S1E66 - Eric on Talking Trash on Traditional Prepping
Margaret and Eric discuss the ins and outs of prepping from a more traditional perspective than usual. They go over the basic tenets of preparedness, outline some easy and manageable ways to start prepping, find new and fun ways to laugh at traditional bunker mentalities, and discover that community is once again the best resource anyone can hope for.
Eric Shonkwiler (he/him) is the author of the newsletter When/If: A Leftist Guide to Prepare for a Changing World. He can be found at https://when-if.ghost.io/ where you can sign up for his newsletter. You can also find Eric on Twitter @eshonkwiler
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Margaret 00:15 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what probably feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy. And this week I'm really excited about this week. I've been hoping to do an episode...this particular episode for a while. This week, we're going to be talking about talking about prepping. And we're going to be talking about...well, I'm going to be talking to someone who writes the best newsletter I'm aware of for individual community preparedness, which is called When/If. And it's written by Eric Shonkwiler. And I'm really excited about this conversation. But first, I'm really excited to tell you that we're a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here is a jingle from another show on the network.
Margaret 01:34 Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then kind of just a little bit about When/If, you know, the reason that I've brought you on here to talk.
Eric 01:45 Hi, I'm Eric ShonkWiler My pronouns are he/him. When/If is a newsletter on preparedness and collapse from a leftist perspective. I set out a couple of years ago to try to try to create some content around preparedness and prepping that was more accessible for folks on the left handed side of the political spectrum.
Margaret 02:13 Yeah, and just to...we'll ask you to shout it out at the end too, but how can people get this fine newsletter?
Eric 02:19 It might be easier to find me. My name is Eric Shonkwiler, a little bit difficult to spell. The newsletter itself is on ghost.io. Search "When/If." That's probably the best way to find it. It's a bit of a goofy address.
Margaret 02:36 Yeah, it's hard to...every now and then I've tried to Google "When/If" and then I realize that's not going to work.
Eric 02:43 But there are only two Eric Shonkwilers on the planet. So if you can remember my last name, you can probably find me.
Margaret 02:49 Whoa. Who's the other one?
Eric 02:52 Some kid in New Mexico.
Margaret 02:53 All right. All right. I'm the only Margaret Killjoy I'm aware of. And whenever that changes, I'm going to be really sad. So I don't know...Were you like sad when you found out you weren't the only Eric Shonkwiler
Eric 03:05 It was super weird. It turned out that for a little while we lived in the same town. I've lived all around the country.
Margaret 03:14 Are y'all related?
Eric 03:14 I don't...Like probably not really. I wasn't born and raised in New Mexico. It's just one of my favorite places to be and I was living out there working. And I I think I was looking myself up for something and found them on like a, you know, like a high school Spelling Bee sort of an article or something like that, you know, and found out he lived in the same town at the same time that I did. Super weird. Not a very big town. Very strange.
Margaret 03:44 I kind of like that. That's kind of weird. Maybe you just....
Eric 03:48 Shout out to the other Eric Shonkwiler.
Margaret 03:50 Yeah, totally. Okay, so. So you started this this newsletter and I kind of wanted to, you know...What do you cover in this newsletter? Right? What kind of stuff are you talking about?
Eric 04:04 Everything. I focus on kind of, in my head, the big three, which is climate change, fascism, and the ignorance of the government/police brutality, kind of the three fronts, as I see it, that are going to be causing problems for folks in the future.
Margaret 04:04 Isn't it kind of funny that--to me, I agree. These are, you know, probably the three big categories of things and then all three of them are ignored by right wing preparedness.
Eric 04:46 Yeah.
Margaret 04:47 Not always. Right? I mean, they claim there's a rise in fascism, but they claim it from a really odd perspective, not the people walking around with Nazi flags, but the people walking around with anti Nazi flags. And then Climate change. I feel like preparedness places used to talk about climate change. And then...I don't know if you experienced this? Did they just stop talking about it at some point when it became culture war or something like?
Eric 05:13 I haven't seen a whole lot about climate change addressed in particular. They will just sort of ally it and talk about weather preparedness. But at the same time, I'm doing a little bit of research because I'm trying to turn When/If into a book. And so I'm looking at comparable titles. And one of the comps that I looked at went immediately out of the gate in the first few pages. It talked about the dangers of hurricanes and then under a discrete subheading: typhoons. And I just wanted to tell the author, who's my friend, "Those are the same thing."
Margaret 05:57 Yeah, I was just thinking that.
Eric 05:58 Just in a different hemisphere. Like, it's just in a different ocean you. Like you're telling someone to prepare for the same thing twice but differently. Like the the instructions were a little bit different too. It was wild.
Margaret 06:13 They just googled "What to do with a typhoon" and wrote that down. Yeah. And they Googled "What to do in it?"
Eric 06:17 Yeah. And, and that's why I do what I do, so that there can be some actual help when it comes to emergencies like that. And you're not stuck getting your information from a guy who really wants you to buy a Faraday bag because the EMP is coming.
Margaret 06:17 Okay, so that's a really good segue into one of the main things I kind of wanted to talk about: one of the...I'm really excited to talk to someone who also sort of interacts in an intersection with a traditional prepping world, but then also cares about, you know, leftist prepping or community preparedness or whatever the hell we're going to call it because it seems like some of the information that's in traditional prepping is good, but we should talk about some of that like bullshit, like some of the nonsense that traditional preppers get wrong. Okay, so like Faraday bags, do you want to you want to myth bust the Faraday bag?
Eric 07:14 My biggest thing would be that we're not going to see the long heralded EMP blast. Like that's just not what's gonna come get us. I think that I think there is very limited utility to the idea of the Faraday bag, and it’s primarily in regards to protesting. Yeah, and it has much less utility than leaving your device at home. Yeah. So rather than buying a fancy bag or trying to guard your credit card chips from getting stolen at the grocery store, like I would just leave the things at home or turn them off. Keep them in your car if you're going to be someplace that you don't want to be linked to from a tower pin, you know? Yeah.
Margaret 08:16 Yeah, like people talk about EMPs as if they're like...the tactical EMP is right around the corner. And as a science fiction writer I appreciate it, but literally only because otherwise it's impossible to imagine how we're going to deal with like swarms of nano robots with facial recognition. You know? Like until we have the EMP shotgun we're just kind of like...or like EMP force fields or something.
Eric 08:41 I like the EMP much more all of a sudden.
Margaret 08:44 Yeah, no, it's...But as far as I'm--it's been a while since I've looked this up--but I believe EMP or electromagnetic pulse, people are worried this blast will destroy all electronic devices, all modern cars, everything with a computer, everything with a chip or whatever. There is some EMP hardened equipment out there. And then a Faraday cage is like something that protects certain types of radiation from reaching certain things and it also blocks communications. I'm under the impression that the only way that anything produces an EMP right now is nuclear blasts high in the atmosphere.
Eric 09:17 I think that's right. Yeah.
Margaret 09:19 So I guess if we get into a nuclear war some electronics might be messed up, but I kind of feel like overall we have bigger problems.
Eric 09:29 At that point, yeah. Yeah, we have a few few more things to worry about than the fact that you can't stream the latest season of whatever.
Margaret 09:41 Well, I think it gets into...I really like to use Faraday bags as the example, right? Because it's like, I worry about this a lot, right? Because--and I'm curious what your take is--I worry about being a fear monger professionally, right? I worry about like spreading worry. My goal is to spread calmness and preparedness and you know ways we can...Okay, I have a Go bag. So if there's a forest fire I know what I'm doing so now I don't have to worry about forest fire. But there is a version where you just worry about stuff more and more and more. And especially if you're trying to sell someone something it's a really good system. It's like if I'm watching something, and the thing they're trying to sell me is a Faraday bag, to me that's a big red flag that like, "Oh, you're just a grifter." Because in the abstract of once I have every object in the world that I could possibly need, I suppose I could Faraday cage my basement or something. Right? But like...No.
Eric 10:42 Yeah, that's a real problem because particularly when you tie your output to commerce you're kind of getting into Alex Jones territory where, you know, you're talking about chemicals in the water...and here's this water filter or here are these protein shakes that will solve everything.
Margaret 10:42 Turn you into a man again instead of a gay [Inaudible word.]
Eric 10:43 Yeah, and that's a big problem. You know, that creates a circular system where you just you spin people up and you give them the solution, and that isn't a solution at all. It might temporarily ease their worry, but they can just as easily get that by shopping at Etsy, you know, just any kind of consumption tends to ease that pang that we have. But if you're the one creating it, obviously, that's a different situation. Controlling that fear, or finding out the meter at which you should distribute it is, is something that I think about pretty much every time I hit publish. But at the same time, I'll stop and I'll look at the objective data that I've got, the new things that have occurred, whatever they may be new, anti trans legislation, the new IPCC report just came out last Monday and that really grounded some bad news about climate change. And you can't ignore the news and the updates that you receive on things like that just because you're worried that all that you're doing is making your readership afraid. I think that you should couch it appropriately. And how I do that is by at least trying to give the reader some actionable items at the end of my 1000 word screed where I talk about all of the awful shit that's happening in the world.
Margaret 12:57 Action Items is a really good point. Action Items is...You know we did an episode a while ago about mental health first aid, right. And, you know, one of the things that I feel like we learn over and over again is that acting with agency is one of the main ways to prevent PTSD during bad situations. And I feel like even if we can't stop what's coming, acting with agency as much as we can about how we handle it and things like that, is how we keep it from destroying us. Like, it might literally destroy us. We might all drown in the rising waters or get murdered bu fascists or whatever, right? But like, you know, we can...there's some cliche here about not letting it destroy us along the way or something, you know, but yeah, the action items. That makes a lot of sense. Okay, but I want to talk more shit on traditional preppers.
Eric 13:54 Okay, let's do it.
Margaret 13:55 What else are they getting wrong? Like, it's funny because it's like some of the stuff....Well, okay, you're talking about for example, if you tie your stuff to what you're selling--I think I've been thinking about this a lot--I make and distribute these emergency kits and I don't sell them. And I spend thousands of dollars at the time when I have it and create these emergency kits. And I covered in one of my YouTube episodes. And I give them away to my friends and family and stuff, right? And then everyone's like, "Sure, whatever, my crazy friend who..." You know, and then every now and then someone tells me, "Oh, it was actually really useful that I had band aids in my backpack," or...you know, and it's always these tiny minor things. It's never the potassium iodide or whatever, you know? And there's a chance that I'm going to start selling them but literally just in order to make enough money to make this not be this massive sinkhole in my life that I distribute these things. And I worry. I worry about being an Alex Jones. Also, I really want people to have stored food in their basement and so part of me is like, "Man, I'm just gonna get a freeze dryer. I'm gonna freeze dried ton of stuff and I'm going to fucking give it to people." And then I'm like, "And I guess we'll sell it," you know? And then I'm like, "Oh, God, where does this end?" At what point am I selling supplements to make people stay virile or whatever, you know. And I don't know....
Eric 15:16 I think that the way to avoid that is like I said to eliminate the circle. So you can't be directly addressing an issue and saying that the solution is on your website, that it's in your store. Once you do that you're just a shill. And and whether or not the product is even remotely relevant at that point, you're losing credibility, at least to people that know what they're talking about. And you may have followers who are addicted to that circle, you know, that cycle that says, "Here's this panic. By the way, here's the thing that will cure the panic." But if you avoid that then I think that there's...then you don't have to be worried about perpetuating that and falling into an Alex Jones trap.
Margaret 16:14 Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. And there's a reason that we haven't started selling anything yet, anything along those lines, you know. I mean, at some point, we'll be putting out more books and stuff and that will be a selling. But I think we just have to...Cause I think about that guy who--maybe it's a perfectly fine book; I doubt it--but the guy who's like typhoons versus hurricanes or whatever, I suspect that this person is just trying to make a buck by googling some stuff and rewriting it poorly, throwing it into an e book, doing print on demand, putting it up on Amazon, and then selling it to this fear cycle, right? But then it's so frustrating because some stuff that comes out of traditional preparedness is useful. I think that a lot of their focuses are all wrong...Now I'm just trying to come up with the other stuff that I get annoyed about, right?
Eric 17:10 Let's talk about what they get right? And then we can shit talk on the vast majority of they get wrong. And that is always going to be the basics, you know, the very essential stuff. Because like you said, you know, you find it really important that people have food stored in their basement or if they don't have a basement, you know, under their bed in a tote or something like that. Just whatever they can do. And just as an aside, that's my circle. And that's where I scratch my panic itch. An every once in a while, I'll just buy a giant can of freeze dried vegetarian imitation beef.
Margaret 17:53 Oh, yeah, totally. Augason Farms.
Eric 17:55 Yes. Yeah. I just got a can last night.
Margaret 17:58 Yeah, the cheap brand.
Eric 17:59 Yeah, I just put that on my shelf next to all the other--shout out to Augason Farms--all of my other Augason Farms cans, and something in my in my lizard brain just went, "Yeah, yeah. Okay. I feel a little bit better now."
Margaret 18:18 Yeah.
Eric 18:20 But to bring that back to what the Right wing gets gets right...What those preppers get right is just the basics, which I think is actually sort of...it's letting them lay claim to preparedness, actually.
Margaret 18:35 Right.
Eric 18:35 And--now I'm getting into a different idea--but they shouldn't because preparedness comes from us living on the planet--
Margaret 18:43 Totally.
Eric 18:44 --Outside of the normal capitalistic cycle. The thing that I say...So this is how I launched When/If is that the first newsletter that I wrote was just called "Your Grandma Prepped."
Margaret 18:59 Yeah, totally.
Eric 19:00 Because she did. She canned. She had food stored away. My my grandma Skylar had three refrigerators. Two of them were almost as old as she was and I just ran like a dream. And they were full of food and water. And that's just--she had lived through the Great Depression--and that's where her inclination for it came from. And that got passed down to me. But I always knew if I was walking into her house, I could walk into the kitchen and I could open the cupboard and I would see 30 or 40 cans of whatever, Chef Boyardee, green beans, peas, you know, just as much food as you could want for probably damn near a month. And that's the kind of goal that I shoot for in my newsletter and for my own household. But it's the basic stuff.
Margaret 19:56 What you saying about like not letting the right wing lay claim to it and I agree with that. And I think that the sense of who actually--you know, I talk about that a lot that, like purse snacks as prepping, you know, like you go to a show, the person who has snacks in their purse is more prepared than the person with the handgun. Because there's a scenario in which the handgun is the right tool. It is a lot less likely than the scenario where you get snacky.
Eric 20:20 Yeah, absolutely.
Margaret 20:22 And a purse can hold both. Although, that would be an off body carry…Whatever, anyway. And so I think in my head, I've been thinking about traditional prepping, as in like, the kind of people who call themselves preppers without necessarily assigning that to the Right wing. It's like this thing that is fed upon by the right wing, but I don't think it's apparently right wing. And I've gotten some feedback from listeners every now and then, who are in traditional prepping, and could see the right wing kind of trying to be like, "And hate your neighbor." And they're like, "Wait, aren't y'all Christians?" And then being like, "Oh, thank god." It was less even that they were like, "Oh, thank God, a Leftist approach," although that's accurate from my point of view, but like, "Oh thank God, something that's not a right wing approach."
Eric 21:09 Right.
Margaret 21:12 You're right about the basics. And then I think sometimes they get some stuff right but they prioritize it wrong. I do believe that having, you know--depending on the situation that you're in and who you are and all these things--like firearms and things like that are incredibly useful tools. And if I want to know how much ammunition I should probably have, a lot of those YouTube channels and things like that are very useful for that, right? Because they've mathed out like being like, "Well, if you want to continue to practice at this rate, which is about the rate that you should stay in practice at..." And so I find that stuff to be very useful. But it's really easy to think that the sexy stuff, the violent stuff, is the main thing. The main thing is like first aid kit, food, and water, you know, and knowing not to run a generator in your garage. I finally got a deep freezer recently. And I was like, "I don't eat meat." I was like, "What the fuck am I gonna do with this deep freezer?" And now it's like, full of bread, frozen vegan meals. Like, it's great. I'm so glad it's there. And it's so...I didn't realize this but it barely uses any electricity compared to a regular fridge because it's full of frozen stuff and you open it up once a week. Like, the little tag on it is like, "Estimated electricity cost is $34/year" or whatever, you know, and I'm like, "Okay, okay, I can do that."
Eric 22:55 It's less than my washer. Yeah.
Margaret 22:59 Have you seen the stuff that's like...I feel like there's more and more. Maybe I just fall down YouTube holes too much about people just really getting ready to defend their giant castles of stuff or whatever, you know?
Eric 23:13 Yeah. And that's not a new thing, either. That has I think always been if nothing else, the popular idea of a prepper is that Right wing guy who post 2016 was wearing a red hat, and had a wall full of guns, and a bunch of food and water, and maybe some skills? Which is something we should talk about? But maybe not. Maybe all he knew how to do is shoot his gun and bury some Claymore mines in his yard because people were going to come get his stuff.
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