Prepping has become something of a regular pastime among the conservative community in suburban and rural communities. Some people fix cars on the weekends, and others work on staining and refinishing the back deck. Then there are those who whip out their inventory sheet and eagerly check expiration dates while rotating stocks of canned, frozen, or non-perishable goods. Then they’ll sit around watching Red Dawn and comparing notes about the practical shelf life of MREs. The problem with contemporary preppers is that they’re preparing for the right disaster, but they’re not the ones who are being affected by it when it actually happens.
There are spotty reports of armed vigilantes taking the state’s responsibility of public security into their own hands, but this is the exception and not the rule. Neither is this an instance of preppers coming to the rescue of others or themselves. The people of Ferguson are being affected by the right disaster, but they aren’t the people who’ve been preparing for one.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends that a person or family not preserve any more food than is needed for the following calendar year. The food will last significantly longer than one year when properly preserved in can or jar, but the nutrition value of the food drops significantly the longer that the food is stored. This is important to consider because you are not going to feed yourself satisfactorily on your own canned goods. It’s not going to happen. Don’t try to make it happen, and you’re not going to do it with MREs either.
This is the second year that I’ve kept a balcony garden, and the one thing that I’ve learned is that gardening and farming has nothing to do with feeding yourself. The time until harvest on many vegetables and fruits is almost never less than 60 days. Your harvest time will vary according to what you grow, but unless you have a significant amount of growing land, ideal growing conditions, hundreds and hundreds of Mason jars, and an extraordinary amount of time to preserve what you harvest then you’re not going to can or preserve enough food to feed yourself for an entire year. I won’t even mention the how much it would cost to buy enough sugar to make enough brine for such an operation.
Canning and preserving is designed to do two things only. It is supposed to supplement your existing food regimen, or to serve as a food supply when you cannot access a market or grocery store. If you think that canning and preserving food is supposed to help you “get off the grid” and weather the storm while the system collapses, you’ve got it completely wrong. That’s also one of the most selfish things you could possibly do. If a disaster comes to your home and your friends need help, would you tell them, “Step off! I’ve got mine!”?
I’ll spare everyone some preachy verse from the King James Version of the Bible, but instead lets consider the 41st stanza of the Havamal:
“Friends should share joy in weapons
and clothes that are evident to one another.
Those who share gifts stay the fastest friends,
when things go well.”
The Havamal is a collection of Norse poems from the Viking age and is intended to provide rules and wisdom for life and how to be a good member of your community. The Havamal was written as early as the 13th century, so it should be common knowledge by now that we should share of our bounty with members of our community for the purpose of growing communal relations and identity. We should share of our bounty with members of our community because it increases our cohesiveness and communal relations– not because it will make sure that everybody is well fed. Modernity, combined with its alternating creature comforts and disorienting liberalism divorces us from the soil, it divorces us from all normal and traditional means of food production, and it divorces us from our own communities.
The people who have been prepping and practicing weekend drills (Hutaree militia, anyone?) aren’t any more or less prepared than the people in Ferguson, Mo., nor are they any more or less capable of taking care of themselves in a disaster or civil strife emergency. The difference is that the people in Ferguson, Mo. have been so totally and completely divorced from the soil that their sense of community has been fully dissolved. That’s why you see the black community of Ferguson, Mo. looting, burning, robbing, and assaulting. No normal community would do these kinds of things to itself unless every person was so disconnected from their physical and spiritual soil and from their kin. I don’t believe for an instant that the same thing couldn’t happen to a white community given the right trigger or disaster. Understanding the very real impossibility of bringing the agrarian lifestyle to everybody, or even most people, we must instead apply the spirit of agrarianism. One lives in the country, the other in the city, but we all must reach for our soil.