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?

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Accurate depiction of emotional distress on war ground with zombie attacks. (Image from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-228544301)

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.

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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 http://www.openculture.com/2014/11/the-red-menace-a-striking-gallery-of-anti-communist-propaganda.html)

            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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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Visual depiction of zombie versus human. Image from hitfix.com.

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.

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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 deviantart.com.

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.

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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.

Sources:

  • First picture- http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/06/15/dc-go-to-war-on-2-99-price-point/
  • Second picture- https://fwis191fall2016.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/2a2bc-dead-rising-3-screenshot-zombies.jpg

Implications of War

A ‘war’ suggests two conflicting opponents, each with their own tactics, purposes, ammunition and organization. By framing the zombie crisis as a war, Max Brooks humanizes the zombies. If indeed these creatures are the enemy in this war, the reader asks: does this imply that the zombies consciously strategizing how to best attack the humans?

At the Honolulu Conference, one group of the delegates thinks of the zombie crisis as a war. They discuss options in terms of military strategy, explaining, “Time was on our side, not theirs” referring to the popular strategy of waiting out the enemy (266).

This does not mean, however, that all those in power view the zombie crisis as a war. Another group of delegates at the Honolulu Crisis instead views the issue as a disease epidemic, questioning, “What about the later cases, the ones still strong and healthy? Couldn’t just one restart the plague all over again?” (266). Using words such as ‘cases,’ ‘healthy,’ and ‘plague’ dehumanizes the zombies, likening them to a deadly viral infection.

Nevertheless, overall Brooks seems to liken the crisis to a war rather than an epidemic. He shows this when the American ambassador recalls the words of Winston Churchill, asking them to fight until, “‘every trace was sponged, and purged, and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the Earth'” (265). These words were first uttered in Churchill’s “Speech to the Allied Delegates,” wherein Churchill called upon other nations to take a harsh stand against Adolf Hitler. The reader can easily conjecture that Brooks is likening the ambassador to Churchill in this moment, asking other nations to aid in his offensive against their modern aggressor, the zombies.

It was in this same speech that Churchill popularized the term ‘quisling,’ to describe one who collaborates with the enemy (named after Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian leader who collaborated with the Nazis). Earlier in the novel, Brooks used this term for, “people that went nutballs and started acting like zombies” (155). As the narrator later elaborates, “…in regular war… people who are invaded sign up for the enemy’s army. Collaborators, sometimes even more die-hard than the people they’re trying to mimic…” (156). These quislings expanded fear in the populace, while at the same time contributing to Phalanx’s popularity (people who were bitten by quislings and did not get infected may have assumed that the drug worked). In doing so, they embodied yet another perpetrator of this war.

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Vidkun Quisling, the namesake of the term used, disavows an idea similar to the one that the delegate from the ‘developing’ country suggested: that the zombies were creating justice by providing revenge for those oppressed by imperialist aims.

War often requires strong leaders, like Churchill and the American ambassador, to make tough decisions that often require practicality rather than morality. Remaining on the defensive would run the risk of allowing zombies to regain strength in numbers outside the safe areas. Additionally, politically, keeping the human populace constrained in a particular place for a lengthy period of time almost definitively ensures revolution at some point. Therefore, I would also have voted yes to the resolution and have gone on the offensive against the zombies.

Total War Might Not Save the World

If I were a head of state, I would definitely have voted against the US President’s proposal in the Honolulu Conference. With every single concern from the aspects of ethics and tactics, waging a total war against the undead is clearly not a cost-efficient decision, which can give rise to serious social ramifications in the post-war era.

First and foremost, the president’s argument and the proposal he brought up contradicts each other from an ethical standpoint, judging from his interpretation of “human spirit”. He believes that without the support of “the human spirit”, we can never build a real future. We need to prove that we are capable of being offensive as the dominant life-form on earth, and rid ourselves of anxiety and self-doubt thus: “we had to prove to ourselves that we could do it, and leave that proof as the war’s greatest monument.” (267) The reclamation of the planet represents reclamation of our dignity as humans – the confidence and power lost in the year-long defensive strategies. I agree on the importance of “human spirit”, as the greatest difference between humans and the zombies is the ability to feel, reason and think, and these are the qualities that set us apart from any other species and make us superior. However, it should encompass much more than our pride as an intelligent and rational being: how about empathy and compassion to other members of the same species? “I’ll only be sending others out to die, and here’s what I’d be sending them up against…Two hundred million zombies…a very gloomy prospect for victory.” (271) At the very moment of time, nobody knows how long the war will last, or whether the human beings can survive or not. But we know that we are outnumbered by far, and we can’t take responsibility for the future of the country when we can’t even take responsibility for the safety of the ones who serve their country with their lives. When the cold, hard facts of the zombies are presented – “…all the experience, all the data we’d compiled on their origin, their physiology, their strengths, their weaknesses, their motives, and their mentality” (271) – I can’t help thinking, is sending young soldiers to a fully committed, all in total war that we have little hope to win a part of “human spirit”? Are they sent out only to prove that the abstract notion of “human spirit” still exists, as it will be “the greatest monument”? Are we trying to save the humanity by diminishing humanity? With all the information given at that point, I cannot reason my way to justify this act, which is basically slaying humans for the sake of humanity.

When we think about this plan from a tactical standpoint, it still cannot offer a promising outlook for us or the next generations. Different from that in a conventional war, our enemy grows as we lose our fighters. “Infect a human, he becomes a zombie. Kill a zombie, he becomes a corpse. We could only get weaker, while they might actually get stronger.” (272) One may argue with this statement with the presence of science and technology, but the saddening fact is, “we weren’t mechanized anymore” (273). We can see the aftermath in China. The huge population was once the origin of the military’s confidence, but it was actually the Achilles’ heel and “the most populous nation on earth … [is] fatally outnumbered”, as “every dead soldier was now a live zombie”(235). When we are sending soldiers to the battlefield with an unreliable supply of ammunition and all the speculations and uncertainty, we are actually sending ourselves to the end. The situation will only worsen unless there are a deliberated plan and a steady supply of goods and materials. But I can’t see either of them at the Honolulu Conference.

We cannot simply rely on unrealistic optimism or a vehement speech when making this life or death decision for the entire human race. Being defensive doesn’t necessarily mean being a coward, and being offensive doesn’t necessarily represent valor. We need to calculate meticulously and use our best judgement, and there must be a better way other than a total war to end this nightmare.

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.

 

 

Regaining Control of Our Future

To frame the zombie epidemic as a “world war,” we acknowledge that there are two sides to this conflict, and that their respective goals clash with each other. While humans are concerned with preserving their race, the zombies are a unified unit waging total war, driven by their need to feed. In this situation, defense does not offer a permanent solution: we are only holding off the zombie forces temporarily, rather than decisively stopping the zombie epidemic. In fact, we grow weaker because every person we lose either dies, or becomes a zombie (and then dies again). The zombie population is made even more dangerous because they do not abide by the basic restrictions of being “bred, fed, and led” (Brooks 271).

Thus, if I were a head of state in World War Z, I would vote to go on the offensive, and attack the zombies with military forces. Because the zombie population is not held together by morale, it does not have a “maximum emotional psychology breaking point” (Brooks 273)—but the human population does. To circumvent this disadvantage, humans need to rally forces and eliminate the zombies methodically. Rather than wait for the zombies to slowly infect us all, we are now actively seeking them out and regaining control over the situation.

From a tactical standpoint, the army’s position and the amount of ammunition are crucial. A productive battle position is also a simple one: people are “massed in a straight line, two ranks: one active, one reserve […] Theoretically, with everyone either firing or reloading, we could keep Zack falling as long as the ammo held out” (Brooks 277). With enough resources, we not only outlast the zombies, but also ensure their defeat. By gradually killing each zombie and seeing concrete results, we also build morale, a crucial element to our success because we are fighting against enemies who do not need morale to keep going.

However, this approach raises questions about ethics. Although some argue that attacking the zombies is a death sentence, those who go into battle are aware that they may not make it out alive. Each person is “already a veteran in some sense” because “anyone who couldn’t roll wouldn’t have made it this far in the first place” (Brooks 276). A new, more experienced team can then be assembled, promoting both effectiveness and a sense of solidarity.

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To successfully deal with the zombie crisis, humans need to work as a team.

If we think of the zombie crisis as an epidemic, it suggests that an “infection” is spreading. “Infection” is hardly a tangible foe, which makes it difficult for humans to fight together against this common enemy. If we think about the zombie crisis as a war, however, it implies that humans are fighting against their enemies—the zombies—and we are armed with “heart, instinctive, initiative, everything that makes us us” (Brooks 308). In the narrator’s interview with Todd Wainio, we see the impact this sort of spirit and morale-building can have. He states that after the battle (in which the plan to attack was implemented), “[i]t was different vibe, one-eighty from two days ago. I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was feeling, maybe it was what the president said about ‘reclaiming our future.’ I just knew I felt good, better than I had the entire war” (Brooks 282). The “war” Wainio describes here consisted of humans defending against zombies and fighting a losing battle. But now, we are waging a new kind of war—this time, with intention to actively eliminate our enemies. The concept of “reclaiming our future” is abstract, but by unifying the human population, it motivates us to keep fighting so that the human race has a future.

Resources:

  1. Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.
  2. Photo of teamwork (http://blog.vihaanworld.com/post/team-building)

 

Blog Prompt for Week 5

This week’s blog prompt is an extension of the question we discussed in class. For your post, consider the following questions: If you were a head of state in World War Z, how would you have voted during the Honolulu Conference? Why? What would you recommend as a plan of action to deal with the Zombie War?

Support your post with textual evidence from the reading for Thursday, but also feel free to reference other portions of the novel. Try to analyze your decision from multiple angles: ethical, tactical, social, political, environmental, etc. You can also think about what it means for the zombie epidemic to be framed as a “war,” indeed a “world war.” What determines a world war? If the basic definition of a war is an armed conflict between nation-states, what nation-state do the zombies represent, if any? Is the conflict with the zombies actually a war or is it something else? How does thinking about the zombie crisis as a war (as opposed to an epidemic, for example) change how we approach it? Alternatively, how does thinking about the zombie crisis as an epidemic change our understanding of the events of the novel?

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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