Survivalism is a not just a concept, it is a way of life, and there are many different ways people follow this lifestyle. No matter what method someone chooses to follow, the main purpose of survivalism is to increase the chances of surviving a threatening situation, regardless of its magnitude. This term first gained popularity in the 1960s when the currency of the US started devaluing, the inflation rates were skyrocketing, and problems related to the use nuclear technology for cold war surfaced.
During the same period, people were increasingly integrating urbanization into their lifestyle, which lead many, who could see the big picture, to worry that it would become unsustainable down the line. This situation of unsustainability will result in the shortage of both, supplies and natural resources, and the large urban centers will end up in a complete state of chaos.
What is a Survivalist?
The term survivalist refers to a person with a mindset that modern society is nothing but a long, twisted chain of interdependence. Survivalists have the goal of keeping themselves and the people around them, alive through difficult situations or adverse circumstances. These situations can be many things such as a natural calamity, an epidemic, or even a civil or world war.
Every survivalist has a list of adverse circumstances, which they consider to be possible threats. The thing that separates a survivalist from any other person is that they have considered different threatening situations, which others might not perceive threatening or have chosen to ignore. They have mentally prepared themselves and know about the measures they can take to confront such situations.
According to popular belief, survivalists are activists, but in reality, it is the opposite. Majority of them are quiet and reserved individuals who think that society no longer has the ability to keep its own people safe, and have taken steps to reduce their dependence on it for help or support in emergency situations.
What is a Prepper?
As compared to a survivalist, the term prepper is new, which became popular after some TV shows and mainstream media exploited it. Although both the terms are associated with the same subject matter, they are not interchangeable. The term prepper refers to a person who has a heightened sense of self-reliance and personal responsibility. They follow the five principles of preparedness, as they are an essential part of the life of a prepper .
Difference Between a Survivalist and a Prepper
A survivalist is not same as a prepper. A survivalist concentrates on learning about primitive skills and gives less importance to building a large storage area and stocking up on supplies (like clean drinking water and a high powered LED flashlight) and other needful things. While survivalists learn techniques and prepare themselves mentally to live off the land, preppers prefer to continue with their current lifestyle in the modern society.
Basically, preppers believe in having a “shelter-in-place” kind of approach, which means that they can survive in any threatening situation without even having to leave their home. However, they are flexible in this approach and know when they may have to leave their home for a safer location, which is commonly known as a Bug Out Location or BOL among preppers. A Bug Out Location can be anything from a shelter in the woods to a home in another state or country, where they can feel safe if things get worse or get out of hand.
Situations Considered as a “Threat” in Survivalism Terminology
The threats can be anything that may occur on a daily basis, from mugging, thievery, and gang wars, to medical emergencies and power outages. Large scale threats include:
- Terrorism and terrorist activities
- Global warfare/catastrophe
- Invasion from outer space, the apocalypse, etc.
- Local/widespread natural disaster
- Economic collapse & civil unrest
- Government tyranny and/or religious/class/race war
Survivalists, like mentioned before, have different perceptions and ideologies which influence their lifestyle. They can be broadly divided into four groups.
Primitive Skills Group
The survivalists in this group have the mindset that in order to survive a prolonged catastrophe, they have to develop non-technological skills to ensure their survival. These people often belong to a religious sect, like the Amish and the Quakers, and are known as purists. Although they don’t believe that learning primitive skills is the only way, or the best method, but they claim that it is the only method that is reliable for survival.
These survivalists have the mindset that the best method of survival is to live in harmony with their natural environment. Majority of the people in this group are extremely friendly and calm and are always willing to share their views and knowledge of how “being one with the nature” can be the best chance for surviving threatening situations. This group has a large number of people belonging to scientific disciplines such as meteorology, botany, natural and homeopathic medicine, inorganic and organic chemistry, and geology.
These survivalists believe that having advanced technological systems can help them survive any event or catastrophe. They use hi-tech computers and have portable medical facilities and mini-labs, freezers and microwaves, short-wave communications, alternative production plants and fuel vehicles, energy generating systems, and heavily fortified shelters with advanced locking mechanisms and air filters.
There is no denying the fact that this group has the best chance at surviving any sort of threatening situation, but this approach is not just unsuitable, but rather, unattainable, for the common man. This is mainly due to the staggering cost associated with such high level technology.
Combined Skills Group
By far, this group is the most appropriate one and has the highest chance of extended survival. This is because these survivalists believe in combining the best of all the other groups and have the broadest range of skills needed to overcome unforeseen, threatening circumstances. However, the only drawback is that this group will be the most difficult to form because of human nature to have conflicting thoughts regarding others’ philosophies.