What is a “prepper?”
Well, that depends on who you ask.
Ask someone who supports prepping, and they may say that it is someone who is not only prepared for the worst, but is concerned with the continuation of humanity to a degree of devotion that many non-preppers may not understand, but will be thankful for one day, if they survive long enough to care. Ask someone who rolls their eyes at prepping, and they may say that it is a crazy person planning desperately for something they cannot predict, much less plan for.
Ultimately, there is probably truth in both views.
Doomsday prepping has spawned not only a plethora of individuals squirreling away food to carry them through months, even years, of living “off the grid”—as highlighted in the National Geographic Channel show Doomsday Preppers—but also a growing number of businesses capitalizing on people’s fears of the future—as highlighted in Discovery Channel’s Doomsday Bunkers. On NATGEO, people demonstrate the techniques they’ve developed, tools they’ve acquired, plans they have made, etc. that they hope will see them through various “doomsday” scenarios, whether their feared disaster be nuclear devastation, government takeover, global pandemic, or something more general—just an unforeseeable disaster. The preppers' efforts are then evaluated by an unseen panel of “experts” in the prepping world, and suggestions are made for improvement—most appreciate the advice, no doubt because it gives them a justification for doing even more detailed prepping. Over on Discovery, pre-fab doomsday bunkers are created and demonstrated, encouraging, of course, people to protect themselves and their families with one of these supposed life-saving creations—although who one goes to for a refund if the bunker you purchase doesn’t do its job when that day of disaster arrives, no one discusses.
That, it seems, is the interesting thing about “prepping”: People preparing for something unknown with results that cannot be genuinely guaranteed because, again, the situations themselves are unknowns. People are gathering resources and building bunkers “off the grid” to save themselves should these phantom disasters strike, but what guarantee is there that these extreme steps they are taking, well, work? Businesses are no doubt making money off of people trusting that their “doomsday expertise” is solid, but what real proof is there that anything they say or sell is valid? And, if it isn’t, well, what then? If there is a crushing disaster and one’s pre-fab bunker fails, who are the inhabitants going to complain to? Will they even be around to complain in that case? And, if they are, will anyone care?
Last night on Doomsday Preppers, the grandkids of one extreme prepper said that they plan to carry on with their grandfather’s “dream” if he isn’t around to do it himself. His “dream?” That, it seems, is the irony of many extreme preppers’ motives: They are prepping for a disaster that they dream of happening within their lifetimes. But, if one spends his lifetime dreaming of a day when they can look around and feel triumphant because, after all, everything, including the people who laughed at them, is destroyed, while they are snug inside their underground bunkers with three years of bottled water and canned food (not to mention the 100,000 seeds they will later grow in radiation-contaminated soil), what kind of life has one lived? Where is the living?
There is nothing wrong with being prepared, of course. Having emergency shelter, tools, a reasonable amount of water and non-perishables in stock—three to six months of food, for example, in case of a natural disaster—or learning to defend one’s self. In fact, it’s a smart idea to be prepared. But, spending one’s days preparing for the total destruction of life as we know it? Living one’s life fearing—but secretly craving—the day when one can put their doomsday plan into action? Spending one’s life savings on doomsday prep while living day-to-day virtually impoverished? What kind of life is that?
At the end of the day, and with a long list of questions at hand, the main question that non-preppers may have for prepper extremists is a simple one: Why?
Image: Wikimedia Commons