Okay, folks, given that it’s now Lent, it’s confession time. (I’m not terribly religious, and particularly not Catholic, but an excuse is an excuse.) One of my guilty pleasures, of which I was able to partake over the last couple of weeks, is zombie fiction. Books, movies, TV shows, whatever. It’s not a genre I dip into very often–I can usually find something either more useful to reality, or something more entertaining overall, not to mention more well-written.
I guess it’s sort of a love-hate relationship; for as long as I can remember, the only genre of “scary things” that has continually been able to give me snap-bolt-upright-from-a-deep-sleep nightmares are zombies. I’m not certain why; a psychoanalyst would probably posit something to do with the zombies representing death–slow-moving, but inevitable. I just know that they push that particular mental button for me.
But lately, I’ve taken a step back and looked at things from a broader perspective, and one point I had somehow up until now missed became screamingly obvious: after the initial shock of the situation, the main “villain” in the story ceases to be the zombies, and becomes the other people. It’s as if the zombies become “merely” another part of the landscape, albeit a much more dangerous one than most.
To be fair, panicked people are probably easily as dangerous as any zombie (except, maybe, “fast zombies”). Those who panic, though, are generally gone fairly early on in the story, taken by zombies. No, the people that the protagonists have to deal with come in a fairly tight spectrum: Evil-dictator-of-a-competing-group (see The Governor, in the comic book/TV show The Walking Dead); power-hungry-remnant-of-the-government (see Paige Blanchard, in the book series As The World Dies); Mad-Max-criminal-anarchist-biker-gang (seen at one point or another in much of the genre); or hyper-vigilant-otherwise-good-guy-other-group (see Guillermo and Felipe, in The Walking Dead TV show). There are a few others, but many of them are variations on or combinations of these themes.
I’m sure it says something about modern humanity that the storyline evolves that way. End-of-the-world total collapse, the dead rising and trying to eat the living? That’s a snag; the real problem, though, is that group of people over there.
Which brings me to the actual point of this post. That last line is one I’ve been seeing and hearing over and over quite a lot lately, from both the right and left. (To be fair, it seems from my unsophisticated survey that the Left is calling the Right “Those People,” while the Right seems to be using that epithet for any group that isn’t the Right.) Not to get all starry-eyed, or put on my rose-tinted glasses, but really shouldn’t we be focusing on other, somewhat more tractable (!) problems, such as peak oil, or climate change, or unemployment, or food distribution, or curing the common cold?
I think that only seldom can the actual Problem be attributed to Those People, and far more often to the results of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Really, the whole “Those People” thing seems to be the modern version of our historical tribal xenophobia. There are solid evolutionary reasons for it, true–but perhaps we could try to be a bit more civilized than that, and realize that compromise (true compromise, not what has passed for it in the Legislature recently) is in fact a viable option.
I hope to return to the prepping discussion next week; it’s garden planning time!