It’s not an exaggeration to say that the world that we live in 2017 feels a lot more stressful than it did around this time 12 months ago. Here in the United States, the news seems to just get worse and worse with each new week. We all have enough to worry about right now, so I won’t recap a lot of the messed up things going on. But I will ask you to go back with me a few weeks, when it was one of those weeks when the current big worry was if North Korea was looking to Nuke some part of the US. Now I realize that this threat is actually not new and continues to be an on-going concern. But it was during this one of these weeks when I found myself in my local grocery store and I glanced at the magazine stand. And there it was, not just one, but two different ‘special edition’ magazines devoted entirely to DOOMSDAY prepping:
My initial thought was, “This is our world now.” as I shook my head and let out a heavy sigh. That said, I still picked one up, mostly for a laugh. The headline “15,000 Nuclear Warheads WORLDWIDE, How safe are we?” made me cringe. Frankly, if it came something like that, I figure that we are all toast. It amused me to see two different magazines showcasing such fear mongering and portraying an apocalyptic warrior wearing a gas mask with some sort of smoldering ruins in the background. I mean, seriously! Check out these covers and look at the images and fear mongering headlines:
It all conjures up memories of those awesome dystopian action films in the Mad Max series. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, it follows the adventures of Max Rockatansky, a police officer in a future whose wife and child are murdered by a vicious thugs shortly after societal collapse due to a nuclear war and the survivors have critical resource shortages.
Max kills those responsible and then becomes a drifting loner in the Wasteland. As Australia devolves further into barbarity, this skilled warrior of the road finds himself helping pockets of civilization, initially for his own self-interest, but his motives always drift into more idealistic ones. The films always featured insane gangs of mutant thugs who would wear armor cobbled together with pieces of scrap metal and other garbage left over from the world before. These gangs would ride in tricked-out vehicles, like pirates roaming the wastelands always looking for their next victims. Gas was always the most prized resource in these movies, for it kept their vehicles running. Water being the other needed resource.
It makes for some cool fiction, must like the Walking Dead series does. There’s just something very compelling about tales set in a post-apocalyptic world. Fun to watch and interesting to think about, but it is also extremely horrifying to contemplate actually living through such times. We all know about survivalists and doomsday preppers. Those who actively stock up and plan for the end of the world, all with their own various theories about how that end will happen. There has even been at least one reality TV show that I know of that featured such folk. Doomsday Preppers was an American reality television series that aired on the National Geographic Channel.
The show profiles various survivalists, who are preparing to survive the various circumstances that may cause the end of civilization. The quality of their preparations is graded by the consulting company of survival experts, who provide analysis and recommendations for improvements.
I had to grab at least one of these magazines, I found myself drawn to all the extreme imagery and found myself laughing as I just flipped through a few pages. If anything, I figured it would be good mocking material for later or maybe serve as a nugget of inspiration for a short story or something. So I threw the magazine in my cart and went on with my shopping.
Later, I finally got round to looking at the magazine and was floored by how blatant commercial this magazine was. Oh sure, I expected ads. That is always a given. But flipping through the magazine it became very clear that doomsday prepping is a massive industry and some folks are totally cashing in on all of this fear. It’s an industry that’s always been with us. Heck, think about all those who built bomb shelters in their houses during the 50’s and 60’s? But I suspect that there has been something absolutely horrible that recently fueled an increase in this industry, but I just can’t put my finger on what that could be:
The ads were pretty consistent as they all pitched a product or service that would help you survive through the end of times, this was usually emphasized with an image of some gas mask wearing wasteland warrior near a pile of rubble, must like the covers of these magazines.
Most of the survival products also came in different varieties, the standard ones having a mostly boring “this is a tool” type of look about them. And then you always had the others, which would be usually in black and have the word “tactical” applied to it. This always gave it the air of it being something more akin to what you’d find in the Call of Duty games:
One of the most common items I saw in these magazines and websites was the need for a ‘Bug-Out Bag’. For those not in the know, a Bug-Out Bag or BOB is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster; however some kits are designed to last longer periods. The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit.
A sound idea provided the world around you isn’t an irradiated fiery wasteland. But outside of a nuclear or chemical attack, there are actually many reasons for having one (Natural disasters and what not). Some survivalists also recommend keeping a ‘get me home’ kit in the car and/or at work. You can find plenty of suggested lists online that will detail what you should fill your own Bug-Out Bag with:
And there are plenty of online Doomsday prepper sites selling these bags in various sizes and looks. Most have that tactical look, but I’m sure you can find something more stylish if you look further:
In addition to selling you stuff, these magazines have some very basic articles that range from tips on picking the right type of gear, stories from survivors of extreme situations, lifestyles of the rich and prepared, etc. These articles would often follow the same design language of the ads and covers, and feature some sort of Mad Max-style wasteland warriors. My favorite was this family of dreadlocked survivors, each with matching goggles and masks.
Heck, they even have a baby wearing a gas mask and sprouting tiny dreads!
And this was an article about the importance of having some junk food in your supplies. You gotta keep up that wasteland morale!
Now I’m not all down on all of this kind of stuff. I do believe in having emergency supplies for various potential scenarios. My family was once snowed in and stuck without any power for 11 days during one nasty winter. We certainly learned from that. But these magazines and websites do kind of leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I get that these companies are in business to make money and what not, but I could just see a lot of easily impressionable people out there spending way more money than they probably can actually afford to prepare for the end of days that may never come. Oh sure, they can eat or donate that stored food before it all expires. One of the most amusing was this site that sold survival food for ‘self-reliant patriots’:
“My Patriot Supply was born with a passion for helping Americans achieve independence through preparedness and self-reliance.” – You could make drinking game out of this site, take a shot every time you see the word ‘patriot’.
But still, it just feels like some of these companies are just benefiting from the fears of others and do as much as they can to increase those fears. I guess one could argue that some of these folks are purchasing a calmer state of mind and that alone might be worth it for some. And if the worst should come, I’ll look like the fool laughing at all of this. I’m willing to take that risk though. Because some of this stuff doesn’t even look like it would be quality enough to survive a few months. I suppose if you research everything properly, you can avoid such junk:
I certainly don’t want to live in a world like we’ve seen in apocalyptic fiction. Mad Max: Fury Road had an amazing character, Immortan Joe, who was this old and diseased evil warlord who ruled with lies, fear, and violence. He had this extremist cult following and was determined to ensure that his kingdom remains intact long after his death. While very cool as a villain in the movies, what a horrible thought that such a person would come into power and rule over so many.