Beyond Survival

Humanity has long fought for more than just its mere survival. The comforts that we enjoy today are built upon the strive of our forefathers for a meaning in life beyond the biological instincts of survival and reproduction. As a head of state, I would have voted to go on the offensive against the zombies. From a militaristic standpoint, this feat would be arduous, if not unimaginable. The enemy are not conventional humans that are subject to the same dimension of emotion as all humans share. In conventional warfare, humans try “to push the other past its limit of endurance,” as said by General D’Ambrosia (273). However, the enemy does not tire or is not subject to the same “will” that humans are subject to.


Although General D’Ambrosia was quite apprehensive about engaging an “enemy that was actively waging total war,” there is a certain advantage to the will of humans (273). This drive that humans have towards being dominant in their environment is what separates us from other species and the living dead. Whether this is biological, spiritual, or psychological, it fulfills the function of creating a sense of hope that was much needed. This sense of hope is not something that mere statistics can convey. Surrendering to the enemy and cutting our losses is not a human value, so to speak. Humans have succeeded and thrived when we take risks beyond what we imagine conceivable. This drive paired with the calculative strategy of newer generals is what helped Todd and millions of others feel that they were “reclaiming [their] future” (282). Moreover, the lack of hope was causing tangible problems as mass suicides, depression, and other psychological diseases began to emerge and sweep the planet. By simply planning for a future, humans create it.

Surrendering with White Flag


Additionally, viewing this event as a war rather than an epidemic is important to improve morale. When fear and suffering are rampant, it is difficult not to victimize yourself, and it is even harder to victimize the cause of your suffering. Putting a face on the enemy, in fact simply stating that there was an enemy, created a pathway out of suffering that brought millions of people together across the world.

To effectively deal with the tangible problem of zombies, to overcome the political and economic constraints in coexisting with zombies, and to rise against our own psychology, a plan similar to the American military plan involving Todd must be implemented. This plan gives the appearance of winning the war against zombies, and often times this is enough to bring it into actuality. By bringing up a different option than simply implementing the Redeker plan and surviving through World War Z, Brooks gives us insight into the complexities that govern policy making and, on a deeper level, what it means to be human.

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


2 thoughts on “Beyond Survival

  1. I thought your discussion of what sets us apart as human also being able to drive us was very interesting. I see how can hope can be actualized into victory, and this concept is present in other parts of the novel as well. I think the most apparent example is Phalanx, the placebo that was introduced into the population to calm the masses and create a false appearance of disease reduction. The propaganda was bought, hysteria calmed, and hope was reintroduced. I think this same hope is what will allow humans to move forward after the war even after being emotionally and psychologically ravaged.

    I thought it was interesting how you interpreted the speech as containing elements so basic to the human experience in the context of hope, while I had focused in more on its anthropocentric perspective of power and greed. I certainly think its interesting how greed and hope are often two coexisting parts of human nature, and how this often drives many of our actions and speaks to the survival instincts of humans. Despite being damaged emotionally and psychologically, humans still wanted to live on, to fight, and win, and I think that survival for instinct is what drives us and keeps us alive in real life as well.


  2. Hey Eshaan!
    I found the idea that what distinguishes the human species from any other species is our will power very interesting (and uplifting). In particular, the way you pointed out General D’Ambrosia not including the sense of hope into the equation of ‘human will’ was intriguing. I say “equation” in that Will = Capability ± hope. Not just “+ hope” but “± hope”. Building on to merely the “lack” of hope, I would like to suggest that fear of the uncertain future would be ‘negative hope’ which in turn leads to negative consequences such as mass suicide and depression like you mentioned. Ultimately, staying on the defensive for the zombie war inevitably would have lead to years and possibly decades until the zombies ‘rot out’. During the time, I would predict that the resources would have run low, and generated turmoil from the uncertain sustainability of the refuge camps.
    Another question that popped up while I was reading your post was how authentic the clue of “hope” had to be to generate that human “drive” for victory. For example, Roy Elliot reveals that Marty had actually made two versions of The Hero City, a film intended to highlight human “courage, determination, strength, dignity, kindness and honor” during the Siege (Brooks 167). This was done through selective inclusion and exclusion of footage. It intentionally did not show the “violence and betrayal, cruelty and depravity” that also took place(167). Roy Elliot thus calls this version of history a “lie” and I would agree that it was a false sense of hope. As such, is this false sense of hope enough to generate that human drive, even when realistically that clue of hope does not exist?


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