I remember when I was a kid, the book that turned me onto survivalism was, I believe, ‘Alas Babylon’, although I think that at about the same time I managed to fall into Ahern’s ‘Survivalist’ series. I genuinely can’t recall which one was first, but I did a book report on ‘Alas Babylon’ so I think that was the one that started the ball rolling. Time frame? Mmmm…1980.
I was a fascinating time to be alive. Some of you might remember it. Jimmy Carter, a prototype Obama, was president. In normal circumstances he probably would never have made it into national politics but the previous administration had the taint of Nixon about it and at that point it wouldn’t have been terribly difficult to beat a Republican candidate. (Trivia: Gerald Ford, the incumbent, was the only person to be President who was not elected to the Presidency or to the Vice-President position.) As it turned out, the malaise of the Carter administration, with it’s foreign policy debacles and economic issues, laid the groundwork for Reagan to sweep into office on the platform of “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
But…prior to Ronnie, it was stagflation, mortgage interest rates were around 11%(!!!!), and the Soviets were still a real threat. Against that backdrop there was a rebirth of the preparedness ‘movement’ that hadn’t really been seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis days. The big apocalypse du jour was World War Three. I was only peripherally aware of it as a 13-year old kid. But looking back, wow, was it a bizarre time. Everyone who was anyone had an AR-15 and a 1911 of some flavor. The SKS and AK rifles were virtually unheard of unless your dad brought one back from his trip to Vietnam. Your only source of 7.62×39 was Normal or Lapua. ALICE gear and woodland camo ruled the world. MRE’s were still nascent. For the dedicated survivalist, Mountain House was your food, Buck or Gerber was your knife, Radio Shack was your comms, and your AR and 1911were made by Colt. Period. Social media? The classifieds in Soldier of Fortune and, later, American Survival Guide were about it.
Nowadays it is so amazingly different. A lot of guys still choose the AR but but there’s at least a dozen makers. Same for the 1911. And, ironically, Colt is usually not the preferred source for either. Mountain House remains the industry leader but there are a few other players in that very narrow market. Communications options nowadays go past the ubiquitous CB radios of the 70’s. And the internet….well….the internet lets anyone get all the cool, esoteric, hard-to-find gear that, when I was a kid, to weeks or months to get.
Is there anything cool from the 70’s/80’s era of survivalism that was better then than now? Well, machine guns, for sure. The 1986 ban really screwed that up. Other than that, I don’t think there’s much in the survivalist arena from that era that isn’t better now. Of course, at this point, you’d have bloody near 40 years of being a survivalist under your belt.
And how did those threat analyses turn out anyway? Well, the Soviet Union imploded in a fit of self-actualization, nuclear winter became even less likely, and World War Three, as we had understood what it would be, pretty much vanished. The new threats were an overreaching government and a New World Order.
Then, of course, Y2K popped up on the horizon and those of use with basements full of MRE’s had something new to get worked up about. News media showed people who went all-in and sold their condos in Los Angeles to buy chunks of desert in Nevada that they could fence off and get ready to bunker down in. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd…..Y2K came and went with nary a blip.
A year goes by and we get the main act in the upcoming Global War On Everything as the World Trade Centers become landfill filler. For the next few years the big threat is terrorism and, for the more astute, a global economic slump that seems to be lurking in the background.
A few more years go by and 2008 becomes the year that the financial world bursts into flames. The housing bubble bursts, everyone’s retirement savings get a massive haircut, and people start getting nervous. Homes get foreclosed on and, within a few years, automakers demand government bailouts to prevent us all from living under bridges and eating our babies. (Because, somehow, if Chevrolet goes bust it means the end of the world.)
A few Infowars types get loud about the defunct Mayan calendar and 2012 is predicted as being the year we all finally get to use our freeze drieds and homemade toilet paper. 2012 passes with no major humanity-threatening disasters.
Bird flu, SARS, and one or two other variants rear their head and for a while the trendy apocalypse-du-jour is bird flu. Later it would be Peak Oil. After that, its the white horseman’s second bite at the apple and the new panic is ebola. The world trembles and….we’re still here.
But…in the interim of all those years, there were plenty of disasters and small-scale apocalypses. Hurricanes, earth quakes, forest fires, economic downturns, and that sort of thing came along and while they didn’t threaten humanity as a whole, for some people it was the end of the world.
The moral, if there is one, I suppose, is that the end of our world has been predicted and missed for as long as we’ve been around. The end of your world, however, is far, far, far more likely and possible.
I’ve yet to have to eat freeze drieds, channel my inner roof Korean, or man roadblocks and hang looters. However, I’ve had way too many occasions to need my emergency fund, stored fuel, extra clothes, or first aid kits. So…yeah..no end of THE world events, but there have been a few end of MY world events. Fortunately, being prepared for the former usually covers the latter.
Despite the world not devolving into Mad Max territory, I see no reason not to keep keeping on…it makes me sleep better, feel more secure, and when hiccups in my life do happen it keeps me from having to make hard choices.