Beverly Godfrey column: One of the unprepared
Am I prepared for the end of the world? Only if you count that I've mentally prepared for my inevitable death, something some people have a problem doing, according to my latest reality TV kick.
Am I prepared for the end of the world? Only if you count that I’ve mentally prepared for my inevitable death, something some people have a problem doing, according to my latest reality TV kick.
Originally airing on the National Geographic Channel, “Doomsday Preppers” recently showed up on Netflix. I’ve been binge-watching the program, which features people who are worried about disasters such as the ice caps melting, bird flu, nuclear war or economic collapse. The solution they have in common is stockpiling food, water and weapons so they can survive the apocalyptic event.
If these things happen, I know I’ll die from hunger, disease or violence. The preppers will fare better, having spent their life’s work and savings focused on the end times. The show’s experts usually give them an additional 4 months to a year for their efforts.
I would say most people agree it’s not worth it. There’s really no way to prepare for the kinds of disasters they’re worried about. But it seems to me the people on the show care more about living the lifestyle of a prepper than actually surviving a disaster.
I understand the appeal. I love apocalypse movies. It’s fun to imagine myself as one of the survivors. Despite being old and weak, I will somehow be smart and strong and brave enough to live. And I’ll be allowed to do whatever I need to survive.
I could take stuff from houses and stores. I wouldn’t have to file income taxes or get to work on time. I wouldn’t need to worry about whether my kids did their homework. No one would judge me because of what I’m wearing or if my hair’s a mess.
Getting rid of all that would be liberating, even if it meant I had to kill zombies or hide from militias or be chased by rabid dogs. Each person would be king of his own realm - and that realm goes as far as your secured perimeter, so it’s best to start fortifying now.
That’s the fantasy, and that’s the kind of world the preppers seem to be in - a fantasy world. Watch their eyes light up when they talk about whether they’d ever drink their own urine.
Notice how they breathe a little faster at the thought of neighbors resorting to cannibalism. They’re hoping for an apocalypse, not dreading it.
It’s sad how many of the preppers are of retirement age. As they get closer to the end of life, I wonder, is it a comfort to imagine the whole world ending with them? It’s like a disgruntled worker quitting a job, saying “they’ll never get on without me,” except in this case, it’s the whole world that can’t go on.
Some preppers seem focused on their own survival, others on the survival of humanity. But that’s something beyond our control. If the “stuff” hits the fan, as the preppers so often say (except they don’t say “stuff,” of course), I imagine isolated people in the Amazon or Siberia or on Pacific islands being the ones who survive. The next Adam and Eve won’t be a couple living in a buried shipping container in the middle of Texas.
Many of the preppers emphasize the need for secrecy about their preparations, but they still go on a national TV show. They just can’t help but show off their thousand cans of food.
So if I disagree with the sentiments of the show, why am I watching? As Jane Austen wrote, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”
She wrote about people doing that 200 years ago, and I suspect people will still be doing it 200 years from now.
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .