Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Zombies and Red Kryptonite

One of my enduring fantasies is the Zombie Apocalypse scenario. The dead walk the earth: rotting, shambling hordes of cannibalistic undead and only the brave, intelligent and well-armed have a chance…

The power in this fantasy is very simple and very powerful- you get to kill people without any of the guilt or psychic damage that a healthy person feels from actually killing people. The idea resonates because we know what a huge release it would be. As  children, we all threw tantrums, kicking and screaming, sometimes breaking and hurting anything we were strong enough to hurt or break. This comes out in early childhood, when we are too physically weak to be much danger to the tribe, and it must be dealt with in childhood, too.  But we have all felt it and we know that it feels good to rage, to scream because the world is not all about us, to destroy not just the things that endanger us or hurt us, but the things that annoy us, or even just the things that we can destroy purely as an expression of power.

We walk away from this, most of us, as adults.  There are consequences to giving vent to rage. The world is not all about us, and it shouldn’t be. It couldn’t be all about me and all about you too. The math doesn’t work.

Same with the idea of Red Kryptonite. A substance that removes all feelings of guilt and right/wrong and shame. You do what you feel like because you feel like it. This is the way that we are born (inner child therapy? My perfectly undamaged inner child is a sociopath and so is yours). As we grow, we learn that there is a cost to it. You can’t use and abuse anyone you want and keep friends. There isn’t enough trust. There are potential legal and financial and health risks (act like an ass for long enough in the right places and you WILL get hurt.)

That’s only half of it, because each of those problems are centered on the self. “I don’t do bad things because I might get in trouble,” is still all about me.  The world is not all about you.

A big part of growing up is coming to understand that everything gets paid for, just maybe not by you.  Giving vent to a murderous rage or even a justified shooting in fiction pretty much ends there. Rarely does it go into the funeral and the grieving. Almost never to how the orphans adjust, trying to explain a world where someone they love could be brutally erased or how a widow with children must balance both grief and the need for enough money to stay alive.

Some authors go into the shooter's head, a little, with lip service to the nightmares and the flashbacks. In real life, one person may have the nightmares, but someone else has to hold them through the night. Some one else was in physical danger during the flashbacks. Someone else, someone they loved, often watched a shooter slip away into a mental world that couldn’t be shared.

Doing whatever you want is fun. It is. It just might leave a trail of broken hearts and broken people, the more broken the closer they are to you.

There was a fairly intense time when I was working with some very bad people. Bad enough that almost everyone would agree that the world would be a much better, safer place without them. In essence, I was spending eight to sixteen hours a day not killing people who could have used some killing. After shift, many mornings, I would go home and plug in a video game and shoot CGI people.

It was the same fantasy, but with another level. Even if 100% of the people agreed that these violent people needed to be killed and it would make a better place, having someone in uniform do it, without the sanction of courts, would be far worse, a much higher price to pay. The betrayal of the way the world should work would be far more damaging than the benefit of what amounts to removing a public health risk.

The things that would satisfy a child are rarely what an adult needs to do.

So here’s a line (and apply it to politics to see why I am so disgusted with both parties): children are okay with other people paying for their mistakes or for their desires. Children feel it to be a great outrage and injustice to be expected or even demanded to pay their own prices. The most immature of them don’t recognize that there is a price at all, or pretend that it is really a benefit (from “giving me money is good for your soul” to “every dollar taken by the government in taxes puts (magically?) $1.20-$1.50 into the economy” to giving failures billions of dollars so that they can continue to fail in exactly the same way. Insanity? Or simply childishness?).

Red kryptonite is a simple choice. I love the people who would have to pay the price too much to indulge.

“…I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep…”- Robert Frost


Anonymous said...

Very nicely put Rory.

Master Plan said...

Hmm. RED Kryptonite? You're sure?

I don't disagree with any of the rest of what you wrote, except that in addition to the lack of guilt over killing zombies, I think they also present a variety of very interesting tactical situations.

Anonymous said...

Together with your unique background, You have a knack for identifying and stating important truths succinctly. Please, keep it up!