From The Memsahib: Survivalism and Personality Types–Pessimists and Optimists

I’ll be curious to see if the recently released TEOTWAWKI futurist movie Children of Men inspires any greater interest in preparedness. From what I’ve read about the gritty realism of the film, it might. But then, Jim thought the same thing back in August when he heard about the television series Jericho. Apparently it attracted considerable fan following and inspired some debate, but little action. From what I’ve heard from the food storage and other preparedness vendors, their market went into a slump last fall. With the current global threats–most notably Iranian and North Korean nuclear saber rattling, both Sunni and Shiite terrorist threats, and sharp decline of the dollar in international currency markets–you would think that the average American or resident of western Europe would be scared out of their socks, and stocking up, big time. But for some reason people are in denial. Instead of preparing, Mr. and Mrs. John Doe are cocooning at home, watching their newly-acquired plasma big screen HDTVs. As a realist, I’d much rather have $1,000 worth of storage food and practical tools than a $1,000 television. Which brings me to a strange irony. Survivalists are optimists! Who else but an optimist believes that we can survive a nuke attack or biological warfare! More precisely, we survivalists are optimistic pessimists, we do think the world is going to heck in a hand basket. But we also think that we can take steps to ensure the survival and even comfort of ourselves, our loved ones, and even our neighbors.

Some people have an essentially optimistic nature. They feel that they can survive TEOTWAWKI with enough preparation. Therefore,in the face of overwhelming threats preparing makes them feel better. But other people have a pessimistic nature and believe that there is no way that anyone could survive TEOTWAWKI, so they consciously avoid reading the newspaper, watching the international news, and so forth. The truth is much too difficult for them to face in their daily lives. This is why they choose to escape via their HDTVs.

In a simplified form, I see four personality types:

There is the optimistic pessimist, which I believe typifies survivalists. We see the collapsing state of the world. But we believe we can make a difference in our fate through concerted training, logistical preparation, self-sufficiency measures, favorable geography, and teamwork.

The optimistic optimist believes that the world is just getting better and a better every day. The world’s governments and the world’s scientists can solve all our problems. These people don’t prepare for anything. They aren’t saving for retirement. They may even be eating fatty sugary foods, getting no exercise, maybe even smoking and drinking to excess because they believe science will cure all diseases too! They are borrowing against the equity in the homes because they believe the housing market always go up.

Then there is the pessimistic optimist who believe we are living in the best possible time in history. Nothing can go wrong they tell themselves. But they secretly believe that if there was a TEOTWAWKI event, no one could survive it. So therefore they retreat further into their optimistic delusion for mental self-preservation. This makes up the vast majority of Americans. Having been brought up in public schools teaching evolution, they are taught that human beings are evolving to become more and more intelligent and more and more civilized. American children are are taught that world governments have, like mankind, evolved to be more civilized and intelligent. (And if we all cooperate with them, all the world’s problems can be solved.) But I rather suspect Mr. and Mrs. John Doe are scared out of their socks because despite all that they have been taught about mankind’s advancement, it is obvious that human nature hasn’t changed since Cain slew Abel.

Then there is the pessimistic pessimist. They know the world is going to heck in a hand basket. They believe nothing can be done about it, and no one can survive TEOTWAWKI. A few may live like hedonists. Eat drink and charge the credit card to the max, for tomorrow we will die. Some may embrace “the culture of death.” But most feel helpless. They don’t prepare because they have no hope.

Of course this is an oversimplification. People really can’t be pigeon holed into just four personality types. But I hope this might be food for thought. If we can understand our neighbors’ point of view we can motivate them with arguments that address their particular concerns.