Why the 'Doomsday Prepper' Idea That You Can Survive Apocalypse on Your Own Will Fail
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Editor's Note: One of the subcurrents in American culture is a growing number of "preppers," people who are hoarding supplies and building structures on their property ahead of some kind of looming apocalypse. It's now the subject of a reality TV Show. The author of this article, himself a believer in a coming collapse, argues from his experience that cooperation is the only sure way to survive.
Preppers, survivalists, paranoid boy-scouts who never grew up - whatever you choose to call them - represent a startlingly growing number of people in the U.S. who are actively preparing and planning for the coming collapse, whether that be through war, civil unrest, or environmental disaster. While it is important to note there has always been a survival culture in the U.S., it is the growing popularity, acceptance, and normalcy that accompany this current movement that is raising eyebrows. Whether it's TV shows like "Doomsday Preppers" and "Survivor-Man" or the increasingly common sight of 'survival' products at big-box stores, it is clear that the role of the Prepper is no longer confined to the stereotype of the "Rambo" figure, but is now a regular and socially acceptable part of our society. And while this has huge implications for us in regards to our culture's collective unconscious and what our unsustainable lifestyles are creating, for the purposes of this article we will critique the dominant philosophy and ideology of the current Prepper culture and examine what the practical application of their ideas in a true apocalyptic setting would look like.
As a wilderness-therapy guide, survival school teacher, and naturalist educator who has been living and working in the harsh deserts of the American Southwest for the last several years, I feel that I have a unique outlook on this topic in that I understand what it would actually take to survive and thrive in a post-apocalyptic scenario. I also have many friends who are very "in to" wilderness-living skills and prepping, and who regularly solicit my services in teaching them such various skills as tracking, trapping/hunting, friction fire, edible and medicinal plants, simple structure building, hide-tanning, and many other such facets of living simply off of the land. In experiencing firsthand this world of Preppers and survivalists, I have realized a startling and discomforting aspect of Prepper culture which has only grown more prominent since I first noticed it. I call it the "defend what's mine" phenomenon.
The "defend what's mine" mentality states that the moment "shit goes down," every other human in the world instantly becomes either a resource to be used or a threat to be eliminated. Whomever you designate as "your tribe" are the only people with any value - all others are simply mindless sheep to be picked off with your shiny new AR-15. Proponents of this mentality frequently either have or wish to have underground bunkers ready to hide in and defend themselves from "invaders," often with such brutal methods as land-mines, flame-throwers, electrically charged fencing, and of course, big guns. They regularly speak of their intention to protect "their land" and to destroy anyone else who would dare want to share that land. Never have I encountered someone who is prepping for the purpose of building a post-apocalyptic community or offering a haven of help and support for other less-prepared people in the event that something terrible does happen. No, the dominant formula for Prepper success seems to be: build a bunker, store a lot of food, water and guns in there, and kill anybody else who wants what you have.
That's pretty terrifying, especially considering the fact that there are nine registered guns in America for every ten people , and that's not even factoring in unregistered guns or guns owned by the National Guard or Military forces. To make the forecast even darker, consider the incredible amount of violence our culture is saturated in: our endless foreign wars, gang and street violence, State violence in the form of the drug war and the militarization of our police forces, record-levels of suicide in the U.S., regular school-shootings and mass-shootings in public places, normalized domestic violence, as well as the violence that is thrust upon us from every facet of the media: the news, movies, TV shows, video games, music, etc. With such volatile, compounding factors of the dominant "defend what's mine" mentality, the incredible amount of guns in the U.S., and the inherent violence of our culture, it is understood that our country would quickly turn into a bloodbath in the event of a catastrophic incident.