An Essential Question About Kids, Survival, and the Zombie Apocalypse

Image: Flickr/Pascal cc license

Image: Flickr/Pascal cc license

I was at a party this weekend, which used to mean one thing and now means something else entirely. While my 7-year-old boy stared blissfully into the light breeze having his face painted by a classmate and his 5-year-old sister tried to catch his terrified friends and kill them with a badminton racket, I found myself chatting with a circle of dads. Of course, the topic turned to the zombie apocalypse.

The question was this: When the apocalypse comes, would you want you and your children to survive, only your children to survive, only you to survive, or everyone to go as quickly as possible in the first wave?

Greg was sure a quick death for all was the best possible end. He should know: his popular self-published book on how to retrofit a Sprinter van as an RV puts him in contact with a population of steampunk tinkerers who have looked the awful possibility of the apocalypse in the eye.

Scott recommended all or nothing – you and the kids both live or both die – citing the idea that if the kids survive, you’d want to be around to take care of them. But then again, Scott tends sponges for a living. Okay, he’s a Berkeley-trained PhD cellular biologist, but can you really trust the reasoning of a man who grows sponges?

Chris is a toymaker. He gave my offspring blowguns for their two-years-but-one-day-apart birthdays. He said that he would choose to live after the apocalypse but wished a quick end for his kids. His reasoning is that the post-apocalypse world would suck, but that as an adult he was equipped to handle it emotionally and physically in a way that would destroy the souls of children. Then again, he gave my kids blowguns, for frick’s sake. And now my dogs are nervous.

My knee-jerk answer was for the kids to survive but for me to sacrifice my own tragically limited grey matter by taking a dive off the highest, nearest cliff to Boulder, CO as soon as the zombie horde passed critical mass. It was knee-jerk because: can you imagine wishing for the death of your kids in any circumstance? But on second thought, maybe leaving them the responsibility of continuing the human race amid certain awfulness is selfish?

Can we please come to a reasoned conclusion on this important issue? I imagine there are existential, metaphysical, technical, and moral implications beyond my grasp.

Garth Sundem

About Garth Sundem

Dad of two, writer, blogger, TED-Ed speaker, loser of hotties vs. nerds episode of Wipeout, creator/consumer of thin pancakes, sometimes mathematician, sometimes outdoor enthusiast, owner of large and small Labrador, snail racer, lover of cool bugs and science that makes me adjust my view of the ordinary. Author of Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the Lab-Tested Secrets of Surfing, Dating, Dieting, Gambling, Growing Man-Eating Plants and More. (Also: The Geeks' Guide to World Domination, Geek Logik, and Brain Candy.)

Garth Sundem

About Garth Sundem

Dad of two, writer, blogger, TED-Ed speaker, loser of hotties vs. nerds episode of Wipeout, creator/consumer of thin pancakes, sometimes mathematician, sometimes outdoor enthusiast, owner of large and small Labrador, snail racer, lover of cool bugs and science that makes me adjust my view of the ordinary. Author of Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the Lab-Tested Secrets of Surfing, Dating, Dieting, Gambling, Growing Man-Eating Plants and More. (Also: The Geeks' Guide to World Domination, Geek Logik, and Brain Candy.)

7 thoughts on “An Essential Question About Kids, Survival, and the Zombie Apocalypse

  1. Thanks for tackling this important issue, Garth. In response to your observation that, “…leaving them the responsibility of continuing the human race amid certain awfulness is selfish,” I submit that you may have already crossed a moral line by having kids in the first place:

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/04/09/120409crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all

    Existing may already be the worst thing that could happen to them.

    Have a nice day :-)

  2. Humans can adapt to just about anything, so it’s a matter of comparing your current life with your zompoc life. The average urban dweller toils away at an indoor job they don’t like all day and spends tremendous amounts of screen time staring at moving images or clicking likes, for the small amount of time they can spend away from these places, outside, someplace different. Sounds like a zombie lifestyle already.

    In the Zompoc, you’re outdoors almost all the time, traveling to new locations, with a much simpler agenda. Think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You’ve got food and shelter at the bottom, followed by safety. Think about how your mind will rest easy with the majority of your thought processes focused on these basic tasks. This is why camping is relaxing. The social chaos of self esteem and social interactions come much later, to complicate your life. And self actualization? Please. Did you not see the zombies!!!!???

    But seriously, if you’re not already thinking about survival with more realistic scenarios, like earthquake and social unrest, the zombie apocalypse just becomes this metaphor for how you’re not ready to handle yourself in a real crisis. A modicum of preparation will remove much of that anxiety.

    • I like the all or nothing idea but then again I have a three month old, 2.5 yo, a 5yo, and a wife. Family of five is a huge dietary burden. Can you imagine the threat the younger two might pose once food runs low? I thought about it a lot last year after I watched the Zombie dad video from Australia.
      Humans would bounce back or we wouldn’t. Culture would adapt or die off and that just seems like a massive rest button. What was Europe like during the plague years? Or Central America when the conquistadors arrived? We always servive because our kids adapt and think outside of our measured mature lives.

  3. Ah, the wife! I forgot about the wife! I’m afraid that I see no way things would end well for her. If we all die, she would be dead. If the kids and I went zombie along with the horde, we would certainly eat her. And if we didn’t go zombie but survived, we would probably end up eating her during some sort of food shortage. And so perhaps here is an important follow-up question: what is the best method of cooking one’s wife?

  4. I would vote for all to survive. Worst case is one of them would turn and I’d be forced to take them down, but I’d rather have more people to work together for our mutual survival than have to fend only for myself.

    I’m not saying it would be easy at first with a wife, a three year old boy and a pair of six month old twin boys, but if we’re at the point where we’re survivors of the zombie apocalypse, what WOULD be easy. When the boys got a little older, they could help out a bit I guess.

    ~David

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