I have an emergency kit in the basement, mostly because I recognize I am likely to be stuck in my home without power for a couple days at a time at some point in the future. I don’t want to be stuck with unhappy children waiting for a log to be cleared or what have you. So, I put together an emergency kit for this eventuality.
Caveat, I treat the emergency kit like I’m preparing for the zombie apocalypse. I fantasize about it and imagine the various scenarios; however, I recognize that a zombie apocalypse is a fantasy.
There has been lots of research over the last several years about the zombie narrative in popular culture. Social theorists have noted that zombie pop culture tends to emerge at times of scarcity and economic recession. It is often assumed that the zombie apocalypse fantasy is a “fears being realized” type response to a world in decline. I think something very different is going on psychologically, at least for me.
I take great comfort in imagining the zombie scenario. How would I escape? How would I provide for myself and others? What sort of provisions might I need, or might I be capable of procuring? What contribution might I make to the group? Who might I want in my group? It’s a survival fantasy and I think it is more attractive in complicated times of despair for several reasons.
- It’s simple. It’s a life and death circumstance and the goal is not to subtly amass more wealth over a life time through complicated economic ventures, but instead to survive until tomorrow. And if you don’t survive, it’s all over and maybe that’s not so bad.
- The steps are clear. When a hurricane hits a coast, people are spurred to quick and decisive action. Procure supplies, board up the house, evacuate or batten down the hatches. After the storm, we clean the streets, provide aide and rescue operations, and restore utilities. The steps to take are often very clear and upon completion, there’s a lot of visible pay off. Cutting a tree off your house and turning it into firewood is likely much more rewarding than completing a spreadsheet that analyzes power usage or economic gains over time, etc…. In cutting the tree, we know exactly what to do, the order in which to do it, it’s challenging, and we see lots of progress along the way-a perfect recipe for gratification. The world we live in involves lots of tasks that don’t provide gratification and that’s one of the things that makes the zombie world so appealing. Taking out a zombie is probably very gratifying.
- It no longer matters if we pay the mortgage. Health insurance is not a reasonable concern.
- We imagine ourselves as effective and engaged. Engaging a fantasy in which we are effective and engaged improves our quality of life, maybe even changes the composition of our minds. A lot of my work is about engaged hands, and I’ve often thought about the impact of making fantasies on quadriplegics. I’ve also noticed how alive my 90 year old grandmother becomes when she watches me make things. I think just imagining making things activates the effort driven rewards circuits in our mind/body. Further, I think imagining ourselves as productive and successful has an important psychological impact.
Essentially, I think the zombie fantasy is a healing narrative bolstering the psyche of the public in times of uncertainty. I think it emerges as a response to fear, but that it embodies success and strength. I personally find it very comforting and often feel better, more prepared and more capable after thinking about what I will do when the zombies finally arrive.
These are the zombie cupcakes the kids and I made for Eli's 5th birthday party. I let the kids put them together and they had great fun. Did I mention I have a 5 year old who loves zombies?