As I write this the US election results are sort-of coming along in a way that matches the rest of 2020; unpredictable and with a certain sense of reality being not-quite-what-they’re-telling-you-it-is. If there’s one thing that we can be certain of, it’s that uncertainty and unpredictability are on the rise, and they’re likely to be fixtures of the near future for as far forward as we can see.
Many are feeling this; from the ever-present Chicken-Little’s claiming the apocalypse is upon us in shrieking tones broadcast for the maximum engagement they provide stimulation-addled social media addicts, through to the weird niche communities that seem to be forming around new hobbies. The latter seems arbitrary until you provide context, which is what we’ll do later in this article. First, some scene-setting.
Prepping: Your Grandma vs. Cable TV
Assuming you live in the West, chances are your social circle (not you of course, you’re smart, right?) have maybe heard the word “prepper”, and if they have, they’ll assume it’s the fringe nutjobs who have a collection of automatic weapons and a whole lot of processed and tinned meat. These are the Cable TV Preppers, and they are a great archetype to promote for financial reasons. (Crazy hardliners with money to burn on items they’ll never use preparing for scenarios that aren’t going to happen.)
Meanwhile, your rich grandmother — maybe great-grandmother — was born in the Depression or Post-War period, and still saves every penny for a rainy day. She has a retirement portfolio made from the biggest economic booms ever seen, but has a mind built during rationing.
Unlike the former example, her brain works on evolutionary lines; it is prepping at its most traditional and honest. It is the basis on which your template for successful preparedness should rest over the hysteria you’ll be lumbered with if you fry yourself with media-generated speculation about the various ends of the world you’re given multiple times a day.
The basic principle; prepare for worst-case scenarios according to which are more likely to happen through to least likely; this is entirely situational and individual, as well as a case of limiting downsides whilst leaving potential for upside.
In example; a prepping guide for a suburban family in the hurricane zone where Dad is the sole breadwinner factory worker is very different from a prepper manual for a single guy living in a state with widespread political unrest.
I read a fantastic blog once that recounted the author’s escape from Hurricane Katrina. The blog, “Listening to Katrina”, is still live on the internet, though dated for reasons we will get into.
It remains a fantastic resource though, because it abandons the typical media-prepper notion in favour of down-to-earth basics based on real-world scenarios; assuming you have to flee your home, what do you take? How do you get your kids in the car and do you have anywhere to go? Assuming you do, do you have enough petrol to get you there?
An important point that the blog made was having your documents in order, including up-to-date contact information and a CV so that you can hit the ground running even in the wake of having to uproot and start afresh somewhere new.
This is important framing for as the stereotypical prepper might spend a lot of money on a bunker and tinned food, in the early 21st Century the majority of a smart survivalist’s preparing should be twofold:
- Financially sound decisions (Your survival in 2020 is tied to the amount of money you have at your disposal)
- Anticipation of location/scenario issues
To explain the latter; for the fact that financial uncertainty has risen in the past generation, your ability to move and avoid most issues has gone up.
Assuming you’re a Millennial, you likely don’t have the career stability of your grandfather. On the other hand, your grandfather didn’t have access to £59 RyanAir flights.
This brings us onto the reframe we need.
Now we’ve added the background, it’s worth coming to the major point of this article; as we have access to technology that gives us possibilities unthinkable twenty (or even ten) years ago, our plans, goals and strategy for surviving uncertainty should change accordingly.
Now, this can be advice thought common sense to readers of this magazine; younger, financially-savvy and trending heavily tech-literate; but the premise ultimately is that, where ten years ago freedom of movement and financial independence would have required a large portfolio fund, and housing arrangements in the event of losing your home would have involved staying in a hotel or with friends until the insurance paid out, now you should set your sights higher.
You have the ability to hedge against any country losing its marbles through currency investing, it’s within everyone’s grasp to create alternative streams of income to their employment as well as have multiple possible locations to move to should the situation call for it.
And assuming the worst case scenario doesn’t come to pass; a lot of your grandmother’s prepping techniques are more effective now. You can grab a dehydrator on Amazon and keep a wider range of foods than she ever had access to indefinitely; you can build a vertical hydroponics set up in a studio flat in an inner city.
This brings us to an assertion from the introduction; that a lot of the weird niche communities that have sprung up in recent years make sense when framed with this new information. From small communities; Van Life camper conversion hippies through the Digital Nomad craze right up to renewed worldwide “grow your own” movements and collective gardening projects are all expressions of the need to deal with uncertainty and the knowledge — at least at a base level — that the technology we can wield to do so has fundamentally changed.