What is a Survivalist? What is a Prepper?

Survivalist vs Prepper

Some Preppers don’t need guns.

Often the terms Survivalist and Prepper are used interchangeably. However, Survivalist has a more militant feel to it. The image is one who hides in the backwoods with guns and traps waiting to destroy any who threatens their way of life. Its a very testosterone-heavy stereotype. In order to avoid this negative image, many now call themselves preppers. This image is more gender neutral and is connected to storing up supplies and generally being prepared for bad times. But as mentioned, these are just facile stereotypes, for in the main, survivalists are prepared for disaster and preppers are willing to defend themselves when necessary from external threats with armed force. While Preppers and Survivalists are quite similar, there are three important ways in which survivalist-preppers (henceforth, I will call them preppers because that name is shorter) differ from the average person: mindset, preparation, and skills. This article will deal with the prepper mindset, later articles will explore preparation and skills.

Prepper Mindset:

Preppers think differently than other people, always asking, “What if something bad happens, how will I deal with it?” Most people wait for the lights to go off, then look for a flashlight. The prepper carries a flashlight with them in their everyday carry. They have back up batteries, fully charged, and backup flashlights in case anything happens to the first one (this is the “two is one and one is none” principle, or perhaps to loan one to a less prepared person. Again, most people try not to dwell on anything that may upset their daily life and expect someone to rescue them is it does. Preppers, on the other hand, examine which troubles are most likely and prepare for those first.  Later, they consider what are the worst things that could happen on a local, national, and global scale – and then they prepare for them, too. They don’t expect much outside help and in fact, consider most people as more of a hindrance.

  1. On a local scale, preppers, depending on their location are concerned with –

    1. Power Outages: which are not only inconvenient but are often accompanied by social chaos. Is such worry necessary?  Sometimes, Porto Rico, for example, lost power for months after it was hit by a hurricane.
    2. Hazardous Substances: hazardous materialsNuclear Plants occasionally release radiation into the water and air; trains and trucks carrying poisonous liquids and gas regularly crash near American cities and towns; in Bhopal India, 1984, a pesticide plant released methyl isocyanate gas and thousands of people died.
    3. Crime: The prepper is prepared to evade and escape or if necessary defend home and family from a variety of criminals.
    4. Civil Unrest: Political division is causing increasing unrest in cities across the Western world. Preppers expect to get out of town or hunker down while such trouble lasts. They do not expect to personally quell the unrest.
    5. Natural Disaster: Floods, blizzards, tornados, hurricanes and a myriad of other weather events in the daily news have motivated preppers to prepare for all these events.
    6. Terrorism: Weapons of mass destruction and the threat of terrorist action motivate the prepper to be situationally aware at all times. 911 happened on a cheery NYC morning under bright blue skies.
  2. On a National Scale, preppers are concerned with events that are nearly inescapable. Social disruption will be extreme and prolonged –

    1. War: In the past 200 years, only Sweedon has not been at war. The prepper knows that sooner or later, war comes to all men. War is often accompanied by pestilence, famine and economic duress- there is much to prepare for.
    2. Grid Failure: never before in history have the nations been so dependent on electrical power. If it should be disrupted by war, a terrorist attack or natural event, life as we know it would immediately become a struggle for daily existence. Modern cities are far too large to exist without cheap, abundant, and ubiquitous electricity.
    3. Cyber Attack: A large-scale computer failure would be catastrophic as banking, commerce and communication would shut down immediately. There would be many cascading failures including an energy grid failure.
    4. Economic Collapse: Usually these happen slowly, yet most people still fail to prepare. They are difficult to prepare for because they can have different causes and results: hyperinflation, where money becomes worth less than the paper it’s printed on; deflation, where money remains valuable but nobody has any;  market collapse, where everyone’s investments become worthless, and finally resource scarcity, where economically critical resources become unavailable. Preppers do their best to anticipate all these problems.
    5. Anarchy: This is national civil unrest. Preppers call this situation Without Rule of Law (WROL). One of the most frightening situations of all, when the nation can no longer rule itself, gangs enforce the rule of the strong and ruthless over the weak. This is a natural side effect of any of the other major disasters a prepper may face and the number one reason preppers want to have lots of guns and ammunition as well as a good hiding place.
    6. Totalitarianism: This, the opposite of anarchy, is total government control over its citizens, similar to Communism or in isolationist North Korea. Nothing can happen without government sanction. Preppers fear that one of the first actions of a totalitarian government is to round up the preppers who have their own supply of guns and food and who could resist the government. Some say that preppers are paranoid over this, but the Nazis and others have done similar things within living memory.
  3. World Scale: Some disasters threaten the viability of the human species, few if any will survive the destruction of world-scale events, but preppers aim to be part of the few.

    1. Ecological Disaster: In the 1970’s the world worried about overpopulation and global cooling. Now the world worries about global warming and coastal flooding. This along with diminishing animal habitats threaten to change the way everyone in the world lives, especially now that we have such strong global links. Preppers usually plan to move to less affected areas.
    2. Nuclear War: This has been a concern since the 1950’s. The great danger of global thermonuclear war has diminished, but the threat of limited nuclear war is as strong as ever. Radiated areas could be uninhabitable for generations. A veteran prepper knows how to purify radiated water.
    3. Pandemic: This threat is greatly underappreciated in the media. For example, the 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic infected 500 million people around the world including remote Pacific islands and in the Arctic. 3%-4% of the world’s population died. Global travel has only increased in the last 100 years.
    4. Extinction Events: These are the disasters that make great special effects movies, including asteroid impacts, massive solar flares, rogue planets, alien invasions, Thanos’ infinity gauntlet, supervolcanos, earthquake clusters, etc. Only the lucky and the preppers will survive, probably only the lucky preppers.

Preppers, as you can see are concerned about many bad things, but instead of giving up in despair, that channel their concerns into determination to prepare for as many troubles as they can. In the next section, we will examine, how to prepare for these possible events.

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2 Responses

  1. SmileAfresh says:

    Hi,
    That’s a mind opening article, and it is well detailed. Thanks for letting me know the difference or similarity between preppers and survivalists.
    .
    I must admit I didn’t know anyone or word like preppers before reading this article and so it got me very interested.
    .
    Currently in my country we are experiencing heavy rains and floods have killed tens of people already. I think we have all been given high alert to be ready for disaster in case dams around the country keep breaking up and releasing flattening floods. Thinking like preppers is actually going to help many of us- and we have been stocking up and making protective measures. Again, thanks for the article.
    .
    Boniface from SmileAfresh

    • Peter Barban says:

      To be a prepper is to fight against human nature. We want to take it easy when times are good. But when times are bad, such as heavy rains, it is often too late to take effective action. I hope you can help those in your country be better prepared for these reoccurring dangers.

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