Reader Request Week 2012 #5: Them Crazies What Live in the Woods
Joe Beernink asks:
What do you think of the prepper/survivalist/sovereign citizen movements in the US? Complete nutbags? Grains of reason, seasoned with nutty goodness? Or are they three steps behind you already? Do you have plans for various types of disasters? Which types do you now worry about? Have you ever found yourself beginning to stock up on canned goods after reading a book? If so, which book?
I think there’s enough of a range of people on the prepper/survivalist/sovereign citizen spectrum that I don’t think it’s accurate to lump ’em together. For example, I suspect a reasonable number of “sovereign citizens” aren’t prepping for an apocalypse scenario in any meaningful way other than having lots of weapons; they just don’t want to have to pay taxes or follow laws they find inconvenient. Conversely, you can prep for disasters without being bug-chompingly crazy. If I recall correctly members of the LDS Church are encouraged to keep a store of food and supplies designed to last for months in the event of a genuinely significant emergency, and most LDS Church members I know are fine, upstanding members of their community who are not waiting or hoping for something horrible to happen so they can break out the dried beans.
In a general sense, I think the Sovereign Citizen-types are more problematic than the generic survivalist types, since I think people who believe they are not answerable to the law of the land are probably rather likely to end up coming to grief, or unnecessarily cause grief to others. It just seems like a dumb way to live one’s life, thinking the rules don’t apply to you, so nyah. I have no doubt they have a more complicated formulation to it than that, mind you, but from this end of things it seems that’s what it boils down to.
As for the folks prepping for the end of days, well, if it keeps you busy and you’re not bothering other people with it, why not? I have no objection to people practicing their weapons, skinning and stewing rodents and filling their cellars and bolt holes with root vegetables and potable water. It’s not my favorite way to spend a Saturday, I have to admit, but then they don’t need my approval.
Do I think such extensive survival preparation is necessary? Generally, no. I do think it’s prudent for people to have a week or two of food, water and supplies on hand for general emergencies, which will knock out your power and otherwise make your life unhappy and difficult in the short term. In my neck of the woods, the types of emergencies I worry about are tornadoes and snowstorms, and both of these, typically speaking, are not long-term concerns. As for the collapse of civilization as we know it, I imagine it will take longer than most people suspect, and we’ll be able to see it a while off, which will give me some time to prep. And while I’m sure some folks would disagree with me, in my assessment we’re not actually close to the collapse of every damn thing. In which case, two weeks of supplies should be just fine.
And no, there’s never been a book that’s made me want to start stocking 55-gallon drums of beans and rice. I don’t think fiction writers have any clearer insight into the future than anyone else. With non-fiction writers, if their niche is scaring the crap out of people, well, that’s nice for them, but it’ll take more than a single source of data to get me into survivalist mode. I think that’s probably a good way to be overall.