Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nouveaux Preppers

Yesterday's guest post covered some of the material I intended to write about today, but I'm flexible and can take a slightly different view of the subject.

Preppers used to be called “survivalists”, but that term got so much derision and bad press that it became a pejorative. The news media did (and still does) everything they could to portray survivalists as either right-wing military wanna-be's who spent their weekends practicing how to become armed looters after a civil war and their weekdays wearing tinfoil hats in their parents' basement, or some form of new-age Gaia worshiping loser who lived in a hand-made hut without running water or electricity.

Ridicule and disbelief were the normal reaction to anyone who didn't trust everything the media and government had to say leading up to Y2K. Neither the Chicken Littles nor the Pollyannas were 100% correct on that one -- there was a huge amount of work done to prevent and correct issues with computers and that kept the worst from happening.

But a few years ago, maybe ten at most, there was a shift in perception and the term “prepper” started being used to describe those of us who want to be prepared for some of the things that the universe can throw at us. While we're still thought of by many people as a bit off-center, the amount of ridicule and derision has been minimal.

Today, we have preppers from almost all levels of society, working on their own self-sufficiency, all over the country. The latest “tier” of new preppers is the wealthy -- software millionaires and hedge fund managers, successful investors and real estate speculators -- those with the spare money to buy pretty much whatever they want. I've seen or heard at least three news stories about the “super rich” starting to get into prepping in the last two weeks. While I don't think any of the folks at this level are reading our humble little blog, we can watch what they are doing and maybe learn a bit from those with enough money to afford to make mistakes. If you have enough back-up plans, one of them will likely handle a problem when it pops up.

  • OPSEC is not given much thought. This is not surprising, given that we're dealing with a class of people who usually enjoy being in the lime-light. Letting the whole world know where your bunker is, what you have in it, the complete floor plan, and how many people live there is stupid. I mean “frying bacon while nude” stupid.
  • Personal security is often delegated to hired guards. This is a problem for anyone who has any grasp of history, as Praetorian guards tend to figure out that those with the weapons get to make the rules; only those who control the food have more actual control over a group.
  • Self defense is an afterthought for many of these people -- they don't live in a world where bad things happen to good people. Guns are icky, but they buy some because all of the (unnamed) “experts” say they will need them.
  • Walls make good prisons and poor defenses. Since the invention of gunpowder, walls and moats have ceased to be viable forms of defense; going underground provides concealment and cover, but limits your routes of escape. If you doubt these statements, please do some research on sieges and specifically on Iwo Jima, where US Marines burned and blasted 11 miles of underground tunnels and bunkers for 5 weeks, killing over 20,000 Japanese defenders who had a year to build up their fortifications. The entire island is a military graveyard today because so many defenders were entombed in their defensive positions.

  • Most of the articles that cover these mega-preps cite large amounts of stored food and seeds for growing more, with not much mention of who will be doing the cooking and gardening.
  • Any time I hear a claim of sustainability that covers hundreds of years, my BS alarm starts to go off. Books last hundreds of years, as do some buildings and furniture, but I seriously doubt that anything which uses electricity will outlast its original owner if used daily. A simple light bulb that lasts more than a few years is rare; the current record is a 4 Watt, hand-blown, carbon filament bulb that has been running since 1901. Anything with moving parts will wear out and require maintenance, which is never mentioned in these articles. Skills will always trump stuff in the long run.
  • Guns and ammunition are often mentioned, but they get little coverage in any media that has historically been anti-gun. Training with these tools of defense and food harvesting is almost never mentioned.
  • Generators and solar panels are often mentioned as sources of electricity, but usually as a side-note. I'm not sure if it is due to the reporters' lack of interest (and/or knowledge) or if it is an attempt at OPSEC.

Social Aspects
  • The underground complex being built in Texas and the converted ICBM silo in Kansas are both being sold as condominiums. Condos are basically apartments that you buy instead of rent, with the “building association” taking care of maintenance and upkeep, and they depend on a tiered social structure that may not survive a disaster. If the workers stay home -- which is most definitely somewhere other than the condo -- or don't survive the calamity, who is gong to fix the plumbing and cook the meals?
  • Even the ones who are buying small islands in the Pacific Northwest have thought about maintaining contact with others. The few who talked about their plans admitted that no one person would last very long alone. There is too much involved in surviving a long-term crisis for a loner to be able to do everything himself; trade with others is going to be necessary.
  • New Zealand seems to be a popular destination for the well-to-do prepper. Most of the stories about it link back to this New Yorker post, with minor edits thrown in. For someone who can afford to keep an intercontinental airplane fueled and ready as an escape route, I guess New Zealand would be a great place to go...  if you had enough warning to get to your plane. These people are prepping for a slow failure of American society, so they expect to have plenty of warning before they need to leave town.

All told, I see a bunch of people with more money than sense. That's not unusual, nor is it unique to our time. I wish them all the luck in the world and pray that they never have to use the preps they have in place, just as I do for those of us living on tighter budgets.

Now we can all go back to planning what we are going to do when we win the Powerball or similar lottery.

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