Posts Tagged ‘survivalism’

Doomsday Preppers: Firefighter Mark

It seems they’ve saved the best for last, because this is possibly the most over-the-top, ridiculously-deluded prepper profile we’ve seen yet—but if you take it with a truckload of salt and remember that we’re just seeing grown men ‘playing Army’ and goofing off, it might help keep you from wanting to repeatedly bang your head against the wall:

Our final (thank goddess!) segment finds us in Georgia, following around one Mark Sanders:

click the pic for Mark’s youtube channel of apparently random bullshit!

Right off the bat, Mark wants us to know that he really takes his self-identification as an Amurikan capital-P Prepper seriously. ‘Wolverines!’ sticker on his OD jeep, extraneous stars&stripes bandana on his shotgun, &c.…
Mark’s cooked-up paranoia is of a “foreign occupation of the Yoo-nited States of Amurika”. At least he’s not so misguided as to believe we’ll be occupied by terrorists (I’ve already commented here on the interplay between terrorism/occupation).
However, Mark does state right from the get-go that he believes “it’s gonna be like Red Dawn!”: y’know, with Russian paratroopers and stuff. As we’ll see throughout the segment, that particular piece of 1980s Cold War jingoism seems to take up a significant portion of Mark’s thought process (my guess is, he saw the flick in theaters as a youngling and has been fixated on it ever since).

We see him do the requisite food hoard show-off (six months worth) and then get right into the meat of our Prepper Build Project: Mark and his band of firefighters/paramilitary wannabes decide it’d be a worthwhile endeavor to make a ‘Trojan Horse’ out of a 500-gallon propane tank, y’know, so they can ‘get into the enemy base’. Ohboy.

But…they don’t get very far in their building project before they decide to test their mettle by waterboarding each other. Seriously. At least I’m 90% sure that’s what they did; I dunno, I don’t think it’s one of those things you can really fake for TV, and they come across as just crazy enough to do something like that.

For some reason or other, we also see the guys try cooking up some homemade sugar-and-potassium-nitrate smoke bombs. I really, really hope they got the recipe from a 1980s dial-up text-based bulletin board system, just ‘for teh lulz.’ Seriously, this is what my friends and I did in high school, so again, I feel I should stress that we’re just seeing grown men goofing off in this segment.

So, what exactly is their half-baked plan to ‘infiltrate the enemy base’? Apparently it involves leaving the tank (with the guys in it??) in a public place where they hope their occupying enemy will happen by with a hankering for some propane, at which point they’ll immediately tow it back to their ‘enemy base’, leaving Mark and the boys to pop out and yell “Wolverines!”

They believe accomplishing this requires adding a ‘periscope’ (tiny mirror on a wire) to their propane tank, cutting a man-sized hole in the bottom of the tank, putting said tank on a trailer, and equipping said trailer with a trapdoor and yet another spike-strip ‘trap’ for following vehicles.
To ‘test’ their ‘plan’, Mark and his boys all squeeze into the tank with their guns and nightvision and body armor and junk, and then sit tight and wait to get picked up by an enemy tow truck.

When one just happens by, their group’s other member follows the truck in his vehicle and keeps in constant contact with Mark (via radio headset, of course!). However, in an actual occupied scenario (with curfews and such in place, remember), I really don’t think there’s any way their buddy would be able to tail them in the tank and provide radio tips.

Once they’re in place, just listen to the way Mark explains their plan—“Team 33 is getting ready to bail out, cause havoc behind enemy lines!” Man, so much puffed-up swagger. And when they’re done? “We were able to get behind enemy lines; it was nothing less than brilliant, it was executed perfect!” Yeah, okay, if you say so.

What I want to know is this: why don’t we see—instead of all this camo-clad macho posturing with his bros bullshit—how Mark deals with four small children and an unseen wife on a bug-out to their retreat location? Oh right, because that’s a scenario people might actually learn something from watching, especially as it’s the far more likely situation!

Meh, I am so done with this show; <micdrop> I’m out.

Advertisements

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?

Doomsday Preppers: David Nash

Our other Tennessee prepper this episode is David Nash, who is also concerned about the likelihood of a modern New Madrid earthquake.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentDavid explains how he and his wife Genny have “chosen careers that fulfill us but don’t necessarily leave us with much in the bank”, ergo he is DIY all the way! Which is great—less is more! I like it!
He starts off by showing Genny his homemade ‘saline converter’ to turn saltwater to bleach, which he could then add to contaminated water to make potable.
I’m not totally sold on the chemistry(NaCl+H2O -> NaOH + Cl ->bleach?), but if it checks out, that’s not a bad little system!
And because David thinks ahead, he DIY’s himself a stringtrimmer motor/wood-burning steam engine contraption to charge the battery he’ll use to run his bleach-maker. I’m not sure how all that comes together—I have little mechanical knowledge of anything more complex than a forge-bellows, but if he can indeed charge a battery by burning sticks and small wood, that’s a winner.

After that, David reveals his build project: a geodesic dome shelter to resist the shaking expected in an earthquake.
He cuts the aluminum pipe framework pieces in his shop, assembles them with his dad’s help in the woods, and then drapes it with a big heavy-duty piece of signage tarp. The dome gets draped in three kinds of wire mesh (probably could have gotten by without the chickenwire), and is coated by sprayed concrete and then given a camouflage paintjob. It looks solid, if a bit melty organic, but to make sure they give us another requisite DP tannerite explosion test, with dad inside! (the shelter appears to survive).

I had a friend in the UP who built a shack along similar lines some years back—except he used steel cattle panels and reclaimed plastic sheeting and old carpeting, all bermed with soil, to make a sort of ‘longhouse’. Apparently it was pretty much invisible once the woods grew up around it.

Oh, and for lighting inside his dome, David installs a two-liter ‘light bottle’—a really genius DIY lighting system—and some DIY gutters for water catchment.

Anyway, geodesic domes (yay, Buckminster Fuller!) are always awesome, and I love the use of the reclaimed billboard tarp. For a non-mobile DIY bugout shelter in the woods, the sprayed concrete shell is probably pretty hard to beat (I wonder if their concrete sprayer would be compatible with any of the alternative ’cretes—something with more solar mass for passive heating/cooling?)

After watching this episode and about the same time coming across this art exhibit, I got to thinking about the utility of combining modern materials like David’s tarp (which already exist in great numbers) with traditional indigenous building shapes and materials. I can pretty easily imagine a band of neotribal folks walking or riding (horses—no Ancient Sunlight Juice for these sustainables) across the post-Long Emergency landscape (or even the Right Now landscape, if you can imagine such a thing!), towing their travois loaded with a couple of these waterproof billboards (emblazoned with images of golden arches or sports mascots or other similar logos that must have once held great significance to the old ‘uns of the Fourth World, but are now no more than mysterious runes) and a bundle of tentpoles, all ready to set up camp at the next watering hole.
Just something to think about, it’s always fun to combine ‘new’ and ‘old’ and imagine different ways of doing thing. After all, there is no One Right Way to Live!

Doomsday Preppers: David Mays

Alright, folks. It would seem DP has finally jumped the shark—or at the very least, hit peak media oversaturation, and exhausted its fifteen minutes as a rating$ juggernaut—and stopped producing new episodes, which mean there are only two I have left to cover this season…and I really couldn’t be happier. It’ll be a big weight lifted off my shoulders when I won’t have to subject myself to watching this program (one which, in the big picture, turned out to be pretty sensationalist, exploitative, and generally detestable) for the bigger purpose of uncooling its message.

It’s not 2012 anymore, and I think folks are kinda sick of ‘reality’ shows about midlife-crisis, middle-class white guys with more money than sense, delusions of grandeur, and hard-ons for ‘tactical’ weaponry and foodbuckets. Don’t worry, they’re still out there; but the media landscape has (unsurprisingly) shifted over the past two years to the point where Prepperdom isn’t such a hot commodity anymore. Which is fine by me, because while it means a little less blog traffic for this page, it also means less toxic, deluded, status quo-y notions being broadcast into the public mindspace.

Anyway, episode ‘Nobody Will Be Ready’ cuts between the two Davids from Tennesseee; both guys are supposedly (but not unreasonably) preparing for a quake along the New Madrid fault line.
First up is David Mays:

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Transparency clause: David and his wife Holly run an essential oils business (remember, this show has almost always been about ‘preppers’ using their appearance as publicity for their own enterprises).
Even though they live in a tract of burbland, their family seems to be taking some good first steps to increase their self-reliance by raising silkie chickens in the backyard, and growing aeroponic vegetables in a vertical garden tower.

But David’s main hobby, it seems, is flying drones!
Huh.
While the military-capitalist-corporate-industrial hegemons rain down remote-piloted death and destruction on foreign civilians of colour, here at home the basic technology has trickled down to the prosumer level, allowing armchair hobbyists to tinker about and remote-pilot their own camera-equipped drones around their pre-apocalyptic suburban wastelands! Isn’t our modern age great?

David’s plan post-quake is apparently to use his ‘drone army’ to ‘patrol’ his neighborhood, and equip them with various payloads—like one of those GoPro cameras that are all the rage right now, or a disposable camera-turned-improvised taser, or an ultralight silver parachute of medical supplies.
I dunno, I feel like it might just be easier and more productive/rewarding for David and/or the family to get out in the neighborhood on foot, meet their neighbors face-to-face, and start turning their subdivision into an actual community. Get a couple more families in the cul-de-sac on the chickens-and-gardening bandwagon and they could have the seeds of a nice little self-reliant network. Just a suggestion.

Doomsday Preppers: ‘Dr. Dave’

This not-terrible episode wraps up with a look at Dr. Dave Jensen of Colorado, who has supposed fears of an EMP.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
‘Dr. Dave’ (as the show insists on calling him) is a big proponent of holistic medicine, which really is only logical for a survival-minded person, because as he explains, our modern (read: unsustainable, Petrol Age) approach to dealing with sickness is “based on technology and prescription drugs”.
And so, the good doctor runs a clinic founded on ‘natural and alternative healthcare’ practices…or as it was known in the pre-petrol world, healthcare. Think acupuncture, herbal remedies, ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ and—because this is Colorado!—prescription cannabis.

Of those, the only one I have a problem with is the Chinese junk, mostly because of its obsession with body parts of critically-endangered animal species, but also because I think it’s a whole lotta placebo-effect bullshit. For example, if I was feeling crummy and someone reputable gave me an exotic-sounding tea made from fire-berries that are only found in the mountains of the Sun (or albino rhinoceros pancreas, or something), then I’d think it must be really special stuff!, and I’ll probably start to feel better.
Seriously, when one or two hundred species a day are going extinct, there’s really no good reason why this junk medicine should still be perpetuated—well, except for the one billion Chinamen claiming “it’s tradition!” Yeah, so is patriarchy; doesn’t make it worthwhile.

Because there’s not really too much else to discuss in this segment, here are some thoughts on medicine in a post-collapse/disaster world.
Let’s say hypothetically—even though I don’t believe in isolated scenarios, they make for good thought-experiments—some out-of-the-blue, Hollywood-style disaster (planetwide solar flare or something) goes down offscreen, knocking the civilized world down the ladder of technological progress a few rungs. With electronics now shiny doorstops, things are looking very similar to the early 19th century (instead of consuming Apple products, people are consuming actual apples again!)
Now, assuming that 1) pre-disaster, a sufficient number of people were well-versed in pre-modern medicine (I’m thinking plants with proven medicinal qualities—pennyroyal and willow, likesay, not Chinese powdered lily stamens or whatever), and 2) people remember how to pass on information without electronic intermediaries, what’s to say a happy balance couldn’t be struck between the advances of our current model and the healthcare approach of the recent past?
You know, when something is broken, it is acceptable to pick out and save the things that work and dispose of the rest. What’s worth saving in modern medicine? Antibiotics and sterile theory. What was good about medicine a few hundred years ago? How to heal folks with what Nature provides, without reliance on petroleum or complex technology.
Think of that wistful “I wish I knew then what I know now” sentiment, but applied to medicine.
Penicillin is easy to culture. At the minimum, how difficult is it to throw your medical instruments into boiling water? Ethanol is ridiculously easy to make. Honey is antibacterial…
Meh, as usual, I’m sick of the prevailing, Progress-based belief that if the Grid goes down, folks will immediately revert to trepanning each other with stone tools (which, of course, would require a functioning means of passing on information about both lithic industries and brain surgery!).
But, I digress.

This segment following Dr. Dave really felt more like the pre-Season Three iterations of DP, because there isn’t really a Big Dramatic Build-Project with him. He already has a greenhouse (thumbs-up!), a ’69 Airstream trailer (extra points for retro style!), and a pre-’78 truck and motorbike (no computers=EMP-proof, in theory).
We do see him add a solar panel to the top of his Airstream, to power his growlights and hydroponics setup.

And just for fun—because he’s all about pre-modern medicine—he takes the nuclear family foraging for leeches! Not to nitpick, Mr. Narrator, but is it foraging if the leeches aren’t going to be eaten? Whatever; semantics aside, you can’t go wrong with Mother Nature’s all-natural bloodsuckers. They’re certainly better than going all medieval and just sticking somebody with a sharp piece of iron to bleed them.
And old-time style points if you keep them in one of these jars:

The experts tell Dave he’s done a good job and his trailer project is commendable. Dave accepts graciously and says he’s happy with their assessment, because “it boils down to being sustainable”. Damn right, doc. Are you taking notes, would-be capital-p Preppers?

Doomsday Preppers: Richard Huggins

Season 3 continues with a not-terrible episode “No Stranger to Strangers”. We’re back in Texas, but this time it’s not as belligerently chest-thump-y.
On the side of a highway outside the DFW metropolis lives Richard Huggins.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThe show has him claim to be preparing for a “Nuclear attack by a terrorist state”. For a historical-pictorial discussion of that phrase, please see my post on Mike Adams’ segment from last season.

Richard shows off his three years’ worth of food stored up, much of it home-canned, which is always good to see: it shows he and his wife realize there’s more to being prepared than simply buying foodbuckets.

From what I can gather, Richard’s machinist’s shop is focused on special effects fabrication, which throws almost everything we see of him into question. When he claims that he has “300 weapons ranging from a crossbow to a Thompson”, I have to wonder how many of those are actual functional weapons, and not ‘dummy guns’ (blank-firing or otherwise) or props that he might rent out to film companies.

Honestly, with that in mind, from what we see of Richard, I wouldn’t even call him a prepper. He really just looks like a movie-weapon-replicator/prop-supply-house-owner with a classy character moustache, who just happens to own a 1919 Browning (and probably a few other real weapons too—this is Texas, after all).

That BMG takes center stage in Richard’s ‘preps’, as—after he turns a car into Swiss cheese—he settles in with his buddy Seth to put together a ‘pillbox’ and ‘grenade launcher’. As a last line of defense against city-fleeing refugees, they install ‘claymore’ mines—although like I’ve said, given what we know about Richard, I’m pretty sure that C4 he’s packing into those empty claymore shells is Play-doh or something. There’s some drama when the ‘teargas’ from his grenades starts wafting back towards their position, and then when the ‘mines’ don’t immediately go off when they throw the switch. Meh, smoke and mirrors.

Probably the best part of this segment is Richard’s buddy Seth’s comment at the end, when he says of Richard, “He’s old-school…but it works!”. People have said the same about me before, and it’s a sentiment I wish the tacti-happy survivalists (and the larger community of consumers in general) would adopt. I’ve written about it before, but when the dominant paradigm is an Ancient Sunlight-fueled culture of disposability, embracing the so-called ‘old-school’ should only be natural for those with a desire to survive the ongoing decline of that fragile system.

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Poole

The episode’s second profile is of Kevin Poole, whose family lives outside Washington DC, and is using this appearance to pimp his business, Triton Shelter Technologies Bunkers.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Hypothetical disaster of choice: EMP.
Preparations: walk-in faraday room; private gun range to protect family (???); “manufacturing facility to produce anything [he] wants or needs”. Well, at least until the EMP goes down, at which point all those fancy machining mills and computerized cutting torches will count for nothing.
Building project: ‘Baby Bunker’.
Because all three of his daughters are—or have recently been—pregnant at the same time:
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Well, at least two-thirds of the daughters are at least hypothetically on-board with dad’s prepping, and make some dehydrated baby food. Hey, thumbs-up for dehydration; it’s the best.

Anyway, we spend the next 20 minutes watching yet another steel box (closely resembling a trash compactor) being welded together. Ugh. Once again, I completely fail to understand the thinking behind the prevalent idea of bunker-as-survival.
Are these people seriously thinking of living long-term in underground tin cans? Where’s your water going to come from? If you’re going to be relying on electricity for lights/heat/cooking— because nobody concerned about life without Juice ever actually considers living without Juice—how are you going to generate it? Where’s your waste going to go?
On this last point, Kevin at least spends a minute considering it, before adding a ten-foot pipe off the side of the bunker. I’m still not clear if the trash tube is just for household waste (like, food wrappers and papers?) or sewage? Either way, Kevin seems to think it’d be a good place to put a dead body—because suicide rates are really high in bunkers! Wow, can’t say I’m surprised. Huh, in that case, maybe buttoning up underground isn’t such a great idea?

Whatever, I have a feeling the bunker we’re seeing get built is maybe a show model for Kevin’s business. In which case, this segment is really a 20-minute advertisement.

During his closing remarks, Kevin proclaims how, “in America we have a lot of creature comforts that other countries don’t have. If you’re willing to work hard, you can gain anything, do anything you like. Live in any kind of home, drive any type of car, have a swimming pool, whatever you like!”
UGH. People, WAKE UP. That ‘American dream’ lifestyle of creature comforts, convenience, and consumption (and bunker-survival, too, for that matter) can only be possible because of abundant and cheap petroleum. Without the Black Stuff, it’s a dead-fucking-end.
And besides, if people like this continue to affirm that the single best thing about Amerika is the vast array of consumer goods one can purchase (after being coerced into willful slavery—exchanging one’s time for the idea of money—of course), we deserve collapse.