In Defense of Prepping: When Disaster Doesn’t Strike, by A.S.D.
Hi everyone. I’m relatively new to the prepping scene, as I’ve only been at this for a few years or so. I’d like to attempt to tackle a subject that, somewhat naturally when you consider what this site is all about, doesn’t often seem to be addressed on Survivalblog: what happens if disaster doesn’t ever happen?
You see, thanks to the diligence and enthusiasm of JWR, we have literally thousands of detailed articles and opinions at our disposal regarding a myriad of topics: food storage, guns, ammunition, homesteading, homeschooling, cache-building, spouse-convincing, water-procuring, and even forging your own metal, if you like. These are all excellent resources and I’m grateful to have them.
But I’d like to take a look at the benefits of prepping for those of us that will never suffer through a disaster. Why? Because statistically all of us will be inconvenienced at one time or another, and some will be in the path of a natural disaster, and at those junctures (and I’ve been through both) prepping already pays some dividends. However, by most estimates, an entire country only completely disintegrates every once in a great while, and the world has yet to end as far as I know it. In the interest in being candid about my position, a lot of people make a lot of money by instilling fear (and compulsion to buy and hoard stuff) in people. I should know, I’ve been a marketing professional for almost a decade and fear (of not being pretty enough, smart enough, or even prepared enough) can be twisted to sell almost anything to almost anyone. I hope it goes without saying that I am an ethical marketer, but it doesn’t change the facts about fear-based profiteering.
Here’s a little background on me. The town I was raised in was a sizable one (about 350,000 people) in the Midwest, with terrible urban planning, lots of sprawl, and at times fairly congested traffic. I grew up in a suburban home with parents living paycheck to paycheck. They had a little money saved, but not much. Our family never went camping, nor did anyone, except me, ever pursue any type of outdoor activity or skills. The most prepping my family ever did was to put a few jugs of water into our chest freezer so that it would run more efficiently. So even though we were completely and utterly vulnerable, I still lived just fine through the gas crisis of the 1970s, the recession in the 1980s, several fugitive murders escaping from prison and roaming our neighborhood (they actually robbed and killed an elderly woman that lived across the street from us), Y2K, and the tragedy of 9-11. We never ran out of food, the government never collapsed, and no riots or natural disasters forced us from our homes. It was, in short, a very peaceable and secure upbringing, despite the thousands of Chicken Littles that swore the world was going to end today (or tomorrow at the latest) from innumerable natural and man-made disasters.
So for the purposes of argument, let’s assume this: regardless of all of the dire predictions about fiat currency, wheat rust, global warming, militant extremists, bird flu, pig flu, dog flu, or e.coli, the world pretty well carries on as normally. I know that’s not a popular conjecture on this site, but let’s assume it does. Your storage food goes uneaten, your home arsenal never gets deployed, your gold sits around collecting dust, your favorite moderate libertarians take over and shrink the government and protect America’s assets and build upon her values, and you never have to stoke up the forge to make your own horseshoes (unless you just want to for fun).
What would the point be of prepping? Would the time and money still be worth it?
Although I believe that the world won’t end tomorrow, my answer to the question above is unequivocally, “yes.” What follows are my reasons why. I think these thoughts are very important to the prepping community as a whole, because let’s be honest, there are a lot of people who think we’re plumb crazy. And there are a lot of us that, Lord willing, will probably not experience the end of the world in our lifetimes. What follows are my reasons of why I will prep anyway.
Prepping is fun.
Prepping, for all of the doom and gloom that can surround it, is a blast! Shooting guns, imagining scenarios, discussing “what-ifs” with like-minded people, shopping, winnowing, and selecting the right things to buy, making things yourself that you used to pay for, what’s not to love?
Prepping can be like a “choose your own adventure” novel (remember those?). There are so many scenarios, and you have to pick a path that will enable you to be prepared for all of them while operating within the constraints (time, money, spousal approval, etc.). You get to focus on gear and equipment that helps you to be more self sufficient in the present as well as the future. While the rest of the world gets caught up on Lady Gaga and the latest political scandal, preppers are engrossed with fascinating survival gear while trying to figure out the real politics that matter to the average person. Plus, you’ll never look at a Sam’s Club or Costco the same way again.
I’m not being trite or facetious. I believe that most of the prepping community enjoys what they do and for them it’s as much a sport or hobby as a necessity. I’d love to hear from your readers on this.
Prepping helps put us in touch with the future.
Several years ago, my wife and I spent a month in Africa among the pastoral Maasai people of Kenya. These are people that live completely off of the land, and whose wealth is always measured by the tangible goods on hand (particularly cows) as opposed how many pieces of green paper they happen to have stored up. They make their own clothes, live off of the land and their livestock, and kill marauding lions with nothing more than a spear they have forged themselves and a handful of homemade arrows.
What’s interesting about the Maasai is that although in many ways they are the very embodiment of self-sufficiency, the most isolated tribes would make truly horrific preppers.
This is because some tribes do not even have a word for the “future.” They live completely and utterly in the present. Because they only focus on today, and they look only to the past for their other answers, the Maasai amass nothing but as much livestock as they can sustainably care for in their present environment. They respond to change by changing their location, but are otherwise extremely vulnerable to any real systemic change such as a long-term drought or the tragedy of urban encroachment upon their traditional lands. In other words, if something were to permanently alter the Maasai ecosystem, such as a bovine flu for example, their way of life and likely the Maasai themselves would be completely destroyed.
So where is this going? Prepping is good for everyone in that it causes the prepper to take pause, asses his or her current trajectory, and to plan where he or she is going. Executed properly, prepping causes us to stop living only in the present and to consider where we might be in the future. So many Americans live well beyond their means and under the crushing pressure of crippling debt solely because they “need it now”. They are literally borrowing against their families’ future by only considering their desires in the present.
Preppers are forced to think about the future. To sacrifice present comforts for future security. Even if disaster never strikes, the prepper is better off for preparing because the prepper’s mind is on tomorrow as much as it is today’s. While this can be done to a fault, it’s definitely a mind-shift from today’s “need it now” consumer, and that by any measure is a good thing.
Prepping can make our community circles even tighter.
Prepping is awesome because by definition is pretty useless to approach it as a solitary activity. Forming small groups or participating in virtual communities like SurvivalBlog is a great way to fellowship with one another. In a way, it’s kind of like we all get to build (hopefully only in our minds) our own little nation-states. Prepping communities discuss governance, utilities, security, recreation, and faith, and they do it with an earnestness and alacrity that goes well beyond simple conversations. They are in it not only for each other, but for an American way of life, religious freedom, and community values.
Plus, in our modern urban society, most don’t know their neighbors anymore. I lived in the suburbs for awhile after I got married, and here’s how my day went.
Get up, get ready for work Go into closed garage and start car. Open garage door. Close car door. Drive away.
Getting home was just the reverse. We never got to know our neighbors because they had cars and garages, too, and with air conditioning and central heating there really wasn’t much of a reason to be outside. It was sad, until we discovered that by intentionally reaching out to them by baking cookies or inviting them over for a cookout, we could get to know them. It took work but was absolutely worth it.
Prepping encourages us to engage our neighbors in conversation and to really get to know them. A close community is a secure community that looks out for one another. This is essential for prepping, and also a fine and satisfying way to live. Even if the sky never falls, it’s a heck of a lot better to know and commune with your neighbors than to live life from garage door to garage door commutes.
Prepping fosters self-esteem.
As a former Boy Scout who stuck with the program for a long time and now continually hikes and camps, I’ve seen this happen not only to myself, but to countless others. The first time someone goes camping, starts a fire, or learns how to cut down a tree, a little light goes off in their heads. Male or female, young or old, these basic essential skills prove to everyone that “I can do it!”
Think about this. As America transitions from a manufacturing and production economy (think building and designing stuff) to a primarily service-based one (think outsourcing, lawyers, and web site designers), fewer and fewer people are interacting with the tangible elements of life. Earth, wood, fire, water. Elements essential to the human experience for thousands of years. Now you can go through an average day and experience none of these things, and most of us do.
Prepping brings us closer to the natural elements we were created (or whatever your persuasion is on this subject) to live in. There is just something in our DNA, something in our soul, that cries out for the types of genuine experiences that activities encompassed by prepping can provide. Milking a cow, going camping with friends, burning wood in a stove or on the ground, grinding grain, growing some of your own food, learning a new outdoor skill. That’s where we’ve come from as humans, and doing these things in the spirit of prepping just feels good and reminds us of just how capable a human being (you!) can still be.
Prepping done right is charitable and sustainable.
To quote the “Story of Stuff,” if all of the countries in the world consumed natural resources in the same way the United States does, we would need 4 more Earths to provide the natural resources that world would require. While I don’t think all of the creature comforts we Americans have designed for ourselves are necessarily bad, I do know it’s not a sustainable way to live on this planet.
Buying houses that are too big, cars that guzzle gas, and eating only fancy imported foods from all over the world aren’t really lifestyle choices that are supported by the prepper. It makes no sense to him or her because such excess consumption now means nothing left for later – for surviving the end of the world as we know it, even.
This is a good thing. And as a practical aside, the prepper that stores food and rotates it periodically can give the rotated food to charity. Same thing applies for the other supplies that a prepper may amass. I have a friend that keeps an industrial pallet of canned goods in his garage rotates it every year. When he rotates it, he gives it to charity with still 1 year left on the expiration dates. That’s good prepping, and great community service.
With a focus on sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyles and keeping enough goods on hand to help out the neighbors, prepping is a win for the individual, the environment, and the community, even if disaster never strikes.
Prepping is Christian (but not in the way you think I mean).
One other piece of personal background you should know is that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and he saved my life, both this life and the eternal one. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to be a prepper, but I’d like to make the case that the two are mutually compatible. In a loose paraphrase of the words of C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, if you don’t believe, you can skip this part. If you do believe, read on and be challenged.
There’s a rather poignant reference to the ant in Proverbs, where the reader is admonished to “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.” It goes on to say that the ant, even with no one telling it what to do, works hard during the summer and stores up food for the winter, whereas the “sluggard” plays all summer long and then complains about having nothing to eat in the wintertime.
Prepping is Christian from this standpoint, which is also reinforced by the apostle Paul when he writes, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."” For preppers this is often applied as “don’t sit around and wait for the government to bail you out, get your hands dirty and provide for your family,” with which I couldn’t agree more.
A theologian I am not, but after much personal study and discussion with individuals who are much smarter than me, I think the way that prepping is most Christian is a bit different than simply a robust and inspired application of the Protestant Work Ethic. In contrast (and Jesus was often wont to do when it came to certain Old Testament laws), I think the way that we can be the most prepared for the future is to recognize that we will all die one way or another, and that before we prepare anything physically we had better get our souls in order. Whether a prepper dies in a bus accident this afternoon or after 30 years of fighting for their family after TEOTWAWKI, he or she is just as dead in the end. Jesus Christ said, after all, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At first blush, this may seem like the very antithesis of what preparing is all about. And in a certain way, it is. Our security can’t be found in our goods, physical things, or our communities, which can always be destroyed or taken away. But once this fact is known and truly believed, it frees us to be more generous and future-focused than ever before.
Like the ant, we are responsible to provide for ourselves and to constantly look out for our communities and our homes. Christ’s charge to place our trust in Him doesn’t mean that we sell everything and just sit on our laurels and expect manna to rain from heaven. He tells us to follow (this is an action, by the way) Him, to be like Him, to love like Him. Unlike the ant, our souls do not cease to exist after our bodies do in this world.
The one disaster that will strike all of us with 100% certainty is our own death. Living, and loving, like Christ makes a prepper’s plans completely future-proof, and life worth living even if the other disasters never strike.