In the United States, we’ve always had people who believed everything was on the brink of going to hell. Like Burt Gummer on Tremors, they have lived armed to the teeth, stockpiling food, water, and other supplies, building fallout shelters and safe rooms, and maintaining a state of catlike readiness for the inevitable and rapidly approaching nuclear war, plague, terrorist attacks, or complete breakdown of social order.
Lately it seems like this attitude is becoming a bit more . . . mainstream. According to the NRA (and you would think it would know) gun ownership in the United States is at an all-time high. Gold prices, too, are surging, and at least some of the buyers seem to be motivated by a belief that gold coins will serve as a kind of ultimate currency in the event civilization collapses. If you listen to AM radio, you will hear advertisements for companies that sell survivalist-type products and services, like emergency food supplies and kits. One such company will sell you a lightweight backpack stuffed with two weeks supplies of food, emergency heat sources, and other essentials. In classic American fashion, the emergency food supplies include things like lasagna and beef stroganoff, and the website pictures show the food presented on attractive plates, complete with linen napkins and a sprig of garnish — not what you would expect to find on hand when gangs are looting a lawless countryside or ashes from a nuclear exchange are raining down on the just and unjust.
What can we make of this trend? Some people clearly are very worried and they want to be ready in the case of catastrophe. Companies recognize there is a market for survivalist products and are exploiting it. And the rest of us will just have to figure out who among our neighbors — like Burt Gummer — has had the foresight and fortitude to prepare for the ultimate survivalist challenge when the worms beneath us finally go on a rampage.