Rich, armed, and ready for the end of days
May 15, 2015 5:54 AM   Subscribe

By all appearances, Bob Valenti is your average upwardly mobile suburbanite. The 40-something father of two has a couple of advanced degrees and a high-paying job at a high-flying technology company. He has an aggressive retirement plan and plenty socked away in college funds for his kids. As of last year, he also has a plan for surviving the end of the world as we know it.
posted by Chrysostom (314 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think that it's probably people like this fellow that the people who would actually survive a long-term disaster would classify under "secondary source of supplies and/or meat."
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:02 AM on May 15, 2015 [31 favorites]


Combined Universal Martial Applications Survival School

Parts of the article seemed serious, but CUMASS? Really?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [88 favorites]


These people should look into their family trees: I reckon that somewhere back there is a great-grandad who was a squirrel.
posted by Segundus at 6:13 AM on May 15, 2015


I think the most important point in this article was tragically unemphasized:

Chicago just figured out how to handle major snowstorms.

Can Chicago please teach the rest of us?

Not that I wish any of these people dead, but they're likely to die eventually. Presumably some of them have less prep-y next of kin. I would be really curious to see the food bank donations/goodwill donations/garage sale that comes from the settling of an estate like this.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:17 AM on May 15, 2015


I remember that during the Cold War paranoia during the '70s and '80s, stories about some yahoo "survivalist" who was preparing a bomb shelter full of supplies were a regular staple on TV news.

Of course, now that everyone knows where this dude's cache is, everyone else's survival strategy will involve getting there, too.

I am reminded of one of the vignettes from the book World War Z: Some entertainment mogul spent a ton of money on a fortified compound on, if memory serves me correctly, Long Island. When the zombie apocalypse hit, he invited a bunch of his media pals to hole up there and, on top of that, broadcasted a sort of reality show -- even at the potential end of the world, they needed the spotlight. The place was overrun, of course, but not by the walking dead; rather by an armed and desperate group that wanted shelter and supplies.
posted by Gelatin at 6:20 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I want to be a prepper, but my budget can't handle the hardcore nonsense.

So, instead, I plan to barter my knitting skills to better preppers. Anyone need a blanket for nuclear winter?
posted by Katemonkey at 6:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Oh good, a growing fad of heavily-armed paranoid nutjobs.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


Uh, whoa. I read this with the creeping feeling of "It's disturbingly apparent that these are mostly rich white people and holy shit does that freak me the hell out."
posted by Kitteh at 6:23 AM on May 15, 2015 [25 favorites]


>you’ll need a wagon of cash for a loaf of bread,” he says as we chat in his immaculate kitchen while a cleaning woman vacuums in the next room. “Society could crumble in three days. That’s all it would take. Then it’s going to get primal.”

Or we could all just agree to keep doing whatever we were doing before, and just skip the 'exchange goods for money' part. There'd be the same number of loaves of bread as before; we'd just have to agree to split them up equally. Maybe instead of having a cleaning woman in the next room and a bunch of assault rifles in your basement, we should be mentally preparing to start splitting things up equally, and treating people decently. Hell, the current cost of a loaf of bread might seem like a wagon of cash to some people--your cleaning woman, for instance, but she's not holed up with a machine gun. Survivalists never want to bother envisioning a future that anybody would want to survive in.

To loosely paraphrase Commander Adama, "It's not enough to survive. We have to deserve to survive."
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:24 AM on May 15, 2015 [117 favorites]


I’d love a big yard, but I’d kill for a bunker in the basement.

I see what he did there.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 6:25 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


No one other than those in on Plan B knows about his new hobby. Not coworkers, not friends, not extended family. And especially not the guy next door. “This is about survival. I only want to talk about it with the people I’ll be surviving with,” he says matter-of-factly. “Mostly, I don’t want my neighbors to know about it. Because I don’t want them knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan.”
If that isn't a 'Fuck you, I've got mine' mindset, I don't know what is.
posted by KHAAAN! at 6:25 AM on May 15, 2015 [64 favorites]


I've done my own style of prepping. I've gotten to know my neighbors and have fostered rewarding, cooperative relationships with them. After the SHTF, I'm sure we'll be able to help out those cowardly preppers when they finally crawl out of their holes and realize that society exists because self-reliance has always proven impossible.

"...or a societal step forward through self-reliance."
How this even makes sense I don't even...
posted by klarck at 6:26 AM on May 15, 2015 [36 favorites]


"I’m a bit of a prepper. I probably have some materials and views that could get me seriously put on a watch list. Plus, I don’t want people knowing I got the goods when they get desperate. My greatest asset is my unobtrusiveness. No one would suspect me of harboring such ideas."
Oh god.
posted by Theta States at 6:27 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I found the picture of the Trapp daughters with rifles on their laps upsetting and sad. I get wanting to be prepared for anything--it's understandable--but you end up living for something that may or may not happen, instead of living for today.
posted by Kitteh at 6:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


“I don’t know if we’re the only ones feeling it, but there’s this sense that times are different now,”

Yeah, no they're not. Times are pretty much the same, if not better.

I can't help but feel like some of these people are secretly hoping for the end of the world so they can live out their fantasy, like the flight simulator enthusiast who is always hoping the pilot on his airplane eats the tainted fish and gets sick so he can jump in and save the day with his knowledge.

I guess I wish these people well. Maybe they'll have the last laugh, but I doubt it. Most likely they'll die of natural causes (or a gun accident) and leave a basement full of food.

Surely there have been enough disasters in the world that we'd know by now if things really do turn into survival of the fittest. It seems to me that all I ever hear are stories of everyone pitching in and helping everyone else. I know there were reports of lots of shootings during Katrina but I was always under the impression most of these rumors turned out to be false.

I'm confident if the shit does hit the fan (WTSHTF) the people in my community will help each other and through a combination of smarts and scavenging we'll all turn out ok. Unless something really serious happens, like a meteor strike or full scale nuclear war, in which case I'm not sure prolonging the inevitable is something I'm really interested in doing.
posted by bondcliff at 6:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [34 favorites]


I ask Campbell if he fears the kind of lawlessness seen in post-Katrina New Orleans or the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. “I don’t think that’s too far-fetched that something like that could happen in Chicago,” he says. “And if that happens and I’m holed up in my house and somebody tries to break in, I want to be able to protect myself. You can call 911, but what if they can’t get there in time?”

"'Basically what I'm afraid of is black people,' everyone I talked to just barely managed not to say."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:32 AM on May 15, 2015 [148 favorites]


Dip Flash: "Parts of the article seemed serious, but CUMASS? Really?"

from the article:
(Preppers really relish their acronyms.)
posted by Theta States at 6:33 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the problem with self-reliance is that it is very, very difficult to live solely by one's self. Particularly if you do not have wilderness skills, know how to raise crops, etc. Those batteries and cans of beans you are stocking up are only going to last so long. Then you will be back at square 1 - needing to work cooperatively with others.

That's not to say that it isn't a good idea to have a few day's supplies - it is, for temporary disasters. But a basement full of guns is not going to get you through the real apocalypse.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:33 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was around when new homes came with a fallout shelter so you could survive the coming nuclear holocaust. This always puzzled me. Why the hell would you want to survive? My plan for when the sirens went off was to take a deck chair and a cooler of beer up on the roof and wait for the (admittedly brief) show...
posted by jim in austin at 6:33 AM on May 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


Should he and his family need Plan B, he has a couple of 30-pound packets of “survival seeds” there for jump-starting their own farm.

I hope he's also spending hours each week learning how to actually turn these seeds into edible plants, and has a defensible (from both animals and humans) piece of land of sufficient size to grow them on. One that isn't contaminated with heavy metals (rare, in any proximity to a city), has workable, nutritive soil, receives sufficient sunlight to grow food crops, and has a clean water source for irrigation. And that he's learning everything you have to know to save seed effectively without refrigeration.

I understand the fear, for sure, but it's no coincidence that prepping has found its biggest audience in the suburbs - in the one that I grew up in, the most ubiquitous personality traits were arrogance, and a divorce from physical work, physical privation, and deep interaction with the natural world. This is an adolescent fantasy, preyed on and promoted by cynical marketers, and these guys would die quickly - like most of us - if the massive infrastructure allowing them to spend time playing action hero were pulled away.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:35 AM on May 15, 2015 [88 favorites]


What's so ridiculous is that we have dozens of real world examples of SHTF, which peppers oddly ignore in favor of instead preparing for those fantasies most visible in their media, such as zombie uprisings.

It works better to examine their motivations after disabusing them of the luxury of sharing in their delusions. It becomes much more, then, about fear of neighbors, fear of class "warfare", fear of economic instability, all situated in the present, not in some future time.
posted by odinsdream at 6:36 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


That's not to say that it isn't a good idea to have a few day's supplies - it is, for temporary disasters. But a basement full of guns is not going to get you through the real apocalypse.

Someone else's basement full of guns might come in useful, though. I don't care how well armed they are, a good sized rabble with pitchforks and torches would evict them in a hurry and then use the guns themselves.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 AM on May 15, 2015


I think it's funny how many people hoard cash and gold for the apocalypse. If things get bad enough to need either, both will be worthless.
posted by Schrodinger's Gat at 6:39 AM on May 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yeah, no they're not. Times are pretty much the same, if not better.

No kidding. Predictions of the End of Days has a history going back millenia.

I hope he's also spending hours each week learning how to actually turn these seeds into edible plants, and has a defensible (from both animals and humans) piece of land of sufficient size to grow it on.

Not to mention a source of clean water...without which all the guns in the world won't save you from dying of dysentery.
posted by Gelatin at 6:41 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I ran across one of the prepper reality shows once, where they assessed people's plans and told them how to make them better, etc. I was really struck by one family for whom the apocalypse was obviously going to be people (dog whistle, poor black people) surging out of the cities to loot food and anything they could get their hands on.

So his plan was that he had bought some land up in the hills, but not too far from civilization because he wanted to be able to get their fast. And he had scoped out ambush points on the road leading in, and his whole plan appeared to be training his kids to shoot people coming up the road. This was complete with plywood cutouts and an old truck and radio coordination of what was going on. Someone would report that cutouts at a certain point on the road, and they'd pass the order back to shoot them and the kids would shoot the cutouts. Victory!

And it occurred to me that was probably the worst thing he could possibly have done. Because this guy and his people were totally focused on shooting their way through the first week of social collapse, but hadn't even thought about anything after that. If everything really fell apart, I figure the most likely scenario is that when the ball drops, this guy and his family run to their bunker. And then they just sit there, eating canned goods and scanning the dirt road and wondering where all the welfare moochers are. Maybe, maybe six months later they kill some poor hunter who didn't even know they were there but was just hunting deer to feed his people. And then, eventually, the canned goods run out. And these people have no fucking idea how to actually survive. But they do have a shitload of heavy weapons and ammo they've been itching to use. And so they're going to come down out of the hills and start raiding.

So I realized that guy was pretty much the most dangerous threat I would be facing in any collapse scenario that was survivable at all. My prepper plan, if I were to have one, would be to identify that guy in my area and be aware of him. And then, if things actually started to get hairy, the best thing I could do to ensure my survival and that of my community would be to straight up murder that guy as quickly as possible.

So maybe not the best survival plan if it encourages people to prioritize seeking out and killing you at the first sighn of crisis.
posted by Naberius at 6:41 AM on May 15, 2015 [121 favorites]


Coming from a rival western suburb of Chicago, I must say: If the end of times comes to Downers Grove, how will they know?
posted by nightwood at 6:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh man oh man I can't wait for the coming wave of trend pieces about upper-class suburban families and their personal animal hospitals private hangars marijuana grows doomsday preparations!
posted by duffell at 6:43 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


He doesn’t consider himself an extremist. “As soon as the power goes out, I don’t pull out the supplies. I like to think I have a firm enough grasp on reality that I am comfortable with my level [of prepping]. For me, it’s a hobby I hope I never have to use. A lot of people have figurines on glass shelves that they display. I’m collecting peace of mind.”

They keep their peace of mind collection in the hutch next to the batshit place setting they got as a wedding gift but only trot out on special occasions.

Not to mention a source of clean water...without which all the guns in the world won't save you from dying of dysentery.

Truth. All the guns and tinned food in the world aren't going to protect you from the epidemiological horrors of a return to open sewers.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:43 AM on May 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


There's a Cracked article that says studies have show that in contrast to Hollywood in the event of disaster most people start helping each other out rather than vanishing into their basements.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:44 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's not the whole story (a large part of the story is racism, as usual), but I feel like the driving force behind a lot of this is a desire for your life to be Important. People want to be the hero of an exciting action movie, rather than bit players living humdrum lives. It's why these people focus on combat skills, rather than, say, volunteering on a farm. Similarly, I think the article's comment about "our cushy existence full of meaningless choices," is on the nose. Part of the appeal is the sense that the world ending will let you escape the various trying banalities of modern life and focus on things that feel "real": food, water, protecting your family. It's fantasy, of course, and these people aren't particularly likely to fare better over extended timeline, but I get the fantasy. A world where all you have to do is feed yourself can seem a lot stressful than one where you have to work and pay the mortgage, even if the reality is obviously completely different.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:45 AM on May 15, 2015 [40 favorites]


If that isn't a 'Fuck you, I've got mine' mindset, I don't know what is.

This. You're gonna hole up in your bunker until what exactly? Until the people on "the outside" do the hard work of repairing civilization such that you want to live in it again? Fuck. You.
posted by gwint at 6:46 AM on May 15, 2015 [30 favorites]


Chicago just figured out how to handle major snowstorms.

Chicago, puh-lease! Illinois comes hard, but it's not gangsta like Minnesota. Here's a Minnesota weather report: "Hell freezes over. Schools will be subject to a two-hour delay. Girl Scout cookie delivery shall proceed as normal."
posted by jonp72 at 6:48 AM on May 15, 2015 [21 favorites]


I understand the fear, for sure, but it's no coincidence that prepping has found its biggest audience in the suburbs - in the one that I grew up in, the most ubiquitous personality traits were arrogance, and a divorce from physical work

Coming from a rival western suburb of Chicago, I must say: If the end of times comes to Downers Grove, how will they know?

Going back to World War Z -- for which, if memory serves me correctly, Max Brooks did research by interviewing real-world disaster response experts -- one of the situations the enclaves of survivors had to deal with was a horde of surplus labor with no useful skills at all -- white-collar types from the suburbs, basically -- who eventually had to be taught basic skills by people who had been essentially their servants -- gardeners, carpenters, plumbers, etc. In the post-crisis world, people with useful skills were valued much more highly, and a lot of the yuppie refugees had a hard time dealing with it.
posted by Gelatin at 6:49 AM on May 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


Well, that "fuck you, got mine" attitude so many of these preppers display isn't surprising because there's a huge overlap between prepper types and libertarians. You can see this with the first guy they profile who talks about hyperinflation destroying the dollar and who maintains "a network of contacts who can help him acquire coins and precious metals, he tells me, in case he needs to stock up quickly on cash alternatives as the economy goes south". This is standard libertarian gold bug nonsense.

I guess there's some attraction in the fantasy of being a self-reliant Superman who has broken free of the shackles of society or whatever.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ok, I just took a deep breath. Another way of engaging with the above sentiment of course would be to try to convince these preppers to actually prep as a community. In fact, there's an existing movement for this sort of thing.
posted by gwint at 6:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's just all so sad.

I mean, if these paranoid, I've-got-mine types contributed all of this time and cash and energy into their communities -- shared gardens, anti-poverty work, ensuring everyone in your neighbourhood has a shot at a decent education and basic healthcare -- you'd effectively be making yourself an apocalypse-proof community. What have these people put into their bunkers and plans? Enough to employ a teacher for a year, or a nurse. Enough for an extra staffer for the local daycare. They've traded that for a hole in the ground and supplies from dodgy websites that might as well be named suckerborneveryminute.com.

If society collapses, survival favours the person engaged with a large community of people who share a wide range of skills and aptitudes, who look out for each other, and who understand the need for some small personal sacrifice in order to get everybody through.

It does not favour the asshole sitting alone in his basement with ten thousand K-Bars, a rifle, and a seething nest of headspiders telling him that everyone else on the planet is his enemy.

It's just such a monumental waste of resources and human energy. Gah.
posted by Shepherd at 6:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [84 favorites]


I'm of a similar view to klarck.

I suspect that a lot of these people are relatively wealthy because they spend every waking hour at work away from home. If you don't have the time or motivation to be a part of your local community, even to the extent of getting to know your neighbours a little, I would imagine that you begin to see your immediate family as some kind of disconnected unit completely separate from the rest of society. Combine this with sprawling suburbs designed for cars and privacy rather than humans and community, and you've got a breeding-ground for this type of behaviour.
posted by pipeski at 6:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


fearfulsymmetry: "There's a Cracked article that says studies have show that in contrast to Hollywood in the event of disaster most people start helping each other out rather than vanishing into their basements."

As seen *every* time there's a natural disaster. Funny how when the shit hits the fan it turns out that vast majority of people figure out how to help their fellow man/woman get through it, instead of a few "I've got mine" assholes.
posted by Runes at 6:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


There's a Cracked article that says studies have show that in contrast to Hollywood in the event of disaster most people start helping each other out rather than vanishing into their basements.

Ever single time I watch The Walking Dead, whenever they're fighting other humans, all I can think is that if they'd cooperate instead they'd all have a much better chance against the zombies. But I guess that wouldn't make for a good show.

What's going to happen to these people if, say, the shit hits the fan and they start killing everyone who even glances at their property, and then in a month or so shit comes back to normal? Will they use that wagon full of cash to pay for a good lawyer?
posted by bondcliff at 6:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, I just took a deep breath. Another way of engaging with the above sentiment of course would be to try to convince these preppers to actually prep as a community. In fact, there's an existing movement for this sort of thing.

Nah, we should be convincing them to all join up together in a compound in the desert somewhere so they'll leave the rest of us alone.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


That would also be fine.
posted by gwint at 6:53 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, that attitude isn't surprising because there's a huge overlap between prepper types and libertarians. You can see this with the first guy they profile who talks about hyperinflation destroying the dollar and who maintains "a network of contacts who can help him acquire coins and precious metals, he tells me, in case he needs to stock up quickly on cash alternatives as the economy goes south". This is standard libertarian gold bug nonsense.

And some of these folks are also on a continuum that ultimately ends up as segue into either raving antisemitism or a conspiracy theory wormhole.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:55 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If society collapses, survival favours the person engaged with a large community of people who share a wide range of skills and aptitudes, who look out for each other, and who understand the need for some small personal sacrifice in order to get everybody through.

It does not favour the asshole sitting alone in his basement with ten thousand K-Bars, a rifle, and a seething nest of headspiders telling him that everyone else on the planet is his enemy.


Shepherd, your comments had me thinking "this would make a fantastic premise for a post-apocalyptic/sci-fi novel." Then I thought, "oh! that completely fucking fantastic novel has already been written, and so has its sequel."

Then I thought, "both of those books are at home on my bookshelf." And then I thought, "I really shouldn't be at work with this scratachy throat and um this cold that's coming on."

Cough.
posted by duffell at 6:55 AM on May 15, 2015 [30 favorites]


Ever single time I watch The Walking Dead, whenever they're fighting other humans, all I can think is that if they'd cooperate instead they'd all have a much better chance against the zombies. But I guess that wouldn't make for a good show.

George Romero's* entire point was that the zombie apocalypse should be easy to deal with, but that people won't cooperate enough to do it.

*TWD is set in a George Romero-style zombie apocalypse; it's worth noting that the later chapters are less about surviving as individuals than as a community.
posted by Gelatin at 6:56 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


You know who will really survive a major catastrophe?

Mormons.

Hear me out. I'm not talking about the 3 month food supply, although that helps. Mormons are a close-knit community with an already established hierarchy, established distribution networks, a set of shared values, access to significant resources, and a tradition of cooperation in the face of adversity.

That's what gets you through serious civilization-altering events.

You want to survive? Don't buy a gun; start tithing.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:56 AM on May 15, 2015 [41 favorites]


like the flight simulator enthusiast who is always hoping the pilot on his airplane eats the tainted fish and gets sick so he can jump in and save the day with his knowledge.

See, in my case it's that I've been waiting all my life for the chance to say "Oh, stewardess! I speak jive."
posted by escabeche at 6:56 AM on May 15, 2015 [48 favorites]


Some people have a different interpretation of the rosary prayer I guess
posted by The Whelk at 6:58 AM on May 15, 2015


All members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to have an emergency plan that includes at least a three-month supply of food and, ideally, up to a year’s worth of “long-term storage.”

...

Next Karina ordered wheat flour, oats, beans, and spaghetti from the Mormon Church, which sells the items in bulk to members and nonmembers alike


Damn, bet Scientology wishes they'd come up with that racket.
posted by davros42 at 6:58 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


I remember that during the Cold War paranoia during the '70s and '80s, stories about some yahoo "survivalist" who was preparing a bomb shelter full of supplies were a regular staple on TV news.

Back in the 80's, my brother and sister in-law belonged to a small evangelical church on Indy's far south side. All members of the church had tostockpile all sorts of foodstuffs in their garages in preparation for the endtimes. Thankfully, my in-laws came to their senses and moved-on to a less nutty evangelical church.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


LOL at jabbering about self reliance when you have a cleaning woman working one room over.
posted by still bill at 7:01 AM on May 15, 2015 [51 favorites]


There was a really great blog post by someone describing life in Buenos Aires after the economic collapse some time ago. He laid out what was valuable in the street, and at what a disadvantage the ones who had caches of food found themselves. Basically everyone knew who the hoarders were and when they were eventually forced to come out of hiding they were not exactly welcomed with open arms by the rest of the community.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:02 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


These fucking jokers need to read their Dee Xtrovert.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:03 AM on May 15, 2015 [86 favorites]


“Check this out,” he says, excitedly holding up a paracord bracelet that looks like one of those Livestrong wristbands but unwinds to provide 10 feet of rope. “You could use it to secure things, or as a trap or a snare.”

Dude's never tried to trap an animal in his life, has he?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:03 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


All members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to have an emergency plan that includes at least a three-month supply of food and, ideally, up to a year’s worth of “long-term storage.”
...
Next Karina ordered wheat flour, oats, beans, and spaghetti from the Mormon Church, which sells the items in bulk to members and nonmembers alike

Damn, bet Scientology wishes they'd come up with that racket.


I think you'll find that they're selling those staples at cost, or close to it. LDS storehouses are part of the church's private welfare system. The church is smart enough not to scam their members on stuff like this, their money comes from the tithing, property ownership, and business development ventures like the City Creek Center.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:04 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


“This is about survival. I only want to talk about it with the people I’ll be surviving with,” he says matter-of-factly. “Mostly, I don’t want my neighbors to know about it. Because I don’t want them knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan.”

Then why talk about it to the media at all? No, what this person wants -- not unlike countless yo-yos throughout the history of this great land -- is for everyone to know that he is Saved while everyone else is Damned. It truly is FYIGM, in spades.
posted by Gelatin at 7:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Dude's never tried to trap an animal in his life, has he?

I'm guessing there's a whole lot about actual survival techniques that most of these nutjobs have never tried in their lives. I'm sure they have a handy manual somewhere, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's so ridiculous is that we have dozens of real world examples of SHTF, which peppers oddly ignore in favor of instead preparing for those fantasies most visible in their media, such as zombie uprisings.


Yeah, has anyone's Suoer Cool Libertarian Treehouse ever been the thing to save the day rather then ...people helping each other?

Also agree that the lone man apocalypse fantasy seems like someone dreaming about a radical de-alienation of labor.
posted by The Whelk at 7:07 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've been enjoying James Howard Kunstler's World Made by Hand series, mostly because of the way the folks who turn to community do so much better than the individualists, WTSHTF.
posted by MtDewd at 7:07 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


End times scenarios and predictions have been with us forever it seems, and there have been people who have profited by selling stuff to the fearful.

There are certain kinds of people who live continually with some measure of fear. Fear of the ‘other’ and fear of the unknown future. Some need to assuage their fears with a talisman, often in the form of a weapon for protection. I lived through the Cold War days of the 1960’s and even made a model of an underground fallout shelter (based on a LIFE magazine article) for a science project. I remember the 1999 sales pitches for Y2K generators and other “essential” survival gear. We all managed to survive the predicted Y2K collapse.

Forty or fifty years from now the heirs of these preppers will be looking for ways to dispose of Dad’s or Grampa’s stockpiles. Tens of thousands of firearms and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition will flood onto the market.
posted by X4ster at 7:08 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is the perfect combination of racism & illusory omni-competence.

...it's fairly remarkable (at least to me) how many men get sucked into the idea that they can be fully prepared for every possible eventuality. Usually their concept of "manhood" depends on it, which is even weirder and they just sorta run off down the rabbit hole.
posted by aramaic at 7:09 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


What is the end game here?

They emerge from their bunkers after having consumed all their tinned food and present themselves to the depleted but defiant remnants of humanity who, work hardened and weather toughened, have grouped together to begin the task of rebuilding society.

"So"

Quoth the preppers

"Good job doing the legwork here, we'll start talking our cut now. I presume you have need of the services of a commodities broker?"

And at that point, presumably, in their fantasies people are so grateful for the sudden appearance of one of their betters and so desperately in need of someone who can provide financial services/middle management that the prepper doesn't get a pitchfork in the face.
posted by Dext at 7:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [23 favorites]


Dude's never tried to trap an animal in his life, has he?

Neither have I, but it occurs to me that the Boy Scout Handbook taught me a lot of basic survival skills -- making a drag snare with a branch and a shoelace, building fires, digging a trench around one's tent and a latrine, etc. I don't know if I could still unravel my web belt to make fishing line with a safety pin, but maybe.
posted by Gelatin at 7:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Everything old is new again.

One of our neighbors actually had a fallout shelter. I was a kid, it was the 60s, and our black and white television showed folks like Chet Huntley looking nervous and talking about nuclear capability.

On a hot western Pennsylvania afternoon the bored teenaged son of this family asked a bunch of us kids, who were happily playing in mud across the street, if we'd like to see it.

We were curious and willing to climb down a vertical ladder, and found ourselves in the most dank, claustrophobic, tomblike space imaginabe. The boxes of supplies and the "chemical toilet" were interesting enough, but when we asked about TV the boy shrugged and said something about there not being any TV to watch because everything would be blown up.

Back in our mud, we held a meeting. Every single kid agreed in whispers that if living like that were our alternative, we'd rather stay under the blue sky and get blown up too.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:15 AM on May 15, 2015 [21 favorites]


Also agree that the lone man apocalypse fantasy seems like someone dreaming about a radical de-alienation of labor.

Obligatory Bob the Angry Flower
posted by Gelatin at 7:15 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've been enjoying James Howard Kunstler's World Made by Hand series, mostly because of the way the folks who turn to community do so much better than the individualists, WTSHTF.

Which is ironic, since Kunstler's weekly columns are notable for their loud, consistent classism, thinly veiled racism, and basic, frothing contempt for average Americans of any kind. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who is doing a lot of broad-based community building.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:16 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


I know that most actual experience shows that people tend to work together in times of crisis, but I'd like to think that there are, in fact, affluent suburbs with residents so xenophobic that they will refuse to work together or trade with one another or even attack one another for supplies. Just slowly starve to death behind closed doors.

I assume when the apocalypse actually arrives, then subsides, those affluent suburbs will be a fucking goldmine with each intact house having all the supplies you need to live except the single one the owners of the house died because they ran out and couldn't get more.

Just clean out the skeletons, tear down the fences, and you have a ready-made Arcadia for your scrappy band of survivors.
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


URBAN YOUTH RIOT LOOTER #1: the shit has hit the fan...should we walk to costco to get canned goods
URBAN YOUTH RIOT LOOTER #2: no...let's go house to house hoping they have ramen among the corpses
URBAN YOUTH RIOT LOOTER #1: that seems really stupid but okay, let do that
WISE PATRIARCH WITH A MILLION GUN'S: my realistic planning has paid off
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 7:17 AM on May 15, 2015 [22 favorites]


As a bit of a derail; Yes, the wild tales of shots fired at rescue helicopters over New Orleans have been debunked. I was one of the hundreds of FEMA responders to hurricane Katrina. Our team was in place in Mississippi 48 hours ahead of Katrina's landfall. Teams were in place in Alabama and staged for Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina passed across Florida before entering the Gulf. Four states were directly impacted by hurricane Katrina, Mississippi taking the most direct hit and suffering the greatest damage but all people think of in reference to Katrina is one city in one of four states.

I wonder how the contemporary preppers are doing down in the Gulf states?
posted by X4ster at 7:18 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Shit is already hitting the fan for millions all over the world, every day. And that guy is part of the problem.
posted by allthinky at 7:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Which is ironic, since Kunstler's weekly columns are notable for their loud, consistent classism, thinly veiled racism, and basic, frothing contempt for average Americans of any kind.

Kunstler calls out wishful thinking bullshit, of which there is an overabundance these days.

People are not going to "work together in times of crisis" in the United States. You know who they're going to take care of? Their own. "Their own" can encompass family, friends, neighbors, community.

But honestly. If you think everything is going to be "just fine," if you haven't really taken a look at the wobbling house of cards that is the American/global economy, if you haven't asked yourself what might happen in the event of another financial crash and the bailouts that will certainly accompany it, if you haven't considered what that might do to a population that's already chronically underemployed and still way over its head in debt, and if you haven't wondered how that population might respond - and how the militarized police state might respond to that - please. Go about your reverie.
posted by kgasmart at 7:22 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: They keep their peace of mind collection in the hutch next to the batshit place setting they got as a wedding gift but only trot out on special occasions
posted by Renoroc at 7:24 AM on May 15, 2015


Can we see pictures of your bunker, kgasmart?
posted by Sangermaine at 7:25 AM on May 15, 2015 [29 favorites]


“I’m sure you want people a lot more hardcore than me,” wrote my friend, whom we’ll call Pete Campbell, “but I’m a bit of a prepper. I probably have some materials and views that could get me seriously put on a watch list. Plus, I don’t want people knowing I got the goods when they get desperate. My greatest asset is my unobtrusiveness. No one would suspect me of harboring such ideas.”

Well, great, now I'm reading it in his voice.
posted by codacorolla at 7:25 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was struck by this tweet from the other day (check out the quote in the image)

If you want an example of a society working together under privation and the constant threat of death, look at England during the War Years.
posted by gwint at 7:28 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


This guy should build a Startup Castle so he could have some eugenic DNA at hand for earth re-peopling.
posted by bukvich at 7:29 AM on May 15, 2015


People are not going to "work together in times of crisis" in the United States. You know who they're going to take care of? Their own. "Their own" can encompass family, friends, neighbors, community.

Wait how is working with one's community not working together in time of crisis.
posted by griphus at 7:30 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Go about your reverie.

You misspelled "wake up sheeple."
posted by PMdixon at 7:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [34 favorites]


“Mostly, I don’t want my neighbors to know about it. Because I don’t want them knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan.”

Twilight Zone afficionados are no doubt recalling this episode right about now.
posted by dr_dank at 7:32 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Har har, yes, preppers, but entire western societies have fallen into anarchy in living memory. Europe was a complete basket-case post-war, and was until 1947 or 1948. And obviously, localized disasters can and do happen, whether they're natural or man-made.

It's definitely not something I would do - I think the chances of something catastrophic happening in the US, or in my area in particular, are very low, in the medium term - but it's not like these people are preparing for something entirely unprecedented. Societal collapse can and does happen.
posted by corcovado at 7:33 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you want an example of a society working together under privation and the constant threat of death, look at England during the War Years.

I remember there being some great responses to the official hysteria that was being fanned after the 7/7 bombings in London that were along the lines of "If these is people's reaction to a few bombings that yes, are awful and terrible, how the hell did we make it through the Blitz?"

And that sort of thing is a great rejoinder to the preppers who are banging on ominously about "Things are different now. They're getting worse."

Erm, ask anyone who lived through WWII, whether in continental Europe or the UK if they think things are worse now.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:33 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Societal collapse can and does happen.

So do aneurysms. You can prepare for them about as effectively.
posted by PMdixon at 7:35 AM on May 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


Naberius: So I realized that guy was pretty much the most dangerous threat I would be facing in any collapse scenario that was survivable at all. My prepper plan, if I were to have one, would be to identify that guy in my area and be aware of him. And then, if things actually started to get hairy, the best thing I could do to ensure my survival and that of my community would be to straight up murder that guy as quickly as possible.

At least he'll die thinking he is some sort of legend or something.
posted by infinitelives at 7:37 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


If that was an "I am Legend" joke, it was remarkably well done.
posted by duffell at 7:39 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


This seems more like a consumerist based hobby than anything. It's an excuse to buy a bunch of (most likely) worthless shit that gives a momentary rush of competence and security. Like a vinyl collector who never listens to their collection, but enjoys flicking through it as a confirmation of their superior taste. It's mail order masculinity.
posted by codacorolla at 7:40 AM on May 15, 2015 [37 favorites]


So, I lived with a sort-of prepper.

He didn't believe in the apocalypse or anything, but he would always buy massive amounts of canned goods, and toilet paper and anything he used that wasn't perishable. I would joke, when the end comes, we could live happily for months.

Finally, I asked him why. He said, I lived in Britain in the 1970s, during the strikes. There was nothing in the shops. So I got in the habit of having extra, just in case.

I'm going to his house during the next general strike/natural disaster.
posted by jb at 7:41 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


If that was an "I am Legend" joke, it was remarkably well done.

;) Kudos to Naberius for the wonderful setup.
posted by infinitelives at 7:41 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I used to mess around making wine and mead. Then one year I got real ambitious and built a still. I ordered the boiler off ebay, fermented some feed corn, coiled up some copper tubing and was in business. I made several gallons of shine, then got bored and dismantled it and threw it in the back of my gardening shed.

My end of the world strategy when confronted by ranging hordes of heavily armed warlords has always been to put my hands in the air and say loudly, "Don't kill me! I can make booze!"

I figure I got about a 50/50 chance.
posted by valkane at 7:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [75 favorites]


I wonder to what extent the preppers are actually hoping things go bad. If this never happens, then they must feel sort of foolish...
posted by librosegretti at 7:44 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has no one made a Blast From the Past reference yet?
posted by mlo at 7:47 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is why I always wear pillows strapped to my chest and a crash helmet when I go outside, to prepare for the inevitable being hit by a bus that's coming to us all. Whose going to be look stupid then!?
posted by The Whelk at 7:48 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wonder to what extent the preppers are actually hoping things go bad.

I love the idea of being prepared, but that's what really turns me off about the prepper movement: they -want- collapse to happen. They get off on the idea. It's really disgusting.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:49 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I wonder to what extent the preppers are actually hoping things go bad. If this never happens, then they must feel sort of foolish...

Among the early studies of Cognitive dissonance was the book When Prophecy Fails, about a UFO / doomsday cult, which pointed out that some people react to the conflict between their beliefs and reality by doubling down on their beliefs.
posted by Gelatin at 7:49 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not a prepper or even close to one; have never handled a gun and never will; stockpile downstairs includes I think a gallon of water. But why are people saying they're sad, upset, mad, etc. that preppers exist? What is it to you? If S never really does HTF, then these people are just consumers making possibly poor buying decisions. Bully for them.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


You know, whenever someone asks me what I'd do in a zombie apocalypse, I just respond with "I'm gonna eat all the brains I can get!"
posted by Slinga at 7:52 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I wonder to what extent the preppers are actually hoping things go bad. If this never happens, then they must feel sort of foolish...

Probably quite a lot. I can't imagine the low self-esteem of someone who is obsessed with the end of civilization but simultaneously has spend their time in professions like banking, technology, law, etc. the skills from which are guaranteed to be mostly useless if there's no one running the banks or the power grid or the government.

A lot of them really concentrate on building a comprehensive defense system for their homes, learning hand-to-hand combat, hoarding guns. I assume at least for some they're terrified of how generally useless their life's work is in this scenario that they both fear and hope for while meanwhile some guy who they've spent their life thinking they're better and more successful human being than knows how to make and operate a still, and that guy's the VIP.

I assume there's an opposite side of the coin as well, maybe even a more frequent mindset, that they will be Mad Fuckin' Max and the baddest motherfucker in the post-Apocalyptic hellscape and definitely no longer Ted from Accounts Receivable.
posted by griphus at 7:53 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]



WITT/YOYO
Every social or political question is really the same question. If you think you're smart, dumb, shy, a star, old, young, poor, rich, 'conservative', 'liberal', boring, or a unique snowflake. Money, sex, age, family, race, religion -- or natural and anthromorphic disasters. Everything boils down to your attitute toward WITT/YOYO.

And ever since we climbed down from the trees, picked up tools and started sticking and stoning together, Team WITT had eventually overcome the YOYOs every time. Every time. Don't be a YOYO.

As for me, WTSHTF -- That's when I gotta get my ass back to Sunset Boulevard.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:54 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Actually, the only people I know who have done this "survive the collapse of all things" mentality are people who basically bought and built fiefdoms in isolated rural areas of Mexico and Central America -- lots of really close working with the communities, integrated native designs and low tec solutions, access to fresh water, deliberate untangling from a lot of modernity, etc. They've essentially become the local rural aristocracy and moved their entire family and lives into it.

Which sounds like the exact opposite of sitting your bedroom eating snickers and shooting anyone who knocks on the door.
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can't help but feel like some of these people are secretly hoping for the end of the world so they can live out their fantasy

None other than Jerry Pournelle, rightwing science fiction author, defence hawk and writer of a couple of end of world fantasies, identified this back in the early eighties, at the height of the Cold War. Not just the fantasy of being able to live out all your doomsday prep power trips, but also the idea that if only we'd forced to start over civilisation, this time we could do it right.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I.e., with no black people.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:59 AM on May 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


But why are people saying they're sad, upset, mad, etc. that preppers exist? What is it to you?

People who are convinced the end of the world is nigh don't give a shit about making the world a better place. They are the worst kind of neighbors to have. They don't want to work with you; they're already planning to make jerky out of you.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [36 favorites]


I know some people who got into prepping in the lead-up to Y2K. They imagined a total information/transportation/economic collapse, so they bought a little cabin in the Ozarks and stocked it with staples and celebrated New Years there. They got over the prepper bug and they have a nice cabin they plan to retire to. The one story I remember is how difficult it is to store food long-term. Between the humidity and bugs most everything was trash in less than a year. There was a story about opening a 5 gallon bucket of wheat berries and a thousand moths flying out.

> I'm guessing there's a whole lot about actual survival techniques that most of these nutjobs have never tried in their lives. I'm sure they have a handy manual somewhere, though.

YouTube is full of them. I've been hooked on watching "bushcraft" videos. The good ones are just someone slowly quietly carving a wooden spoon while tending their fishing pole at a pretty lake with nice natural sounds in the background. But there's a pretty thin line between the bushcraft and pepper videos, when you see a white guy with a buzz cut and a tactical webbing harness talk about which knife to buy (all of them), you know you're no longer in the bushcraft zone.
posted by peeedro at 8:01 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


But why are people saying they're sad, upset, mad, etc. that preppers exist? What is it to you?

Speaking for myself, it's the notion that people want to preemptively give up on civil society. And also that the doomsday scenarios these people are preparing for ("Look where the world's going! A great collapse is inevitable!"), in the long view of human history, are utter hogwash.

If this suburban dude who is awash in material comfort and has a family who seems to have their health thinks things are going down the toilet, he might want to consider what the world must have looked like to someone staring out a tenement window in the Lodz ghetto.

Hell may sometimes be other people, but we need each other to live and be happy more than these folks realize.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


" I would be really curious to see the food bank donations/goodwill donations/garage sale that comes from the settling of an estate like this."

Canned goods are only good for 1-5 years, depending on contents, after which they tend to swell, leak, and explode. Dry grains are better, lasting for years, but even if kept dry and away from vermin they still don't last forever. Even if he knows this and rotates his stock (unlikely), most likely any survival goods left to his estate will just be thrown away as inedible trash.

But what I really wanted to do was point to MeFi's own Dee Xtrovert about surviving in Sarajevo during the war there, but Sokka Shot First beat me to it, so I'll just quote the 2nd to last paragraph:

" Those who'd prepared, well, the majority of them shared their food and whatever else they had as soon as someone else was clearly in need. I can't swear it, but I think they felt a little foolish to have been so self-obsessed, and giving away that stuff might have lessened that feeling. There were a few people who hoarded things until they ran out of stuff - eventually everybody ran out of anything worth hoarding - and they soon became wishful beggars like the rest of us. Again, I can't swear it, but I hear stories, and it seems that these people suffer from post-war trauma, guilt and nightmares more than the rest of us."
posted by Blackanvil at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


The last time a tornado tore up my neighborhood (which happens kind of on the regular around here; I live in Missouri) there was a lot of damage on my street; homes torn in half, trees and power lines down all over the place. Thank NOAA and the builders of good sturdy basements, nobody died. Some of the roads out were blocked off and no homes or businesses in my immediate vicinity had electricity. My gasoline generator wouldn't start up. My next door neighbor took it apart and fixed it. Which was great because that meant I could loan the mini generator I use for backup to my backup to my other next door neighbor, who doesn't have a generator, so she could keep her fridge on and not lose all her food. The local fire department showed up literally minutes after the storm came through and started pulling people out of houses and trees off of things in the dark, and they kept coming back to help for days afterward, as did a bunch of city office staff and a team of school teachers, actually, who decided that since their schools were temporarily shut down they would go around doing door-to-door checks to make sure people had access to adequate water, food and shelter in the days following the storm.

The moral to this story is that when shit actually hits the fan, I sure as hell want my neighbors knocking on my front door. (Except for the unfortunate handful of neighbors I have who pride themselves on their "got mine" mentality, like some of the guys in this article.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:04 AM on May 15, 2015 [36 favorites]


>But why are people saying they're sad, upset, mad, etc. that preppers exist? What is it to you?

Because at this stage in our civilization, like it or not, we are all in it together. We all sink, or we all swim. These guys who are jerking off to the idea of shooting at The Welfare Cheats, or The Thugs, or whoever, while they're taking their canned goods, or their hard-earned tax dollars, or whatever--they're not a response to the collapse of society, they're its likeliest cause.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [42 favorites]


These guys all have a very specific type of apocalypse in mind - one that lasts long enough to justify their hoarding, but not so long that they end up running out of stuff. And also one where small arms will actually be useful. So, not any actual calamity that could or has ever happened. Not Sarajevo, for example. Not Rwanda.

I like to believe that these people are basically good-hearted, and that the prepper lifestyle is more about anxiety and trying to regain some sense of control in their lives. If something bad ever happened I imagine that most of them would open up their stockpiles within the first 24 hours. Otherwise, how would they ever look people in the face again? How could you ever face your neighbor knowing their kid died of an infection when you had antibiotics?
posted by um at 8:15 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Kunstler's weekly columns are notable for their loud, consistent classism, thinly veiled racism, and basic, frothing contempt for average Americans of any kind.

This has been sad for me, as Kunstler's critiques of urban planning, architecture, and car culture have been trenchant and really speak to me. But some of the columns he recently wrote in response to the goings-on in Baltimore post-Freddie Gray have been vile.
posted by dhens at 8:16 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


As for me, WTSHTF -- That's when I gotta get my ass back to Sunset Boulevard.

Don't you mean the Miracle Mile?
posted by Gelatin at 8:17 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Granted, I was still in grade school and had no real responsibilities, but some of my most fun memories are of everyone on my street pulling together after Hurricane Fran hit our town and knocked out power for 2 weeks. It was an affluent suburb-ish area and the (Republican) mayor lived on our street, and for the most part every household kept to itself. But even among this crowd we had big cookouts in the middle of the street, serving all the fancy steaks and other meat and perishables in our refrigerators. I remember all the adults sitting in a circle on the street, drinking wine and telling stories late into the night. We pooled our resources to do laundry, swapped tools, helped clear trees and debris from each others' lawns...it was pretty great. It was like everything we'd kept inside our houses during normal times was now outdoors and being shared. I got to know so many neighborhood dogs during those two weeks, and it was heavenly for all the kids.

Granted: our problems were really, really minor compared to those of other people affected by this storm; we always had clean water and shelter somewhere, and there was almost zero threat of violence. But I have hope that even in isolated WASPy suburban areas full of secret preppers, WTSHTF they might realize it's just better and more fun to participate in the efforts of their community. I can't imagine not going into the street to grill fabulous steaks and play with dogs--what would we have done instead, stare at them from the windows of our dark, stinky house? Wow, so admirable, such self-reliance.
posted by witchen at 8:17 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Well, it is a good idea to have some extra batteries, some candles, and some canned goods in the pantry. Because the power does sometimes go out during a storm, and it's nice to be able to have a bit of light and a snack.

Everything else is a bit silly, really.
posted by math at 8:19 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


These guys all have a very specific type of apocalypse in mind - one that lasts long enough to justify their hoarding, but not so long that they end up running out of stuff. And also one where small arms will actually be useful. So, not any actual calamity that could or has ever happened. Not Sarajevo, for example. Not Rwanda.
um

The article says that the kinds of scenarios that are popular among these types are exotic ones like an EMP attack/disaster. I suspect they're drawn to these exotic scenarios because it lets them fantasize and avoid thinking about more realistic problems.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:20 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


These guys all have a very specific type of apocalypse in mind - one that lasts long enough to justify their hoarding, but not so long that they end up running out of stuff. And also one where small arms will actually be useful.

Also one that isn't localized. There have been some disasters like this, but the simplest thing to do in those situations is go somewhere else. I don't think it's possible to have a disaster that effects everyone everywhere, and would only take the amount of time they have in mind.

The only one that would come close would be wide scale nationwide riots, and then you get to go back to the racism thing.

But some of the columns he recently wrote in response to the goings-on in Baltimore post-Freddie Gray have been vile.

I don't even want to read that. It could be said for the preppers as well: What happened to them to make them so contemptuous of their fellow man?
posted by zabuni at 8:20 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The most likely disaster, to my mind, is environmental collapse due to climate change. A year's supply of canned peaches is not going to be a big help there.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:23 AM on May 15, 2015


Mostly, I don’t want my neighbors to know about it. Because I don’t want them knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan.

This guy run a left-handed store?

And at that point, presumably, in their fantasies people are so grateful for the sudden appearance of one of their betters and so desperately in need of someone who can provide financial services/middle management that the prepper doesn't get a pitchfork in the face.


Maybe I'll want to monetize my water distilled from my own urine process.

You know who will really survive a major catastrophe?

Nuts to the Mormons, those people have guns. It's the Plain People who'll have it going on. Industry+Pacifism=Eeeeeaaasy pickin's
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 AM on May 15, 2015


I also never understood how environmental collapse leads to less government in your life, not much, much much? Like I'm pretty sure your supercool man basement can't come with you when the national guard says evacuate now.
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This "doomsday prepper" thing seems to be an almost entirely American phenomenon. One wonders what it is about the USA that creates these people; is it the fractured, "individualistic" society? Is it the widespread fundamentalist religious paranoia? Is it the gun culture? The "rugged individualist" frontier myth? Some sort of weird intersection of all of these things with a sense of national decline and the underlying sense of impending social and economic collapse that seem to be part of the early 21st-century zeitgeist? (Or is it the upper middle classes worried about mobs with torches and pitchforks? Which may be what the guy in the article has in the back of his mind.)
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Okay, we've rescued you from the wastes, but unfortunately we can only accept a few more members into our community. Our only rule is that you must earn your keep and be able to contribute something worthwhile."
"I'm a trauma surgeon."
"I'm a carpenter"
"I'm an excellent cook."
"I worked in a day care"
"I can lift very heavy things"
"You know that app that let you post photos your photos to a bunch of other apps at once, but gave them kind of a greenish tint to make it a bit fun and retro? That was me. We got over twenty million dollars over three rounds of venture capital funding."
posted by griphus at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2015 [38 favorites]


I've never read a survival manual, but if they are truly about survival then every page should be about how to find as many other people as possible and share resources and skills.
posted by rocket88 at 8:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


First off, I am no prepper. However, I was born and raised in Los Angeles and we are WAY overdue for the big one. There is no FREAKING way I am going to end up at the Staples Center in line for water and Red Cross supplies when I am privileged enough to have those things on hand. Therefore, I have a good deal of canned goods, water, first aid and hygiene supplies, in case the big one should hit. Also, I plan to share. The fewer people needing services, the quicker the city will get back up and running.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:34 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


The link to Dee Xtrovert's comment reminds me that we don't need to imagine what happens when civilization breaks down: we see it all the time - Sarajevo, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan.

I'm sure there is a plethora of memoirs and research on what actually happens when all is disrupted - how people respond, what is actually helpful - just as I'm sure very few of the preppers read it and take it to heart.
posted by jb at 8:35 AM on May 15, 2015


As for me, WTSHTF -- That's when I gotta get my ass back to Sunset Boulevard.

Don't you mean the Miracle Mile?


No.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:36 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Har har, yes, preppers, but entire western societies have fallen into anarchy in living memory. Europe was a complete basket-case post-war, and was until 1947 or 1948.

Europe was very bad post war, yes, but "entire western societies" falling into "anarchy"? No, that didn't happen, even during and after WWII. There was still a functioning state, still functioning civil society, even with significant local breakdowns.

So, no, the claim that "entire western societies" have "fallen into anarchy in living memory" is, categorically, false.

And to the extent that it is true (i.e., to the extent that there have been situations where local communities have been devastated and disrupted by disaster for long periods of time) does anything, at all, seem admirable about the "prepper" mindset? Would you read with admiration about somebody in, say, postwar Poland who sat out 1946-1948 eating well in a bunker while his/her neighbors starved? Would you think "gosh, that was a canny approach--those starving neighbors must have felt p-r-e-t-t-y silly when s/he emerged all sleek and fat and started laughing at how emaciated they all were!"
posted by yoink at 8:37 AM on May 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


But jb, those breakdowns weren't caused by natural disaster, but by armed factions fighting for controls of their countries. I think the warfare aspect makes it very different from an apocalypse-type disaster.
posted by Windopaene at 8:38 AM on May 15, 2015


Wow. So I've been reading A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit. It makes a really good point that all of the bad things that we see happen in disasters (ie. shootings, starvation, destruction of temporary camps) are the result of elite panic. Calling in the national guard, rounding up all of the people into a single place, tearing down buildings to create fire breaks, enacting martial law - these are things that the wealthy do in order to protect their property. It has nothing to do with trying to help the average person who just lost everything to disaster. These preppers are just more of the same wealthy people who are freaking out at the possibility that they might lose their advantages.
posted by domo at 8:38 AM on May 15, 2015 [50 favorites]


However, I was born and raised in Los Angeles and we are WAY overdue for the big one. There is no FREAKING way I am going to end up at the Staples Center in line for water and Red Cross supplies when I am privileged enough to have those things on hand.

As a former Scout, I'm a big believer in disaster preparedness - that's the sort of reasonable thing you're talking about, particularly based on your, uh, tectonic circumstances.

This "doomsday prepper" thing seems to be an almost entirely American phenomenon. One wonders what it is about the USA that creates these people; is it the fractured, "individualistic" society?

Richard Hofstader's The Paranoid Style in American Politics is one of those essays I always find myself coming back to.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:40 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never read a survival manual, but if they are truly about survival then every page should be about how to find as many other people as possible and share resources and skills.

I have; both the Boy Scout Fieldbook and the US Army Survival Field Manual. Both of them are basically about keeping yourself alive until you can be rescued, not about living off the land indefinitely.

As has been observed elsewhere, some preparations are good; a small reserve of clean water, canned food, candles, batteries, hand cranked radio, etc. are a good idea to have around. But one of the things that strikes me about the siege mentality of survivalists like these -- and as I said, they've been with us at least since the Cold War -- is that enduring a siege is a dicey concept at best.

Civilization itself is our best survival kit.
posted by Gelatin at 8:40 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


This reminds me a little bit of cryonics. Cryonics -- meaning, in particular, freezing your head in the event of death so you can come back later -- just sets you apart from the people around you (unless they do it too), and so tends to piss them off. "Oh, if you really cared about me, you'd accept death rather than taking an outside chance of survival." (Honestly, I find this attitude scary, but I think it's how people feel. There was an interesting story in the NYT mag a while back, profile of Robin Hanson (economist, futurist) and Peggy Jackson (hospice worker), who are married.)

On the more specific topic of prepping, I don't think there's much point in preparing for a global civilizational collapse, because the prospects for recovery are bad. (Maybe you can do the thing The Whelk describes, of setting up an isolated agrarian community, but that's not something most of us can do on the weekends.)

But I think it makes plenty of sense to prepare for local collapses, because (as several people have pointed out) those happen not that infrequently, and the consequences can be devastating.

I think the "everyone works together to survive!" thing is a little Panglossian. Sure, that happens, but if you have a choice you might not want to bet your life on it. Maybe all your neighbors will band together to feed each other. But maybe it would be better if you and your family get put on the last helicopter out of the embassy. (Maybe some of all your neighbors will band together to massacre the rest of all your neighbors -- this has also happened many times.)

In terms of strategy, I think it makes sense to cultivate fast mobility and long-distance connections, for example multiple citizenships and families abroad. If you have to leave your home, you will do much better as an X country national than as a stateless refugee. Being connected to essential federal government services or the military is another possible hedge, although a double-edged one.
posted by grobstein at 8:43 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe some of all your neighbors will band together to massacre the rest of all your neighbors -- this has also happened many times.

Yeah - and which side is the guy with the basement full of guns gonna be on again?
posted by PMdixon at 8:46 AM on May 15, 2015


The issue with cryonics is - what's the incentive for people to keep your freezer going?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:47 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


The issue with cryonics is - what's the incentive for people to keep your freezer going?

So you don't end up with a pile of rotten heads?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:49 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


This "doomsday prepper" thing seems to be an almost entirely American phenomenon.

No, compare the "plague countryhouse" trope.
posted by grobstein at 8:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This seems like a good place to share my everyday carry. It's my phone, my wallet and a wad of tissues because allergies. I consider myself fully prepped to survive to the end of today.

The moral to this story is that when shit actually hits the fan, I sure as hell want my neighbors knocking on my front door.

Note that two out of your three helpers were probably union people (no data on the person who fixed your generator).

The issue with cryonics is - what's the incentive for people to keep your freezer going?

So you don't end up with a pile of rotten heads?


That is what pickling is for.
posted by srboisvert at 8:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Gelatin: “Predictions of the End of Days has a history going back millenia.”

X4ster: “End times scenarios and predictions have been with us forever it seems, and there have been people who have profited by selling stuff to the fearful.”

I actually have a sense that, of all things, this is one that has actually changed a bit. Americans in particular, at least in modern times, seem uniquely obsessed with survivalist fantasies, with the idea that society will melt down and we will be forced to rely on our wits and skills. This is an obsession with us to the point where we've constructed a whole thriving genre of fiction around it – zombie apocalypse. The idea of zombies has occurred in many cultures – the notion of the dead rising being a potent nightmare – but only in the American version is the idea of the dead rising explicitly and almost universally connected with the idea of society as we know it collapsing entirely. As some have pointed out here, that was George Romero's thematic idea, and he did some very interesting things with it, but it caught on so potently that I think it clearly taps into some essential American fears and desires. And even outside the zombie apocalypse genre, there are many, many instances of collapse-of-society narratives in our media, right on up to the mother of survivalist fantasies, Red Dawn, which we loved so much we couldn't help but remake it.

Why is this? Why are Americans so obsessed with the idea of societal collapse? I know Europeans and others in the English-speaking world sometimes think of it, but I don't think it's nearly as much. And I think part of this has to do with the fact that we Americans perceive ourselves as living in the New World. Europeans have thousands of years of culture sitting right there around them; old buildings, old roads, and at least the tacit memory that people in Europe have survived cataclysmic storms, killer heat, economic collapse, genocidal fascists, and a whole lot of other ridiculous stuff. If nothing else, people are likely to survive, and the fact of that inevitable survival provides a kind of mundane comfort.

In contrast, we inhabitants of the New World know, even if we aren't always conscious of it, that only yesterday this nation of ours was vast, empty wilderness. When we came here, we had to tame the barren and completely inhospitable land, using our strength and our wits to make it accommodating and eventually even welcoming to human beings. We had to come to this land where no person had ever gone before and carve out a space for ourselves, surviving solely because of our innate human ability to adapt to circumstances and to thrive even in the direst of situations.

Now – does something seem wrong with this picture? Is something missing?

In short: I'm pretty sure that American survivalist fantasies are deeply and inextricably tied to our still-potent, if forcibly subconscious, memory of the atrocities we committed against other human beings just a few hundred years ago in order to steal the land we live on now. The worst, most unconscious survivalists – which is to say, a hell of a lot of the people in this article – are people who long for the chance to act out in life their theory that we white Europeans who came here and "conquered" the land did so through gut and guile, not through blood and rage and mendacious abuse. They (we?) want another chance to show forth their ability to survive, this time without the pesky ghosts of the former stewards of the land ruining the fantasy by haunting us with the nightmare of our responsibilities.
posted by koeselitz at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2015 [43 favorites]


Downers Grove =Harshin' my mellow Jags. 'nuff said.
posted by discopolo at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The issue with cryonics is - what's the incentive for people to keep your freezer going?

It's tough! I think you are betting on a robust contracts and enterprise regime remaining continuously in place for a long time. But hey, you're already paying for a long-shot chance at extended life, so what's another 2^(-2) filter?

I think there has already been a scandal about a cryonics outfit not honoring its promises to keep the heads frosty.
posted by grobstein at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2015


The issue with cryonics is - what's the incentive for people to keep your freezer going?
So you don't end up with a pile of rotten heads?


Rotten heads on sticks are a powerful deterrent. Whomever has the most stick-heads will be safest in the Days To Come.
posted by aramaic at 8:55 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]






Maybe some of all your neighbors will band together to massacre the rest of all your neighbors -- this has also happened many times.

Yeah - and which side is the guy with the basement full of guns gonna be on again


If you have to pick, which side would you and your family be on?

But anyway, the point of my comment is not that you should try to prepare to participate in massacres, but to be able to escape them.
posted by grobstein at 9:01 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems like a good place to share my everyday carry.

I carry a P-38 can opener on my keychain. If society collapses and I find a cache of canned goods, I want to be able to open them.

(This scenario was lampshaded in the original Dawn of the Dead when one of the survivors complained about the SPAM in the Civil Defense rations they found. One of the SWAT guys asked if she had a can opener, and when she didn't, pointed out that they could at least open the SPAM tins because they had their own key.)
posted by Gelatin at 9:02 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hippie preppers in a missile silo.

Tangentially -- I've always thought hardened missile silos are really romantic living arrangements, but I don't think they're that great for survivability.

I think even decommissioned silos are pretty likely to be on target lists for strategic nuclear attacks (how do the Russians know this silo is really decommissioned?).

If you have to be at ground zero of a nuclear strike, then yes presumably you would prefer to be in a hardened structure. But you'll be safer if you're not at ground zero of a nuclear strike to begin with.
posted by grobstein at 9:04 AM on May 15, 2015


Toilet paper. Everybody always forgets about toilet paper.
But I'm ready.
posted by monospace at 9:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe you can do the thing The Whelk describes, of setting up an isolated agrarian community, but that's not something most of us can do on the weekends.

I dunno, I've played a lot of Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft. Seems doable!
posted by curious nu at 9:07 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ooohboy, preppers. Where to start?

I used to follow a couple of prepper blogs, back in the Google Reader days, because they had some pretty nice outdoor-gear reviews, which lent itself towards the sort of camping that I am interested in (heavy vehicle-supported camping). And also it's pretty lulzy.

First issue, I guess, is that most of those guys (and it's almost always guys, at least as far as I saw) don't really seem to have a specific disaster in mind that they're planning for. It's always a sort of weird nonspecific "SHTF", which makes planning really hard. They are sort of setting themselves up for failure to begin with.

When non-amateurs do disaster planning, it generally starts off with some sort of idea of what disasters are, you know, actually likely to occur. And then you can plan for those in sort of rough order of likelihood multiplied by severity. Nothing like that thought process really seems to be going on in the head of your average 'prepper'. To the point where I'm not sure that calling them "preppers", as in "prepared", is really appropriate; a lot of them just seem to be hoarders. It's all about building up your Smaug-like horde of canned beans and ammunition and showing it off or just deriving pleasure from its existence as a collection. Which, if they just straight-up admitted they were into collecting militaria, wouldn't be nearly as weird.

Second big weirdness: bunkers. Where does the obsession with bunkers come from? The early Cold War, I guess. Here's the thing, though: home fallout shelters were basically obsolete, as a concept, by the late 60s. The whole idea behind a fallout shelter, which I think informs the whole aesthetic of having a bunker in your basement full of canned food, came from the early days of nuclear weapons, which were small enough to basically be treated like really big bombs, only 'dirty' and causing short-lived high-level atmospheric contamination. It's not clear that modern thermonuclear weapons would actually do that; the problem would be--if things really went south--the nuclear winter and infrastructure damage, not the few days' or weeks worth of immediate contamination. There's a reason that the government isn't going around anymore telling people to build shelters: the value is very limited today.

Anyway, TBH I think it's mostly harmless nonsense, the product of people who have realized the precariousness of their lives and lifestyles, depending as they are on the vast machinery of civilization, but who haven't really thought that dependence through to its logical conclusion. The "prepper mindset" seems logically inconsistent, although in some cases if they were more logically consistent the results might not be prettier (i.e. if your real worry is race riots, a logical solution might be a militia / vigilante organization, so there's that). So, generally speaking I think it's best to leave them to do their hobby by themselves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:08 AM on May 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think there has already been a scandal about a cryonics outfit not honoring its promises to keep the heads frosty.

if the heads are frosty they aren't doing a good job at keeping the temperature stable....

"You know that app that let you post photos your photos to a bunch of other apps at once, but gave them kind of a greenish tint to make it a bit fun and retro? That was me. We got over twenty million dollars over three rounds of venture capital funding."

but why do you obey your CEO and his managerial henchpeople now? what useful work do they do? every period of involuntary employment is a one-person (or one family) personal apocalypse... sure, the programmers and other abstracted engineers will be fucked, but the MBAs will do just fine: as long as you have the will to power...
posted by ennui.bz at 9:10 AM on May 15, 2015


So, I grew up in a cabin in the bush, in part because my parents were scared of nuclear war, and so moved outside likely fallout paths and tried to become self-sufficient. I grew up without electricity, a telephone or running water, learning to take care of and butcher goats and pigs, grow a garden, hunt, fish, etc.

I see quotes like "“Check this out,” he says, excitedly holding up a paracord bracelet that looks like one of those Livestrong wristbands but unwinds to provide 10 feet of rope. “You could use it to secure things, or as a trap or a snare.”" and it's pretty obvious to me that these people aren't even participating in a hobby: they're engaging in a toy-driven fantasy. These kinds of things (trapping, animal husbandry) are hard to learn. Especially if you're not doing so within a community.

If you're trying to learn to trap, or grow crops, or take care of goats, on your own, after your fantasies came true and the world ended, you're going to make mistakes. Even if you have books telling you how – we had dozens – the stakes of realising that parts of something written about Appalachia don't apply to the Canadian Shield are pretty damned high when you don't have civilisation a few hundred kilometres away as a backup for when your first five years of crops fail.

On the other hand, subsistence farming isn't something that you can easily take up as a hobby – it's really time-consuming and requires a fair bit of space – whereas collecting guns, cans and krugerrands only takes money and a belief that you're special enough to figure out the rest of survival once the chips are down.

Someone who's really serious about making it through societal collapse (for the record, I don't consider myself qualified to accomplish that) would be best off either joining a community strong enough to survive even the breakdown of civilisation or, better for everyone, actively working politically on issues that have the potential to cause riots, widespread hunger, massive devastation, etc. For instance, climate change or income inequality.

Anyone who's not at that level of commitment would be a hell of a lot better off taking up a hobby like camping or rock climbing: you still get to buy gear and toys, but you don't have to hope for the end of the world so that you get to use them.
posted by frimble at 9:10 AM on May 15, 2015 [63 favorites]


enduring a siege is a dicey concept at best.

Yep. Even if you have the firepower to withstand an assault, if you don't have anyone coming to rescue you, it is simply a matter of when you run out of food and water as to when the siege is over. Your opponent has the run of the land. You have...rats and roaches, at the end, usually and sometimes each other.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:11 AM on May 15, 2015


You know who will really survive a major catastrophe?

Mormons.


What about the Amish? All electronics get wiped out? oh well.
posted by Theta States at 9:11 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Although a raiding band would probably just move on if they encountered a stiff point of resistance. Bear in mind that I am basing this on very little whatsoever.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:12 AM on May 15, 2015


Where does the obsession with bunkers come from?

I want to blame Enver Hoxha.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


What about the Amish? All electronics get wiped out? oh well.


True that.

"Dude, nice collection of prepping stuff here, but if you were serious, you'd just join the Amish."
posted by el io at 9:14 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where does the obsession with bunkers come from?

Everything in life is better ...in a Vault.
posted by The Whelk at 9:15 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


If society collapses, survival favours the person engaged with a large community of people who share a wide range of skills and aptitudes, who look out for each other, and who understand the need for some small personal sacrifice in order to get everybody through.

It's a mistake to think that preppers don't understand that.

I'll fess up. I was not a prepper, but became so - partially as a result of advice in an AskMe, hilariously - over the last two years. We are equipped to handle disasters in my home. But a large part of that is having talked to other close friends of ours who are also prepping, talking about where we would go together, how we would survive together, whose skills would mesh together and what we would do as a community.
posted by corb at 9:16 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some of the 70s/80s prepper stuff makes sense to me, because hey it was the Cold War, things seemed severe and very possible. That generation grew up with images of British civilians huddled in tunnels while their cities were bombed. I could see how a number of people would take the plunge and set up a shelter.

Now in 2015 though, you have a group of people informed by endless breathless coverage of people "rioting and looting" on fox news, assuming that once the internet goes down due to an EMP they will have to play out their libertarian commando fantasies.
posted by Theta States at 9:17 AM on May 15, 2015


Yeah, the problem with self-reliance is that it is very, very difficult to live solely by one's self. Particularly if you do not have wilderness skills, know how to raise crops, etc. Those batteries and cans of beans you are stocking up are only going to last so long. Then you will be back at square 1 - needing to work cooperatively with others.

Yes, but you have to understand that we're talking about people for whom current society has been a ladder to heaven, and who have responded by shrieking that if only those rungs weren't in their way they'd be able to fly.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Actually, the only people I know who have done this "survive the collapse of all things" mentality are people who basically bought and built fiefdoms in isolated rural areas of Mexico and Central America -- lots of really close working with the communities, integrated native designs and low tec solutions, access to fresh water, deliberate untangling from a lot of modernity, etc. They've essentially become the local rural aristocracy and moved their entire family and lives into it.

The one couple I know of that did this got robbed (and had identities stolen) and are still struggling to come back from that.

Which...seemed obvious to me. Move with your wealth to a less-stable society, where you have no connections and are isolated, and don't even speak the language, and hope for the best? Seems like a bad idea all around.

Whenever I think of doomsday scenarios, I mostly think about how much I will miss being able to wash my hair, or sit in an air-conditioned room in summer, or watch a documentary, or discover a new author, or listen to music. I love civilization. It has problems that need fixing, but starting over again? After thousands of years of striving for what we have now? Why the fuck would I want to do that?
posted by emjaybee at 9:19 AM on May 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


"'Basically what I'm afraid of is black people,' everyone I talked to just barely managed not to say."

"My fantasy is to have a justifiable reason to kill a lot of minorities," is probably a lot closer to the truth.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:20 AM on May 15, 2015 [22 favorites]


WAIT WAIT WAIT, I'VE GOT IT...

Maybe all of the prepper types assume that if society begins collapsing, it is their DUTY to binge on all of their stashed cocaine... and -- wait, come back here, I'm a genius!
posted by Theta States at 9:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


"My fantasy is to have a justifiable reason to kill a lot of minorities," is probably a lot closer to the truth.

This pretty much sums up why zombie-apocalypse prepper nerds are the worst. They don't even realize they're speaking in code, and about what.
posted by mhoye at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Sophie1: "First off, I am no prepper. However, I was born and raised in Los Angeles and we are WAY overdue for the big one. There is no FREAKING way I am going to end up at the Staples Center in line for water and Red Cross supplies when I am privileged enough to have those things on hand."

The same part of my brain that loooooooves going to office supply stores absolutely adores prepper websites because all those lovely organized racks of cans! All those neatly-put-together plans undisrupted by the messiness of reality! And I do like actually being prepared for things, including having some canned goods on hand so I don't have to go to the grocery store in a blizzard and some stuff I can eat if the electricity and gas go out.

But my preparedness is mostly, I carry a CPR mask, non-latex gloves, and a tiny first-aid kit in my purse, and I have a hand-crank weather radio and a solar charger for my phone. Prepared!

(Carrying around two bandaids -- one big and one small -- an alcohol wipe, and a single-use neosporin wipe in your wallet immediately renders you ten times as useful in an emergency as these preppers; I have several times been able to come to the aid of strangers who took a nasty fall and got a bad scrape on their knee!)

In any locally-widespread disaster where I can't get out and the Red Cross and the National Guard can't get in to me within a week, I think I'm highly unlikely to survive anyway. I mean, it's hard for me to even imagine what those disasters would be.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:24 AM on May 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Although a raiding band would probably just move on if they encountered a stiff point of resistance.

Or if you pissed them off enough, set the whole place on fire.
posted by Gelatin at 9:26 AM on May 15, 2015


“All of a sudden, you have hyperinflation, and you’ll need a wagon of cash for a loaf of bread,” he says as we chat in his immaculate kitchen while a cleaning woman vacuums in the next room. “Society could crumble in three days. That’s all it would take. Then it’s going to get primal.”

“It’s one thing to have food. But if you don’t have tampons, your wife is going to be pissed off. And let’s say it’s difficult for me to take a bath because water is scarce. I’ve got baby wipes.”

Or, you could...bake your own bread. I guess "primal" is what happens when you don't have someone to do clean your house for you?

His prepping is largely based on buying and stockpiling "products" on which he intends to stay dependent. Food isn't about nourishment, it's just about having something readily available to shove in your piehole so that you don't have to think about hunger. Personal comfort and convenience is a higher priority than learning to be more self-sufficient.
posted by desuetude at 9:26 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


emjaybee: I love civilization. It has problems that need fixing, but starting over again? After thousands of years of striving for what we have now? Why the fuck would I want to do that?

I don't think it can be overstated how fragile civilization is. Disrupt the supply chains that modern civilization is utterly dependent on, make scarce the necessities of life, and you'll see the real animal nature of man seething behind that thin veneer of civility. Seeing the fights that broke out on gasoline lines during hurricane sandy makes you think how fucked we are if something really big hit with no help in sight.
posted by dr_dank at 9:28 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


(Yeah the most successful family I knew that moved to an isolated rural area spent a good ten years integrating and planning the move and like, basically became the sole provider of construction work for a few years.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 AM on May 15, 2015


Hi. I was raised in what was then termed a survivalist household. In Queens, in New York City.

So: my parents were born in the 1930s and were children of the Depression. One of the things this taught them was to repair and reuse things creatively, and to get every last bit of worth out of scraps. So my childhood toys were stacks of computer punch cards to fold, spindle and mutilate, and beanbags made from the cloth leftover from my mom sewing us clothes and the always-replenished family stock of sucked-clean cherry pits.

My parents were also older children during WW II, and for my Dad, this meant becoming an Eagle Scout and always nursing the feeling that he'd missed his big chance to be a hero, but should be ready when the time came, with his wilderness and knife-throwing skills. And he was very determined to Always Be Prepared for anything.

Being young adults in the 1950s, one of those central things was nuclear holocaust, with maybe the Russians coming to invade our houses and force us to--I don't know, go visit Lenin's tomb or something. I mean, the weird thing is that my parents were lifelong Democrats and their parents were socialist labor unionists if not communists. Whatever--I think mostly my Dad loved being an engineer with fix-it skills who was good in emergencies, and he was always secretly hoping for his Big Day, when society collapsed.

Anyway, as kids, my sibs and I grew up in a house in NYC with a stash of food and water in the basement, and a generator and arc welder, and at least one of every kind of hand tool known to humanity, and a filing cabinet full of every size of screw, nut and bolt around. My Dad build secret hiding spaces behind the walls that we kids had to practice getting into, and he taught us to shoot and hunt and fish at my grandparent's little rural retirement house in the Catskills (which was all well and good in the countryside, but how we were supposed to survive an urban apocalypse by hunting for game, I do not know).

My Dad taught us never to enter a building without locating our exists, and to identify the safest place in case the Bomb dropped. For me, attending school in Manhattan, this meant the walk-in freezer in the lunchroom. Of course, if someone did drop the Bomb on New York, chances would have been pretty great that I'd just be incinerated, which I knew, and he knew, but I should be Prepared anyway.

My Dad always wanted a bomb shelter. When my parents were newlyweds, they made gold paper decorations for their first Christmas tree--gold stars, a camel--and a quonset hut style bomb shelter, labelled in green glitter. That bomb shelter went on the tree every year of my childhood, as a family joke. When my Dad retired and my parents moved out of NYC to a suburb on Long Island, I half think they picked the house they chose because it had an old bomb shelter in the basement. This shelter came complete with a hand-turned fan to circulate air from outside, which would be a bit of a problem in case of nuclear radiation, and it was silly, but my Dad was enamored of it and made it into a workshop, and put up some old Air Raid Shelter sign he found on the street.

My strongest memories regarding my Dad's survivalist mentality relate to his regular efforts to train his kids to Be Prepared by unpredictably (yet predictably) turning relaxing moments into Challenging Learning Situations--for example by suddenly flipping the canoe when we had managed to paddle out into the middle of a lake. Actually, we kids always rolled our eyes and girded our loins and emptied our pockets when going out in the canoe, because chances were 90% that my Dad was going to flip it on us. It was both annoying and funny. My Dad would suddenly wake us up at midnight for a fire drill house escape in the dark, or start moving the car (not very fast) when we had only stepped halfway in. All of this was half traumatic and half hilarious, and fully weird, but also my normal family life.

The thing that distinguishes my Dad's brand of survivalism from these preppers is that we didn't buy preparation, we learned skills, and some interesting if rarely useful habits of mind, and to repurpose broken things. And my Dad was a Boy Scout at heart, not a libertarian isolationist, so we were raised to always help out someone in distress, and assist people across streets, and carry packages for overburdened individuals. Thank the ghods.

After I gender transitioned, my wife got me a vintage Eagle Scout ring from some thrift site. It wasn't pricey because it is worn and dinged, and I wear it every day and think of my Dad, who would approve.
posted by DrMew at 9:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [71 favorites]


(Yeah the most successful family I knew that moved to an isolated rural area spent a good ten years integrating and planning the move and like, basically became the sole provider of construction work for a few years.)

Me too but the place they moved to was New Hampshire and the thing they successfully integrated into was local Democratic machine politics.
posted by grobstein at 9:32 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


enduring a siege is a dicey concept at best.

Yep. Even if you have the firepower to withstand an assault, if you don't have anyone coming to rescue you, it is simply a matter of when you run out of food and water as to when the siege is over. Your opponent has the run of the land. You have...rats and roaches, at the end, usually and sometimes each other.


There's always the hope that someone will smuggle in a boat full of onions for you...
posted by bowmaniac at 9:32 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Disrupt the supply chains that modern civilization is utterly dependent on, make scarce the necessities of life, and you'll see the real animal nature of man seething behind that thin veneer of civility.

Humanity evolved and has spent the bulk of its time in conditions where the necessities of life were scarce or at least challenging to obtain, and dealt with that largely by interdependence out of dire necessity. There might be a spasm of violence and despair while we readjusted to endemic scarcity, but millennia of human history strongly suggest we'd return to equilibrium.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:35 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you take the longer view, the United States in the last century or so has been a relative oasis of stability, historically anomalous. If you get rich, I think stocking up on enough food, water, medical supplies and pet food to weather a moderately long interruption in basic services is an extremely good use of a few spare dollars.

I don't do a great job at this, but I always have at least a couple of weeks' food, a week's water and a couple of weeks expenses in cash stashed away. The US government recommends you do much like this, and I know at least two other Mefites who do this.

This certainly came in handy during the week after 9/11 and to a lesser extent during Sandy.

The one thing I don't have is weapons. It's a race to the bottom you cannot win. And I live in New York City (as you might have guessed) so there aren't that many weapons around.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:36 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


These are the people at whom Musk's powerwall battery is aimed: to make money on the gold rush, you don't pan the river or mine the mountains, you sell picks, pans, and axes.

I love being a doomer: following the markets when they get agitated, keeping an eye on strategic but volatile parts of the world, keeping abreast of novel infectious diseases and advances in genetic engineering, noting social trends and the passage and progress of fads and fashions in security. It's exhilarating akin to watching a good horror flick. And when you really think about it, it's even more fun because it's like looking at the sea or at the Grand Canyon or pictures of the earth at night or outer space, in that the enormity is difficult to get your head around; I love looking at the bronze age collapse and playing around with questions. What aspect of current culture would define us, or even survive, and how would other aspects warp and morph into future cultural baggage? Based on current trends, how would language change? What parts of modern technology would remain, what others would fall by the wayside? It's fascinating, utterly fascinating. And it makes for a fantastic RPG gaming.

I love being a doomer, but preppers annoy me, because they all seem to be specifically not thinking about these things - and these are the interesting things, dammit! 'Oops - a whole lotta people happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time' has happened a buncha times in human history. It's what comes before and after that's interesting.
posted by eclectist at 9:38 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


If society collapses, survival favours the person engaged with a large community of people who share a wide range of skills and aptitudes, who look out for each other, and who understand the need for some small personal sacrifice in order to get everybody through.

It does not favour the asshole sitting alone in his basement with ten thousand K-Bars, a rifle, and a seething nest of headspiders telling him that everyone else on the planet is his enemy.


So, the exact premise of The Postman by David Brin? (The real reason the US collapses is that Ultrasurvivalists destroy any effort to rebuild in the early days after the initial collapse.)
posted by Canageek at 9:38 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Humanity evolved and has spent the bulk of its time in conditions where the necessities of life were scarce or at least challenging to obtain, and dealt with that largely by interdependence out of dire necessity. There might be a spasm of violence and despair while we readjusted to endemic scarcity, but millennia of human history strongly suggest we'd return to equilibrium.


Yes but current human populations are above the historical 99th percentile.

A few million people can live with looser social coordination. 7 billion people, with major population centers far away from their sources of food and water, require a finely tuned and highly specific network of social arrangements.

It's not that reassuring to think we'll eventually return to equilibrium, if we're several giga-deaths above the equilibrium right now.
posted by grobstein at 9:39 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I hoarded guns and food and all I got was this lousy bullet in my head the moment my guard was down!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by jason_steakums at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, just to debunk some of the ideas happening here:

First: Yes, guns make a part of any realistic long-term survival arc. Partially to defend yourself and your family, but more importantly, to hunt meat. Where does your food come from? If you live in a major city, likely it is driven in on trucks to climate controlled supermarkets, most of which only have a certain number of days worth of food in them. What are you going to eat in the long term? Contrary to how it's presented in this article, the point is actually NOT to stay holed up eating your MREs. Your MREs are there for the lean times when you can't find any food.

Second: it is idiotic to hole up in a city for long periods of time and every serious prepper knows that. That's why this guy has a Plan B - a outside location that the people he loves all know how to get to, with long-term sustainability.

Third: Money spent prepping doesn't have to be wasted. Did you buy two cases of MREs? Are they looking at potentially going bad? Then you go hiking and use them and buy more. The point of prepping is to get more of things that you are going to need to already use, not to get things that are useless in all scenarios but Doomsday.

Fourth: People underestimate the utility of having a fully functional military-grade medical kit. We have two in our family - one that stays in the house, one that goes with the car. We have the wherewithal to handle gunshot wounds and other major reasonable possibilities and to run an IV if necessary. We also have the medical training to do so relatively safely. And you could say 'Ha-ha, when are you ever going to use that?' But we've actually had to use our medical kit, when we were going camping and a guy we were camping with got drunk and rolled into the fire and tried to stay there. It was really fucking useful that we had serious burn dressings, so we could save his fucking hands.
posted by corb at 9:44 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


I stock food and water and other supplies in case of a major quake in CA. That will happen sometime. No guns or Wolverines! fantasy, though.
posted by persona au gratin at 9:45 AM on May 15, 2015


I will also note that it was really fucking nice when Hurricane Sandy hit to have a week's supply of food, water, and other supplies in the house.
posted by corb at 9:47 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I.e., we (as a planet-spanning civilization) are rich and numerous because of specialization and division of labor. But specialization is optimization. The distribution of skills and work we have is extremely optimized for our current social arrangements, and for exactly that reason may not be robust to jiggles and shocks. This is the general point that is illustrated by the quips about app developers in the apocalypse.

There is a wonderful discussion of these sorts of issues ("only vaguely related to the insights of Mancur Olson") in the Pham Nuwen flashback sections of Deepness in the Sky, which is a many-facetedly wonderful book.
posted by grobstein at 9:48 AM on May 15, 2015


People underestimate the utility of having a fully functional military-grade medical kit.

Corb, I think you would have to look long and hard to find anyone who is going to give you grief for having a good medical kit or taking it with you when you go camping. Indeed, if you CTRL-F for "medical" in this thread you'll see your comment and one other comment by someone saying that stocking up medical supplies is reasonable.

The fact that there are perfectly reasonable preparations that one can and should make for foreseeable accidents and disasters does not mean that all preparations for any potential disaster scenario are reasonable.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on May 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


I live in Chicago which is pretty safe disaster-wise.

My favorite preppers are the guys who think they'll outlast a military takeover… you know, the Big Gummint. I like to say that a single military drone could take out their entire tent city/bunker/town before any of them saw or heard it.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


tbh what I imagine a potential large-scale societal collapse to resemble most is the hospital plotline from last season's Walking Dead, so it's not really anything I expect someone sane to be looking forward to.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:52 AM on May 15, 2015


The fact that there are perfectly reasonable preparations that one can and should make for foreseeable accidents and disasters does not mean that all preparations for any potential disaster scenario are reasonable.
yoink

I've installed a battery of ICBMs around my home in case of surprise comet strike, but it's just a reasonable precaution.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:54 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a movement that's sort of a counterpoint to the Preppers, several people in this thread have mentioned community-building and gardening.

The Transition Town initiative is all about building community resiliance in the face of peak oil, global warming, and economic collapse. The focus tends to be on re-skilling, learning how to do things in order to be less reliant on electricity and fossil-fuels. So there's lots of talk about gardening and farming, urban food-foraging, sewing and knitting, wine-making, etc. Most of the folks I've met who are involved in the Transition movement are pretty nice, and more or less the type people I'd want to hang out with while the investment bankers rot in their bunkers.

But I have serious doubts that we're far enough along with our re-skilling that we'll be much better off for much longer than the Preppers. I don't express these doubts at the meetings much, a sense of optimism is necessary for all this and I'm just cynical enough to be a real buzzkill if I don't watch my mouth.

And mainly it's just me. My skill-level for things like gardening is pretty terrible. I'm a political consultant, sure to be the first against the wall WTSHTF unless people are still needing precinct analyses and targeted direct-mail.

I also worry that when we do build our idyllic community that some band of marauding Preppers with guns will emerge from their bunkers to pillage our organically grown cherry tomatoes and hand-knitted socks.

But anyhoo, those who have posted about community-building and gardening, do check out the Transition movement if you haven't. If we're only going to have a few weeks left of post-apocalyptic living, wouldn't you rather have fresh-baked pies than stale MRE from the Army Surplus store?
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


Yes, guns make a part of any realistic long-term survival arc. Partially to defend yourself and your family, but more importantly, to hunt meat.

I appreciate this, but if suddenly everyone who was relying on their local supermarket had to hunt for their food, wouldn't game pretty much disappear in a season or two?
posted by gwint at 10:02 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


wouldn't game pretty much disappear in a season or two?


There's more likely to be a thriving local cuisine based on Long Pig, I suspect. Certainly they're easier to hunt than deer and turkeys.
posted by suelac at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also more hunting accidents than successful hunts, I'll bet...
posted by suelac at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that there are perfectly reasonable preparations that one can and should make for foreseeable accidents and disasters does not mean that all preparations for any potential disaster scenario are reasonable.

Oh, sure, you're totally right. And look, I'd be lying if I said there weren't Those Guys, you know, who are preparing for total collapse but haven't bothered taking a basic CPR course, or who stockpile AKs, and maybe can even shoot, maybe, but don't know how to take them apart and clean them. But it kind of burns me when people mock the whole idea of prepping - because honestly, it can be really good, especially if you tailor it for your likely circumstances. My husband and I come from different medical backgrounds as well - he was Anarchist Black Cross and I have some military medical training.

For example, we have military gas masks in our house, because my husband and I both have been activists and are really used to getting gassed by the police. And it's really fucking handy when the police are gassing you to just whip out a gas mask. We also, in related news, have a metric fuckton of liquid antacid, because nobody wants to be that asshole who's just walking around cool and not treating everyone else gasping on the steet with their eyes burning. And I think a police-related disaster in case of what they perceive as a riot is not even kind of unlikely. Hell, we've been seeing it happen to city after city.

I appreciate this, but if suddenly everyone who was relying on their local supermarket had to hunt for their food, wouldn't game pretty much disappear in a season or two?

Well...no. This isn't nice to say, and is probably super Prepper-politically-incorrect, but hunting is actually hard. Animals don't really like to get shot. A majority of people don't do it regularly, and even of the people who do go hunting, a majority of them aren't doing it because they need the meat, but because they think that it's fun and manly. Big things like deer? Maybe, and I say maybe. Squirrels? I'm pretty sure most people can't hit a squirrel. Birds? Even less likely.
posted by corb at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


wouldn't game pretty much disappear in a season or two?

presumably that would depend on how many people were still alive in the area, which i suppose would depend on the nature of the civilization-destroying catastrophe.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


rats. people in big cities would be eating rats.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


First issue, I guess, is that most of those guys (and it's almost always guys, at least as far as I saw) don't really seem to have a specific disaster in mind that they're planning for. It's always a sort of weird nonspecific "SHTF", which makes planning really hard. They are sort of setting themselves up for failure to begin with.

What I find amusing is that so many of these guys absolutely hate the federal government (or government in general), and yet the federal government has perhaps one of largest and best sets of documentation on how to prepare for disasters. It's a federal requirement that every single agency, sub-agency, and has at least a plan taking into account multiple contingencies and levels of risk. Everybody is assigned a role, tasks to complete, ways to communicate, etc. Preparations are detailed enough that basic operations can be restored fairly quickly and effectively. If preppers wanted to see how it's done, there's probably no better source of information than ol' Uncle Sugar.

The "prepper mindset" seems logically inconsistent, although in some cases if they were more logically consistent the results might not be prettier (i.e. if your real worry is race riots, a logical solution might be a militia / vigilante organization, so there's that).

See, that sounds exactly like what a lot of them are. So much of the rhetoric coming from preppers seems like not-too-subtly-coded paranoia: muttering about "urban" communities coming after them, that there's a segment of the population more likely to become savages, and of course the whole idea that anyone who isn't as supposedly self-sufficient as they are is some sort of moocher who becomes violent when they can no longer suck at the government teat.

Yes, guns make a part of any realistic long-term survival arc. Partially to defend yourself and your family, but more importantly, to hunt meat.

Hunting in a time of crisis would mean weapons and ammunition that are easy to maintain and conserve, and that leave as much of the animal usable as possible. So when the talk inevitably turns to high rates of fire and destructive capability and material penetration, it's hard not to feel like they game they're most looking forward to hunting is of the Most Dangerous variety.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:10 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


rats. people in big cities would be eating rats.

And the rats would be eating their corpses, it's a perfect system!
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Hunting in a time of crisis would mean weapons and ammunition that are easy to maintain and conserve, and that leave as much of the animal usable as possible

also why would you want to use a weapon that would signal the location of fresh meat to everyone around when successfully used. especially if the alleged primary conceit of your worldview is "protect what's mine".
posted by poffin boffin at 10:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Late at night I look at the Kindle Lending Library to see what is popular. The amount of Prepper fiction (and it looks to be Prepper ROMANCE fiction) is astounding. "Can Joe-Bob and Annie escape the hellhole that is post-apocalypse California in their fully-kitted RV? Find out!"

I mostly want to shake these people and scream "We live in a society!" to them, but they're too busy saving up for tactilol gear that will never see use except as a bargain lot in an estate sale.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


i mean really do any of these morons with their strongroom full of high tech tactical weapons even know how to care for them? i have yet to see a single prepper's list with break free as a line item.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:17 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


What I find amusing is that so many of these guys absolutely hate the federal government (or government in general), and yet the federal government has perhaps one of largest and best sets of documentation on how to prepare for disasters. It's a federal requirement that every single agency, sub-agency, and has at least a plan taking into account multiple contingencies and levels of risk. Everybody is assigned a role, tasks to complete, ways to communicate, etc. Preparations are detailed enough that basic operations can be restored fairly quickly and effectively. If preppers wanted to see how it's done, there's probably no better source of information than ol' Uncle Sugar.


This is why I think attaching yourself to powerful institutions is a good strategy for surviving a range of disasters. For example, US military might be in the line of fire, but they will also be fed and clothed.
posted by grobstein at 10:18 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Trapp family's bug-out bags

That's as lovely a bit of surrealistic blank verse as you'll come across these days.
posted by chavenet at 10:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hunting in a time of crisis would mean weapons and ammunition that are easy to maintain and conserve, and that leave as much of the animal usable as possible. So when the talk inevitably turns to high rates of fire and destructive capability and material penetration, it's hard not to feel like they game they're most looking forward to hunting is of the Most Dangerous variety.

That's a legitimate critique. People sometimes tend to think of guns as interchangeable, but that's not really the case. And they often stockpile in really ridiculous ways.

A realistic ideal plan would involve:

- as poffin boffin alludes to, a fuckton of silencers, either bought or homegrown. Most people don't have these, because you have to register with the ATF or go illegal, but it'd definitely be helpful. (also make you less of an asshole, guns are noisy) Also all the CLP in the world. And gun cleaning supplies. Q-tips! Do you have Q-tips and cotton squares?

- ARs for defensive fortification purposes - no more ARs than you have individuals who would be realistically defending in those situations. That means stockpiling 20 ARs only makes sense if you have 18 friends who both do not have guns yet know how to use them, and a home large enough to put them all. (this is a very unlikely scenario. Like, I have 20 friends who know how to use guns. They all have their own.)

- hunting rifles in both .308 and .22, .22 largely for small game and somethings kids can use if necessary. A million rounds of .22 ammunition. It's cheap and useful and you can plink it all day.

- shotguns for game/self defense in the home

- handguns for self-protection for adults while out foraging.

I will readily admit that this is probably not the armament of the guys that make the news articles about prepping, but it's a reasonable load for a home, and can also all fit into one gun safe.
posted by corb at 10:22 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


DrMew: "My Dad taught us never to enter a building without locating our exists, and to identify the safest place in case the Bomb dropped."

Hey, that's just good sense, but for the more mundane disasters of fire and tornado.

corb: "Second: it is idiotic to hole up in a city for long periods of time and every serious prepper knows that. "

What? See, here's the fundamental problem with preppers: historically, in the collapse of society due to a disaster or military whatever, people cluster in cities (which often become city-states) and the people left outside the city in rural areas are fuuuuuucked and even if they manage to run self-sufficient subsistence farms for a while, eventually just get overrun by the city's much-better-organized army when the city needs that farmland. (And you can stockpile the biggest arsenal in America, but if you don't have an actual army to wield it, what good does it do you when an actual army shows up? All you've done is successfully turned over an arms cache to the local urban legions.)

It requires a massive ignorance of world history in general and of social collapse in particular to think that a rural area is a better place to wait out government collapse than a city. And it suggests that either one's prepper ideas are based less on "preparing for actual disasters" than "living a romantic ideal of American frontier individualism" (which, fine, but you can do Little House on the Prairie cosplay without having to talk about the end of the world) or that the terrifying "disaster" in question is actually "urban riots" with all the racial baggage that carries with it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:28 AM on May 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


tl;dr: large armories are a bad idea for survival but small, diverse gun collections can be useful. More people have the former than the latter.
posted by corb at 10:29 AM on May 15, 2015


I would happily prepare for things like earthquakes or hurricanes (neither happen where I live), that's sensible. Having a med kit while camping, likewise.

But if civilization goes down, then I'd just as soon go down with it; I don't have barter-able skills and am cynical that even that would save me (too many variables to go wrong, too many ways to die by accident). Which feeling informs my desire to fight to preserve civilization. And also my dislike of people who love to fantasize about it ending. It's laziness. Because it's more fun to fondle your stockpile of MREs than it is to work on fixing the society we have right now.

I think they are a lot like Christians who spend all their time fantasizing about the Rapture/end days rather than doing the things Jesus told them they should be doing while on earth.
posted by emjaybee at 10:29 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


really i was referring to bow hunting vs firearm hunting, but also the fact that 2 dozen complicated intricate assault rifles are going to require a fuckton more constant maintenance and upkeep than your grandadd's bolt action lee-enfield.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


While some have advised locals to prepare for the Big One by keeping 2-3 days worth of supplies (PDF), other earthquake sites are saying that storing a first aid kit and a two-week supply of emergency food and water, and by keeping an emergency backpack by the door in case they need to leave in a hurry.

Experts say:
"You would see buildings collapse, you'd see people trapped, you'd see roadways collapse," said Kelly Huston of California's Office of Emergency Services. "You'd see widespread destruction." Under the USGS's crisis scenario for a magnitude-7.8 temblor in Southern California, the soil-filled Los Angeles Basin would turn into a violently trembling Jell-O, causing major highways and airport runways to buckle, water and sewer pipes to crack, electrical and gas lines to sever, and thousands of fires to break out across the region. Those blazes could then be whipped into a frenzy by the Santa Ana winds. Fiber-optic cables running across the San Andreas would be torn apart, and infrastructure would take months, if not years, to repair. The hospitals would be swamped by 50,000 injured people, and at least 1,800 would die.

Screw apocalyptic scenarios, I'm just going to concentrate on something that could realistically happen in my lifetime and "prep" for that.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:32 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


It requires a massive ignorance of world history in general and of social collapse in particular to think that a rural area is a better place to wait out government collapse than a city.

Sorry - having grown up in NYC, when I think 'city', that is my baseline. There are plenty of not-as-large cities that would probably be fine. But places that are already kind of on the verge of failure as it stands are not good places to hunker down in. There are too many people, and they don't produce many goods there. I mean, fuck, what happens to NYC when there's just a sanitation strike or a bad blizzard or a hurricane? Living through Sandy was surreal.

Urban riots also do carry a lot of baggage, but I don't think it's crazy to think that if things actually started to get really bad, you might see some rioting or looting. It has happened in every major disaster that has hit a major city that I've seen, at least. (Sandy, Katrina)
posted by corb at 10:34 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always thought the police, military, and organized crime would already have the upper hand, as in post-Soviet satellite states, and having a cache of weapons would just be blood in the water.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:35 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread needs a theme song, and this is it. [NSFW, language, WTSHTF]
posted by chavenet at 10:35 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you get away from prepper sites that aren't trying to sell you something (not an easy thing) they're all about learning home canning or first aid or small engine repair or gardening tips. I don't see much harm in learning those skills.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:38 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I feel strange about discussing this in practical terms, but if you're dealing with trying to get meat in a scarcity situation, you're way the hell better off if you've learned and prepared to trap than to hunt. Sure checking your trap lines doesn't have any particular romance attached to it, but it has better reliability than hunting, works in environments without big game, and involves less expenditure of resources - mostly calories.

You even still get to carry a gun, if that's your thing, but that's because you may need to scare the other scavengers (I.e. Dogs) away.
posted by frimble at 10:39 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


What? See, here's the fundamental problem with preppers: historically, in the collapse of society due to a disaster or military whatever, people cluster in cities (which often become city-states) and the people left outside the city in rural areas are fuuuuuucked and even if they manage to run self-sufficient subsistence farms for a while, eventually just get overrun by the city's much-better-organized army when the city needs that farmland. (And you can stockpile the biggest arsenal in America, but if you don't have an actual army to wield it, what good does it do you when an actual army shows up? All you've done is successfully turned over an arms cache to the local urban legions.)


Is this true? It seems like a hard generalization to back up. Do most disasters split people into city and country factions, and the city factions win? I think it is true that people run to cities, if the cities are still functioning, because their ability to live off the land is destroyed by war or disaster, but I'm not sure what survival advice this generates.

When the secret American carpet-bombing campaign devastated Cambodia, the country people apparently flooded into the cities as refugees . . . and then put the city people to the sword. Now, I'm not an expert on the Khmer Rouge period, but I don't think that fits neatly into the "urban legions" story you're telling. Does the opposite usually happen?

It seems like the nature of the disaster might matter a lot. In the event of a pandemic disease, you presumably want to be far away from population centers, for example. Similarly for most kinds of aerial bombardment.

I think major population centers are somewhat stable over time, even through disasters, so that London, Paris, Dresden, Tokyo, etc., are still major cities today, despite going apocalyptic several times over, and long-run population centers tend also to be long-run centers of political and economic power. So if you pull out the lens enough, "city people" taken as a bloc do pretty well. But I'm not sure that translates into individual survival at all.
posted by grobstein at 10:41 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


you can scare most dogs away by snapping a plastic bag at them though, or saying BATH really loudly.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [23 favorites]


It seems like the nature of the disaster might matter a lot.

Yes, precisely this. I think it would depend a lot on whether the disaster was faction-related or universal and, following that, if later survival depends upon affiliation with previously extant factions or ones which develop from new societal needs.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


"In contrast, we inhabitants of the New World know, even if we aren't always conscious of it, that only yesterday this nation of ours was vast, empty wilderness."

Except it wasn't. By the time Europeans arrived, the locals had been living there for at least 10,000 years, and had been only recently emptied by disease, warfare, and similar. The Pilgrims arrived to find Squanto, who had already been to Europe and back, and a recently emptied village to move into. Even the Spaniards had Smallpox and civil war on their side when they started the conquest down south. And that also informs the preppers of their task: eliminate the "competition" once the shit hits the fan so that when the dust clears, they own it all. It explains the fascination with guns, the expectation of a brief anarchistic period where their preparations will put them on top, and a rational for going to the effort: the return on investment of all their neighbor's stuff, land, and other resources for themselves.
posted by Blackanvil at 10:46 AM on May 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


Canned goods are only good for 1-5 years, depending on contents, after which they tend to swell, leak, and explode.

This is not true at all for the canned goods I buy. On several occasions during the last few years I have eaten from cans more than ten years past their expiration date. I have only once seen any canned goods swell and explode, a pair of cans of pineapple that had been purchased at the same time.

Are you keeping canned stuff in an unheated pantry that goes down below freezing, maybe?
posted by XMLicious at 10:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dude's never tried to trap an animal in his life, has he?
I'm guessing there's a whole lot about actual survival techniques that most of these nutjobs have never tried in their lives. I'm sure they have a handy manual somewhere, though.
It's on his Kindle fire.
posted by tilde at 10:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Except it wasn't. By the time Europeans arrived, the locals had been living there for at least 10,000 years, and had been only recently emptied by disease, warfare, and similar. The Pilgrims arrived to find Squanto, who had already been to Europe and back, and a recently emptied village to move into. Even the Spaniards had Smallpox and civil war on their side when they started the conquest down south. And that also informs the preppers of their task: eliminate the "competition" once the shit hits the fan so that when the dust clears, they own it all. It explains the fascination with guns, the expectation of a brief anarchistic period where their preparations will put them on top, and a rational for going to the effort: the return on investment of all their neighbor's stuff, land, and other resources for themselves.


This is a great comment and also I think a good area of study for other disasters.

Pope John Paul II famously(?) grew up in a house that his family appropriated from Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust. Historically, does disaster opportunism lead to big changes in distribution of resources? What are the characteristics of the people who most benefit?
posted by grobstein at 10:53 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


it's hard not to feel like the game they're most looking forward to hunting is of the Most Dangerous variety.

Jarts?
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:54 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


Except it wasn't. By the time Europeans arrived, the locals had been living there for at least 10,000 years, and had been only recently emptied by disease, warfare, and similar.

If only you had read the very next paragraph of koeselitz's comment...
posted by indubitable at 10:55 AM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


when we were going camping and a guy we were camping with got drunk and rolled into the fire and tried to stay there

WHAT.
posted by Theta States at 10:56 AM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Bottle o' Pills. I'll even refrigerate my corpse so the Survivalists who think the post-Apocalypse is such a nice place to live in can have some food to fight to the death over.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I went over to Amazon to check out the books duffell were talking about up-thread, and on their front page they advertised "zombie awareness week". Seriously, Amazon?

But then I checked and they were selling stuff like novelty zombie themed gadget. And Nerf guns. So I calmed right down again.
posted by Harald74 at 11:05 AM on May 15, 2015


I was born and raised in Los Angeles and we are WAY overdue for the big one. There is no FREAKING way I am going to end up at the Staples Center in line for water and Red Cross supplies when I am privileged enough to have those things on hand.

There is nothing wrong with that. That is a really good idea. I think (and the government also agrees) that everybody ought to have a disaster-preparedness kit such that they can survive for a few days in the absence of normal utilities. Everyone who has the ability to store a few gallons of water and some non-perishable food ought to do that, just as basic prudence, and then if you live in an area with a specific issue, maybe you want to take some additional precautions. (E.g. if you live in a wildfire area maybe you want to have something more along the lines of a "go bag" than a rack of canned food in the basement, because you might need to leave in a hurry rather than stay around through a power outage. If you live in an area with a lot of snow you should probably own a shovel, etc.)

It's definitely necessary to draw a line -- and it's not a complete black-and-white thing, I admit -- between reasonable, considered prudence of the "how can I not be a total drain on emergency-response resources the second the lights go out and the water stops flowing" variety, and people who've turned "prepping" into a serious hobby / lifestyle (mostly harmless), and then another, clearer line between them and people who have internalized a possibly-violence-prone lone wolf outlook that's just waiting for an opportunity where they can take the gloves off and act on some weirdo fantasies (dangerous).

As someone who is a first responder, it's kinda irritating during, say, a winter storm, when calls start to filter in from people who basically think it's a Real Emergency because the Dominos guy won't deliver pizza because the roads have been closed and what are they going to eat tonight THANKS OBAMA plz halp me. If you're able to, a certain amount of self-help is good for you and it's good for emergency personnel and it's good for everyone else who needs real help. So in poking fun at the bunker-fetishizing loonies we shouldn't ever lose sight of the fact that a certain amount of reasonable, considered disaster-preparation is a good thing.

Also if you want to store canned food the easiest thing to do is just to get some canned food organizers that let you have a rotating buffer of a half-dozen cans or so of staple foods, and then buy them and use them at the normal rate. I don't think buying specific "survival food" is necessary, unless you never cook/eat nonperishable food at home. If you have an electric stove or a gas stove that won't work without power, toss a bag of ESBIT tabs (which don't go bad) in the back of the cabinet and you're good to go.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


> rats. people in big cities would be eating rats.

More likely that we'd eat pigeons. Conveniently, they're slower and dumber than rats, and tasty besides.
posted by desuetude at 11:45 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Where do common sense precautions end and paranoia begin? With guns? That's a too safe answer. I think a better way to tell the difference is whether a family is preparing for a temporary shutdown of government services (hurricane, blizzard, flooding) or some sort of end of days Glenn Beck fear fantasy. And is there really any doubt as to whether this guy follows right wing media?

As for prepping, I think learning first aid, acquiring some basic camping supplies, and storing some dried food and bottled water is perfectly reasonable. I wish I could say I've done all these things, but I haven't.
posted by Beholder at 11:48 AM on May 15, 2015


I mean, fuck, what happens to NYC when there's just a sanitation strike or a bad blizzard or a hurricane? Living through Sandy was surreal.

As a counter-point, what happens to rural American locations devastated by natural disasters? They don't just magically come back to life with nothing but the folksy gumption and bootstrappy goodness of salt-of-the-earth people. They get tons of federal assistance, the state and federal National Guard pitch in a couple thousand troops and hundreds of vehicles, and if they're lucky a bunch of contractors who aren't predatory pitch in. If you thought living through Sandy was surreal, imagine how it must have been for the people living in Joplin, Missouri.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I 'prep' before every winter. Around here it's just want you do. It's completely normal and has been for generations.

You make sure you have everything you need for surviving for as long as a week. It is not uncommon to get stuck for days because of winter weather and if the power doesn't ever go out for an extended period it's a strange year. I'm only 2 hours outside of Toronto and though rural it's not boonie rural. There are several significant sized towns and a huge power plant. We are uber civilized here.

Just the nature of the area and the weather patterns means that you should be prepared.

Everyone does help each other during these times. The first time it happened I was by myself and it was pretty awesome to see what people do. (I'm a city transplant) I was stuck at my house for four days that year and someone on day two traveled by snowmobile just to check if I was okay. The phone was working and I got calls. I got invites to go stay with other people who had better set-ups.

Another year I found myself in a section that was without power. Bad when it was 20 below. I ended up staying with someone in the section that did have power. I had people that had more experience showing me and making sure things like water was looked after to keep pipes from freezing. I got help clearing my driveway by people who had more powerful snow clearing equipment.

What blew me away was that most of the help I got or was offered was not from people I knew well. Some was from people I didn't know at all before this happened. I have no doubt that if TSHTF that this community helping each other culture would rev up and people would look after each other. That's just what you do and have always done here.

Heck, a couple of months after I move here I got super sick with pneumonia. I don't even know how word got around but it did. I had people I didn't know bringing me food and making sure I was okay because people knew I was living by myself in the old "X" place on Concession X. It really was quite astounding. Even more so when I would say how astounding that people would do such a thing and the reaction was just matter of fact or confusion that I would even be surprised at it.
posted by Jalliah at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


Alright. I'm an accidental prepper in the sense that I know where the closest permanent source of water is and I have a way to purify it, I keep a stockpile of food and water because I like both of them, I have medical supplies because people get hurt, and I have guns because I use 'em.

But if you wanted to have the best tool for putting food on your table in one of those Oh-Noes-Society-Collapsed scenarios, you'd have (and know how to use) a nice take-down recurve bow and a pellet gun with a supply of arrows and pellets. Guns are loud and hard to feed over time. And expensive.
Plus, a pellet gun will allow you to harvest squirrels and pigeons from your backyard starting right now. That way, you won't get squicked out and waste the meat or make yourself ill when you try and dress a squirrel for the first time after society collapses.

I too dream about the collapse of modern society, but only because it sucks so bad sometimes. But if it were to happen, what would I be doing? Working with my neighbors to get through and bring the good old times back. I like streaming movies. I like being able to read after the sun goes down. I like not having to worry about my survival every minute of every day.
posted by Seamus at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Historically, does disaster opportunism lead to big changes in distribution of resources? What are the characteristics of the people who most benefit?

If plagues count as catastrophes, my understanding is that tradesmen/laborers generally saw increased wages due to the decreased workforce (I'm not a historian so this is based on casual reading over the years). Disease generally leaves land untouched, so relatively speaking, the value of human labor rose compared to established assets like land. In particular, the Black Plague may have hastened the end of feudalism. So depending on the nature of the disaster, like many people mentioned above, the people who can do concrete useful stuff move up (or at least have a better chance of treading water).
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


More likely that we'd eat pigeons. Conveniently, they're slower and dumber than rats, and tasty besides.

Pigeons are dumb in places--like American cities--where they have a ready supply of trash to feast on, are viewed as gross dumb rats with wings, and are not perceived as a threat or even really a serious pest (unlike actual rats).

Start eating them, though, and you can bet they'll develop a sense of urgency and wariness around humans right quick.

I can, however, vouch for their tastiness.
posted by duffell at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


We'll squabble over pigeons?
posted by Chitownfats at 12:18 PM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also more hunting accidents than successful hunts, I'll bet...

Welp, meat is meat, amiright fellow apocalypse survivors?
posted by Theta States at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


So depending on the nature of the disaster, like many people mentioned above, the people who can do concrete useful stuff move up (or at least have a better chance of treading water).

Well, I'm a bit of a jill of all trades. I like to say dilettante, but that doesn't sound brutish enough. I have lived and worked on a farm, so I have quite a few farm skills that most people don't have, this includes things as routine as planting and growing things (that actually grow) to grain milling and slaughter. I also have some medical training and I can cook and sew like a boss. I'm thinking I'm going to have to be pretty useful in order to keep the husband around who grew up in Manhattan and when we got our chickens wouldn't even eat their eggs because he "liked the ones from the market." We have since crushed this particular quirk of his, but to be honest, he's not particularly useful in the survival skills department.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oddly enough he did not mention a stash of pot or DramBuie. Hmmmm.
posted by notreally at 12:30 PM on May 15, 2015


On the other hand, he rides a motorcycle (which I cannot do), so if we need to get the hell outta Dodge, I'm riding with him.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:32 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems like a far more immediate concern than food in cities would be water - NYC just has three aqueducts for millions and millions of people, right? Wikipedia says 90% of the city's water is flowing more than a hundred kilometers through just two of them.

Better not start too many wars post-civilization, even Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson together couldn't prevent one of them from getting blown up.
posted by XMLicious at 12:33 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are at least two major incidents that I can say I was in thick of where "normal" shut down for at least a few days to weeks.

In January 1998, we had an extreme series of weather events most people just call the "ice storm". North-eastern US, Eastern Ontario and large parts of Quebec through to Nova Scotia lost power entirely for days to weeks. Masses of people were internally displaced, in temporary housing. Roads, schools, work were all closed, some for weeks. We had ultimately the largest (Canadian) domestic deployment of troops ever, around 40k soldiers. Over 4 billion dollars damage was done.

In August 2003, a computer bug in Ohio caused one of the worst blackouts in history. We lost power entirely for a few days. Schools, work, and yeah roads, were all shut down. Unlike the ice storm, for which we had at least some notice, this was instant. Power off and it stayed off.

You know what I remember best about both incidents? How calm everything was and how people went out of their way to make sure everyone, even strangers, was all right.

There were some real heroes in the ice storm, folks who worked extremely hard under terrible conditions to make sure the power came back on. Many older folks, the disabled and the very young had it really hard during that time. But my memories are mostly of what we did to help others and how we ourselves were helped by the folks who rushed in to help from all across the US and Canada.

The power failure was a bit different in tone. People during the ice storm were serious and grim, and survival was clearly at stake. The power failure happened in the middle of an August heat wave, and many people took it as kind of an unofficial holiday. The main concern was folks getting home safely the night of the failure---some had long walks without transit. There were stories of people stopping for the night on their way home at the houses of strangers. Over the next few days, food and particularly access to water became increasing concerning, but most people found they could last out the few days it took for power to come back on. We did recover in that three-day window before supermarkets deplete and when it stops being fun, but still, no panics, people helped people get home, the stores were not ransacked, even though no one know how long it might be.

In both events, the safest place to be was the downtown of the major cities. The more rural you were, the harder it was for people to get to you, to check on you, to make sure people had their medications.

The ice storm did change a lot of people's preparedness. Lots of rural folks now have big, multiple kW generators. Governments and NGOs completely re-evaluated what their minimums should be (and that helped in 2003). But the real lesson was, things don't fall apart. Neighbors do help each other. And you're safer and more secure the more people there are around you.
posted by bonehead at 12:34 PM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


If you look to the third world, which is more or less permanently in a post-apocalyptic state (no electricity, no water, no stores, poor transportation) people move from rural areas to the cities to better themselves. How it would play out in a transition from first world to post disaster is harder to predict. Cities might have a rough transition to getting enough food.

Also, "She smiles and says that most of her friends didn’t believe her when she told them about her 22-gauge present under the tree."

Yes, I imagine they didn't.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:34 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Look, let's be realistic here, OK?

If civilization breaks down then 90%+ of the people reading this will die in the first 90 days.

If civilization actually goes then I rationally expect to die, and I have no particular plans for the details, which I expect to be a shorter and less painful than most medical deaths.

Any plans I have are for temporary dislocations that most people will be able to ride out with a modicum of thought and preparation, which are at least two orders of magnitude more probable than TSHTF. If you are planning an attempt to survive after civilization collapses, you're a low-order psychopath if you put more effort into that than in trying to prevent civilization from collapsing.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yes, that Northeast Blackout was nice for us (suburban Michigan, so not city, but not rural). Excluding the horribly clogged highways right after the start, it was quiet and felt like a bit of an extended holiday (granted, I was just heading off to college and didn't miss the paycheck from a few days of work missed, sure others felt more of a bite there). I think it motivated a lot of people to get and maintain generators, which really came in handy this past winter.
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:49 PM on May 15, 2015


In darker moments, I suspect that harder core preppers do want the world to end so their boring, perhaps disappointing current life can end and they can be reborn as kings of some Mad Max style wasteland.

They're all planning to be Lord Humongous. That's their endgame.
posted by bonehead at 12:50 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had a very angry response to this article when I read it. In fact, first thing I did when I finished was send it to a friend with the comment, "I want to give every single person in this article an acute case of lead poisoning."

However, my issue is not with prepping itself. Fundamentally, it's a useful, even wise, thing to keep in mind, even if people go about it in the wrong direction, and to silly extremes. That's just a misdirected application of a worthwhile idea. (If we stop short of attributing closet racist / libertarian fantasy motivations to things.)

I don't even mind affluent assholes in Downers Grove -- which, btw, is not all that hoity toity a place, compared places like Winnetka or Kenilworth, close to the city, or the Barringtons, further out, in fact the per capita income is lower than some very mundane working-middle-class suburbs -- spending money they probably don't deserve in the first place on wasted resources that are most likely just going to rot in their basements when their disasters don't happen. It's just a trivial consumerist outlet, just like many others in our society. I don't like it overall, but don't bear these guys any particular ill will because of it.

What made me see red, and hold the subjects in utmost contempt, was this:

“This is about survival. I only want to talk about it with the people I’ll be surviving with,” he says matter-of-factly. “Mostly, I don’t want my neighbors to know about it. Because I don’t want them knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan.”

This guy has an $800,000 house in a suburb in which that probably already puts him distinctly in an upper social bracket, he has enough free cash to stock up on prepper fundamentals, and his plan when this fabled SHTF is "fuck my neighbor, I got mine." Whilst that may make him an honest to Bob REAL AMURICAN, well... yeah. That was when I wanted to root for his death just so I could have the pleasure of spitting on his grave. It's a person squandering his resources in a foolish implementation of a generally sound idea, with the explicit intention of letting his community starve and rot around him, and on top of that, he's proud enough of it that he'll explicitly say it, and not even bother coding it in dogwhistles.

Yeah, fuck him, the hard way.

I mean, like I said when I was discussing it with the buddy I sent this to: I'm not saying I'm much better off. I have little in the way of survival skills, and I'd probably go hungry if I had to hunt and fish for my sole source of food. But I have basic mechanical skills, I know how to take apart and put back together simple machines, I can bodge together a decent shelter with resources on hand if I have to; and most importantly, I'm willing to put these skills to good use in cooperation with my neighbors so we can all survive.

Yeah, I'm not a survivalist, nor a prepper. But I think I'll be doing better than these fucks if their fantasy goes down.
posted by jammer at 12:51 PM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


koeselitz: I'm pretty sure that American survivalist fantasies are deeply and inextricably tied to our still-potent, if forcibly subconscious, memory of the atrocities we committed against other human beings just a few hundred years ago in order to steal the land we live on now. The worst, most unconscious survivalists – which is to say, a hell of a lot of the people in this article – are people who long for the chance to act out in life their theory that we white Europeans who came here and "conquered" the land did so through gut and guile, not through blood and rage and mendacious abuse. They (we?) want another chance to show forth their ability to survive, this time without the pesky ghosts of the former stewards of the land ruining the fantasy by haunting us with the nightmare of our responsibilities.

Or they're very scared that someone will do to them what we did to the Native Americans, and get used up as slave labor, forced to relocate thousands of miles away to deserts via brutal forced marches, and eventually have future sports teams named after our tribes while we eke out meager livings selling our handcrafts made in the ancient manner of etsy.

Kadin2048: It's all about building up your Smaug-like horde of canned beans and ammunition and showing it off or just deriving pleasure from its existence as a collection. Which, if they just straight-up admitted they were into collecting militaria, wouldn't be nearly as weird.

This brings me to mind of some of the every-day carry (EDC) blogs that were the rage not too long ago. They seemed to fall into two categories: the ones in which someone actually emptied out their pockets and arranged things neatly, and the ones that are basically Pinterest-style gadget porn. The latter almost always includes a nifty, expensive knife (Spyderco being the favored brand), and more often than you'd think (and more often than I'm comfortable contemplating) a compact pistol, usually a Glock. And all this stuff is pristine, which stuff that rattles around in my pockets never is for very long. (Also, the tag "murdered out" is often used for a set of pocket paraphernalia that is all or mostly in matte black.) So, you've basically swapped out the idea of simple, practical gear for mundane chores for a set of pretty and potentially deadly props suitable for the gearing-up scene that you have running in your head for the action movie that you want to believe your life is, or should be. I have little doubt that most preppers have an extended sequence in their minds of their own personal WTSHTF scene, and may even rehearse it with their favorite props.

Eyebrows McGee: historically, in the collapse of society due to a disaster or military whatever, people cluster in cities (which often become city-states) and the people left outside the city in rural areas are fuuuuuucked and even if they manage to run self-sufficient subsistence farms for a while, eventually just get overrun by the city's much-better-organized army when the city needs that farmland.

How much of that history is from before, say, the Industrial Revolution, when the city-states in question not only still had fortifications in the form of city walls and whatnot, but also had transportation and water supplies that didn't depend on either a functional electrical grid or a petroleum-based transportation system? I've been mulling over how well Peoria would function as a post-apocalyptic city-state, and even with the city's relatively high amount of greenspace, or the possibility of the cops converting the nearby minor-league ballpark into an ad-hoc fortress, I think the city's long-term prospects wouldn't be that great. My money would be on whichever prison town (prisons being the most common modern equivalent of fortresses) could find not only horse breeding stock but the people who could breed, shoe and take care of horses. Decatur Correctional Center is about thirty-five miles away from Arthur, one of the largest Amish communities in the United States.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:03 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Look, the only reason to survive the apocalypse is so you can roar around the desert in modded hot rods while wearing black leather. Any Prepper who doesn't acknowledge this is just conning themselves.

I've got my hockey mask, and I've put the spikes on my dune buggy. I am READY.
posted by happyroach at 1:14 PM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Does the fact that I recognize TEOTWAWKI sooner than TSHTF mark me as an old?
posted by Monochrome at 1:15 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Although a raiding band would probably just move on if they encountered a stiff point of resistance.

If their Mad-Max jerk-off fantasy that will never in a million years actually happen actually did, you know, happen, I imagine the raiding parties are most likely going to be made of of the something to prove, strapped to the chin, been looking forward to this so much they've already picked out the racial groups they'l designate as enemy, armed for killing humans and specifically not for hunting, swinging dicks we're seeing here. Just a guess.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:18 PM on May 15, 2015


I'm suprised there have been so few comments about transition groups. Are they not a thing in the states? My parents enjoy them for the ecological side (Mum) and the white collar professional having useful skills (Dad).

My Mum has always been prepared for the end of the world or a disaster. Her focus was more on skills, being able to swim, speak a foreign language or play an instrument. Who's gonna be the arse that wants to live without music?
posted by Braeburn at 1:22 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's easy to imagine short-term things that would knock out a lot of services quickly (e.g. ice storm, a clueless power operator, a hurricane, a tsunami), but those are generally localized and fixable. A major degradation of society would likely be a slow-motion disaster, like climate change, giving time to adapt.

It's hard to see how we could have a major, fast-acting problem such as the preppers anticipate. It would have to be something not just devastating, but also widespread, that keeps help out: war is the only thing that comes to mind. In that case, we'll all have other concerns as Dee Xtrovert explaines.

This is actually a problem in security and disaster prep, both with the public and even elected officials who should know better. People worry more about "movie plot" events and tend to ignore prepping for real emergencies which have much different needs. You want packaged kits to go on planes and trucks, portable power and shelter kits, clean water kits. In other words, exactly what organizations like the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and government disaster relief groups do.
posted by bonehead at 1:23 PM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


All this misguided preparation for the end of the world and he's probably some Tea Party libertarian who opposes vaccination.

Risk management FTW!
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 1:28 PM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


My Mum has always been prepared for the end of the world or a disaster. Her focus was more on skills, being able to swim, speak a foreign language or play an instrument. Who's gonna be the arse that wants to live without music?


On a macabre related note, I know a woman whose mother survived the death camps because she could play piano to entertain the commandant.
posted by grobstein at 1:30 PM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


What I would chiefly be concerned about is the disruption in the food supply. Basically we are all dependent on a detailed fossil fuel powered infrastructure that supplies us with food. This century's computerized just-in-time delivery means that when supply lines get cut we will run out of stuff to eat mighty fast. Where the hell are all the food warehouses? I know there is a biscuit company office out in the industrial park, but they clearly don't have a warehouse there. The building is definitely not big enough.

I have an uneasy idea that there aren't too many warehouses. I'm thinking maybe that Nabisco has a spreadsheet that tells it how many biscuits will probably be ordered next week and ships them out by containers as fast as they bake them. So my plan of organizing everybody to walk out to the warehouse since the food isn't being brought to us has foundered.

I've tried gardening for food. It's not easy. Traditionally farmers have close to as many crop failures as good harvests. For someone farming a site that is not ideal and who has no experience, and can't order a truck load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer... nope, probably their only crop for the first ten years will be experience. Me, I put in one too many scoops of sheep manure under the tomato plants and they did beautifully for six weeks and then turned brown and died because of too much nitrogen.

Reading about the people who settled farms in my area, (after the previous inhabitants of those farms were rounded up and deported so the land had been pre-cleared and pre-selected to be ideal) indicates that the new settlers were experienced farmers who spent at least a year prior getting ready and investing in tools and seed and things. And the first two years the crops failed completely and they had to have large quantities of food shipped in, and replacement seed and so on. But the third year some of them did okay.

So I am not entirely optimistic that even with a couple of dog-eared copies of Five Acres and Independance and Country Homestead to teach us what to do that farming will bring in enough food to keep us all well fed.

Of course, maybe the fact that I live within closer walking distance to forest than I do to farm fields means that I am silly to speculate about agriculture. Heck, this spring our backyard was full of deer droppings. Hunting is the key. Yeps. We've got a lot of deer. There's got to be half a dozen living in the four or five blocks around me.... I know several people who have suggested that the local white-tailed deer are gonna be their food supply when TSHTF.

Math: 137 houses, estimate two inhabitants per house, makes 274 people, divide 6 deer by 274... hmm... Might not go quite far enough to get us all through the winter. We'll have to go hunting a bit deeper into the woods.

But you know, white tailed deer live on browse which is new forest growth, and in the deep woods it's almost all old forest growth, not too much new there, so the deer are actually scarcer in the woods than they are around the edges.

So we'll go after the big game, the deep woods moose. Those critters are heavy - a lot of calories on a moose. The current estimate is 30,000 moose total in my province and the one beside it. Which is a LOT of meat. But on the other hand we have roughly 1,696,00 people to feed so I don't think we're going to do it with moose.

I'm not too good a shot when it comes to archery anyway. (Disclaimer: I used to use a 35 lb recurve and I was awful at it.) Which could also be a problem. See, every time you fire an arrow you've got a chance of it breaking or getting lost. (Leafy woods and fields of tall grass and muddy salt marshes are all easy places to lose arrows.) If I start with a quiver of twenty four arrows and fire them all, I'm pretty likely to break one or two, or several. it doesn't matter too much if you only go out shooting three or four times in a season. So you're down half your arrows by the winter time? Just hop on the internet and order some replacements.... Oops. No internet. So now I also have to be able to make arrows? And after just the first week? I have to fletch them? Okay, that means I need a flock of geese - need big feathers, you know, especially for an arrow heavy enough to deal some damage. And I understand that unless I have a good stock pile of cyanoacrylic glue to glue them on with I'm going to need a good supply of bones to boil down for glue. Can't use pine pitch or other sticky resins, they stay too soft to keep the fletching stable. Where do I get bones?

Right, so my first order of business will be to go up to Sussex and slaughter a lot of those dairy cows... not that the farmers will mind because they are all high yield Holsteins and unless they have a heated barn they'll freeze to death in the winter, like the bovine holocaust we got the year of the ice storm when the power was done for two weeks. Right. If I want to have dairy in my diet after the pockylips, somebody is going to have to build a lot of byres with fireplaces and keep those fires burning all winter. The farmer of course uses just in time delivery to get her winter cattle fodder so we'll have to find something to feed the cows...

Way back when the aboriginal people were running things around here the settlers were scornful of the aboriginal guys because they didn't do anything productive and wasted all their time burning down tracts of forest rather than hunting. it was forestry management to maximize the new growth and keep the deer population up. Yep, it was Arcadia with bountiful food for the taking, provided, you know, that you kept up with pruning the berry bushes that were growing wild so that they would regrow, and burning over the blueberry bogs so they didn't get overgrown, and rebuilding the clam beds when it was low tide and... Hmmm. Turns out that when the population was primarily doing the hunter gatherer thing it require a huge amount of skilled infrastructure management too, constant traveling to seasonal food sites.

Yeah, no. I think the carrying capacity without infrastructure means we are mostly going to starve to death.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:35 PM on May 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


Shepherd: “If society collapses, survival favours the person engaged with a large community of people who share a wide range of skills and aptitudes, who look out for each other, and who understand the need for some small personal sacrifice in order to get everybody through. ”
I'm letting this stand for much of the similar sentiment here. It's entirely correct of course.

The problem I ran into when I expressed them in a forum for local preppers was that those guys are the kind of people who don't believe in society in the first place. They don't view themselves as part of their community because their neighbors are "sheeple." When I said two adults and two kids can't do it all, so you need a village, and when you've got a village you've got to have some kind of written agreement, I got a lot of, "If you can't just shake a man's hand…." The kind of people who look at you like you're stupid when you make the observation that civilization is built on cooperation.

While there are relatively few people with bunkers and arsenals, these ideas are much more widespread. It explains a lot about American politics.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:44 PM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I start with a quiver of twenty four arrows and fire them all, I'm pretty likely to break one or two,

This is where those hunting rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition come in handy. Sure they may be harder to make yourself, but they store much smaller.
posted by corb at 1:48 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I got a lot of, "If you can't just shake a man's hand…."

I've found it telling, in my limited experience, that the person expressing that sentiment is always a white male, referring solely to other white males. It's always always always "another man's hand" and always always always white.
posted by aramaic at 2:11 PM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


grobstein: "When the secret American carpet-bombing campaign devastated Cambodia, the country people apparently flooded into the cities as refugees . . . and then put the city people to the sword. "

Yeah, the point is more that they run TO the city, not that the pre-existing city folk necessarily end up in charge of the city. During a collapse of civil society (which is what preppers are prepping for, a total breakdown in law and order), the most dangerous thing to be is an outlying small band of humans unallied with other humans. You're much safer embedded in a larger network of allied humans -- like in, say, a city -- who are mutually working towards one anothers' defense.

I have a friend whose PhD research is actually on the collapse of civil society following hurricanes in Carribean islands, when entire islands actually are cut off from government support for several days or even weeks because of disruption to transit and communication. Law and order is much more rapidly restored in cities and villages as compared to rural areas, even if it's just ad hoc community patrols; there's a far greater concentration of resources in the city; outside rescue and support go to cities first. She commented that in the cities people mostly just went about the business of cleaning up, while in rural areas you'd often pass homestead after homestead where one guy was sitting on the front steps with a rifle to protect his family against bands of teenaged boys who, because they are not stupid, realized the robbery game was a lot easier if they focused on isolated farmsteads where help wouldn't be available than if they tried to rob one house in a block of 20.

In general, in times of social upheaval and food scarcity, people flee TO cities (to the point of making famines worse, but if there's no food in rural areas, at least in the city you might get something by the fruit of someone else's labor); fleeing to the countryside is for when you're trying to escape the government.

There are also a lot of practical problems with "bugging out" to rural areas -- if a massive-scale disaster strikes such that law and order collapses, how are you going to get there from your city? And while it might be okay once you're in your hardened bunker in the wilderness, while you're in transit there, you're a prime target for highwaymen. If you have to go TO your bunker (rather than already living where it is), you're relying on a sudden disaster that causes the collapse of society, but not SO sudden that it makes it impossible for you to get there. You're also banking on the fact that, let us say, the remnants of the police force in Chicago don't organize into a quasi-military city-state that starts seeking out isolated farmsteads and incorporating them into Chicago's city-state -- taking them by force, if necessary. If there are 200,000 people in Chicago (ancient Rome was 750,000) and very limited food supplies, do you really think your bunker is proof against an army drawn from 200,000 desperate people who have a variety of skills, technologies, and munitions not available to you? Are your little weapons of any use against an army with bombs?

Even in a feudal castle situation, those lords were embedded in a complex network of rights, obligations, allegiances, and kinship, because being "just a castle by itself" is too dangerous. It isn't workable. You either need relationships with the surrounding people, including with other local lords and with your peasants, or you need a constant stream of support coming from an outside power (the English king sending you to help conquer Wales by holding a castle against a hostile countryside).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:14 PM on May 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


It's hard to see how we could have a major, fast-acting problem such as the preppers anticipate. It would have to be something not just devastating, but also widespread, that keeps help out: war is the only thing that comes to mind.

The other things I can think of are a disease epidemic and a solar storm, though I'm really not clear on the severity of those: if one was strong enough to disrupt the power grid, would it also be wiping hard drives and destroying other non-shielded electronics? Simultaneously losing power, communications, and all or almost all computer records everywhere seems like it might do the job.

One thing that seems pretty likely is that if there are any genuine threats like this, we definitely won't prepare for it on a societal level. I remember a high school science teacher flat-out saying that inadequate civil engineering meant that New Orleans was going to be destroyed by a hurricane some day and come 2005, voilá. Or witness the response to climate change.
posted by XMLicious at 2:19 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


A realistic ideal plan would involve:

- as poffin boffin alludes to, a fuckton of silencers, either bought or homegrown. Most people don't have these, because you have to register with the ATF or go illegal, but it'd definitely be helpful. (also make you less of an asshole, guns are noisy) Also all the CLP in the world. And gun cleaning supplies. Q-tips! Do you have Q-tips and cotton squares?

- ARs for defensive fortification purposes - no more ARs than you have individuals who would be realistically defending in those situations. That means stockpiling 20 ARs only makes sense if you have 18 friends who both do not have guns yet know how to use them, and a home large enough to put them all. (this is a very unlikely scenario. Like, I have 20 friends who know how to use guns. They all have their own.)

- hunting rifles in both .308 and .22, .22 largely for small game and somethings kids can use if necessary. A million rounds of .22 ammunition. It's cheap and useful and you can plink it all day.

- shotguns for game/self defense in the home

- handguns for self-protection for adults while out foraging.

I will readily admit that this is probably not the armament of the guys that make the news articles about prepping, but it's a reasonable load for a home, and can also all fit into one gun safe.


Two thoughts:
1) A million rounds of .22 long rifle ammo would (assuming perfect stacking with no voids) weigh 3 metric tonnes and take up a full cubic meter of space.
2) The threat of accidental discharge, particularly in the case of having young children around the house, would far outweigh the potential utility in a "collapse of civilization" scenario.

So, I guess I would disagree that this is a reasonable load for a home.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:27 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


How volatile are large stacks of ammunition?
posted by griphus at 2:28 PM on May 15, 2015


Rich man finds his meaning and comfort crawling around on the shooting range floor, gathering spent cartridges to reload in a small bunker lined with AK-47 posters and pallets of Crunchberries. I get the sense he and his ilk are secretly fervently praying for the [zombies|poors|bogeypeople] to put him out of his misery and burn his stick-built castle to the very ground, but what do I know - all I have is bottled water, artisanal tuna fish, and the collected works of Pablo Neruda. If the coming unpleasantness lasts more than a long weekend the person with the most Xanax and Immodium will be king.
posted by jcrcarter at 2:31 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Disease: the Spanish Flu killed something like 3 to 5% of the world in 1918, while a major war was going on. Things were bad, but I don't think social collapse was immanent.

Solar Storm: I think we'd be looking at the 2003 situation again (there was some speculation initially that it was a solar storm), large area of effect, but fixable and short-term. If you mean something that could sterilize most of the earth, well, you're talking a planetary extinction even, not just social collapse.

An alien invasion would might work. The classic civilization killing OCP (outside context problem) is a few caravels coming over the horizon when you're a pre-iron age water empire. If the Klingons invaded today, we'd likely have total social collapse.

Society is a lot more resilient that nutjobs give it credit for. People will organize locally very quickly, in large groups pretty readily. Soldiers, cops, nurses, even sewer workers won't suddenly forget who they are.
posted by bonehead at 2:34 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


grobstein has a very valid point above. The big bad Federal government does disaster planning and requires the state and local government entities that have a hand out for disaster dollars also do planning and preparation, which includes exercising the plan. Do any of you have a COOP at your workplace? The matrix for federal disaster planning runs from the most likely/lowest consequence to the highly unlikely/highest impact.
posted by X4ster at 2:35 PM on May 15, 2015


Yeah, the other thing is that if you actually want to prepare for actual disasters, your local Red Cross has classes for that!

This stuff is just Mad Max cosplay.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:48 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, no. I think the carrying capacity without infrastructure means we are mostly going to starve to death.

But what situations are there where all that infrastructure just goes *poof*, on a continent-wide scale, for periods of months to years? I don't think there are any realistic scenarios that result in what these people envision, outside of a full-scale nuclear war (or bonehead's Klingons). Societies do collapse and their infrastructures go away, but it's a long-term event -- centuries, not weeks.
posted by junco at 3:16 PM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


bonehead, you're reaching all the way back to the age of caravels in pursuit of bringing up alien invasions, but you can't think of any worse disease epidemics than the Spanish Flu? And I'm guessing you didn't do even Wikipedia research on whether a solar storm could maybe have an impact at any level between sterilizing the planet and a minor regional power outage?

The preppers who get portrayed in the OP and elsewhere in media are certainly crazy and stupid or worse, but the urgency here to completely deny and dismiss any possibility of Roma maybe not being so Aeterna seems overwrought.

If more minor rapid catastrophes like Fukushima or the global financial crisis can occur that overwhelm the local capability to deal with them or overwhelm the capabilities of an entire economic sector to handle on its own in the case of 2008, I don't see any good reason to completely rule out a larger-scale disaster or confluence of disasters that could take down the over-arching society. Sure, it may not be of a magnitude worth the average early-21st-century member of society worrying about, but let's not assign it a probability of absolute zero only as a reassuring feel-good measure or because hatin' on the preppers is fun.
posted by XMLicious at 3:42 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interesting. I had not expected it to be about some rich dude in Downers Grove, of all places. I wonder how many of these guys listen to Glenn Beck, who is probably laughing all the way to the bank with his line of survival products. Make people scared, sell them something to ease their fears.

I know someone who is a serious prepper, guns, etc. But it gets annoying after a while, listening to someone tell you that everyone should have the skills of the good old days, like hand knitting all of your own socks. I mean, sure, knitting for fun and making cool stuff, socks included. But I think the overall contempt is for people who are not spending every minute of free time learning these types of skills with the anticipation of having to survive an EMP blast, is well, a way of feeling superior.

Then the racism, yeah. That's also a big one.

I know how to garden, knit, crochet, make soap and a few other things, but those are hobbies for me. I've been without heat in 20 degree weather and it sucks, especially a house without a wood stove or fireplace. You can't do anything but think about how to stay warm and pray that the pipes don't freeze. So most likely, people in Northern climates would be spending most of their day gathering fuel, the rest of it hunting and cooking, and then collapsing. I seriously would not want to or dream about going back to that sort of rustic living, I like my hot showers and flushing toilets (we had an outhouse for a while when I was a kid, and the novelty wore off very quickly when November came, brrr!).

I guess it wouldn't hurt to have a 5-day cooler, that has saved my daughter's butt more than once. She lives in an area with frequent violent thunder storms, so having one of those around is handy if you think you might lose power.

I did have extra water when I lived at the end of a dirt road, just in case the power went out. I kept it in my mudroom closet. Then I forgot about it and winter came, and one of the seams on a large water jug split. And all my coats, which were on the other side of the closet, got covered in mold, which I discovered when I went to open the closet after it had warmed up. Oops.

I make a crappy survivalist and I cannot knit socks, only giant scarves, which I guess I could clumsily sew together to make scarf slippers or something.

I also read an article a long time ago that when people get past a certain age (60?), they start becoming fearful and look for ways to calm their fears, so a lot of baby boomers are also preppers, because the world is scary and they are mortal and it gives them back a sense of control. Can't find it now, tho'.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:18 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


And look, I'd be lying if I said there weren't Those Guys, you know, who are preparing for total collapse but haven't bothered taking a basic CPR course,

Lolololol YES. These people are fucking hilarious. The number one cause of death through most of human history was infection but preppers can't be bothered to learn any like basic biology let alone CPR or something. They know everything to do in case they need to flee to the hills and protect their canned goods; do they know what to do if someone spikes a fever? They imagine a glorious post-apocalyptic world in which they are survivor kings of all they survey using their guns and their tools to protect themselves and their families from rampaging zombie hordes or communists or whatever keeps them up at night. The reality will be something banal like, died from a urinary tract infection.
posted by supercrayon at 4:18 PM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


XMLicious: "the urgency here to completely deny and dismiss any possibility of Roma maybe not being so Aeterna seems overwrought."

Personally my feeling is that I can prepare for many sorts of disasters, but something rapidly civilization-destroying is going to be so large-scale and involve so much random death to start off with that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot I can do about it and that it's difficult or impossible for an individual to prepare for it beyond regular disaster preparations.

And Rome quit being eternal in a multi-century slow-motion collapse and withdrawal ... people certainly had time to adapt. (In fact, I went on an archaeological dig vacation where one of the things they were researching was the withdrawal of Rome from Britain, which led to some chaos and a dramatic reduction in living standards which in some places were not achieved again until the Victorian Era, but not really a collapse.) If it's going to be global warming that causes the collapse of the United States, it'll probably be similarly slow-motion rather than a sudden collapse.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:50 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


The number one cause of death through most of human history was infection but preppers can't be bothered to learn any like basic biology let alone CPR or something.

There's quite a few prepper pages out there about making your own penicillin. They're all like:

1. Let bread get moldy.
2. ???
3. Cure your infection.
4. Just kidding, don't ever try this.

None of them mention two important tools, a microscope and a microbiology text to identify the penicillium you isolate. Which is only fair because they don't mention the steps you would take to isolate a wild mold on agar plates. Because that takes book learning and solid microbiology lab procedures, which is not as fun as plinking bullets at the range.

I was just thinking about the lowest level of equipment and infrastructure that I might be able to isolate penicillin from penicillium mold (I have a biochemistry degree). I did a little search for old papers from the 1940's to do the work old skool methods and not rely on a HPLC or capillary electrophoresis machine and the answer I came up with was fuck it, it'd be way easier to make meth which would continue to be just as valuable in the event of a civilization collapse.
posted by peeedro at 5:21 PM on May 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


peeedro: "None of them mention two important tools, a microscope and a microbiology text to identify the penicillium you isolate."

Fun fact, vat-grown penicillin comes to you courtesy of Peoria's USDA lab. Scientists were having colleagues from around the world send in samples in hopes of finding a strain that grew well in media; but the specific strain that turned out to grow well in industrial vats was from a moldy cantaloupe an Ag Lab secretary picked up at a local Peoria grocer. SCIENCE!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:30 PM on May 15, 2015


Yep, and not all penicillium mold makes a lot of penicillin. So the random strain you have growing on your orange rind could produce anywhere between 1/10th to 1/10,000th as little penicillin as the strains used in industrial settings.
posted by peeedro at 5:39 PM on May 15, 2015


You guys joke, but I used to be a 90 pound weakling, and CUMASS made me a man
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:46 PM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


...in just seven days?
posted by PMdixon at 5:50 PM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


What about the Amish?

They have great hair, but are weak to ice-cream.
posted by um at 6:13 PM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's quite a few prepper pages out there about making your own penicillin. They're all like:

1. Let bread get moldy.
2. ???
3. Cure your infection.
4. Just kidding, don't ever try this.


This kind of questionable information also pops up in prepper canning advice. The Wilder Life includes a scene at a prepper's convention where the author is taught to can butter. I myself have attended a disaster preparedness panel (at an otherwise non-prepper event) where a panelist who identified as a prepper suggested canning low-acid foods by reusing old jars and lids from the basement. These are both TERRIBLE ideas -- there are shortcuts I might take in canning, were I to be in a disaster situation, but none of them involve low-acid foods. The information as presented satisfies someone who wants to feel like they know what they are doing, but would be dangerous if actually put into practice.

And what I don't get is that there is plenty of good, science-based canning advice out there, but for some reason preppers are getting the bad canning advice. Why is that? Are they not actually canning (just learning the theory, so they don't have to risk consuming the actual food), or do they not trust the USDA, or what? (Saw what you will about the LDS, my understanding is that they at least have science-based canning and other food preservation advice, like packing grains in nitrogen.)

Anyway. As far as practical food and drygoods reserves go, I think the better option is to switch from just-in-time inventory to minimum-quantity-on-hand with a last-in, first-out use policy. Translation: If you use pasta, switch from buying pasta as needed to keeping a minimum of 5 boxes on hand at all times. Once you get down to 5 boxes, buy more. Have similar reserves for all regularly used items (medicines, toilet paper, canned goods, etc.) You can build this reserve up over time. As long as they're items you use regularly and you will go through the minimum quantity before anything has time to spoil, there's no waste. It does cost some storage space, but having backup toilet paper on hand at all times pays for itself handsomely the first time you get the flu or your region is shut down by a series of winter storms.
posted by pie ninja at 6:42 PM on May 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


The problems I run against in prepper mentality touch on a blend of hubris, short-sightedness, and active apathy. First, there's the problem of how things fall apart. Historically, societal collapses are chain reaction events that hit on infrastructural failure, resource scarcity, disease, displacement, civil unrest, environmental degradation and poisoning; a whole slew of contingencies that people really cannot be completely prepared to contend with. Second is how people have survived these collapses. As has been pointed out by a number of people upthread, communal action has been and is crucial for individual survival, whereas going lone wolf or isolating into a small band leaves a person incredibly vulnerable to getting picked off by larger forces. Compare, for example, Anarchist Barcelona from '36-'39 versus the collectivist farms in rural areas of Spain at the time - the former might have only been able to hold on for three years in the face of a sustained onslaught by fascists, but farms and villages were wiped out with much greater speed and alacrity. Third - and this is maybe a personal peccadillo - why wait for the end of the world to build a new society? If the End Times event you're waiting for is the collapse of capitalism, some climate change-related disaster, nuclear war or whatever, there is no rational reason to sit back and wait for those things to happen and let your hapless fellow human beings fend for themselves because at least you got yours (for a while), rather than actively engage with others in the building of new structures within the current ones that could actually save lives that are not just your own and your buddies. "Building a new world within the shell of the old" and all that. Maybe it doesn't have that True Grit rogue samurai romanticism to it, but it seems your chances for survival would be greater, and if anything, it's at least more humane.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:44 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine in Nepal right now just sent me this link.
posted by frumiousb at 6:54 PM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


They have great hair, but are weak to ice-cream.

Man they keep changing the alignment system.
posted by PMdixon at 9:05 PM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I thought I had prepped well for post-civilization collapse in the useful, know-your-neighbors ways mentioned above by joining an autonomous collective. Turns out I was just fooling myself.
posted by maxwelton at 9:13 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do think it's worth noting that at least part of this mindset usually comes from reading crank websites and getting worked up about conspiracy theories. What's hilarious is that the young guys I know going on about Jade Helm, etc., were in diapers when The Resister was being posted to alt.conspiracy with the all the same warnings.

Also, the best question to ask most survivalists for maximum laughs is, "How many miles did you run today?"
posted by ob1quixote at 10:27 PM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


And Rome quit being eternal in a multi-century slow-motion collapse and withdrawal ... people certainly had time to adapt.

So the worst we might have to worry about (assuming past performance predicts future results in the first place) are events that will fit into a historiographically gentle, gradual trend from the perspective of people a dozen-odd centuries in the future, the 21st century equivalents of the Justinian plague or our cities being sacked by Visigoths? Picking the gradual, intentional withdrawal of Rome from Britain as the representative event from the decline of Roman civilization still seems a bit like the out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude towards outlier events that many people would have had towards Fukushima or the global financial crisis.

In any case, though, I agree with you that it makes much more sense to just engage in normal disaster preparedness rather than focusing on planning for some outlier event that by its nature would likely be unpredictable in form and effects.
posted by XMLicious at 2:55 AM on May 16, 2015


If civilization breaks down then 90%+ of the people reading this will die in the first 90 days.

The collapse of civilization won't be moderated!
posted by chavenet at 3:46 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Preppers? Oh, I thought you said peppers! Oh well, being a pepper looks like more fun.
(/roseanneroseannadanna)
posted by TedW at 5:18 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dude's gonna be leaving his giant rich-person house for a cabin in the woods?

So his house will be empty and I can just walk in and claim it as my own? Maybe start a collective there because his house is so big? Grow crops in his huge yard? Drink from the wine cellar?

I think this guy has doomsday prepped for me, too.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 5:52 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


gunshot wounds and other major reasonable possibilities

Good God, I am so glad not to reside in the US, but rather in a country where guns are viewed as dangerous and thus highly restricted.

Makes stocking that small, not-at-all-crazy armory of two hand guns, a couple of rifles, a shotgun and some assault rifles a bit more challenging I suppose. But I don't have to worry about people shooting me either - now, or in the apocalypse.

I note corb that even as this threads token "reasonable" prepper, your prepping thoughts quickly orientate around shooting people, and getting shot at. That's a lot of guns just for shooting other people.
posted by smoke at 6:02 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


The collapse of civilization won't be moderated!

No, but it will be televised.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:43 AM on May 16, 2015


While there are relatively few people with bunkers and arsenals, these ideas are much more widespread. It explains a lot about American politics.

You don't want to get bogged down in nation building after all.
posted by srboisvert at 8:54 AM on May 16, 2015


There are always little details that crack me up in these stories: lady really oughtta look into using a menstrual cup instead of storing all those tampons. Also, those bags of seeds when you need Plan B are not going to be so tasty in handfuls, because obviously if the guy hasn't been working his garden for years so the soil is good and ready and he knows what the hell he's doing... then there's not much more point to having them than making sure they're good eatin'.

I have a couple of prepper libertarian friends. My plan if TSHTF is to stay as far away from them as possible, because they're fucking dangerous. Meanwhile, I'm an expert forager and you put me together with a couple hunters plus pooling all the gardens around my neighborhood and we'll be more or less fine.

But as you say, pretty much all this stuff is a fantasy. The difference between me and my prepper friends is that they believe in their fantasy.
posted by RedEmma at 12:10 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The people planning to wean themselves off medication cause they won't be able to get it Aftter The End of The World is some kind of epic missing the forest for the trees.
posted by The Whelk at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I was a child, there were always some days between Christmas and Easter where we were snowed in, and a week or two during summer where the well ran dry, and we had to get water from the nearest village for ourselves and the livestock in the truck, in sterilized milkcans. We children enjoyed it all. But my children joke that I am a bit of a prepper, hoarding pasta, rice, water and canned food enough to feed us all and the neighbours. And I do quite a bit of the canning myself. Confit de canard anyone?
Seriously though, it is more about handling a week where the snow is blocking everything than end times. Here, a consequence of global warming is a lot more rain, so draught is a thing of the past.
End times here are most likely raising sea levels, in an area where government is already now considering abandoning the entire region. If/when that happens, I'll have to get a boat.

I don't really get where the weapons enter? I wish I could see well enough to hunt, but all you need for that is a rifle, not assault weapons. I bet I can trade some of my confit and quince preserve for some venison and some wild goose with my less myopic neighbours. Not to speak of the fishes...
posted by mumimor at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


A major reason why you need many different guns even just for hunting is the problem of calibre. Basically - you want to try to kill most animals with one bullet - it's better for the animal, better for the meat, better for you. So that means in simple terms that you need big bullets for big animals, or one bullet will not be a kill shot. But you also don't want to waste meat, which means you want small bullets for small animals.
posted by corb at 1:33 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't really get where the weapons enter?

If shit really does hit the fan I expect some of the Deranged Preppers With Guns will use their advantage of firepower to reinstitute chattel slavery and prevent themselves from doing any manual labor ever again.
posted by duffell at 3:02 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


How volatile are large stacks of ammunition?

None of the components of modern smokeless ammunition are volatile. (I guess maybe the lubricant used on some types of externally-lubed bullets is technically volatile, but it's a really heavy grease so it'd have to be very hot or very low-pressure to vaporize it.)

If you really mean "are they spontaneously explosive", that answer is also 'no', although it's a sort of qualified 'no'. Smokeless ammunition will burn, and when burning produce a great volume of gas, which can create an explosion if it's contained. But you have to be storing it very stupidly to allow that to happen.

Paint and gasoline are much more dangerous in terms of storage.

N.B. if you are subsistence hunting with firearms, you don't really need to store ammunition per se, what you really need are primers and gunpowder in quantity, brass and lead bullets somewhat less so. Unjacketed lead bullets are typically recoverable from medium-sized game animals (as well as from backstops while sighting-in or training) and can be melted back into new bullets, and the brass is reloadable. What you'd run out of, and cannot easily produce without a whole 19th or 20th century industrial base, is the primers and smokeless powder.

AR-pattern rifles, although perfectly nice centerfire sporting guns, have always struck me as an odd choice if you are really contemplating survival after the end of industrialized society. They are finicky guns and aren't going to appreciate solid-lead bullets cast over a campfire, or shitty gunpowder made in a bathtub from sulfuric acid and cotton, in nearly the same way that an 1894 Winchester clone would. It's another one of those I-don't-think-you've-thought-this-cunning-plan-through issues.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:43 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


ARs are about a million times more tacticool compared to more practical options, especially when optioned out with lasers and lights and other gizmos. (I don't know if there are precise statistics, but just anecdotally my impression is that most deer poaching is done with .22 because it is so quiet.)

The multi-gun fantasies are just like the paracord-as-snare-bracelet, fun but totally divorced from reality.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be totally honest, the reason my house has ARs is because it is functionally the most similar I can get - in terms of gun cleaning, function, shoulder lock, etc - to the military rifle I trained with for ten years. You can achieve the same defensive option with lots of other weapons. It's a personal preference. It's not that they're cool, exactly - it seems kind of boring to me - but it means I can focus my training on other areas. Like beekeeping. TOTES USEFUL I WILL DEFEND THIS TO THE BEE-DEATH.
posted by corb at 5:39 PM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


anecdotally my impression is that most deer poaching is done with .22 because it is so quiet.

Unless they mean .223 that's pretty horrifying, because I can't imagine you'd ever get close to a clean kill with a .22LR. Ugh. Hopefully they meant .223 with a can or something.

Damn, people are assholes.

FTR I have no issue with the AR as a platform; on the contrary I think it's kind of a cool example of an "open architecture" / worse-is-better approach as applied to something other than the usual computer hardware. They have an so-inelegant-it's-gone-round-the-bend elegance that I can only compare to Unix, so I cannot help but have a soft spot before them, even as a Garand man myself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:25 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless they mean .223 that's pretty horrifying, because I can't imagine you'd ever get close to a clean kill with a .22LR. Ugh. Hopefully they meant .223 with a can or something.

Definitely .22, not .223. I am told that a shot to the brain drops them instantly (and youtube is full of videos of people testing .22 penetration on deer skulls for graphic evidence). You have to be reasonably close to the deer, but I think what makes those close shots possible is that poaching is done outside of hunting season when the deer aren't as wary, and even more so in populated areas where there is no hunting pressure. (.22 was the standard for killing livestock on the farm for generations, too; if you are close enough it is indisputably effective.)

Back to the subject at hand, if there was some kind of fantastical apocalyptic scenario, I want to be with someone who knows how to poach game and jury rig things, not someone with paracord bracelets and a bunch of tactical gear. My money is on the rednecks, not the libertarian suburbanites.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:28 PM on May 16, 2015


I don't see any good reason to completely rule out a larger-scale disaster or confluence of disasters that could take down the over-arching society.

Yeah, we'll, unless you're already on a working self-sufficient farm equipped to pre-industrial standards, then in that scenario you're just as screwed as everybody else.

In that sort of excesses, I see a 98-99 percent population die-off, with the survivors largely rapidly degrading to a stone-age hunter-gatherer level. I also don't see any preppers to be contributing to the survival, just the die-off.
posted by happyroach at 2:30 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


My money is on the rednecks, not the libertarian suburbanites.

Oh for sure. If TSHTF I'm stealing a car and hightailing it out of town to an exbf's grandmother's place. She's part of a community, jars and cans and preserves everything under the sun, has a massive and productive garden, and can bag squirrels from her back porch.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:00 AM on May 17, 2015


This thread is full of the smart: Sing Or Swim, that's a great line from Battlestar Galactica, and why I miss the show.

I'm with klarck; a healthy community is the best prep.

And, yeah, Shepherd, precisely. and lots more awesome comments in this thread.

Y2K spooked me; there was some chance of significant disruption to supplies; so I started buying a bit extra, just in case there was a shortage of, say, tampons. Y2K mostly resulted in me having to work new Years Eve because my boss was an asshole, and it was all stuff I could and did use. Maine has the occasional hurricane that causes power loss, I've learned to cook on the gas grill, and eventually got a gas stove. An awful lot of Mainers made it through the Ice Storm of '98 because their neighbors helped them out. I barely lost power, and my house became Jeff & Akbar's Shower Hut and Soup Hut.

There was a weird storm that washed out water mains. I went to the store to get beer because, priorities, and saw a woman wheeling out a cart filled way up with bottled water. So greedy. As I shopped, Hannaford announced that a truck had arrived, and bottled water was free, so, karma. Disruption in water supply shuts everything down. The water was contaminated so you couldn't wash, though if you had pressure, you could flush. It lasted a day or 2.

The Red Cross has excellent info on emergency preparedness, so does the US Govt. I now live out of town, with a clean lake nearby for fresh water and a lovely view. I prep some - I have a wood stove and wood and have provided shelter to neighbors during winter power outages. I have a couple oil lamps and can happily read if the power's out, also, camping, though really, it's all about LEDs these days. If I get sick, I'm on my own, so I have canned soup, ginger ale, etc., for at least a week.

There could be a Shit Hits The Fan scenario. There could be a disease that spreads fast, Canada could decide to annex us (if there's another Bush presidency, please, please take Maine), but, realistically, Global Climate Change. The preppers who are all set with generators so they can still play computer games, who tote home their gear in their Hummers, they won't appreciate the irony of Global Climate Change being the shit that hits the fan, and I figure most MeFites will just be disgusted. There are likely to be plenty more severe weather events where people lose power, water, transportation. You should visit ready.gov and the Red Cross, and prepare for the likely scenario in your area, because every family that doesn't need care frees emergency workers to care for those who do. It's not wise to assume that the local bodega, or, in Maine, Cumby's, will be able to supply everyone. Go one step further and learn some 1st aid.
posted by theora55 at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think everyone should have some level of preparation. There's not a spot in the country that isn't subject to some type of natural disaster, whether it's hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires, blizzards, drought or flooding. It should be practical, though. Are preppers -as a community- realistic in their concerns?
posted by domo at 8:09 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]




Oh hey I finally think I pinned down the creepy aspect of prepperdom in one line

"people more comfortable with the idea of mass murder then sharing."
posted by The Whelk at 7:42 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


That definition is kind of problematic, Whelk, though - first, because it's not accurate - most preppers are actually okay with sharing with their self-defined community - but secondly, because that implies that looters all over the world are correct and really people should just share with the people breaking into their homes and terrorizing them.
posted by corb at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2015


looters all over the world are correct and really people should just share with the people breaking into their homes and terrorizing them.

Do these fictional looters exist anywhere? Because they seem to be as made up as welfare queens and anchor babies, and rooted in similar rhetoric.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:59 AM on May 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Don't ask for precedent or evidence! That way lies reality-based decision making like risk assessments and needs-based planning. It's a lot more exciting to poach deer than it is to sit in a small room talking about water purification system specs and procurement for a weekend.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 AM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, to be clear - are you actually arguing that there is no looting in the wake of war?
posted by corb at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2015


i would loot the tiny vanilla scone display of the sbux downstairs for like 100 reasons less compelling than war.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:32 AM on May 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


If the definition of looting is "post-apocalyptically leaving populated areas to visit suburban and rural homes in order to wrest bins of barley away from the homeowners who are unarmed," then, yes, I am saying that is not a thing that happens in a statistically significant way.

The kind of "looting" that happens after catastrophic events is pretty much never that of a mob pillaging hard-to-access suburban homes, despite prepper fantasies.

Looting (acquiring necessary supplies in a scenario where normal systemic support has been wiped out) and home invasion/robbery are not the same thing. If preppers want to talk about being prepared for home invasions and robbery, then they can do that regardless of apocalyptic scenarios. But the scenarios they envision and describe are based on the ludicrous notion that city-dwellers are one bread delivery away from gleefully pillaging gated communities fifty miles away from any form of public transportation, and that is garbage nonsense.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Crap, I said pillaging twice.

Also, this reminds me of how many dozens of mediocre fantasy, scifi, and even romance novels feature handsome white dudes escorting weaker folk (women, and maybe a bard or something) who find abandoned farmhouses/moonbases/hillside cottages and they all sigh in relief, and jimmy the lock (or retinal scanner) and eat dried apples and preserved hams and build a fire with the firewood, and maybe take some clothes.

Because it's an emergency! Anyone would understand! He's the Hero! Pretty sure those books never featured the actual property owners showing up and wasting everyone as evil looters.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:48 AM on May 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


most preppers are actually okay with sharing with their self-defined community

That's kind of the opposite of the generally-accepted definition of sharing.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:55 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The situations where looting has happened in the US in living memory have basically all been riots and civil unrest. The danger isn't a zombie Apocalypse, it's kids and young adults looking for thrills and/or valuables. Whether it's a bunch of sports fans, like Vancouver or Montreal, desperate people in the aftermath of Katrina or something worse and more charged like Ferguson or Baltimore, that's what looting means now. You could also extend that to "black bloc" groups at G20/G8 demonstrations or even Occupy Wallstreet. Certainly there were provocateurs who spent a day breaking windows in Vancouver during the demonstrations at the 2010 Olympics (against the express wishes of most of the demonstrators).

The wisdom of bringing guns to those sorts of situations, I'll leave to others, but it's not a choice I would make.
posted by bonehead at 10:13 AM on May 22, 2015


To my point explicit: those are the groups the prepper community is prepping against.
posted by bonehead at 10:19 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


But those groups do not go out into the places where preppers live, ever. The idea that they would even WANT to (apocalypse or not) is part of the prepper fantasy that makes no sense. These groups are supremely uninterested in your split-level ranch filled with canned goods.

(The Occupy folks might become interested, if you bought that split-level with a subprime mortgage and are facing foreclosure, because they would be interested in helping you. But that's about it.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2015


Well, exactly, but let's not break the chain of fantasies. The Russians were never seriously going to invade in the 80s either when the "militias" started too, but still: "Wolverines!"

(and to be clear, I'm not talking about Occupy and similar proper, I'm talking about the black bloc-style professional idiots/possibly police provocateurs).
posted by bonehead at 10:32 AM on May 22, 2015


But those groups do not go out into the places where preppers live, ever.

You do realize there's a fairly sizable prepper community in NYC, right?
posted by corb at 12:43 PM on May 22, 2015


To be more serious, there's no monolithic groups, and even rural and suburban communities have Bad Neighbors. For rural, it might be the meth-heads down the road, who currently refrain from taking your stuff because they are afraid of Johnny Law, but if it were disrupted, might take advantage.

For suburban, a more realistic scenario: for years you have been a good neighbor in your community. Sometimes you go hunting and bring home extra meat, which you share with Martha down the block, who sometimes struggles with making her mortgage. Martha and others are so grateful for your help and support and wouldn't dream of hurting you. But Martha has a son Billy that she's struggled with for years. He's addicted to drugs and has dropped out of school, and hangs around with a bad crowd. He got picked up for minor theft early and is wary of the police. With the police gone, Billy's friends are looking to take advantage of the moment. He, in a moment of weakness, tells them about your house.
posted by corb at 12:55 PM on May 22, 2015


"Now in 2015 though, you have a group of people informed by endless breathless coverage of people "rioting and looting" on fox news, assuming that once the internet goes down due to an EMP they will have to play out their libertarian commando fantasies."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:01 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


You do realize there's a fairly sizable prepper community in NYC, right?


Manhattan Preppers is the spinoff TV series we're all waiting for giddily.
posted by Theta States at 6:57 AM on May 26, 2015


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