COVID-19: Pandemic Puts Preppers In The Spotlight

So-called “preppers” are enjoying a moment in the Sun these days with their doomsday-style approach to life where they stockpile resources from food and fuel to guns/ammo (and maybe even toilet paper) in anticipation of societal breakdown where everyone is left to fend for themselves.

At it’s core, there’s obvious merit in people having some capacity to ride out a short-term disruption to normal life. From relatively minor upsets such as a weekend-long snow storm or an extended power outage to a more severe upset such as an earthquake or tornado, there are a range of events where people would benefit from having an emergency supply of food, water and other household items, along with some savings to draw on.

Many preppers, though, take that commonsense idea to a whole new level — one that accords more with apocalyptic fiction in the vein of Richard Matheson’s¬†I Am Legend, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road where human existence essentially boils down to survival for the sake of survival.

Should humanity fall victim to some galactic tragedy, such as a massive asteroid strike or flood of radiation from a supernova or some other stellar catastrophe, that spirit would be admirable.

But I doubt science-fiction style scenarios like that factor into the thinking of preppers. Instead, their concerns are driven more by basic issues of politics and economics that are playing out in this late capitalist age, with gross income inequality, a xenophobic surge of nationalist populism and growing climate chaos caused by global warming.

While these problems are daunting, they are not unsolvable. So while preppers may be patting themselves on the back for the foresight in the early days of what most analysis suggests will be 12 to 18-month struggle to bring this pandemic under control, it’s also extremely specious of them since it’s the very attitudes they embody that are creating the conditions for future disasters to unfold.

That’s especially true for uber-preppers such as Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel who have built fortified compounds in New Zealand to serve as a refuge against the ravages of climate change. It is their greed, after all, that is driving us there in the first-place. But preppers who support austerity-minded politicians who put short-term corporate interests ahead of longer-term societal well-being deserve to be called out too.