How Zombie Mania is Preparing Twenty-Somethings for the Apocalypse

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

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