Apocalypse Ethics Part Deux

A.S. Thompson

Quick Note: There is a spoiler alert regarding this current season of The Walking Dead. Nothing giving away much detail in Apocalypse Ethics Part Deux, but a plot point is discussed so keep that in mind.

On Apocalypse Ethics Part One, I had just finished playing the game “The Last of Us.” I want to take a quick second and reiterate that if you haven’t played it, you DEFINITELY have to check it out. No I’m not getting any money to plug it here, it was just an insanely great game- for me it was on par with Resident Evil 1.

We know, Thompson, move on…

Okay, so previously I spoke about our loved ones when it comes to the zombie apocalypse…what if they aren’t as survially inclined as us? What if they slow us down? What if they compromise our safety, etcetera etcetera; things to think about because it’s not all margaritas and roses in Zombieland. Tough decisions will have to be made as safety moves to the top of the list.

This time, however, I want to tweak things up a bit and cover a semi-related topic. In “The Last of Us,” we can see the progression of both characters. Joel becomes more and more hardened, thus making it seemingly easier to kill. Ellie, however, is an interesting case study. As a girl trapped between two worlds (child and adult), her tough exterior makes her actions difficult to diagnose, but we can also see the struggle after her first kill and subsequent ones. Now there is no epilogue of her in some shrink’s office as they discuss her emotions and how she’s coping, but I think the fact remains, taking a life is no easy thing.

So, in the inevitable zombie apocalypse, how willing are you to kill? Zombs are one thing, and sure video games and movies have desensitized death, but I’m talking about the real-deal conscious decision of ending someone; removing a living, breathing, heart-beating human from this plane of existence. 

Throughout this conversation, try to put yourself in the examples and think about how willing or able are you to pull the trigger or deal the death blow.

Furthermore, in Part Deux I want to expand on this direct killing and talk about the indirect variety; i.e. your decision(s) being the cause or catalyst that brings about the death of another. But more on that later. I want to get back to the first point which is the direct killing of another.

I think that when the Z virus goes pandemic, there are certain people who will do easier than the rest of us. Military personnel for starters, have the training and many who have seen combat will have experienced this adrenaline fight response. I think their instincts will kick in and this drive to survive will make it easier for them to kill. Others of similar background might include law enforcement, criminals (the hard-cores), and psychopaths- I’m thinking Patrick Batement (Christian Bale, American Psycho) types.

These people will have a leg up. They have the potential to feel less remorse or none at all. They have training that makes them better shots, better strategists and ultimately better prepared for this action. For example, it’s easy for a criminal who has carried out armed robbery to hold you up at gun point and take your survival goods or steal your transportation.

Now let me correlate it to the Walking Dead where we have seen, time and time again, Rick and Co. being attacked by groups who mean to do them harm, take over their territory, or exact revenge. Or- and SPOILER ALERT- what if in order to get supplies, you have to do terrible things, like Rick and Co. this season who are tasked with the indiscriminate killing of a bunch of bad dudes who are terrorizing other survivors. For some it’s easy, for others like Glenn, the struggle is real. How long can you remain human when your very humanity is stripped away?

In my opinion one of the toughest parts with killing humans in the Z-World becomes losing or setting aside the basic knowledge that we are all on the same side. Rather, we should be. Us v. Dead becomes twisted and convoluted and somehow transitions into Us v. Them (and then Dead).

What are you getting at, Thompson? Spit it out.

Okay, let’s bring this together. Imagine that you haven’t eaten or drunken in days. You come across people who have plenty but are unwilling to share. Now you only want enough to survive but they aren’t budging. Matter of fact, they tell you to kick rocks. Chances are, in your less than stable state of mind, you’re going into full-on rage mode and will do whatever it takes to feed you and yours. So, the fight begins and it ends up going to that next level, and now people are dead. Accident? Perhaps. Fact remains, that in order to obtain the bare necessities of life, you (had to?) take one.


For a moment, let’s deviate from the direct man on man fighting and discuss indirect actions. But in order to dive deeper, we need an example…

Imagine you are the leader of a group of survivors. Everyone looks to you to make decisions. Where do we get food and water, who goes out on food runs, blah blah blah. Now comes the toughy…what do we do with unruly co-survivors?

Say one of your people, let’s call him Devious Daniel, has decided he wants more than his fair portion of rations. Under that beautiful waxing moon, he sneaks into the food storage and takes half your supplies. What a dick move.

Sunrise hits camp and that means breakfast! Yum! Well, except now the missing food has surely become known. The hunt is on. After days of suspicion, the food and culprit have been discovered and Daniel is brought before you. He has to be punished right? Some argue he should be sent off, others might suggest increased work duties, and Daniel, well he’d be happy with a slap on the wrist, but that’s not likely, at least not in my camp!

So, the villagers want justice, and because you are their super awesome leader, this weighty judgment is on you. If you let him stay, there’s a definite possibility he will repeat his actions or even plot for a more egregious raid and bail, never to be seen again. If you send him off with nothing more than a bottle of water, a can of beans and a sharpened stick, let’s be real, he’s an asshole and not very survivally inclined so he’s as good as dead. Knowing this, does that make your decision tougher? Or has the need to protect the masses outweighed Devious Daniel’s life? Decisions, decisions.

Let’s use another example, but don’t worry, you’re still your group’s badass, take-no-shit, leader. This time, however, a husband, wife and child have stumbled upon your camp. You don’t know anything about them other than what they tell you. Maybe you even use Rick Grimes’ Three Questions and get a read on them. In any event, they have no food, no weapons, nothing to trade. They haven’t had water in a day, food in three and their baby is crying. They need a place to rest, a group to join.

Crying baby in zombie world might as well mean dinner bell to any local dead-heads. For me, my morals would be weighing pretty heavy. I couldn’t exactly not help the baby. So at the risk of putting my people in Z-danger, I’m giving the baby food. But let’s ride that slippery slope. Does this mean the mom and dad are eating too? Do you invite them in? Does one night eventually become long term? Now that’s three more mouths to feed. And on top of that, could you trust them? What if it’s a con? So, what do you do? Do you tell them good luck and keep walking? Let’s fast forward that choice to a day later when your scouting party finds the three of them dead. Damn, your ruling just killed three people.

I know what you’re going to say. But Thompson, there’s no way you can save everyone! Even in real life!

Agreed. So let’s move on and un-pause the earlier talk.

Whether you’re a fan of sprinters or walkers, fundamental Romero-types or new age zombies, I think most Z-fans have seen the film 28 Days later. This time, you’re Cillian Murphy. Your girls have been taken from you and plan to be used for terrible things. No way you’re letting that happen! But these Army dudes aren’t just going to lay down their guns to someone they just tried to kill, someone with a frothy mouth full of bloodlust. So it looks like you have two choices…bail and save yourself? Or get mentally prepared to fuck shit up? Because in order to liberate your people, you have to kill. No way around it. So again, I pose the question, what do you do? Are you willing to destroy your foe? Or are those moral strings of yours tuggin’ pretty good?

Damn that’s exhausting.

Okay, I’d say it’s about time to wrap things up.

So, in conclusion, as we prep for Z-Day, we should also take time and mentally prep for the truly soul-testing scenarios.

Are you willing to take a life, deservedly or not? Do you have the fortitude to make a decision that kills another? When is it okay to kill? Is it okay to kill? How about an interesting question…zombs aside, is it possible to make it through the end of the world without killing the living?

The ethics that we have built as a modern society do draw into question how we act when the dead rise. In my opinion there is no hard and fast rule. Every scenario is different. Some might suggest that if an action was done with good intentions it should be deemed okay. But then there’s also the saying no good deed goes unpunished, and in the apocalypse, I think we all know what that could mean…

Things to think about.

Right now, for this writer and Z-lover, I think I’ll just crack a beer and watch 28 Days Later.

Thanks for reading!

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