It is easy for us preppers to feel isolated; indeed, a key part of choosing an ideal retreat location is to seek out a measure of isolation and remoteness.
Even though the concept of prepping is becoming more widely understood, the unfortunate fact is that by far the majority of the people around us have no interest in prepping, and view it as a cross between something slightly strange and something threatening, almost as something akin to plotting to overthrow the government.
This surely doesn’t make it any easier for us to be open about what we believe and do. One survey recently suggested that there are now more than 3 million preppers in the country. That’s good, but it leaves more than 300 million people who are not preppers, and that’s not so good.
And then there is the doctrine of ‘op-sec’ – something many preppers misunderstand and misapply – that seems to require us to be secretive about all aspects of our prepping.
All of this creates a perfect Catch-22 and self-fulfilling prophecy. By being furtive and secretive about our prepping, we not only imply that there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, but we allow the naysayers to ridicule us and shape overall public awareness and perception into a form that generally disapproves and rejects the concept of prepping.
Becoming Positive Opinion Leaders
Perhaps if we were all more open and positive about what we do, we would help to bring prepping into the mainstream of society’s awareness, and make it more generally accepted as a good and sensible thing. After all, everyone prepares for disasters to some degree and extent; the only difference is that we prepare more thoroughly than do most other people. It isn’t a difference as stark as that between, say, communism and democracy, it is more like the difference between Libertarians and Republicans – both groups share many views in common to start with.
You almost surely have friends who spend lots of money on their hobbies and interests. Maybe you know someone with a motor home. That could be a $100,000+ investment up front, plus plenty more in ongoing costs, maintenance, and so on. Maybe you know a keen golfer, and when you start to look at the money he (or she) spends on golf clubs, clothing, professional lessons, memberships, green fees, travel to far away courses and golfing events, they can be spending tens of thousands of dollars every year, and spending hundreds of hours of time in the process.
And so on, through all sorts of other interests. In all such cases, the people who have these interests are not shy about sharing their interests with anyone and everyone. Indeed, some of them become colossal bores and want to speak about nothing else, even to people who don’t share their same interests.
Now we’re not suggesting you should become a colossal bore, but we are suggesting that you shouldn’t avoid talking about your interest – your prepping activities and values.
If you have a retreat, there’s no need to call it your wilderness mountain man survival cabin to help you survive Armageddon. Instead you can talk about your second home/holiday home/retreat, as a lifestyle enhancing investment for now, and as a hedge against any future issues too. That is a positive way of explaining your interest. After all, the money your friend spends each year on his hobby is probably money gone forever, but the money you spend on developing a retreat is an appreciating and lasting investment. With the notable exception of the last few years, any real estate investment can reasonably be expected, over the longer term, to appreciate in value and bring a profitable return to its owner.
When things happen in the news, and you and your co-workers discuss them around the coffee maker or photocopier at the office, you can gently add your own prepping perspective. For example, as we write this, Hurricane Isaac’s impacts on the New Orleans area are just starting to subside. Typical office chit-chat about events such as this is ‘how horrible it was for the people affected’, but it is a passive sort of concern with an underlying smugness (unstated) of ‘thank goodness it would never happen to us, here’ (assuming of course you don’t live in the next parish over from Orleans or Jefferson!).
There’s an opportunity for you there to say something like ‘I wonder what people in this area would do if we had some sort of disaster strike here, too’. Depending on where you are, you might be able to cite a local vulnerability – maybe your area has a low risk of earthquake, or flood, or is coastal and so vulnerable to tsunamis, or has a nuclear reactor not far away, or a volcano that conceivably might surprise everyone and erupt, or who knows what else.
Your point isn’t so much the specificity of any particular threat, but rather the question of what would the people in your area do if such a thing impacted on them. If you can get people thinking about that, you’re halfway to having a positive discussion about prepping in general. Don’t be aggressive at forcing a conversation your way, and ensure you suppress any type of smugness you might feel about your own resilience to disasters of all kinds. But simply raise the issue, and focus on the people who look thoughtful, rather than the ones who shrug it off as not a problem that would never happen, and who cares, because if it did, the government would come along to save the day and help everyone.
Such brief and casual conversations, repeated occasionally but not too frequently, will help you to decide who in the group of people you interact with are open-minded to the concept of prepping, and who are uninterested or close-minded. In a gentle and slow manner, you can befriend the more open-minded people, and start to share a bit more about your concerns and what you do to counter those concerns and respond to the risks you perceive.
Don’t be a Single Minded Bore
We spoke before about people who are very one-dimensional. All they seem to be interested in, and all they talk about, is whatever their particular fixation may be. Maybe they are a dedicated equestrian. You know that no matter how any conversation starts, it will inevitably twist and turn and end up with them telling you about their new saddle, or their riding experience the last weekend, and so on and so on.
You not only find yourself avoiding that person, but you also find yourself slightly put off the concept of horses in general. If liking horses makes a person so myopically focused only on horses, then you sort of choose to avoid any contact with horses and horse enthusiasts, for fear of being ‘infected’ yourself and becoming, in turn, a colossal bore too. (Our apologies to horse lovers – and we like horses ourselves – we’re just using this as an example, not as a real issue!)
It is the same with you and prepping. You need to show yourself as an ordinary and interesting person with a broad range of interests, and you want to only very sparingly and occasionally allow prepping to enter into your conversations. Don’t become the slightly strange/weird person in the office, and don’t encourage people to see prepping as being something that makes people become slightly strange and weird.
One thing you can do, and one time when you should lead conversations to the concept of prepping, is to be sure to distinguish your view of ‘normal’ prepping from occasional stories in the media about extremists and the way that extremists are somehow often bundled together with preppers. You’re not an extremist, you don’t have a swastika tattoo on your chest (well, we hope you don’t!), and you don’t have a week’s worth of food conveniently stashed away in the inner parts of your mountain-man beard (again, we surely hope you don’t). You are a normal person, ‘one of the guys’, and your interest in prepping is a similarly normal thing and an integrated part of your normal balanced life.
How to Advocate and Explain Prepping
There is a temptation to make prepping seem like a very special sort of thing, and a thing which, alas, very few people comprehend. But this risks alienating people before they’ve even started to consider what prepping is and if/how they could integrate it into their own lifestyles.
In discussing prepping, you always need to make it seem like an easy concept that people can integrate into their regular lifestyles. The easier it is to do something, the more likely it is people will choose to do it.
For example, if becoming a cigarette smoker and addict was an enormously complex process that involved expensive special equipment, and consumed a lot of time, and could only be done in special places, and required you to fill out paperwork, pass a test, and get a license, few people would decide to do so. But instead, as many people know from personal experience, at a young and impressionable age, someone you respect or like offers you a ‘quick puff’ of a cigarette, and then generously shares their own cigarettes with you, and over time what is a special ‘one-off’ occasional event becomes integrated more and more into your life. You feel the need to reciprocate your friend’s generosity, and you buy a pack of cigarettes yourself, so as to be able to share them with your friend the next time a situation arises where you will have a cigarette, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself somewhere without your enabling friend, but in a situation where, if he (she) were present, you’d probably have a smoke, and, with the packet of cigarettes nearby, you have one by yourself, and before you know it, you’re a pack a day smoker.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying that prepping is addictive or a bad habit or anything! We’re simply showing how a person’s lifestyle evolves in small steps. Most of the things that these days are core parts of your life and lifestyle started off small and only over time evolved to become important. Maybe you have strong political views and are active in that scene. You weren’t born that way, were you. You slowly grew into that interest and activity.
It is the same with prepping. Don’t immediately start urging everyone you meet to spend millions of dollars in building an underground survival bunker in their back yards (indeed, we hope you’ll never suggest that!). Instead, take their present levels of preparations and make suggestions for slight enhancements of those. Of course they already keep spare food in their pantry, spare lightbulbs somewhere, a flashlight and batteries, and other sorts of entry-level preparations. They have insurance on their house and car, medical insurance on themselves and their other family members. When they go out somewhere, if the weather is uncertain, they bring a jacket or umbrella to prepare for the possibility of bad weather.
Help them to see how they are already a prepper. All they need to do now is think about preparing some more. The thing is that the more people start to prepare, the more they realize that they have a lifestyle worth protecting and preserving, and the more committed they become to extending their preparations to counter more difficult situations.
The chances are that your state, county or city government has some type of disaster preparedness advice on their website, urging everyone in the community to keep various supplies and resources. Use that as a talking point. The next time there’s a power outage in the area, discuss what you and they would do if a power outage affected you too.
You need to first encourage new potential preppers to consider how they could and would respond to mild problems before you drop them in the deep end of severe national crisis type challenges. Help them become better able to withstand a Level 1 challenge before you start to talk about levels 2 and 3.
Before you know it, maybe they’ll be going to Costco with you and buying a bulk pack of AA batteries and a dozen spare lightbulbs. That’s a bit like a person’s first puff on their first cigarette. Next time they might buy a pail of 25 year shelf stable dehydrated food. And so on and so on.
Maybe you’ll invite them to spend a weekend at your retreat and maybe they’ll be interested in becoming part of your retreat community, and gradually over time, they’ll become as enthusiastic and active as you are at preparing for the uncertainties of the future.
More Preppers = Less Risk
Here’s the key thing. If we had to sum up the biggest vulnerability that we confront today, it is the fact that 99+% of the population is unprepared for disaster of any/all kinds. Our problem is not so much the potential for disaster to occur, but rather the dysfunctional way that our society would respond when a disaster did occur.
If everyone in our community was well prepared, then the outcome of a disaster would be mild and moderate. We’d have no social breakdown, we’d not have people starving in the streets in a matter of days, and looters would be kept at bay by a determined lawful majority of people.
Even if half the people were well prepared, it would probably be possible for the half who were well prepared to assist the half who were not, and to avoid a meltdown of the city.
So the more people we can encourage to join us in preparing for adverse events in the future, the safer we make ourselves. If our neighbors are no longer people who potentially will be threatening us and attacking us to get our food and supplies from us, but rather, if they’ll be part of our ‘neighborhood watch’ and sharing their various supplies with us and our various supplies, our situation and our security is enormously boosted.
In a Level 1 situation, the more people in your neighborhood who are at least moderately prepared to withstand a short-term disruption to the normal services in our society, the fewer problems you will have, and the less likely it is you’ll have to escalate your response to a bug-out point and making it into a Level 2 situation.
And, in a Level 2 or 3 situation, the more people who will join with you in a community retreat, the better off you’ll all be. You will have been able to share in the up-front costs of developing the retreat in the first place, enabling you to get more resource overall for less money per person, and you’ll then have more people to share with you in the ongoing business of living in the retreat and creating a self-sufficient lifestyle into the future.
The best thing you can do to prepare for a safe future for you and your loved ones is to help the people around you to similarly prepare for their safe futures, too. You make the other people in your world become assets and supporters, rather than liabilities and detractors. So, not only for their benefit, but for your own benefit too, you need to become a careful and positive advocate of the prepping concept.
Two Final Thoughts
First, if you are in the greater Puget Sound area, we are always pleased to address any type of group of people, giving a presentation on prepping in any form and at any level you’d like. We can bring high quality a/v materials with us, and provide an interesting, thought-provoking and positive presentation.
We’ll do this for free, because just as you benefit from surrounding yourself with fellow preppers, so do we, too.
If you’re not within an easy drive of Puget Sound, we’ll still come present to any sort of group as long as you agree to cover our direct costs associated with doing so. If you’re looking for an interesting ‘twist’ to your next convention or conference or whatever, here’s a way you can introduce prepping to a group of non-preppers and also make your overall program seem more interesting and distinctive. We are experienced public speakers and can positively enhance any meeting activity.
Secondly, the need to build a prepping community does definitely extend beyond having your neighbors buy a generator and lay in some canned goods for the next windstorm that blows down the power lines, or the next snowfall that closes off the roads. You need to have, build, or join a community for Level 2 and 3 situations, too. If you can create your own community, we’d love you to come and be our neighbors in our selected part of ID/MT. Or, better still, please consider becoming part of our Code Green community.