Doomsday Preppers: ‘the Lifeboat’

Season Three’s last episode—which I really hope will also be DP’s last as a series—starts off in south-central Texas, with a group of would-be survivors under the leadership of a fellow named Joe:
Joe’s segment of the episode feels like a throwback to seasons one and two, as this time it seems there’s no big Prepper Project to fixate upon and fetishize.
He’s worried about an impending cyber-attack, which he believes would see America “reduced to horse-and-buggy days, or at best the 1950s”. I’m not really sure what to make of that, I guess mid-20th-century tech was more analog than today’s digital gadgets, but they still ran on copious amounts of electric Juice, and so were still very much reliant on the grid.

In the requisite show-off-the-goodies bit, ‘nam vet Joe has stockpiled his little group of 28 with two years worth of food, 1500 gallons of water (which, at a gallon per person per day, is less than two months worth, so I hope they have a resupply plan), and a fancy ‘communications center’ full of radios he hopes to use to contact fellow survivalists.

There’s a segment where Joe and his well-educated wife D’Ann (pronounced Dee-Ann, apparently) get some folks together and talk about setting up formal schooling for their little post-disaster colony. Y’know, because as Joe says, “to reestablish society (*eye twitch*), you’re going to need education.”
Dude, don’t worry—when our culture’s little civilizational experiment goes belly-up sooner (more likely) or later (as it will, unless our dominant paradigm—Business-As-Usual—changes), the folks still hanging around will still be learning, just as people were learning long before our culture came along and started building pyramids. However, I’d probably bet their learning won’t be spent in a series of concrete boxes, in a little uncomfortable desk for nearly half the day for twelve years, memorizing the names of dead, old white men and the dates of battles against less civilized Others, probably all while being advertised at. I’d bet their ‘education’ won’t be designed to keep them out of the labor market until an arbitrary age at which point some of them will go become the reliable worker/consumer-cogs they’ve been trained to be, while some will go on to more of the same type of ‘education’, proving they can sit in little desks for four more years, before going on to be slightly-higher-paid worker/consumer-cogs. Because that’s how education works when your culture’s Way Of Life revolves around keeping your head down, being obedient, and collecting green paper (to be exchanged for locked-up food).
This piece does a good job exploring the issue, but in a less-grumpy package! Basically, children learn best when they’re allowed to follow their own interests and learn organically.
Unfortunately, Joe’s little post-disaster school begins by making an improvised blackboard, which is fine if your education system is all about rote memorization and sitting in rows. Then they weed through a bunch of donated books to be ‘preserved’ against digital obsolescence. They put a priority on ‘The Classics’ and Math and Science. I wonder how many of those ‘classics’ they themselves have read, and appreciate, and how many they’re just keeping around because they’re ‘The Classics’?

And then the other shoe drops, when Joe declares that he is “developing a lifeboat to ensure the continuation of humanity.”
Wait, what? Is he suggesting that his digital disaster of choice could somehow make the human species extinct? I understand that he’s worried about a “Level Three cyber-attack that will disable our tech-driven culture” (to which I roll my eyes and say sarcastically, ‘Oh no…’), but maybe I missed something along the way where he makes the leap from ‘grid-down’ to ‘Extinction-Level Event’?

Regardless, here’s (one of the many places) where self-identified preppers and I part ways. Folks on this show always frame their fear-arguments in terms of what would be lost in the event of their disaster of choice. I, on the other hand, imagine what would be gained (or regained) should something happen to cause our culture to take a little trip down the complexity ladder it’s built for itself.

Anyway, in the course of all this lifeboat-retreat-group stuff, there’s some father-figure drama between Joe and Welder Wes (a ‘security specialist with military experience’ who just comes across as a fuckup). There’s also some go-nowhere fluff where Wes tries to set off yet another improvised trap involving a shotgun shell (in the name of ‘perimeter defenses’). You know you’re dealing with Old Minds when borders are ‘hard’ (instead of fluid) and to be defended with force.
And, really? We’re meant to believe that their crack ‘military strategist’, a supposed ‘former Navy SEAL’, is this toothless cowboy-hobo ‘Catfish’? Give me a break.

What’s halfway framed as their Prepper Project is the guys putting a little work in getting their gyrocopter to fly. I dunno, while it looks like a helluva lot of fun to tool around in a small aircraft with apocalyptic pedigree:
the great Bruce Spence in 'The Road Warrior', for you unfortunates(and who wouldn’t love a bird’s-eye view of your own backyard?), it also looks pretty complex. To paraphrase Max Brooks, “How many moving parts are there in a [gyrocopter]? I don’t know, but it only takes one to break and take it offline.”

As his little sum-up segment, Joe espouses how “We live in a very fragile world that we created for ourselves. We’re reliant upon systems that are reliable as long as they’re untouched, but once they fail we’re in real trouble.”

Why is it that while I often agree with these folks’ opening and closing statements, it’s the in-between parts that leave me banging my head against the wall?

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Bob on 1 August, 2014 at 02:00

    I think father Joe was the biggest screw up of the bunch. His over inflated ego and his half baked ideas contribute nothing to me as I attempt to learn new ways of protecting my family and property. He really struck me as a grade A asshole. I also don’t think that Wes was a screw up and that he was painted to be. there was no discussion on why he was kicked off the island so to speak the first time and put on a one year probation.we also don’t know why he was kicked out the second time. Just because items that were being prototypes failed when being tested without notice to West really shouldn’t have been a reason to kick him out. To me father Joe is the leader of a cult nothing more.

    the idea of prepping to me is to get off the grid. one is supposed to learn the skills necessary to survive without having to plug into electricity, yet this group would have me purchase a gyrocopter? where is there rain catchment system and how do they plan to grow food?

    Reply

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