The other day I heard a mother reference zombies in an attempt to reason with her approx. four year old on the verge of a melt down.
Quote: “Oh for goodness sake! It’s not like there is a zombie apocalypse coming.” Unquote.
There was a time when I would have been surprised by this statement. A mum using zombie humour to tether herself to the quickly fading sense of calm? But these days, when it comes to zombie references, I’m pretty much immune. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of random pop-culture – and if it involves mention of an apocalypse, even better. It resonates with the wanna-be prepper (see here) that lurks deep within me. You say ‘zombie apocalypse’ and I immediately begin mentally calculating how many tins of tomatoes I have in my cupboard at home and how long it would take me to get to them if the end of the world ‘suddenly broke out’.
The turning point for me, though, came two years ago at a Christmas party when I gained a unique perspective on the emergence of the walking dead in our daily discourse and decision making processes after I unwittingly joined a conversation about surviving a zombie apocalypse. I say ‘unwittingly’, because I didn’t realise the conversation was serious. Dead serious. In fact there was mention of an undisclosed ‘zombie apocalypse survival club’ in Canberra to which certain people present were apparently card carrying members of. OK, I didn’t actually see any cards, but I’m fairly certain there was a secret handshake at the end of the night.
Now you have to understand that by the time I joined the conversation it was moving fairly quickly, blasting through the best zombie evasion training app, on to the relative merits of a head shot vs a chest shot, to fortifying your property, on to the best way to avoid being a zack snack, before slicing through whether there was any point in amputating after a bite (well… errr not if it was to your face…). And then the conversation landed squarely on the issue of alliances. Namely the important role they play in surviving the dreaded zombies…
Not yet fully cognisant of the serious nature of the conversation, and champagne in hand, I boldly put in my two cents worth, “There will be no alliance in the event of a zombie apocalypse.” Dead silence.
Now me, being… well… me, felt the need to fill that silence, with my well versed opinions on surviving crisis. And so I said “Look, let’s be honest, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, what we know now” (puleeeese really?!), “is that you are all already infected.” I say this dead pan. Everyone is nodding. Clearly we are in agreement. Proceed. “And so I think it’s important that we face reality… come the zombie apocalypse, there will be no alliances. Alliances are for the weak and the dead. Know now, I will be conducting pre-emptive strikes.”
I don’t know what it is about slackjaws exactly, that takes normally rational, highly educated people and causes them to lose all sense of humour and perspective. Ok, so maybe suggesting I would kill the people I had only just met wasn’t the best way to bond… if this was the real world… but it wasn’t, we were still in fictional zombie land… right?
“So what you are saying is that there is no value in alliances?” Talking about hatcheting my sound bite!
“In a zombie apocalypse? No. But if it makes you happy, I’m prepared to lie to you and pretend we are in an alliance…” At least, for as long as it serves my purpose, but you’ll be sleeping in a locked cage at night.
Normally I have a fairly high threshold for weird, but here I was, surrounded by articulate, well-travelled, highly educated professionals debating the value of alliances in relation to surviving the walkers?! And all it had taken to expose a somewhat rudimentary belief system about ‘alliances’ – specifically their assumed, inherent value and the ease in which agreement to form one is reached – was one little fictional zombie apocalypse While also cutting to the marrow and exposing how zombies have come to influence our understanding of the purpose of an alliance. Zombies are coming – quick form an alliance. Alliances simply for the sake of alliances, and particularly hasty ones, rarely make sense. Zombies or no zombies.
‘Alliance’ is a pretty word we like to throw over our relationships like a big, warm, fuzzy blanket. It makes governments, corporations and citizens alike, feel strategic, well-versed, and more importantly, powerful. In a cozy sort of way. But the truth is that alliances are about making promises and commitments to others, while secretly drafting the blue prints for war in the event the zombies breach the agreed parameters. Alliances aren’t always about trust and respect, they aren’t something you can snuggle under on a cold night, they are about desperate times calling for desperate measures or, if you like, better the devil you know.
When it comes down to brass tacks, though, the only thing we love more than an alliance, is a failed alliance. It’s why we love reality tv shows that encourage people to make alliances. The crumbling disarray of an alliance allows us to act surprised, betrayed, victimised, outraged and even vilified – particularly if we weren’t part of that alliance. Even when we know that the greatest weakness of any alliance is that it relies entirely on the integrity of the humans involved, we are constantly surprised when they unravel.
I’m not saying all alliances are doomed, but if they are built on a fear of zombies sneaking up on you, rather than a shared vision for the future, well… the outcome is inevitable. Let me break it down for you – you form an alliance, your alliance buddy has a heart attack while you are sleeping and you wake up with him munching on your face. It’s not pretty. I’m just sorry it took a conversation about a bunch of dead guys to make that point.
Thomas Jefferson said ‘Peace, commerce and honest friendships with all nations; entangling alliances with none.’