Contrary to Popular Opinion: The Zombie Apocalypse

In this new series, I will talk about things where I generally disagree with the public, the geek public in particular, and why. If we got comments on this blog, I’d expect a lot of them to be angry and misspelled for these articles.

Some people say our civilization has peaked. That right around the end of the 20th century, things were about as good as they were ever going to get for humanity, and now we’re on the slow, ugly decline into extinction, or at least the fall of civilization. This, such people say, explains the rise in prevalence of the zombie apocalypse in public consciousness. Society is dead, they would say, and all we can do is hold onto the scraps of what we still have before the looming threat destroys what safety we still possess (psst, that threat is made manifest by the zombies if you aren’t sure).

Now, from that perspective, I’ll grant that the idea has merit. I do quite enjoy some zombie stories, and you’ll note this isn’t a Things That Need to Go Away article. The problem arises from the growing mindset among fans that this zombie apocalypse is A. inevitable, B. a true danger to humanity, and C. something good, or at least a good test of their mettle. While I can enjoy zombie stories as fiction, I admit to finding this mindset to be rather silly.

For starters, however one views the coming of this apocalypse, whether from biological weapon, plague, space radiation, or voodoo hex, the idea that a zombie apocalypse is coming is pretty absurd. I imagine most people have enough ability to tell the difference between fantasy and reality to grasp this, but then, why do so many talk about their contingency plans for it happening? Why do so many people write books about it as though it really could? Are people hundreds of years from now going to think our society really expected this to happen? We laugh at people in the 50’s who feared nuclear war and talked about ducking and covering under desks, but at least nuclear war was a real and terrifying threat. Zombies aren’t real and never will be, yet we act as though planning for it makes us clever.

There’s also the fact that zombies, if they did rise from their graves and attempt to devour us, wouldn’t be that big of a deal to destroy. Let’s look at what zombies are. They’re people. People who are stupid, slow, and rotting. Okay, depending on the mythos, some might be able to run, talk a little, or carry the disease in a single bite. While that could make them slightly dangerous and able to do a little bit of damage to individuals, once humanity got their shit together and formed an organized counterattack, the zombies would be annihilated. The national guard, a SWAT team, hell, even a local militia, all have the advantage of firearms and strategy. Maybe a few .45s and shotguns wouldn’t be enough to hold off a whole graveyard, but once anyone with a few automatic weapons and a decent supply of ammo came along, it doesn’t matter how many of them there are. There is also the fact that most corpses are buried about six feet underground. In the amount of time it would take them, being not that much stronger than ordinary people, to claw their way out of their graves and the earth above, people could be waiting to take them out. Finally, graveyards would eventually run out, and living humans still outnumber the dead by a fair bit. It doesn’t seem like a war of attrition zombies could win, even if they had the advantage of surprise out of the gate and managed to infect a lot of people.

As to nerds being true heroes of the zombie apocalypse, I really hate to down on my own people here, but even though the geeks of the world think they’re best-prepared for such an apocalypse in the highly unlikely event it did happen and stuck, we would, on the whole, be among the first to die. Knowing what works in fiction is usually a very poor indicator of what happens in reality. The most important skills would be the things we sun-shunners avoid: survival skills, hunting, building shelter, living without electricity, firearms, and traveling long distances without rest. There is also the fact that what we think we would do in a crisis is usually very different from what we actually do, and fear is a powerful motivator. Even if the zombies were able to be dealt with, in any apocalyptic situation, ordinary people turn on each other, and the strong would take from the weak. All the mean kids from school and their redneck parents would be killing your pets for food, stealing your cleverly hoarded supplies, and booting you out of the shelter to be eaten once you aren’t useful enough to share with. This would not be a pretty world, and getting all the achievements in Left 4 Dead is not adequate preparation.

Hey, if you enjoy zombie fiction, good for you. Like everything else, it’s all in the execution, and it can be good or bad. But trying to prepare for a fake apocalypse, when the real world has problems enough of its own, is taking it too far. If you really do fear the end of the world, learn to camp. Learn to hunt. Learn to farm. Find somewhere isolated and bring a lot of guns. But the truth is, we’re all better off trying to fix the world we have instead of preparing to live in a much more broken one.