When I moved to San Francisco just under a year ago, I was really looking forward to meeting my first “prepper.” You know, the kind of doomsday evangelists who allegedly have a spare set of Allbirds and a gallon of Soylent at the ready should the apocalypse strike.
Of course, preppers aren’t exclusive to the Bay Area. In fact, the concept of prepping needed a Silicon Valley makeover in order to make the concept palatable to many of the west coasters who’ve since adopted the practice, but there apparently exists a specific kind of prepper here, a supreme prepper, if you will, that puts the rest of the community to shame.
Unfortunately, I never (that I know of) came into contact with a Bay Area prepper prior to California’s shelter in place mandate, and now, if this profile in The New York Times is to be believed, I fear I never will, as it appears they’ve all evacuated to the various burner properties they own to wait out the end of days.
According to the profile, many preppers felt “mocked” by the rest of the world because they were stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer long before Costcos across the country were pillaged for supplies and now feel “vindicated” because everyone else is currently trying to catch up.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s a smart idea to be prepared, however, where the prepper message loses me is in the extreme wealth required to achieve what appears to be the final goal of preparedness. John Ramey, the founder of the prepper blog The Prepared, spoke to The Times from “somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.” Sam Altman, another person mentioned, has an in-case-of-emergency property in Big Sur. Still more are noted as having relocated to “patches” of land they own. Considering most people I know are just worried about making their rent right now, securing a second property isn’t exactly on the list of achievable goals.
Prepping, at least in these terms, is a means of survival only for the ultra-rich, who are seemingly aware of the fact what they’re doing is hoarding wealth and resources and also aware of, and made uncomfortable by, the fact that other people are taking notice. “You’re seeing more awareness,” Ramey said to The Times, “The billionaire class are saying, ‘Yeah, you know, hey guys, we can’t keep doing this. They’re going to come for our food.’” Can you imagine?
And this kind of greed and paranoia is to say nothing of the weaponizing of the prepper movement. Ari Paul, chief investment officer of BlockTower Capital, keeps a machete by his door “just in case.” Ramey said that once others in San Francisco found out about his prepping and became interested, many of them inquired about where to acquire a gun.
As it turns out, the Silicon Valley makeover of prepping didn’t mean making the practice of prepping more accessible to people, it meant ensconcing it in the kind of elitism that makes it unattainable to all but the very few.
There’s a lot of talk in the profile about making becoming a prepper appear more normal, and less alarmist, than it has previously been thought of. However, I don’t know if discussing the practice in terms of people with machetes next to their doors and properties in Big Sur is doing the movement toward rationality any favors. Definitely congratulations to these preppers who were ready in advance of the coronavirus outbreak, but I don’t know if that makes them smart so much as it just means they are rich.