Previously referred to as “survivalists” who wanted to live “off the grid,” now, those who decide to arrange their lives for any potential disaster are called “preppers,” and this group is much bigger than we can imagine. They were commonly portrayed as isolated individuals and loners, but in actuality, they can be everyday folks. The shortages and supply chain disruptions we had to face over the past years led many people to realize that the system is much more vulnerable than it appears. And from that point on, consumer psychology radically changed. Most Americans have never dealt with such extensive shortages and sharp price hikes in their entire lives. They weren’t used to buying in bulk because they assumed goods would always be available at the stores.
Needless to say, those times are long gone. Now, prepping is becoming increasingly more common as supply chain problems continue to compound and food inflation spins out of control. The average American had to confront a harsh reality: be prepared or be hungry. Many Americans expanded their pantry over the past two years, bought freezers, and started to stockpile non-perishables. Although most of the media tries to generalize the prepper movement and diminish its importance by calling it “bulk shopping” or “hoarding,” that’s not what preparedness is all about.
Some might be tempted to say that people are “hoarding” food, but hoarding is, in fact, a psychological disorder in which there’s an unwillingness to discard possessions leading to a massive accumulation of items. In some cases, that can make someone’s living space completely unusable. What’s happening right now is not the emergence of a widespread hoarding disorder amongst consumers. People are just trying to look after themselves and take care of their families at such uncertain times.
“If it’s out of anxiety and fear that when I need this, I won’t be able to get it, it’s a valid fear,” explains Laurah Pastel Shames, a clinical social worker in Miami. That’s particularly true “when we are kind of used to going to the supermarket and realizing the things that were easily able to be picked up are now a lot more difficult to find,” she continued.
According to Bob Nolan, senior vice president of Demand Science at food giant Conagra Brands, consumers have “made permanent changes” after they experienced the “harsh realities of health-crisis-induced shortages”. “They didn’t just stock up that week, but they said to themselves, even if subconsciously, ‘That’s not going to happen to me again,'” Nolan stressed.
“Preppers come from all walks of life, all races, all ages,” highlighted Anne Marie Bounds, PhD, a professor of sociology at Queens College in New York, who has written Bracing for the Apocalypse: An Ethnographic Study of New York’s ‘Prepper’ Subculture. “It’s much more mainstream. As climate collapse, concerns about the economy, or government collapse, you have very young people, families, singles, couples, some senior citizens – all ages. The [health crisis] was the first thing many experienced. Unlike the perception, they’re not loners. It’s not an isolated thing.”
This movement is also becoming more popular as people lose trust in the government and corporations. Consumers are trying to become more independent because the system itself is not only destined but also designed to let us down. There’s simply no way our crumbling infrastructures will be able to remain unaffected by extreme weather events, cyberattacks, and persistent outages. Adding that to rising geopolitical conflicts, a never-ending sanitary outbreak, and an unstable economy, many Americans feel unprepared for today’s world, and this fear about the lack of stability of the system leads to them becoming preppers, to preparing for the worst.
Being independent, self-reliant, and prepared definitely makes those in positions of power scared they will not be able to force us to comply with their rules. That’s why they try to discredit the entire movement and make preppers look like crazy hoarders. But preparedness is much more complex than that, and people are just now realizing they can take their power back to themselves. When we get under the skin of the corrupt leaders and greedy elites, then we know we’re doing something right. That’s why you shouldn’t waste any more time, and start preparing while you still can!
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