By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. ~ Benjamin Franklin
Very few people in society have probably read that quote. Even fewer would worry that it's a fact. Why are so many people now willing to sacrifice their personal liberty for that illusion of safety that comes from living under the authority of some higher power? Even as the highest power of all has conveyed these words to man - "God helps those who help themselves".
In just a couple of generations, the entire concept of being accountable to oneself has been undermined, ridiculed even. Self reliance, the learning of skills that extend beyond a paycheck or a computer screen are treated as some archaic riposte of foolishness, unnecessary symbols of bygone days. Those that practice such skills are often perceived, not as practical or frugal, but as paranoid survivalists who should be viewed with fear and monitored by others.
My clothing tends to more "hides the bloodstains" dark blue or black than Grandma's grey and my bug out kit is bigger than my makeup bag. That's OK by me, and I think Grandma Gullikson would approve. For when disaster strikes, I'll be ready as I can be, not sitting there waiting for my savior or my handout, hands hanging pale and useless. Sometimes when you are left with nothing you still have your will for the hope to grab on to.
My tools and the books that instruct us of their use may be old, but they give me things that a person can not, an entity can not. They give me my freedom. It's not a freedom from the law, I've given up much of my adult life to uphold and protect the law and my country. It's not freedom from taxes, nature or fate. But it's freedom at its most basic. The freedom to succeed. The freedom to fail.
If you're afraid to fail, you'll never try. If you give up, you just go back. I've stood in the center of a shop or even a laboratory and told myself that nothing is level or ever will be, nothing is deep enough or strong enough, and the words catch in my teeth and tear. But I didn't give up. I may have cursed and I may have wept a tear of frustration as I discovered that often unmitigable discrepancy between will and capabilities. I've burned some remains.
But I picked up my tools and tried it again, bluffing my way through the wood, as I tell it tall stories of mighty trees, teasing the floor with shavings of itself. The words are there, in the promise of design, in an old handbook, an illustration a hundred years old, someone who eventually did not fail. I'm the swing of the hammer, the trajectory of the bullet, the frame of a window. I work until long after dark, tossing the moon back like a shot of scotch, stopping only to toss the days bread in the oven, last call.
So, if you say "prepper" like it's a bad word, I'll just smile knowingly and go back quietly to my workbench or my canning. For I've learned something out in this big world one won't pick up watching the Bachelorette or the Kardashians. If you rely solely on others to feed you, to protect you and to sustain you, to prop you up and pat you on the back when you fail, you've not just made them your judge, you've made them your jailer. Even worse, it's a jail term without end, for it's done with the sanction of their own conscious.
So laugh at my tools, make fun of me blowing up a chicken in the kitchen while I try and learn how to use a pressure cooker. Snicker at the blue barrels of grain and the first tiny garden out back that initially produced only two inch mutant carrots. I'm learning, and in that learning, I'm learning to live.
With the books are those things that remind me why I chose to live my life the way I do. There's a flag and a small cross, ceremonial shapes of mortality, reminders that some choices are everlasting. There's a tail from a whitetail, taken in a hunt, food for a winter's table. There's some spent brass that either guarded or honored a life, a piece of old uniform fabric and the scents of sandalwood and gunpowder and freedom that soak into my skin and bones like ink, to stay with me to the end of days.
Being prepared is harder work than remorse, a lesson that as individuals, is easier to learn than as a nation.