The Prepper’s Code of Politeness

It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanism of discussion and debate.

One of the problems in today’s society is that we have isolated ourselves much more than ever before from people different to ourselves.

We spend more time in homogenous communities, and so it becomes easier to vilify people who disagree with us, because we don’t see them as ‘people like us’ but rather as ‘strangers unlike us, with strange ideas unlike ours’.

This is unfortunate, because as theoretically right as our views may seem to us to be, and indeed as truly correct as they may be in a perfect world, in our real and imperfect world, sometimes the best views on anything are a compromised mix of different opinions and somewhere closer to middle ground.

The results of the growing polarization of opinion can be seen in the dysfunctionality of our political system, where politicians regularly lie and cheat the system purely so as to ‘trick’ other politicians into taking unpopular stands about things – even if the unpopular stands actually happen to be the right stands.  Well, we could go on and on about the problems with our politicians, but we’ll stop at that point, other than to observe one chilling essential truth :  We get the politicians we vote for.  The disappointing performance of our politicians reflects on us as much as on them.

Anyway, on to the point at hand.  The need to ensure a positive and polite level of discourse when discussing and debating prepping related matters.  Positive discourse reflects positively on ourselves and the topic of prepping.  Negative discourse is no good for anyone involved with it.

Whether you’re discussing prepping with a friend or if you’re being interviewed on national television, there are two scenarios we’d like to put to you.

Preppers Debating Prepping With Other Preppers

We’ve often seen situations where a prepper speaks passionately about some type of future risk and the need to prepare for what would happen if/when the risk eventuates.  Okay, great, more power to them.  We love to see passion and commitment to the concept of prepping, in any and all its forms.

But then they turn around and denigrate other preppers for having different priorities.  Oh, to worry needlessly about Possibility X is stupid, they say.

That is unkind and inappropriate, and acting that way detracts from their own advocacy.  While the person saying this fears they are competing against other risks, and other forms of preparing, that is not the case at all.  All of us preppers, no matter what future risks we wish to prepare for, are not competing for mind-share with each other.  Our biggest competitor is the overall rejection of any and all prepping, entirely.

Furthermore, a diversity of different prepping in a community gives a broader base of safety net for a broader base of possible futures, and one of the things about prepping is that all forms of prepping involve future scenarios of varying degrees of improbability.  There mere fact that an event is unlikely is no reason not to appropriately prepare some degree of response for it.

Nothing is guaranteed to happen at any point in the future.  Maybe there’ll be a Yellowstone eruption, maybe not.  Maybe the San Andreas fault will fracture in an earthquake to beat all earthquakes.  Maybe an asteroid will hit the planet.  Maybe, maybe, maybe, for so many things.  But (and happily), more likely, maybe not as well.

So to dismiss someone as stupid (a bad thing to say anyway) for preparing for an unlikely future risk; when we say ‘anyone who thinks they should prep against this future risk is nuts’, we are halfway to saying ‘anyone who thinks they should prep against any sort of future risk is nuts’ and that is more than halfway to saying ‘I am nuts’.

By all means, it is right and proper that you should have your own personal preferred forms of prepping.  Imagine how boring horse races would become if everyone bet on only one horse.

Besides which, people in different parts of the country, and living different types of lifestyles, and with different personal circumstances, quite validly do have different priorities for how they can approach the risks they confront, and different sets of probabilities attached to the different risks out there.

For example, you’re more likely to see someone in the Florida Keys preparing for a hurricane threat than you are to see someone in San Francisco, whereas the San Francisco resident is probably up to speed with earthquake risks, something the Keys dweller is completely unconcerned about.

A person with major net worth is more likely to be interested in high-end retreats costing seven or eight figures, whereas a person living on an average wage might be more focused on optimizing Level 1 situations and their responses to such things.  And so on, through as many different combinations of people, places and things as there are.

The thing is this :  Just because one person is investing heavily in some form of prepping while you are investing in a different form doesn’t make the other person stupid – and, relax, it doesn’t make you stupid either.  Any prepping is better than none, and we all have to play our personal favorites and do what makes us most comfortable and what addresses the risks of greatest perceived relevance to us.

So, fellow preppers, and recognizing that diversity is a wonderful thing, here’s a polite suggestion and request.

By all means advocate your own personal views and what you do yourself to prep.  But when someone asks you about a different type of prepping, perhaps for a different type of scenario, don’t be negative about it.  Adopt a look of intelligent uncertainty, but treat the other prepper’s viewpoint with the same open-minded respect you hope people will treat you and your viewpoints.

It is as easy as this – you can say something like :

There’s really no end of risks in the world today, but for most of us, we have to prioritize which risks we respond to, and to base our responses on the limits of our time and our budget.

In a perfect world, I’d be enthusiastically doing everything about the risks and responses you mention too, but it isn’t practical for me to do everything about everything, and for now, in my situation, I’m doing the best I can.

Your mileage may vary – you might have a different set of priorities, and possibly more (or even less) time and/or money to allocate to your own preparing.  I’m able to tell you about what I’m doing and why it is important to me; that’s not to detract from your (or their) perspectives – we can both be right.  You’d have to speak to experts on this other type of prepping to properly understand what they do and why they do that.

That is a positive high-minded response which shows you to be open-minded and statesmanlike and serious and sensible.  It reflects positively on you and on the broader concept of prepping.

You’ll win more people to your point of view if you don’t put them on the defensive first.

Preppers and Non-Preppers

Something else might have encountered is a prepper being heckled and harangued by a non-prepper.  Eventually, frustratedly, the non-prepper pulls out what he believes to be his ‘trump card’ and says ‘Well, we’ll see who is laughing when TSHTF – don’t come to me, begging for my food’ and possibly then makes some reference to the dozens of guns he owns in a meaningful manner, implying what would happen to people who come to him asking for food.

You’ve probably seen this happen, but have you ever seen the non-prepper then say ‘Oh my goodness.  You’re so right.  I hadn’t thought about that at all.  You’ve completely changed my mind.  Where can I start stockpiling guns and food?’

No, of course not.  You see the non-prepper’s non-acceptance of the prepping mindset harden into one of adversarial contempt and distrust.  He is thinking ‘That guy just told me he’d leave me to die, and maybe even threatened to shoot me.  There should be a law against people like him’.

Did what our prepping friend thought was his biggest and bestest argument win the debate, or did it lose the debate totally?

If you find yourself discussing prepping with someone else, you are much better advised to play down the level of prepping you currently undertake, and instead help the person you’re talking with to understand how he is already a prepper, without even realizing it.  The only difference between him and you is a matter of degree.

This is a much smaller ideological gap to bridge.  Instead of squaring off at each other, almost literally with guns drawn, you are standing on the same side of an issue, with common shared viewpoints on the big things already.  Neither of you has to change your mind, you just have to slightly alter your thinking on the topic.

Make a statement like ‘All prepping requires is a willingness to invest time or money or resource now to reduce the potential downside of a future event, be it likely or unlikely.  I bet you’re a prepper yourself, without even realizing it.  Do you have insurance on your car?’

The person will require ‘Yes, of course’ and might go on to say ‘I have to by law’.

In that case you can laugh and say ‘Insurance is a form of prepping.  When I buy long shelf life food, I’m paying an insurance premium against a food shortage.  And car insurance is prepping for the possibility of an accident – it is so prudent that it is required by law.  What about householder’s insurance – do you have that, too?’

Maybe the person says ‘Yes, I have to for my mortgage’, in which case you can smile again and say ‘Not only is prepping sometimes mandatory by law due to social reasons, but the bankers recognize the prudence of prepping for financial good sense too.  But whereas, at the end of a year, your insurance payment has gone for ever, I still have my 25 year extended life food stored, and in 24 years time, if I haven’t needed to use it, I can then get my value out of it by simply eating it or a tax write off from donating it to charity.  My voluntary prepping costs me nothing.  There’s no harm and no downside to that.’

Anyway, take the discussion wherever it goes, and don’t try to swing a person’s views completely around 180 degrees.  Instead, encourage them to see that they have all along been a prepper of some sort, and then help them to make just a slight change in their perception so that they feel the good sense in starting to participate in some prepping themselves.

Read through our series ‘An Introduction to Prepping‘ for more thoughts on how to explain prepping to non-preppers.

And – as for the ultimate illogic of the ‘Don’t come running to me in an emergency line’, turn that around and say ‘Well, I sure respect your right not to prepare for anything at all in the future.  But how about at least giving me a bit of encouragement to double down on what I do?  That way, if things do go wrong unexpectedly, you know you’ve got someone to turn to for help and support!’

That’s the positive side of the same coin, isn’t it.  It is absolutely true that, in a catastrophe, non-prepared people will be forced to turn to us for help.  If we have an abundance of materials beyond that which we need ourselves, of course we’ll do all we can to help our fellow citizens.  Maybe it could even be profitable for us to do so when people suddenly find themselves with money but not way to spend it; or  maybe we’ll just do things out of the goodness of our hearts.

But whatever the situation, it is best for the people we must live with now to see us as a positive force for good, and someone to befriend, ‘just in case’, rather than a scary monster ready to start shooting them at the drop of a hat.

The Thing We Are Preparing For

Here’s a related comment for when discussing various TEOTWAWKI scenarios.

Be fuzzy about the details of what you are preparing for.  It is better to say ‘Society today has a range of built-in vulnerabilities.  Accepting these vulnerabilities gives us great convenience in our every day lives as long as all goes well, but if the vulnerabilities should eventuate, then in a worst case scenario, our current comfortable secure lifestyles could be massively impaired.  I’d be pleased to talk through many different possible situations with you, but I don’t think that essential.  I’ve simply prepared to be able to withstand some possible breakdowns in our society and all the underlying support systems that we rely upon.’

It is harder to argue the prudence of keeping a supply of emergency food on hand in case some vague thing interrupts the supply of food to your local supermarket, than it is debating the likelihood of a specific nation launching a specific attack against some specific part of the US infrastructure.

Talking about preparing for adversity is an extension of the widely understood and admired Boy Scout code of being prepared.  Worrying about some remote catastrophe sounds close to paranoid.  Use the positive to describe yourself, not the negative.


Prepping is a ‘broad church’ and both allows and encourages for many different views and approaches to the topic.  It is a positive and supportive activity, and you should be positive and supportive in how you describe it and discuss it.

Remember the saying ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’.

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