From the first time I’ve heard about survivalists and preppers, I’ve always felt there is a stigma associated with emergency preparedness. In fact, preppers and survivalists have been called paranoid, doomers, and downright crazy. Have those perceptions changed lately, and am I the only one seeing a change in how the general public now sees us?
The events of 2020, more precisely the COVID pandemic, the rising racial tension, and general social unrest that spread more and more, have brought into the spotlight the world of survival. In fact, the average American citizen found out there are people out there living comfortably inside their homes without having to go out and fight others for toilet paper and other basic items.
It seemed that preppers were no longer being put down for their lifestyle, and they started to attract appreciation for their readiness. A large number of people started moving toward their way of thinking and doing stuff.
However, this wasn’t a direct course of action, and the transition occurred rather slowly as the events unfolding in our country went from okay, to bad end, eventually outright disastrous.
When did it all start?
Without a doubt, the most obvious event that turned skeptics into believers was the pandemic. Such an event seemed nothing more than a science-fiction scenario for the general public, but for preppers, it was just another addition on their could-happen list.
Most survivalists and preppers already had surgical and particle-filtering masks, gloves, and protection gear already stocked. During that time, such items were purchased in high quantities by the public but also by hoarding opportunists looking to make a quick buck.
In fact, something that quickly attracted attention was when preppers started wearing masks and protective gear before these became recommendations for the average American citizen. This actually increased visibility for the entire situation, but it made people aware that preppers were among them. This opened lines of communications regarding survival concerns, and people were approaching them to ask what was going on.
While most of the questions were related to the unfolding pandemic, they also helped debate growing concerns about joblessness and the eroding fabric of our society. In fact, during that time, there were record firearms and ammunition sales because people wanted to feel safe and protect themselves in case needed.
The pandemic was just the first wake up signal
Once the pandemic started running wild, it triggered a chain reaction which raised several other concerns. These new worries increased the interest in emergency preparedness from the general public even more.
Once the virus began to affect personnel from factories, food-processing plants, farms, and the local grocery stores, people soon realized how fragile the supply chain is and how quickly it can crumble. Many products were in limited supply, and people were buying everything they could find.
An interest in shelf-life and stable foods increased considerably, and people started looking into survival foods. In fact, regular folks soon rushed online, researching the food options they’ve just learned about, and started buying in bulk. The year 2020 represented a novelty for me in terms of the scale of desperation in regular people once I noticed that the inventories of survival-food sellers were decimated in less than a month.
As the ripple of the pandemic grew in size, many businesses were shut down, and certain professions had to be put on pause indefinitely. The lockdown left many families jobless and exposed to the ever-increasing stress of daily life. Many were afraid their business or their homes would be looted by those seeking an “easy meal,” and they started to get prepared.
The sale of firearms and ammunition skyrocketed, and the news spread by the media led to a panic buying so large that many gun shops were sold out of popular firearms and ammunition. Even those that were unfamiliar with guns or those fearing such tools ended up buying one or more firearms just to be ready to protect themselves from whatever might come their way.
During the year, we saw it all. Other events that made the news, like social unrest, rioting, and domestic terrorism, had people worry, and they soon realized that events that “wound never happen here” were indeed happening there.
“Don’t believe anything until you see it”
I first read about the “new flu” in October 2019 on some obscure forums from 4chan and Reddit, where rumors from China were slipping through the cracks of their censorship wall. I followed the topic closely and told a couple of friends and relatives about what I’ve read and advised them to get some supplies while they still could (masks, disinfectants, etc.).
None of those people were preppers, and they told me I was exaggerating as usual. Those that listened thanked me later and no longer saw me as a worrywart, although only a few of them started looking more into emergency preparedness.
When news outlets in the US started informing the general public on what was going on in China, most of them didn’t give it too much thought, and they all believed the government would take care of the situation if it got serious.
Once cases began to pop all over the country, it was no longer a problem far across the world that others had to handle. As it started to spread from Washington to other states and the number of cases rose throughout the country, a lot of people started to wonder when their state would be hit next. Many people wouldn’t or couldn’t believe what was happening, and they said is nothing more than the flu.
They were quite wrong, and the reality of the situation soon started affecting their daily lives when cases started appearing in their own cities and neighborhoods. Constant news about the rate of infection and the death count caused by the virus with the inability of people to find the information they were able to trust led to panic. The pandemic was here to stay, and its effects weren’t going away anytime soon.
While preppers always plan things and prepare ahead for various scenarios that could happen, the majority of people have the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. They don’t understand how local, state, and federal governments work, and they fail to understand that these entities won’t always make the best decision for the public, and they aren’t prepared to quickly and decisively act when a crisis of such magnitude occurs.
They had to see it to believe it, and once the reality was finally sinking in, they all accepted the situation and realized it was in their backyard and could no longer be ignored.
Getting on board
For the first time in years, there was a good amount of positive press we were getting. Halfway through 2020, the interest in anything related to prepping and survival, such as books, magazines, TV shows, YouTube videos, skyrocketed and people were looking for any source of information they could find.
A noticeable trend was the increased airing of end of the world and survival programs and films. Such productions had a greater than usual frequency, and they gained a lot of popularity, even though some of these were not the ideal sources of information.
Those that never before stored food, water, and other supplies soon became invested in doing it for “rainy days,” and they looked for ways to become more self-sufficient. Every survival knowledge out there was ingested in great quantities, and a lot of people looked for ways to incorporate what they learned into their lives.
During the lockdown, people started re-discovering the joy of gardening, which would offer them free produce for their dinner table. Some gained interest in canning, while others started raising a flock of chickens in their small backyards.
Stockpiling food and supplies has now become a thing, and many have adopted a “buy and store it” mentality.
For some, survival is cool
What once was strange behavior for some has now become cool, and being cool is contagious. Some do it because they see this lifestyle as “cool and badass,” but even so, it’s better to do it for those reasons than not doing it at all.
The stigma that followed us seems to have lost its influence, and now being a prepper is seen as a practice of intelligent thinking and preparations that only responsible people can do it. Well, it was so long before it became cool, and I’m glad more people realize it is not something only paranoid people do.
Also, a lot of people falsely assumed that turning their lifestyle towards the prepping approach would force them to live like in the old days. They feared the comfort they were used to would be gone, and they will have to return to a primitive living. That’s nothing more than a false assumption, and primitive survival is quite different than emergency preparedness.
While it pays to learn how to build a shelter with natural resources, how to start a fire using primitive ways, or how to gather and purify water, you can also choose the easier path. There are all sorts of gadgets and tools which make such tasks a child’s play, and you aren’t forced to take the bushcrafting approach.
While it is recommended to learn how our ancestors managed to survive and go on about their daily lives, you can choose the path which is the easiest for you and works for your needs.
At the time of this writing, the pandemic seems to be over for many, and we can’t know what the future may bring. It may die out, and the COVID-19 virus will replace the annual flu virus, or it can create new mutations that would set us back into the scenario we lived through 2020.
One thing, however, is certain: Many skeptics became believers, and some of them chose the emergency preparedness lifestyle. There seems to be a certain shift in mentality. We are no longer the “crazy ones,” and people see the benefits of prepping and the life-saving advantages it brings.
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How The Year 2020 Changed The Way Preppers Are Seen is written by Bob Rodgers for prepperswill.com