by danger. To focus on it would lead to neurosis. To ignore it will lead to tragedy.

    It's not natural to just give up and die. But through inaction that's exactly what millions of my fellow citizens choose to do. You don't need a bunker, a battle rifle and 5 years of rations. But you need something. You know you do.
    The question is, what are you going to do about it?

    "Wubba Lubba Dub Dub!"

  2. #2
    That was a ruff n tuff read...I got to the end..just
    The only one who can heal you is you.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by escorial View Post
    That was a ruff n tuff read...I got to the end..just
    I do appreciate the feedback esc, but could I trouble you for some illumination on why it was a difficult read?

    "Wubba Lubba Dub Dub!"

  4. #4
    Hi, Winston,
    This was a FASCINATING topic for me, partly because I have some family members who were "preppers" at the end of 1999. Lol, glad they weren't the only ones in history to behave like that. Very interesting concepts. However, I did think the style was a bit difficult to swallow. My feeling was that your style seems to be an attempt to discuss "big ideas" in very colloquial language. This was the most distracting part for me. If I want to read nonfiction about a serious topic like this, I would rather read something in a professional style, because this makes the reading easier while also lending credibility. BUT, if I was going to explain prepping to an 8th-grade classroom, my lecture notes would probably look just like this.

    Some examples of distracting colloquialisms in your piece:
    - "hard to nail down"
    - "folks"
    - "actually"
    - "happy days were here again"
    - "of course"
    - rhetorical question to reader -- "what other options do you have?"
    - Beginning sentences with conjunctions
    - Mixing past and present tense in the same paragraph

    Those are just a few comments from the beginning paragraphs, although I did read through the entire piece. It's such an interesting topic, although your casual style would be amazing for an oral presentation, I would love to see this reworked in a more professional written style. Thanks for sharing!



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