One factor, Mills argues, is that the organizations responsible for coordinating that emergency support tell them they should be ready to deal without it. "Federal agencies have recently encouraged American citizens to contemplate surviving disasters without their assistance," Mills writes, citing a previous study. And the government also warns people to be ready for risks that have never materialized. Since 2003, a group within the Department of Homeland Security has advocated that people "have a ‘safe room’, duct tape, and plastic sheets on-hand to secure their home against (unprecedented) chemical terrorist attacks."
The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.
Her face was grave, its expression concentrated; she bent on me an unsmiling eye--an eye just returning from abstraction, just awaking from dreams: well-arranged was her simple attire, smooth her dark hair, orderly her tranquil room; but what--with her thoughtful look, her serious self-reliance, her bent to meditation and haply inspiration--what had she to do with love?
Emerson's quote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," is a running joke in the 1998 film Next Stop Wonderland. A single woman (portrayed by Hope Davis), who is familiar with the Emerson quote, goes on dates with several men, each of whom tries to impress her by referencing the line, but misquotes it and misattributes it to W.C. Fields, Karl Marx, or Cicero. The woman finally meets a man (portrayed by Alan Gelfant) who correctly attributes the quote to Emerson.
A lot of the ideas and excerpts of Self-Reliance may be misunderstood if read through a narcissistic lens, in which you possess everything you need to be successful on your own. But true self-reliance is, in practice, obedience to something bigger (this can be religious or not — we’re talking about things unexplainable or unmeasurable to us). Self-trust is also trust in the Big Other:
If there was anything my freeze-dried food experiment taught me, it was how lucky I was to be able to walk down the street and buy a sandwich whenever I wanted to—but also how far I was from being self-reliant in the more quotidian sense. If freeze-dried meals are becoming increasingly popular in America, then maybe it’s because many of us realize that if something really bad happened, we wouldn’t know the first thing about surviving for a week on the ingredients lying around in our pantry. But as we continue to be bombarded by headlines foreshadowing epic floods, economic collapse, and nuclear escalation, there’s nothing wrong with finding a little peace of mind in a bag of dehydrated Chicken A La King.
Because I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like to actually live off the stuff, I placed an order for Wise’s Seven Day Emergency Food and Drink Supply, a shoebox-size assortment of breakfast foods, entrées, and dehydrated whey milk substitute, in addition to a few other options I’d discovered online. I wanted to know what an insurance policy tasted like.
The Lord has declared, “It is my purpose to provide for my saints” (D&C 104:15). This revelation is a promise that the Lord will provide temporal blessings and open the door of self-reliance. He has also declared that “it must needs be done in [His] way” (D&C 104:16). To receive the blessings of self-reliance, we must accept and live the principles of self-reliance, which include the following:
“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us never bow and apologize more. A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him; I wish that he should wish to please me. I will stand here for humanity, and though I would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you, and all men, and all events. Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called "the height of Rome"; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.
Pense just sold his company, Gardening Revolution. For 20 years he shipped the proprietary iron, zinc, manganese, copper, sulfur and boron soil blend. Each bed costs $800, after you buy the cinder blocks and mat. On his best year, he shipped $580,000-worth of them. The magazine John Deere Homestead featured him. He’s taught classes on raised-bed gardening and survival in his cabin ever since. “The record on tomatoes is 274 pounds for one plant. Think about that,” Pense says. “That’s a lot of ’maters for one plant.” More than the ’maters, he’s proud of teaching people younger than him to grow their own food.
I don’t encounter any preppers at the school that day, but I do meet women from all over the United States and with all kinds of reasons for wanting to learn how to cut and drill wood, including a young yoga studio employee from Wisconsin who is building some custom shelving for her kitchen appliances and cookbooks, as well as two seniors from Washington, DC, who want to build a set of matching cabinets to house their prized collection of vintage wine glasses. Down by the garden, I meet a pair of women from Missouri who are hoping to go into business flipping houses. “We’re tired of waiting for our husbands to do it,” one of them says.
“A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition,” Emerson advises, “as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.” If this isn’t the official motto of the 112th Congress of the United States, well, it should be. The gridlock, grandstanding, rule manipulating and inability to compromise aren’t symptoms of national decline. We’re simply coming into our own as Emerson’s republic.
When I point out that her reasons for getting into survivalism sound far off from the “every man for himself” mentality of the macho prepper stereotype, Chymiy mentions a paper by a team of social psychologists from UCLA, published in Psychological Review, about the differences in how men and women react to physical and social stressors. “The traditional fight-or-flight response is apparently based on research done only on men, so when they finally researched women under extreme stress, their response instead of fight or flight was more tend and befriend, apparently,” she explains. “Instead of running away or punching you in the face if you try to mug us, we’ll try to talk you down or try to make a social connection so you know the stressful situation can be diffused. And in neighborhood settings, we try to come together and help each other.”
“Personal Preparedness in America: Findings from the 2012 FEMA National Survey” provides information on the status of the public’s knowledge of, attitudes about, and behaviors related to preparing for a range of hazards. The data can be used to improve collaborative planning, outreach, education, and training to engage all Americans so that they become active participants in creating communities and a Nation resilient to disasters.