Some Thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse
I had the opportunity recently to play some of the iPad app "The Walking Dead", which got me thinking about the "zombie apocalypse" which continues to be all the rage (apparently the TV series the game is based on is in its fifth season). One thing that I have a hard time accepting from the genre is how quickly and totally the zombie virus spreads, such that there is complete societal breakdown and anarchy, with only a few survivors here-and-there within days if not hours.
Given that the zombie "disease" is communicable only by the zombie biting or otherwise exchanging fluids with victims, I don't really see how this would spread that quick. Even extremely contageous airborne viruses do not spread as quickly as zombieism is portrayed. Further, what allows things like Ebola to spread is the fact that someone can be symptom-free yet contageous for a certain period of time. Not so with zombies. It seems to me that it would be localised to one area since zombies can't drive and it would take them a while to get out of a given city -- leaving authorities plenty of time to quarantine the threat.
I would expect that the army, and the highly militarized police forces in modern society, would be able to take on zombies, even in fairly large numbers, quite handily. Zombies need to get within arm's reach to bite and -- although rarely portrayed as fast as in 28 Days Later, and World War Z -- are slow and shambling. Certainly easy pickings for standard infantry weapons to say nothing of attack helicopters or armoured fighting vehicles which would be totally impervious to zombies.
On the other hand, if zombies could spread as quickly as portrayed, I unfortunately do find it entirely credible how abominably survivors behave in most of these series. I read from time-to-time the blog "SHTF School" written by a survivor of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. He describes from his experiences pretty much all the awful things you see in films like The Road and TV series like the Walking Dead. The sad truth is that there are a lot of people out there who only act like civilized human beings because they have to. From that perspective, one can see the justification for the expanding police state -- in an age where the majority of people are not restrained by religious belief/morals, or a tight-knit community, most of society is one natural disaster away from a replay of what happened in New Orleans in my view.
It's interesting that in the Middle Ages there were no police and the local lord was away on other estates, or crusading, or attending the king. Compared to the control and supervision western democracies exert over their citizens, people lived in anarchy back then. There were bandits, to be sure, but the reason the great majority of people were not robbing and killing each other were the strength of the Catholic religion and the close social bonds people had in that time.