I grew up in an age of apocalyptic visions, songs, and books. I have two sets of memories about it, really. The first is prior to about age six. I have specific visions of some things, wooden building blocks, plain and made of pine. I recall the underneath of my family’s kitchen table. I can remember the feel of the carpet and my first carpet burn. All told though, these specific memories are embraced by an overall feeling of total and complete peace. Even though my parents would divorce later I have no memory of them ever fighting. In fact, I barely have any memories of them together at all but I do remember things. The second set of memories is from about 6 to around 10 or so, maybe 9. This is the point in my life in which I realized that there was death and that, as a complete aside to every bit of human experience prior to the middle of the 20th century, the entirety of the Earth could be absolutely destroyed for all time. This was the time period when I discovered ‘the bomb’.
No one much talks about the bomb anymore and for good reason. No one in the world really wants to use one and I think if we all had our druthers most countries would be happy to get rid of them altogether. But, deterrent and all that. I didn’t understand that as a boy. To me, at that time, nuclear war seemed basically inevitable. As much as I heard about it on the news and in media I figured that this really must be something that was going to happen at some point. What I did not understand very well was the idea of an aftermath. I had very little to go on there. I mean, radiation, what’s that? And then, at age 11, I saw this movie which introduced me to two really weird truths. The first was that In a post apocalyptic world I would die, absolutely. The second was the idea of scarcity illustrated perfectly by the Road Warrior’s eternal search for fuel.
It’s a bizarre film but at the time it was a revelation that the world might be an exceedingly evil place under the right circumstances. So, I did what any sane person would do once they discovered that it really might all go to shit at the drop of a hat, that your parents might die or that you might live long enough to see them die far more horribly, that you’re mother might end up wearing a collar on the back of some pervert’s motorcycle roving the wasteland of America. I became fearful. As an aside, this is why children shouldn’t be allowed to watch movies like this. It makes them a bit crazy.
Essentially there were two possible outcomes, instant death or a lingering mental and physical torment. This fit very closely with the concept of hell I’d been taught as a child, a place of eternal torment that was physical and radiated cruelty. That hell could also be on Earth and that it might also be inevitable…well, that was a lot to ignore every day. I talked to my parents and I let them assure me that everything would be okay, that nuclear war wouldn’t happen, that the movie was fiction. I let that satisfy me but once you introduce concepts like this to a kid they don’t just go away. They mix and meld with other ideas, they bounce off one another and contradict one another. They produce new concepts and, as all concepts eventually do, they lead to a desire for action because visions of a post apocalyptic world are possibilities. Hell is purely imaginative. I can’t fathom anything lasting forever, much less torment. Post uber disaster world is far, FAR worse than hell. You can’t even pray your way out of it.
I’m not crazy and I don’t feel like the world is going to end any time soon. I don’t fear a breakdown in civil society, and I’m not worried that a meteor’s going to hit the Earth. I don’t really worry about these things but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a desire, if not the ability, to prep. I simply don’t have the space. I live in an apartment in a medium sized city and I own no land. I don’t live near a fresh water source. There’s nowhere to put anything. But still I peruse prep supply websites and I dream. I read blogs about prepping for “disasters” and about the different qualities of metal in canned food containers. Some is guaranteed up to 10 years. I read about how to put together battery arrays from simple car batteries and about homemade waste recycling systems. I know that the two best items for barter are actually coffee and cigarettes. I build all this stuff in my head. I go online and look for property near certain areas that have a good mix of open land and wooded land with well water on the property. I make sure they’re at least 4 or 5 miles from major roads so as to have plenty of time to see “them” coming and lots of room to set up vehicle impeding roadblocks.
I do it and I enjoy it. There’s a strange mix of feelings in all this. On one end there’s the truth that a disaster that made all this prepping useful over any meaningful period of time could also mean that like a billion people were dead which would mean that many more were going to die. That thought is horrifying. But, at the same time, I’d finally be living independently off the land in a kind of self made Eden. This is a romantic notion, yes, living off the land is nothing to sneeze at in terms of difficulty. But, living off the land, to me also means an escape from all the nonsense and it would require a horrible disaster to necessitate a move towards rural independence that wouldn’t seem really crazy in the modern world. I mean, I love technology, I love my car. I’m deep into modern conveniences even though I do a lot of urban gardening but I’m not a farmer or a trapper or some pro hunter. Still though, there’s a siren song to the entire concept and I have to wonder if it’s mixed with some kind of American frontier idea.
If I had the space and funds to prep I’m pretty sure that I would absolutely do it. I would dump a bunch of money into the endeavor. I would have the most incredible underground space where I kept all the stuff. I would have a greenhouse. I would have dogs. I would have it all. I’d be ready. I’m sure I could easily spend a quarter million dollars on such a project minus the cost of the land.
I don’t know if this is the product of growing up under the threat of the bomb or not. I have no idea what people born afterwards think about such things. The women I know that are my peers don’t seem to give it a second thought or, like my girlfriend, they like the idea of living sustainably because it represents independence and a more natural life. I feel that, I do, but to me it’s more than that. It’s a place to hide in and guard with a jealous eye against the horrors that lurk inside men. It’s a buffer against a world that I believed at an early age was inevitable, that was coming. It’s a way to keep hell at arm’s length. It’s salvation in vacuum packaging. It’s an attempt to control the world.
I probably need a hug.