Viability Versus Values

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I would support a defensive strategy to protect the citizens rather than an offensive strategy. An offensive strategy disregards the infrastructure, resources, capabilities of low-income countries, which hold a majority of the world’s population. An offensive strategy does not take into consideration the realities of living in a post-apocalyptic. Rather, an offensive strategy places value on pre-war ideals such as political power and land ownership. Ultimately, a defensive strategy is the most ethically, politically, and tactically sound position to take due to its consideration of the difficulties of a post-apocalyptic world.

Tactically, a defensive strategy accounts both for the eventual elimination of zombies and the availability of the dwindling resources of an apocalyptic situation. Though it may initially seem as if a defensive strategy may be neglecting the job of working toward returning society to a pre-war state, but this ignores the biology of organisms. Stated within the novel, “all we had to do was stay safe while our enemy rotted away” (Brooks 265). Acting defensively would decrease the rate of new cases of the virus and over time the zombies would eventually deteriorate. Additionally, the resources of the survivors such as weaponry, food, and military personnel would not be spread around a large land area as they would be in an offensive campaign.


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The more interesting dilemmas of choosing between an offensive and defensive strategy are their ethical and political implications and their impact on the country’s ability to rebuild infrastructure and government. Politically, taking an offensive strategy only takes into account pre-war society and its values. For example, offensive strategy takes on the task of regaining land back from the enemy, the zombies. Though larger land availability would provide greater access to resources, desire for land partly originates from the social status brought about by owning large swaths of land. This is exemplified within the novel as the United States is the only country to support an offensive strategy. Driven by emotion, the US president states, “[the living dead] robbed us of our confidence as the planet’s dominant life form”(Brooks 266). As the greatest world power before the war, it is natural that the US would desire to return to the pre-war level of global power. The choice to be offensive and continue to seek power is also ethically questionable. Defensive strategy is centered around prioritizing the survivors of the war rather than land acquisition.

How one deals with a threat as large as a zombie apocalypse is dependent on how one defines the conflict and the opponents. The characters in the novel must determine whether or not to treat the apocalypse as a war or as a pandemic. In the most technical senses of the term, the zombie war is a pandemic, a disease prevalent throughout the global. Despite this, realistically, the zombie war is just that – a war. Though the zombies may not hail from a specific nation, they do represent disease itself. Treating the pandemic as a war allows survivors to fight against the zombies without being influenced by the idea of fighting sick people rather than violent enemies.
A defensive strategy is a superior route in dealing with a zombie because of its consideration of resource availability, political conflict, and ethical viability. Though wealthy countries, such as the United States, may want to take the offensive route, such countries are too focused on pre-war values to despite such values having no standing in a post-apocalyptic society.

Phalanx & Politics

“Oh, c’mon. Can you ever “solve” poverty? Can you ever “solve crime? Can you ever “solve” disease, unemployment, war, or any other societal herpes? Hell no. All you can hope for is to make them manageable enough to allow people to get on with their lives. That’s not cynicism, that’s maturity. You can’t stop the rain. All you can do is just build a roof that you hope won’t leak, or at least won’t leak on the people who are gonna vote for you.” (Brooks, 61)

In this passage, Grover Carlson, a fuel collector in Texas and former White House Chief of Staff, discusses Phalanx, the placebo that was introduced to calm the hysteria of the masses in response to “African rabies.” When the interviewer mentions that the problem wasn’t actually solved, Carlson responds with the above passage.

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Carlson’s colloquialisms in phrases such as, “Oh, c’mon”; “gonna”; “Hell no.” point to his casual tone and dismissive attitude. He seems to be both self-confident and pompous, evident in his asking of questions and responding to them by himself. Carlson asks if poverty, crime, disease, unemployment, or war can be solved. The repetition of the word “solve” emphasizes its true meaning of being able to completely repair an issue. Because of this repetition, the reader immediately understands that the societal issues being mentioned are too complex to be fully repaired. Issues such as poverty and unemployment and disease are dependent on a number of factors, and Carlson seems to imply that “African rabies” is as well. The phrase “societal herpes” provides a vivid image, since it associates societal issues with an infection that is often uncontrolled and cannot be immediately suppressed.

Carlson suggests that the containment of “African rabies” and the hysteria associated with it is crucial to its possibility of being “managed.” He states that it cannot be “solved” but only “managed.” What Carlson seems to suggest is that the appearance of the disease is what must be managed, if not the disease itself, because the latter cannot be “solved.”

African rabies here serves as a comprehensive metaphor for societal issues that are often perpetuated because the root causes are not targeted. One example would be the cycle of poverty in the US. Impoverished areas often lack enough funding for schooling and healthcare which affects the entrance of low-income individuals into the job market. The cycle of poverty perpetuates because the basic resources required to maximize one’s capability are essentially limited by the political system. Similarly, “African rabies” is not actually solved but simply covered up through Phalanx. Thus, through Carlson’s words, Max Brooks seems to be making larger statement about the political institutions in the US.

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Carlson calls accepting this prejudiced system “maturity” and invokes the vivid metaphor of building a roof and hoping it won’t leak or at least leak on the voting base. Phalanx serves as the roof that is being built to reduce the leaking, or the public hysteria, and the voting base comprises those who truly matter in society. This passage is significant because it seems to represent the opinion of an authority figure who shows no remorse for injecting a placebo into the market, and in fact, states that the disease cannot be solved, and so it must be hoped that the public does not discover the truth. Brooks seems to use this passage to make a candid statement about the corruption, secrecy, and disparities of the US political system.


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


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.


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

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.


Defining Public Health

Public health is the status of physical or mental well being within a community. From a physical health perspective, public health can be affected by events in the physical environment such as global warming and traffic safety or through communicable and noncommunicable diseases such as Ebola and cancer, respectively. Depending on the size and location of the community, citizens may have different expectations of public health outreach from outside forces. Larger, richer communities with a strong central government, such as those in the United States may expect their governments to take responsibility for the health of the public within the nation. In the United States, it is expected that government put heavy regulations on immigration, food standards, traffic laws, hospital safety, etc. as an effort to protect public wellbeing. Smaller, less developed nations may not be able to rely on a central government to be able to fund large scale public health efforts and, therefore, rely on primitive technologies and volunteer labor. Between nations, public health can begin to be defined as global health which can further be complicated by interacting governments and increasing globalization.

Public health is not only important because of its immediate physical and mental impact on the members of a community, but also because of its effects on the productivity, happiness, and demographics of a community which is crucial to the overall well being. Governments may take interests in the health of its citizens because of its effects on the productivity of a community and their trust of a government. For example, when children in less developed nations are able to live beyond childhood years due to disease prevention and into the age at which they can begin to work, their efforts in the workforce stimulates the workforce, creating a stronger economy and instilling a sense of trust in government intervention.

A recent a well-known instance of the importance of public health is the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa. Due to the lack of resources in countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia, small communities were not able to provide proper care for victims of the Ebola and could not halt its spread. The resulting severity of the virus caused not only public health crises in the affected communities, but also in communities wealthier countries that are hubs of globalization such as the United States. Unlike affected nations, US citizens turned to their government to protect them from the distant outbreak. Such an event exemplifies the importance of both small scale actions such as improving disinfectant techniques in rural villages and large scale actions such as new immigration restrictions to prevent the spread of illness and disease.