by Laura Vlasa
Let me be clear, as Obama likes to say, that there’s a slight difference between Preppers and Survivalists. While both groups are certain that we are going to face apocalypse in a near future, Survivalists have a more Bear Grylls approach on how to escape the imminent doomsday. They base their training on urban and nature survival, being ready to get going in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a bag-pack and an impressive set of skills, should a disaster of proportions occur. Preppers, on the other hand, have fixed shelters (or multiple shelters, by that matter), huge stocks of food, means to defend their provisions and a very detailed and well-established plan on how to “bug out” or “bug in”.
Preppers do not all expect the same ending. Most Americans, as shown in the National Geographic’s show Doomsday Preppers, fear natural disasters, oil crisis, pandemics, EMPs (Electromagnetic Pulse, damaging to electronic equipment, and at higher energy levels a powerful EMP event can damage physical objects such as buildings and aircraft structures), nuclear wars, and acts of terrorism. Somehow, all these events will undoubtedly lead to civil unrest; looters, marauders and criminals will creep in every corner of the country. Some families are holding to themselves, some are tagging along neighbours. The sense of community exists, on a higher scale, through websites, forums, handbooks, blogs and even conferences. At a micro level, however, it’s mostly every man for himself. In Europe, preppers have a deeper sense of “loving thy neighbour”. The biggest communities are in UK, Poland and Bulgaria, where they cling to the belief that they can survive better as a whole, massive and organized structure, rather than on their own.
“It’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Prepping is more in the back of my mind than is sex”, some say, and three sentences later, they add that they are not obsessed with prepping. For an outsider, their behaviour might strike as obsessive, absurd, borderline maniac and based on unfounded, paranoid assumptions. Some scenarios are possible, but highly unlikely. Still, for preppers, it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when disaster will strike. “S**t hits the fan” is an expression that I’ve heard in each and every episode of Nat Geo’s Doomsday Preppers that I’ve watched for the purpose of this article. They know it, their 8 years old children know it, and it’s used as either a generic name for their different kinds of endings or as a signal to action.
Most preppers conduct daily training and drills from the youngest to the oldest to make sure that everyone survives the end of the world as we know it. For some, the world’s end is just USA’s end, practically speaking, but that does not affect their commitment to living.
I stepped into the subject with skepticism and caution, as any other human being that wasn’t raised or acquainted to maniacally fear the End of Days would do. The sentiment of “these people are a bit crazy” hasn’t brushed away completely yet, but from what I’ve learned, it can never be a bad thing to prepare ahead for worse times. I cannot help but wonder what unites preppers into thinking the way they do, even if some of them don’t even have Internet access, let alone the statistics to prove their version of Apocalypse is near. And wouldn’t it be ironical and a bit sad for one to prepare for shattering natural disasters and die in a car accident on their front lawn, having lived half of his life stacking up food supplies in his cellar?
Images from: dailymail.co.uk, nationalgeographic.com, reportagebygettyimages.tumblr.com