Let me be totally honest here: I am a prepper site troll. This is embarrassing for several reasons.
First, it’s a little shameful that I’m into prepping in the first place. For the uninitiated, “prepping” refers to a compulsion to stockpile supplies and create plans of action for various forms of apocalypse. A prepper, for example, will have a bug-out-bag designed to be grabbed just as the bombs drop, the grid fails, and chaos erupts. Do you have a zombie horde avoidance strategy? The prepper does. He will escape to a secluded place and survive for at least three days with the supplies in his pack. Those supplies are theoretically the only standing between him and a miserable demise, so what a prepper preps is the subject of constant scrutiny.
It’s also weird that I’m both studying this phenomenon, poking fun at it, and quietly indulging in it. I think about my bug-out-bag. I haven’t started putting it together yet, but I think about it. I listen to the survivalist rhetoric and find myself having thoughts like, “man I’d sure hate to be caught in the lawless aftermath of a major earthquake without the proper means to defend the interests of my family.” Wait, what? What am I defending them against? Hunger, thirst, the predations of the unprepared masses… yeah. It makes sense that I’d be concerned about those things. Doesn’t it?
There is more to it than that.
The more prepper blogs I read, the more I realize that the guys who get deeply interested in this stuff are not just gearing up to survive disaster. They are fantasizing about it, lusting for it, eager to experience doom and destruction. Google “prepper” and spend an hour down that rabbit hole, and you’ll begin to understand what I mean. The tone of some of the prepper-related discourse is positively ardent as they describe their state of readiness. How can one fetishize gear to such an extent and not nurse a profound longing to deploy it? Can it ever be truly enough only to be prepared?
What motivates this fantasy is partly a sort of gloating revenge in advance. Revenge on all the snobby elites who will die of thirst while the prepper safely slurps contaminated water through his portable micro-filtration straw. Revenge on all the lazy people that sit around all day milking the bloated government for their sustenance. Do they think the government will keep them alive during the nuclear winter? Revenge on the boss at work, the higher paid colleague, the idiot who cut you off on the freeway today. Those people won’t be ready for what’s coming, but the prepper will. The prepper will survive, and live on in a world populated by other right-minded individuals who thought ahead and loaded up their bug-out-bag.
This is the same kernel of nastiness that runs through my own psyche. When I’m having a brutally rough day at work, I find myself checking out bug-out-bags on my phone. In moments when I’m overwhelmed, I think about my family and I alone in a brave new world. That’s the thing I think most preppers don’t want to talk about, but it’s at the heart of their motivation — that brave new world doesn’t have a lot of people in it. The troublesome ones, which is likely a broad category for a devout prepper, will have perished.
In all likelihood, the apocalypse is not going to unfold – and if it does, the bug-out-bag may buy you three days but it probably won’t save your life. We are just another generation passing through, and a bug-out-bag is just another way of getting comfortable with the arbitrary nature of the universe. That doesn’t stop me from wanting one, and it doesn’t prevent my feeling a little bit afraid of the guys out there who already have them.