Monday, May 16, 2011

It’s Not Over Till It’s Over

The World is Coming to an End. Things are getting darker and darker every day and soon something is going to happen. It will be swift and it will be hard. This is the basic story presented by most people in the Survivalist and Prepper movement. Everyone that is involved in the movement see this type of threads and post about all the time. Predictions made about specific dates, events and forecast. It’s happening soon – It is time to step up your efforts before it’s too late.

In this article I will challenges some of the perceptions within the movement and discuss what we can do broaden our perspectives. It will take you around two hours to look through the material presented in this article but it will most likely increase your understanding of the world and give you some new perspectives.

The Survivalist Narrative
Like I wrote before the story that is most often presented within the Prepper and Survivalist Movement is the story of the Sudden collapse. The World As We Know It will fall apart basically over night and only the well prepared or lucky will make it through. This is the scenario presented in two of the most popular fictional books often recommended; “Patriots” by James Wesley Rawles and “One Second After” by William R Forstchen. In the first book the US economy breaks down, violence, collapse and a foreign invasion follows. In the second book the US gets hit by a High Altitude Electro Magnetic Pulse (HEMP) that takes out all modern electronics from computer, to cell phones, modern cars and the electrical grid resulting in the death of a majority of the US population and a following invasion.

Our Perception of the World and Cognitive Bias
Richard Heuer is Psychologist that used to work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In the book Psychology of Intelligence Analysis Heuer discuss many of the challenges the people working within the Intelligence Community face and why the often make incorrect analysis. One of the things that affect people the most is that we see what we expect to see and that different situations also affect how we perceive the world. During nighttime people are more likely to hear foot steps behind them when walking home compared to during daytime. Another critical aspect identified by Heuer is that when we have created mindset about something it resists change, no matter if there is strong evidence that suggests otherwise, new information that does not fit our first impression is changed so that it fits the original analysis or disregarded. This is something that every person does even if it is not a conscious process.

Two Stories about The World
A Good Story
So how does one change an incorrect assumption about the world? This is not an easy task. One method that can be used is to research facts, if the fact does not support our perception we might simply be incorrect. But to collect and display statistics in a way that makes it possible to understand and put in relation to other facts is not easy.

One person that has done is Hans Rosling. Rosling is a professor in public health and have been working as a doctor in countries that does not have many of the resources that hospitals in rich countries have. Rosling have the help of other created a graphical interface that allows statically information to be used to show the change within different countries over time when it comes to field like life expectancy, income, fertility rate and child mortality. This may not sound very interesting at first but I suggest that check out the video "New Insights on Povery". Its 20 min long, it will blow your mind and shake the perspective that you have of the world. Most people may assume that politicians and other top people within the business world has a good understanding of the world around them, but many of the leading people in the world has approached Rosling after he’s talks and said that they had no idea about facts that he just showed them.

A Troubling Story
If you have watched the video with Rosling you might be in quite a good mood. In 2009 the French filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand made one of the most troubling movies about the contemporary world. In the movie “Home” multiple questions like the Population Explosion, Peak Oil, The Depletion of Non Renewable Resources and Environmental Destruction is discussed. The movie was not made to generate profit and can be seen by anyone for free on YouTube. This is a movie that I really recommend for everyone.

"Home" is not a unique movie, many similar productions have been made the last years like the National Geographic Documentary “2210 The Collapse?” based on the book by Jared Diamond, “Blind Spot” and “The End Of Suburbia” just to name a few. The stories are not identical but the message that they present are very similar; The world is facing an unprecedented crisis and we are not even aware of what’s coming.

So Where Does These Two Stories Leave Us?
After seeing these two videos you have been presented with two versions of the world both based upon facts. They are radically different, so is does any of these two perspectives present a correct perspective of the world today? My answer would be that both perspectives are correct. Both stories are grounded in fact. The message of the two perspectives are almost the exact opposite from the other and this is a good example of why it is so difficult to understand the complexity of the world even if one has some of the facts available.

What Should You Take With You From This Article?
So what would I like the reader to take with them from this article? First of all that the world is not only a set of facts, how we perceive these facts shapes our perception of the world. As Preppers and Survivalist the stories that we are told within the movement makes it easy to disregard information that does not support these stories. Many also take the information presented when a major crisis occurs as a sign that the “Big One” is here. This is something that takes place every time a new threat is presented, no matter if it is the swine flu, an economic crisis or most recently the events surrounding the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Positive information is disregarded and negative information reinforced by many.

Most people that are not Survivalist and Preppers on the other hand often totally disregards information suggesting that major disasters or accidents may occur no matter what information that is presented to them. This can make it a very frustrating process discussing crisis preparedness, prepping or survivalism with anyone that does not share this perspective since the two people do not share the same perception of the world and will not easily change this perception no matter what facts they are shown.

So why did I write this article? I share many of the concerns that the can be found within the Prepper and Survivalist Movement, but I believe that it is important to always look at the entire picture and not just look for information that supports the conclusions that one has already made. An analysis based upon only positive or negative information will not be as accurate analysis than an analysis that also incorporates contradicting information. The other aspect is hope. Many discuss potential coming problems like they have already happened, like there is no possibility that we can overcome the problems that we face. People that give up on hope in a survival situation often die as a result. With skills, health, knowledge and the will to survive people have made it through situations that have been more or less hopeless. I believe that it is critical that one train too not only see the bad in every situations but also the positive sides and possibilities presented. This can also allow one to find solutions for problems before they manifest, instead of just sitting around and waiting for them to manifest.


  1. So how do you explain when a person "becomes" a prepper? Two years ago, I wasn't a prepper. Did my way of thinking suddenly change? I try to see a problem from different perspectives, but to me the overwhelming evidence is that things are going downhill fast. I don't think I'm ignoring information that disagrees with this view; it just doesn't seem like there is any.

  2. Hi Kris! Preppers come in all shapes and forms, personally I do not think that there is any single factor that determines if a person becomes a prepper. Heuer states that people don’t easily change their mind from the initial perception, but that does not mean that someone can’t change their mind.

    I think that many people share your feeling that things are going downhill. May I ask you what you thought of Roslings video and what made you become a Prepper?

  3. I'm not sure that comparing statistics from current countries, with our current technologies, populations and economies, to statistics from decades or even centuries ago is valid. That withstanding, it was a fascinating discussion.

    I started feeling the need to prep when I realized just what a terrible position our national (or even global) economy is in. My biggest fears are hyperinflation or even collapse of the US dollar.