Anti-intellectualism is at an all time high in the United States of America. We currently have a large portion of the population angry about the waning standard of living that remain absolutely convinced that raising people’s wages will somehow destroy our massively corrupt and confused economic system. While oligarchs bluff about withholding jobs and pay, the middle-class is being carved up to benefit the wealthy, leaving the low-income families to fight over whatever scraps remain. Anyone who needs help is deemed unsavory and anyone who expects it is even worse. The rest of the developed world understands that it lives in an age where it’s perfectly reasonable to feel entitled to an education and a life free from hunger and poverty. The United States, somehow, does not. Instead of demanding better, we’ve got a massive population prepared to wait it out until society dissolves. The hope being that they will thrive while those around them falter and die, seeking promise in America’s constant retrogression and failure.
It is a all little more every man for himself than it really has any right to be. We have a generation in power that spent its entire life getting nearly everything that it ever wanted, so perhaps the “me first” attitudes shouldn’t be so surprising. But even those that have lacked prosperity fear the success of others so much that they’d rather see it all go to hell. This is a survivalists’ mentality and many self-proclaimed survivalists litter the general population much like trash on a city sidewalk. While a number of these people are skilled craftsmen that have educated themselves on a great many things, the majority remain adult children playing a terrifying version of pretend. The survivalists of today were the same people that supported the Patriot Act of 2001. Having proudly given up freedoms a decade ago, they now resent it and fearfully assume the government will inevitably take more. They can’t possibly imagine any other scenario but do not bother to inform themselves on issues in any meaningful way. They’ll rattle against the government and have opinions on the economy without ever truly understanding either.
That said, being prepared for the worst is enough for most of them and that is, in a sense, something to be admired. A real survivalist is probably preparing for more than the zombie scenario they’ve been having wet dreams about. They’re the type of person that could sustain themselves during an unprecedented natural disaster, economic shutdown, or even something as crazy as nuclear/chemical warfare. I suppose preparing for even the most unlikely of scenarios would be preferable to ignoring them. I’m not suggesting they’ll ever have to beat a neighbor to death with a shovel and then murder his crying children because there isn’t enough food to share. However, I bet practicing that scenario in your backyard with watermelons every single weekend is going to help prepare you for when and if the time finally comes.
But for every genuine hardcore survivalist that could actually put down a sobbing neighbor, hunt their own food, and survive in a world turned upside down, there are three that are buying caltrops on the internet because they are fantasizing about being a ninja. Most are the type of people that inexplicably own a lot of swords or always remind you that they took Karate, even if it was only for a couple of months during their childhood. But these fantasy survivalists come in a lot of un-ninja flavors too. They might be a dad with military training that fills his bomb-shelter with more guns than he could ever need and ominously talks about “the coming war between the races.” These are the kind of people that become police officers in the hopes that they can someday shoot someone. It’s the guy that works at the dollar store who goes home every night to put on camouflage face paint and growl at himself in the mirror. It’s the woman who decided not to vaccinate her children because of some vaguely defined government conspiracy. It’s all of those people that go to church and ignore the messages of peace but get all amped up that Jesus might show up on some mountain and announce Armageddon any day now.
The survival community seems to include everything from hardened ex-military psychopaths to thirteen-year-olds who go to the mall with a pocket full of throwing stars in case, “some shit goes down.” In the middle you have avid campers who know a thing or two about staying alive and a loose community of worried citizens that, perhaps correctly, does not place their complete trust in their government. Sadly, these rational few seem to be in the minority. The survival community doesn’t appear to be particularly well-read or informed on most issues and is really only brought together by a mutual fear of the future. This creates a problem that is further compounded by a bizarre sense of pride accompanying that fact. This makes rationalizing, debating, or even befriending them intensely difficult.
When dealing with incredibly stupid people for the first time, your absolute best bet is to be agreeable and bring them food. If possible have a few drinks together. Pretend they are a tribe whose language you don’t actually speak. If they say they hate a specific group (even if it’s one you belong to), don’t overtly disagree. Instead say something like, “I’ve heard people say that before but I can’t say that I feel the same” and hope nobody stabs you with a bayonet for “being a faggot.” Upsetting a group brought together by stupidity and fear will mark you as an outsider and they ultimately will chase you out if you make too many waves. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch ANY documentary on groups of chimps. If one of them smells like the wrong type of pee or gives a rival group of chimps the benefit of the doubt, they’ll be lucky not to be ripped apart and cannibalized. As primates ourselves, a lot of us have fear and a need to control the situation bred into us.
While I can understand the mentality, I cannot endorse it. If your vision of the future includes you hunkered down in a Y2K bunker holding a rifle to defend your family and its fifty-five gallon drum of peaches, I am going to argue that maybe that isn’t even a future worth living in. If the world ends, and I don’t instantly evaporate in a brilliant flash of radioactive energy, I am probably going to hope to fall back on a rudimentary knowledge of how to repair things and whatever people-skills I have left. Any plans I make have to take into account the possibility that my once handsome face could be partially and gruesomely melted off. But I’ll have that angle covered when I can knit a sweater that reads “NOT A ZOMBIE” to ensure I don’t get picked off when shambling near encampments and make-shift towns. That, in conjunction with hand drawn business cards with a winking smiley face explaining that I will do anything for food and to to please not kill me, ought to keep me generally safe.
The point is, I know that buying four pairs of nunchaku and a bunch of condensed milk isn’t a guarantee that I’ll become one of the lucky ones when the aliens, zombies, government, computers, atomic war, or whatever finally comes to kill us all. Like ants, some of our most impressive skills are linked to teamwork. I’m not saying that someone should stop practicing sword techniques in their backyard as the sun sets (because that’s admittedly pretty awesome), I am only hoping they stop to join us in the present from time to time. That goes double for all of those people stockpiling weapons and despising the government despite still claiming to be patriots. I like how a pistol feels wrapped in my digits as much as the next man, and I think everyone should have the ability to protect themselves while also being self-sufficient. But we should be supporting and protecting each other first.
Regardless of how it turns out, the most useful and important person in the future won’t be the one who opted out of improving the present. It will be the one who actually wanted to enhance it. A real patriot understands the system and is willing to fight against it when it goes bad. They’ll be the one protesting and informing others about genuine issues, not the one digging a hole to live in for the next forty years because they suddenly became upset about microchips. Doomsday survivalists give up on society because they simply do not understand it. Many alleged patriots covet the founding fathers but don’t try to live by their example. Americans shoot other Americans because they incorrectly believe that power over another person’s life is the greatest that one can possess. It isn’t about the weapons, or distrust of the government, or even an obsession with survival– it’s about wanting better and not having to get it at the expense of your fellow man.
We live in an individualist society, instead of working together. Instead of helping the group as a whole, we’re all divided and only helping ourselves. Ancient human beings had to travel in packs to defend themselves against predators. We need each other to survive then and now.
Right. We don’t we don’t need to become communists, but it’s be neat to stop being such selfish pricks.
Maybe we need a common foe that we can all band together against… Of course, if we had one we’d all disagree on how to defeat it.
I wonder if the phrase “tax cuts” will still sound extremely appealing in a post-apocalyptic world.
I will never ever get the pleasure in owning or holding a pistol, but I get that it’s your constitutional right. Still, sounds like it’s gotten the country in a scary situation. However, I would say that anti-intellectualism is on the increase over here too. You only have to look at how well UKIP did in the local/european elections we had recently. Now that is scary stuff.
I grew up in a part of the country where gun ownership was very normal and moved to a place where the opposite was true. I find it impractical to carry or even own a weapon in most places that I would spent time these days.
That said, I have mixed feelings on gun control. They really are just objects and can’t cause any harm on their own… but so is uranium. However American’s own more of them, per person, than anyone else and that has trumped up our gun violence a bit. Honestly our gun related deaths aren’t nearly as high as many South American countries and some African countries that own many fewer firearms. However it’s still much higher than it should be and our suicide rate with guns is impressively high (but not well documented in the news). Having less access to guns would absolutely make us a safer society but I can’t say how much safer. We’d probably save more lives by banning cars or enforcing stricter standards before giving people a license, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the gun problem.
I’m not sure what the solution is from a practical standpoint, as I don’t think you could effectively restrict gun ownership here. They aren’t as ubiquitous as I think a lot of non-Americans assume they are but most parts of the country would never give them up either.
Like you said, the more pressing issue is the sudden surge of public stupidity and backwards thinking. I’ve noticed it in countries all over the world. Scary stuff indeed.
Agreed, can’t we all just learn to knit “Not a Zombie” sweaters together?
I like the way you think. Matt for President! :)
Make sure to write me in for the next election.
Damn it’s seems like you’ve thought about this survival stuff haha
I agree that the only way all of us could get together if we some terrible enemy equally threatening all of humanity – I always think of the movie Independence Day
You should check out the new book Social Physics by MIT prof Alex Pentland
Basically it argues with scientific proof all the benefits of working together instead of being individuals bent on mere survival
we live in a selfish world. every one for himself.
I think something that’s frequently overlooked is that the most gregarious policy is also the most self-serving. F’rinstance, look at the Golden Rule. At first glance, it would seem like one was putting others before oneself. However, if everyone is operating under the same rule, it’s to one’s ultimate benefit to toe the line.
I suppose the only trick to it is getting everyone to follow along. Fortunately, hope springs eternal in my idealist heart of hearts.
Turn it up brotha! Couldn’t agree more. In place of virtues such as nurturing and empathy, we value cars and money. Shame.