Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Post on Survivalism-Please Comment and Enjoy

This essay was sent to me by Imogen. I read it with great interest, and believe you will find it worth while.

Survivalism is Becoming Fashionable

In an age of austerity, widespread unstable economic climates and environmental pressures, there is a new trend that is creeping out of the niche and into mainstream culture; that of minimalist survival culture. Attitudes and lifestyles are changing as people respond to the current economic and environmental climate.

People are increasingly throwing out old extravagant items and habits. Things like hot tubs and expensive champagne are being cut out of people's lives in favour of the essentials. People are beginning to really take environmental issues seriously, as they realise the threats to the environment are real, not sensationalism.

Being prepared

Times have drastically changed from the peak of the financial boom in around 2005. Property programmes that encouraged the everyday person to become an investor or developer have now been replaced in popularity by survival programmes such as Ray Mear's Bushcraft and programmes dedicated to world discovery such as Voyage Around the Indian Ocean. Consumers are becoming increasingly fascinated by and interested in nature and survival, rather than on money, profit and material gain. Books such as John 'Lofty' Wiseman's SAS Survival Guide and Neil Strauss' Emergency have recently become best sellers. Each of these books - as well as many other similar titles - are offering consumers something they have not previously seen or been particularly interested in - how to be self sufficient. This is perhaps due to a recognition that there are tough times ahead for everyone and that those that are smart should be making sure they are best perspired to cope and prosper.

However, survival isn't just being seen as a necessity now. It is becoming fashionable, desirable and intelligent to claim to know how to be self sufficient. Books such as Strauss' Emergency are not just teaching the basics, but are doing so in a particularly entertaining way, showing people that learning survival skills can be fun as well as incredibly useful. Strauss shocks his readers by presenting them with the more "extreme" survival skills, such as animal slaughter and foraging. For those that can still afford holidays, poolside breaks have been replaced with adventure or wilderness trips. And before they think about insuring a holiday, they are thinking about what they can learn from their trip, and what value it will have.

This new trend is about being prepared, rather than paranoid. It is about the mainstream everyday person realising that the things they held so important before the global financial crisis are worthless. Designer gear, excessive clothing shopping and pointless gadgets and technology are - although still desirable to many - not as high on ordinary people's agendas as they once were.

Extreme behaviour or shifting values?

There is the negative viewpoint that one could take in that people are only prepared to learn these survival skills because they are becoming desirable and fashionable - would they really be behaving this way if survivalism was not "in fashion"? Traits of survivalism can now be seen all over mainstream popular culture - from top fashion designers exhibiting raw materials and tribal / bohemian designs to home furniture stores exhibiting more "shabby chic" and "distressed" pieces. If these trends weren't part of mainstream culture, would people be so keen to learn methods of survivalism? This trend for survivalism can easily be seen as extreme behaviour, fuelled by negativity and reflective of an individualist culture. However, the reasons behind driving this mindset indicate that people are gradually rethinking the fundamentals of the ways they live.

How far does this trend go; could people really survive completely independently without any help from the modern society? Most probably not; there are very few people in a civilised society that could make this claim. However, what this trend does show is that people are keen to "reconnect" with nature and give it the respect it deserves, by learning how it works and not taking anything for granted. This new trend is about reassessing our values and the meaning of life, following the fact that many people lived very differently - comfortably - before this economic crisis hit. The things people took for granted have now gone, or at least become harder to achieve. It is ultimately due to the fact that, for many, the meaning of life has changed.

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