When I was still a teenager, I remember the Year 2000 bug. Everyone was worried that the world’s economy would come to a screeching halt, satellites would fall out of the sky, and the world would descend into Purge-like violence. On a Saturday evening, one of my hunting friends invited me over to his place. He showed me a hidden entrance into his crawlspace, which he had expanded over the past year. It was huge, and had one of the largest collections of guns, canned food and ammunition I had ever seen.
Luckily, Y2K didn’t result in Armageddon, but it didn’t end the prepper mentality. So long as there are humans, preppers will probably be with us. There is always that person that is predicting the end of the world around the corner. Most preppers aren’t like this, but I am noticing a jump in preppers worried about our political divide, and I think they have a valid point.
We’ve got two forces coming together: a deeper political divide and social media that rewards echo chambers, which causes two deep problems: a withdrawl from local community, and an increasing call to use violence to get one’s way. The political divide is well documented, and social media echo chamber problems are as well. But the last two points are new.
Local communities are infinitely more important to your daily life than Washington DC politics. Whether your ride to work in the morning sucks or is smooth is a matter of local governance. Whether you have affordable housing, easy access to groceries and good schools is all strongly related to local government. You encounter local officials, such as police, judges, fire fighters, mayors, and city council members far more often than you will ever see the President, a Senator or even your federal Representative. And yet, if you go on most social media platforms today, it is rare to see people talking about local issues. When ballots come out, most people don’t know the candidates running for judiciary positions or your library council.
That’s a huge problem, because it denigrates local policies. People feel that unless they talk about the “big issues,” they aren’t talking about important things. But in reality, local issues matter more. This causes a disconnect between the reality you are living and the perceived state of things. Your daily life could be great, but you may be in despair because of what you read on the news.
This becomes dangerous when coupled with increasing violent rhetoric. National level politics have always had a call to violence. This is easy to see when browsing historical political cartoons. But politicians in general don’t understand the cost of violence. Most haven’t been in the military or dealt with destruction up close. Many of them haven’t sat on actual city councils or had to work real issues. Their focus has been getting votes, and violent rhetoric stirs up the pot, gets you media attention and brings people out to vote.
It isn’t healthy. People are still humans, and even if they hold opposing views, it doesn’t give us a license to treat them like animals. But that is exactly what is happening, whether it is shootings or assaults over someone’s grass.
This is the latest worry of preppers, that their own neighbors, not government forces, will break down their doors and assault their families. We can call them fringe elements, but given recent events, can you blame them?