Everyone Just Calm Down Already
You see that shit? That’s a guy on a plane in Dallas who had a headache. That’s it. Just a headache. But wasn’t there an Ebola case in Dallas??? There totally was, right? OH MY GOD YOU GUYS IT’S 28 DAYS LATER. WE’RE ON DAY 1 OF 28 SRSLY. That’s how we end up with someone in full hazmat gear boarding the plane to give this guy an Advil.
Now I’m definitely not the first to point out that the public freakout about Ebola in the US is unjustified thanks to things like our functioning health infrastructure and ready access to clean water, just two things of many that the West African countries hit hardest by this epidemic are severely lacking. The reason the outbreak in West Africa is so bad is thanks to more abstract and systemic problems like a lack of trust in regional governments thanks to years of bloody civil war. But let’s be honest, which would you rather do: begin a long and important conversation about decolonization and allocating foreign aid to developing countries in a sustainable manner, or cosplay for a zombie apocalypse scenario?
It’s common knowledge that post-apocalyptic fiction has been experiencing something of a renaissance in recent years, spearheaded by shows like The Walking Dead and movies like the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise. We could spend some time going into why this is, from factors like pervasive sensationalization in the media to the continued prevalence of eschatological thinking in American culture, but I want to take a different tack and appeal to all of you directly:
All Y’all Motherfuckers Need to Cool It Because the Post-Apocalypse Won’t Be Fun
That’s really the problem here. Whether it’s nukes or zombies or whatever, these stories keep getting circulated because people think that when shit goes down, they’ll get to be one of the few who gets to just, like, hang out afterwards and go on fun, action packed post-apocalyptic adventures with their friends.
But this mindset is very dangerous when thinking about how to fix the various, large-scale problems we as a society need to tackle. So I’m taking it upon myself right now to burst that bubble and burst it hard.
First Off, You’re Going to Die
You know why they call all these scenarios post-apocalyptic? Because first an apocalypse has to happen. And you know what happens in an apocalypse? Everybody dies. And guess who’s part of everybody? That’s right idiot, YOU.
Look, I get the reason these stories are fun is because you get to imagine yourself as one of the super-special few who just by virtue of not dying gets to be among those tasked with rebuilding society however the hell you want. But statistically speaking, you won’t get to be one of those people. Nukes are pretty damn devastating, and if a zombie apocalypse somehow does happen, then the moaning hordes are going to need tons of bodies. You’re probably just going to be one of those barely glimpsed faces on the news clip they play at the beginning to establish just how badly this particular strain of Killer Monkey Virus fucked everything up. So if shit goes down, start off by accepting that you’re probably going to die.
If You Don’t Die Right Away, Then You Will Die Soon After, And Not On A Super-Cool Adventure
Recently I found myself in downtown Manhattan with a dead cell phone. Despite having my wallet on me and being in one of the most densely urbanized areas on Earth, I still suffered a minor panic attack. What if something happened? What if I needed to get in touch with someone right away? What if I needed to build an impromptu fire sans internet instructions?
So take someone with that mindset and plop them in a scenario where there’s no power, no internet, and no ability to walk two minutes in literally any direction and get a cheeseburger. I give myself a day, tops. I’m already terrible with self-discipline, so all it would take would be me getting pretty thirsty to prompt me to throw caution to the wind and drink from some gross-ass puddle of water. Then I’d inevitably get dysentery from said gross-ass puddle, and end my days by shitting my brains out in a bush. And I guarantee it would be pretty similar for you too.
If by some miracle you manage to survive the actual apocalypse — which you won’t — you will not magically be granted survival skills. Do you know how to ensure water is safe to drink? How about what plants are poisonous and which ones aren’t? Can you find this out right now without googling it?
Now yes, there are some people who do know these things automatically. These people either go camping all the time or, more likely, are cleaning their five assault rifles as we speak. Which brings me to my final point about why you really shouldn’t be looking forward to the end of the world:
The Post-Apocalyptic Landscape Will Be Boring
If you somehow manage to eke out a living after the collapse of society, you will not be teaming up with other ragtag individuals and forming a panoply of variously skilled and multi-ethnic characters in a sort of microcosm of society. In all likelihood, you will be teaming up with these guys:
Because here is the part where all these post-apocalyptic stories really falter. There are only two groups who will for sure manage to survive after the fall of man: half-crazy mountain men preppers and government officials who will be shuttled off to bunkers the second things start going down the drain. In other words, the rebuilding of society will be left to scattered groups of old white dudes hiding in caves and furiously jacking off for years at a time, assuming they ever decide to re-emerge at all. Sounds like a party.
I’m not saying we need to stop partaking in these sorts of stories altogether. Indulgent fantasy is fine when you recognize that as just what it is: an indulgence. But when it starts informing how we behave in real life, like our reaction to Ebola or our plans for how to deal with an expansionist Russia, that’s when things get dangerous. Because the fact of the matter is what’s needed in these cases are drawn out and painstaking research and decision-making processes that can provide lasting solutions. And even though we all understand this on an intellectual level, the allure these stories have about the chance to be the badass you know deep inside you really are can be overwhelming in ways we don’t really acknowledge. So I urge you, the next time you hear someone freaking out about how something relatively minor is for real going to turn everybody into Ebola zombies or whatever, kill that buzz. In the long run, humanity will thank you.