Up next is young Jason Beacham from Missouri:
I was curious to see how this kid comes across on the show, because he’s…well, a kid; at age fifteen, Jason is the youngest subject thus far profiled on the show. I’m willing to try and go easy on him, and cut him a certain amount of slack on account of being fifteen. I would definitely not have wanted a film crew following me and my friends around when we were that age (though it would’ve been way more exciting what with the blackpowder mortar and all), so I guess there’s a certain amount of courage—or foolhardiness—at work there. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with youngsters getting into disaster preparedness, the way this kid goes about it is a little disconcerting.
So, the issue he claims to be preparing for is “anarchy following economic collapse”. Jason’s first order of business should be to take off his cultural blinders and realize that Anarchy doesn’t mean moustache-twirling and bomb-throwing anymore: if you’ve ever dreamed of living in a world free of domination (whether from corporations, nation-states, arbitrary laws, patriarchy, racism, homophobia, &c., you might be an anarchist.
Unfortunately, he apparently intends to face this imagined challenge by abandoning his mom and siblings when the going gets tough, because they don’t really support his prepping activities. Now, this show has already shown families in which one party isn’t interested in the other’s prepping, but they still go along with it because, hey, they’re family. Not in this case; Jason’s mom seems to spend a lot of the segment looking like she expects him to start killing puppies or something at any moment. Granted, I think her apprehensiveness comes from the fact that he approaches preparedness the way most fifteen-year-old boys would (showy weapons and gas masks first, then food and water as an afterthought), which isn’t surprising for someone whose introduction to survival issues was the recent wave of Zombie 2.0 movies. (see my post from last year for more on this). Regardless, by not including his mom in his activities, he’s missing out on learning skills that could come in handy in a long-term situation—things like food canning, sewing, &c.
Now, while I still think his mom has her head in the sand (she asks him, “Don’t you wish you were like everybody else and didn’t worry?”), I can understand her concern with her son’s fixation with preparedness (There’s a funny bit where Jason looks into the camera and explains that he’s “not obsessed with prepping…”, as the camera pans across his four gas masks on a shelf. Hilarious editing!). Like when he shows off his arm-sword thing, straight out of the BudK ‘Display-Weapons-R-Us’ catalog. And when he brings out his ‘maceball bat’…oh boy.
Now, maybe I was spoiled by having been brought up generally old-timey, but I was taught that one should take pride in his work, and don’t do stuff half-assed. This kid’s project reminds me of this wannabe pyro guy I hung out with back in grade school who kept a stash of what he called ‘chemicals’ under his bed…that were just bottles of like, shampoo.
Witness the evolution of the interplay between makebelieve and craftsmanship. When you’re a little kid, you pick up a stick, call it a bat and fight invisible zombies. When you’re a little older, you pick up a toy baseball bat and beat on your friends when you’re playing Zombies and Survivors. When you’re a teenager, you halfassedly pound nails into a bat and call it a formidable weapon for use against speculative zombies in the future. And then there’s taking your time to cultivate useful skills (maybe you learn woodturning and make the bat on a lathe!) and gather proper materials, so you can actually make something you can show off and be proud of, and keep beside the bed to defend your family. This is a good argument for why we should bring back Shop Class in schools.
And personally, if I was in need of a homemade mace, I would’ve used like, sixteen-penny nails, drilled pilot holes, and hammered them all the way through so the heads would be flush, like so (compare with Beacham’s method on the left):
And naturally, once he brings out the bat he just has to test it, so the poor watermelon gets the Gallagher treatment. Of course, it would have been similarly liquefied just from being hit with a normal bat, and I don’t think the half-assed nails really did much. Plus, if you want to realistically test weapons on pumpkins/watermelons/coconuts/whatever, don’t put the test subject on the ground, put it at about shoulder-height. Of course the bat’s going to obliterate it with five feet of swing behind it!
Luckily, Jason isn’t totally a lone wolf, and he has a friend with whom he practices survival skills, and they decide to go on an adventure with another youngster who they might recruit into their fold. So they put on their packs and go walk around in some long grass until they find an abandoned building, and decide to camp there for the night. Well, they need a fire for cooking and heat, so they build one. Out of eight-foot-long lumber. In the corner of the room. As you might expect, it gets way out of hand, and the flames start licking the ceiling. Somehow they get it put out (there’s a hilarious shot of one of the guys splashing water from a liter bottle on the fire. I don’t think it had much effect). At the end of the night, they decide to let the third guy join their ‘group’ on account of having common sense (a rare commodity among teenagers), and give him a scrap of ratty camouflage to put on his pack. Now, I’m all in favor of making your own ceremonies and rituals and culture all diy-like, but again, make it something you can be proud of and have some style about it (back in high school, when my guy-friends and I got together and formed ourselves a group, we taught ourselves how to card-weave and made old-timey wool armbands for ourselves!).
Well, the kids use the near-disaster of their survival practice to “learn what to work on”—I would suggest perhaps learning how to build a proper fire—and assess what they feel confident in knowing—“we’re ready to make a shelter we can stay in”—no dude, you found an abandoned building and almost burned it down. Start small and learn to build debris huts.
In the assessment, the experts give him 50 out of 100 points, computed to four months’ survival time.
In the end, while it’s good to see young people getting involved in preparing for uncertainties in their future, I wish Jason would take a more balanced, productive, and sustainable approach (I know that’s asking a lot for most people, teenagers especially). Joining a Venturing crew would be a great first step, providing all the benefits of Boy Scouts (older male role models, practical skills, comradeship &c.) but co-ed!, as would be taking some survival courses, or maybe going to an Appleseed shoot to improve his marksmanship, and developing a skillset or two that would be applicable to longterm disasters—gardening, woodworking, blacksmithing, candlemaking, anything!