Packing a Suitcase for Armageddon

December 19, 2011

I first tasted survivalist paranoia during the Cold War, what with Panic in the Year Zero, the icily terrifying nuclear-holocaust children’s instructional film Duck and Cover, and the ubiquitous family-casket weirdness of fallout shelters. I figured that sooner or later we’d have to dig a fallout shelter under the dogwood tree in our front lawn so when the Russians started bombing us, we’d lay low in our tiny subterranean mausoleum for the 100,000 years or so it would take for things to be safe again.

I’ve already seen the grid sputter a couple times. At four years old I lived through the Northeast Blackout of 1965 at my grandmother’s little Vermont shack—an experience sufficiently discomfiting to give me a nightmare about a big cartoon wolf who entered the shack to eat me while the family slept, unable to hear my screams because they were all wearing earplugs.

I also lived through 1992’s LA riots, which forever metal-stamped on my brain the idea that when civilization is collapsing, it’s best to get as far away from civilization as possible. It’s much harder to see the city burning when you’re deep in the woods.

“Survivalists” and “preppers” are stereotyped as dentally underprivileged hateballs smoking meth and dismantling rusty engines in the Ozarks, but in used-to-be jolly old England, which economists warn is only “nine meals away from anarchy,” even the gentler landed classes have started to pack their suitcases for Armageddon. One British vendor of “emergency food items” says that many of his clients are bankers, who may have more insider tips about what will happen in 2012 than your average Arkansas hilljack.

But let’s give props to the hillbillies for starting the trend. Funny how the throwbacks were ahead of the game all along. Those who were aggressively mocked as hopelessly out of touch may be the only ones who could see what was coming. The humble Amish and the rural Mormons might be more prepared for modern exigencies than any of us. Those ign’ant yokels may have been wiser than anyone suspected.

It’s nuts how dependent most of us have become on the grid. What’s even nuttier is the fact that the grid is crumbling.  In a perfect world, once-mighty civilizations would never collapse. If anyone knows where such a perfect world exists, I’ll help you build a spaceship so we can fly there together.

But for now, I’ll make like a tweaked-out squirrel desperately hoarding nuts for a long winter. I’ve yet to draw up blueprints for a lead-encased underground bunker, but I’ll start slowly: some buckets of bulk grains here, some cases of bottled water there, and if I’m feeling really frisky and self-important, maybe even an emergency seed bank with which to rebuild world agriculture once all the smoke clears.

Just as they say it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, it’s preferable to be harmlessly paranoid than fatally stupid. They used to call the “preppers” crazy, but now it seems flat-out daffy not to be prepared.

I have a choice to make. By signing a single check I could either pay off last year’s taxes or buy a year’s worth of freeze-dried food for 2012. My oh my, which would yield a better return on my investment?

Few decisions in life are ever this easy.


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