I was contacted by a freelance photographer named Jens Lennartsson. He's from Sweden. He is interested in putting together a "photojournalistic project" on preppers.
In our first correspondence, I indicated I would not be willing to show or disclose my preps, or even ask my students to disclose the specifics of what they've done. I did agree to answer any questions that were general in nature about my opinions and perspectives on preppers.
What follows is the latest (fairly lengthy) reply to a number of questions he sent me. I told him that I would be publishing this correspondence for two reasons: First, I don't personally know him. The media in general seems to have a way of making anyone who is a prepper look like some sort of nut-job. I guess it threatens their view of the world. I have no reason to think he'll "get ugly", but I wanted to make sure that what I said was memorialized somewhere to remove any editorializing that might occur.
Secondly, I figured it might be some good information for other people who might be "on the fence" as to whether or not THEY should prep.
Jens has asked that I include his name and email address in this post. He is on his way to California this week, and would love to speak with and photograph other preppers.
The latest correspondence -
If we continue this correspondence, you're going to find that I am a very straight-talking individual. I've never been called, "Politically Correct". Some people find my views abrasive, some find them offensive. I've been called heartless, racist and xenophobic. I could not care less! I present facts. When I give my opinion, I do my best to make sure it is clear I'm voicing my opinion.--
I believe a major reason the US is in the mess we're currently in is because of "social justice" and "It takes a village..." programs. We've lost our sense of personal responsibility and have abrogated our duties to the various levels of government. This has left many individuals without the basic skills and knowledge of how to act on their own behalf if something out of the norm occurs.
There are no consequences for making bad decisions. If you're a bank that made bad loans - again and again - you're deemed "too big to fail" and are given corporate welfare. If you're a teenager that gets pregnant - again and again - you're deemed a "victim" and you get food stamps and other social welfare.
The bank and the teenager are both rewarded for making bad decisions. People that follow the rules and pay their taxes are then forced to financially support both of them.
We've had enough of that.
The answers to your questions are my own. I don't think anyone can definitively speak for any one group, especially one as diverse as "preppers". I base my replies on my own personal beliefs that have been formed by my past experiences. They are also based upon the comments and feedback I have received from my student in my Emergency Preparedness, Safety Awareness and Firearms classes.
Q: Who and how is the average prepper?
I have found we are individuals or entities (business, civic organization, government entity) that have something to lose. Prepping is like life insurance or car insurance or home insurance. Most folks hope to never have to use the insurance, but they're glad they have it when something goes wrong. Most of us have either experienced some sort of disaster or emergency, or have seen it happen to others and don't want to be caught unprepared.
Some people prep for a single event. Here in California, we tend to have earthquakes, so most people have a little bit of food and water stored, and perhaps a wrench to turn off the gas supply. Bare minimums.
Some people are at the other extreme. They're planning for The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). A total breakdown of society as a whole. Along the lines of Mad Max, One Second After or The Road.
Most of us are somewhere in between. More and more, it is much more than preparing for an earthquake, a hurricane, a terrorist attack or simple power outage. We are also people that see our current social structure as utterly unsustainable. The math simply does not work. You can't have a system which punishes the industrious and rewards the irresponsible. It will significantly degrade or, more likely, collapse. It's a self-inflicted disaster.
Across the nation, we are seeing cuts in the basic services government provides. Police, fire, emergency medical. At the same time, we're seeing more corporate bailouts of banks, car companies and insurance companies. We're seeing increases in welfare, unemployment payments extensions, universal health care, carbon taxes.
Many of us are preparing for this eventuality as well. We're storing additional food, supplies and equipment that may be in short supply or unavailable. We're learning skills for services that may be in short supply - personal protection, medical, food preservation, food production, water purification, etc. We're taking steps to cushion the blow of the staggering inflation that will accompany the coming increase in taxes to pay for all of the above mentioned bailout programs - gold, silver and the like.
Q: What is it that led to the growing prepper movement? What are preppers preparing for?
Q: How do they prepare? Food, shelter, escape routes, veichles, self defence, survival etc?
I think there have always been preppers - people who put away some extra food, money and equipment - especially in areas that get fairly regular natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes.
What has changed is that more and more people are seeing that there are many more reasons besides natural disaster for which they should be preparing. The above mentioned social services collapse. Job loss. Terrorist attacks. Inflation/hyper-inflation. Commodity shortages (food, gasoline, heating fuels, etc.).
Going back to the insurance analogy, more things look uncertain and people are hedging their bets. They're learning basic medical techniques. They're learning how to shoot a gun for self-defense. They're learning how to preserve food. They're learning how to make water potable, how to make fire and how to use "old school" communications equipment.
They have developed Shelter-in-Place and Evacuation plans. They buy cooking equipment that can burn 3 different fuels. They learn how to hunt/fish/trap and how to clean, prepare and preserve the game. Huge numbers of people have started vegetable gardens for the first time - most using non-hybrid ("heirloom") seeds so they will have seed to grow more crops the next year.
It's a back-to-basics, personal responsibility movement.
Many folks have established retreat properties (or are working in that direction) to enable themselves to leave the urban/suburban areas that will be hardest hit if any of the social welfare programs are reduced or curtailed. We all recognize that the majority of Americans are NOT prepared, and our stores of goods, food and equipment will soon become the targets of those that are suddenly cut off from the government teat.
Most of us actually prepare to share our stores with others - to a certain extent - but it is a very dicey proposition. How do you react if the family next door with two little children - and no preparations - has suddenly been without food or water for 3 days? The mother and father will do ANYTHING to get nourishment for their children. If you only have enough for your family, what do you do when they are kicking in your front door to take what they need?
This is not a far-fetched scenario. We saw EXACTLY these events play out in the recent earthquake in Haiti. We also saw EXACTLY the same thing here in the "rich" USA during hurricane Katrina. People turn "feral" when they are cold and have nothing to eat or drink. The saying, "We're all nine meals from anarchy" is probably right on target.
It is difficult for most of us to conceive of such a situation, but we're personal responsible enough to have thought out these ugly scenarios and at least have a rough-draft plan.
Q: How do preppers cooperate and interact with each other?
Far and away, the most common medium is through the Internet. Sights like California Preppers Network (or any of the other state and national affiliates), plus literally thousands of blogs and websites around the world. Many of us develop online relationships with others via email, and some of us actually meet in person if the opportunity presents itself.
Most of us have a group of friends or family with similar beliefs, and we've formed loose "mutual aid" agreements. If it gets ugly in one part of the state or country, we have agreements to relocate to the home or property of the others in the group. Each family will pre-position food and equipment at the other sites so as to not become a burden upon arrival (at least for some agreed upon period of time). Some groups are much more formalized, with structured hierarchies, commitments and duties. These are fairly rare, but it is a growing movement.
I hope this helps. Don't hesitate in contacting me if you have further questions.
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