Pretty much everyone has heard about or seen the television show, “Doomsday Preppers.” In each episode, the ‘prepper’ is shown getting themselves all prepared to deal with a specific man-made or natural disaster.
Maybe it’s just me, but they seem to pick the most mentally unstable, extremist people they can find for the show. They know the average person watching will take what they see as normal behavior of all preppers. The reality is so far from what is shown on television, and I think I can say this for most of us who homestead or prep, that those who are seeking to be as self-reliant as possible look upon the show and those in it with scorn and sometimes outright disgust.
When you break it down, prepping is not all that exciting. It is a lot of work and scheduling, budgeting and planning. Hollywood has skewed the truth so much that those of us who employ even smaller aspects of prepping in our lives are afraid to say anything due to the judgments, eye rolling, laughter, whispers as we pass through the office, and general scorn that we are met with if you say the word PREPPER.
To help clear things up, we will look at what has been shown versus what is the reality in the following areas: perceptions, mannerisms, activities, beliefs, hoarding vs. being stocked, and outlook.
Our perceptions of how these people actually live have been heavily scripted to paint a very specific picture. One of these shows was filmed on the island I live on. It is the one with Alaska Ink featured. They create supply caches and toss them in the ocean for storage.
Generally speaking, the ‘events’ people are prepping for are ones assigned to the group to try and meet. The people in the shows are kept up for long hours, on purpose, to create drama and strife. The production crew is told to instigate strong emotions and outbursts for better television.
“Accidents” are staged on purpose to, again, create more drama. In fact, if you listen closely to many of these types of shows, you will hear what people are saying was not said in one sentence! The sentence will start off in one tone but end in another tone. It is common for these types of ‘reality shows’ to take words from one statement and string them with another statement to create whatever is needed to be said to enhance the drama.
The reality is that these people aren’t doing things much differently than their grandparents or great grandparents did: they are preparing for unforeseen events. Back then it was not called ‘prepping,’ it was called ‘life.’ Back then, there wasn’t a grocery store on every corner (not that they had the money to run to the store anyway) and life was not as disposable as it is today.
Mentally unstable people make for excellent television, don’t they? Keep ‘em awake for 20 out of 24 hours and things get really fun! While everyone has eccentricities that help make us unique, even the most normal of quirks is made to be something really ‘out there’ in the editing room.
These shows would have you believe that all preppers are paranoid, food hoarding, anti-authority gunslingers. Or just completely out of their minds.
The reality is the majority of preppers are normal people, just like anyone else is ‘normal.’ In this day and age of labels, there isn’t a person on the planet that some psychologist couldn’t find one label or another to pin on all of us. That being said, if you look beyond the scripting and presentation of the show, you will see that these preppers are people who would rather rely on themselves versus the government and plan for the future. They consider things weeks, months, and years down the road.
They are working to provide for themselves versus waiting in line on the government steps with hand stretched out and think they are entitled to whatever is being given out. Preppers are producers, not merely consumers.
When most people think of preppers, thanks in large part to Hollywood, they think of people with year’s worth of food in bunkers and thousands of rounds of ammo. They believe that preppers spend all their time and money on preparing for disasters and situations that ‘are not likely to happen anytime soon.’ Preppers are portrayed to be almost zealous or fanatical about their activities.
While there is assuredly passion about what they are doing, the reality is that the average prepper is one of the most down-to-earth and logical people you will meet. They reuse, recycle, upcycle and generally try to make things work with what they have on hand versus going out and buying something that they could either do without or make themselves. Yes, sometimes you just need to buy something new as an investment, but overall, they live very practical lives.
The biggest difference I usually see through talking with people and reading other blogger’s posts is that they go about these purchases in ways that will avoid debt. It is considered absolutely normal in today’s society to be tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. To take on the ideal of living 100% debt free is foreign to most Americans. Your credit score actually goes down if you do not have a good mix of credit cards, mortgage loan(s), and car loan(s).
I worked in a bank for 7 years and have always watched my score closely. I noticed that one of the factors that lowered my credit score was due to the fact that I do not have a mortgage loan. I called Experian and asked about it. I was told that if I had a mortgage, even if it had late payments, my credit score would go up 25-40 points!! WHAT?! No wonder people who live debt free are judged or looked at as weird!
This is a big one. Hollywood has painted a picture of ‘preppers’ as though the entire group of 3 million, at last count, believe a huge catastrophic event will happen in their lifetime. In many ways, the prepping community as a whole has been cast in a cult-like light.
I have seen posts from certain prepping and survivalist sites that incite fear and try to whip people up into a frenzy, thinking they need to go out and buy all this stuff to be able to survive whatever threat may come their way. This is the same type of tactics used on some television shows. This could not be further from the truth.
The reality is that preppers come in all shapes, sizes, beliefs, and cultures, and are as diverse as any other group of people under the microscope. There are extremists in any group out there. The trouble is the media primarily focuses on those type of people for the ratings and drama.
How good would a show be that only depicts normal, everyday people who have large gardens as a food source and a means to provide for themselves and save money? What about the family who uses camping and hiking as a way to teach the children skills that will help them survive if needed? It is too normal and would be pretty boring for the general public who thrives on turmoil, strife, and watching shows that make them feel normal compared to ‘those whack jobs’ on television.
Hoarding vs. Stocked
This is one of my favorite myths to break whenever the topic of “Doomsday Preppers” comes up. We have all seen the people with bunkers and pantries absolutely stocked to the roof with years worth of food. There is that episode, too, where one lady takes a door apart and stores boxes of macaroni and cheese inside it. Really? That is, without a doubt, 100% extremist and absolutely not the normal behavior of one who calls themselves prepper.
If you were to walk into my house, you may see my stack of mylar bags with beans, rice, and barley in them. Does this mean I am hoarding 50 pounds of each? No way! But I do have enough to get us through hard times such as a job loss, a break in the supply chain, or some other event that would leave us unable to shop for more food.
One thing I would like to specifically point out here for perspective is that the first grocery stores as we know them have only been around for the last 70 years or so. Before that, there may have been trading posts and whatnot but absolutely nothing like what we are used to today. Most people had their own gardens and livestock for their food source. They would hunt and fish and trade.
As the idea of a self-serve supermarket gained popularity, you still saw people buying in bulk and setting some back ‘just in case.’ Growing up, my grandmother always had some kind of pantry in a ‘cool room’ that was usually in the back of the house in constant shade. When things would go on sale, say corn for example, she would buy a whole case at a time. When I asked her about it in my adult life, she said when she was a child the shelves were stocked with jars instead of cans but she liked having the convenience of someone else doing all the processing.
That idea became the normal way of doing things! Let someone else process it. Big food companies were born and now it is to the point where they have so much control over what we eat, and where we get it from, that people are getting arrested for buying raw milk or raw vegetables from their neighbor, and heaven forbid they have a garden in their front yard. The scandal! What we are seeing, I believe, is a shift back to our great-grandparents’ way of living. I can hope.
In just about every single episode of Doomsday Preppers, the people are portrayed as actually wanting something to happen. I have personally been asked this question before, “What if nothing happens? Won’t you feel dumb and be mad that you wasted all that time and money for nothing? Wouldn’t it be better for you if something did happen so you wouldn’t feel like you wasted your life?”
This is where I get the chance to set some things straight. If you love what you are doing, how can it be a waste of your life? How can learning to grow your own food or make a shelter or learn different ways to start a fire be a waste? I do not feel like anything I do to increase my self-sufficiency is a waste of anything.
There are so many rewards that have come from switching over lifestyles that I never thought of and when they show up, it is like a little surprise party. Examples are the pride I had this past April when I pulled out the last jars of green beans and carrots that I had grown from seed the year before. We did not buy a single can/jar of pickles, carrots, or onions. I know exactly how they were all grown and processed! That was including the jars I had given out to my mother in law and presents of the jams and jellies at Christmas to friends.
Homesteaders and preppers are some of the most optimistic, realistic, and generous folk you will ever meet. Generally speaking, they love to share knowledge and forge bonds to strengthen the system around them. They realize they are part of something much larger and have a genuine desire to want to help make things better. They also understand and accept that not everyone thinks the way they do and there are those who will never take steps to secure even 3 days of emergency food and water for themselves. Most really wish their neighbors would wake up and get on board.
Preppers have gotten a really bad reputation and I believe strongly that it is directly because of shows like “Doomsday Preppers” that seek to show folk like myself as being completely whacked, out of touch, and extremist. The saddest part about it is that the word itself is now tainted and those of us in the preparedness/homesteading community pause before referring to ourselves as such.
I personally call myself a modern homesteader but the reality is there is a very fine, blurred line between that and prepping. Both seek to be self-reliant. Both prefer to have more control over their lives than the average person does. That does not mean they are anti-government, anti-authority, and anti-country. They want to be free to live their life and eat the food they prefer. They want to be able to defend their homes and families without worry that the government will step in and make them the criminal for it. In fact, if you look at history, it is those very ideals and desires for freedom that founded our country in the first place.
These are the personal opinions and viewpoints of LeAnn inAK and do not necessarily reflect those of the site admins or owner.
LeAnn in Alaska
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