Whitney’s recent post on the National Geographic show Doomsday Preppers rightly points out some of the main problems with the choice and presentation of the show’s subjects (and the subjects themselves). Those problems are the same reasons why many people who do prep were right to either steer clear of the show entirely or have taken measures to distance themselves from its particular angle and presentation of preppers. Having watched a few episodes now, my fears that the show would take the extreme fringe and sensationalize it for the audience’s “lol! look at these hillbilly whackjob gunnuts” factor were confirmed.
First off, a confession: I’m one of these people, in a way. I dislike the noun “prepper” (though I’ll use it here), don’t share the politics of the bulk of the show’s subjects, and do not worship firearms. However, I do believe in community and individual self-sufficiency and, especially, preparing for what the world might throw at you via rational foresight and what your grandparents would probably call “common sense.”
So my main concern with the show is not that it takes the extreme elements of a movement/idea and makes them look absurd. Many of them have been doing that on their own for years and even have a sense of humor about it. Extreme, fringe preppers probably don’t care what you “normal” people think, and they certainly don’t need defending; many, especially those with thinly-veiled white supremacist beliefs, don’t deserve it, and others are nutty enough that they would be better off locked up. The real issue is that the show’s reception twists the public view of preparedness into a one-dimensional caricature, which means fewer people will consider taking the initial steps for basic disaster preparedness, much less working toward real resilience and self-sufficiency.
This leads to a strange and unfortunate irony: the fewer people who have actually taken time and a little money to be prepared for emergencies means the more likelihood that the wingnut, trigger-happy minority of preppers are actually right in their predictions of what will follow a disastrous event.
And, beyond the “not dying in the case of a natural or unnatural disaster bit,” this is really a good reason for everyone to consider prepping at the level of real disaster preparedness (not that absurdly minimal 3 days of food/water garbage). If everyone is relatively prepared for a disaster, the bloodthirsty wingnuts you laugh at on Doomsday Preppers will have no looters to shoot. So by becoming a prepper, in even the most basic sense, you are defying the lunatic fringe’s bloodlust, while doing exactly what the rest of preppers who are sane, rational people would like you to be doing. How’s that for reason and logic?
Getting past the caricature of prepping: Part of the perception that those who prep are nutjobs is the presentation of unlikely, even downright laughable scenarios to plan for. Not that I wouldn’t love to be fully prepared for an alien invasion or the coming of the anti-christ, but I also live in the real world. Also, many argue that one can’t really prepare for major catastrophic events such as an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera or an asteroid impact. So toss those out of your primary consideration too. So what is there to worry about? Well, the likely scenarios to consider are obvious and more mundane than Roland Emmerich films would like you to believe: earthquakes, hurricanes, ice/snow/wind storms, infrastructure collapse, terrorism, and the like. These events we have relatively recent, real world examples for: Hurricane Katrina, last year’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the short-lived and relatively harmless Northeast blackout of 2003, and various large earthquakes (Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand come to mind). Wouldn’t you rather be prepared if you end up in the middle of such a disaster in the same way you would like to have a fire extinguisher in case of a house fire? (You do have a fire extinguisher, don’t you?)
The point is: real emergency scenarios obviously do exist where preparation would be wise if one wants to survive what is ultimately a disruption of transportation and services. If you can’t buy groceries and only have condiments in your fridge, how are you going to eat? What do you drink if the electrical pumps that bring water to your home stop working and you are out of beer?
So think it through before you outright dismiss prepping as merely for insane people who worship firearms and have Totenkopf tats. I’ll be back in a few days with a post on entry-level prepping for regular folks.