Survivalism isn’t just for white right-wingers anymore.
Lawrence says he’s been checking out which places, like his local baseball field, would make a good community garden. And he’s talking to his neighbors about the coming collapse.
“I think individuals should be getting their gun-carrying permits. That may sound a little weird but I think people need to get familiar with weapons.”
“You’re going to need a shotgun and plenty of buckshot,” he tells his neighbors. “You’re not a trained soldier, you’re not going to be fighting a long-range firefight with a guy in a flack jacket.”
So after the world goes to hell, do we spend most of our time fighting or planting potatoes?
“I think that you’d spend most of your time gardening. I mean, soldiers spend a lot of time polishing their boots interrupted by short bursts of violence, so imagine there could be weeks of gardening and then maybe several hours of intense violence to repel looters. And then maybe several more weeks of gardening before a new bunch of intruders who haven’t yet got the message also attack the neighborhood.”
Thirty-three-year-old Mike Smith (not his real name) is, by his own admission, “a bit of a pretty boy.” Smith, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds, says he’s worried about the possums he thinks are eating all the eggplant in his Fishtown backyard and also about the end of the world.
“My father was in the military for 23 years. Him and some of his friends were real ’80s Cold War survivalists. They had books with fallout patterns. Recently in the past six months or so, a bunch of my friends—the last people you’d think—are getting into the idea of survivalism.”
When asked why, Smith speculates, “the Big Brother vibe, national ID cards, ID chips in people, the government bailing out companies, unemployment. One friend of mine is getting a gun because of the crime in his area of Philly.” (Smith himself shot dead one of two armed robbers at his workplace.)
“I have slowly over time accumulated water, canned goods, freeze-dried food and knowledge, like how to use dry ice to preserve wheat. My girlfriend is into it. That’s one of the things I love about her.”
Forty-five-year-old David Williams (a former PW employee) runs the Germ Bookstore on Frankford Avenue—center of everything conspiratorial, fringe and survivalist in Philadelphia. “I think what we’re seeing now,” he says, “is a postpolitical survivalism. I mean I had a friend say to me recently, ‘Weren’t conspiracy theories more fun when they were right-wing?’ There’s been a definite peak of interest in survivalism. More people are attending events and fewer people look at the whole process as strange and ludicrous and ridiculous. There’s a lot less eye-rolling. People are scared.”
Williams has a Mossberg 410 at home. “I’m 45 and I’m not sure I’m ready for a new world. I’m not sure I’m ready to go down with the ship that’s my house in Fishtown. But I have family in the Poconos.”
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Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died two years ago today of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.
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