Preparing for the end of the world has been going on for years. Survivalists and so-called "preppers" sprung up independently and in groups during the Cold War, largely out of the fear of a nuclear disaster. But since then, survivalism has evolved to encompass different fears, philosophies and visions of the future. Of course, it doesn't end well in any of them. But the sources of the would-be apocalypse varies, including war (foreign and domestic), environmental disaster, societal collapse, old-fashioned zombies and more.
But now, in the face of a deadly health pandemic, it seems all of us have gotten a taste of expecting (and getting) the worst. For preppers, COVID-19 may (or may not) be a time to adjust plans and sharpen the vision about how to make it when the ultimate disaster arrives.
Going "Primitive" in Quebec: Survivalism is not about stockpiling toilet paper when the government declares national lockdown. "True early preppers already had theirs," film director Christian Lalumière told Le Journal de Montréal. He recently filmed an eight-episode series called "The Last Humans" that follows a survivalist tribe, Les Primitifs (The Primitives), and aims at debunking the survivalist cliché of the old loner living in the woods, living off his homegrown food and guns.
• The focus is on what has been dubbed the "new-survivalism," a branch of the movement whose goal is mainly to reconnect with nature as an answer to all kinds of crises, from health to ecological to economic. Building a community is a big part of the philosophy.
• A very different kind of a survivalist interviewed by Radio Canada says the pandemic has exacerbated the fear of becoming the target for non-preppers, and people are buying weapons typically used for hunting for self-defense.
Les Primitifs member starting a fire — Photo: Facebook page
It's l'economia, stupido: Italian survivalists say they saw the health crisis coming and were ready for it. Their Rambo skills and stockpiled masks and food stock could be useful for the coming economic crash, unemployment and political chaos. The Italian online newspaper Linkiesta reports that more people are identifying as preppers among those financially hit by COVID-19, as well as those who fear the collapse of the government.
• More and more people are contacting survivalist groups looking to learn about producing their own resources, becoming self-sufficient and other basic survival savoir-faire in order to spend less and have less to worry about while looking for a new job and source of income.
Surviving Brexit, and then COVID-19: Long before the health crisis, another lingering threat had awakened survival instincts of some Britons: the specter of chaos and food shortages induced by Brexit trade shutdowns. As the separation with the European Union approached last December, The Guardian dubbed those stockpiling food as "Brexit hoarders." The arrival of COVID only amplified the new wave of worrying.
• Emergency Food Storage UK quickly began selling out its "Brexit Box," which contains one month worth of freeze-dried food plus a water filter and fire kit. According to the British outlet, demand has multiplied with COVID.
Photo: Emergency Food Storage UK Facebook page
U.S. - Exile from nationwide unrest and natural disaster
In the cradle of survivalism, prepping gear is an ever more fruitful business. According to Business Insider Today, the demand for gas masks, hazmat suits and other survival gear has skyrocketed due to a mix of COVID fear and other national disturbances such as West Coast wildfires and Black Lives Matter protests. Prepping has simply gone mainstream.
The U.S. has long been among the avant-garde in terms of different forms of survivalism. For the wealthiest souls of the Silicon Valley, doomsday prepping means such action as getting laser eye surgery to increase chances of survival, buying multimillion-dollar remote properties in New Zealand, having a helicopter all gassed-up and ready to fly and of course, stockpiling guns and ammo. Surviving by any (financial) means necessary.
SARS revival and everyday survival in Singapore: Any good survivalist will tell you that preparation applies to all kinds of crisis, including a pandemic. But no prepper is more prepared than one who actually went through a health crisis. In his disaster-ready home, A prepper from Singapore who gave his name as Samuel explained to Channel News Asia how the SARS outbreak in 2003 convinced him to be ready for anything to save his family. He knew exactly what he needed when the nature of the coronavirus got clearer, adding items to his impressive survival kit because he resides in a red zone for dengue.
As explained on the Singaporian news channel, prepping is about being ready for anything, from natural catastrophe to kidnapping to heart attack. It is a way of life that must happen before all hell breaks, and it's about saving yourself as well as helping your neighbor.
Final takeaway: Skills and knowledge are at least as important as the equipment. Still, it's never too early to stockpile — masks and all.
See more from Culture / Society here