My my my, what a tempest.
It seems that Ms. Valerie Lucus-McEwen’s rather snarky article entitled Doomsday Preppers are Socially Selfish ignited a veritable firestorm of comments, nearly every single one negative.
The degree of protest apparently surprised Ms. Lucus-McEwen. Who’da thunk, after all, that calling people selfish – those who dare to take personal responsibility for meeting the needs of their families during a disaster – would be met with universal contempt?
In an effort to clarify her position, Ms. Lucus-McEwen posted a follow-up article entitled What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate, which essentially reiterated her original position. She seems to think there is a critical difference between doomsday preppers and disaster preppers, a distinction that seems to be based solely on her opinion of the preppers’ plans for their own supplies.
These are the supplies, I might add, on which preppers spent their own money, time, and effort to acquire. Without the slightest bit of evidence or proof, Ms. Lucus-McEwen claims doomsday preppers are selfish and won’t share with others, whereas disaster preppers will be the souls of generosity who plan to willingly distribute everything they have, without reimbursement or complaint, in a time of disaster. She’s the expert, after all.
Ms. Hyphenated-Lastname puts more emphasis on “community” than on “individuals.” What she believes, and I quote, is “…good disaster preparedness starts at a community level.”
Wrong. Good disaster preparedness starts at the individual level. As one commenter put it, how on earth can anyone contribute to the good of the community if their own needs are not being met first? Even on airplanes, the emergency instructions tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.
Preparedness is a three-legged stool: knowledge, supplies, and community. But community holds different meaning for different people. Our nearby town is NOT our prepping "community." Our prepping community is a core of like-minded friends and neighbors who have spent years working toward increased self-sufficiency, who plan to band together and share knowledge and resources during hard times, and who do not plan to be a burden on others unless they are faced with circumstances beyond their control.
So when Ms. Lucus-McEwen says, “I'm advocating that community should have a disaster plan that everyone understands, that identifies where resources are…” and goes on to say that everyone will be taken care of, that strikes me as eerie.
What I’d like to know is, whose resources is she talking about? And what, Ms. Lucus-McEwen, will you DO when you find those resources? Steal them?
Ms. Lucus-McEwen loathes “hoarders.” But her definition of “hoarding” differs from that of one commenter, who writes: “Hoarding is buying an item in short supply beyond the amount you need to survive. This distinguishes hoarding from those who buy and store in times of plenty.”
Ms. Lucus-McEwen defines “hoarding” as “when preppers won’t voluntarily release their supplies to the community at large.” But why is it the responsibility of the individual to prepare for the entire community? It is financially impossible for individuals to prepare to support a community in a disaster. Therefore (Ms. Lucus-McEwen concludes) if preppers won’t distribute their personal store of supplies according to her diktat, they’re selfish. Y’know, hoarders.
Lady, I got news for you: Most preppers are on a tight, tight, tight budget. Most can barely squirrel away enough supplies for themselves, much less a thousand other people. Preppers don’t buy the latest whiz-bang electronic gadgets with their spare cash – they buy beans and rice. But what happens when those grasshoppers, who spent all their surplus cash on nonessential junk like big screen TV’s, want the beans and rice of the frugal preppers who were wise enough to see the handwriting on the wall?
Who are the selfish ones?
It is no more logical to ask preppers (“doomsday” or otherwise) to be responsible for the entire community by distributing their supplies, than it would be to ask Ms. Lucus-McEwen to distribute her 401(k) to the community when a disaster strikes. You might say that preppers’ 401(k) is their pantries. Same thing. Exactly the same thing. But no one calls those who refuse to liquidate and distribute their retirement savings “selfish.”
In the comments of these articles, Ms. Lucus-McEwen says over and over, “It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.” Really. Beyond the obvious – it’s none of her business what preppers “do with it” – her opinion appears to be that the only acceptable option for preppers is to donate all their supplies to the community so the community as a whole benefits. To her, it doesn’t matter that this would reduce preppers to the level of every other unprepared individual who stands in line at FEMA camps. The “collective” is more important to her than the individual.
Ms. Lucus-McEwen puts complete emphasis on community and maligns those who don’t work at the community level to prepare. What she doesn’t acknowledge is most preppers have worked at the community level. They’ve tried, over and over, for years and years, to convince people to prepare. But now… if they don’t distribute their 401(k)s… er, supplies… according to her criteria, they’re “selfish.” Got it.
She herself admits her job of community preparedness is an uphill battle. How much more uphill is it for individuals, desperately trying to convince those around them to take sensible precautions? How can you force someone to prepare when they refuse to do so?
Another thing Ms. Lucus-McEwen forgets is what the Doomsday Prepper television series was all about. It focused on individual preppers and what they were doing. It did NOT focus on community preparedness – it was a show about individual preparedness. Why won’t Ms. Lucus-McEwen make that distinction?
Of course, trying to distinguish between doomsday preppers and disaster preppers is academic and absurd, since her claim that Doomsday preppers won’t share their supplies has never been tested. Sure, most Doomsday preppers are preparing for the survival of their immediate family. But if a tornado/hurricane/wildfire/earthquake/name-your-disaster hits, how does she know they won’t generously help out in any way they can? How does she know? Answer: she doesn’t. She’s just making an ill-informed judgment call about people she doesn’t even know. With no proof, she assumes that these preppers will be “selfish” (according to her definition). And she doesn’t see the unfairness of that assumption?
Look, preppers are not a heartless bunch – not even the “doomsday preppers” she maligns. I’ve watched the show. Putting aside the proven fact that the preppers featured are at the extreme end of the bell curve (or they wouldn’t have agreed to be on the show in the first place), many of those interviewed taught classes in their communities, or were prepping for large groups of people beyond their own families. Selfish? NOT.
The preppers I know – and I know a lot – have every intention of helping those whom they can, until that help begins to harm their own family. That’s the critical factor Ms. Lucus-McEwen seems to dislike – that people instinctively want to put the safety of their own families above the safety of strangers.
I don’t know a single prepper – not one single one – who doesn’t have a bucket list of unprepared people (friends, neighbors, relatives) they’re willing to take in and care for in a disaster situation. Thanks to preppers, these friends, relatives, and neighbors are people who won't need to use the stretched resources of FEMA or the community. Now tell me again how “socially selfish” doomsday preppers are?
In short, Ms. Lucus-McEwen’s attitude encompasses the government’s public war against private ownership.
I’ve copied some of the hundreds of comments below (in no particular order) and italicized a few lines for emphasis. Pay special attention from the comments by Ms. Lucus-McEwen. To her credit – and I give her huge credit for this – she makes a good-faith effort to answer a lot of the comments.
We do indeed have a failure to communicate. In fact, it’s like talking to a brick wall.
Eli | Commented 11 Hours Ago
Let me make sure I understand this. An individual who’s an Emergency Manager is saying its selfish to prepare for an emergency? How do you draw the line in the sand between reasonable amount of preparedness and selfish levels? Do YOU determine that Ms. Emergency Manager? You get to decide who’s being practical and who’s being selfish and greedy? Does that line in the sand move depending on whether you need to go confiscate some supplies to address an emergency? How about we all just take care of ourselves, and how about we applaud those who are capable and willing to take care of themselves rather than demonize them? There’s a new thought.... I think you may be in the wrong field of study if you are trying paint those who prepare in a bad light.
Valerie Lucus-McEwen | Commented 7 Hours Ago
Eli - I certainly wasn't trying to be disrespectful of emergency preparedness for individuals and communities. The line (in my opinion) is drawn when one hoards supplies and resources selfishly instead of using that time and energy to prepare his/her community for survival
Marcia Lynn | Commented 1 Hour Ago
I'd like to propose a question to Valerie: What would be your solution to a prepper or group of preppers who will not share with an unprepared community around them? If the prepared group won't help take care of the unprepared group, would you advocate MAKING the prepared group share their provisions, by any means? I think anyone reading your articles knows your answer, no matter what you reply here.
Justsumstuff | Commented 11 Hours Ago
I'm still not sure what you mean by the "good of the community", so I'll pose this scenario. Hypothetically: a disaster (snowstorm?) visits a neighborhood of 1000 houses. 500 of these houses are Doomsday Preppers, so their resources for self-sufficiency are almost infinite. The other 500 are Disaster Preppers because they have their 72hr kits. The govt can't provide services for well over 72hrs, maybe a few weeks. The govt can give an answer for when it will be in the area to assist residents. What is your answer for the 500 with only 72hrs prep? What is your answer to the other houses that are self-sufficient for months? Are you advocating that the Doomsday Preppers should share with the others for the good of the community? Thanks.
Valerie Lucus-McEwen | Commented 10 Hours Ago
I'm suggesting it shouldn't come to that. It should come to a community that has worked together ahead of time to be able to understand and meet the needs of all its members. If that doesn't happen, realistically, you are more likely to have 250 Doomsday preppers, 250 Disaster Preppers and 500 who aren't prepared at all. Then what? The preppers all barricade their doors to keep their neighbors out and watch them die on their doorsteps? Seriously? I'm advocating that community should have a disaster plan that everyone understands, that identifies where resources are, what individual responsibilities are, where are the disabled or dependent or latch-key kids, the rest homes and day care centers, the clinics and the schools, how to set up warming stations, how to feed people who can't feed themselves. Are there going to be people who don't participate and just want help? Of course there are. Those people are everywhere. But they make up a small, small percentage of the whole. Do we abandon the folks who can't take care of themselves? The key is the work BEFORE the disaster to make changes that will kick in when a disaster happens. Will your 500 Doomsday Preppers refuse to help because they can take care of themselves, thank you very much, and there is no reason they should provide any assistance to the local senior center. What's in it for them? That is what I mean by socially selfish.
Marcia Lynn | Commented 1 Hour Ago
all barricade their doors to keep their neighbors out and watch them die
on their doorsteps?" WHAT? According to you, a prepper should let all
unprepared people in, allow them to loot his entire savings, then watch
his own family die a few days or weeks later because his hard-earned
supplies were given to beggars who didn't prepare? Are you seriously
that short-sighted, lady?
jjyergler | Commented 12 Hours Ago
So, you post an intellectually indefensible article, get hammered in the comments, then post another article trying to parse your words to mean something that you didn't say the first time. It still comes down to this: You are saying that if I prepare for a "power outage" and put others first, I'm cool. If, however, I am preparing for something more significant, a "black swan," and am only going to help myself, then I'm selfish. The truth is more complicated. I am preparing for whatever comes my way, more than just a power outage, but I believe the sun will rise on Dec 22. Most importantly, who the hell are you to label me by how I'm going to use the preparations that I have made? I earned the money, used my wisdom, dripped my sweat, and am now more prepared than 99% of those around me. Why is it selfish of me to look after myself first? Who are you to judge me? You liberals keep saying "don't force your morality on me." That's exactly what you are doing to me. You have your version of how people should act, then you judge them by how they conform to your view of the world. You are a hypocrite. You didn't fail to communicate the first time, you are just trying to cover your tracks.
Valerie Lucus-McEwen | Commented 11 Hours Ago
I'm sorry I haven't been able to communicate my thoughts more fully. Being prepared for bad things to happen are good regardless of what the underlying reason is. What I believe is good disaster preparedness starts at a community level. We aren't an island and trying to be one is destructive to the stength and continuity of our communities. I guess you are right in how I judge people. If they aren't interested in helping humanity survive and prosper, I can't help but judge them more harshly that those that do. My opinions, my ideas, my belief. I understand and support you even if you disagree. That is all I really want from all these commenters. I just can't seem to find the words to make it happen!!
All you have are mine | Commented 13 Hours Ago
Valerie wrote… I'm sorry, Dante. It really doesn't matter how much food you have or what you buy with our money - the tipping point is how you use it. All of that works well in a disaster. I was only asking how you were going to use it. Is it something you are planning to hoard or are you working in your community to make sure everyone else is prepared also. I'm not sure how else to say it. So, you are saying that if I don’t “share” in the manner prescribed by my credentialed, government betters, then I am a hoarder. Credentialed. Not creditable.
The Concerned Citizen | Commented 15 Hours Ago
When I read your original comments I said some pretty horrible things under my breath about your lineage. I find that your language in the original article does not address the fact that we preppers have been trying FOR YEARS AND YEARS to get people to realize that things can happen and they should stock up...and we are subsequently listed in the nutcase column with all the tinfoil hat wearers. The show "Doomsday Preppers" is a highly politicized and hyped show about people who are forced into a box. Its made to be radical and attract viewers. Facts and logic are missing, as well as realistic preparations. I find it insulting that you would refer to it, even in passing, of people being socially selfish: Its a *TV* *SHOW*. Its entertainment. Over 50% of the episodes are beyond lunacy. We don't prep for doomsday. We prep for a variety of disasters. Once you start prepping, you realize that a stretch here and an addition here would also cover you for ???. ...and thats what we do. Dooomsday? Sure, why not. A few additions and we've got that covered too. Nobody ever really says it but in reality preps only give you a buffer so you can have time to acquire other resources before you starve or dehydrate. While I think some may be a little harsh on your comments, I also see that it may be that 20 years of bureaucratic brainwashing may have made you more than just a little closed minded to the ideas of personal responsibility and independence. After all, you're comments are coming from a position of helping those who have had little forethought in even their everyday lives, much less a disaster.
Valerie Lucus-McEwen | Commented 13 Hours Ago
Exactly!! I don't want you waiting in a FEMA line, either, I want you to stock up and work with all your local agencies to get them involved. That is the difference. Not what you have, but what you do with it.
michael | Commented 10 Hours Ago
Valerie, here is the difference. Stripping away all the idealism, and the way things -should- be, we are left with one hard reality. An individual can do almost nothing to affect the prepardness status of a community. However, they are in completely control of their preparedness. It is not selfish, even if you do not plan to share. The supplies even a doomsday prepper lays in could be exhausted in an afternoon. If we are so worried about a collective response, shouldn't everyone in Marin county stop being selfish TODAY? They could divest and live on much less, couldn't they? Shouldn't they ensure than their wealth is far better shared with those without a roof? With the waitress across the Bay with two kids, who wastes her money on dope and makes awful life decisions? That is precisely what you advise us to do. If i have supplies for two weeks on hand, I get ridiculed by most family members. And of course, that is always followed with "if anything happens, I’ll just come over here! hardeeharhar) The story of the little red hen, baking the bread was and is the standard of value. Of course we should all educate our community. But your opining is very disheartening. Your position is also a bit revealing of the disaster managers mindset. A FEMA community initiative means they are viewing preppers as nothing more than a lucrative resource, for them to manage for the benefit of all. They should view preppers as people who will not need so much assistance. In closing this feels like accusing a lotto winner of selfishness for not redistributing the prize back into the community until they are left with the amount the paid for the ticket. It defeats the whole purpose. Most doomsday things will never occur. So why should I spend my time and money to ensure that it will go nicer for those who laugh at me and enjoy spending on the things I would now forgo?
Sam Linder | Commented 12 Hours Ago
Valerie - I'm getting a bit tired of your insistence on "social responsibility". I prep for my immediate family first and foremost. I have also wasted a lot of energy trying to convince other family members, friends and neighbors to do likewise. Now you are telling me I have to step up and help the very people who ignored my pleas to plan ahead? Sorry, but I only plan to help those who truly were unable to help themselves. Everyone else can stuff it as far as I'm concerned.
Neo | Commented 9 Hours Ago
Dante is offering a very valid concept, prepare in times of plenty to ride out the storm ahead. Val is a revealing a communal collectivist thought process, (polite way of saying Marxist commie) by naming the results of your wisdom "Hoarding" if you fail to redistribute to the community. This is so so so awful.Why? example: We know the Hurricane is coming for a week or two maybe, so we use our last two paychecks to "stock up/ board up", ok cool. you and yours are all good through the event, candles water, food extra plywood and nails for a couple boards that blew off...But you have these neighbors, who got the same warnings as you, and instead of preparing they ignored all media warnings to prep or evacuate. now their windows are blown in, they and their kids are freezing and wet and hungry, and there is like 16 of them. and they see you're all dry and cozy with the kerosene heater. Now you're a Hoarder!!! they get the National Guard to bust down your door, take all your food to give to their starving kids, take your heat and leave you with nada, and the rain now pouring in on your family. Val taking your words, "I don't know how else to say it": You're a communist! We have all tried to get our neighbors to prep, they refused! Now its up to them to watch their kids freeze and go hungry. I may choose to share out of mercy, but more likely they can have a month food supply bucket and a blanket in exchange for something nice, since they were out buying a new car/i-phone/bling etc while we were prepping. Redistribution from the wise to the unwise? is that your plan? label the wise as "hoarders" and take their supplies? That's government looting. That's what we are all opposed to. Where is the moral obligation to assist those who were warned but partied until the fire was under their butt? Its no failure to communicate we see it for what it is. Communism.
Dante | Commented 13 Hours Ago
You still didn't answer the questions I posed. How is it selfish for somebody to purchase, at their own expense, supplies when they are plentiful? And what business is it of yours that they do so? Selfish is spending your money on trivialities, and then expecting the government to steal supplies from the frugal to save your life after you decided that instant gratification today was more important than preparing for the future. News flash: "Hoarding" is buying an item in short supply beyond the amount you need to survive. Buying an item that is plentiful and saving it for a rainy day is NOT hoarding. Any government apologist who thinks somehow I owe supplies to the person who bought the latest version of the iPhone and overpriced designer clothes (instead of being sure to provide for themselves and their families) is nothing more than a thief. For the record, I do have "handout" supplies set aside for the foolish, but not having extra isn't selfish except in your bizzaro world. Those people are doing what they can to prepare for their families. Other peoples families are NOT their responsibility unless their needs have already been met. The "failure to communicate" here is your inability to acknowledge that prepared families contribute to the strength of a community even without providing supplies to others because they are one less drain on scarce resources; and the fact that it is impossible to contribute to the health of your community if your personal needs are not met. If after all these responses you still can't recognize and/or admit your error, then I respectfully suggest you look for alternate employment. I repeat my hope that my family is never under your jurisdiction. Digging your heels in and stubbornly insisting you are right and everybody else is wrong is not the type of leadership people respond to during a period of crisis.
Valerie Lucus-McEwen | Commented 14 Hours Ago
I'm sorry, Dante. It really doesn't matter how much food you have or what you buy with our money – the tipping point is how you use it. All of that works well in a disaster. I was only asking how you were going to use it. Is it something you are planning to hoard or are you working in your community to make sure everyone else is prepared also. I'm not sure how else to say it.
Valerie Lucus-McEwen | Commented 11 Hours Ago
Blackheart: What I don't get is how that person prepping for themselves to survive the end of the world is going to help their community survive a more expected disaster. If you are preparing to ensure you survive a Doomsday event, but don't care whether your community survives with you -- where does that leave you?
ValerIe Lucus-McEwen | Commented 3 Days Ago
Lauren: You are right, there are a few stories thrown in there about preppers who are working with their community, but that isn’t what this series is about. This reality show celebrates extreme people who are determined to take care of themselves and their families from a 'black swan' event through extreme measures with an overriding emphasis on security; as in “it doesn’t matter how many preps you have if you can’t keep others from taking them.” They are CASTING people to appear on the show. Do you really think community spirit is one of the criteria that is taken into consideration? I’ve spent most of my professional career promoting emergency preparedness – but not this kind. This kind hurts everybody.