I had thought at first about writing a “What I’m Reading” post tonight, since I just finished a really, really good book that I’m dying to tell you about.
However . . . zombies seem to have eaten my brain, so you’re getting this instead. Lucky you!
I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but zombies have been kind of a running gag in Western culture recently.
Remember Shaun of the Dead? Zombieland? 28 Days Later? The Walking Dead? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
Remember all those “Would you survive the zombie apocalypse?” quizzes that got passed around Facebook a year or two back?
Those quizzes are still out there, in droves. I just took two, to refresh myself on my zombie survival prospects. I scored 78.6% (whatever that means) on one and “You will survive and thrive” on the other. (I think they’re flattering me . . . we all know I’m way too timid and compassionate to survive an actual zombie attack.)
So what’s with all the zombies? Why do the citizens of the most sophisticated, modern, civilized culture since the fall of Rome seem so completely preoccupied with the undead?
I have a theory.
I believe that our zombie obsession is a manifestation of our latent sense of vulnerability.
Vulnerability? you may ask. We have high-tech gadgets! We have credit cards! We have the fiercest military on the planet! Why on earth would we feel vulnerable?
But we do. Or at least, I do.
Could you build a fire if you had to (without using one of those Bic lighters and half a can of gasoline)? Could you raise or hunt your own meat? Kill and butcher it? Smoke it or cure it or otherwise make it keep without spoiling? Could you grow vegetables that didn’t come from the garden center in little plastic trays? Preserve them in such a way that they might last you until you had the chance to grow some more? Do you have any idea how to milk a cow? Could you build even a rudimentary shelter for yourself and your family — one that could keep you warm and dry on the coldest, wettest nights? Could you turn natural materials into wearable clothing? Do you know how to find fresh water and how to retrieve it when you do find it? Could you walk twenty miles in a day with a load on your back? Could you defend yourself from an attack by a wild animal (or a wild human being)?
I couldn’t. Not well, at any rate.
But our forebears . . . they could (and did, usually without fuss). We’ve been reading through Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Little House books with the kids over the past few months (more on that sometime soon), and I’ve been astounded throughout by how many truly useful things Ma and Pa Ingalls knew how to do. We’re only on the fourth book in the series, and they’ve already checked off every single item in that big, scary paragraph above like it was no big thing.
Yes, friends-and-potential-future-zombies, our high-tech toys — from washing machines to smart phones — have made our lives easy, comfortable, and highly entertaining (I, for one, love to watch the spin cycle on a front load washer. Good fun, there!) . . . but they’ve also left us vulnerable.
What’s more, deep down, we know that we have cause to be uneasy. American society has enjoyed a period of peace, safety, and prosperity that is almost unprecedented in the history of the world. And yet — nothing lasts forever. Jerusalem was sacked. Rome fell. Constantinople burned. Europe got plagued. France got revolutionized. Russia got Bolsheviked.
I don’t want to be a killjoy — here! quick! have a kitten! on a turtle! — but there it is.
Sh . . . stuff happens. And if — heaven forbid — stuff were to happen to us, most of us wouldn’t be particularly well equipped to cope with it.
So we take zombie quizzes online. We play Plants vs. Zombies. We watch zombie flicks. And we read blog posts about how woefully out of luck we’d be if ever the zombies did come.
Thanks for reading mine, and best wishes for a pleasant apocalypse.