I bow to the popular will on the selection of this song. My original favorite from Iron Maiden was Run to the Hills from Number of the Beast. However, I realize that a song about fleeing is, perhaps, not the best motivator when one needs to make a stand. Truthfully, any song from this band will get my blood up for a good fight with the undead, and The Trooper is a good one.
The Bugle sounds and the charge begins But on this battlefield no one wins The smell of acrid smoke and horses breath As I plunge on into certain death.
You'll still hear this played on the radio, but it rings of cliché. It is fashionable among the younger generation to make fun of this song, but if I'm alone and it comes on, I do puff out my chest and look for the nearest weapon at hand.
I was at a birthday feast for that old geezer Javi. I kid! He's 5 years younger than me, but I'm far better looking. We go way back, having served together in the final clearing operations on the east coast.
Anyways, we were all digging into some excellent Rognons de Veau like it was our last meal. — That's veal kidneys for you philistines out there. — I noted that, in the old days, this probably wouldn't have been on the menu since most people turned their noses up at offal. In fact, I commented, there does not seem to be any picky eaters or even vegetarians these days. Well, what a conversation that sparked! Several interesting tidbits came out of this.
First, about half the people present claimed to be former picky eaters, one was even a vegan, but they changed their habits out of necessity. If survival means having to eat that piece of cow liver, you will hold your nose and do it. For many, their dietary restrictions were a result of not wanting to try new stuff. They discovered that most formerly avoided foods were actually quite good.
Second, and most surprising, several at the table new of people who died as an indirect result of their pickiness. It was never a direct choice of death over okra. Rather, having passed up nutritious oddities, they either didn't have the strength when it was needed or took ill. Their inability to master the gag reflex cost them their lives.
Finally, the conversation ended when I asked if anyone partook of human flesh. All quickly said no, but there were a few downcast eyes and talk changed to the upcoming home stand of the Rappahannock Raiders.
For the record, I never ate people. However, I was never in a position where my life depended on that choice. I don't think I'd have a problem doing it. I will eat anything. And I am a leg man. I'd get hung up, though, on how to ethically harvest that food.
YES, I realize this song is about the pre-SHTF troubles in Northern Ireland (interesting that we now think of that horrible time as less than completely catastrophic). And, NO, I do not think of this song as being about the undead. It still strikes the chord which the author, Dolores O'Riordan, intended: those who have died in the violence of the outbreak, of whatever cause, haunt us, drive us insane. We must be careful not to lose sight of the fact that survival is not the ends, but the means to create a new life. If we are consumed by the violence that was necessary during the outbreak, we not only decrease our chances for survival, but also make it less likely that the new world will be worthwhile.
Max Brooks, despite my past disagreements with him, got it right when he called attention to the Primary Enticement Mechanism (PEM). Once humanity counter-attacked, it seemed each group of survivors independently determined that loud, pulsating music served two purposes: The first, stated reason would be to lure the undead into a kill zone. The second, but most important reason was to psyche you up.
I have my own, personal playlist from the time that I served as a Sky Watcher. Whatever the artistic merits of these songs, they still get my blood up. Each song on the list has a personal story behind it. I will relate those as time allows.
From what I can tell, the public health establishment has done an excellent job in dealing with Influenza A (H1N1). So much so, that it appears many people do not believe it was ever a serious crisis. When the flu makes its re-appearance this fall — and it will — I believe it will be made worse because of those who will not take the necessary steps out of a false sense of security.
Therein lies the problem with preventing end of the world scenarios: If you take the right steps, many people may not even realize that the end was averted. If you don't, you probably won't be around to rue your inaction.
Case in point: the movie Quarantine. How did most people react to this story? "How could you lock up those innocent folks and condemn them to a horrible death?" This is probably why, when the Solanum virus made its reappearance, the outbreak quickly went worldwide.
For a more conventional example, consider the Johnstown Flood. Prior to that disaster in 1889, the engineer in charge of the dam could have dredged out a section to allow the water to drain out in a controlled fashion. This, however, would have then required an expensive repair effort. He probably would have lost his job because no one would have known of the averted disaster, the lives saved. Instead, fearing for his job, he chose to do nothing in the hope that it would all work out. Over 2,200 people we killed in the ensuing flood.
So, what does it take to do the right thing? You have to assume that doing so will cost you greatly, anything from losing your job to your life. You have to be willing to make that sacrifice. A good backup plan couldn't hurt when your faced with a personal SHTF as a result of folks not realizing that the negative they face now is no where near as bad as the one you just averted.
by James Howard Kunstler My neighbor Jim tipped me off to this book, but only half recommended it. It's a work of fiction written pre-SHTF by an author who wrote several speculative non-fiction works about how the world would probably end. Interestingly enough, the guy never mentioned zombies. It's what you don't expect that always gets you!
The novel takes place in the world Kunstler describes in his book, The Long Emergency. It covers one summer in a small, upstate New York town about a decade after TEotWaWKI.
Jim wasn't big on the book's main character (Robert Earle), believing that a man who -- in my friend's words -- lacked balls would not have lasted long. While my neighbor is correct that how Robert Earle reacted to various events would not have boded well for him in our reality, the world Kunstler describes is quite different. And I'm not talking just about the lack of undead.
First of all, the end came gradually. Over the course of years, through a terrorist nuke here and a decline in trade there, the world just fizzled out (I guess that tells you how bad the Zombie War was if a nuke or two is not that big of a deal). In fact, as Kunstler writes, some even believe that society could return to the old days, if they could just catch a break or two. This contrasts sharply with our reality. It became clear rather quickly -- over the course of just a few days, in fact -- that the old world was dead. Once you've lost such hope, violence becomes easier. If people, even the bad guys, believe that there could be a return, one is more willing to act with restraint.
Another critical difference is that we still retain much of the infrastructure from the old world. Other than that first, hungry winter, food is not an issue. We have a fully functioning electrical grid and an even better medical establishment. In the World Made by Hand, you had to grow your own food, live by the rising and setting of the sun and were probably dead if you encountered a serious medical issue. You could not effectively be a bad guy in that world, at least not extremely evil. You couldn't afford to get hurt in an encounter. Also, it was much more efficient to trade for food or grow it yourself than it is to steal it, at least in the long run.
I did thoroughly enjoy this book and appreciate the lessons I took from it:
You should live on fecund land: something with good soil, easy access to water and hunting/fishing grounds.
You should have practical skills: anything that allows you to build/maintain stuff or something in the healing arts.
You need a functioning society, adherence to the rule of law.
This book has lessons worth learning.
An interesting coincidence: The author makes reference to a deadly flu pandemic originating in Mexico, years before this event actually happened.
We are so focused on the zombie threat — even though the war effectively ended nearly a decade ago and we have not had a serious outbreak in several years — that we can forget that the undead are not all that could threaten our survival. I have may eyes on Mexico at the moment and the reports of a thousand plus cases of flu that are affecting not just the young, old and those with compromised immune systems, but also healthy adult. It appears to be spreading to the north.
Though the world has moved on and a younger generation is leading our society, I still try to keep busy. My role as Director of Zombie Defense is largely ceremonial. Literally, it takes just an old man with an SIR and a good machete to protect the community from the undead. So I have lots of time on my hands.
I personally find nothing about zombies to be funny, but I suppose I can understand the old world's ability to laugh at the subject. What did they know? I hope I can find a copy of this book. I'll read it and let you know what I think.
I am the Director of Zombie Defense for the Rappahannock District. That sounds more important than it really is. My jurisdiction covers about 1,000 square miles, yet last year we had only a dozen zombies and all of them were crawlers. However, it takes only one idiot who's been bitten and doesn't do the right thing for a renewed outbreak. So, I offer this advice to prevent such a catastrophe:
First of all, don't panic! There's no need to be in a constant state of readiness for another widespread resurgence of zombies. We understand the situation far better than we did in pre-SHTF days and can react quickly and efficiently to quell an outbreak. Always being on alert is expensive and wears down your nerves. So, chill out!
A Zed Dog is your best friend. You can never go wrong if you have a dog who's been trained to alert you to the presence of the undead. Just remember that these animals should not be treated as pets. They are working dogs. They should have free access to the outdoors and know their role in your pack; that is, you are the alpha. When you hear the dog bark, your response should be pavlovian.
Good landscaping can be beautiful and effective at dealing with the undead. I don't recommend that you tear down the fortress you built during the crisis, but if you're on the look out for new digs, there is no longer a need for Fort Knox. You can take simple steps with low walls, fencing, hedges and other foliage to make your house more defensible in a time when a zombie attack may not number for more than 5 - 10 creatures. Look at ways to channel their unthinking movement into areas where they can be easily seen and/or trigger sound such as bells.
Know your neighbors. This may be the most important piece of advice. What are they like? Will they have your back in an outbreak? Or are they idiots who may be fresh fuel for it. In either case, interact with them regularly. So that you don't come across as a nosy neighbor, I'd bring gifts on a regular basis. Helps you to get on their good side and provides a good excuse for a visit. I usually bring freshly picked fruit or a book.
I truly do not believe we will ever see anything like the catastrophe we experienced, but neither will things return to the old normal. A common sense approach to life will help to greatly extend your life expectancy.