Do Not Just Survive – Overcome

To overcome an enemy or to overcome a force, which would be easier to tackle? When considering the zombie conflict, one could either draw the line between humans and zombies or between humanity and an epidemic. But to fight against an enemy is easier to comprehend and plan for than trying to prevent against an intangible infection. One suggests a two-sided fight, while the other suggests a one-sided attempt at survival. As a head of state, I would vote to go on the offensive during the Honolulu Conference in order to label this conflict as a war against zombies rather than a survival against disease to maintain the ethical considerations that defines humanity as well as to actuate my people effectively.


The Redeker plan is compared to “inhumane” events of history, such as Nazism because of its social elitist elements of saving some, while sacrificing the rest. On the other hand, if the WWII comparison is extended, the plan discussed at the Honolulu Conference is reminiscent of the celebrated D-Day. This comparison is drawn from the motivation to fight for the “human spirit” incorporated in this plan. This “human spirit” is one the few factors in differentiating humans from zombies, helping humans view this fight as a battle against enemies rather than against previous loved ones and victims. With this plan, humans attempt to save those they had previously abandoned, which is a demonstration of elements of the humanity, such as cooperation and care – ideas that zombies, who just act for survival, lack. Giving the population this reconnection with the “human spirit,” would allow them to more easily trust me, which is another important characteristic of humanity.


Cooperation is part of the “human spirit”

To implement the plan just for ethical reasons is a foolish decision for a leader. But one of the biggest benefits of going on the offensive and seeing this conflict as a war, is providing a conceivable end goal for the population. Having a tangible goal gives greater motivation. Going back to the WWII comparison, leaders who were able to tap into the morale of their population were able to more effectively motivate the population. Comparing purely the strength and economy of Germany to the US, one would say that the US was vastly superior during the time. However, the fervor of Germany’s population compared to the apathy of America’s population led to Germany making a huge impact in World War II, largely as a result of Germany mobilizing and cooperating as a whole country, illustrating the importance of morale. Although sending a limited number of soldiers against “[t]wo hundred million zombies” seems like “a very gloomy prospect for victory,” (Brooks, 271), it is still surmountable obstacle that can be overcome by chipping away the number. In comparison, an untouchable virus that could only be prevented against and not won against is demoralizing. Thus, to be able to inspire the population to act would perhaps yield better results than just having them wait until the “enemy simply rot[s] away,” (Brooks, 265).


Morale can impact the war

One could say that humans are most powerful when they are motivated by ideas that transcends simple survival and movements that transcends themselves. Only by transcending our own numbers could we even hope to overcome all odds to win this war.

Total War Against the Zombies: It was worth.

Humanity’s war against the zombie epidemic was unlike any other war. All other wars that we had encountered in the past had been operated by humans. And human soldiers needed to be “bred, fed and led” (Brooks 271). Zombies, on the other hard, did not have to be bred, fed and led. They were programmed to infect the human population, did not need arms to do so, and did not need food to survive. Even if we declared “total war” where every one of us would “commit every second of [our] lives to victory”, such victory would undeniably be in jeopardy. Adding to this very inherent fact that the zombies had the upper hand, General D’Ambrosia suggests that the very idea of a total war itself is flawed on two levels; it is physically impossible to have every citizen working for the war, all the time and as humans, we had “emotional and physiological breaking point[s]” (273). As humans, there is a limit to enduring sacrifices and mental and physical suffering. How, then, could we fight off the zombies without support from every citizen, every waking moment?


Accurate depiction of emotional distress on war ground with zombie attacks. (Image from

As the war against the undead is carried out, the readers clearly see such emotional and physiological breaking points. For example, Father Sergei Rykhov narrates the tremendous levels of mental stress that comes with dealing with infected soldiers on the war ground. Once infected, someone had to kill his comrade. Someone had to kill a friend “whom [they] fought with side by side, shared break and blankets” (295). When the responsibility is placed on the field commanders, they ultimately end up committing suicide. In other words, the declaration of war between humans and zombies creates a sense of camaraderie between the soldiers. Unlike how Rat Face simply shot the girl that had become a zombie with complete emotional detachment, the “us against them” mentality inherent in a war made the bitten soldiers ‘an infected friend’ rather than ‘then human, now zombie’ (79). In such ways, the war against zombies clearly brings about emotional breaking points. Not only that, the traditional methods of fighting off zombies was completely ineffective. The boobie traps, for example, was completely useless in that the soldiers “wanted them upright and easy to spot, not crawling around the weeds waiting to be stepped on like land mines themselves” (324). As such, the war was a completely unfamiliar kind with completely different species with huge emotional commitment and distress.

So is it worth it? Are all the lost soldiers and emotional breaking points worth going against the zombies for? If I was head of state in World War Z, I would have voted yes. Yes, the war against zombies was a huge risk. But yes, we had to. Had we not gone to war with the zombies, the uncertainty of whether the zombie did, in fact, completely die off would have persisted. Simply waiting for the decomposition of the zombies would have put us at risk of running out of resources. In a few years, even the safe zones, isolated from zombies could end up like “barricaded zones [with] nothing but rat-gnawed skeletons…that fell to starvation or disease” (325). The citizens of such barricaded zones that Todd’s army encountered had indeed fallen victim to the depletion of resources. There is no denying that this could have easily been the world’s future had they simply waited for zombies to die off. Not only that, it is revealed that the zombies were incredibly resilient. According to Michael Choi, the zombies underwater were there and functional – withstanding the saltwater and pressure. Clearly, it would have taken a long while for such hardy zombies to die off. Not only that, the depletion of resources would have generated a sense of uncertainty. Without the citizens’ trust in the government, a healthy economy cannot be run as Arthur Sinclair underscores in his interview (337). Thus the safe zones would have failed resource-wise and, on top of that, economy-wise.

Propaganda against communism that reads “After total war can come total living” a slogan which also rings true to the humans’ fight against the zombies.(Image from

            Declaration of World War Z, with all its losses, was nonetheless necessary. Such waiting and build up of uncertainty was avoided. As Todd recollects, it was “finally the beginning of the end” (282). Despite the emotional and physical suffering that the war generated, it did not lead the society to go into uncertain periods of starvation and economic turmoil. Not only that, the war itself was driven by people who did not simply strive to be the next “heroes” but people who were motivated to save the human race. We see this through Todd’s reaction to the zoomies outside of Omaha. He says “they were actually living better than us, fresh chow, hot showers, soft beds. It almost felt like we were being rescued” (321). He is simply reassured that some “people he liberated”, as phrased by the interviewer, were surviving and were doing well. Todd did not hold the arrogance that he had “liberated them”. Todd simply worked to save the human race by clearing safe zones—it was his role in the total war. As such, towards the end of the novel, the idea of “total war” is redefined by “the Whako”. Whako says that “everybody’s gotta pitch in and do their job” and tells the tree that it is “doin’ a good job”. In other words, the “role” that one plays to pitch into the war need not be huge and heroic. It is the sense of pulling the community together emotionally that we are responsible for preserving. That is the role that the common civilians play in total war, and that is how a ‘total war’ state can be achieved. Thus, as head of state, I would have voted ‘yes’ to go to war against the zombies.

Works Cited

Brooks, Max. “The Great Panic.” World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. 79. Print.

What About Our Future?

If I were head of state in World War Z, I would have to say that I would vote for going on the offensive. In my opinion, living in the shadows fearing for your life is not the best route to follow for the ultimate survival of humans as a race. At the rate of zombification, the zombies are going to outnumber the living which is going to make it even more difficult to later eradicate the zombie population. And like how we talked in class about the Redeker plan, there may need to sacrifice the few to save the many. Without any normal living humans, there is no future for humanity as our race will be wiped out. So regardless of the potential social and ethical implications this decision may create, it is important to make the decision to go on the offensive if we even want a chance of potentially have future generations who can move on from the horrors of the Great Panic.


Who should you save?

From a social standpoint, by taking the offensive (with an ultimate win of the war), the human spirit will change dramatically from the “Shaken, broken species, driven to the edge of extinction” (267) as described in the Honolulu Conference. When faced in an environment in which you are constantly fearing for your life and/or a loved one, your morale can begin to deteriorate. For example, for some of the humans that continue to live feel the stress and burden of those who are struggling to survive, cannot handle the “never resting, never fading, never ceasing their call to join them” (199). The guilt to being a relatively normal survivor can become a heavy burden to the point of suicide as people can not handle the emotions that people are emoting. But with the ultimate elimination of the zombie race, this emotional trauma, with time, should begin to decline until in the future, the generations can live happily and peacefully. These future generations can recover but still look back at the past as a reminder and lesson of hopefully preventing or stopping another zombie outbreak from occurring once more. Also, these future generations could actually live, not just surviving.


The broken human spirit

Furthermore, in this zombie war, there isn’t necessarily any “comfort” any more. In Siberia, “the only comfort they could expect” (296) was dying as a group instead of individually. All this death surrounding everyone from suicide to reanimation must not have a healthy influence on members of the living community. Many others may develop similar desires to simply leave the living in order to escape from the traumas of their present. However, the winning of the war should cure all of this. For example, Joe from Washington describes the Great Panic  as a unifying experience as “anywhere around the world, anyone you talk to, all of us have this powerful shared experience” (336). There can be a newly discovered, and even more powerful, feeling of community and unity among the surviving and new generations. Humans can learn that even though they may be going through a situation in which they see no positives, they have people that they can depend upon for advice and support.


A new sense of community amongst the living

Furthermore, from a tactical standpoint, I feel that the best method of attack would be to lure the zombie masses into one central location in which the armies could be strategically placed around to have the best angle to attack. With each zombie moan, more and more zombies would become attracted to this location which hopefully ease the burden of having to chase and find each zombie in the nearby vicinity.


A sample location for the zombie attack

Also, by viewing this zombie attack as a “war” instead of simply an epidemic, it may promote the idea amongst the military ranks that they should have a greater involvement. Typically when I hear of an epidemic, my mind switches to a scientific side and vaccinations. However, in this scenario, there is no “cure” to quickly quarantine or eradicate the “epidemic.” Furthermore, in several cases, it is more difficult to contain an epidemic than a war. Years could be spent on research without any breakthroughs. However, with war, I feel that it is easier to see an end to it as it is easier to see the end with the decrease in the number of zombies.


The Horrors of an Exclusionary Society

As a head of state, there is the responsibility to not only protect the population, but also to care for their morale. The Redeker Plan is at its roots a blatant betrayal of a country’s own population by its government. The Redeker Plan indeed forces governments to choose a small sect of people who have the ability to “preserve the legitimacy and stability of the government” (109), and relocate them to the safest sanctuary possible with the remaining resources they have. Assuming they survive the zombie outbreak, they would rebuild their country from the bare minimum.


Populations become fewer and fewer as they retreat to their designated ‘safe zones’ by the government. (Image from The Economic Times)

However, this plan completely destroys team morale and nationalistic fervor, as the people who are selected for retreat to safe zones will continually face the guilt of leaving their friends, who are not chosen, to the zombie population. They would also face immense pressure, as their nation has placed the responsibility of rebuilding their society on their shoulders. The Redeker Plan is also very impractical, as seen through the lenses of Admiral Xu Zhicai. Although a country may devote their resources to help one small group survive “until the end of the crisis, or perhaps, the end of the world,” (249) it will always be impossible to account for any mini-outbreaks in the community. Once a zombie appears in the small community, it will eventually infect a certain portion of the community that would necessitate civil conflict. For instance, Captain Chen is eventually forced to attack his own countrymen because of a mini-outbreak in the small island population of Manihi, which left Captain Chen with “hair [that] had lost its color, as white as prewar snow… skin [that] was sallow, [and] eyes sunken.” (252) One single reanimation from within the community may be enough to spell the end of every human in the ‘selected population.’

The case of Paris also sheds light on the civilians who are not ‘chosen for survival’ by the government. Even as “two hundred and fifty thousand refugees” (310) fled to the Catabombs’ “subterranean world,” (310) one single zombie was able to catalyze the death of all refugees who chose to seek sanctuary in the Catacombs and the reanimation of two hundred and fifty thousand more zombies. In the zombie war, the humans who are left behind by their government effectively defects to the ‘other side,’ which welcomes the humans with open arms.


Civilians who are abandoned by their own governments may choose to defect to the other opposing side of the war. (Image by All-len-All)

The only option as a head of state in a zombie outbreak is to attack the zombies will full force. However, the most effective plan would be to attack “slow and safe, one section at a time, low speed, low intensity, low casualty rate.” (314) Choosing to attack in the first place distinguishes humans, who fight, from zombies, who may be camouflaged amongst the humans retreating to a ‘safe area.’ This offensive plan is also beneficial because the entire population is asked to fight against the zombies in a total war. Why sacrifice the majority of the population for the survival of a small sect when there is the possibility of including all members of the country in a total war effort that increases morale and is also more practical?

Framing the zombie epidemic as a war creates an “us versus them” mentality. Humans do not recognize zombies as fighting for another country, but regard them as an entirely new species that only seek the destruction of the human population. Framing the zombie outbreak as an epidemic allows civilians to place responsibility on the government and its scientists to find a solution to the problem. However, presenting the outbreak as a war rallies the entire population, and the entire world together “under the common flag of survival.” (247)


Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Broadway Books, 2006. Print.


PTI. Retreating Ice behind Population Explosion in Adelie Penguins? The Economic Times, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

On This Day August 13 1961 East German Soldiers Start Building the Berlin Wall Comments. All-Len-All, 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

War or Defeat

We have won the war! Listen. That has a ring, a motivational power to it. Pride is coupled with the statement; “surviving an epidemic” reminds one of desperate times. Make no mistake: the conflict with the zombies is indeed a war. They are out to destroy humanity, even if it is not a conscious decision. Labelling the Zombie War as anything else diminishes many heroes’ sacrifices, fails to contextualize the tough decisions made, and completely disregards the unity needed to defeat the virus. To win a war, one needs to attack. As the leader of a country, this is why I would vote to attack during the Honolulu Conference.

This call to attack is more than just demagoguery. It provides the best solution to the zombie apocalypse in multiple areas. Tactically, the alternative to not attacking is “remain[ing] safe and sedentary while our enemy simply rot[s] away” (Brooks 265), but General D’Ambrosia states, “[l]ock a hundred of them in a room and three years later they’ll come out just as deadly” (272). Attacking really is the only choice because the threat will remain if nothing is done. The War started with only a few zombies; not attacking now would allow the process to start much more rapidly than before because people would undoubtedly become infected due to the many zombies present. Moreover, militaries can only be content with a stalemate for so long. A lack of a clear goal (such as reclaiming a particular city) would soon develop into a distrust of leadership. If our military gives up, then even the safe zones will be in jeopardy.

There are many social and political benefits, as well. For example, reclaiming entire cities and allowing people to return back to their homes gives people hope. Victories like these–even if some defeats are present–would fix the problem of ADS (Asymptomatic Demise Syndrome). Without noticeable progress, people will “simply go to sleep one night and not wake up the next morning…because…it could only bring more suffering” (159). Politically, this would also set the stage for future governments because people will have faith in their leaders. They will see their government as an entity that actually brought positive change instead of one that cowered in the face of danger. If the world stays on the defensive, then people will always have a lingering question about why their governments have not yet done anything about the situation. Stagnation is simply not an option for a country either.

Perhaps a criticism of attacking the zombies is that we “risk even more lives, suffer even more [casualties]” (265). War has a price, however, and the people fighting in the fields understand the consequences. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of humanity, and by going on the offensive, we are valuing their sacrifice. The offensive will not be a reckless charge into danger, however. It will take the form of the “Reinforced Square” (280) formation that Todd describes in great detail. It is effective, deadly, and replicable. Labeling an offensive as dangerous and foolish is misguided. Perhaps the old way of fighting could be described as such, but the new offensive will be calculated. A loss of life would be tragic in this strategy, not just the norm.

Seeing that going on the offensive makes sense tactically, socially, and politically, I would undoubtedly endorse this plan as a country’s leader. Even the moral arguments against this strategy are limited. There’s only one thing to do now. Let’s go win a war.

Total War, Total Epidemic

A nation’s leader usually makes decisions from a utilitarian viewpoint, or a perspective that would bring about the most salient effects for the largest number of people. This utilitarian view can be seen in the Redeker Plan, which chose to salvage as many as possible by sacrificing the others. Using this same line of thinking, I would have voted to go on the offensive in the Honolulu Conference, as it would be saving the lives of as many civilians as possible and sacrificing those who fought. Going on the offensive would also build morale, which had been severely devastated, in several nations. As one fighter says “the voices woke me up; everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories.”  (282). One of the most crucial survival instincts is the belief that one can survive, but with the severe devastation of morale, the thought of survival had not crossed the minds of many, and was purely categorized into “fight or flight,” as one survivor put it.

Image result for zombie war

Even with going on the offensive, however, “every second of life cannot be devoted to victory.” (272). Total war had never been an idea before the zombie apocalypse because no country could devote all its time and resources to fighting. However, this idea of “two sides trying to push the other past its limit of endurance” which normally defines human warfare, was particularly apt for the zombie war, which could be defined as a total war because there were “no limits.” (273). The sides were constantly changing and never fixed, with one side being able to morph into the other. Because there was no way of negotiating or coming to the terms with zombies, the war was unbounded and consumed all resources and capabilities. The fact that the war was of such great capacity reinforces why it would have been best to go on the offensive in the Honolulu Conference. A war establishes that there are two sides, and that one is clearly against the other. However, by using an epidemic as a metaphor for total war, we see that the one side is completely ravaging the other. We saw this SARS and Ebola in The Hot Zone. The goal when fighting an epidemic is survival, which is the case here. The goal when fighting a war, is to win, which does not always constitute survival. Therefore, an epidemic could serve as a metaphor for the zombie war, but only if it is categorized as a total war and not just a war in which two sides are opposed to each other.

Disease Z: Epidemiology Perspective of World War Z

Prevention is better than a cure. This single idea is perhaps the most important realization of the 20th century and as the basis for public health measures including hygienic practices, infrastructure, vaccinations, and disease prevention, has likely saved millions of lives. Included in this idea are two main components. First, we are more effective working together. Second, early action is key. In World War Z the Honolulu Conference discusses whether to take an aggressive approach against the zombie outbreak or conserve resources in a stable present state. If we frame the Honolulu Conference as a gathering of epidemiologists rather than as a war council, we can more easily understand how taking immediate action against the epidemic will ultimately yield better long term results for the survival of the human race.

Diseases require very specific, customized preventative responses. Treating the zombie outbreak similar to a human war is completely useless. “There were no logistics lines to sever, no depots to destroy. You couldn’t just surround and starve them out” (Brooks 272). The zombie epidemic is unique and the human response must be custom-tailored for the disease. The zombies cannot be simply outlasted in the short term. Many tactics of warfare prove ineffective in this case, which suggests that the method that must be employed is more similar to a public health program that recognizes the uniqueness of a disease.

There are parallels between war and epidemiology. First strike in both are considered smart and effective strategies to achieve victory. However, the particularities of World War Z fit better with characteristics of many diseases that plague humans today. Cancer, like the zombie outbreak, is a disease in which humanity has had to seriously consider a unique way of tackling the disease. The struggle continues and we must constantly discover new ways to get rid of our zombies to save humanity.

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.

Quantity and Quality

Based on the facts presented about the Zombie War, the most logical plan of action to me would be to assume a defensive strategy, voting against the plan proposed by General D’Ambrosia. The point made that “all [they] had to do was remain safe and sedentary while our enemy simply rotted away” is a very valid point (Brooks 265). Why risk more lives when they do not have to, when the zombies will eventually cease to exist? General D’Ambrosia’s reasoning behind the plan is that the civilians deserve to reclaim the land in order to preserve the human spirit and assert dominance over all other species—which seems like a virtuous motive, but actually appears to be quite selfish in this context. The plan for attack is rooted in humans’ innate reliance on fulfilling, substantial results to achieve satisfaction, and a constant desire for more power and control. When the living accepts a defensive position, many leaders view this as accepting defeat in the Zombie War because of its passive nature, but in the end, more psychologically well civilians will survive as opposed to a fraction of civilians who are living with the memory that they, like perpetrators of the Redeker Plan, “follow[ed] orders that would indirectly cause a mass murder” (Brooks 113). In addition, the implemented offensive plan induced major psychological damage in Sibera causing “dereliction of duty, alcoholism, [and] suicide”, where “one in ten officers killed themselves […] a decimation that almost brought our war effort to a crushing halt” (Brooks 295, 296). All of this effort, all of these sacrificed lives, and almost all to waste because humans physically cannot compete with zombies. Ultimately, from an ethical and social standpoint, the necessity to “prove” that they are able to defeat the zombies is egotistical and the desire for revenge on zombies petty, because zombies have no control over their actions, making sacrificing innocent lives not worth it. Not to mention, from a tactical and environmental standpoint, the war is unfeasible to be won because zombies are biologically superior to humans—they are limitless and do not have a “maximum emotional and physiological breaking point” like humans do (Brooks 273). Zombies are not affected by outside influences nor internal influences, causing them to be an incomparable match for humans.

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 2.21.12 AM.png

Visual depiction of zombie versus human. Image from

The Zombie War is framed as a war for these reasons, that there is strategic planning involved and ultimately a winner and a loser. It is a world war in the sense that it involves all nations, but instead of individual nations fighting each other, the whole world is categorized into two entities—the living, and the living dead. If viewed as an epidemic, where zombification is characterized as a viral infection, the choice to stay on the defensive is made even clearer. The living humans are without the infection currently, and to stay that way, they could engage in preventative measures such as injecting a vaccine, or in the context of the zombie war, maintain a defensive strategy. It is illogical to seek out the viral infection, as an offensive position would, become infected, and then deal with the repercussions, when one could simply avoid that.

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 2.02.00 AM.png

Interesting map a reader constructed of populations after the Zombie War. A notable feature is how when China did not follow the Redeker Plan, their population decreased 90%. Image from

Facing it Head on

When the world you live in starts crumbling into pieces, what do you do? You can’t just sit and watch it fall apart. If I were a head of state in World War Z, I would have voted yes during the Honolulu Conference. The decision of choosing to attack the zombies full-force isn’t unethical, unlike the Redeker Plan. There was no use of “human bait” (Brooks 109) in the decision to attack. There was always the concern that many lives would be lost in the full-fledged attack against the zombies, but there wasn’t a question of whether or not something is ethical in the decision made at the conference.

Basically, there are two options that the people at the Honolulu Conference could consider. Firstly, the people could have waited until all the zombies just rotted away. The problem with that would be that no one would know how long that would take. The idea of idly sitting on our hands and not doing anything would lead to anxiety and uneasiness in many people. Because the living dead “robbed us of our confidence as the planet’s dominant life form” (Brooks 267), being more powerless would not be the best solution. In order to be “the planet’s dominant life form” (Brooks 267), humans have to be in power and in control, but if humans just sat and waited for the zombies to rot away, they would not be the ones in power. In response to not being able to help the puppies at the pet store a block away from his house, Darnell said, “’What could I have done?… Something” (Brooks 292). In the future, like Darnell Hackworth, people would  wish that they did something in response to the zombie war instead of waiting.  If there was an attack on the zombies, we would at least know what was happening and going on. We would also somewhat be in control of the process of events. Therefore, the vote to attack during the Honolulu Conference would have been the faster, more efficient route towards ending this war with the disease that reanimated the dead. Even though the enemy could “simply rot away” (Brooks 265) over time, the disease could be spread again through one zombie. Even if there were a couple zombies left, only one of them would have to bite another healthy human being for them to become infected. If even a small number of the undead were left alive, there would still be chance for the disease to spread again into a full-scale epidemic.

Image result for comic of war            Image result for humans fighting zombies

In addition, the world war that is being fought in this book is different from a typical world war. Typically, a world war involves two different sides fighting against each other because of their different beliefs on an issue. However, in World War Z, the healthy, living humans are fighting the infected, undead zombies. The zombies, since they don’t have brains, don’t really have a thought going through their head. The war being fought isn’t regarding a certain stand on an issue. Rather, the healthy humans are fighting an epidemic that has been brought to life through the form of zombies. Normally, an epidemic is transferred from one human to another through different routes, but it’s hard to see exactly who has the disease. Also, the disease is just an agent in the background. In World War Z, it’s extremely evident to people as to who is infected or not, which gives life to the disease. The disease is now tangible, to a certain extent, meaning that there is now a certainty that if you shoot the brain of the zombie, you know for sure that that specific zombie can no longer spread the disease anymore. The image of fighting an epidemic in an active, somewhat living form as zombies creates an image regarding how terrifying and detrimental the effects of an epidemic are.


  • First picture-
  • Second picture-

Fear Itself

Fear Itself

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In the case of warfare, this especially true. War is more than two sides; war is one nation against another, but it is also one army against itself. Psychological warfare can do as much damage as actual physical warfare, as can be seen in the novel World War Z by Max Brooks. When I place myself in the shoes of the heads of state at the Honolulu conference, I find myself siding with Roosevelt; had I been there, I would have voted in favor of continued fighting. I would have voted against living in fear.


I say this because in the fight against the living dead, humanity could have very well gone extinct, and thus humanity needs to continue to fight to maintain the human spirit as well as the human population. Fighting on allows this to happen, because once humans are able to exterminate the zombie population, Earth can once again be “safe”.  As the account from Terry Knox proved, even space was not left untouched by the war on zombies. Success would lead to a sense of security and dominance, and can renew our sense of vitality. Without pursuing the offensive, we lose a key part of our identity and a key value. As the president of the United States asked in World War Z, “yes, our defensive strategies had saved the human race, but what about the human spirit?” (267). If human kind isolates itself and lives in continual fear of a zombie outbreak occurring, there can be no advancement. The human spirit will have died, and the zombies would have unconsciously triumphed. No, as Roosevelt said, we only have to fear fear itself. If we remove the source of the original fear (the zombies), then we remove fear entirely.

The decision to pursue the offensive also allows humans a tactical advantage in the war. By accepting only limited zones and merely maintaining them, we are on the defense. However, by actively pursuing the zombies, we switch roles and become the offensive team. As Ernesto Olguin said, “we had to reclaim the plant,” (267). We also “needed heroes, new names and places to restore our pride,” (314). Tactically speaking, we were now in a better position to win. In most sports, the offensive side is the side who scores points, which ultimately wins the game. In this war, the same is true. While there would have to be sacrifice, “it was finally the beginning of the end.” (282). In this case, the end would be the end of the zombie epidemic, which we have framed as a war. Plus, now that human kind was saved, we finally had the stability and resources necessary to wage an offensive type of warfare. With stable habitable zones, human kind could finally pool together the resources necessary to begin reclaiming land and taking out the zombie population. Even just having a Honolulu conference with the remaining world leaders is a good sign. This means that there is potentially enough coordination to wage a combined war effort. As Joe Muhammad said, “you’ve got to admit that [the war] did bring people together.” (336). As we reclaim land, this allows for the human population to expand, maintain defenses of larger territories, and access more resources, which makes our armies even stronger. Essentially, by finally being able to go on the offense, we are finally able to make a dent in defeating the source of our fear.

war         quarantine

Our fear was also artificially both inflated and kept at bay by nature of us framing the zombie conflict as a war rather than an epidemic. It was able to inflate our fear by framing the whole issue as a war. This created a sense of urgency, and a sense of fear of the enemy. War is a violent thing. Along with war comes casualty, and everyone fears becoming a casualty. War disrupts life, and social structure, and politics, and we do not like that. Humanity fears this sort of change, and thus war inflated our terror. However, this framing also kept our fear at bay. Had the zombie conflict been framed as an epidemic instead, our terror could have been even worse. We already fear an enemy we can see and stop, but many of us can hardly stomach the idea of an enemy that we can’t see or detect, and one that we cannot fight with guns or physical force. An epidemic framing may have made the population even more fearful. Because while war is horrifying, a small, insidious virus can be even more frightening. How can one protect their family, their children, neighbors, and friends from a small, non-living strand of DNA and some proteins? The honest answer is that you can’t. War was a simpler way of viewing the situation. There were two distinct sides, humans and zombies. The irony of this all, however, is that the zombies were once humans. The two sides were once one.


This idea of the enemy being oneself definitely had psychological implications for the remaining unturned humans. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial to rid the Earth of infected “Zacks”. No one wants to destroy a grandmother, a son, a former teacher, etc. On the human side, the fight against the undead was psychologically grueling. Many of those interviewed in World War Z claimed that they had to dehumanize the undead in order to be able to kill them. Because really, how different were the living and the undead? Or as Jürgen Warmbrunn stated, “That is the only measurable difference between us and ‘The Undead.’ Their brains do not require a support system to survive, so it is necessary to attack the organ itself.” (35). The whole conflict also brought up the issue of what makes up the self, the personality, and the soul. If the undead had none of these things, then what are we? Why are we here? What makes us different from a monkey or a gold fish? And even further than that, are we still a dominant species? Are our religious doctrines correct? These sort of questions could bring down the morale of many a soldier or civilian. The zombies, without even knowing it, were successfully using mental warfare against us.

When it comes down to a decision between simply maintaining the human population and safe zones, or going on the offensive and trying to reclaim territory and the human spirit, I will always side with going on the offensive. What is the point of living if one is living in constant fear? The zombies may have been intimidating, infectious, and taxing on our limited resources, but what is anything worth if humans can’t even enjoy life? What is better, living life deadened and weakened, or struggling yet persevering? I side firmly with the latter.


Book Reference:

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.

Image Reference:

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: New virus breaks the rules of infection

Do Not Fear by Pastor Mark Martin