Tag Archives: thought experiment

Why I Don’t Fear the Zombie Apocalypse

Ever since The Walking Dead has made zombies a marketable cash cow  for a new generation of consumers, there have been many commentators (some more serious than others) talking about all the possible “what-if” scenarios, if (in purview of some hypothetical reality) zombies were actually to rise from their graves to feed on our delicious human flesh.  It’s a thought I, too, had many years ago when I first saw Night of the Living Dead as a kid, and since then my worry on possible zombie apocalypses has remained unchanged; in that, if it were to happen, I see no personal reason to worry about it at all.  Allow me to explain this in blog digestible form, by composing a short list of three reasons why a zombie outbreak gives me no viable concern.

1.  Zombies are slow and extremely stupid.  Even as an easily fooled youngster who was prone to believing that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a real thing living somewhere in the sewers of New York City (let’s be honest, it would be the less surprising find, compared to what is probably really crawling around down there), I still could not believe the premise of any zombie movie where these slow-moving, completely brain-dead things take over the world; dragging one foot at a time, as we sprint ahead at full speed.  I think I could probably lightly skip my way passed a traditional zombie movie monster (at a relatively casual pace), and still be so far ahead of it that I could take a brief nap on a tree branch, wake-up refreshed, and continue on thereafter without losing an inch of my head start.

I don’t understand how these things could manage to outmaneuver anybody, they’re joints barely bend for crying out loud.  If you don’t have the speed or flexibility to get passed a zombie, you probably got other (far more pressing) health issues you should be more worried about than a zombie attack.  Another thing, since these things are really, really, really stupid, and we have a whole functioning arsenal of fleets stocked with weapons strong enough to wipe out all of civilization several times over, why on earth couldn’t we figure out a way to lure them into a giant hole somewhere [the Grand Canyon would work just fine], seal it off, and take them out from there in one big swoop?  Or, at the very least, why can’t we put up a large array of treadmills all around the outskirts of the country, so that those dumb things can just walk in place as we take them out from above.

Which brings me to my second reason for not fearing a zombie outbreak.

2.  I live in the South.  Some people are under the impression that Jesus is Lord in the American South, but those people are a little misinformed.  For many Southerners, Samuel Colt is the true messiah by which we are all made equal around here, and the 2nd Amendment is the Divine scripture through which His will be done on earth (can I get a hallelujah, brothers and sisters?).  In the South, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if we really did have more bullets then there are actual people in all of North America, not to mention, a helluva lot of trigger-happy folks itching for some (un)life target practice.  If zombies start scavenging around the United States, I don’t see them getting very far past the Mason-Dixon line.  Which means that, even though I don’t personally own a gun, and wouldn’t be good at firing one if I did [poor eyesight and all], I’ll still be the safest SOB in the country on account of all the brave yokels ready to face the swarm of slow-moving dead guys.  And, if we’re being honest, many of them will probably take out a good number of zombies before they even realize that they were in fact shooting at zombies–‘cuz, son, trespassin’ is a mortal sin ’round these here woods.  That goes for the living and the dead.

And, finally,

3.  What’s the worst that can happen, really?  Let’s say I’m bitten by a zombie, and I become a zombie, then what?  Nothing, because I’ll lack the cognitive capabilities to even so much as give a shit about my new undead state.  It’s not like I’m going to be bummed out about it, contemplating the depressing existence I’m now forced to endure for the remainder of time.  I’m a freaking zombie!  I won’t (I can’t) care.  I won’t care about anything except getting a bite of some of that savory, mouthwatering, “save-the-taters-and-just-pass-the-gravy,” delicious human flesh.  I’ll tell you what else I’m not going to care about: bills, mortgage payments, debts, my income, that stupid “check engine” light that keeps coming on in my car [no matter how much I check that stupid engine and find nothing there].  Because I’m a zombie, I’ll have no cares; so what’s there to worry about even in the worst case scenario of a zombie apocalypse?  Come to think of it, it kind of sounds rather relaxing.

With werewolves, on the other hand, there is no point in even contemplating the outcome.  Because I’ll be one of the first people those quick and agile motherfuckers eat and digest.

Examining Rousseau’s Thoughts on the Significance of Children’s Tears

Crying is an infant’s native language, and tears are the syntax by which he first learns to articulate himself to the world.  At least, so much is true for Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in his groundbreaking thought experiment, Emile, attempts to give insight to the proper way of rearing a child to adulthood.  The significance of an infant’s tears is held to be most seminal in their early occurrences, as they will serve to determine the infant’s initial experience with a secondary person.  And, even more importantly, the reaction of the caretaker to these first cries will be the formative influence on the child’s future relations and expectations within society.

Infants are naturally subjective thinkers; having to learn about external objects and secondary persons through their repeated interactions with them.  The method by which all children eventually achieve an understanding of the other is through movement, or as Rousseau puts it, “It is only by movement that we learn that there are things which are not us, and it is only by our own movement that we acquire the idea of extension.”[1]  Nonetheless, this ability to use motion as a means to relate to our surroundings is a learned trait, hence the newborn infant suffers a great discomfort as he experiences a need to know and grasp the objects around him, but has to rely on others—constituting more exteriors he is also quite ignorant of—to satisfy this need.  The child is conflicted between the highly personal world he experiences, and the dependence he has for others to satisfy his needs; and “this is the source of children’s screams.”[2]  Tears are the words by which children make their needs intelligible to the world.  But because the infant is much closer to the nature of man, than the grown and corrupted adult, the language utilized is simple and basic, where all ills and discomforts are vocalized as pain.[3]  Although, Rousseau’s philosophy adamantly insists that man is a solitary being, self-sufficient by nature, here he does admit that in the earliest stages of life a person is in need of others for survival.  However, this apparent contradiction can be rectified by emphasizing the role self-preservation plays in Rousseau’s natural man.  An infant cries when he is in need of something, experiencing a specific discomfort, never to arbitrarily bond with his caretaker; his tears are an indication of a matter that he needs taken care of, not a want for pampered attention.  For if the latter was true it would stifle the solitary disposition of the newborn man.  A gross impossibility, since freedom is Rousseau’s man’s primary need.  Hence, it is not the cries of a child calling to satisfy his basic needs that set him on the path to social degradation, but the improper response rendered on to them by his misguided caretakers.

It is a natural phenomenon of modern childrearing to zealously fret over a child in order to prevent any harm from coming to him, only to cause him the greatest long-term harm conceivable in the process; a dependence on servitude, and an unnatural yearning for domination.  “As long as children find resistance only in things and never in wills, they will become neither rebellious nor irascible and will preserve their health better.”[4]  Unfortunately, this lesson is easily ignored, and children are nagged over under the false impression that providing for children’s needs entails accommodating their whims as a servant.  Rousseau urges on parents and caretakers to recognize the ills of this trend as a primary cause for the softening of societal children, in comparison to their more rural counterparts, and recognize how with every pampering, coddling, and needless fussing, a further step is taken to rob the child from becoming a wholly well-adjusted adult.  Tears originate as a means for children to communicate some legitimate distress they may have, but, “if one is not careful they soon become orders.”[5]  This is where man’s fall from the natural order starts.  Man has no need for the concept of servitude, either to serve or to be served, thus any implication to the contrary (including a constant yielding to his arbitrary wishes during infancy) immediately acts to take man away from his natural disposition.  Thus, it can be said that our entire notion of social relations is perverted because our caretaker’s lacked the patience to distinguish between our inherent needs for preservation and our acquired wants for dependence.

As stated previously, a child learns about his surroundings through movement, implying that he must be given the upmost freedom to roam and experience the environment around him.  Rousseau insists that exploration is natural for an infant, and gives the example of a child stretching out his hand to reach a far off object (page 66).  However, because he is incapable of estimating the distance of the object, his attempts to reach the object fail.  Now, the child will cry and scream in anger, not because he does not understand his own external relation to the distant object, but because he wants to will it to him through sheer force.  When such a situation arises the proper response is to ignore the child’s tears for obedience, as it will teach him immediately that he is not the master of those around him, nor can he command inanimate objects to obey him.  This sort of disciplining is also important as it will eventually lead to a general decrease in the amount of tears as children become “accustomed to shed them only when pain forces them to do so.”[6]

Although tears are clearly a natural mode of communication for children, the ease by which they are misused, and the potential dangers this leads to if the behavior is left uncorrected, is the formative cause of society’s degradation.  Rousseau argues that children’s dependency on other’s to satisfy their needs is a weakness, aggravated by the servile response of their caretakers, and that in this weakness “is subsequently born the idea of empire and domination.”[7]  When children learn from early on that their every whim can be satisfied through fury, rage, and temper tantrums, a dangerous precedent is set for how they will interact with the world as adults; they will grow accustomed to the servitude bestowed on them in infancy and through it develop an unrelenting demand for submission from their fellow man, who may or may not reciprocate kindly to the demand.  A struggle for power is thereby established amongst individual persons, each vying for dominance over the other, which will reflect in the despotic mores of society.  And man’s natural solitary state will be lost to the vices of anger, conceit, control, and power; otherwise known as the despicable world we are living in.

Emile is not meant by Rousseau to be a serious manual on how to rear a child from infancy to healthy adulthood, it is a philosophical reflection on how man has fallen to the state he is in, and how this fall begins with the first sounds we make.  Like man, the tears of children start out innocent, used to satisfy a natural need, but excess indulgence leads to the corruption of this natural feature, thus allowing man’s ominous passions to arise from it.  These passions corrupt precisely because they are unnatural, and due to the fact that society is built on these unnatural responses, the degradation is further agitated by each subsequent generation that is nurtured in the civilized fronts of existence.  And if the dilemma is to be remedied, then it must begin at the first whimpering made.

[1] Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Emile, translated by Allan Bloom (Basic Books, 1979), p. 64.

[2] Rousseau, p. 64.

[3] Rousseau, p. 65.

[4] Rousseau, p. 66.

[5] Rousseau, p. 66.

[6] Rousseau, p. 69.

[7] Rousseau, p. 66.

Crimes of the Father, or How We View Justice and Guilt

Sometimes I like to ponder on a thought experiment, which supposes that in March of 1945, Eva Braun gave birth to Adolf Hitler’s only child, who survived the war.  And not only did he survive the war, but everyone knows about him, knows about his parentage, and his location is neither secret, nor protected.  Everything else remained the same as we currently know it now.  Hitler and Braun still shoot themselves in April 1945, Germany still surrenders a week later, the Nuremberg trials proceed as they did.  Every single detail about World War II, and its aftermath, remains the same in this hypothetical timeline as it did in our real history–except for the fact that Hitler’s legacy now includes this baby boy.  So, my question is, how justly do you think people would treat this hypothetical child, in light of his father’s atrocious crimes against humanity?  Remember, he was only two months old when the war ended in Europe, had no hand in any of the decisions carried out by his despot parent, on account that he was too young to even be fully aware of his parent’s existence.  The obvious response I imagine people would give is that they would not blame the innocent boy for the crimes his father had committed, and treat him with the same unbiased opinion as they would any other child.  But this is an easy position for us to claim in a hypothetical scenario, because we are calm and capable of approaching the issue without any emotional consideration.  If the posed questioned was not merely a thought experiment, I think the response would be much different.

You’ve suffered at the hands of the Third Reich; watched your loved ones die around you in agonizing pain; been beaten, starved, left without a home or hope; all due to the actions of that one man who had evaded punishment by taking his own life before anyone else could take it from him.  But here was his son, all that remains of the criminal’s flesh and blood, lying healthy, yet as helplessly as you did at the mercy of his father’s once menacing might.  Now, I ask again, what would your real feelings be towards this child?  Can you honestly say that you would have no resentment or prejudice against him, solely on account of his father’s heinous actions?  And, perhaps, you still insist that your answer remains the same as before, which is fair enough, as I’m in no position to dictate what your personal feelings would be in any given scenario.  But let me ask you another question then: do you believe that the rest of society would be as fair minded as you in dealing with this child?  Or, do you think that it is much more likely that our communal need for justice will quickly develop into a call for vengeance against this spawn of pure evil?

Maybe not at first–our better conscience might win out and prevent us from killing him in infancy–but what about as he grows older?  Would even the most trivial of offenses by the adolescent boy be used as a warrant to denounce him to be as wicked as his father?  Will we associate ever moment of anger and frustration to some inevitable predisposition?  And, if he did become just as bad as his old man, how much of it would we immediately attribute to his genetic relations, without even considering the role our preemptive scrutiny of his character had in shaping his ominous personality?  (Fostering self-fulfilling prophecies is a hallmark of our species, after all.)

I think the way a person responds to this thought experiment says a lot about one’s views of humanity, and its capacity to carry out fair justice, free of biases and prejudices.  I’ve written in the past about my opinions on the failings of our Justice System, how too often we seek vengeance on criminals, than rehabilitation; how we’d prefer to punish a scapegoat, than have no perpetrator to punish at all.  Thus, personally, I think the kid would be dead before he reaches 18 (either through homicide from a vengeful lurker, or suicide brought on through a lifetime of guilt by association for even the most minor of trespasses he might commit in life).  Whether that makes me realistic or pessimistic is anyone’s guess.