I've always known that I'd survive. Whether it's the result of a zombie uprising, an alien invasion, or just a bunch of nuke-happy despots, I've always had this feeling, deep down, that I would be among those proud remaining shotgun-wielding, muscle car-driving heroes, protecting the rest of the surviving few from unspeakable horrors. Most people fear this possible yet unlikely apocalypse. I've always prayed for it.
It's sick, I know, but I'm not alone. It's a popular fantasy, and is evidenced by the success of thousands of books, movies, games and even a religion or two. It's especially popular among me and my geek friends, but with the mainstream success of films like Zombieland, a new Mad Max movie, books like World War Z and The Road and TV shows like The Walking Dead and Falling Skies there's an undeniable thirst for the end of the world.
Why the fuck would anyone fantasize, nay, look forward to, such a horrifying outcome? I never really thought about it until recently. But, first, let's examine why I, Yuri Lowenthal, average white guy from a liberal democratic upper-middle class household who never really had to suffer greatly in his life dreams of roaming a dangerous lawless wasteland. Maybe it's just that. I've never had a real test of my true worth, my ability to survive, protect and be a true hero. Maybe it's the same reason we flock to see horror movies, for a peek into a darkness that (hopefully) we'll never actually experience in our real-world lives.
Sure enough, there are massive opportunities to learn when we willingly put ourselves in uncomfortable places. While parents and authority figures met to determine how big a threat Dungeons & Dragons was on the youth of my day, we were playing at being elves and thieves and reading comic books and playing video games and sneaking out to midnight movies and learning. Sure, about devil worship and how the only thing cooler than a shotgun is two shotguns welded together, but also about history and mythology and language and other cultures and human interaction and creative problem solving. I credit the well rounded, educated, socially responsible person I am today in great part to having thrust myself into a world of pretend dangers.
But that's just why escapism may be important to human development. Let's get specific again. The Apocalypse. The End of Days. Rapture. Ragnarok. Why, specifically, has that become such a pre-occupation these days? What was all that excitement when Harold Camping said that the world was going to end earlier this year about? And it wasn't just fundamentalist Christians. It was me and my heathen friends. Sure, we poked fun at it, and made it an excuse for Judgment Day parties, but did I sense a little anticipation? A little -- dare I say, hope, that Reverend McCrazypants might be right? Why? I'm not a nihilist. I don't think the human race is suicidal. What could we possibly be hoping for by rooting for the end?
Back in the 80s we were constantly terrified that nuclear fire would rain down if ivory tower politicians got into a pissing contest. Today the threat is a little more insidious. Economic collapse, homegrown terrorist strikes, violent revolution, cyber-crime, unemployment, incurable mutating pandemics. We don't really have a big guy in a black hat waving a gun in our face, despite our occasional attempts to create them. Wouldn't it just be easier if the enemy was easily identifiable and the cure simple? If we didn't have to wade through years of court proceedings to bring justice to the wronged? Like, for example, if the enemy was zombies and the only way to stop them was by bashing their heads in?
As horrifying a fate as that would be in reality, I am excited by the simplicity of it all.
Simplicity. Instead of worrying about whether or not I'm getting enough "likes" on Facebook and keeping up with my Twitter account and losing sleep over health insurance, being sued for saving someone's life, or fearing a schizophrenic will go off his meds and shoot up the coffee shop I'm in tomorrow, all I'd need to think about is: stay alive. Survival. In the aftermath of the apocalypse, the rules are simple. Kill or be killed. Zombies are easy. Aliens are easy. Wasteland marauders are easy. Let's face it, as much as we've done to make life easier the world's gotten really fucking complicated.
Wouldn't it just be easier to shoot zombies in the head? What if your to-do list looked like this:
1. Find food/shelter
2. Kill zombies
Survival may not be easy, but it certainly is simple.
And this is the point (if not much sooner) at which I imagine some of you will say, "Stop whining you privileged fuck. I was a Sudanese child soldier. I saw the most unspeakable of acts perpetrated before I was even old enough to shave and had to walk ten miles every day just to get clean water. I don't pray for the apocalypse. Why don't you go off and serve your country in the military if you really want to prove yourself? There are plenty of wars going on. Or volunteer to sift through bodies in disaster-plagued countries?"
To which my pansy-ass retort would be: "But that's not part of the apocalypse package. You can't choose to do it. It has to take you completely by surprise, testing your mettle, forcing you to become a man, or whatever. You can't prepare for it. It doesn't work that way. Haven't you read The Stand?"
And also probably because I don't want to. It's not safe. It probably smells bad and I wouldn't get a good wi-fi connection. And it would probably hurt.
Who knows, maybe you're right. Maybe I'll be the first to put the collar on when the robots subjugate us all. But I don't know, man... I've still got that feeling that I'll survive, that I'll rise to the occasion -- probably in a badass leather duster -- and you'll thank me when I do.
In the meantime I'll be in my office playing Left For Dead.