Nancy Lanza 'was survivalist'
More details have emerged about Nancy Lanza, the mother and first victim of Adam Lanza, who went on a murderous shooting spree in Sandy Hook school in Connecticut.PT2M45S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2biuh 620 349 December 17, 2012
Nancy Lanza was, in many respects, a typical American Mom. The former stockbroker was a volunteer in her neighbourhood, a diehard Red Sox fan, keen on gardening and fond of a glass of wine at her local bar in Connecticut. But on Friday last week she became the first victim of Adam Lanza - her deeply troubled son. After her murder, he would go on to kill 20 young children and six adults.
We will never know the full reason why he committed one of the worst school massacres in US history. One detail, however, about his otherwise comfortable, suburban family life has caught the eye. His mother was a "prepper".
With 88 guns for every 100 American citizens, the majority of preppers see guns as a key part of their survival kit - not necessarily for self-defence, but certainly as a weapon to hunt food with.
Nancy's sister-in-law, Marsha Lanza, has told reporters how she "prepared for the worst. Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping - are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?"
Nancy Lanza ... she was a "prepper" Photo: Reuters handout
She had started stockpiling tinned food, amassing a large collection of guns and reportedly taking her son to the local shooting range.
Prepping - preparing for disasters - may be a new term to many people, suggesting fairly extreme paranoid behaviour. But in America it is fast becoming a fully fledged movement, with an estimated three million adherents, and practised by a wide variety of people, including many - like Nancy Lanza - living in apparent humdrum apple-pie neighbourhoods, with wide-screen televisions on the sitting room walls and a picket fence around the garden.
A large array of websites, online forums, radio shows and shops cater to preppers and their belief that something terrible may just happen.
Shooting massacre ... Adam Lanza. Photo: AP
Everything from The Survival Mom, which gives advice on how to cook tasty brownies for your kids in the event of "a horrific natural disaster or civil war", to shops that sell crossbows to kill "suburban animals".
The alphabet soup of militia-style jargon and acronyms that preppers use - TEOTWAWKI, frequently cited, is "the end of the world as we know it" - gives the impression that preppers are a homogenous movement, all speaking the same language and sharing the same beliefs. But they are a disparate group of people, who hoard food for wildly different reasons.
Some believe that the impending disaster will be caused by an asteroid hitting the earth or an unmanageable population explosion, causing civil unrest and looting. Others are merely preparing for the very realistic eventuality that they may lose their job and be short of income.
Ted Kaczynski ... the "Unabomber" waged war on technology. Photo: AP
The one thing they share is the belief in being ready and, particularly, having a few days' worth of food stored in the garage. Or, in the more extreme examples, a whole year's worth, along with a flock of chickens or even hundreds of fish in one's swimming pool, a wind- or solar-powered generator, a means of escape, and the ability to be completely self-sufficient.
In America there has been a long history of citizens wanting to recreate the pioneer lifestyle of their forebears, with the survivalists phenomenon popular in the Seventies and Eighties. The most extreme example was Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber", who lived in a cabin in Montana and waged war on technology by sending numerous homemade bombs through the post. The niche movement died down until the late Nineties, when a widespread fear of the so-called Y2K bug - which was supposedly going to cause chaos in the world's computer systems on the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve in 1999 - took hold in the mainstream.
The bug never materialised, but the need to be self-sufficient and survive "off-grid", free from technology, national power supplies, and the state only escalated with 9/11 in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The view that people could no longer trust government to protect and help them was exacerbated by the recession and severe increase in unemployment in recent years.
The image used on the Twitter account of the #TEOTWAWKI Blog, http://teotwawkiblog.blogspot.com. Photo: @teotwawkiblog
James Rawles, a former US Army intelligence officer, is a leading prepper. His website, SurvivalBlog.com, gets 300,000 visitors a month. He lives deep in the countryside, in a secret location somewhere in the Rockies, has trained in martial arts and has enough food to last three years.
"Should the worst happen, it's become apparent the government can't provide for everybody. And now that realisation is becoming far more widespread," he says.
"Survivor Jane" (who won't give me her real name) runs a "girly girl" blog for female survivalists, illustrated with a picture of camouflage four-inch heels, and says her driving motivation is "self-responsibility".
"For me, the last straw came after two people who had just robbed someone at gunpoint tried to carjack me as I left a downtown parking garage - that was the day my eyes were opened to how unsafe our world had become. That is when I began to educate myself."
She insists that preppers are not synonymous with gun owners. "Absolutely not. In fact, I would say it would be foolish to focus on guns as your only means of protection."
Though, with 88 guns for every 100 American citizens, the majority of preppers see guns as a key part of their survival kit - not necessarily for self-defence, but certainly as a weapon to hunt food with.
Dr Glenn Wilson, a fellow of the British Psychological Society, says that preppers exhibit classic anxiety traits, commonly found in people with a conservative outlook, who fear change. "They have a tendency to react to uncertainty with fear," he says.
The one word that nearly all preppers use, when justifying their behaviour is "insurance".
Simon Dillon is one of a small, but growing number of British preppers. The former soldier (many preppers have a military background) has a large selection of pulses, sauces, and freeze-dried meals at his home in Brinnington, Stockport, along with 140kg of rice.
"That's 75 grams a portion, 1866 meals, which is enough for a meal every day for a year."
Simon, who is happily married with children (also provided for), has built a special extension to his house to store the food and 300 litres of water. He thinks he is behaving rationally in the face of economic uncertainty and rising food and fuel prices.
"Other people have buildings insurance and life insurance. Well, I have food insurance."
He also points out that his behaviour is not that much more extreme than that exhibited by Tom and Barbara Good, the much-loved characters from the Seventies UK sitcom The Good Life.
"If you walked into someone's house and saw they had that much food, you'd think they were a bit off the wall. But if you look at it as a whole with everything else I do, I like to think it's just a bit like The Good Life. If a difficult time comes, I won't be relying on the state."
He is far from being the only British prepper. Royston Upson, is a retail manager by day, but runs survivalist courses at the weekend in the south-east. "It's growing all the time over here. I'd say there were tens of thousands of us."
Like many, he is uncomfortable with the prepper tag, preferring to describe himself as "self-reliant". When he was unemployed for a few months last year, he dipped into his store of food - he recommends everyone keeps a month's worth. "It's better than money left in the bank. It's partly a hobby, but also a genuine belief that something could happen. The economic problems are only going to get worse."
Many preppers in America are fearful that the Connecticut massacre will see Obama's government try to limit their freedoms. Tom Martin, founder of the Preppers Network, said: "Preppers seek to prepare, save, and defend life. So why the blame game?"
He claims that Victoria Soto, the primary school teacher murdered by Lanza and hailed a hero for managing to hide some of her pupils in a cupboard, was also a prepper.
"Whether they are defending themselves or especially when they defend the lives of those that they love the most, a prepper's primary goal is to protect life."
That may be so, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in this terrible incident, the fear of disaster became self-fulfilling.
The Telegraph, London