Survivalism has become a trending investment for the super-rich. And as with gentrification of physical space, the over-taking of this ideological space that had historically laid in the outer margins of the mainstream establishment comes with its own set of consequences.
As the new, preppy preppers throw on a fresh coat of paint on the run-down ideological space that is survivalism, they are also turning some of its most distinctive landmarks on their head. While keeping the canned goods chic of yore.
Survivalism’s Scrappy Roots
Survivalism has always been a refuge for all strands of anti-establishment and conspiracy theorists. Stemming from the fears borne out of the heights of the Cold War, the survivalist movement went from simple stock-piling of canned goods, ammo, and fitting-out basements to a real cultural movement.
Training in basic survival skills is a pre-requisite: medecine, hunting, mechanics. But also organizing a new way of life: building networks between fellow preppers and developing an alternative narrative to political events. The myth of the SHTF (i.e. shit hits the fan) extends beyond the catastrophic event of nuclear warfare between superpowers. SHTF is depicted as a historical inevitibility brought on by big government’s thirst for more and more control. A drive that will ultimately culminate in a war waged by the government against its own people.
Survivalism evolved far beyond extreme camping tips and tricks. From preparation for an atomic doomsday scenario, it grew into a full-fledged historical narative by which the risk of atomic warfare was just a symptom of a more profound, structural cause: governmental authority. And the coming of the apocalypse is as inevitable as it is clear in its implications: retreat from civilization and any legal framework, as well as reinstitution of might is right in the struggle to secure the necessary resources to survive.
The Underground Playground for Billionaires
So why would the super-wealthy, super-powerful elite mingle with anti-establishment preppers? Well, they don’t. They stock-pile the same basic goods (and a few extra delicacies to keep up appearances in the post-apocalyptic age), they teach themselves a lot of the same skills (or make room in the bunker for someone who has already got them), and they prepare underground quarters (tastefully decorated). But any similarities stop there.
So, has survivalism lost its ideological undercurrent? Not quite either. As when an up-and-coming neighborhood gets taken over and repurposed by its new, wealthier residents – so too with the cooky, and rough-around-the-edges ethos of survivalism.
To be sure, the impending doomsday is still very much front and center. But to these solidly pro-estabmishment adopters of survivalism, the threat doesn’t come from the government. It originates instead in the people. Fearing that the growing wealth gap, rising social tension, and increasing lack of perceived interest in perpetuating the system and its rules might have the townspeople grabbing for their pitchforks, the super-rich are investing in a post-upheaval life insurance.
The Reversal of Survivalism
Unsurprisingly, the new tenants aren’t really mixing with the former residents of the survivalist ideological space. Perhaps even less surprisingly, the historic landmarks that were a testimony to the uniqueness of survivalism are also being written over.
SHTF, the impending doomsday in the survivalist liturgy when government would begin waging an open war on its own people, now describes the day when the masses will topple down the establishment that the wealthy hold so dear. And the state of nature that was to replace it, a sort of post-apocalyptic survival of the fittest, is now replaced by the equally elitist, but much more comfortable survival of the richest.
In a most entertaining reversal, the danger zones that were nuclear silos and air-strips for the older generation of survivalists convinced of upcoming war with big government become havens for the new survivalists. Disused military bases formerly armed with ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles) are refurbished to accomodate the wealthy’s post-apocalyptic art de vivre, and air-strips are life-lines for the escapist billionaire.
Short of achieving their desired utopia, the oligarchs of Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the like have got their plan B figured out. One that could take them far below ground yet above the rising sea levels. One that is conveniently accessible from a private jet or helicopter. One that will allow for survival with plenty of food supplies, ammo to go around, medical equipement for advanced surgery. But also one that will allow for the comforts of the modern executive: underground sporting facilities, prime entertainement centers, and a guarranteed front-row seat to the end of days.