I love what I do. Teaching survival and traditional skills is among the most rewarding professions I can imagine. That said, I often get lumped in with groups of people who do something that I view as completely different, far less useful, and ultimately dangerous and harmful. I’m talking about preppers and survivalists. Why does this bother me so much? We obviously have enough in common to be nearly indistinguishable to the average person. I teach survival, I teach preparation… but I never, ever call myself a prepper or survivalist and here’s why:
Preppers are not preparing for anything. They live in an adolescent, violent, toxic, male fantasy that is the adult equivalent of playing with G.I Joes in the bathtub. They would love nothing more than for the world to collapse into dystopian apocalypse so they can prove to themselves that all their pent up aggression and violence is useful for something. But it’s not.
I’ve got news. The future that preppers so desperately desire is never going to happen. It’s not going to happen because we are already dealing with something much more terrifying… catastrophic climate change. The world’s top climate scientists have essentially given us a few generations at the current rate before our world can no longer sustain human life at current population. Our apocalypse is currently happening, it will be slow, it will be desperate, and violence will not solve it. You may dream of warring factions fighting for resources, raiding each other’s compounds for food, water, and ammunition. But the truth is that good folks, smart folks, engineers, scientists, and non-violent climate activists are already working on more sustainable, longer term solutions than hiding in a bunker with a bunch of guns and canned meat. You’re just going to look like the jackass who buried themselves alive while the rest of us are actually producing food, energy, and rehabilitating our damaged planet.
Prepping is a short term solution, it is not sustainable and it doesn’t give you any of the tools you need for multi-generational survival.
Even if your fantasy “end-of the- world” scenario were to happen, no amount of stockpiled firearms, ammunition or MREs is ever going to keep you alive long enough to use them. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the U.S. government was to gain enough traction to go full fledged Orwellian Big Brother on us. The technology and resources currently available to private citizens for self defense places us at approximately equal in power to a fly picking a fight with a windshield. Forgetting for a moment all the nuclear arms, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction… just look at this video:
Now this is a dramatization released by a group called "The Future of Life Institute", meant to get us thinking about the implications of modern tech with military application ( I almost got you didn't I)... But all this tech exists. It won't be long until someone figures out how to put it all together to do this exact thing. Pinpoint accurate, non-piloted, AI driven, swarm tech, facial recognition equipped, weaponized miniature drones. The video suggests that tech like this will be far more cost effective...for $25 million our government can buy enough to wipe out half a city... the bad half. The most expensive fighter jet in the world is the F-22 Falcon at an astonishing $152 million each… as of 2010 the U.S. government owned 195 of them for a total of 63.7 billion dollars on a single kind of jet. Assume for a moment that we see this kind of tech in the next 10-15 years (not a stretch). For scale, that amount of money could be used to purchase enough mini drones to wipe out the population of 1,346 major cities in their entirety… for the amount of money we have spent on one single type of fighter jet. Bottom line, if the military industrial complex decides to wipe out everyone who disagrees with them, they will… and it will be almost as easy as Thanos snapping his fingers. None of you preppers stands a chance. Fly… meet windshield.
So why do I care about what preppers do? Why even bother with them? It’s because their fantasy is dangerous and contagious. It creates a narrative and a framing for survival that is all about machismo, violence, physical strength, and pain tolerance. It marginalizes people who rely on intellect, compassion, and mindfulness. We all worry about our future and we all fantasize about what the end of the world might look like… in fact we love the prepper fantasy. We gorge ourselves on media portraying these fantasies because it takes us away from the reality of our decline. I want humans to do better, I want us to fix it, not to prepare for the inevitable failure of our species. I want us all to put our energy where it matters and figure out a different, healthier way to live with our natural world. I want us to change. Get out of your basement, get out of your childish fantasy, make yourself a solution and not a problem.
Survival in Reality
My favorite reality style survival show (and the only reality show worth watching in my humble opinion) Is “Alone” on the history channel. There is of course a competitive element to the show, but as you watch these extraordinary people try to live in the most inhospitable conditions on the planet you begin to forget that there might be a metric buttload of money waiting for the winner. It becomes more about the beauty of the struggle as time wears steadily on. It shows you that survival is not fantastic… it’s grounded. It shows you the glory of small things like eating a full meal, drinking clean water, and making a successful fire when it’s wet and cold.
There’s a strange sort of thing that happens though. You’ll notice it starting in the first seasons and it continues on throughout the show. Folks who come to the show from law enforcement and military backgrounds don’t last long unless they have training in traditional skills. Even with that training… they never win. They come on, they talk big… really big… and then they fail or tap out within days. Sometimes they don’t even last one night. Why is this? It’s because they are not allowed to carry a firearm.
Speaking strictly from a survival standpoint, a firearm is a useful tool that makes hunting far more efficient and less time consuming. However, often folks rely on firearms so much that they become a crutch for survival and safety. This is the primary reason most law enforcement and military folks never do well on shows like Alone. When your survival leans too much on your tools, you lean less on your most important tool… your damn brain. If, without your gun, you can’t hunt, you can’t eat, and you are scared of every snapping twig in the night, you are not a survivor...you are barely a shadow of the humans that survived to bring us here. Out there in the wilderness it’s not you versus nature. You don’t stand a chance against nature. To survive you must become a part of nature, a leaf in the wind (RIP Wash). Stop leaning on your firearm or it will stop being a tool and it will become an obstacle.
If you want to survive, move away from your violent fantasies and towards an understanding of natural systems. Study animal behavior, not military tactics. Learn bird language, not hand to hand combat. Discipline your mind and body towards health, not dominance. Don’t stockpile weapons, learn to grow food and make medicine. Discover all your resources and work hard to steward them. Believe it or not, you are still a wild animal capable of living in the harshest environments… even if you’ve forgotten how, you can still learn.
Learn with me! Sign up for classes at www.blackoakwilderness.com