Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Planning to Steal and Kill is not "Prepping"

It's always pretty incredible when events in my life complement each other - even when they aren't related to me, specifically. That's what happened a couple of days ago - two things that just fit together and got my wheels turning.

The first was a discussion I heard about a recent episode of the National Geographic television show Doomsday Preppers. I will not link to the show - first, because I think it's a typical example of sensationalist television that does a disservice to people who are concerned and wish to be prepared for emergencies; and second, because this particular episode is particularly offensive to me as a person in the former category. Regarding the television show, in general, let me say that I'm surprised it's still on the air at all, because it's a silly, stupid show ... wait, maybe I'm not surprised. Because the show is still on the air, I guess I'm not surprised that the featured "preppers" are getting more outrageous. It is, after all, entertainment.

Preppers are already on the fringe. The average prepper does not have much faith in our culture. We're pretty well convinced that we're in some sort of overreach, and that something is going to happen, because ... well, it's kind of like we feel we're teetering on the edge, and there's really no way to get back our balance. At some point, we're going to tip. So, we try to be ready, for something.

Most of us are working at making sure our basic needs will be met, including food, water and shelter ... and maybe other supplies, like toilet paper and toothbrushes. Preppers have become, kind of, notorious for storing weapons and ammo (in fact, in those "How prepared are you?" quizzes, anyone who doesn't have the usual security preparations will have a shorter life-expectancy than those with a wide assortment of weapons and "bug-out" options).

A recent featured prepper was a guy who isn't hoarding or storing, and his supplies consist, mostly, of weapons and armor. If he's learning any skills, most of them are combat related (from what I've been able to find out - not having watched the show), because his plan is not to be a survivalist prepper living in a cabin in the woods, but rather to attack those who have stored provisions and take what they have. He doesn't plan to do it alone, however, and he is - according to reports - amassing a small army of fellow marauders.

I know you have thoughts, but hold on and let's fast forward a few days ...

... and I'm having a lovely conversation with a new friend about homesteading and what led us to this lifestyle. I didn't get the chance to share my whole story with her, but our reasons were very similar and had to do with personal economic situations. I've never been the sort of person who just trusts that because things are good now, they will always be so. Anything can happen, and it usually does.

The reality is that TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) happens all of the time. We just don't recognize it as such when it's happening, and so we tend to think that TEOTWAWKI only means those less likely events that we read about in novels, like the EMP strike from "One Second After" or the comet hitting the earth in "Lucifer's Hammer." Fantasy is all well and good, but the reality is that TEOTWAWKI will happen to us, whether we're prepared or not, and while it may not look like Mad Max, it won't be all that much easier.

I'm a huge history buff, and I tend to read a lot about extreme situations. When we watch old WWII movies or read stories based during that time, we don't think of it as being a TEOTWAWKI event, but if war is not the end of the world as we know it, then what is?

In addition, world-wide economic collapse, which happened as recently as the 1930s (and didn't end until the whole world was, again, at war) is pretty life-changing, too. While there hasn't been another world wide economic collapse (yet), there is a long list of countries around the world that have completely collapsed over the last fifty years, and some of those survivors look at the state of affairs here in the United States and see similarities between where they were pre-collapse and where we stand today.

Even mundane events, like winter storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes - things that happen all of the time all over the world - can be considered TEOTWAWKI for those who live through them.

Or how about a very simple, very personal life-changing event that is affecting millions of Americans ... nay, billions of individuals worldwide ... as I write this? What about a simple loss of one's job? For those accustomed to having a certain amount of income, suddenly not having that income anymore can very much be the end of life as they knew it.

When I first started on the idea of prepping, I was reacting to the fear of a global catastrophic event resulting from either climate change or peak oil, but the more I delved into the topic, the more I learned about how our world works, how interdependent we are, and how ill-prepared the average person is for just minor upsets, the more I realized that the best reasons to be prepared have very little to do with the potential for an EMP strike, solar flares, a massive caldera volcano explosion, a comet hitting the earth, or a zombie-virus pandemic. Sure, these things could happen, but they simply are not as likely as one of the more locally concentrated catastrophic events.

So, back to the doomsday prepper whose plan is to attack and pillage those who are prepared - if that's his plan, he is really wasting his time, his energy, and his money, because he's more likely to end up homeless and living in his in-law's basement, because he's lost his job, than he is to be performing an emergency C-section on his wife and battling the neighbors for a 5 gallon bucket of wheat berries.

A real prepper's goal is not to be ready for THAT event, but rather to become as self-sufficient as possible, because things happen - things happen all of the time that throw us into a tailspin and bring an end to our comfy, secure lives. But if we have a secure place to shelter ourselves, and if we can feed ourselves, and if we can provide for most of our basic needs without depending on the government or some other fragile system, we can consider ourselves prepared. Anything other than that, and we're just playing games ... which can be entertaining, but isn't very useful otherwise.

DISCLAIMER: I did not watch the television program I reference, and so I have no actual first hand knowledge about what was said or done during the program. My thoughts about this person's "prepping" are based on other's comments and pictures and commentary on the show's website.


  1. I do absolutely agree. I think what we are going to see going forward is that a lot of us are going to be poorer. The Governor of our Reserve Bank in Australia said exactly that in a speech yesterday - the resources boom is over, and Australians are going to have to get used to a reduced standard of living. Bald and to the point.
    And all those natural disasters are going to keep happening, and there are cities and services that will just never be rebuilt. So I am planning to hang onto my husband, because in the event that our house falls down, he could cobble together a pretty good shelter. And he might want to stay close to me because I am the gardener, preserver and cook, and I know which weeds are edible. We are such a team!

  2. Totally agree Wendy. It will be the little shocks in life that tip our world upside down, not the apocalyptic event.

    I remember a time when I lost half my salary, due to a back injury, and our prepping kicked in. We survived on our stockpile, and all of the fruit and vegetables we grow around our yard.

    I was so thankful that I had this to fall back on in troubled times. Far more value than some TV show and the buffoons that are on it.


  3. This article is exactly why I love reading your blog and your book, thanks Wendy!

  4. We used to watch it, but I haven't seen anything along these lines. I assume this is in season 3? My husband stopped watching near the beginning of season 2. It has taken me over a year to get through all of it. More and more, the episodes centered around people who appeared to try to buy it all. There is a LOT of money flowing into some of these folks' "preps", including one guy whose plan was to have a helicopter pilot fly in and pick up his family and evacuate them.

    Um. Okay then.

    I kept watching because I thought I'd still learn something I could use - I figure there's usually SOMETHING I can glean from these things. What I've noticed the most of is that modesty, and modest preparations, may not give the longest "expected time to live", but they will result in a much happier family/community/person of preppers. The people who have thrown money at their preparedness plan and think they've done it all were also the ones who reacted the most rudely to their scores at the end of their segment - even when they had the highest scores I've seen on the show. The people of more modest means seemed to be more open to suggestions and most of them appeared to consider them.

    I think that is the only thing that kept me watching through the last season - the lower budget folks whose wheels you could see turning, as the saying goes, when they got suggestions. It wasn't a "look at all my stuff, aren't I awesome?" but more of a learning experience for them.

    I can't say I blame you for not bothering to watch. As for this particular person, I agree with you. A plan to pillage and steal is not a true preparedness - unless you're also preparing to pay the consequences for such a "plan"? *sigh* Now I'm curious if this IS a new season. I will go look for the sheer fact that I wonder. LOL

    Guess this is where we defer to the "Mean People Suck" bumper sticker. ;)

  5. Stopped watching half-way thru season one as it was not the kind of prepping I'm interested in.

    We've 'prepped' for specific events over the 45 years of marriage - once when husband was getting out of the Navy and we didn't know when he'd get another job, once when he took a 3 month leave of absence from his job to finish an AS degree that would get him a better paying job at his place of employment - we had 3 kids, a mortgage and I was a stay at home mom, and now we stay prepped as we live in FL and 6 months of the year is hurricane season.

    I personally think a better show to watch for prepping would be "Alaska, the last frontier" or for general self-sufficiency "Yukon Men". Altho extreme in weather conditions the programs do show how it can be done with little money, lots of ingenuity and hard work.
    Always makes me thankful to be in the position and place I am.

  6. We watched that episode. It's amazing to me that the guy's wife is going along with all of this. They didn't show too many comments from her. A lot of guys on this show seem to make a hobby of blowing things up. Of course, that's just what they show. It's very possible that they are very serious and balanced about preparing, but don't let on about that due to OPSEC.

  7. @ chipmunk - it is possible that he's also preparing in other ways, but just the fact that his stated objective in a TEOTWAWKI situation will be to pillage his neighbors is bothersome. If he's trying to be covert about his preps for OPSEC, I wonder why he'd be on television in the first place - putting himself out there on a national television program ?? :)

    I hope it's all smoke and mirrors on his part, because, as I said, I think his plan is misguided, and best case, nothing catastrophic ever happens to him and he'll just have a lot of fun playing "paramilitary" with his friends. Worst case, he'll end up a homeless transient because he wasted time, energy and money prepping for the wrong scenario. I hope, for his sake and the sake of his family, it's the former.