Remember those lyrics from the old Buffalo Springfield hit For What It’s Worth? A few choruses later, they sang, “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid …”
Perhaps that 1967 song should be the soundtrack for a current phenomenon labeled by the New York Times as “The New Survivalism.” It’s finding traction in middle-class America, where some people are beginning to stockpile food, gasoline and water. They’re turning their yards into vegetable gardens and installing photovoltaic electrical systems to survive “off the grid.” Some are reading up on how to dine on rats and dogs and learning how to dispose of bodies.
Purveyors of survival materials say today is the biggest surge in survivalist gear since the late 1970s when thousands of people headed to their basements or the mountains to await Armageddon. They say what’s happening today is much larger than the millennial Y2K scare.
Even a former global strategist for Morgan Stanley, Barton M. Biggs, writes in his new book Wealth, War and Wisdom, “We should assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.”
Oil seems to be behind some of it. Some adherents of the “peak oil” theory contend the world has already reached maximum oil production and that the increasing demand will create shortages that will devastate industrialized society. Other people look at the worldwide credit situation and see how over-extension could bring economic collapse. Even the Hurricane Katrina disaster is seen by many to be a harbinger of things to come as our climate turns even harsher.
Books such as When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lunkin and Holly Deyo’s Dare to Prepare! are selling alongside more mainstream volumes such as James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency, all with individual twists on the same theme. Then there’s Cormac McCarthy’s mega book hit The Road with its terrifyingly bleak post-apocalyptic vision.
As is always the case in such times, each one of us will decide how much fear and how much faith we want to live with and then act accordingly.
(Photo at top from the new Nine-Inch Nails CD "Year Zero," with its hit "Survivalism.")