All or Nothing: Humans or Zombies

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If the countries had not voted to attack, there would not have been any survivors left. (quotesvalley.com)

If I were a head of state in World War Z, I would also have voted to attack during the Honolulu Conference. While other countries argued that launching an attack on the zombies would lead to a meaningless loss of life, the governments also hold responsibility for abandoning their citizens during the implementation of the Redeker Plan. For example, Todd Wainio remembers reading a sign saying “Better late than never!” when his unit liberated a civilian zone. Voting against an attack would have proven the lack of responsibility and incompetence of the government that the sign had scornfully referenced.

From a social standpoint, launching an attack on the zombies would also rebuild the confidence of the people and fulfill a responsibility we have to future generations. For example, after the first successful battle against the zombies at Hope, Wainio notices “everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories” (Brooks 282). Wainio derives more satisfaction from taking the offensive against the zombies because he and his troops finally feel enough security and control to be able to relax and enjoy their time. They no longer feel restricted from their fear of zombies.

This similar security is felt by Kwang Jingshu, who notes after stability returns to his community that “real children… don’t know to be afraid, and that is the greatest gift, the only gift we can leave to them” (Brooks 335). By recognizing that zombies are nothing to be afraid of—through the successful war waged on zombies—these children are able to act like “real children” who can enjoy their childhood in a secure, safe environment, protected from the horrors of death and decay. By launching an attack, we would be able to secure a healthy living environment for our future generations.

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“Real children” who can live without fear (multiculturalkidblogs.com)

I would have implemented a plan similar to the U.S.’s plan, which involved marching through the country and killing any zombies sighted. From a tactical standpoint, this would be the most efficient and effective way to rid the world of zombies and prevent another outbreak. The attack on zombies is like a “war” because there are two opposing forces, zombies and humans, who have been confined to their restricted territories. However, zombies are unlike any opposing force that any human army has faced. Unlike enemies like foreign countries or rebel groups, zombies do not have a “limits of endurance” (Brooks 273). In a war between humans, one side will always give up once they have lost too much manpower or spirit. However, perhaps more like viruses and bacteria, zombies will not stop until there are no humans left—by their very nature, humans and zombies cannot coexist. If we did not attack, “we could only get weaker, while they might actually get stronger” (Brooks 272). Unlike a war, the attack on zombies is an unavoidable endeavor to ensure human existence.

 

 

Scary Business

“Fear,” he used to say, “fear is the most valuable commodity in the universe.” That blew me away. “Turn on the TV,” he’d say. “What are you seeing? People selling their products? No. People selling the fear of you having to live without their products.” Fuckin’ A, was he right. Fear of aging, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure. Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells. That was my mantra. “Fear sells.” (Brooks 55).

On the surface, World War Z is a story about a world-wide conflict due to a viral outbreak. When looking for perpetrators of this conflict, it is quite simple to blame those that were infected, those that helped spread the infection, or the virus itself. However, as readers learn more about the war through the stories in this book, we realize that there are many unseen forces that are more difficult to perceive. In this passage, readers are introduced to one of these unseen forces by Breckinridge “Breck” Scott. Scott can easily be named a perpetrator who immorally ended up causing chaos because of his phony vaccine. However, in this passage, through repetitive, structural, rhetorical, metaphorical, and descriptive devices, he expands readers’ perspective by introducing us to an important vector of conflict – fear.

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Scott emphasizes the power of fear by teaching readers his mantra and the various roles that fear plays. He uses the word, “fear,” eleven times in a span of six lines. This repetition serves the purpose of indoctrinating readers that fear is impactful, almost like marketing a television advertisement through forcing an idea by repeating a word. He adds even more emphasis to this pitch by using fragments, periodic sentences, and hard periods that make his ideas straight to the point. When he quotes the professor, he chooses to quote the rhetorical question, “What are you seeing? People selling their products?” followed by the answer, “No. People selling the fear of you having to live without their products.” Doing so makes people see fear the way he wants them to – as a commodity. Suddenly, fear becomes a somewhat tangible object. Further down, he declares fear an emotion that everyone has. “Fear is primal.” In making these metaphors, fear’s presence becomes even more noticeable and pervasive. Interestingly, Scott ends the paragraph with a reversal of people selling fear: “Fear sells.” Now, fear is personified. Fear can now be seen as another enemy. This striking idea adds another layer to the oral history. The virus and the people are not the only reasons for the war. We learn more about how fear creates and destroys beliefs that lead to the Great Panic.

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Depiction of the Great Panic

Readers can confirm with the narrator’s introduction that fear is a deeper problem that continues to impact people even when the war has ended and the virus has been contained. Finally, as one contemplates the idea that “fear sells,” then one also begins to ponder, “Who buys?”

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Humanity vs Fear

“The little girl was now close enough so we could see her face. Her eyes were wide, locked on Rat Face. Her arms were raised, and I could just make out this high-pitched, rasping moan… In one smooth motion, Rat Face pulled a pistol from underneath his coat, shot her right between the eyes, then turned around and sauntered back toward us. A woman, probably the little girl’s mother, exploded into sobs. She fell to her knees, spitting and cursing at us…I knew I should have felt bad for the child…and maybe even a little bit guilty because I didn’t lift a finger to stop it…at that point the only thing I could feel was fear” (79).

Maria Zhuganova recounts her first experience with the undead; however, she does not approach the zombie with the same rhetoric that is seen throughout the rest of this novel. One of the ways she humanizes the zombie is by the repetition of “her” instead of the usual “it.” This simple change in pronoun has a significant effect on the reader: it creates a mood of empathy rather than aversion. This tone is bolstered by the use of key phrases, such as “rasping moan,”  that further serve to show how the little girl is a victim of a disease rather than the perpetrator of it. Elements of pathos are intertwined with this description when Zhuganova describes “the little girl’s mother [who] exploded into sobs [and] fell to her knees, spitting and cursing at us.” This emotional description can move even the toughest listener as they are faced with the reality that everyone, even the living dead, have people who love them.

 

This love and care is what causes Zhuganova to feel “bad for the child” and encounter “guilt” while others remain desensitized. She faces inner turmoil as her instinct of wanting to save others clashes with her desire to save herself. The author separates her turmoil from her final conclusion by using a semicolon after Zhuganova discusses what she “should have been feeling.” This separation reveals the conclusion that Zhuganova arrived at: the emotion that trumps everything else is “fear.” This signals an interesting shift from pitying the victim to wanting its destruction. The hatred is not created by a sense of rage but rather by a simple, yet primal instinct: fear.

The author uses syntax, imagery, and pathos to create a sense of escalation for the reader. In the beginning of the paragraph the sentences are short and abrupt, seeming to resemble the cold and calculated murder of the little girl. However, by the end of the paragraph the sentences become more complex, resembling the complexity of emotions battling over each other before “fear” is declared the winner. In this passage, the author uses a lens of pathos to show that treating a zombie as a perpetrator instead of a victim is not a doing of the zombie, but rather it is a change in the emotional construct of the living, who begin to fear what they do not know. In this sense, the author seems to imply that our view of the world, and our actions towards it, largely depend on our perception of it, rather than the actual reality.

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

 

Assuming Fear in the Enemy

The narrator interviews Todd Wainio, a former U.S. Army infrantryman who fought in the battle at Yonkers, a failed attempt to show the public that the government had the zombie crisis under control:

Sure, we were unprepared, our tools, our training, everything I just talked about, all one class-A, gold-standard clusterfuck, but the weapon that really failed wasn’t something that rolled off an assembly line. It’s as old as… I don’t know, I guess as old as war. It’s fear, dude, just fear and you don’t have to be Sun freakin Tzu to know that real fighting isn’t about killing or even hurting the other guy, it’s about scaring him enough to call it a day […] what did we call the first round of Gulf War Two, “Shock and Awe”? (Brooks 103-4)

Through Wainio’s explanation of why the battle was such a failure, Max Brooks criticizes the poor military policy of the U.S. government and comments on the government’s inelastic expectations of fear in humanity. For example, Wainio describes that “real fighting” occurs when one manipulates the opponent with fear. His absolute diction in the use of the word “real” highlights the rigid assumptions of the government—that in any “real” battle, the enemy will respond to the use of fear as a weapon. At Yonkers, the government’s failure to realize that the zombie war did not follow the government’s definition of a “real” battle reflects Brooks’ commentary on the U.S. government’s illogical black-and-white perspective on affairs outside its familiar borders.

Brooks uses Wainio’s dialogue as a symbol for the government’s policy stance to reveal how the government bases its weaponry and tactics on the assumption that every enemy is capable of feeling fear. For instance, Wainio implies that war has always correlated with fear, even before the use of those weapons “that rolled off an assembly line.” The image of the assembly line implies standardization and familiarity; if fear is more basic than weapons built on the assembly line, there is an implication that fear should have been the most instinctual response in any battle. Wainio’s confident and even arrogant tone when describing the aspect of fear in war—as shown by his disregard for Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist who wrote The Art of War—reflects the presumptuous attitude of the U.S. government in its military endeavors.

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Fires in Baghdad during the U.S. “Shock and Awe” campaign, which Brooks parallels with the battle at Yonkers (Image taken from content.time.com)

As a result of these assumptions, the U.S. government in World War Z depended on machinery and technology that were “class-A, gold-standard,” descriptions that imply reliability and invincibility. Ironically however, the assault ended in failure, and Wainio’s biting tone reveals his disapproval of the government’s plan for the battle. Paralleling this attitude to the failed Yonkers battle, Brooks alludes to the “Shock and Awe” campaign during the Iraq war as a historical example of the government’s failure in military policy when acting on assumptions. Through this example, Brooks criticizes the impracticality of military tactics and the American government’s inability to adapt to new situations because of its assuming attitudes.

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