Nuclear war, avian flu, global warming, George Bush -- there are many reasons to worry that the end of the world is near, but generally, widespread zombie attacks are not one of them. Preparing for a zombie attack on the other hand, might be the one thing that saves your life should an actual catastrophe occur. That's where St. Louis's Zombie Squad steps in.
As reported by Ben Westhoff in the Riverfront Times, Zombie Squad was inspired by the movie 28 Days Later, a 2002 action flick about the undead taking over England. The group began with zombie-themed camping trips among a handful of friends and has grown into a national survivalist coalition with 175 members and hundreds of fans. Not surprisingly, many in the group are young, hip, and zombie-obsessed, but not all were looking to become survivalists. Westhoff notes that 'attendees probably come to the Zombie Squad seminar expecting an in-depth discussion of the monstrous antagonists of Resident Evil and Night of the Living Dead. But they stay interested in what [squad member Christopher] Barnhart has to say long after the discussion strays from zombies.'
Westhoff's piece also touches on the social fallout from recent disasters like Hurricane Katrina: 'A key reason for the Zombie Squad's membership surge, its cofounders say, is that an increasing number of people understand how susceptible our modern infrastructure is to disaster.' Younger generations in particular aren't eager to place their fate in the hands of FEMA or other government agencies. Further exploration turned up a study from January 2006 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (pdf), which found that 54 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed believe they will live to see another disaster wipe out a major US city, and 49 percent do not trust the government to protect them. Though the report did not offer any comparative data for those older than 24, it concluded that 'young people are relatively unlikely to be prepared for emergency situations.' The Zombie Squad hopes to change that.
Each year, the St. Louis squad and its chapters in Ontario and New Jersey (with five more due to start this year) congregate in Irondale, Missouri, for Zombie Con -- 'seminars on the art of map- and compass-reading, bow-making, and sustenance farming.' Throughout the year they participate in canned food and blood drives, winter camping trips, and put together 'bug-out bags' in case the apocalypse comes and it's time to 'bug-out.' Gory movies and walking-dead impressionists keep the zombie-crazed coming, whereas ham radios and polypropylene backpacks motivate the hardcore. One 25-year-old former Marine told Westhoff that he joined the squad because it's made up of 'young people, not creepy survivalist old men. They have a genuine purpose to help society.' It may seem like a strange way to go about it, but if a zombie metaphor is all it takes to train a younger generation in disaster preparedness, then bring on the braaains.
Go there >> Doomsday Disciples
Go there, too >> Coming of Age in American: Part III (.pdf download)
Related Links from the Utne Reader Archive:
Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor
Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne Reader