Disaster protection that fits under your bed!

by Gautam Raja

Let me tell you about a “2017 Holiday Catalog” that appeared in our mailbox one recent morning. Living as we do, about five hours from two recent disasters (the shooting in Vegas, and the wildfires in Santa Rosa), the timing of this delivery was even more weighted than it would have been in this, as they say, “current political climate”.

The catalogue is from a company called 4Patriots and its main product is Food4Patriots survival rations that last up to 25 years. “Disaster Protection That Fits Under Your Bed!” is one of the first headlines, for a 4-week supply of 140 servings of items such as Traditional Fettucine Alfredo and Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice, dehydrated and packed in Mylar pouches. “The same technology NASA uses to protect astronauts!” Not the dehydration, the Mylar.

Towards the back of catalogue are other survival items such as solar generators, water filters, and even a military-grade EMP bag to protect electronic equipment from an electromagnetic pulse attack. Both catalogue and website are tantalisingly non-committal about the politics behind this venture, but a video on the website confirms your educated guesses.

In the video, the political left comprises either a bunch of lawless rioters, or a drift of precious snowflakes. Obama was the worst thing to happen to America. Poor Trump is just misunderstood.

“There’s a perfect storm brewing,” says the voiceover. “And once all hell breaks loose, only the strong and self-reliant will survive.”

And the secretive too. The video frequently stresses that your survival-food stockpile must be covert. Once the mobs are rampaging through the streets, looting and burning, they mustn’t know that you have stocks of dehydrated Heartland’s Best Mashed Potatoes at home. Viewers are assured that the food will be shipped in anonymous boxes, with the pouches stored in gray plastic totes that can slip under your bed, or on top of a cupboard.

Throughout is a thread of racism, at once subtle and blatant. For example, while talking about Katrina, a short clip of a crying white, blonde woman is followed by shots of largely black crowds awaiting relief, and the voiceover warning of “anguished families left with no choice but to pour into the nearest crowded criminally infested FEMA camp”.

Images of black looters and rioters are repeated through the video, while all the customers or potential customers of Food4Patriots are white. There are references to the voiceover speaker’s Vietnam veteran status, and an emotional play on being there for your (white) family. There’s a list of fact citations below the video. This isn’t a chest-thumping, gun-waving anarchist’s cookbook. It’s carefully orchestrated, and designed to appeal to the more educated right-winger—at least ones who are prepared to pay $497 for a 3-month supply of nutrition in pouches.

The effect is one of an eating-disorder made external. If food-related pathology is all about the one thing you can control, the food hoarding offers the semblance of control over a world that many conservatives feel left out of. The end of the video asks you to imagine the peace of mind your covert food stock will offer, even as your local grocery store is being stripped bare, as if by “locusts”.

Baked into the video is a pandering to a white fear of being overrun by the lawless coloureds, and a promise that with a little money spent, this diversifying, global world can become cosy and safe again. It seems to almost welcome the apocalypse, so that, as the world falls to pieces, you can boil some water and make yourself and your family a pouch of Granny’s Home Style Potato Soup.

First published in Gulf News, October 24, 2017