Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

42 Reasons Why A Jetpack Won’t Make You Happier

With all the recent internet hoopla surrounding October 21, 2015–a random, then-26-years-in-the-future date from a well-loved film, I thought this new music video was appropriately timely.

While fairly blunt in its execution—they don’t have the poetry or nuance of Neon Bible or Suburbs-era Arcade Fire—I still must say Bravo, YACHT!
As Robin Hilton writes in her introduction to the ‘Future’ video, “Disappointment is part of America’s DNA. It is as though its citizens are born with the desire for something better, fueling much of the country’s entrepreneurial and creative output; but even if everyone had personal jet-packs by now, they’d still be left unsatisfied. And much of what’s produced to fill the void is just ridiculous.”

As usual, I would certainly zoom out for the big picture and revise to say that disappointment isn’t uniquely something American, rather it’s part of civilization’s DNA. DQ sums it up nicely in one of his most exhaustive passages (bear with me, it’s a good one):

“For hundreds of thousands of years, people as smart as you had had a way of life that worked well for them. The descendants of these people can today still be found here and there, and wherever they’re found in an untouched state, they give every evidence of being perfectly content with their way of life. They’re not at war with each other, generation against generation or class against class. They’re not plagued by anguish, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, crime, madness, alcoholism, and drug addiction. They don’t complain of oppression and injustice. They don’t describe their lives as meaningless and empty. They’re not seething with hatred and rage. They don’t look into the sky, yearning for contact with gods and angels and prophets and alien spacemen and spirits of the dead. And they don’t wish someone would come along and tell them how to live. This is because they already know how to live, as ten thousand years ago humans everywhere knew how to live. But knowing how to live was something the people of your culture had to destroy in order to make themselves the rulers of the world.

“They were sure they’d be able to replace what they destroyed with something just as good, and they’ve been at it ever since, trying one thing after another, giving the people anything they can think of that might fill the void. Archaeology and history tell a tale five thousand years long of one Taker society after another groping for something to placate and inspire, something to amuse and distract, something to make people forget a misery that for some strange reason simply will not go away. Festivals, revels, pageants, temple solemnities, pomp and circumstance, bread and circuses, the ever-present hope of attaining power, riches, and luxury, games, dramas, contests, sports, wars, crusades, political intrigue, knightly quests, world exploration, honors, titles, alcohol, drugs, gambling, prostitution, opera, theater, the arts, government, politics, careers, political advantage, mountain climbing, radio, television, movies, show business, video games, computers, the information superhighway, money, pornography, the conquest of space — something here for everyone, surely, something to make life seem worth living, something to fill the vacancy…”

If My Ishmael had been written in our early 21st century instead of the late 20th (or if Quinn ever decides to update it), he could easily add the high-tech gadgetry that YACHT parodies in their video—“social media apps, wearable technology, VR, drones, self-balancing scooters (“hoverboards”), selfie sticks, Soylent, vape pens”—to the end of his list^ of “the endless, sad parade of distraction-enticing creations pawned off as advancements”.

Before it can be challenged, we must recognize the truth that this ‘disappointment’ is not an innate part of human nature, but rather is directly caused by the ‘Great Forgetting’ and the system of oppression and exploitation—civilization itself—that grew out of it.
You are not an app. Regain the human potential that has been taken from us without our consent. Remove these distractions; learn to recognize, combat, and resist the system that continues to dole them out year after year, each one more pointless and destructive than the last.

Doomsday Preppers: Brad and Krystal

Whoo, we finally made it to ‘Gonna Be a Big Bang’, the last episode of the season! (next week’s best-of compilation doesn’t count.)Brad&Krystal-familyOur look at this Tulsa, OK family begins with a voiceover from Brad:
“I think there’s a general misconception about what’s going on in the world, and what’s going on in America: people are somewhat naïve about the dangers that we face and the tough times ahead that we have…The signs and the signals are already there.” Well, dude, you’re on the right track, but the suburbs are just about the worst place to see what’s really going on in the world, insulating and completely artificial as they are. I don’t have time or space here to write a 12,000-word screed on that subject–that’s what this series is for.
Just remember, though, that you can’t expect to change or escape (or really survive, in the long run, for that matter) if you can’t recognize the bars of your cage.

And so, just like literally one out of every two people profiled this season, Brad is preparing for what? All together now! “Economic collapse!…which will lead to Armageddon.” Wait, what? Maybe Brad’s not up on his bible-reading, but even this practicing heathen can tell you that Armageddon (a fictional cosmic battle pitting Zombie Jeebus v. Satan and the Antichrist), would fall neatly into the category of ‘supernatural event’; the collapse of one civilized human economy would not. An economic collapse might theoretically result from Armageddon, but not the other way around.

Let me say this up front: this segment is the epitome of Type IA (Rawlesian) Prepping:
Guns? Check.
House full of hoarded, never-to-be-eaten-until-doomsday canned foods? Check.
Extraneous, expensive survivalist gear (camouflage, gasmasks, body armor, &c.)? Check. (Brad probably some two-way-radios and night-vision goggles stashed in a closet somewhere)
Overbuilt, underground steel box (bunker)? Check?
Judeo-Christian Southerners? Check.
Really, all that’s missing is a sock full of pre-1965 quarters.

So, in the year or so since Brad ‘became a prepper’, he’s spent $70,000 on gear and enough canned goods to fill his house. Literally: the house is only 2,000 square feet, yet every room seems to be full of food cans stacked to the ceiling. You know what I would do if I had a house full of food? Eat it! And then I’d buy—or maybe, just maybe, grow—some more! Huh, what a novel idea!: Food is for eating!

Sidebar: After two seasons of this show, I’ve noticed that the folks who really turn me off are the ones who seem to have, at some point in the very recent past, sat down and said, “We’re going to be preppers now!”, and then spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars catching up with the Joneses. Because that’s how we try to solve problems in this country: by throwing money at it! The folks who I really like are the ones who have just been living their life in a way that coincidentally makes them prepared, who shrug and say, “Well, I guess that makes us preppers.”

Now, all members of Brad’s family supposedly go to the gun range every month, and we get to see the six-year-old’s first time. He seems downright excited talking about their plan for the post-collapse world: “We have to shoot bad guys with our own guns, right?” he says with a grin. At the gun range, the youngling gets some pistol training with tacticool specialist Steve Aryan. After the kid takes a shot, Steve tells him, “You’re a shooter, I can tell.” Hmm, I wonder why that is? Could it be that the kid has grown up in a terminal death-culture, exposed to more violence-for-entertainment in his six years than most people should see in their entire lives?

So, apparently, Brad spends two hours every day just inspecting his ‘preps’, and a further two to four hours daily ordering new stuff? And what kind of Stuff does he buy that he thinks will help them survive? How ‘bout a ghillie suit? Krystal puts it on while Brad tells her, “If you wanted to stay concealed, that’s what you’d wear. You’d blend in well.” Sure she’d blend in well, dude, when she’s in the jungle. Not in the ’burbs!

Then there’s some reality-show, forced-tears drama BS where they explain how the “situation has become so dire”, they’ve “had to hold off on expanding our family.” *Sigh* I’m guessing if they had it their way, Brad and Krystal would have six or seven or eight kids, but let’s pretend for a second that our culture followed a different paradigm and didn’t teach us that the Earth was made for civilized man to multiply across and abuse as he sees fit. They already have three kids who have survived past age five, so it’s reasonable to assume they’ll live to adulthood, which means Brad and Krystal have already replaced themselves plus one. If you haven’t noticed, we probably hit the planet’s carrying capacity years ago – so every new discovery made (the New World, petro fuels, any number of vaccines) is really just an artificial extension of the population cliff our culture has created.

And while Krystal already has the waterworks running, she uses the opportunity to go on about how one of her motivations in prepping is to ensure that her daughter won’t get raped and ravaged by the hordes of rioting unprepared folks when TSHTF. Apparently she’s unaware that she lives in an institutionalized Rape Culture, and one of her children will, statistically-speaking, be sexually assaulted at some point in their life, with or without the excuse of economic collapse or other disaster, as it seems our culture has been one of Men Who Hate Women for the last 6,000 years.

Anyway, like all Type I preppers, Brad has a serious Bunker Boner, so he contracts Clyde Scott of ‘Rising S Bunkers’ to build one for him, which turns into a ten-minute detour into Texan Prepper culture. I feel it’s appropriate to point out that Clyde has eight children and builds overkill bunkers that look like trash compactors, so he’s pretty much living the Taker dream.

Our introduction to Clyde consists of him talking into the camera, I guess trying to overcome the stereotype of ‘preppers’ as 1990s-militia-survivalists: “…tell folks you’re a prepper and you get mistaken for someone with a lot of guns and ammo and weapons. Well, that’s not what we try to do.”  That’s right – they also have bunkers and bugout bags!

Apparently, Clyde’s policy is to only employ identical male self-identified preppers. Seriously: every one of his workers is a good ol’ boy with a Mossy Oak hat and a goatee. We then take a further detour when Clyde watches his son try to ride a horse. I guess even though young Jagger claims ‘rodeoing’ is a hobby, he can’t tell if a horse is good for riding or not; he gets bucked off and hurts his hand. Well, that was pointless.

Next up we get all the Rising S crew discussing their prepping philosophy. They’re convinced “something’s gonna happen that’ll be the restart button for America.” Their plan is to “go underground, be the rabbit in the hole, and eat good, because [they’re] preppers!” I dunno, I’ve talked about the inherent shortsightedness of bunker-based preparations before, and I really don’t feel like going over it again. In my opinion, bunker-dwellers are just about as bad as the head-in-the-sand optimist ‘ostriches’ who’ve been lulled to sleep by our Mother Culture and refuse to believe that anything bad could ever happen. While opposites on the spectrum, both groups essentially refuse to own up and really take responsibility for their own survival.

When the family pays a visit to Clyde’s outfit, they check out their new digs before it gets buried. Hailey, ordinary modern teenager, asks if she’ll get cell service. Funny! Then the six-year-old asks “Where’s the TV, and X-Box and stuff?” Ohboy. Parents, better start weaning them off that attention-span-destroying electronic teat before TSHTF, or you’re going to be dealing with some serious junkie-children-in-cold-turkey-withdrawal when they go underground. It also bugs me that their plan while they’re down below is just to play cards and board games. Like, do they just expect to pass the time and keep themselves entertained until they can come up for air, at which point everything will be back to normal, and they can go back to their jobs and keep going to the grocery store? Hypothetically, if I were a bunker prepper, I’d have that thing stocked with musical instruments and a big gorram library. Also, I really hope they plan on doing some decorating or something, because the plain white walls and fluorescent lights would drive me absolutely crazy in about a day.

So, because Clyde builds—like a good little Taker—using the only shape he knows (the box), instead of one actually suited to distributing weight (like a circle or parabola), Brad’s bunker weighs 19,000 pounds—enough to snap the industrial chain they use to lift it onto the truck, which whips back and hits Clyde and breaks his arm. He has a schedule to keep and he’s not going to let a little thing like a broken arm stop him, so they press on to Oklahoma, set up the crane, pick up the bunkerbox, put it in the backyard hole, and cover it in concrete! Is that really necessary? Is there a prepper rule somewhere that says it’s not enough to pay $70,000 for an overgrown tin can, it’s not a bunker unless it’s dipped in Portland cement?

While the nine-and-a-half-ton bunker is hanging 30 feet over their heads, Brad and Krystal suddenly notice all the people gawking at the scene as they drive past: “Pretty sure we’ll be the talk of the block for a while,” she says. Erm yeah, and you’ll become the talk of the block again real soon should disaster strike, now that all your neighbors know you have a bunker.

The experts tell them, as usual, to store water. And then, for some reason—despite these guys being the epitome of Type I prepping—only give the family 49 points, for four months’ survival! Wait, what?!? Why so low??? Could Practical Preppers finally have opened their eyes to see that the bunker model isn’t a real answer, but is at best a misguided stop-gap solution to bigger problems?

Doomsday Preppers: Craig Compeau/Don Kubley

The series continues with an episode (‘Pain is Good’) looking at folks in the US&A’s two youngest states. We’ll start off with a look at Craig Compeau and Don Kubley of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Transparency clause: it was pretty easy to see why these guys agreed to do the show (Craig sells fancy boats and Don sells fancy domes). As I wrote in my notes for this profile, “I’m pretty sure this whole segment is just an Alaska hunting trip, and they’re calling it prepping.” And yeah, that’s exactly what it is. See this article for great insight into the ‘reality’ behind this show.

Craig is [playing somebody] concerned with the possibility of “total government takeover”, but like everyone else this season, that’s really code for economic collapse. The way he sees it, our nation’s enormous debt—usually reckoned around sixteen trillion, though I’ve seen figures as mind-bogglingly high as 200 trillion—will eventually lead to widespread economic devastation. As we’ve heard a thousand times, when people don’t have jobs they don’t have food (most troubling of all, no one ever wants to take a step back to question what this says about this civilizational experiment of ours), and will turn to widespread rioting, leading to declaration of martial law. Of course, even though martial law has never been declared nationwide (only for isolated areas or events, like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), Craig is afraid that someday it will. In which case, he believes that the government will then “control every aspect of our lives”, somehow turning “every town into a prison.”

As I’ve said many times before, this oft-recited scenario is just one end result of the unsustainable worldview promulgated by Our culture, one ingredient in a deadly cocktail of shatterpoint issues. If we speak of the economic issue, the adoption of ‘money’ (itself simply a more-portable representation of the shiny rocks it is ‘backed’ by) as the only acceptable form of wealth brings out the most selfish behaviors in humans. In our tribal days, ‘wealth’ was intangible, taking the form of prestige or respect, resulting from unselfish acts which functioned to support the tribe as a whole. However, when ‘wealth’ took the form of Things, people were free to act solely in their own interests, and the accumulation of that ‘wealth’ became the driving characteristic of the lives of those at the top of the pyramid. Of course, those at the bottom of the pyramid looked up and saw what their ‘superiors’ were doing and so began to try and get their own ‘piece of the pie’—though by the time that ‘wealth’ eventually reached them, they got little more than crumbs.
With regards to his fear about the guvvmint turning towns into inescapable prisons, take a big-picture look and see that it wouldn’t take much; the pieces are already in place. The relentless global expansion of Our culture (and its One Right Way to Live) has already formed bars of a world-prison which one really cannot escape (“sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small that we can never get away from the Sprawl?”); the unspoken and unquestioned tenet underlying Our culture (“go to Work, or you starve”) leaves little room for the rewilded rest of us. /soapbox.

Anyway, should the guvvmint hammer come down, Craig’s objective will become “get out of Fairbanks, fast.” Luckily, he’s not planning on bugging out by himself, as he has a prepping buddy in his daughter Emily.
(For what it’s worth, take note that even though they live up near the Arctic Circle, their home looks as if it could have been plucked out of the suburbs of Chicago, Denver, or Seattle—witness our culture’s one-size-fits-all solution to housing (a nature-isolating plywood-and-drywall box incapable of operation without relying on the Grid for heating, cooling, water, sanitation, and energy), with no room for regional variety. Ugh.

Apparently, Craig likes to do this practice bugout twice a year (i.e. hunting season). Their itinerary begins with a four mile hike to reach their SJX jet-boat (it’s made of UHMW, some kind of super-plastic?), and then a four hour (90 mile) boat ride to reach their bugout location. The boat is very light on the draft, so they’re able to travel in shallow water (did I hear him say as shallow as six inches? Impressive.). Along the way upriver, Craig has somehow put explosives in certain trees, which they shoot and explode, to provide additional roadblocks (riverblocks?) to would-be followers. There’s a lot of industrial NÜMETAL-type music while they’re jumping over all these downed trees and stuff; I guess it’s supposed to be HaRdCoRe or something.

When they reach the Dome, we’re warned of “another threat to their lives”: they come across a bent-up garbage can and Craig reminds Emmy that “we’ve got bears, so have your gun ready!” Now, maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a deep-green book on interspecies communication, but I’m pretty sure Craig’s first instinct if he saw a bear (shoot it!) would not be appreciated by the bear. Should he actually come upon a bear, sure it’s possible the bear might attack (especially if it’s a mother with cubs), but it’s also possible that the bear wouldn’t attack. At least give the critter a chance!

intershelterdomeWhen we’re finally shown the Dome, I have to admit I wasn’t that impressed. They claim that it’s supposed to totally blend into its environment, and from what we see, I guess the structure itself is pretty shiny, but the outside of it is just a mess; there are gas cans and more white bleach bottles strewn around the place than I can count, so…way to be camouflaged, dude. The dome is an ‘InterShelter’ designed and marketed by Craig’s friend, Don Kubley:

donkubley Don brings his boat up to the Dome for a visit, and there’s a hilarious bit where Craig and Emmy catch him in a net when he arrives; dunno what that was all about. Once he’s there, they decide it’s time to go moose hunting separately. Now, I understand that moose are like, the hippopotamus or rhinoceros of the northern hemisphere—aggressive and prone to charging if threatened. Personally, considering they’re using big-game-hunting, bolt-action guns (a nice change of pace from the black, tricked-out paramiliscary pieces we usually see), I’d go as a group, but oh well. Emmy and dad come across one and she tries to shoot it. Mind you, she’s standing, in a boat, in a river, and she’s shooting off-hand…so yeah, she misses. Moose walks off into the brush. Meanwhile, actually Don shoots himself a bull moose.
No, an actual bull moose. There’s a shot of Don waving the antlers over his head and shouting like he’s so proud of killing this animal. It’s like every time deer season rolls around, the local county newspaper always runs pictures of kids proudly holding up these animals that they can’t imagine are their brothers and sisters. Though I can’t say I’m surprised based on what I’ve seen of these folks; I didn’t seriously expect Craig and Don to thank the Great Spirit for the moose’s strength or speed, or apologize to the moose for taking its life or anything.

Anyway, the experts suggest that they get a water filter at the Dome, because it’s possible that water could be polluted and unusable. Dudes, it’s Alaska; it’s supposed to be like, the last untouched wilderness or whatever. If we get to the point where even that water becomes undrinkable, there’s a good chance that everybody else is dead. Then again, if Canada’s tar sands operation is allowed to expand, it’s always possible.

The experts also say they should “harden their shelter against high-caliber weapons”, because apparently they expect Craig and Don are going to have to go up against grizzly bears with machineguns? Yeah, and clean the place up while you’re at it.

However, in the end, the guys get a new high of 82 points, for seventeen months’ initial survival time. Now, in the past, if the prepper disagrees with the experts or thinks he deserves a higher score, they usually say something like, “Well, that evaluation didn’t take into account some stuff we didn’t show the film crew, so I’ll just agree to disagree.” Craig, however, just replies, “Those numbers are $%@#. Practical Preppers can kiss my ass.” Jerk.

And in their post-filming update, we hear that they’ve added a bulletproof dome 75 miles upriver (not sure if that’s fifteen miles before they get to the other dome, or fifteen  miles past it?), and Craig has designed some sort of water cannon to hook up to his jetboat.

Doomsday Preppers: Jeff Flaningam

The episode wraps up with a too-long look at Jeff Flaningam, the series’ third—and least interesting—missile-silo prepper. There’s really not much to say about this one either, because the producers seem to be majorly banking on ratings-friendly Awkward Drama in this segment.
jeff flaningamLike seemingly everybody this season, Jeff fears an economic collapse. Yeah, so what else is new?
It seems three years ago, Jeff bought another one of these Atlas missile silos buried beneath the plains of Kansas, and has been ever-so-slowly renovating it into a livable bunker. Of course, he’s from Wisconsin (800 miles away), so he’s only able to make it down to the silo a few times a year, so there doesn’t seem to have been much progress.
We get to see Jeff and a few of his buds waste some propane, while they show off their ‘flamethrower booby trap’ (Derek Price did the same thing a few weeks ago; it’s a weed-burner); meh.
Regardless, Jeff is lonely, and wants a partner to prep with him and help fix up the silo, apparently, to ‘flip’ it. And so, we come to the meat of this segment. He sets up a profile on a ‘nationally-known dating website’ (it’s Match.com), and proceeds to go on dates with prospective would-be ladypreppers. We then get to see bits of three different meet-ups.
The first one, Stephanie, is quite conventionally attractive, girly, and generally unthinkingly optimistic about the world (her type abound on Match).
The second, Laura, I would describe as a sort of ‘down home girl’ (and I mean that in the best way possible), who seems to have many practical skills that a prepper like Jeff would appreciate.
The third, Serle, is a former member of the Navy (and we know how much preppers seem to like military experience).

Now, I’m not the type to knock another guy’s approach to dating…but…Jeff approaches these women like a manager interviewing potential employees. C’mon, dude; if you’re going to define yourself by your prepping, at least let it wait until the second date.
Anyway, of the three women above, which do you think would make for the worst prepping partner, and therefore would also make for the most opportunities for awkward reality television when Jeff shows her around his own personal horror movie set missile silo bunker? If you said Stephanie, congratulations, you think like a TV producer!

So, Stephanie meets Jeff at his front gate, where he proceeds to put a blindfold on her and drive her to his silo. Personally, if I were this girl, I’d have my pepper spray out and ready to go. You don’t just meet a girl in the middle of nowhere, blindfold her, and then take her for a visit to the creepiest place imaginable without raising some red flags.
Anyway, Jeff shows her around the place, which sure doesn’t look like it’s had three years’ worth of improvements made to it. In fact, it looks like it’s straight off the federal auction block 50 years ago.
Eventually they make it down to the heart of the silo, where Jeff reveals his biggest prep: 1,400,000 gallons of water! Well, that’s impressive, until it turns out retrieving any requires one to rappel down several stories with an empty Gatorade bottle. Seriously, a bucket on a rope would be easier. Of course, the poor girl isn’t going to drop down a giant concrete tube for a measly sip of water of unknown quality, so I guess she belays him while he brings some up. Then he runs it through a homemade charcoal/sand/gravel water-filter-thingy, giving us yet another instance of preppers awkwardly toasting and drinking weird things.

In the end, because—aside from owning a dilapidated missile silo and a whole lotta (albeit hard-to-retrieve) water—Jeff has no stored food or weapons or anything, the experts give him 56 points, for 2 months, and in his update he tells us he has installed his new hydraulic front entrance. So, yay!, no more having to weld the door shut each time he leaves!

Doomsday Preppers: Doug the Rock Man

Our next episode (‘Solutions, Not Problems’) is another of the two-uneven-profiles variety; we begin with a short look at Doug Eaves, aka ‘Rock Man’.
doug-the-rock-manAs his name suggests, Doug is all about rocks. Not surprising, as he owns and operates his own rock quarry in the mountains of Tennessee. And since he’s all about rocks, it’s also unsurprising that many of his prepping strategies also rely on rocks. It’s nice to see someone who is so familiar with one material that he can make his living from it and integrate it into his life.
And what does Doug fear that drives him to prepare? All together now!: “an economic collapse that will change the world forever!”
Really? Seriously, for this season, a full 30 percent of the folks profiled have been economic collapse-ers, which while only two points up from season one, just seems so uneven. C’mon, just for shits and giggles, couldn’t the producers switch ‘em up, so we don’t get like, three in a row?

Anyway, Doug worries that “our economy is in distress” and he “don’t see it getting better.” Like I’ve said before, this was probably filmed some months ago before the stock-market bump of the last few weeks. However, I’m not sure about one of his strategies for dealing with this contingency. Every week, it seems Doug takes his profits to the bank and exchanges his paper money for rolls of fifty-cent pieces. He then spends an evening on a ‘treasure hunt’, searching for any pre-1971 or pre-1965 coins. If you didn’t already know, the rising cost of silver caused the US Mint to eliminate that element in dimes and quarters, and reduce its content in half-dollars from 90 to 40 percent in 1965; by 1971 they followed suit and began minting silver-free half-dollars.
The current price of silver means that should you actually find one of these coins, it’s worth far more than its face value: as Doug suggests, what appears to be a 50-cent piece could be worth 20 dollars. Of course, as in all concepts of ‘value’ and ‘wealth’ in civilized society, it’s entirely reliant on the consent of its participants to function. The only reason our system of backed-by-gold green paper notes is allowed to continue—even though there hasn’t been enough gold (or silver, for that matter) to back the money for years—is because we continue to go along with it, pretending that these rectangles of green cotton-paper are equal to 100 of these little coppery discs, or 20, ten, four, or two of these silvery discs. Isn’t it funny how—with the exception of the all-but-forgotten Sacagawea gold dollar—all of our monies are inscribed with pictures of dead white men? Personally, I like to deal with root problems instead of symptoms, so if you’re worried about an economy that’s in danger of collapsing, recognize what’s causing that economy to collapse, and then get as far away from it as possible. Hell, read up on uncivilized economies (generally based around person-to-person support as true wealth) and implement one with your neighbors. Or something. Just an idea.
If you want to continue to buy into the ‘green paper = value’ game, that’s fine, but realize how inherently unstable that system is, and don’t rely on it. Better yet, take a page from Kelly and John Taylors’ playbook: convert that paper into useful purchases ASAP and get used to life without it. Bah, precious metals as wealth are inherently bullshit. /soapbox.

So, because so much of this show is just folks tying to make themselves feel good about being ‘prepared’, we get to see Doug’s family’s $45,000 shipping-container bunker. Which doesn’t seem like a lot of room, especially when they reveal that in an emergency, Doug’s best friend Inez and his family will be coming to stay as well. So, seven people in a shipping container? Sounds crowded to me. Regardless, thumbs-up for having a buddy to help you out.
And with all those people packing in there, Doug has implemented strict water-rationing—and this is probably the scariest thing to most folks watching the show: only two gallons per person per day. Eek! That’s right, no more ten-minute Hollywood shower for you! According to our narrator, the average American somehow uses 100 gallons or water per day? I really hope that’s wrong.
But as soon as they showed the septic tank getting lowered into the pit, I knew we weren’t looking at a long-term problem solver. So yeah, septic tanks. AKA ‘big concrete box that you fill up with raw shit and now-contaminated drinking water, requiring a vacuum truck to come and suck it out every so often.” Someone please remind me how this is a reliable way of dealing with human waste in an uncertain future? I’ll say it one more time…HUMANURE. No water, no smell, awesome compost at the end. What’s not to love?

Now, should the rampaging hordes of unprepared city-dwellers come swarming out of the nearest metropolis, what is Doug’s plan for dealing with them? This is the Rock Man we’re talking about, so naturally all solutions involve Really Big Stones. His first line of defense is apparently a one-time-only trick, because he plans to create a rockslide to block the road. Wow. Next step is to create some stone pillbox firing positions around the bunker. And finally, break out the bobcat and barricade the driveway with an improvised rock wall. Like I said, I like that he uses what he knows. And Doug knows rocks! I also really like that they wrap up their night of rock-wall-building with pizza! Because as we all know, “There is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can’t be improved with pizza.”

The experts give him 69 points, for twelve months’ survival; Doug seems pretty pleased with that assessment. Not bad.

Doomsday Preppers: Bryan Smith

DP’s first episode of 2013 (‘Prepared, Not Scared’) opens with a profile of Bryan Smith in Florida.
bryan smithHis isolated concern is with the ‘total collapse of the US monetary system’. He foresees this will turn urban areas—what with their tight population densities and all—into nightmares. He sees the problem with cities ultimately comes down to food, as the “produce isn’t grown anywhere near where people consume it”, which is true. Of course, he’s looking at the issue from three inches away, instead of arm’s length, so I don’t expect him to be able to find the bars of his cage. He’s identified one troublesome aspect of The Mess, but he hasn’t taken the next step, which is to consider change or alternatives. As a result, his preparedness solution takes a familiar form.

Bryan seems to think that one shouldn’t rely on anybody—not the government (that’s actually true; you really shouldn’t), nor one’s neighbors. Which is silly, because no one can be 100% self-reliant; we simply didn’t evolve that way. Humans are social animals, and we evolved in small communities for mutually assured survival. Well, if I heard right, Mr. Smith has a family of twelve, so it’s no wonder he has no interest in engaging with his neighbors, because his family is already the size of a small neighborhood. To support this massive clan in the event of a disaster, Bryan done some classical Type I Prepping, and hoarded—among mass quantities of shelf-stable prepper staples—literally one ton of rice and beans.

Last year, he dropped a quarter-million dollars on 47 acres somewhere in Florida. Honestly, if you have that kind of money to spend on land, why stay in Florida? I guess he really likes heat, humidity, and sand. Clearly Bryan isn’t worried about climate change and rising sea levels—check out this University of Arizona map showing areas that would be submerged after a six-meter (which is drastically high, but you get an idea) sea level rise. I’m a big fan of Kevin O’Brien from last season, who had the right thinking to pull up stakes and high-tail it outta Florida for the lush hills of Tennessee. I dunno, there is literally nothing about Florida that appeals to me.

So, what’s his plan for this chunk of land? Put up an impenetrable living fence to keep out intruders, dig some semi-subterranean earthship homes to keep cool, and use all that sandy soil to grow root crops to feed the family?
Nope. He’s going to do some farming, all right—but just growing tobacco and sugarcane. His dream for post-collapse life is to have a ‘post-apocalyptic country store’. I guess he intends to use those to barter with…neighbors?…for things his family needs? Sounds like relying on others to me. Then he shows his buddy a ‘still’ he uses to boil some sugarcane-liquor (he says it was just water in the pot), that he can supposedly use to run his generator to pump water from the well.
Now, since he’s going to be a ‘farmer’, he needs fuel for his shiny new tractor, so he and the buddy find an old electrical transformer—donated by the power company apparently—which he says is full of mineral oil. He shoots a few holes in it and they catch the greasy cascade in a tarp. Seems like a lotta work for something I’m not sure he should be putting in his machinery. Plus, couldn’t he just lean a ladder up against the pole and drill a hole in the can?

Bryan next shows off his $100,000 bullet reloading setup. I’m no expert—I’m happy with my one-bullet-at-a-time reloader bench—but that seems a little steep. I know it’s one of those fancy ‘progressive’ loaders, but still. And while they’re talking things-that-go-bang, Bryan shows off some good ol’ fashioned zip guns! One that looks like a cane, one that looks like a pen, and one of those spring-loaded, arm-mounted, sleeve-gun-thingies straight out of Taxi Driver. I’m not sure on the legality of those items, but seeing how much green Smith has been throwing down on everything else, I’ll bet a couple of ATF tax stamps wouldn’t hurt him much.
And why do they have all this ordnance? “To keep the women and children safe!” No, dude, get them involved! Take some classes with them, take them to the gun range, and teach them to keep themselves safe! If you’re all about not relying on others, it’s not fair to make them have to rely on you! Besides, it’s weird we never see any of this massive family in the segment, and there’s something very old-school, patriarchal, and status quo-y (which doesn’t really surprise me, given what we’ve seen) about his attitude, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.

Anyway, we never really see what kind of shelter Bryan has at this location, so he hires an old friend, Ron Hubbard of Atlas Shelters, to build him a $150,000 bunker. It looks like most of his bunkers are made from corrugated pipe, which makes them ideal for burying. The same way arches are like, ideal for distributing weight in aboveground constructions, it seems that circular structures are idea for underground ones.
Ron claims that the bunker “will be completely off-grid so it’s not dependent on anybody else”…so, where is the electricity going to come from?
They drive around on one of those camouflaged glorified golfcarts, looking for a location to bury the bunker. There’s some drama stuff, friends getting pissy with each other and such. Bleh.
Eventually, they find a spot and get the tube buried (20 feet underground!) and installed, and Ron shows Bryan around his new digs. We’re reminded that being stuck in a tube underground can have negative effects on one’s mental health, so these bunkers are designed to help prevent cabin fever, or whatever. I’m expecting they’ve included like, warm solar-wavelength lights, or some simulated windows with nature scenes, or…anything, really. But nope, just an ‘electric fireplace’(how does that work?), a big screen TV, DVD player, microwave, refrigerator, leather recliners, and beer! In other words, all the comforts of home civilization. Atlas Shelters: The world above may be going to hell, but you can still hold on to your god-given right to vegetate for just a little bit longer!

In the experts’ assessment, they suggest Bryan set up some rain barrels, to complement his pumps, which shouldn’t be relied on alone. Bryan declares that he has no intention of collecting rainwater. Wait, what? He lives in the state with the fifth-highest annual precipitation, but instead of connecting some simple and inexpensive plastic tubs to his existing gutters, he actually wants to rely on complex mechanical devices that won’t work unless hooked up to an even more complex machine that requires fossil fuels to run? This, in a humid, salty environment covered with sand? Anybody else see the myriad opportunities for failure here?
Does he think rain barrels are some hippie bunk? Y’know, getting stuff for free without having to work for it.
The experts also basically tell him, ‘You should grow food, too.’ You can’t really eat tobaccy and sugarcane, and that astronaut food and rice is going to run out eventually. They give him 78 points, which is supposed to equal 16 months of survival.
Bryan doesn’t seem to agree, and tells us that his family’s been there for nine generations and 150 years, and over 100 of those years was without electricity or water stores! Well, they might’ve been able to get by without electricity, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing much of that. Also, his comment clears up a hunch I had, which I won’t go into here, but suffice to say that going back nine generations in my family comes out to around the year 1700. You can do the math.

In his post-filming update, Bryan tells us he’s bought some body armor and started promoting these shelters, whatever that amounts to. *Eyeroll*, *sigh*.

Doomsday Preppers: Ryan Croft

Up next is Ryan Croft, from Ashville, North Carolina.
ryancroftThis former Air Force airman is the father of five teenage boys and like most the show has featured, is concerned for worldwide financial collapse. But Ryan isn’t afraid to think outside the box that ‘prepping’ has become. Unlike other folks on the show who focus on mobility and bugging out, Ryan is ready to stand his ground with other members of his community. And unlike almost everyone else on the show, his food plan isn’t based around hoarding canned or freeze-dried food.

First off, Ryan comes across as very earnest in this segment, probably because of his Tea Party topics, but also because he talks to the camera a lot! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially given that the things he talks about are things people need—but probably don’t want—to hear. (Probably my favorite is when Ryan tells us that as a former member of the USAF, “government solutions SUCK!” As someone who just finished up a gig with the US Forest Service, I’m inclined to agree.)

So, as we’ve said, Ryan is worried about an economic collapse, which will bring about a social collapse along with it.
That’s nothing we haven’t seen on the show so far (especially this season). However, why does he think this scenario might come to pass? Because, as he says, “the value of a dollar is totally artificial.” YUP. Unpleasant truth avoided by Our Culture # 1: when your whole civilizational experiment’s system of wealth is based on shiny, inedible rocks, you’re going to be working within a framework of completely arbitrary values for everything.
Ryan continues to explain that this economic collapse has already begun with the 2008 Financial Crisis/Great Recession/Depression MkII/whatever you want to call it. (On a side note, I’m sick of hearing talking heads refer to, “this current economy”, as if our global slump is just something temporary to shake off and rebound from. Sorry guys, but it’s just the way things are, and it’s simply a result. If you drink too much, you have a hangover the next day. If your economy is designed around the idea of infinite growth and expansion (in a finite world), eventually the bubble will burst. That’s all we’re dealing with. I only wonder how long people in This culture will continue to seek solutions for this inevitability we’re living through now, instead of considering a different system altogether.)  He goes on, saying that the economy is now in a “gentle glide” downwards, and that the one thing keeping it moving forwards is consumer confidence. It makes for an interesting visual, and it makes sense to me.

So, as I’ve said, Ryan isn’t planning on bugging out or hoarding food. So what is he doing? Growing algae! Apparently, Spirulina is a healthy, easy-to-grow aquacultural food supplement. Of course, while Ryan’s telling us about how awesome the stuff is, our undercutting caption pops up to inform us that a cup of dried Spirulina contains only about 325 calories. If that’s the case, I’d lean more towards gardening/ horticulture, but keep growing the algae as a valuable supplement.

Not only is Ryan growing this nutritious green stuff, he’s also organizing folks around town to grow it, creating a network of ‘microfarms’, essentially acting as a hedge against a vulnerable monoculture. His family’s no-bug-out plan stems from a great community-based ethic (as he says, “This is our home; we love these people”—major thumbs-up, dude!), and although they don’t go into any details, he also plans not just for a network in his neighborhood, but within his region. Their goal: “Everybody lives, nobody dies”. It’s a good theory, but I actually agree with the experts, that he should keep his focus small on a microtribe-sized group (20 people or so) at first, and let it grow organically so that in a few years, maybe he will have big network for support.

I also like his notion that a prepper’s “number-one resource should be people! …and that’s not on most people’s prepper list!” Believe me, I’ve noticed. Why is this the case? First off, as I’ve written about many times, the modern idea of ‘prepping’ has less to do with preparedness and more to do with consumption as a means of keeping one’s current civilized, unsustainable way of life going for just a little bit longer, should disaster occur. Secondly, we as Americans are in love with the idea of the rugged individualist/lone wolf-types. These are the men (very rarely women) who struck off into the wilderness with a belt axe and the clothes on their back and Singlehandedly Built This Great Country, By God.
Except, that was never really the case.

As part of his ‘stand your ground instead of bugging out’ strategy, Ryan does some tactical-y exercises with fellow enthusiasts, using some of his self-designed weapons. He shows off his outfit (Amendment Arms)’s new AK/AR mashup (he calls it the Joshua Mk5).
I understand the respective strengths and weaknesses of those two popular platforms, so I’ll be very interested in seeing how his new rifle works out.

Anyway, Ryan explains another reason he doesn’t hoard food is a result of his airman’s survival knowledge: “you don’t need to stockpile if you have experience with primitive techniques”. Again, we are in agreement. If you’re living off the fat of the land your people have been carefully stewarding for thousands of years, of course there’s no need to stockpile! Food is everywhere! Of course, if that land has been stolen by members of a cannibalistic death-culture who’ve done their very best to destroy the fertility and diversity of that land so that you can’t live off it…yeah, stockpiling might be a good idea.

He takes his boys out in the pasture and they set up a figure-four deadfall trap to catch fieldmice. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t bother with the bushcraft trap. I keep a couple of Victor rat traps in my survival pack for the simple fact that they’re inexpensive, efficient, easy-to-use, and lightweight. And even in a long-term disaster scenario, even when the grocery store shelves have long been empty, I’d bet these ubiquitous classic traps will still be around.

So, Ryan and his boys make a good-looking campfire and chow down on a mouse; nice to see their enculturated food preferences fall by the wayside. Speaking of which, when Ryan talks about supplementing his algae with wild protein, he eats an earthworm. Now, I’m pretty sure he’s not an animist, so I’m not going to get on his case about why he doesn’t thank the Great Spirit for the sustenance the worm will provide him. But I am going to ask the question Why Doesn’t Anyone On This Show Know How To Eat A Worm? Seriously. This is like, the second episode in a row where someone picks up a red wriggler, half-heartedly wipes some dirt off it, and just eats it. When one of Ryan’s sons eats one, he says, “Hm. Tastes like dirt.” Well, no wonder! I bet it feels like dirt, too! The trick to eating worms is simple: throw ’em in water for a few minutes first. Without that crucial step, a worm is simply an unappetizing, writhing, gritty, meat-tube full of dirt-shite. However, letting them sit in water not only gets the grit off, it also makes them purge themselves, leaving you with a tube of pure subterranean protein.

In the end, the experts give him 63 points, for ten months’ initial survival.