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When Zombies Attack, You’re Delusional

April 12, 2013

Bloomberg: “When the Zombies Attack, You’ll Need Your Gun” by Stephen L. Carter begins:

Suppose the walking dead attacked your house. Would you (a) defend yourself; (b) lock the door and dial 911; (c) write a Facebook post blaming the sequester; or (d) negotiate?

Carter claims the only chance for survival is answer (a). But in the real world that is exceptionally wrong (see below).

The article is rather well put together, mentioning many important notes on the current zombie meme (including Social Security, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, gun control, sequester, apocalyptic thinking). Carter continues:

if there is one commonality to all the various presentations of zombies in popular culture, back to the early George Romero and even to 19th century “zombi” fiction, it is that nobody is there to save you. The only way to defeat the zombie is to do it yourself.


contemporary zombie stories are apocalyptic — that is, the world we know has fallen by the wayside. Government has been swept away. Plucky survivors are banding together. Self-reliance is less ideology than necessity, and self-defense is the only way to survive.

citing Tom Moylan:

“critical dystopia”: the use of an imagined, unattractive future to call attention to the sociological and technological risks of the present.

But Carter doesn’t think it will be so bad:

I myself doubt that the future is so grim. … We live in a time when all politics are Manichean. The sky is always falling. … adolescent rhetoric isn’t designed to reassure. It’s designed to frighten.

Explaining that position:

By screaming about the horrors to come, however, politicians and pundits are implicitly suggesting that government might not be able to handle what lies ahead.

But his own conclusion is equally implicit of that suggestion:

The zombie is a warning to baby boomers: Our children are worried that the fortifications along the wall might not hold. Let’s hope there’s time to leave them a different legacy.

Hope? See that’s the problem. While hope is an essential beginning, hope can only get you so far. We need to clarify the horrors and call attention to risks so we can find ways to avoid disaster. The problems are not going to fix themselves, so if we are relying on hope we are sure to be doomed.

So in the real world if you think the answer is (a) then you are more dangerous than the zombies. Because in the real world, the zombies are people who disagree with you and who are blind to you and your concerns, going about their day without even realizing they are zombies. In dialogue, our ego defenses rush to defend our sense of self, but we must learn to negotiate; which may mean we lose something of ourselves but we must accept that we are not always right and learn from each other. We must build our community together inclusive of the Other. This cannot happen at the point of a gun.

So, when the zombies attack – please consider that you are insane and don’t grab a gun and start shooting. Consider similarly, the viral media story of 19 year old Jeremiah Hartline who stole a big rig truck causing a California traffic accident involving strawberries – all because, as he claims, he was being chased by zombies (presumably either a lie or hallucination). But imagine how much worse that could have been had he had a gun and started shooting… and then he would be the zombie and maybe we’d hope another driver had a gun too?

As Alan Yuhas wrote in the Guardian:

Perhaps this awkward mix of ideas is why nobody can quite agree on the [Walking Dead’s] politics, despite all its thick dialogue about just that. Some call it libertarian, others liberal, and others conservative, citing how it forces people to: “grapple with the tragic reality in front of you, rather than make believe that the world, and human nature, are things that they are not.”

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