Bunker Down: The Aussie punters preparing for the Apocalypse


Words || Max Lewis

As a person with anxiety, I understand the need to prepare. It’s a natural part of human nature to want to be ready for something. If you’ve got guests over, you’ll want to prepare the house so they don’t judge you; you’ll want to prepare a nice meal so they don’t think you have been surviving on McDonald’s deliveries every day since they opened in your suburb. If you’re hitting the town you’ll prepare your look so you’ll fit in with all the cool people in the club. If you’re like me, you’ll prepare for anything happening ever in your life by being overwhelmingly pessimistic – that way, if you’re wrong you get a pleasant surprise, and if you’re right, well, you saw it coming.

There are some people that take preparation a little too far. We all know that the world is going to end one day, whether by the sun taking us out in a murder-suicide, nuclear devastation turning the world into Mad Max, complete with marauders and Tina Turner, or conservatives sapping the world of all its resources and refusing to support renewables, leaving later generations to dry out and crumble like a tiramisu in the sun. It’s likely those reading this (hi!) won’t even see the beginnings of armageddon in their lifetime. That doesn’t stop a certain group of Australians from getting ready for imminent devastation.

They’re called preppers, and they’re a subsection of conspiracy theorists that believe the shit is going to hit the fan at any moment. And would you believe that colourful analogy is official terminology? Australia has a surprisingly large community of preppers, which makes sense. We’re far away from other countries, have large areas of land that are completely empty, and an abundance of wildlife to snack upon. The two most popular forums I saw were the ozprepper.com and Ausprep.com, and despite the hive of activity going on in these forums, absolutely nobody wanted to speak to me. I was either brushed off with a simple “Sorry, we don’t do interviews”, or was subjected to a tirade about how the media have tarnished their reputation before, so why am I any different? This was pretty par for the course on the ozprepper.com forum, where any attempts by the media to get the prepper perspective was met with hostility. On one hand I don’t blame them for being wary, but on the other they aren’t doing themselves any favours by shutting themselves off. I was left to come to my own conclusions based on the discussions found on the forums.

Firstly there was some confusion within their own ranks as to what exactly a prepper was. Some contend that keeping tools in your car or a condom in your wallet makes you a prepper. These were the examples given to prospective media looking for interviews, yet none of the members qualify as that. They all talk of secret emergency locations and supplies that could be compromised if shown to the media, and believe that media interest is a government conspiracy to reveal the locations of preppers so when push comes to shove they can steal supplies for themselves. From what I could see, there were some common features. A bug-out bag is a bag of supplies prepared ahead of time so it can be grabbed at a moments notice. First aid, cooking supplies, rations, weapons, you name it. Some even had different bags for different scenarios. Other means include a secret location, like a bunker or a small shelter away from your property, to filled to the brim with supplies to act as your new home.

The average prepper on these forums were men in their 40-50s. The ‘Single Preppers’ subsection on ozprepper.com showed that some of them were single and ready to mingle as well. As typical old white men they also love to be racist and sexist, like one prominent user suggesting Yassmin Abdel-Magied should be “[sent] to manus island”, which was followed by sexually violent remarks.

Yikes. This isn’t to say that female preppers don’t exist: both ozprepperforum.com and ausprep.com have sections dedicated to female preppers with topics like ‘Lady
Luxuries?’ and ‘Self defence for ladies’ which, to their credit, are useful topics. Oddly enough, ausprep.com’s Ladies section had a subforum for ‘Prepping with Children’, insinuating that, come apocolypse time, daddies will cast aside their children like the plastic straw wrapping from a Just Juice box.

Reading through these forums is entertaining as well as disturbing. Users interact with each other the same way that technologically-inept baby boomers do on Facebook, complete with an inappropriate use of emojis. Picture it now; the tiny thumbnail of a badly angled selfie next to a comment like ‘whY don’t these young people get off their phones and get a job!!!!!11! Mary.’ What’s interesting is that this community of oldies find themselves in the same pitfalls as a youth-oriented website like, say, Tumblr. You’ve got your cliques, weird urban legends that circulate without any evidence, constant bickering, hostility to anyone outside of their bubble, and the rare person with a swastika avatar that people still engage with for some reason.

While it’s nice that these folks have something to do with their post-retirement time that isn’t yelling at Muslims on the street, I can’t help but feel this kind of community is unhealthy for their thinking. The ‘us-against-them’ mentality created by echo chambers such as this do nothing but reinforce negativity and prejudice. The doomsday scenarios that these groups perpetrate, like nuclear devastation, financial collapse, famine or natural disasters, are all in one way or another caused by the exact type of people that are prepping for them – old conservatives. It’s really the ultimate form of baby boomer apathy. Screw addressing the problems we have right now, I’m just going to prepare for the inevitable devastation caused by my ilk, because fuck you. That’s why I have no doubt that, when the time comes, the preppers will die out just like the rest of us normies.

I’m not doing any prepping for doomsday because I know my life will last the length of a bee’s dick when the shit hits the fan. I’m a writer with no practical skills, I’m unfit, afraid of conflict and get upset when I have to kill an animal in a videogame. I’m not suited for the next life, and frankly I don’t think any of these preppers are either.

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