When the Sh*t Hits the Fan

Whether it's a coupon-clipping, back-to-nature guy escaping the rat race, or someone certain we're on the brink of war or a future in which Barack Obama has taken away our guns, preppers are ready. The rest of us, maybe not so much.

By 2002, there were only 143 such groups for Potok to track, and as the Bush years rolled on, and many on the political right felt they had a sympathetic group of people clutching the reins of power, the numbers would fall to 131.

But with the subprime economic collapse and the arrival of Obama as president, there was a resurgence of such organizations. From 149 groups in 2008, the number shot in one year to 512. In 2010, there were 824. Last year's 1,274 was the all-time high, a number Potok calls "mind-blowing."

When asked on the Texas message board of the American Prepper Web site how the shit might hit the fan, "Desert Dweller" looked into his/her rearview mirror and said that "the doo doo hit the air conditioner in 2008." Citing a "steady decline ever since" for consumers in food and gas prices and everywhere else, Desert Dweller turned toward a crystal ball and declared that things would soon get still worse. "We are just awaiting the 'main event,' i.e., the stock crash and other countries in the EU collapsing, as they are well on their way. Not to mention, a possible WW3 scenario."

John Wells, a self-described moderate prepper, stands at the door of his shipping-container house outside of Terlingua, Texas. Wells keeps a blog about living off the grid, called The Field Lab, that he updates daily.
Brittanie Shey
John Wells, a self-described moderate prepper, stands at the door of his shipping-container house outside of Terlingua, Texas. Wells keeps a blog about living off the grid, called The Field Lab, that he updates daily.
Wells bought his land outside Terlingua in 2007. Originally from New York, he got sick of the rat race and decided to take on a life of self-sustainability.
Brittanie Shey
Wells bought his land outside Terlingua in 2007. Originally from New York, he got sick of the rat race and decided to take on a life of self-sustainability.

In response to the WTSHTF question on the American Prepper site, "Carborendum" laid out four scenarios, all implicating leftist agitation. One had it that Occupy would go into a frenzy when and if they came to believe that Obama might lose the election. Another posited that "similar uprisings" would somehow manage to scupper the election. A third predicted leftist riots in the wake of a Romney win, and a fourth, and perhaps the most ominous one in Carborendum's view, had Obama winning. In that scenario, "his 'fundamental transformation' that has already begun will go into overdrive."

In a counterintuitive development in light of the color of the president's skin, one recently disgraced former neo-Nazi leader has come to believe that income inequality is an even bigger problem than an impending race war, long the predicted end of American life as we know it for groups like his.

August Kreis, formerly the leader of an Aryan Nations faction until his conviction for fraud relating to his veterans' benefits, recently told the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report journal that militia and "Patriot" groups, many of which overlap somewhat in philosophy with some preppers, will grow larger the longer the economy stays sour. "White people are arming themselves — and black people, too," Kreis said. "I believe it's eventually going to come down to civil war. It's going to be an economic war, the rich versus the poor. We're being divided along economic lines."

To Potok, prepping is a uniquely American phenomenon. First, he says, America is "a society based on the idea of rugged individualism, and especially rugged individualism married to a rifle." Second, Potok says that America's very origins are in a massive rebellion against central authority. "King George, get away from us. So right from the beginning there's this strain of antigovernment feeling in our culture." Among western nations, America is also the most religious, Potok says. "You just don't hear these end-times religious scenarios in European life, at all."

What's more, Potok says, as Van Zandt exemplifies and as Hogwood obliquely acknowledges, Americans are a conspiracy-minded people. "There are conspiracy theorists everywhere, but I doubt very much that there is any country whose culture is so closely associated with conspiracy as this one," he says. And conspiracy theory, any conspiracy theory, is high-octane fuel for the militant preppers.
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For Charley Hogwood, prepping's growing popularity since 2008 has been an opportunity. The Florida native says he's always been an outdoorsman and survival-skill aficionado, and later military adventures amplified those interests. Hogwood served as an armored cavalry scout along the fortified border between East and West Germany in the 1980s. After the Chernobyl disaster, he was assigned to monitor radiation dispersement on both sides of the Iron Curtain. "We saw a lot of East German life and it was a whole different world," he said. "When you get into other people's lives, you see how spoiled we are."

A few years later, he returned home and joined the National Guard, just in time for the devastation that followed Hurricane Andrew. He became an infantry squad leader and was deployed to Cutler Ridge, Florida, the neighborhood hardest hit by the hurricane.

"As soon as the sun went down, there'd be firefights," he said. "You don't want to find yourself in a sunny relief line waiting for a bottle of water and an MRE when that happens."

He says the differences between how the Americans and Europeans handled disaster were drawn in bold relief during Andrew. "Americans are so spoiled. If we had a serious situation in this country, we wouldn't be as quick to recover."

After working as a consultant and then working through the latest Florida real-estate boom as a general contractor, Hogwood turned the lemons of the housing bust into the lemonade of a new career as a prepper-supplier. So he started his own business, Ready Go Prep, which offers customized emergency plans, prepping workshops for large and small groups, prepping equipment, and supplies and news updates on topics of concern to ­preppers.

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8 comments
David Houston
David Houston

And by the way. Can I state the obvious here? If you paid $50,000 MORE for your home (as you stated down the page) than the tax appraiser valued it, then you might have paid too much! In this economy, all I can do is shake my head after reading your comment. It's a buyers-market right now. Hate to break it to you, but it sounds like the Seller/Real-Estate agent saw you coming....

David Houston
David Houston

Erm. Can I state the obvious here? If you paid $50,000 more for your home than the tax appraiser valued it, you might have paid too much!

David Houston
David Houston

Neartown/Montrose area, the tax appraisal has been stuck at the same rate for 3 years, yet the houses have dropped in value by typically figures of $100,000+. The city of Houston however have not reduced their taxes. Clearly you live miles from town. I gave you a real example already, go look a Zillow, examples are easy to find as you approach Downtown Houston.

David Houston
David Houston

Well someone has to dig in the dirt in the 100 degree heat to keep you safe doncha know? Whether it's The National Guard or just plain volunteers like you or me. Sometimes it takes a lot of work, to work out the problems. You have to contribute something to the greater good. Otherwise you're just a burden on the rest of the people. Katrina, Ike, need I say more? During Katrina, some people were happy to pee in holes and live in tents, trailers, cars, or whatever would save their lives. You aid society by not being a burden on it, that way the people who really do need the help get the help they need. Don't be a burden on the rest of us, if that day ever comes, next hurricane or whatever... At least prepare for that, as the News & Weather Channels and Government suggests you should.

Erik
Erik

like Jeffrey explained I didnt even know that a single mom able to earn $6503 in one month on the computer. have you seen this webpage lazycash42.c()m

Anse
Anse

Eh...I just bought a house and the county's appraisal is a good $50,000 less than what I paid for it. In fact I don't think I know anybody whose tax appraisal is actually above their real market value, and most folks I know have a tax appraisal that's less.

Anse
Anse

These folks can do as they like. The 95% of us who enjoy buying our groceries at the market so we don't have to break our backs in 100 degree heat digging in the dirt for our very survival are gonna go ahead and try to work out our problems so we don't ever have to live in tents and pee in holes.

Anse
Anse

Is there any political argument that cannot exploit Hitler in some way? I'm calling foul and charging you with breaking the Lame and Predictable Talking Points Rule. I just made it up. The penalty is me and approximately half the readers of this thread groaning and rolling our eyes.

 
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