I’m married to a devoted television remote surfer dude, which is to explain how we wound up watching National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers the other night. The show is kind of mesmerizing in a sick sort of way……kind of like rubbernecking a bad car accident.
Each show is structured to highlight three different preparations for disaster scenarios. Most are couples/families, but one guy has people in his neighborhood involved. Then, “experts” (two guys) rate each person(s) preps on a scale of five factors: Food, water, security, shelter and an X Factor (an intangible or skill). Each factor is worth 20 points. At the end of their segment, the prepper is given the experts assessment of their preps and how long they’ll survive. And then there is an assessment of how likely the scenario they are prepping for might be.
What remote possibilities are these people prepping for? Economic collapse got the most dismissive assessment. “Most economists” agree that this is “unlikely.” Hmmm. Most of their economists must have had their memories wiped clean after the 2008 near meltdown.
One guy has people in his neighborhood drilling for civil unrest and the resulting marauding hordes likely to show up on their doorsteps. Weaponry and hoarding are highlights.
One guy is worried about nuclear war. Another is convinced that the New Madrid fault is due for another big earthquake.
The latter is fascinating. This is a young couple with young children, living near Chicago. They are working several jobs to make money for their preps, and man, do they have them! Solar panels and a rooftop windmill for starters, then an underground bunker in their backyard, weapons lying around the house, and so on. They estimate they’ve spent upwards of $100k on their preps.
They seemed sane. The guy talked about how Katrina was a wakeup call for him; that he knew in a disaster that we are on our own.
The New Madrid fault could, in fact, be due for another big one. The last, in 1812, was around an 8.0 magnitude and the shocks went on for days and could be felt in Washington D.C. The fault runs sort of along the Mississippi River and could take out Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville and Memphis for starters.
So there is factual basis for his concern. It’s just that it’s like his brain fell into a groove and can’t get out. I mean, he’s clearly really anxious about the quake possibility. It has apparently not occurred to him that, instead of spending all of this time and money trying to prepare, he could simply move off of the fault.
But what made me saddest about this guy is that he has not accounted for the nuclear plants along that fault line that go Fukushima in a big quake, thereby rendering all of his preps useless.
Maybe it’s the way the show is put together, but all of the people presenting their preps seem fixated on their one scenario and cannot step back and see the whole.
These people deserve respect for at least thinking about the future. Not many people really give the future any thought at all, just assuming that today is what tomorrow will be.
But, the point of life, to preppers, is to survive, to win, very possibly at other’s expense. If they think about what it will be like to have to step around dead bodies, to ignore cries for help, it goes unmentioned. The over-riding theme of the show is ME: How do me and mine survive disaster? Not one person said anything about trying to provide for anyone other than their spouse and children. They have weapons (oh my god, the weapons!) and are prepared to kill others to protect their own. And proud of it.
The couple that seemed saddest to me were the motorcycle riding former EMTs. They’ve got the prettiest little farm and animals, are fit and in love. Instead of reveling in this, they are buying iron traps and conducting sniper drills. Demonstrating how the trap would snap and break limbs, they were gleeful. Let’s all hope some unsuspecting child or animal doesn’t wander into that.
There are a couple of ironies here. The whole point of prepping is doomed once you go on national television and reveal your preps to the world. And, note to Brian, the roving RV broadcaster: if you really don’t want “them” to find you, you might consider taking your name off the sides of your RV. It’s kind of a giveaway.
Lastly, what no one mentions (not even the experts) is that, once the grid goes down, we’ve got a week or two before the nuclear plants start melting down. Then, it’s game over.
I think what the show is really selling is the illusion of control. The people interviewed were almost all men, and here in industrial civilization what white men want most is to control their environment, to control the situations they find themselves in, to compete….life, after all, is a zero sum game, correct?
Then again, maybe all of these people are just bored shitless and the thrill of playing commando makes them feel alive.