It’s hard to appreciate the surrealness of the situation we find ourselves in. As the world enters various stages of lockdown, we are all afraid of what’s going to happen with this disease and the economic fallout of it. There are a lot of unknowns and anxiety right now, and many just want a return to normalcy. There is one group who, while not feeling good, feel a bit of self-righteousness in these times: preppers.
Doomsday prepping is a small niche that is often dismissed in popular culture. When you think of a prepper, you may think of nuts who build underground bunkers or secret hideaways for the apocalypse. But prepping can be and often is as simple as building up a store of food, making a plan for various natural disasters, learning survival skills or even making cookbooks. For many, it has been a hobby as much as it is a responsibility.
To be clear, I am not talking about the people currently buying up all the toilet paper or canned goods. Those people are hoarders. Nor am I talking about the people trying to resell hand sanitizers or other items in a time like this. Those people are parasites and they are rightfully getting targeted by our administration now. Neither of these groups deserve any sympathy.
Instead, I am referring to the people who bought up supplies when we were in a state of calm. Preppers are generally considered a bit weird for their prepping, but they are more harmless to the crisis than hoarders. Their only crime is cynicism.
Looking at the preppers SubReddit, I saw people concerned about “Sh*t Hit The Fan” moments: things like nuclear war, natural disaster or world-ending pandemic. Some there believe we are in the third right now. Others see the economic downturn we are in store for as the SHTF moment. And although nobody wants to be in this situation, these people are prepared.
On there, I have seen people talking about the power going out and grocery stores closing. In preparation, some are starting gardens or getting their pantries in order; others are loading up their guns. This is the other side of the cynicism in prepping. To a prepper, the worst possibility is that all your hard work just makes you a target in the post-SHTF times. They of course prepare for that.
With all of this in mind, were preppers right? Will they be able to weather the storm better than everyone else? Well, it’s clear they’ll be better off in this situation. They can isolate more, and they will be better prepared. As for if their fear is well-founded or not, it’s hard to know right now. Things will be getting worse and worse for a while. While society will eventually recover, it’s hard to tell how long that will take. And some people may get desperate.
While I think this mindset is justifiable, it’s very upsetting to see. It assumes a certain level of distrust in society, the belief that the government or your community may not be reliable. It sees others outside of your circle as potential adversaries, and the environment as volatile. It’s not really a sustainable outlook, and it’s definitely limiting in the long-term. For now, though, they have been rewarded for it in peace of mind. They don’t have to deal with the empty shelves.
I’m sure these are feelings that many who are not preppers are feeling right now, as well. I have no doubt that this experience will spawn a new generation of doomsday preppers, just as the Cold War did. But we must remember to look after one another, to work with our communities in these times of hardship. The social distancing we are committed to breeds a certain level of isolation, but we should not let ourselves lose sight of these bonds and systems.
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Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.