By Mark Campbell
When it comes to zombie fiction, one thing that seems to elude people in the United States is just how quickly our modern society can fall apart.
For being a county that tends to question and scrutinize every action our leaders do, we seem to place an overwhelming amount of faith in them to keep us safe during a crisis. Sure, we expect there to be some turmoil for a bit, and many of us may even have a week or so of food and water ‘just in case,’ but in the end we expect the situation to be contained and business to return back to normal. The very idea that things won’t get better seems about as absurd as the idea of zombies themselves.
Most literature and film purposefully exclude the fall of society for that very reason. Judging by the armchair critic’s comments about AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and films like ’Dawn of the Dead,’ it seems to take more suspension of disbelief to get over the fact that the army couldn’t just ‘shoot them all in the head and quarantine the sick’ than it does to accept the fact that the dead are coming back to life.
After all, the concept of a rapid demise seems almost implausible given the numerous fail-safes and protocols our government, both federal and local, has in place. The United States’ entire bureaucratic landscape of alphabet agencies has a procedure for nearly every emergency that could possibly arise and our military has enough firepower to destroy the world, yet if we were faced with any type of extraordinary calamity it would all collapse quicker than one could blink an eye.
To begin to illustrate my point, all we need to start with is a single police officer.
We, as a society, expect this officer to do his job, as does the department he works for.
Yet once an emergency breaks out and civil order falls apart, how long will that officer keep doing his job before he starts thinking about his family, his friends, and his very own life?
Will he still be willing to do their duty when he knows looters are terrorizing his neighborhood? Will he still be following orders when the supervisors aren’t there to give them out anymore? When the officer is down to his last bullet and there is no backup, will he use that bullet to protect your life or the life of his wife if the circumstances came down to it? Who would he choose, honestly?
What about the other people we rely on in a crisis?
Will the solider keep manning a mundane highway checkpoint while their children and elderly parents are at home alone and defenseless?
Will a FEMA or Red Cross volunteer keep working at a shelter dispensing valuable food when they don’t have any food for the mouths waiting for them at home?
Will a doctor keep going to work when the electricity shuts off and the stench of death lingers along every corridor?
What about the prison guard? Will they go to work and protect a bunch of convicts or stay home and protect their loved ones?
At the end of the day, human nature will kick in no matter who you are or what position you hold. Absenteeism, pessimism, and selfishness will be the curator of society’s demise.
As a society, we can’t rely on someone else to take care of us when things go off of the rails. In my book, Degeneration, I explore what would happen during a zombie apocalypse, but what about some real world examples? Where was the federal government during Hurricane Katrina and the horrific events inside the Superdome? How effective was the Haitian government at protecting lives during and after the catastrophic quake they experienced? During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, how many had to die before the world’s governments reacted?
Believe it or not, we were actually lucky so far; someone always came through with help in the end, but one day an event will be so large and catastrophic that there will be no coming back from the ashes.
When it unfolds you’ll wait it out in your basement with your week’s worth of food and water while the president and his best men wait it out in their bunkers, but hunger and thirst don’t discriminate.
The dust won’t settle.
The supplies will run out.
Everyone dances to the same savage tune in the end.
No society, no matter how modern or sophisticated, can sustain itself forever and sometimes the end is truly the end.
The frightening part is just how quickly that can happen.