Don’t Fall for the Prepper Fantasy

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There are so many thoughts and beliefs around what our own personal TEOTWAWKI reality will look like. Every prepper I talk to about any subject has their own take on what will happen, when it will happen, how bad it will get and in what order the chaos will or won’t descend into their world. I think that is natural and shows how we each have our own thoughts and creativity. Often these different perspectives are helpful to me by making me consider other points of view that maybe I had overlooked.

Each prepper has to take the facts as we see them and apply our own set of experiences, bias and guiding principles to any potential outcomes we foresee. Nobody can tell the future, so the best we have is history, combined with some individual common sense that hopefully leans on lessons from real history to tell us what to prepare for and guide us toward what we might expect. What each of us is actually faced with may be exactly what we anticipated, or it could be completely different. The trick is to not let a surprise do you in.

I think a lot of people have a best case scenario view in their minds of how the world is going to end and how they will fare through the upheaval. I call this the Prepper Fantasy. I don’t mean fantasy in the sense that preppers wish for events like this, but if something bad is going to happen, this is what they view as maybe the more ideal scenario. It goes a little something like this.

  1. There is a global EMP or Financial Collapse or Pandemic that kills 90% of the world’s population in about 1 year.
  2. The Prepper will have plenty of supplies and survival seeds to keep them alive. The garden will be started right after the catastrophe and they will hunt and fish for food all day long because they no longer have a 9-5 job to go to. They also have guns and plenty of ammo to keep the bad guys out of the house.
  3. After the huge die off, the prepper will begin the task of rebuilding society with some incredibly talented friends (doctors, ex Special Forces, nuclear engineers, etc.) They will be able to barter for just about anything they need either with supplies they have or goods they are able to produce. The lack of money or banks won’t impact them.
  4. This New World will be populated only with people who were smart, good-looking and tough enough to have survived through the bad times and we will be so much better off. Oh, and all of the women will wear leather bras and very tight pants. And they will have Ninja skills too.

Sounds like the outline of a movie plot doesn’t it? One of the many problems I see with this view is the timeline itself. While a global pandemic could make the rounds of the planet in under a year (see Spanish Influenza) there would need to be a lot of other things that fall nicely into place for this Prepper Fantasy to work out.

Contrary to Hollywood, I don't think this is what the average woman who has lived through near starvation would look like.

Contrary to what Hollywood would have you think; I don’t believe this is what the average woman who has lived through near starvation would look like. I like a toned stomach as much as the next person, but C’Mon! Will all the clothes vanish immediately too?

For one, you would have to be incredibly lucky and everyone else who came up against you – to include hunger, disease and accidents, would have to be equally unlucky. In addition, you would also need to completely discount any form of government in the world. You would also need to overpower any and every opposition force (including governments) or be able to hide indefinitely all the while surviving.

What if they held a riot and nobody showed up?

I have often wondered about the fall of society and in our present day and age how a government could keep 318 million people in check during a collapse. We expect that when things get bad it will play out just like it always has around the world and even here on smaller scales with places like Ferguson and Baltimore most recently. There will be riots and the police will show up to keep the order. Arrests will be made and eventually, if things get bad enough our politicians would step in and urge some redress of our grievances. That is how government works, right? People complain so we create new laws.

The police will keep things from getting too violent and the firemen will put out the burning buildings and overturned police cars and the clean-up can begin at some point. There will be speeches and rallies and this will all be broadcast on the news.

But what if it isn’t?

What if there is some event that causes people to riot and the police don’t appear? What if the fire trucks don’t roll down the street to put out the shops that have been set ablaze? What if all of the buildings and shops are looted, people are killed, the mob simply takes over and nobody stops them? What if government doesn’t step in at all for some reason and we burn our own country down? What if we kill off 80% of the population fighting amongst ourselves and the government sits back and gives us “room to destroy” – to let it all happen without stepping in? What if nobody took your guns, because they wanted you to use them to kill your neighbors so they didn’t have to?

Well, we could all march on Washington and demand to be heard! We could storm the capital and crash the gates at the white house. What if nobody was occupying those buildings anymore?

How do you control 320 million people?

I think there are only a few realistic ways you can control that many people. (warning, gross over simplification ahead) The first and easiest is fear. Fear will make perfectly sane people do irrational things. You will give up your freedoms, your privacy, your rights, your property and dignity for a little safety. It has happened over and over again throughout the years and I would argue it has been going on here since 9/11. You can control people with fear. If they are afraid of something or someone and you offer them protection, they will do just about anything you say.

The other way to control people is through force. This would be harder to do in my opinion without a full scale war because it relies on the people being controlled to go along quietly. That gets back to fear. You would use the fear of death in a war to get people to give up their freedom to you.

The easiest way to control people is to amuse them. Keep them distracted and focused on other things besides how they are being treated, or how crappy their life is. For this to work you need a highly evolved media and entertainment industry which we have in spades; a reduction in the awareness of civics and common sense of the masses which, unfortunately, we also have plenty of.

I for one don’t believe that the people in power are going to give anything up willingly but they will still need to control the population. Right now, control isn’t an issue because for all intents and purposes, everything is fine. Sure we have record unemployment but there are still people working. You have your smart phones even if they are paid for by the government. You have cable TV and you can go to WalMart and buy your groceries on the modern-day equivalent of food stamps as you watch reality TV all night long on-demand and post updates to your Facebook page.

But what happens when that all goes away?

Preppers assume that at some point it will. The electricity will go off, people will riot and get angry and we will march on Washington to demand a change. Once our government sees we have had enough they will completely see the error of their ways. Then they will step down willingly and let better people – people who think like we do, assume control.

Do you really see that happening?

Who needs us anyway?

Our country doesn’t manufacture anything anymore. We the people aren’t needed to keep the wheels of commerce moving in a large sense. We aren’t vital to the war effort. We just exist to buy things and pay taxes to bail out the banks (who no longer need our money but will take it anyway) and conduct wars on foreign lands (that the people don’t agree with). I don’t think we are viewed as necessary in the eyes of some.

Modern day Eugenics proponents say that our population needs to be wiped out for the greater good. John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wrote in the book, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment ,”To provide a high quality of life for all, there must be fewer people.” If fewer people is actually the goal of some of the “experts” in society, wouldn’t it behoove them to take steps to ensure that goal is achieved? Some could say that plan is already well on its way and I agree, but getting back to the prepper fantasy; do you think Government is going to simply disappear overnight because you don’t like what they are doing? Do you think nobody is going to maintain power and control at the highest levels? That simply doesn’t happen in history.

I am personally not expecting a big SHTF event to happen where in only days; I will pull out the stops, armor up and begin watching the streets for tricked out buses full of mutant zombies to come rolling into town looking for the last can of gas. Even if there is a global financial collapse, people will still be going to work, maybe not me or you. Mortgages will still be due even if people can’t pay them, grocery stores will still get food, even if there are riots and shortages. It may not completely come crashing down for everyone at the same time.

So, do your prepper plans anticipate a different kind of collapse that isn’t in line with the generic prepper fantasy? Can you live through a slow decline into oblivion? One that doesn’t happen overnight, but over a decade? When our country turns into a third world hell hole in slow motion, will you still be prepared for that?

Preppers should have a plan. The easiest scenarios to plan for, in my mind anyway, are catastrophes well down the road – like Mad Max where you know it’s time to bug out because the evidence is unmistakable. We assume the crisis will happen overnight, but I don’t think it will be like Hollywood. It will take a long time to build all of those souped up hot rods… and the costumes you will have to create. That will take some time too.

I don’t think we will wake up one day to zombies and I don’t think governments will crumble over the span of a few weeks no matter what happens with the financial markets. There may not be a huge showdown or revolution in the streets. We may all just fade away very slowly.

Are you prepared for that?

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  • Thomas Paine in the butt

    Time for a remake of the Aldo Nova song…

    Wow my head hurts from that one

    • Still remember jamming out to that song at an 8th grade dance… Good times and bad hair.

  • proneshooter nz

    Thought-provoking article Pat. I think we can see EXACTLY what you are talking about right now in Greece… if ever a country teetered on the brink it is Greece. Banks closed, billions owed…watch this space to see the fulfillment of what Pat is talking about I reckon

    • Thanks proneshooter nz. I am watching Greece very closely, but it seems like we will have a few more that fall after this. Puerto Rico could jump up and surprise everyone but Ireland might be the next one.

  • LWJ

    Well at the least the beer will stay cold!!

  • Hillbilly

    Love the article and agree to a point. I have the biblical view that like birth pangs events will start slow spread out and low in impact but will speed up get closer and really start to hurt. Than bam there it is in your face life or death time for fight or flight. Thank you for the thought provoking read.

    • Thank you very much Hillbilly for reading.

  • ScottyK

    “Our country doesn’t manufacture anything anymore. We the people aren’t
    needed to keep the wheels of commerce moving in a large sense. We aren’t
    vital to the war effort. We just exist to buy things and pay taxes to
    bail out the banks (who no longer need our money but will take it
    anyway) and conduct wars on foreign lands (that the people don’t agree
    with). I don’t think we are viewed as necessary in the eyes of some.”, Wow, very good insight! This government just wants to keep us distracted with bread and circuses, and hope we are not paying attention. This weeks distraction must be the confederate flag and homosexual marriage. UGH

    • I completely agree Scotty. I think both of those are completely engineered distractions along with Bruce Jenner and every other non-issue that is turned into a cause.

  • RAPTOR555

    What I suspect is most likely to happen is the progressives creating chaos in the US and then stepping in to quell it under martial law. This would happen before the 2016 elections and the commie in the White House remaing in office. The most logical time for this to happen is September 2015 with the assistance of the UN foreign troops requested by Obama. The first thing would be the confiscation of firearms (UN Arms Treaty) and then personal food stores and they know who has those. I recommend that all preppers hide these items VERY well or lose those. Just my opinion so take it for what it’s worth.

    • Jon

      Yep UN troops, that is what I fear. They have done such a good job elsewhere they have been deployed throughout the world. You forget that the majority of funding for UN peacekeeping missions comes from the U.S. You would need a UN force in the tens of millions to police the U.S., not going to happen. Just add this one to the list of prepper fantasies.

      • EgbertThrockmorton1

        I disagree Jon. I doubt that the UN “troops” can do anything remotely efficiently nor can they “enforce” anything but their own inherent corruption, as we have seen everywhere they have been deployed.
        They have allowed wholesale slaughter of innocents in every single theater of operations they have been located in.
        I can’t imagine a single rational US citizen believing OR accepting UN Rule without massive intolerance and outright chaos. I for one will not agree to UN Rule of any kind, this is OUR country, not the UN’s “rule”. I doubt that any armed entity has the actual logistical ability to enforce arms collections from legal citizens, nor can they enforce food stuff seizures without massive civil war. The Federal Government employees have never been efficient, effective, nor profitable, WHY, would anyone believe or “think” they could start now?

  • Bolofia

    Fortunately, cataclysmic events are relatively few and far between. Were it not so, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here reading and responding to your excellent post. If you are a Christian in Syria, your SHTF event started about four years ago. If you were a surviving Jew in Europe in 1945, it began at least a decade earlier. For those of us in the US, the inception date of our SHTF will be recorded as 2008.

    • Thank you very much Bolo! I think we were certainly made more aware in 2008, but I have to believe it did start before that. It certainly has escalated it’s velocity since 2008 though.

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    The foreign troops deployed with the UN on US soil would create FAR too much havoc internally for the current Administration to deal with. I do not see any LEGAL method or Constitutional “support” for allowing UN troops to “rule over US citizens. We, the people will NOT tolerate nor stand for it, nor will We, the people, obey any edicts, pronouncements or other despotism from any non-elected official that demands our unswerving “authority” in the name of “safety and security”.
    Some of us understand history and understand how manipulative the current pogues in D.C and our respective state capitols actually are. The sheeple will always continue to be willing pawns and slaves of despots, just like all through history past, present and future.
    Blue helmets and sky blue berets are highly visible in all environments and make a nice contrast to the sights one sees….

    • Kula Farmer

      Range it
      Adjust turret

    • Thomas Paine in the butt

      The only way I can think UN troops would be legal and constitutional is if the Senate ratifies at treaty. In the panic of a trying to do something it could happen. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would trade liberty for security deserve and will receive neither. I added the “and will receive” bit.

      I think legality and constitutionality gets little more than lip service in Mordor on the Potomac. IMO we are between apathy and dependence on the Tytler Cycle. We are moving at breakneck speed towards dependence.

      • Even if the Senate does do that Thomas would you say it is legal? Would you go along willingly if it was a law we had to be forced into labor camps (That is purely a rhetorical question, I think I know your answer)

        • Thomas Paine in the butt

          As much as it turns my stomach to say, it would be legal. Woodrow Wilson was the first to try this tactic to circumvent the Constitution. And I would become a criminal with the stroke of a pen.

    • Illini Warrior

      Since when has anything logical, insightful or just common sense come out of the White House since 2008?

      If Obammy starts something and the military and law enforcement is unable/unwilling to deal with the resulting WROL situation – ????? …. call in the PaKistani and Congolese troops – rent by the hour mall cops with no limitations on their behavior …. he has nothing to lose – they won’t be raping his little darling daughters or eating his dog for lunch ….

    • I have thought about that too Egbert, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for UN Troops to have our uniforms, ranks and equipment. It isn’t like they will do a big beach landing and have supplies shipped or airlifted over here. They would just swell the ranks of the existing North Com forces. People might think twice about going against at what appear to be US forces or police or National Guard, or TSA…

      • LWJ

        Unless of course they were from Pakistan, everybody has US equipment these days…

        • EgbertThrockmorton1

          I do believe that the “occupying forces” would not fare too well against the US citizens, besides there is FAR too much good US equipment” to take from them. It’s not like the UN pogues can or will actually fight.

          • LWJ

            Oh I agree. I think many people would love to acquire US Military weapons from Foriegn troops. Just imagine the smile on my face if, I could acquire some Claymores, and and M249! Better yet some AT4’s!!!

            • EgbertThrockmorton1

              Ohhhhh….a 249! Now you’re talking! I was “stuck” with the M-60, back then, never felt undergunned either, it was a heavy beast at times, but I was glad we had it. I am saving up for the semi-auto Browning BAR in .30-06. Maybe one day, I can have one with 20 mags and a pile of ammo. That would bring a smile to my face.

  • Rastus McGee

    I used to think of some cataclysmic event hammering us was the threat, aside from emp threats, I now think we will be looking a slow train wreck……

    • I think so too Rastus…

    • EgbertThrockmorton1

      Rastus, I agree with the slow train wreck analogy. If the train wreck happens all at once, then most of the sheeple would revolt against any occupying force. However, “UN forces” do not occupy anything, they merely ooze onto the scene after the areas have already been pacified, usually by the US military.
      The sheeple must be lulled into a false sense of security, in order for the “UN” to come onto the scene, since, most of our own troops won’t put up with going against our own people regardless of the reason espoused by the Obamafurher and his fellow puppets.
      To Pat’s original question: ” How to control 320 million people?” Easy answer, control all of the food and water distribution, and you control the people. That is the only way for them to efficiently do it. The first “confiscations” of firearms, and food, water preps from law abiding citizens will keep ALL the rest of us from “participating” in the confiscation and civil war will result. Just my own cynical pessimistic outlook on that scenario.

      • BobW

        Saul Alinski 101

    • Thomas Paine in the butt


      If I dust off my tin foil hat I’d say it’s being done on purpose. I think answers much simpler, pure arrogance of the political and activist class that they can run our lives better than we can.

  • Lea Thompson

    We would like to publish this article in Disaster Survival Magazine. Please email us at disastersurvivalnetwork@gmail.com

  • Doug O

    One comment, be careful when you make statements like “we don’t manufacture anything in this country anymore”. We actually manufacture more in this country than we ever have in our history….ever. It is more accurate to say as a percentage of our employment manufacturing has greatly declined as service industry jobs have grown. Let me put it this way, if the US manufacturing sector were its own COUNTRY it would be tied with Germany as the world’s third largest economy. It’s not just you, I hear that statement repeated again and again in the prepper community and it’s just not true and it is hurting our credibility.

    • Thanks for the comments Doug but I don’t know how that hurts anyone’s credibility but mine if I am wrong. I know that my statement, on it’s face is a little inflammatory. We do in
      fact manufacture some things, but as you even conceded, we aren’t employing more people now, it is the opposite and that goes for almost every industry in the US not just manufacturing. We have been losing manufacturing jobs at a steady clip and they simply aren’t coming back.

      Are we making greater numbers of things due to efficiency and processes?
      Maybe, but I don’t see new factories opening here in the US. I don’t see people
      getting hired to work these manufacturing jobs so the net result is as a
      country, our manufacturing days are going the way of the horse and buggy. Other countries are
      doing that now, namely china. Are we still the biggest due to our size? Maybe, but at this rate, that won’t last forever and to me at least that is troubling.

      The US Manufacturing sector has been employing steadily fewer people almost every year since about 1977. You can say this is due to a switch to services and that is probably true in some part. It is also true that many industries have closed and a lot of goods are simply not manufactured in this country anymore.

      • BobW

        Hey! No love for Wham-O? They outsourced hula hoops to China years ago, and 1-2 years ago insourced 1/2 their hula hoop production. They found it no cheaper than paying Americans to make hula hoops.

        I’d like to see real production figures on US manufacturing. Unfortunately it all comes from the same people who continue to publish unemployment numbers that are smaller and smaller, despite the population considered no longer in the work force get bigger and bigger. All shades of truth.

        I look at formerly major sectors of manufacturing. Steel products, automobiles, and textiles. Ridiculous regulation has killed the steel industry, putting what I’ll describe as ‘low skill’ labor out of jobs, forcing them to seek crappy service jobs that don’t pay, and offer crappy benefits. Textiles are almost exclusively made elsewhere, and NAFTA jacked the auto industry, encouraging the outsourcing of auto production to Mexico and other NAFTA countries.

        As an extra, I’ll include airplane production by Boeing. Having been a long-time stockholder, I have tried to keep up on their production habits. The 747 was virtually all American made. The 767 is mostly American made. The 777 gets its major body/frame components from Japan. The 787 comes to their Everett, WA plant 99% assembled. Its snapped together, and rolled onto the flight line in one day. I have no idea where the structures are built, but I’m guessing Japan. Years ago, when Boeing bought a major airplane design and production firm in Russia, the one that built the MiGs or SUs, I guessed that they would never design and build another American made airplane due to being tired of dealing with the unions that control labor and engineering. I’m not far off.

  • Anymouse 2

    Naturally, the problem is knowing what danger you face.
    The USSR, Argentina, and now Greece have faced (are facing) economic collapse. Contrary to everything preppers believe, staying in the cities and working together to stabilize and return to “normal” was the most successful strategy.

    As the author points out, those with power and/or wealth will do everything they can to keep it; everything imaginable to prevent total collapse. The only scenario where law and order cant be maintained is mass population loss. (greater than 50%) And then, understand, its entirely a crap-shoot as to whether you’re lucky enough to survive or not; you can only prep for AFTER the event.

    For those with dreams of how great it will be to be the only human for miles around, read some of the histories of the pioneers about the madness that afflicted so many, the lack of aid when attacked, (indians or bandits) the pain when they realized they couldnt be entirely self-sufficient (pain from need for what they didnt have).

    And last, the one subject I never hear preppers address: what about kids? It takes some 80 mating couples, none of whom are related, to make a stable genetic pool and prevent severe defects. Can be done with 40 couples, if you are very careful with the records and control mating. After all, it isnt “surviving” if you have no one to pass it on to; if you are the last human on earth, then it really doesnt matter if you die immediately or in a hundred years.

  • Thomas jefferson

    You all forget about the military and marshal law. You not only have to worry about bands of thugs but military “securing” fuel supplies and food. You think they will let you keep that generator? A Government relies on it’s military to keep the peace.

    • Very true Thomas, but I think if we get to the point where the government is making the rounds and confiscating food and fuel, there will be larger conflicts involved. I don’t see that happening without some major push-back. Just look at how irate people get over one person getting shot. Can you imagine how they would explode if the government was going door to door and stealing?

      So that would escalate into what? Complete anarchy and martial law? How would they enforce martial law on the entire population?

  • Yes, but as I pointed out above that doesn’t matter much when unemployment for US citizens (not foreign visa workers) continues to decline. New industry isn’t moving here, it is moving to other countries. That trend can’t continue for long without drastic consequences to our economy. Perhaps it’s all for the best in the long run, but short-term I don’t see anything about our economy to be positive about.

    Do you George?

    • Hey Pat — I’m of two minds on this. I can completely see your point, especially considering that the US exports such a huge volume of capital goods. To paraphrase Marx, we’re actually selling other nations the means to out-manufacture us.

      On the other hand — I believe the US economy is in the throes of a transition from an industrial/manufacturing economy to a services/technology economy. Underskilled workers get pushed out of jobs that are vastly cheaper overseas.

      (Aside: true story — my cousin worked in a factory that assembled ice makers for refrigerators. He lost his job when the factory moved to Mexico. Now he’s a media manager for an internet company, making a lot more money. On one hand, he was replaced by cheaper labor. On the other, he up-skilled in a high-demand field. Is this a new economy success story?)

      I don’t have any facts and figures to back this up — just gut feelings and anecdotes. Still, I appreciate the conversation.

      • Thanks George, I appreciate it too.

        I completely understand that technology does make things better eventually. The people who lost their jobs when cars started being built did find other work and as country we continued to grow. That isn’t happening by and large anymore. We aren’t creating new industries for people to move to, we are offshoring all industries because they are cheaper. Your cousin was lucky I think, but how many services jobs do you think our population can support?

        Even if our country is fully employed, how much higher can the taxes go to support the thousands of immigrants coming in every day? We are on a downward trend and though I can possibly see a bright future at some point, I think we will go through very bleak times to get there.

        I don’t have anything to back my thoughts up either but my gut continues to be validated.

  • J Galt

    Self-sufficiency after TSHTF is very challenging , and unnecessary. Before things fall apart, stock up. You can afford to store enough calories, if you know what you’re doing.

    You can figure 25-30 years storage life for hard red wheat, stored at 60 degrees in a 55 gallon drum, using 1 pound of dry ice to drive out the oxygen (wait 24hrs) before sealing the drum. 400 pounds per drum equals 400 man-days of calories, $100. Fill
    several. It’s Cheap insurance. Add a barrel of Rye for variety. Add a barrel of
    oats. Then a couple barrels of rice, and 2-3 barrels of pinto beans. (The beans
    may be harder to rehydrate after 10-12 years without a pressure cooker, but then
    you just grind up the dried beans, and bake them in your bread.) For under
    $1000, you can be prepared to feed your family for a decade, especially if you
    garden and have fruit trees. Honey is way too expensive to store on a dollar/calorie basis, but consider bee keeping.

  • solstar

    Remember the basic human truth: People ALWAYS form groups in ALL situation.
    The key is to be in a functional group not a single minded one.