Doomsday planning for less crazy folk
- The prepper culture begs to be taken with a grain of salt. In some ways, it has all the makings of a doomsday cult: a tribe of unkempt misfits who hoard gold bullion, study herbalism, and preach about the imminent collapse of our society.
Today, we see such worries as absurd. It's not that life-altering disasters are rare: every year, we hear about millions of people displaced by wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods. Heck, not a decade goes by without at least one first-class democracy lapsing into armed conflict or fiscal disarray. But having grown up in a period of unprecedented prosperity and calm, we take our way of life for granted - and find it difficult to believe that an episode of bad weather or a currency crisis could destroy almost everything we worked for.
I suspect that we dismiss such hazards not only because they seem surreal, but also because worrying about them makes us feel helpless and lost. What's more, we follow the same instincts to tune out far more pedestrian and avoidable risks. Accustomed to the way things are, most of us don't plan ahead for losing a job, for dealing with a week-long water outage, or for surviving the night if our home goes up in smoke.
For many, the singular strategy for dealing with such dangers is to pray for the government to bail us out. But no matter if our elected officials prefer to school us with passages from Milton Friedman or from Thomas Piketty, the hard truth is that no state can provide a robust safety net for all of life's likely contingencies; in most places, government-run social programs are severely deficient in funding, in efficiency, and in scope. Large-scale disasters pit us against even worse odds; from New Orleans to Fukushima, there are countless stories of people left behind due to political dysfunction, poorly allocated resources, or lost paperwork.
And so, the purpose of this guide is to combat the mindset of learned helplessness by promoting simple, level-headed, personal preparedness techniques that are easy to implement, don't cost much, and will probably help you cope with whatever life throws your way.