10 February 2011

Reasons why I secretly want a zombie apocalypse

So I think as human beings we're generally supposed to find the concept of a life-obliterating global disaster a bit distasteful, but I must admit, there are times when I find myself secretly thinking of a zombie apocalypse in a positive light.
Like this, but a smidge less English.

Now hopefully that doesn't prompt you to think of me as some sort of monster. I'm also pretty sure I'm not entirely alone in this (the facebook group "The Hardest Part of a Zombie Apocalypse Will be Pretending I'm Not Excited" has over 60,000 members). I'm well aware it's probably not a good thing to want a zombie apocalypse. If it ever did happen, I think it's quite likely my enthusiasm would be markedly dimmed.

But I can't deny the way I feel now, and so I thought maybe I'd delve a bit into the psychology behind such a seemingly absurb concept by examining my own motivations. But worry not: I will do no actual research for this blag, and will simply ramble off gut feelings and pop-psychology buzz words. And hey, I'll also do my best to make it humorous.

1. I'd like to think I'd be good at it

Being the huge geek that I am, I have done a bit of thinking on this zombie survival business, mostly inspired by Max Brooks's Zombie Survival Guide. It's the bible many geeks swear by, and its cult success and the recent revival in zombie media likely share a back-and-forth relationship of causality. If you haven't heard of it, the book lays out a practical plan for surviving a zombie apocalypse in a deadpan impersonation of a regular survival manual (geeks are suckers for that sort of thing).

Anyway, because of that book and a general survival guide I've got and because I'm an idiot, I'm under the impression that I'd do pretty well for myself in a zombie apocalypse, provided the zombies are of the Brooksian variety (slow, shambling, propagated by a fluid-transfered virus). I think I'd be able to keep my cool, hide from or dispatch zombies efficiently, and hopefully protect the people I care about in the process. Horribly misguided geek fantasy of real-world competence? Clearly.

At this point I have a general idea of the actions I'd take when encountering an outbreak at many different locations, and have a very broad plan for long-term escape and survival. I also have a checklist of necessary items for surviving an outbreak, both in the short- and long-term; some of simpler items I already have, and the rest are organized so that I could find them as quickly as possible if there was ever a need. Ya, I know, reading that back to myself made even me facepalm.

I think one of the main draws of this aspect is the undeniable feeling of superiority it brings. I think we all have that deep, hidden desire to have our special knowledge of something given a trial by fire, in which all the posers are quickly exposed (in this case eaten), or better yet, have to ask YOU for help. I'd guess it's a bit of schadenfreude, and while I would guess that it's more prevalent in geeks, I think a lot of people probably have feelings like this about certain things. It's always nice to know that there is a definite right way and wrong way to do something, and that you're one of the few who know the right way.

Pictured: The Wrong Way. Um, 'A' for effort?... It'll make a great decoration for your corpse?...

2. My baser male instincts

Humanity was bred out of a much harsher time, and as a result of that, to this day, human males have an innate desire to hunt, kill, destroy. As the human construct of "society" has itself evoled over the millennia, these instinctual urges have been suppressed, and perhaps bred out of us to a certain extent, but are still undeniably present.

In the spirit of that suppression, I can tell you that I hope I will never be in the position to decide whether a human being lives or dies, and while I'd be willing to kill an animal to survive, I wouldn't do it gladly. And since the urge to hunt isn't satisfied by any non-animal organisms on Earth (see picture), in this modern age we have to settle for substitutes in sport, film, and videogames.

I've got you now, you son of a bitch.

But what if there was a way to kill people, without actually killing people? Yes, that is the dark question that dwells deep within the skull of the male human being, and one that is conveniently answered by the prospect of a zombie apocalypse. Since they're already dead, to kill a zombie isn't to take a life, and yet still allows a man to live out some of his most instinctual desires: to hunt, to wield a deadly weapon, and to protect himself and those he cares about. It seems like the perfect solution, aside from that whole deaths of countless innocents thing.

Regardless, as a zombie outbreak doesn't seem within the realm of the possible (or at least plausible), we instinct-driven men will have to settle for our modern substitutes, and for me and many other geeks that mostly means video games. Now I also happen to be incredibly picky about my videogames, and far as the undead go, Left 4 Dead is a decent endeavour, but doesn't fit the concept of the Brooksian zombie (techinically, in L4D they're not really zombies at all), and only focuses on the short term. Maybe if someone could make a zombie video game that was up to my specifications of scope and realism, it might be able to satiate my primal urges entirely, especially if it had some sort of persistent element to it. But nobody makes games exactly how I like them, and I've come to the conclusion that they're doing it on purpose just to piss me off.

3. The prospect of a simpler world

Another urge that I think is deep within all of us for a return to "simpler" days, back when your world went as far as your village or maybe the nearest town, people got along, and we didn't have to worry about things like traffic jams or gangs or perverts or serial killers. Of course, there never was such a time, but we can't help but long for it. I think many of us have within ourselves two contradictory views of the past and present: one that sees history as a steady progression, and one that sees it as a gradual decline. Neither is likely correct, since we always have and always will do things both right and wrong all throughout history, but we can't help but want to impose a black-and-white judgment onto our species through time.

The zombie apocalypse, provided that some people are able to survive and eventually destroy all of the undead, promises a simpler time in the end. Most of our infrastructure will have been destroyed in the apocalypse, and people would have reverted to a state of living off the land while waiting out the zombie plague. The hope some might have is that lifestyle would continue as we tried to rebuild society, and maybe in doing so we could tap back into what we perceive as the ideals and practices of "the good old days."

Pictured: Your toilet, in the good old days.

But of course, the old days were not as good as some of us would like to think. The sense of community was kept aloft by an intense fear of those who were different, and if there was less murder it was either because it wasn't spoken of or because killing and death were just business as usual amid constant war and strife, etc. But I guess there's still some hope that if we were to revert to an agrarian/village lifestyle in modern times, maybe we would be able to take the best of both worlds and whatnot. I'm still not sure whether we could, but the concept is certainly in the back of my mind when considering a zombie outbreak, foolish as it may be.

4. A clean slate

Out of all the things that draw me to a zombie apocalypse situation, perhaps the most appealing is the fact that nothing else would matter at that point. All my troubles, all my responsibilities, all that business would go out the window in the face of such a disaster. Selfish, yes, but honest. And at least somewhat relatable, I think. Now of course I'm not saying that I'm counting on a zombie outbreak to fix my problems, or that I'd ever wish such a blight upon the world just to make myself more comfortable, but since the whole zombie apocalypse thing is confined to the realm of imagination anyway, I do admit that being able to leave behind all my troubles is a positive part of such musings of mine.

Please don't think I'm a horrible person! A horrible person couldn't find this puppy adorable, right?
So that might have been going a bit too deep into my mind to remain comfortable, but I think if most of you dig deep down you'll find you may have similar sorts of "uncivilized" motivations yourself. I'm not trying to spread the blame or accuse any of you of anything of course, I just think that introspection is a very important thing.

And here I'll end with a final observation I made while writing this blag: In my considerations of why I secretly sort of want a zombie apocalypse, you can see that it taps into some of my baser instincts. It seems curious to me that operating on baser instincts is precisely one of the things that has traditionally made the concept of "zombies" so frightening. They are these quasi-human figures, but soley motivated by things like hunger and maybe propogation, and lacking all that we consider to really make a person a "human being"--empathy, remorse, memories--and as a result come across as a force of evil. So by being motivated by my baser instincts, does that make me just as evil as the zombies? Well... um... no? Maybe? Hrmm. I wasn't trying to back myself into a corner portraying myself as evil; that'll teach me for trying to make a point about morality while being so tired. So ya, I'm pretty sure I'm not evil, I'm just lacking in the capacity to prove it at the moment, so um...

Funny puppy!

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