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When Did Doomsday Prepping Get a Bad Rap? The History of Prepping

When Did Doomsday Prepping Get a Bad Rap? The History of Prepping post image

When the average American hears the term “doomsday prepper,” they immediately think:



Or any number of negative adjectives.

As a prepper, survivalist, and patriot, I find this stereotype against preppers insulting.

I also find it a threat to my personal safety and security.

If the average person thinks that having a stockpile of disaster supplies ready and knowing basic survival skills like first aid is “crazy,” then we are really going to be in for turmoil when SHTF.

Think how much chaos ensues after a small blizzard or power outage.

Now imagine the wide-scale panic if a real disaster were to strike.

Smart preppers like myself will have to deal with problems like keeping our caches safe from the starving masses!

It wasn’t always that way though.

Doomsday prepping used to be the NORM.

Let’s put doomsday prepping in historical context and we’ll see who the “crazy” ones are!

Prepping in the Pioneer Days

pioneers were preppers

Two hundred years ago, no one used the term “prepping.”  They didn’t need a term because EVERYONE WAS A PREPPER.

Think about it.  People lived in agricultural communities where they had to take care of their own needs.  Sure, they might be a local doctor for emergencies and a traveling salesperson or local store for some tough-to-make necessities.  But, in general, everyone knew how to do things like…

  • Grow their own food
  • First aid remedies
  • Sew clothing
  • And many more of what we’d today call “survival skills”

And then the Industrial Revolution Happened…

workers during industrial revolution

During the Industrial Revolution, peasants were pushed off their land and drawn to work in factories in the city.  Instead of relying on their wide range of skills to survive, they now had to do one repetitive job to earn some money for a bit of bread. The number of unskilled people went up drastically!

This is how it stayed until World War I and II…

Prepping During World War I & II

Gas mask practice in 1940

Gas mask practice in 1940

When World War broke out at the beginning of the 20th century, we suddenly realized the importance of our old survival skills.  The government even had to make campaigns to get people back to using their former prepping skills.

WWII prepping

Prepping During the Cold War

prepping during cold war

The Cold War period was probably the most-prepared time in US history since the pioneer days.

People made survival bunkers.

They ran emergency drills

Every home had a stockpile of food

After all the hype which was built up, nothing happened.

This is probably what caused the average American to think doomsday prepping isn’t necessary.   Heck, most people still think that “prepping” has to do with Cold War era tactics like building a bomb shelter for nuclear attack.  There’s a lot more to prepping than that!

Prepping Today…

Which leads us to today.

Somewhere along the line, people started believing that the government will take care of them after a disaster.

And, YES, the feds and FEMA do a pretty good job of helping out after a disaster (though I know a lot of people will disagree with me on that one!).  They are the ones handing out bottles of water and MREs to hurricane victims…

But do you really want to be standing in line with the masses for food and water after a disaster???

I didn’t think so!

Unfortunately, the average American just would rather not think about the risk of disaster.  Just consider how many people run to Home Depot the day before a hurricane strikes.  Or those empty shelves in the grocery store before a blizzard.

According to stats:

More than half of Americans don’t have three day’s worth of food!

The idea that the government will take care of us is downright dangerous.  Even more dangerous is this stigma against doomsday preppers.

Okay – that reality show Doomsday Preppers certainly didn’t help.  They showed a lot of downright paranoid people that aren’t relatable to the average citizen.  In fact, one of the reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m a prepper is, “But you are so normal!”

Preppers Have Existed for Thousands of Years!

I want to point out that doomsday prepping is nothing new.  Take a look at this list of apocalyptic dates and you will see that various cultures have been prepping for doomsday for over 2,000 years.  Humans have probably been doomsday prepping for a lot longer than that, but we just don’t have written record of it.

These early preppers are a lot different than most modern preppers.  They prepped for an apocalyptic event.  Bear in mind that they didn’t have access to scientific knowledge like we do today, so seeing a solar flare or experiencing an earthquake would certainly seem like the wrath of God!

You still have some of these religious doomsday preppers (read this post about types of preppers!), but most preppers are quite scientific in their actions.  They know the stats on hurricanes, earthquakes, floods.  They know that terrorist attacks and EMP strikes are more than a possibility.  Faced with this knowledge, they choose to take action.

Doomsday Prepping Is about Self-Sufficiency

Sure, it might seem a bit extreme to build an underground bunker or use terms like TEOTWAWKI or Bug Out Bag.  But when someone says that “doomsday prepping is crazy,” they are dismissing the entire value system behind prepping.

Prepping is ultimately about self-sufficiency.  Here I will quote John Seymour, one of the pioneers of the self-sufficiency movement:

 “So much for the ills of our present society. What is the solution? My solution as you may well have guessed, is what I call self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is the opposite of sitting back and waiting for some ‘them’ to come and do everything for us. It means doing it ourselves.”

-John Seymour (1977) Bring Me My Bow. p49.

If self-sufficiency is considered “crazy,” then EVERYONE will suffer.  Our strength is in numbers, which is why EVERYONE should be prepped!

*Title image credit: Still crazy after all these years; jurek d., CC BY NC ND 2.0

Do people think you are crazy because you are a prepper? How do they react when you tell them that you prep?