One of the books I’ve been reading may be the most fascinating read of the year. Recommended by reader LizLong, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why is worth every minute of your time.
Always wearing my Prepper Thinking Cap, I realized that the reason we are all working toward self-reliance and preparedness can be summed up in an equation the author, Amanda Ripley, defines. It is an equation for the feeling of dread.
Dread = Uncontrollability + Unfamiliarity + Imaginability + Suffering + Scale of Destruction + Unfairness
Stick with me as we walk through this equation, and tell me if it doesn’t summarize quite well why you are preparing.
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How much control do you feel you have over current events? If your answer is, “virtually none,” you’re right! Gold prices, interest rates, unemployment, political turmoil, plummeting home prices, rising fuel costs, out-of-control government spending, and inflation are just a few examples of over which we have no control. It’s always been this way, I suppose, but the level of intensity has increased and the stakes seem to be higher than ever.
Our generation has come of age in a time of prosperity, peace, and hopes for a bright future. Each day, it seems, blaring headlines herald news of some new approaching disaster, and it presents an unfamiliar future. What does an economic collapse actually look like? How might a devalued dollar affect our future? What do I need to worry about and what can I safely ignore? These are unfamiliar waters to all of us, adding to the feeling of dread.
Paradoxically, a future filled with devastation, war, and famine is imaginable because it’s been a popular theme in Hollywood movies, TV series, and best-selling novels. We read of ragged survivors living in a hell on earth and then see it realistically portrayed on the silver screen. In spite of our continued prosperity and safety, the images fill our imaginations, and we wonder, “Is that really what the future will look like?” None of the scenarios seem all that fantastic anymore. A future of bleak landscapes and leveled cities isn’t beyond the scope of our imaginations.
Will we lose our house and be homeless? Will I have to watch my children starve? Might I be in the wrong place at the wrong time and die in a terrorist attack? As our future looks more and more uncertain, it’s natural to wonder how much we will suffer in terms of physical and emotional pain. The picture has been painted for us by Hollywood, and it’s no surprise that we react on an emotional level: How much will I suffer?
Scale of destruction
On the scale of destruction, what could be bigger and more terrifying than a collapse of the American economy? Nothing of that magnitude, affecting so many millions of people has happened in human history. Terrorist attacks or massive Katrina-like disasters bring to mind hundreds, if not thousands, of lost lives and the destruction of homes, businesses, and communities.
Finally, whatever scenario or event the future might hold, none of us deserve it. My children don’t deserve to suffer. My neighbors don’t deserve months of unemployment and the loss of their modest home. Undoubtedly, whatever calamity hits, the distribution of loss and suffering will not be equal. Some will not be affected at all, buffered by geography, wealth, or social position or simply the coincidence of being in the right place at the right time.
This equation is quite accurate in defining how many of us view the future. Dread propels us to take action, but ironically, those actions help dispel the dread, not fuel it. Some critics of preppers claim that we live in a constant state of fear, but nothing could be further from the truth. The most fearful people, I find, are the ones who are aware of the storm clouds but, for whatever reason, refuse to take action. In fact, my own Equation of Dread would include one last element: unpreparedness.
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