“This ain’t no party / this ain’t no disco / this ain’t no foolin’ around,” as David Bryne of the Talking Heads once reminded us in the song “Life During Wartime.”
And indeed, when you’re getting ready for what you believe to be the impending demise of civilization and perhaps the planet itself, the to-do list can seem endless. You’ve got to make sure your gas masks are stored in an accessible place, and that you’ve got an adequate supply of arrows for your crossbow. You’ve got to make sure to feed the tilapia swimming around in the solar-powered aquaponic greenhouse that you’ve built in what used to be a backyard swimming pool. You’ve got to stock up on freeze-dried, dehydrated food and seeds to grow your crops, once large-scale industrial agriculture and supermarkets wither away. You’ve got to practice your bartering skills, since after the government and the economy collapse, money is going to be worthless. And that’s just off the top of our heads. (For a more methodical approach, check out this helpful checklist of doomsday recommendations posted at Abovetopsecret.com).
If it’s any consolation, though, scores of other “doomsday preppers” across the land have been laboring to get ready for the big day, too. The wary include even celebrities such as actor Ashton Kutcher, who told Men’s Fitness magazine recently that he is training in Krav Maga, the martial art ultilized by Israeli commandos, in anticipation of having to protect his family after the inevitable collapse of civilization. With the self-assurance of a confirmed prepper, he warned:
It will not take much for people to hit the panic button. The amount of convenience that people rely upon based on electricity alone. You start taking out electricity and satellites, and people are going to lose their noodle.
Of course, the belief that the end of the world as we know it–TEOTWAWKI, in Internet survivalist parlance–is nearly upon us is not a new one. Predictions of the impending apocalypse go back, well, to the Book of Revelation itself, which was writen by John of Patmos in the late First Century AD. From Beliefnet, here’s a fascinating list of 25 prophets who predicted the end of the world, right up to Howard Camping, the radio preacher who recently proclaimed–errantly, it seems, since we’re still here–that the End Times would begin with a devastating earthquake on May 21, 2011.
Over those 2000 or so years, there’s been an evolution of apocalyptic thinking. When the Millerites prepared for the prophesied end of the world on October 23, 1844, they sold their possessions, dressed in white robes, and climbed the highest mountains and hills they could find, in order to make their ascension to heaven easier. But they saw their fate as a given, a product of Divine will that they could not hope to alter.
20th and 21st Century apocalyptic thinkers, in contrast, more often tend to see the approaching demise of civilization and order as the inevitable result of human misdeeds and miscalculations. They also tend, a bit optimistically, to see the collapse of civilization as a survivable event, akin to the fall of Rome or the zombie epidemic in George Romero’s 1978 horror film Dawn of the Dead, in which non-infected holdouts barricaded themselves into a shopping mall and, for a time, enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle.
As Daniel Wojcik noted in his 1999 book, The End of the World as We Know it: Faith, Fatalism and Apocalypse in America, recent decades have seen the rise of secular survivalists, who see the end of the existing order as a transformative, cleansing event, and expect that human society will resurrect itself in a purer, more idyllic form. Some white-supremacist groups, he notes, envision an apocalyptic cataclysm as an opportunity to eradicate Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and others whom they blame for the decline of the present civilization.
Not all Preppers, it should be emphasized, harbor such extreme and virulent beliefs. But regardless of one’s ideology, there’s still a lot of work to do to get ready for the day when all the clocks stop. Fortunately, at least until the Internet goes on the blink, there will be plenty of doomsday online superstore websites such Survival Unlimited, offering the latest in accoutrements for Armageddon. The forewarned can also find useful DIY information at Undergroundbombshelter.com, a site that offers articles with titles such as “Group Dosimetry: Keeping Track of Radiation Exposure” and “Finding and Covering Up Leaks in Bomb Shelter Gamma Shielding.” For those who are concerned about both surviving and staying Green, there’s the Organic Survivalist Site, which offers a don’t-miss article on a “Natural herbal remedy for internal and external bleeding control” and a recipe for homemade high-protein vegetable crackers to augment the freeze-dried soups that you’ll be sipping in your redoubt.
Watch Doomsday Preppers on Monday, June 27 at 10 pm. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak: