Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PC Zombies

Episode 2 of AMC’s new series The Walking Dead provoked the expected eye-roll.  I mean, c’mon:  can’t we enjoy a zombie movie without being treated to the spectacle of a white southern racist hurling the N word?  In all the years I lived in the South, and as many times as I heard the N word, I never once witnessed a white person use it to address a black person.  Not.  Once.  And yet, I’m supposed to believe that among the six human survivors in Atlanta, one of them will use it against another in the middle of a zombie siege!!!

But that said, let me try to extract a worthwhile question out of this.  Come the zombie apocalypse, which social model will prevail:  a multi-cultural one?  Or a tribal one?

Deputy Rick, the series’ protagonist, opted for the first:  “There are only two races now,” he tells Merle-the-Racist, “the living and dead.”  Cornball as it sounds, I suspect something like this is probably true.  I understand that it is a commonplace among social historians that larger social groups (e.g. nations) are often forged in the fire of total war, and I’m pretty sure facing millions of the undead trying to eat our brains would motivate us to take our alliances where we can find them.  The result, I would guess, would not be multiculturalism, but rather a new culture alloyed from the remnants of the old ones.

But maybe not.  Perhaps the future would belong, not to our diverse band of survivors, but to ethnic mafias newly empowered by the collapse of the administrative state.  I’m thinking of something like MS-13 battling for territory and resources against, say, SAMCRO, and the zombies serving mainly as a nuisance that both sides must contain but otherwise ignore.

Does anybody have a strong opinion about this?


Dexter said...

Don't forget the tradition of the earliest and best Romero zombie movies, NOTLD and Dawn of the Dead, both of which had a black character who was notably more competent and survival-oriented than the white characters. Possibly Walking Dead is giving a nod to these movies.

The "only one race" model prevails when there is external discipline, as in military units. I suspect that in self-organized situations when there is general social chaos, the tendency would be to coalesce into ethnic gangs. I would be looking for a group gun-toting rednecks to join. I would avoid armed gangs of blacks or Hispanics like the plague.

Anonymous said...

History teaches us that in periods of chaos, some people cling to the comforts of civilized behavior while others leap at the chance to reject society and its rules and customs. Hence, looting becomes common in New Orleans after Katrina when law enforcement breaks down but is unheard of in nearby Mississippi after suffering even more damage.

Ethnic gangs already have a non-national hierarchical authority structure to take the place of a non-existant government so we can expect them to behave exactly the same during the post-apocalypse zombie invasion as before, looting, pillaging and preying upon the weak.

The wildcard would be the genetic barriers to infection and disease transmittal. Airborne zombie virus, natural immunities or just keeping from getting bit, all play roles in the survival tactics of the smart people.

If getting bit is the only transmission method, I expect that the zombie hoard will be easily contained by existing police, military and the vast right-wing conspiracy. Kind of like in the Stand, you have to wait for the disease to run its course and see what you are left to work with.

You can exist by scavenging for a while, but eventually, you must produce to maintain a stable society.

I did not understand how the sheriff got trapped in an M-1 tank. If that thing had fuel, it would easily roll over an unlimited number of zombies in Atlanta. No need to even use the machine guns or main gun. It would also set fire to any following it too closely.

Yes, I have given this some thought.

Anonymous said...

The "only one race" model prevails when there is external discipline, as in military units.

Or a greater external, personified enemy. This is why I agree with Phi, to an extent. When you're walking around with zombies in your midst, different ethnic groups stop looking so different. In that sense, I don't think it's comparable to Katrina where you're up against a force of nature.

When you're up against people that want to eat your brains, there's really not much point in hating on the people you fear might mug you, take an outsized share of the public pot, or take your slot at the university (and inversely, hating on the people that want to deny you that slot, who perhaps-unfairly think you want to mug them, and who want to deny you "your share" of the public pot).

It might be an uneasy alliance at first ("Man, I'm gonna kill that N'er/honkey when this is all over and done!"), but I would expect it to grow with time. However, once the zombies are gone, you can expect new cracks in the uniformity to emerge. I would imagine that they would do so pretty quickly.