Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Feedback: The Walking Dead Metaphor

Note: This isn't exactly feedback, but it did arise from several disparate conversations I've had on the topic discussed herein.


One the most popular shows on TV right now is the AMC produced series, The Walking Dead.  For the uninitiated, it's a post apocalyptic drama about the daily struggles of a group survivors of a virus that has turned dead people into zombies.  It's set in modern day America, minus all the things that make it America.  The government is gone. Businesses are gone.  Most of the people are gone.  There is no power supply.  And there is no steady source of food.  Oh, and for the few who have managed to survive, there's an ever present threat of being eaten alive by a horde of zombies.

Under these conditions, we viewers get to watch constantly varying presentations of the four forms of literary conflict, man vs man, man vs nature, man vs society (such as it is), and man vs himself, play out over and over again, with often surprising and always entertaining results.  I will caution that it does take a while to get used to the endless and gory zombie killings.  But once you do, your mind will wander and wonder (at least mine does), intently considering the implications and parallels to the "real world".  No matter the conflict at play though, killing and deception are central to the plot-line’s resolution

The cause of the zombie apocalypse is a mysterious virus that has infected the entire human race.  Even those who are asymptomatic are afflicted.  Staying alive, without being bitten by a zombie, is the only way to avoid becoming one.  So the main characters band together and try to do just that while at the same time they try to make sense of the new world and figure out new ways of living in it.  

The zombies are a constant threat, but they are not the the only threat.  The protagonists often encounter other groups of survivors who consider them as big a threat as their common enemy.  A struggle usually ensues where the new group tries to take what the established group has.  There is no pretense.  ‘You have something that I want and I’m going to take it from you’, is the clearly verbalized and completely understood motive for the clashes that take place.  Our heroes usually win, though not without setbacks and sometimes frustrating casualties.

In the real world, our heroes are starting to lose the battles.  Not so much against the ‘zombies’ though, who, metaphorically speaking, include bad cops, terrorists, gangs, etc,.  Evil exists in the world.  We try to avoid it as much as we can by being situationally smart and ever vigilant,  That’s enough most of the time, but there are occasional losses.  But real losses are coming from the selfish acts of some of our real world surviving groups who, just like the TV characters as a part of the surviving population, are all afflicted.  But not with a deadly zombie virus, just ignorance.  Left untreated though, their ignorance grows.  And they eventually team up with others who are similarly disposed for the purpose of seeking out and taking what they want from other groups in the name of the greater good. Then they enlist some of the most powerful survivors of all, the politicians, to aid them in their peculation (think consumer financial protection bureau, black lives matter, student protests for safe spaces, teachers union strikes,etc,.)

For me, watching The Walking Dead and reflecting on the conflict that is man vs himself, has been the most thought provoking.  The basic need to survive, which is the underpinning of the show, reveals the selfish nature that is common to all of humanity.  The most honest of us realize and accept that.  The most dishonest of us claim to be doing selfless work, for the greater good.  While that sounds noble, we humans aren’t built that way.  We do things to achieve our own selfish ends, even if those ends might even be as simple as ‘feeling good’.  In the best cases our selfish acts benefit us as individuals and provide a collateral benefit for others.  In the worst cases, those selfish acts provide a benefit for us as individuals and cause great harm to others. EIther way they are selfish acts in the most clinical sense of the word.  

Don’t allow yourself to be conned into thinking otherwise because, although there is no lasting cure for ignorance, learning how to spot a con helps keep its symptoms manageable.  


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