5 Things Humans can learn from Zombies

Because it has been one of those days/weeks. . . . and because, underneath it all (or underneath what they have left of it all), zombies are people too.


Five Things Humans Can Learn from Zombies

There are many people in this world who think that zombies are a menace, pure and simple. These doom and gloom types are quick to point out the destructive and murderous tenancies of the undead and this leads them to suggest that we humans must meet murderous force with murderous force. They claim that only such an approach will ensure the survival of the human race.

This advice may, at first glance, seem sound. I know that if surrounded by a horde of the undead, I would likely not try to engage them in a debate about Shakespeare or politics – in all probability, my survival instincts would take over and I would run as far and as fast as I could from said horde. But just because I do not want to be a zombie, does it mean that I cannot appreciate zombies and the contribution they can make to our world if we allow them to do so? I will suggest that, somewhat ironically, those who think the only suitable responses to the undead are violence and mayhem are ignoring the example the undead can set for human kind and also some pretty darned important life lessons. Before the nay-sayers among you think I have lost my mind, let me explain what I mean.

As a human individual’s social and philosophical worth is relative, so too is that of zombie kind. One argument would suggest that all we can learn from zombies is that there is a living hell. I will concede that being a zombie is not all fun and games – unless you consider drooling, decomposing and eating brains and viscera fun. (And some of you may, I cannot tell. So I will leave that point for a later debate.) So it can be conceded that, given the present evidence, being a zombie is both physically and socially limiting. People shun you, run from you and, without any thought as to how you may feel about it, try to bash in your head. Society considers you to be no better than vermin. Forced into such a situation by chance (as very few people become zombies by choice), it is hard not to see why some people suggest that zombies should be hunted down and disposed of as quickly as possible.

But in a world where we often give lip-service to equality and inclusion, society’s aggressive stance towards zombie-kind can appear a bit ungracious, at best. Instead of limiting ourselves to merely thinking of ever better ways to kill a zombie, we non-zombies should be trying to see the potential in our relationship with the undead to enrich our existence and even, perhaps, that of the undead.

So, in order to foster a more open and zombie-positive dialogue on this very issue, I have provided a list of what I feel are the five most important things which humans can learn from our undead cousins. Of course, that the dialogue may take place only among us non-zombie types as the undead’s ability to reason, speak and argue is severely restricted and is limited only to the ability to grunt, groan and wail. (For some people in some regions of the world, particularly those directly involved in politics, this situation may not seem too much different from what they already experience.) But I would urge we non-zombies not to let that stop us from at least trying. Despite what we may think, zombies have much to add to the consideration of this question and I am sure that, if they could express their desires in a clearer, more lucid way, they would want to participate. Of course, until such time as the art of zombie grunt and moan translation develops a bit more fully, we must take on a greater share of the burden if zombie-kind is to be better appreciated by humanity.

Please remember that the points listed below are meant to be jumping off points for serious discussion among those who both deal directly with the undead and those who wish to contemplate the more philosophical and esoteric aspects of human and zombie existence. Remember, there is a rather symbiotic link between humans and zombies; they could not exist without us. Their origins are human and we must respect that. And for those who still cannot see the benefits of this approach, think of it this way: if there ever is an all out war between humanity and the undead wouldn’t it be nice if we humans could come to the table with more than just guns, bazookas, mortar shells and other deadly artillery? Nothing says “We really want to work this out,” like trying to understand the other guy, even if he is a walking corpse bent on eating the contents of your cranium.

Five things Humans can learn from zombies (in no particular order):

1. It is a small world, after all.
It is always important to remember that, whether you want to admit it or not, the zombie trying to eat your brains was once just like you – human. That zombie worked for a living, wanted better things for his or her children and likely, had the places been reversed, would not be as quick to run from you. (Well, maybe not as quick.) In fact, while you are planning your escape route from the approaching zombie horde, take a minute to consider whether or not there might be one or two of your old friends, relatives, neighbours or drinking buddies in that horde. Make your mother proud – even if she is one of the horde – and empathize with the undead. Try to see the world from their side. Remember: we are all essentially the same under our human skin – even if that skin is fetid, rotting, falling off and gangrenous.

2. Acceptance will set you free!
As you are able to read this, I will assume that you are not yet a full fledged zombie – that you have either managed to remove yourself from an infected area, have been successful in so far escaping from the horde, or have been bitten but you have not yet transformed fully. (Indeed, if the last scenario applies to you, I applaud your efforts to use your last moments as a more rational being to enlighten your social and cultural zombie awareness!) But, should the unthinkable happen, should you find yourself “converted,” so to speak, I advise you not to fight the transition. Accept your new lot. Try to adjust your mind set to a more positive way of thinking about what will come. Yes, you will now crave brains but you cannot avoid it – so embrace it! See it as not the end of your human life, but the beginning of your zombie life! Nothing will get you through the drudgery of decomposition and brain obsession like being one with the program!

It might help to remember that the zombie world is a simpler and much less stressful one. Their needs and their approach to filling those needs are simple: find brains, eat brains, repeat. Some of you might belittle such linear thinking as unimaginative; you would be wrong. Is it really better to spend countless hours obsessed with ideas, worries, conjectures and fears that serve only to complicate rather than simplify your life? Do like the zombies do – zone out, simplify and let your life flow as it should. Think of it this way: have you ever seen a zombie that is as stressed out as you used to be at work? Perhaps there is something to be said for your new altered existence. Accept and relax!

3. Being able to adapt to strange and unique situations really isn’t so hard if you put your mind (or what is left of it) to work!

We humans underestimate the determination and drive of the undead. Those who will be telling you to be afraid of the zombie ability to keep going no matter what (and there will be those who will refuse to be enlightened), are missing the point. Zombies are so determined, that they let nothing stand in their way. They are, simply put, nature’s most goal oriented creatures! To acquire the brains they so crave, they will adapt to whatever obstacles are placed in their path – both physical and metaphorical. A zombie never says die! (Ironic, isn’t it?) While we may not be able to appreciate their dedication and zeal as fully as we would like (as prey often times does have difficulties feeling for the thing hunting it), we must admit that we as humans are a lazy lot and many of us take the easiest route to acquiring what we want. We may aspire to do better, but often we do not. Zombies, then, can be a true role model when it comes to focus, dedication and the ability to adapt to whatever obstacles we face. Be as determined as a zombie, and whatever you want can be yours – even if what you want is brains.


4. Community is more important than the self.
We speak of the “zombie horde” as if it were a bad thing. Of course, if you are facing one, you are unlikely to feel the experience is positive, but I am talking in terms of philosophical debate here, not in terms of the prey and the hunter. Zombies are pack animals and their very survival depends on their integration with the pack. Thus they live in a symbiotic relationship with their community: they work with it and respect its needs, desires and goals.

Present day human society places a high premium on individualism, even when its media culture is trying to convince us to think the same way, and to buy the same brand names. Yet, deep down, we non-zombies are pack animals as well. We try hard to cover the fact that we need to be connected to other humans. I do not speak here of the “connections” that have come with the advent of social media (as “liking” someone on a web site or carrying on a conversation purely by text is not, to my mind, truly a type of human connectivity) but of person-to-person contact, the sort that can only be had by going out, socializing and actually speaking, face to face and interacting with other humans.

Ask yourself this question: if the time comes and you undergo the “transition” to zombie life, will you know how to interact with others? Will you know how to be a team player? If so, then you will survive to hunt brains and infect others! If not, you will be the weakest link and will slow down the horde – and may become one of its victims.

Caring about what happens to those who walk beside you, even if they are walking in a search for brains, makes the zombie’s existence just a bit more humane. Can we say that our modern society measures up?


5. Brains really are the most important thing in life!
This is the most important lesson that humans can draw from the example of their undead cousins. We in modern society marginalise those who celebrate and enrich their brains (unless they make a fortune in video game or computer software). Zombies, though, have long understood what present day human kind appears to have forgotten – we are nothing without our brains! For zombies, as for we non-zombies, brains are nourishment. For them, they are a finger food; for those of use not yet transformed, they allow us to grow and feed our thoughts and intellect. Our brains are key to our survival, in both the present and in our potential zombie future. We who have yet to join the horde forget this at our peril. Ironic, isn’t it, that if we do become one of the undead that the importance of that mass of grey matter we have neglected and mocked for so long will, once more, become central to our lives? Perhaps it is the last piece of poetic justice – and perhaps it is the one aspect of the zombie existence on which we can find common ground. Brains really are what counts!

I hope that these points will engender useful bi-partisan, human-zombie discussion and bring us towards a more common understanding of our humanity. Just remember: inside every civilized non-infected human is a zombie just waiting to get out and hunt for brains!



Students say the darndest things, Part II

Last week, I posted some of the more unique and interesting interpretations that students in my classes have submitted in their essays and exams.  Last week’s post dealt with Antiquity to the Early Modern era — this week’s covers the Age of Revolutions to the Twentieth Century.

Remember, these are taken verbatim from student submissions.  Enjoy!



The French Revolution and its aftermath

At the beginning of the 18th century, France was a wealthy yet slightly disorganized country. The beginnings of the Revolution began a small problem for the monarchs. The Napoleonic period and the French Revolution happened in 1787.

For 10 years leading up [to] the 19th century, France had no future but had entered the modern age nevertheless. The events prior to the French Revolution had led up to the French Revolution and after this period a lot of stabilizing had occurred. Although the poor come across as guided dogs in many areas of history, the peasants of the French Revolution displayed the greatest capabilities of the unintelligent. By 1789, the masses were psychologically prepared to burst into the area of politics. Peasants now had a new-found confidence as the rioting was beginning to cause awareness all across France. Many peasants were in worse condition after the French Revolution, thousands were dead.

The Nineteenth Century

The Industrial Revolution sprung forth many changes to the world. The [industrial] revolution overturned the status quo and catapulted the growing masses of the middle class. The middle class emerged with the parliament.

The development of industry and technology in the 18th and 19th centuries allowed states to develop powers which would allow them to effect political situations and eventually lead into a new age of political thought as no longer were enough to allow for the dignified survival of people. Up until the Crimean War, technology was not taken very seriously, but it was during this period that the steam ship and shell fire was recognized. This clearly sparked the rate at which technology was integrated into war.

Hence, difference being the main element that held nationalism together, can only lead to or inevitably become a form of racism if only because all nationalistic groups consist of prerequisites that are not the same.

Evolution had been floating around but Darwin was the first to explain how it occurred. The theories Charles Darwin introduced were extremely stunning.

Throughout history naval warfare has come in waves, but during the late 19th and early 20th century naval power would have many shifts between the British and Germany. In building such a large navy [in the late nineteenth century], Germany becomes a threat to England, for England is seen as invisible on the sea. German forces would come together in the late 19th and early 20th [centuries] to battle with the British for superiority of the water.

The Twentieth Century

Europeans showed enthusiasm for World War I because they didn’t know any better. War was no longer between men. It was between weapons of destruction and machines. Due to the fact that Germany forcibly accepted full responsibility for causing the war, they had to pay repercussion to the exhausted but vicious ally forces. The total amount was outrageously out of the Germans price range.

Left at home while men went off to fight, women became independent and self-sufficient. This, coupled with the fact that the suffragist movement had finally secured the vote, encouraged the birth of the flapper. Women and men became more pernicious and were in theory more sexually liberated. Cross dressing was in fashion and homosexuality more accepted. Indeed, culture was more receptive to new ideas and alternative to democracy which they understood to have failed. This mentality set the stage for both the emergence of Nazism and Fascism.

Nazism is a religion, well kind of like a religion. The Triumph of the Will also showed how the Nazis loved a parade and to be involved in a good time. The energy and sudden neurosis that emitted from the civilian and military crowd when they saw Hitler was a better proof on how much the people of Germany had attached themselves to Hitler and the Nazi party. World War II was a massive, high-scale killing machine and Hitler was driving it.

England associated Churchill with a lower standard of living and conflict. Thus [after World War II], many people looked to the Labour party for salvation as it was thought that although Germany was the root of all evil, it was run well economically. Thus, the labour party headed by Truman came to power as a majority.

Stalin was well aware that the US had a nuclear bomb, and, thanks to their previous tract record, was confident that they were willing to use it.


Next week: The 5 Things Humans Can Learn from Zombies. Seriously.

Long time no blog….

Like many, I have made New Year’s resolutions.  Like many, I will undoubtedly not keep all of them . . . but the “post more on your blog” resolution I will try to keep.  Here goes.

I thought we could start the New Year by celebrating how students of History can, sometimes, put a unique “spin” on their perception of the past.  What I post below I cannot take full credit for — these wonderful and sometimes amusing ideas were taken from essays, exams and other submissions students have made in my various courses.  It is a list I have been compiling for over a decade. Some of the observations are quite profound in their own way (I mean, Charlemagne really was the “scaffolding of the Middle Ages” if you think about it) while some . . . well, head shaking may be experienced.  (I know I still wonder, at times, what I must have said in lectures to spawn some of this.)

I give you a sampling of the pre-modern observations . . . From the Romans to the dawn of the 18th century.  As written by students. All text is reproduced as it was found in essays and exams.

They are divided by period or “historical development,” where possible.


Ancient Rome

After naming himself dictator, Caesar had a long road ahead of him.

The sacking of Rome put a lot of stress on the relationship between the Romans and the Goths.

The Middle Ages

The Empire of Charlemagne was the scaffolding of the Middle Ages. It was easier for the public to believe that Charlemagne had the right to the throne because he was a very tall leader.

William’s conquest completely transformed the fabric of English fabric forever. The conquest streamlined the common people. Slaves were elevated in class while surfs lost ground in the social ladder. More and more free-holders were gobbled up by the manor lords.

The eleventh century was also the period in which Christians fighting under the Pope was common.  The First Crusade set a lot of standards for the Crusades that were used by subsequent Crusades. All in all, the powerful impact and success of the First Crusade was so tremendous that the following crusades were not able to follow in the same footsteps. The crusades ignited many knights to take up the cause of the Lord and be as holy men. Many religious orders were made by this religiously pumped men.

One of Innocent III’s most popular personality traits was his ability to constantly interfere.

The Black Death ravished around Europe.

The Renaissance

Independent thinkers [in the Renaissance] were not considered as crazy as they were in previous eras.

Early Modern Europe

In the beginning, or rather 1500, a single monarch was placed in control of a country. Most monarchies are hereditary and not publicly appointed. It is believed that there was great absorption of knowledge in the 15th century.

The discovery of the New World was essential in the history of European expansion and in the development of the world. Christopher Columbus was a real trooper, dealing with the conditions that he and his men faced on his journey, with the sea sickness, the lack of variety of food and heating. When Hernan Cortes showed up [in South America], the Aztecs at the time were waiting for one of their Gods to show up, so they let him in. Further North of Cortes was New France (“Canada”) which showed a different type of colonial warfare as it was taken over by the British after the Plaines of Aberham [sic].

The explanation that has been most often used and held account to the decline of Spain is a series of faults made by the Spanish.

The Reformation

The Protestant Reformation took off by a man by the name of Martin Luther King. Erasmus gave Luther the umph he needed to get things going. Martin Luther’s initial rejection of the ways of the Catholic Church influenced him to make suggestions by nailing his problems to a Catholic Church door. [John Calvin] . . . was educated more than Luther and believed in “Pre-Destiny” which means everything that happens in already decided by God, in essence don’t worry about it. Calvinism as the Protestant movement became to be called spread a lot farther than Lutheranism because Calvin was a lot neater and more organized than Luther so Protestantism was easier understood

The Catholic Reformation grew out of the Protestant Reformers.

The Reformation was important in creating nationalist conditions. Religion was no longer standard.



Early Modern England

Henry [VIII]’s marriage was on a downward path from its conception.

Perhaps if Henry was raised during the time Elizabeth was raised he may have been a Protestant. Protestantism wasn’t very widespread yet.

In 1685 James II succeeded. James campaigned for Catholics. He started off slow but he eventually had Catholics appointed in the Privy, and high offices in the state.

The Glorious Revolution happened in England during King James rule.  As we know England was an Anglican country and they did not appreciate the fact that their King was turning Christian.

James may be seen as insane. After all, with all the anti-catholic sentiments still running strong in the nation, who would in their right mind push for Catholicism? Using religion as a battle ground to establish was a big mistake committed by James. He gave parliament a reason to legitimately erode him.

Early Modern France

Charles VII was the ruler who kicked chivalry in the butt.

The Edict of Nantes gave political rights to the Huguenots that were not compatible with the road that France was going down.


Next post: from the 18th Century to the present!