It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel….underprepared. Lately it seems like the apocalypse is lurking around every corner—hurricanes, mysterious illnesses, drought, famine, Katy Perry won’t stop releasing new music; it’s a dangerous state of affairs. So if we’re all facing impending doom, should we burn out or fade away? Personally I’ve always been an advocate of going out in a blaze of glory, but there may be another option: when the apocalypse strikes, just sit back in your well-stocked super-reinforced secret bunker and laugh.
Recent natural disasters and terrorist attacks have triggered a rise in a movement called Neo-Survivalism. Survivalists, or preppers, are people who distrust national food supplies and banking systems and decide to take matters into their own hands by stock-piling food and building shelters. It usually also involves some medical and self-defense training.
Neo-survivalists have a culture all their own; vendors sell propane, water tanks, guns and survival skills manuals. They even have their own terminology (phrases like “Bugging out” which means living off the land with a kit and a minimal amount of equipment).
For many, the focus is on preparedness and self-reliance. But like any subculture, there’s a spectrum of extremity. And it can’t be denied that survivalism sometimes goes hand-in-hand with xenophobia and fear-mongering; from writer Kurt Saxon’s theories of social Darwinism and eugenics to Glenn Beck telling his listeners: “It’s never too late to prepare for the end of the world.”
Survivalists are often dismissed as victims of paranoia or prophets of doom, but the premise itself isn’t so far-fetched. The great pacific rim of fire is long overdue for an earthquake, the sun released a huge solar flare just yesterday, and no one is immune to natural disasters.
There’s nothing wrong with being practical, and I’m all for the emphasis on living sustainably and responsibly and focusing on renewable resources. FEMA recommends keeping food, water, clothing and other essentials at the ready. But it’s a slippery slope. Focus on fear long enough and it tends to manifest. But whether you think Neo-Survivalism is sensible or fear-driven, the movement is here to stay (at least until we’re all incinerated).