There is little downside to being prepared, and there are many reasons to be so. Although some might dislike preparation, or openly disregard it, their argument is either flawed or purposely misleading.
Preparedness, self-sufficiency, or independence — whatever you may wish to call it — is important to me for several reasons. All three are intertwined, not simply synonyms, although very similar. They facilitate one another: one who is independent might gravitate towards being self-sufficient. In the same way, one who is prepared will be more likely to be self-sufficient, which will reduce someone’s chance of losing his independence. Like all good foundations, they rest on top of each other, gaining their strength from its structure, thus it becomes impossible to tell which one carries the heaviest load.
Like all good foundations, it becomes more structurally sound under load. Being prepared is a self-perpetuating evaluation cycle. It compresses under stress.
In order to keep one’s independence, one must contemplate what it means to be prepared, since being unprepared will undoubtedly lead to being reliant upon others one day, and this reliance — although unavoidable to some degree — one must keep to an absolute minimum. In other words, one shouldn’t be any more reliant on others than absolutely necessary, which means only to the extent that it is unavoidable because it is either unforeseeable or impractical. One will need to eat and cannot reasonably expect to grow one’s own food, while also working and enjoying a pleasurable life. But how much one will rely upon one food source, or to what extent, is up to each, according to his own. Will one need to stay put once the local food source becomes unreliable? Will one need to put up with food insecurity or rations? I say one does not, as long as one prepares himself.
My generation is easy to accept that one does not need to be prepared. Their reasoning, as far as I can tell, is that others will prepare on their behalf. The state, their parents, their local emergency services, or even the army: they cannot prepare in your place. I say that one cannot trust upon others to sacrifice the present for the future on one’s behalf; most people aren’t even able to make such sacrifices for their own good, let alone others — and in our day: strangers.
If we then accept that we can only rely upon ourselves to make the necessary arrangements, one should ask why one should want to. The best way I’ve found to take action is to closely examine one’s motivations, since understanding why one is doing a thing, makes doing the thing easy. So why is it important to me to be prepared?
The first reason is to maintain my independence. The second reason is not to have to put up with things I dislike, thanks to being independent. This directly affects my happiness and daily mood. Knowing I will not put myself in a position wherein I can be ‘incentivized’, as it is nowadays called — to make the right ‘choice’ of my own accord (or else …) — gives me great confidence and peace. It means I will be able to navigate crises to my own liking and my character’s needs, instead of that of others. The third reason is to be able to help others and not be a burden on society. This is an often misunderstood part of preparedness, looking from the outside in. It can seem to be about hoarding resources (which it is) and being selfish (which it is not). A squirrel hoarding winter stash is selfish, but only because nuts are scarce, and, not in the least, because it is a squirrel: a primitive animal that leads a life of struggle and deprivation. Humans, on the other end, lead lives of abundance and can therefore be considerate. There are more resources on this Earth — there is more food than we can eat or water than we can drink — than we can consume in a lifetime. The reason for deprivation amongst humans is solely political; people starve because others want them to starve.
Not many people seem to realize it, but once you do, you will probably start looking differently at preparedness. One could only say preparedness is selfish if resources are scarce. But the produce we hoard is particularly abundant, which is reflected in its prices. Moreover, if I buy large quantities of food, more will be produced; food producers will find a way to produce even more than they currently are, thanks to supply and demand. The only real impact I have on the supply chain, if any, is that I now possess an inventory of goods and produce which is already accounted for, but not yet consumed. Not only will there be more food available during a crisis, but producers will also be able to create more, more efficiently, at the time of said crisis, so our shortages will be replenished more quickly.
Preparedness is a social service
The main argument to be made in favor of preparedness, however, is a social argument. Preparedness isn’t a selfish or individual endeavor: it’s a social service one could say.
In case of emergency, governments will first worry about mitigating risk and damage, then care for the wounded, then fix the problem, and then aid any victims — in that order. Not only will people who aren’t in immediate danger be lowest on the list of priorities — as they should be, since they are least affected — , they will also be a burden to first responders and society at large. That is not to say that you may not be a burden to society: you most definitely may. However, in light of the advantages of being prepared, to ones self-esteem, confidence, peace of mind, and safety, there are few reasons not to be so. The only legitimate reason I could think of, is that one must actually sacrifice parts of the present for the future. In my opinion, this sacrifice is small compared to its advantages. Being prepared does require attention to detail, money, the ‘freezing’ (quite literally) of resources, which will now be unavailable to you or others. It requires quite some orderliness: one has to have his house in order and keep track of inventory to some degree, and also think through what items make sense to have on supply, and which do not. One has to have his affairs in order; one has to have some excess funds to redirect towards this goal, although even a little will make a large difference when needed.
The last important reason to be prepared for me is having the ability to help others, if I choose to do so. Sometimes, I get the feeling that people who belittle preparedness and scathe those who take it seriously, do not trust themselves as the keepers of resources; they seem to be unable to trust others with goods in times of need, which implies they distrust themselves, thinking that people will choose to keep it all to themselves. To them I say two things: firstly, even if this would be the case, these people haven’t done anybody any actual harm. There is no harm in collecting abundant resources and then keeping them to yourselff. You could make the case that it is immoral, but in a practical sense, it is harmless. The more harmful thing is to hoard resources once they are scarce, which will be the likely path of the unprepared.
Secondly, in a world of scarcity, wouldn’t you rather have more resources floating around for you looters to collect? Because this is what will inevitably happen after just three days of hunger. Even if I turn out to be the most selfish bastard on the planet, at least I won’t have to go out and confront other selfish bastards to feed my kids.