Last year, while discussing with someone my involvement with the Boy Scouts when I was a kid, I mentioned that one of my favorite aspects of Scouting was having learned wilderness survival skills. I was asked at this point whether or not I was one of those who was preparing for the ‘zombie apocalypse.’ I was puzzled, as the question seemed sincere … this led me to look around a little bit at what was going on in American culture (it’s been a good while since I lived there). I was shocked at first – that a search engine returned so many results relating to how prepared one can possibly be for a zombie apocalypse. I mean, okay – I believe in a lot of things, and that our Universe is large enough to hold uncountable possibilities – but zombies? Perfectly dead people who get reanimated to go shamble around the woods and do someone else’s evil bidding, while mumbling b-r-a-i-n-s over and over? In the Boy Scouts, the motto is ‘Be Prepared;’ but I’m guessing even Lord Baden Powell never would have foreseen zombies creeping into his orderly camps!
But my sense of humor is a hardy one, and I thought I would look into the matter more deeply. As it turns out, the whole notion of a zombie apocalypse is a result of Hollywood – no surprise, there – but then the notion eventually came to symbolize general preparedness. I was intrigued when I found a page from the Centers for Disease Control’s web site (decapitalizing web and internet feels very weird to me, by the way). On this page, it was also stated that the government was using an opportunity, created by the zombie craze, to encourage a general sense of preparedness in the average American household. I really liked that idea – Emergency Preparedness was another merit badge I earned, along with Wilderness Survival – so, more at peace with the sense of priorities in American society, I didn’t think much further about the matter.
Then, a few days ago while walking, the memory resurfaced and I thought about it from another angle. Zombies, from a religious sense, aren’t really that difficult for me to wrap my mind around … it’s the Hollywood sense that I initially reacted to. But what about zombies in other senses? Socially? Politically? And those are just a couple of senses of the word that I started contemplating. Fully reduced to its most simple and bare meaning in the English language, a zombie is an unfortunate creature that isn’t really alive, isn’t really dead, and does the bidding of someone else. I would say that it exists in a miserable state; but since zombies have no will of their own, they may not even be aware of the state in which they exist. It would not be a far stretch to compare zombies with slaves. A zombie apocalypse refers to a collapse of society, due to a rapidly growing population of zombies within that society.
So, for a zombie apocalypse to happen, it would require a large number of people with no wills of their own, surging in numbers sufficient to cause a collapse in a given society. This is a startling thought, as examples spring to mind almost instantly – some a bit closer to home than I would have originally considered. Backpacks, stuffed with provisions, with various weapons at the ready doesn’t seem so far-fetched in the sense of a zombie apocalypse as I’d originally thought. In some places in the world, it would seem this is already a very concrete reality. Closer to home, I see the danger arising out of a blind sense of conformity. I look at people who get caught up in certain perspectives, ideologies, or even beliefs to the point where their independent will (and along with it, their capacity for independent and critical thought) is sapped, to be replaced with an almost blinding desire to conform to and even blindly obey whatever it is they have surrendered their will to.
Now before someone accuses me of assuming an attitude of general non-conformity, I’d like to point out that the definition of zombie apocalypse I’m using deals with a rampant surge of enthralled automatons that contribute to a collapse of society – I’m adult enough to understand that some degree of conformity is required for a healthy society or group to function. Even a meeting of true non-conformists would be a logistical nightmare, let alone a functioning society! But, like anything else in our world, too much of anything is not healthy. Rather than grabbing my gear and provisions, though, I think I will fall back on encouraging people I encounter to remember that our choices are our own to make – choice, from a philosophical perspective, may be one of the few things we truly do own in our lives – and thus make my own small contribution toward staving off a zombie apocalypse.