We Prepare, But We Are Not Preppers
By Lori Davis, New York
Because we raise our own food and run an organic farm, we are often asked if we are “preppers”. This often comes from people who’ve not been educated from folks who lived through the great depression or experienced life before technology and consumerism. My grandfather shaped my thinking as he lived through the Great Depression and had a vast farm in North Dakota. They were able to get by during the Depression when many didn’t. But to his dying day he saved every milk-jug he ever purchased in order to be able to store food and water should another depression hit. He was prepared!
As a little girl, I didn’t understand any of his hoarding, as I had no comprehension of the suffering that transpired from 1929 to 1939 and its impact on that entire generation. I just thought he was a little weird.
So, we ask those who ask, “What are ‘preppers’ in your mind as that has so many different connotations to so many different people?” The young people usually describe ‘preppers’ as people who store stuff, hoard stuff, are preparing for the zombie apocalypse, are loaded with guns and are going to survive when everyone else dies.
We respond that they’ve been watching too many horror movies then tell them we are simply being squirrels. Squirrels? … they ask perplexed.
We tell them the story of the squirrel that works hard all summer and fall to prepare for his/her winter, storing food. We explain that in nature this is life. We remind them that in spite of their phones and their sheltered view from their digital world, they too still live here on planet earth and share the same space with squirrels. So, what might a squirrel teach them? And what did our ancestors do before 1950 when big agriculture was developed to feed the world after World War II? Well, gardens by golly. In fact, all our ancestors had two gardens; one for food and one for medicine. It is only recently, even in America, where real-time demand creation has marketed the notion that you can rely on the system to, in an instant, provide all that you need. And that is called consumerism; we spend money so others take care of us. This is a very recent phenomena and not at all in keeping with natural laws of the universe.
Again, they are perplexed.
Squirrels worry not about the zombies, raging tornadoes, flash floods or a nuclear event on the horizon. Squirrels simply do logical things working to prepare. It is their life. All animals in the animal kingdom practice this concept to survive. Why don’t we? We ask them.
Once again – deeply perplexed.
We then explain the amoeba. Amoebas are single celled organisms; not too sophisticated. However, there are three fundamental things the amoeba do that tell us everything we need to know about how to survive. Their three top priorities (as in what they care about) in the correct order: First, territory; Second, food; Third, reproduction. All are fundamental to life. Amoebas aren’t preppers. They are living cells as are we. They care about the territory they occupy to be safe and keep them alive and allow them to get the second item, food. When they get space to live, survive and eat, they can then reproduce. How about that simplicity?
The kids begin to get interested. We show them promotions of our own leadership from the past where government and industry encouraged gardening while at war to keep the home front safe and stable while the men fought for freedom. The effort to help Americans keep food available and costs down was a big part of our effort to ease suffering while we were at war. Yes, these actions to prepare and provide were once a common and good thing for America, by America.
We then turn the questions on them: Can you feed yourself? Shelter yourself? Identify edible foods in the woods or lawn? Can you hunt, trap or fish? Can you make a fire with something other than a lighter? Can you find your way out of the woods with a map and compass? Can you milk a goat or cow? Can you grow a garden?
Unfortunately, the answers are usually no.
We explain to them that the term “prepper” is often used in a derogatory way to imply people are fanatics and think the world will end. Prepping, however, is what every entity on this planet does to survive on their own. Even trees do this. Sap from a pine tree is a healing agent used to seep through the cut that has harmed the tree. That tree is trying to save itself. And in fact that pitch is also a medicinal able to do the same thing on us humans—healing our cuts.
Every entity in the natural system preps. Humans, however, have been conditioned not to prep and to rely on the governmental and societal systems to sustain them. This is not good.
In all the natural disasters we have been in, the government never rode to the rescue during the strife itself, as in fixing the problem. They were trying to mitigate further disaster. I was stuck in London during the 9/11 attacks. Being stuck in a foreign country and not being able to fly out was scary. At midnight of 9/11 in our hotel in London, the hotel caught on fire. After being upset we couldn’t get home we were left standing on the London street in our pajamas watching a hotel fire with all our belongings in it. What do you do, kids? How do you get home? How do you provide for yourself when you only have one more night at the hotel and a week before you can even leave the country? And, there’s no way to cross the Atlantic at all until planes flew again, which we didn’t know when that would ever be.
Hmmmmm. Blank stares.
We also learned while living in upstate New York that most emergency vehicles and personnel get dispatched down-state for any disaster, leaving us left to fend for ourselves. New York City is probably one of the most highly sought after terrorist targets for attack on the planet. If you take down New York City, then you take down the financial blood veins of America. All police and fire get called south when terror strikes. To top that off, where our ranch is, we are the last stop before Canada for food distribution, which stops as well. Huge ice storms have been known to leave the entire town out of food and people without power for weeks. What do you do then? Everyone in our neck of the woods has canned food, firewood, generators, neighbors we call on to help and a strong sense of community. We can all survive. But could you survive?
We share with the kids another key point. Preppers tend to be about isolation and distrust of others, working from a premise of fear versus working from awareness about life.
So yes, kids would be well served to learn how to take care of themselves and learn how to survive and thrive, rather than getting hung up on the zombie apocalypse, guns and shooting people. Lack of this perspective and skills is causing a great deal of depression and loss of hope with our youth.
On a bright note, we remind them that they have access to more knowledge at their fingertips than any other generation in the history of the world. They can learn faster and with fellow learners easier than any other generation. This is worth celebrating. There is no need for our youth to be learning to survive from a point of fear when they can thrive working from a point of truly understanding the fundamental realities of being human. And, they can learn so much and so quickly simply through enabling their technology to teach them, anytime and anywhere. They can be proactive learners in the art of surviving and thriving!
However, the negative aspect of the term “prepper” wipes out any of this awareness and utilizes fear as the causal factor for action. And fear, once triggered, sends our youth into the fight-or-flight part of their brain, blocking and disabling the logical and reasoning function of their higher brain (neo-cortex). This is not good. Clear thinking as a necessary pre-requisite for survival requires that our youth learn and operate through their logical frontal lobe, not the fear portion of their brain. Being married to an Air Force man who’s taken all the POW training, survival training, underwater detonation training available and was in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972, he’ll tell you that training the mind to not operate out of fear is the number one requirement to survive. All survival training starts with getting the head on straight. Period.
So, how do we help teach kids that planning, preparing, skills development, access to knowledge, practice and getting to the point of expertise are worthwhile pursuits?
We believe it is by not dropping the big bombshell term, “prepper”. We believe it is taking the time to teach kids the fundamentals about humanity, natural laws, nature, living systems on this planet, how to work with different parts
of our brain to stay in control, develop good thought out plans, teach them to develop skills and explain to them that if bad things would hit the fan—humans come together in groups, they don’t go off alone and kill each other.
The core understanding about survival is this fact: In research going all the way back to pre-history studying animal life and survivability, animals that survived with the least amount of physical adaptation over time were the animals that lived and hunted in groups. Loners, be it the egocentric leader off on its own, or the weakling, unable to keep up, died. They always died. In fact, many animal species that were loners versus herd became extinct. The bottom line here is that survivability is directly correlated to working effectively in groups with each member of that group having necessary skills. This is completely a counter concept to the prepper mentality of isolationism.
Key takeaways we share with young people are the following:
Being prepared and the act of saving/storing is a fundamental reality to life on this planet;
To rely on others to do all that for you is counter to survival of the fittest, a natural law, and lacks staying power and will end in failure;
To live in your phone and not develop skills to survive in the real world is naive and downright ignorant;
To think you’ll go isolate yourself and lock yourself away to save yourself is equally ignorant;
To be depressed and think the world is ending and there is no hope is one fantasy. Another fantasy is that this society is safe and stable. No system is ever safe and stable over time. This is another natural law. Learning to adapt is another fundamental law of life. Adapt or die. So, be happy you have more knowledge at your disposal than all other generations combined who’ve ever walked this planet and rejoice in that and harness that knowledge!
We remind them that Neanderthals survived and thrived for a long time and they didn’t even have a neo-cortex for a brain, not like ours anyway. So the question is not is a nuclear war going to kill us; rather, will our lack of awareness our lack of awareness about the world we live in (ignorance) kill us? And, indeed ignorance kills.
So, are we preppers? No. Would we encourage any young person to be a prepper? No. Survival and thriving is not about what we run away from. It is about what we are running toward.