The movement received another boost from the George W. Bush Administration’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. Neil Strauss, a former Times reporter, who chronicled his turn to prepping in his book “Emergency,” told me, “We see New Orleans, where our government knows a disaster is happening, and is powerless to save its own citizens.” Strauss got interested in survivalism a year after Katrina, when a tech entrepreneur who was taking flying lessons and hatching escape plans introduced him to a group of like-minded “billionaire and centi-millionaire preppers.” Strauss acquired citizenship in St. Kitts, put assets in foreign currencies, and trained to survive with “nothing but a knife and the clothes on my back.”
Robert A. Johnson sees his peers’ talk of fleeing as the symptom of a deeper crisis. At fifty-nine, Johnson has tousled silver hair and a soft-spoken, avuncular composure. He earned degrees in electrical engineering and economics at M.I.T., got a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton, and worked on Capitol Hill, before entering finance. He became a managing director at the hedge fund Soros Fund Management. In 2009, after the onset of the financial crisis, he was named head of a think tank, the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
We get that creature comforts will be ever more important as the things that used to make us happy slowly break and crumble around us. But do you really want to put a ton of effort into opening a bakery when everything is going to shit? And we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but no amount of odor elimination is going to stop the uncivilized world from smelling really, really bad.
Jack Matthews, an American who is the chairman of MediaWorks, a large New Zealand broadcaster, told me, “I think, in the back of people’s minds, frankly, is that, if the world really goes to shit, New Zealand is a First World country, completely self-sufficient, if necessary—energy, water, food. Life would deteriorate, but it would not collapse.” As someone who views American politics from a distance, he said, “The difference between New Zealand and the U.S., to a large extent, is that people who disagree with each other can still talk to each other about it here. It’s a tiny little place, and there’s no anonymity. People have to actually have a degree of civility.”
Why do our dystopian urges emerge at certain moments and not others? Doomsday—as a prophecy, a literary genre, and a business opportunity—is never static; it evolves with our anxieties. The earliest Puritan settlers saw in the awe-inspiring bounty of the American wilderness the prospect of both apocalypse and paradise. When, in May of 1780, sudden darkness settled on New England, farmers perceived it as a cataclysm heralding the return of Christ. (In fact, the darkness was caused by enormous wildfires in Ontario.) D. H. Lawrence diagnosed a specific strain of American dread. “Doom! Doom! Doom!” he wrote in 1923. “Something seems to whisper it in the very dark trees of America.”
Gerald Celente, founder of the Trends Research Institute, noted how many modern survivalists deviate from the classic archetype, terming this new style "neo-survivalism"; "you know, the caricature, the guy with the AK-47 heading to the hills with enough ammunition and pork and beans to ride out the storm. This [neo-survivalist] is a very different one from that".
Volume 60, 2018 Vol 59, 2017 Vol 58, 2016 Vol 57, 2015 Vol 56, 2014 Vol 55, 2013 Vol 54, 2012 Vol 53, 2011 Vol 52, 2010 Vol 51, 2009 Vol 50, 2008 Vol 49, 2007 Vol 48, 2006 Vol 47, 2005 Vol 46, 2004 Vol 45, 2003 Vol 44, 2002 Vol 43, 2001 Vol 42, 2000 Vol 41, 1999 Vol 40, 1998 Vol 39, 1997 Vol 38, 1996 Vol 37, 1995 Vol 36, 1994 Vol 35, 1993 Vol 34, 1992 Vol 33, 1991 Vol 32, 1990 Vol 31, 1989 Vol 30, 1988 Vol 29, 1987 Vol 28, 1986 Vol 27, 1985 Vol 26, 1984 Vol 25, 1983 Vol 24, 1982 Vol 23, 1981 Vol 22, 1980 Vol 21, 1979 Vol 20, 1978 Vol 19, 1977 Vol 18, 1976 Vol 17, 1975 Vol 16, 1974 Vol 15, 1973 Vol 14, 1972 Vol 13, 1971 Vol 12, 1970 Vol 11, 1969 Vol 10, 1968 Vol 9, 1967 Vol 8, 1966 Vol 7, 1965 Vol 6, 1964 Vol 5, 1963 Vol 4, 1962 Vol 3, 1961 Vol 2, 1960 Vol 1, 1959