The biggest problem that I see for preppers is that we talk a good game, and we know what needs to be done, but it goes against our basic nature. Now, before you all jump on me, hear me out. I’m not talking about stockpiling “The Three Bs” (Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids.)
We all know that in the event that TEOTWAWKI comes to pass that we will need to band together in groups for survival. The “lone wolf” has been much written about, but we all know that it’s not possible for one person, or even a couple, to make it on their own. They simply cannot amass all of the skills required for a long-term survival situation. I think we all know this, given that we are here on SurvivalBlog. I’m assuming that we have read JWR’s books, and found something in them that appealed to us, and it led us here. In all of his books we see groups of people that have come together. Most have known each other for years and share common thoughts and beliefs. All have the responsibilities divided amongst the group, with different people being in charge of logistics, intel, etc. Even recruiting!
Now what do I find when I come on this forum? I find a lot of people just like me. People that tend to be independent, self-sufficient, and to a certain extent loners. It’s in our basic nature. Part of being independent and self-sufficient means that you make up your own mind, and don’t necessarily follow that crowd, which tends to make us……loners. Now, that’s not to say that we don’t have good, close friends, or belong to groups (the PTA, or the Shriners, or a group that’s part of our church) but we don’t seem to congregate with other preppers. At least I don’t seem to, and I know others are the same, because of questions I’ve seen posted on other forums.
Every Saturday I check in at SurvivalBlog for an update on what JWR and Avalanche Lily have been up to. Many of us share what we’ve been up to for the week. What our latest preps are. Problems we’ve encountered, solutions we have found and plans for the near future. But I don’t remember ever reading a post about, “got together with my prepper group for our weekly/monthly meeting.” Now, maybe I’m wrong, and there have been posts like that, but I just don’t remember seeing them. Or maybe OPSEC keeps people from making a post like that. I just don’t know, but I suspect there are a lot more people out there like me than there are like Todd and Mary Gray.
OPSEC and the Media
First, we have to admit that shows like “Doomsday Preppers” have not helped our cause. Although it did bring public attention to the fact that there are a lot of preppers out there, it sensationalized the whole movement as a crazy, fringe element. More like the National Enquirer than a television show about self reliant individuals. Some of the newer shows about living off grid are much better and show real people, but they seem to studiously avoid the word “preppers”.
The media continues to vilify anybody that doesn’t agree with their vision of what a perfect citizen should be. Somebody that will fall into line and support all the right causes. Somebody that is “Woke”- whatever that is. I’ve been woke most of my adult life. I have been able to look past the propaganda, and find the truth. I have been able to see the lies, and the agendas behind the reporting. I have been able to apply some reason and common sense to situations to resolve them. But I guess that’s not what they mean by “woke”.
Many media outlets even tried to blame preppers for the shortages that occurred earlier this year, because we’re one of their favorite targets. Basic common sense would tell you that it was panic buying urbanites, that only have 2 days worth of food in their apartment, but the finger still got pointed our way. Most of us have been prepared for this for some time, stocking up before the emergencies, and staying away from stores when the craziness starts. They tried their best to make us the enemy, because the Left does not like independent people that can think for themselves.
Then we have OPSEC. We all talk about it, or we talk about the fact that we don’t talk about it. We don’t advertise the fact that we are preppers, because we know if it all goes sideways that we’ll have people showing up at our door expecting us to look after them, and provide for them, like the government presently does. We don’t need the angry mob at our door demanding food and supplies, and we sure don’t need government troops on our lawn because some hungry neighbor told them we were hoarding food.
If things don’t go sideways, we don’t want people to think we’re a bunch of crazies, stockpiling guns and ammo, and waiting for the world to end, so that we can act out some Mad Max fantasy. We want people to think that we are just normal, maybe a little eccentric, neighbors. And that IS what we are. We are just normal people. We may have a little more foresight than most, or think a little more independently, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Just a few other thoughts on OPSEC. There is no such thing. I mean, we try our best, but OPSEC in our present situation is almost impossible to maintain. If you get to know your neighbors, they get to know you – it’s not a one-way street. The neighbor will remember that large garden you had out back, and all the canning that you did this fall. The delivery driver will remember dropping off those boxes with Mountain House written on the side. Somewhere, someplace, we all have a tell, we all let the little things slip. We live in a world that has very little real privacy left, so unless you’re a hermit living way back in the bush, with no outside contact, somebody will know.
There have been numerous discussions on how to handle the knock on the door that we all dread. It’s going to have to be up to the individual how they handle it. It’s always a difficult question, and one that needs to be addressed ahead of time – how will you handle it. We all agree that we need to be charitable, but the first food that is given out will destroy any OPSEC that you have. Word will get out, people will come, and the situation will deteriorate.
The Forum Question
On another forum that I belong to, a post was made, “I’m new to prepping and would like to learn about it, and learn new skills. Are there any groups out there that a person can join?” It seems like a pretty simple question, but the answer that came back was crickets. No responses, no information, no nothing. Nobody stepped forward to help this new person start down the road of being prepared – including me. At least not on the public part of the forum. I had to ask myself why?
Suspicion: I’m naturally suspicious of anybody that wants to join a group. I’m looking for independent people. Leaders if you will. And deep down I feel that anybody looking to be a joiner, a follower, is missing something that I tend to look for in friends and acquaintances, and especially in somebody that I would consider allowing into the inner circle that would be my group.
Time: Properly vetting a person that is seeking membership takes time. Time that I don’t feel that I have right now, as I am concentrating on my own preps. Time that I don’t think we have before things could get bad. Trust is something that is gained over time, and through shared experience, and I feel that this isn’t the time to start looking for that group – that was a couple years ago.
Skillset: I’m looking for people with a basic skill set. I want people that are going to bring skills to the group that we may be lacking. I don’t care what it is, but at least bring something to the table. I don’t need Rambo, because I don’t plan on fighting any wars, but a background in gardening, first aid, meat processing, or maybe animal sciences, would go a long way towards acceptance. I would expect members to be able to instruct others in the group in their specialty – thereby making the group stronger. Having someone come in with basically no skills, that expects you to instruct and teach them everything, is not fair to the group as a whole.
Common Beliefs: Now this covers a lot of territory. I’m not saying that everybody would have to be a regular church-goer, belong to the same church, or even be of the same faith, but a relatively common belief system will help the group have a shared moral and ethical foundation. I have worked with many people over the years with different faiths, and from different cultures, and found that generally speaking we have a lot more in common than we do differences. Radical beliefs, at either end of the spectrum would be a no-go for me, so Satan worshipers need not apply.
Common beliefs go a lot further than religion, or a belief in God. There must be an agreed upon personal code of conduct. There have been several couples that have approached myself or my wife over the years, softly inquiring if they could, in effect, be part of our group, and come to our farm if things went bad. As of this date, none would be welcomed. Not that they are bad people, but in one case the husband has a drinking problem and tends to get mean and ornery when he drinks, in another the wife tends to sleep around. These make me feel sorry for their spouses, because they, and their children will be the ones that wind up suffering.
In many of the other cases I find people are just scared and looking for reassurance of safety. They don’t really want to talk about prepping. They don’t want to stockpile food or necessities, but they want to know they have a safe place to go – sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The easiest way to make sure that you don’t have problems within the group is to make sure of the quality of the people before you let them in. Don’t compromise your standards because the person is the best friend of your wife’s second cousin once removed.
The Covid Effect
Thanks to the Covid pandemic, the lockdowns, and the supply chain failures, prepping has suddenly become fashionable. Suddenly, after all these years, the general public has started to realize that being prepared may not be such a bad thing. And, so begins the mad scramble. The cities will be a death trap! Quick, sell the house in the city and move to the suburbs, or even better find a rural property. They are selling fast. Move to the country and become self-sufficient. It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad. The way of life that we have practiced for years has now become a fad. Enter the Preppy Preppers.
There is a whole new crop of preppers that have been created by this pandemic. They are young, and enthusiastic, but whether they will actually stick around, or will drift away like they do from most fads, once the shine wears off, is yet to be seen. I guess some of it will depend on how long the Covid Effect lasts.
Much like the people that wanted to come to the farm, I believe many of these people are just trying to find a safe place. They aren’t necessarily preppers, they just have money, and they feel that the cities aren’t safe. Their answer is to buy a rural property because it gives them the illusion that they are safe. They are insulated and away from what made them scared. If things ever do settle down, I think you’ll see most of these properties back up for sale in a couple years as these Preppy Preppers discover that living in a rural location is a lot of work. They’ve never had to plow 200 yards of driveway in the winter, or sit outside with a blow dryer to thaw out a water line. Their idea of roughing it is being without cell service, and not being able to get their double latte.
Down to Me
So, after all my ramblings we come back to me, and my original statement. What about me? Do I have a group? Am I actively recruiting?
The truth is that I know that I need a group. Everything that has been written, and the combined experiences of some pretty smart people tell me that I need a group to make it through in the long run. But I don’t have a group. I have some close family, my girls and their prospective husbands, that I figure would wind up at the farm. Do they bring a large skill set with them – no. I know them. I trust them. And I have stood back and assessed each of them, noting strengths and weaknesses. The rest of my group is more an idea of what I’d like, rather than a solid list with names attached.
Am I actively recruiting? No, not at this time. Recruiting during an emergency is like grocery shopping when you’re hungry – never the best plan. Suffice it to say that each person that I meet on a daily basis, whether it be personal or business, is subject to a certain scrutiny. Would they fit in? What skills do they bring to the table? Are they quietly prepping on their own?
My wife and I both are quietly networking in our area. We have a mental list of who we know that can supply beef, chickens, eggs, and even grains. You might be surprised at the people out there that are doing the same thing, and quietly building a prepper network without even thinking about it. We’ve got the wife’s cousin about an hour south of us, in similar circumstances, quietly building his own network, and an ex-military buddy about an hour west, doing the same thing.
So, I don’t have a group, but I’ve got the beginnings of a mutual aid society. A group that can help each other out when needed, and connections to at least two more groups that could also help out. Will it be enough? I don’t know, but it’s going to have to do for now.
Part of me thinks many of the individual preppers out there are just waiting. If things really go sideways, they’ll bunker in and try their best to wait it out. We’ll see who’s still standing in a year, and maybe that’s when we will form our group, with tested people: people that you know have the skill set and the mental strength to make it through.
It would seem that there are some dark and troubled times ahead of us. There is economic uncertainty. There is civil unrest. There is a pandemic. We have elected officials acting like dictators, and issuing orders to the population. We have a hotly contested election. We are facing a very uncertain future, and that, in itself, creates stress and fear in all of us.
Do I truly believe that a civil war is going to break out? No, I don’t, but a recent poll showed that over 60% of Americans believe that one is coming. That statistic alone shows the level of fear and polarization that we are facing.
Do I think that this is it? TEOTWAWKI? No, this isn’t it, at least not yet. Not unless some, as yet unknown, threat emerges.
What do I believe? I believe that we are headed for a difficult time as a nation. We have had 50 years of easy times, technological advances, leisure time, paid holidays, and disposable income. These are not things that our grandparents had, or many people living in other countries around the world have had. In much of the world, even today, life is a daily grind, seven days a week to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. I think we are in for a reset. It will be a time of turmoil and upheaval. Of lowered expectations. And of relearning the lessons that our grandparents knew.
The Three Bs (Beans, bullets, and Band-aids) are only going to get us so far. We are going to require mental toughness, a good measure of plain old-fashioned guts, and an unswerving faith in a higher power (by whatever name you call him) to get through the coming times. But we will get through. As my wife would say, “It’s a scary time, but also an exciting time to be alive. We are seeing history. Are you ready to ride the reset?”