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the Zombie Apocalypse Metaphor



Do I think that a zombie apocalypse is inevitable or even likely?


No. There is no fact or corollary of fact that can make the animation of dead tissue a reality. Maybe some sociopathic genius/moron is cooking up a 28 Days Later style virus in a lab but animated zombies just aren't going to happen.


So what lessons can this genre teach us?


Modern humans have been on this planet for ~60,000 years. This is a mere fly spec in comparison to the earth's age of 4.5 billion years. We have not seen everything that our planet or the universe can throw at us. In fact we can only now begin to intelligently imagine what wild-cards the universe can drop on the table.


When we look at Zombie fiction, several major themes jump out at you.


  • There is no guarantee of survival
  • When the unexpected and the unexplained happen, expect people to react with confusion and panic
  • Just because you can't understand what is happening does not mean that it can't kill you
  • Civilization is a thin veneer that can be cracked as easily as turning off the electricity
  • If you hesitate or fail to act, a zombie will soon be eating your brains


In Max Brooks World War Z, the US government had the information for two full years and failed to act. This was because no one wanted to look stupid (those that did raise the alarm were transfered to Alaska) and the sitting President was afraid to lose the election. When things spiraled out of control, the election was the least of his worries.


Let's change the threat. Think of zombies as a metaphor for an exceptionally dangerous threat that we have never seen before. Perhaps it is a rogue artificial intelligence, a lethal virus or a comet nudged out of its trajectory by Jupiter's gravity: can we expect our leaders to recognize the threat and respond responsibly and effectively? That's not at all clear.


Look at the response the the Gulf Oil Spill. It has been a gold plated cluster f**k from the top down. We've got people citing environmental reasons for NOT blocking the oil from sensitive wetlands and causing an environmental catastrophe. Federal and state officials are locked in mortal combat over what to do and consequently nothing is being done. When Washington finally decided that there might be some political capital to be made by dumping on the oil companies, the president found out rather quickly that oil doesn't give a shit about presidential orders. All the kings horses and all the kings men can't cap that well.


In fact the federal response to the Gulf Oil Spill has been a lot like the Soviet response to the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986: first deny the problem, refuse foreign assistance and finally let the problem get completely out of hand. It is this very formula that could lead to severe consequences in the event of a disaster that challenges the imagination and makes politicians afraid to act.


I'm not expecting a Zombie Apocalypse anytime soon. What I do feel is inevitable that a global disaster or catastrophe that will threaten the survival of our civilization.


When we look at the geological record of our planet, we can see the record of comet impacts, super-volcanic eruptions, climate changes, mass extinctions and civilizations that just up and vanished.


It's not a question of IF, it's merely a question of WHEN.

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I truly appreciated this post.

Perhaps the universe has things out there that aren't necessarily zombies, but parasitic lifeforms that can cause a sense of zombification. For example, the Flood of the Halo series. Perhaps, in reality, there is such a thing as that, and, perhaps, one day, it will reach Earth. Who knows? Who's to say?

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