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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Disaster, Economy give rise to Neo-Survivalism

 Traditionally, “survivalism” has been viewed as a practice reserved for cult members and those on the fringes of society. However, there is significant evidence that preparedness and survivalism have gone mainstream.  Advertisements for dehydrated food, water filters and even self-defense weapons can be heard on big time radio shows, including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. 
I have noticed that preparedness and self-sufficiency items such as canning supplies have made a major resurgence, even in Wal-Mart stores. 

To make sure I hadn’t simply started noticing these things more, I used Google trends to search a few terms.  The graph shows the number of searches inside the U.S. for the terms: Survival Food-blue, SHTF (a term used in preparedness circles which stands for “stuff hit the fan” and describes a scenario where the systems we normally rely on break down)-red and Self Sufficiency- yellow.  All which have seen a significant increase in the last few years, with spikes around the time of the ’08 economic crash.

 Some claim that these trends can be chalked up to the “recession” and an overly paranoid populace.  However, there is a rapidly growing segment of society who feels there is more to be concerned about than “uncertain markets.” I tend to agree with them.   Let’s look at some recent reminders of why these hellish scenarios that people are preparing for may not be so far-fetched.

 Natural disasters are one of the most obvious and likely scenarios that people feel the need to prepare for.  The television images of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, complete with the Fukashima nuclear disaster, was enough get anyone thinking. Here in the U.S. we have experienced droughts, floods and wildfires which can be seen most years. I witnessed first-hand in my area, the destruction of the E-5 tornado that ripped through Joplin, MO.  Every natural disaster, including the Joplin tornado is a microcosm of what a larger SHTF scenario would look like.  Even thousands of homes that were not destroyed by the tornado suffered loss of power, fires, looting, failure of evacuation routes, and break down of communication systems on a massive scale.  With these events and others saturating the news, even those who choose to ignore the looming economic crisis have a reason to raise their eyebrows.

Although natural disasters give us visual aid, it’s the economy, in my opinion, that has been the main driver for the increased interest in preparedness. It doesn’t take an expert to see some alarming issues with the U.S. economy.  The national debt is now in excess of 15,000,000,000,000 – (15 trillion looks impressive written out doesn’t it?) and yet Congress is only debating on how much the budget will increase.  We are told we are in a recovery and inflation is minimal, yet anyone who has been to the grocery store lately knows, neither is true.

Generally speaking, the economic problems can be traced to sovereign debt issues and collapsing derivative schemes. More importantly for our purposes, it is the civil unrest that follows the collapse of these financial systems.  Whether is Egypt, Greece, the UK or Occupy Wall Street we’ve learned that times don’t have to get that bad before the rioting and looting begins.  One of the most outrageous examples of how anything can spark this behavior is the recent riots at Penn State. Despite the fact that the assistant football coach had been allegedly raping children, and there was significant evident that the head coach had helped cover it up, students at Penn State rioted in response to the school’s firing of the head coach.  Video of the students flipping a news van on its side can be seen here:

If people will riot over a game, what would they do if they were actually hungry?
Anyone who has been to a store when a big storm is forecast can testify that the systems we rely on are fragile. Once, I was in a Wal-Mart store when we were forecast to have a large ice storm.  The shelves were mostly bare.  I witnessed two nicely dressed middle aged women get into a physical fight over the last case of bottled water.  

So we’ve learned some of the reasons why preparedness and survivalism have seen an increase. But what is neo-survivalism? The term was arguably coined by Gerald Celente,  a devastatingly accurate trends forecaster and recent victim of the MF Global heist. In his 2010 and 2011issues of Trends Journal, Celente describes neo-survivalism as survivalism for the mainstream. It is simple precautions and plans which families and individuals can implement to increase their odds of thriving in uncertain times.  In many ways, necessity has caused this trend.  Whether you’ve decided to pick up some of your favorite foods in bulk, learned to garden or bought some rounds for grandpa’s old shotgun you’ve probably thought about your own survival within the last year.  Somehow, our survival instinct has been branded as kooky and many of life’s basic skills have been removed from our social memory. 

Another interesting twist to this story is the “Zombie Survival” crowd. I know grown men who have a gear and sometimes an entire room or closet designated for zombie survival.  These men have high-dollar weapons, extra ammunition, MRE’s and the works.  There are entire websites dedicated to the subject.  I have a theory that it is these men’s instincts that have tipped them off to the real dark cloud on the horizon, rather than purely a childish fantasy. Regardless, this theme has exploded. When did it become LESS weird to prepare for a zombie apocalypse than to take reasonable preparations for real-world situations?

Whether you think it’s necessary or not, a growing segment of society has taken an increased interest in their own survival.

1 comment:

  1. I've found that the theme of zombie apocalypse provides a draw to prepare for many that would have otherwise never taken the time because it didn't interest them. I don't believe that anyone has a true belief that zombies in the traditional sense will walk the Earth. However, what better way to prepare for any lesser scenario than to be prepared for flesh eating undead to roam the streets? -Cory