There was a show that appeared on the National Geographic Channel called “Doomsday Preppers.” The premise of the show was to profile many different survivalists or “preppers,” who were preparing themselves to survive in the event of some apocalyptic event. Now, if you never saw the show, don’t feel bad. The show only lasted four seasons. Evidently, there were a lot of people not tuning in to watch people such as one prepper named Tim Ralston, who highlighted his personal survival plan that consisted of building underground bunkers out of shipping containers, and extensive practicing with firearms. The highlight of that particular episode, involved Tim shooting his own thumb off during one of his firearms training sessions and then subsequently passing out. Now, many people may not have been fans of the show. However, I regularly watched it with morbid curiosity.
Before I make any contemporary preppers upset, I would like to caveat something upfront. I am the exact opposite of a “Doomsday Prepper.” My wife and I have three kids, all under the age of six. I rarely have enough food stocked up in my refrigerator or pantry to last me through a two-week pay period. In essence, I’m not even a “Payday Prepper.” I am, therefore, acknowledging up front that I may be somewhat biased against the prepper mentality. However, the good news is that in the event of a cataclysmic occurrence, you, the prepper, will most likely outlast my family and me. My doomsday plan is to hope that the huge asteroid lands on my house and I just go out early in the game.
Now, I was captivated by the intricate detail and self-sacrifice that the people on the show went through to be prepared should a major disaster strike. However, truthfully what fascinated me the most about the show, was that very few of the preppers seemed actually happy. It was as if these people had become so intertwined with this conceptual view of life being in a fatal spiral; they were obsessed with death and the end of civilization. There were varying degrees of preparedness, with each person being certain that a different, and very distinct earth-shattering event was imminent. Some people stocked up water and MRE’s in their basement. Others went as far as outfitting vehicles to look like something out of Mad Max. Then some took it as far as building a giant hilltop fortress, which involved the entire family helping to construct this citadel of persistence (This level of tenacity to survive earned its own spin-off show on Nat Geo, called “Doomsday Castle.” Sadly, it only lasted one season).
One of the saddest things I ever saw on the show was from the wife of one prepper. In one episode, the wife looked at the camera and with sadness in her eyes said she wished the family could go on vacation, however, she knew that preparing for the apocalypse was more important. There were other gloomy images on the show as well, such as kids being drug out into the woods to learn how to build a hut out of leaves, mud, and sticks when they expressed they just wanted to hang out with friends and play video games. Basically, be kids. I know crazy; right? Kids are such ingrates.
Ultimately, the allure of the show for me was it posed a seemingly simple, yet complex question. When does it become so important to be alive, that it isn’t worth living? Sure, the people on the show were vastly more prepared than most of us, should the bottomless pit erupt. However, in the end, they were just preparing to survive to exist. I wondered, are any of these people going to be sitting back enjoying some tasty meatballs in marinara sauce out of a foil pouch, while the kids built a snowman in the fresh layer of snow brought on by nuclear winter, going to say, “Man! I sure am glad we never took that trip to Disney World?” Maybe they were.
In truth, human beings have been obsessed with the end of the world for all of recorded history. The oldest marked end of the world scenario ever discovered, comes from a tablet ascribed by the Assyrians. The tablet, dating around 2800 B.C., was found in northern Iraq, in the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh. The tablet details the world’s final days, which are brought on as a result of slow deterioration by corrupt human societies.
Hang on. I know what you are thinking. Didn’t you hear the story of civilizations collapse at the hands of corrupt world leaders in episode one of Doomsday Preppers? Yes, you did. However, the Assyrians said it first. Episode one was just a remix.
From the Norse’s mythologies of Ragnarok, Hinduism’s depiction of Kali Yuga, Buddhism’s “Sermon of the Seven Suns,” and of course the Abrahamic religions of the world’s various concepts of the Messianic Age. Every major civilization has been certain complete doom for the world as we know it waits just around the corner. Amazingly, barring some slight variations, the common theme that every civilization has, with what will usher in the end of times, is actually one of the only things we have absolute control over. Ourselves.
Every major religious faith, agnostics and atheist alike, all have some variation of the belief that human beings are currently, or will ultimately, be what issues the death blow to civilization as we know it. Now, astoundingly, and this is the core of the prepper mentality, is that the “end of days” is not complete and utter destruction. It is actually, some form of judgment, purging of evil and then rejuvenation of humanity to create a better existence. Now, this poses another and ultimately more important question. Why the hell do we need a supervolcano, nuclear war, economic collapse, or any massive disaster to make the human populace not be intolerable to the point of world-ending consequences?
Can it be that we have so little faith in humanity as a whole that we believe we are incapable of ever universally being on the same page enough that we at least aren’t shepherding in our demise? Maybe it is just inherently human not to be able to give in to the seven deadly sins that seem to be at the core of what beckons the trumpeters of the Armageddon.
That would explain the Assyrian’s 5,000-year old doomsday prophecy. Archeologists and Historians estimate that the Assyrian Empire totaled around 120,000 people in 2,800 B.C. If an entire civilization, which totaled about the size of Orlando, Florida, that all had the same religion, the same skin color, and only two ethnic cultures (Akkadians and Sumerians) couldn’t “all just get along,” I guess Alexander Pope was correct, “to err is human.”
However, there is one small problem with me being able to assume that humans are indeed inborn conductors of devastation. People have indeed, demonstrated the capacity not to wreak havoc and death on civilization as a whole. Let’s take a look at Norway for example. For seven years in a row, Norway has topped the Legatum Institute’s list of “Happiest, Richest, Healthiest, and most crime-free countries in the world.” In 2015, a total of twenty-three murders occurred in the entire country of Norway. Norway has a total population the size of Los Angeles, and Chicago combined, yet only had twenty-three homicides for any whole year. Conversely, twenty-three murders would be called a slow weekend for some major U.S. cities. Norway’s healthcare system is ranked as being one of the best in the world. It is ranked #1 on the Democracy index for most democratic countries in the world. At 20% they have the lowest rate of crime recidivism in the world. Lastly, Norway’s economy is ranked sixth in the world for GDP per-capita in the world.
Ok, before you go all nationalist extremist on me, I want to point something else out. Norway’s immigrant population totals 14% of the entire nation’s demographic. By comparison, the United States’ immigrant population is 12.5% of the total population, and only 1.5% are foreign born. “Yeah, but these Norwegian immigrants, are they…” Wait! Before you say it, three out of the top ten largest immigrant populations in Norway are Iraqi, Pakistani, and Somali.
Guess what I got when I Google searched, “Doomsday Prep Norway.” Now, admittedly, my Norwegian is a tad rusty, in the sense that I don’t speak Norwegian at all. However, I am pretty sure the only results I got were related to Norwegian “Doomsday prepping products” that are sold to Americans.
So what is Norway doing that is so drastically different, it would appear that no one is practicing how fast they can run to a bomb shelter and don a gas mask, in the Land of the Midnight Sun? Well, the answer is not some great mystery. Norwegian society is deep-rooted in an egalitarian value system. In totality, the country maintains the belief that all humans are equal in fundamental worth and social status. They support a political doctrine that individuals have the same political, economic, social and civil rights. The Norweigan culture of equality is the primary reason; the country has one of the lowest income and wage gaps in the world.
What was life like for the ancient Assyrians of 2,800 B.C.? Well great, if you were one of the ruling class. Not so much for if you weren’t. Ancient Assyria was a monarchy, and oligarchy with power held by a select few members of the populous. Ancient Egypt was governed the same, with servants and slaves making up the largest portion of the population, yet enjoying the virtues of the bottom tier of society. In ancient Rome, a person was one of three types of people. The Patricians or the wealthy and politicians. The plebeians, which was everybody not rich just short of a slave, and of course the slaves. The Aztecs social structure consisted of the wealthy nobles and priest calling the shots, and middle class, poor, servants and slaves rounding out the bottom of society. In the Persian Empire, you were born into what you were. If an ancient Persian’s father was a farmer, that is what they were going to be, and so on and so-forth. There was no real movement within one’s inborn social status in Ancient Persia.
I think you get where I am going with this. Basically, the world’s greatest civilizations throughout history have all collapsed under the weight of having societal structures built on a house of cards. Coincidently, these are the same types of cultures that left us these intense thirsts for the end of days. In the end, the solution is not that we all need to be wiped out. We all just need to be more egalitarian. We need to strive to have a social, political and cultural society in which the only institutional bias we have, is a bias towards equality. Even from the historical and contemporary religious view of the end of time. Isn’t that exactly what the outcome is? A peaceful, equal and happy version of humanity? Isn’t that the final take away from the prophecies, writings, and tales of our past? That inequality is not okay, and that equality is representative of the highest mortal ascension obtainable? So why don’t we just do it! What are we actually waiting for?
At the end of the day, don’t aspire to live to survive. Instead, prep to go on vacation and live life to actually live. However, just demand that everyone else has an equal chance at going on vacation too. If we all did that, we really would be just fine.
Even if the big asteroid did hit us, at least you’d always still have that trip to Disney Land, and you have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Plus, the only true way to adequately ever prepare and survive the end of the world, is to simply not let it end.
s a lot of fun.