Albert Camus once proposed that the only important philosophical question is that of suicide. His philosophy was born from an era of alienation and social anomie, cultivated in a culture of total war and fostered by a general society-wise malaise. His question, then, reigns even more relevant in the context of a zombie apocalypse, which takes the aforementioned conditions and amplifies them to levels unprecedented in human history. Existentialism becomes quite literally a manifest reality in a world in which human existence itself is not only in peril of obliteration by literal consumption, but also by a deeply-unsettling, anti-human agent – the Lacanian Other made flesh. The most important factor to consider thus in terms of survival first and foremost when one is presented with imminent or incumbent zombie apocalypse is the question of whether we even desire to survive at all – that is, the choice between a well-placed bullet to the head, or a long and prolonged evisceration and devouring by mob.
The zombie follows as the logical next step in the (d)evolution of modern man. As James Parker so astutely observes, ‘Twentieth-century man was already moaning and scratching his head; shambling along with bits falling off him; desensitized, industrialized, hollowed out, metaphysically evacuated.’ It should come then as no surprise if this pre-existing affliction of apathetic despair were to suddenly manifest in form of a debilitating physical affliction (as most diseases of the mind inevitably end up progressing to). Zombiehood is not at all a far step away from our current state of being – any distinction to be made arises solely from the remnants of a speciesistic, anthropocentric hubris.
So why not just give in? An ‘apocalypse’ is typically taken to signifiy the end of the world, but one must question the validity of this definition. Apocalypse is not the end of the world – no, it is not even the end of humanity. In its very etymological roots (from the Greek apocálypsis, ‘un-covering’), it is nothing more but the sublimation of the human ego; the irresolution of the precariously-defined and barely-tenuous question of ‘what makes us human?’; and the transference of semiotic power into new, unhuman (as opposed to nonhuman, which suggests exclusivity with a tinge of inferiority), and uncaring hands. Sean Francis indicates this anxiety quite well – as the zombie population undergoes a gradual yet progressively – upwards shift, human terror consistently and directly escalates, until all the population has effectively ‘turned’ – to which terror falls back to zero. As in all transitions, those who attempt to fight back against any movement (whether it be a zombie apocalypse or a revolutionary coup) are simply radical conservative reactionaries unable to embrace the tides of change; and unable to face the incontrovertible fact that one day they too will usurped by a new regime (just like the ones before them). they avert their eyes from the imminent revolution, stockpiling guns and hanging crosses over bedposts, all the while deliberately ignoring the imminent storm.
This, then, is perhaps the final and most significant fact of all – the zombie apocalypse always will win out in the end. Mathematician and occasional epidemiologist Robert Smith? (no, that’s not a typo) claims that ‘if one zombie were introduced to a city of 500,000 people, after about seven days, every human would either be dead or a zombie.’ His justification? Sure, there may be reams upon reams of statistical data on transmission rates and infectability quotients, but fundamentally, all these only serve to obfuscate a deeper and more disturbing truth: we are fighting a war of attrition. One day, we too will be replaced, and it’s only a matter of time and genetic drift before we see our end. As Smith? puts it, ‘the zombies just win, and the more they win, the more they keep winning.’ Like a malignant growth, the illness is always terminal, and any victories we achieve Pyrrhic and short-lived at best. Any attempts at fighting back are little more than short-sighted instinctual knee-jerks – the triggering of some final, atavistic twitch of pathetic desperation before we’re snuffed out.
Ultimately, survival in a zombie apocalypse is an ontological fallacy hardly more useful than tossing one’s coins into a wishing well and praying it’ll somehow conjure up a dinner for the night. Tacitly and implicitly underlying the philosophy of not only zombie apocalypse literature but all apocalyptic literature in general is the flawed notion that somehow, humans are survivors. That somehow, we are special enough to deserve to survive. The truth is, we are nothing more than dust motes scattered in the dust of this planet – just another genetic mutation in a long, evolutionary drift of genetic mutations. If zombiehood is what has been decided for us in this moment, then that is where we will go – regardless of our consent. Human consciousness, that sole obstacle which so confounds the processes of the animal world (to which we inexorably and undeniably belong), was nothing more than a curious accident, and we are the only ones who care of its extinguishing. So when and if the big one hits, line up your crosses and stock up your ammunition and board up your windows and say goodbye to your loved ones and step into the end. In a battle of attrition, the only victors are the dead. There is no greater human victory than the last voluntary sputtering of the conscious will. At least make the right choice – any other is just a futile walk off a short pier, with nothing to catch you but the long, cold dark.