World War Z: Humanity’s “undead” mistakes

I perceive this book more as a very strong satire of humanity’s self-destructive mistakes, rather than a typical story about a foreign invasion against humanity. To better elucidate my point, I compare World War Z with Ender’s Game that we read last week. On the surface, the two works of literature seem to be thematically similar; both tell the stories of humanity fighting against an outside and abnormal force. Yet upon closer look, there are actually two stark differences between the works. Firstly, Ender’s Game draws a clear proximity between humanity and the buggers, thus emphasizing the external nature of the threat. Meanwhile, World War Z blurs the battlefields and home fronts, hence creating a frenzied chaos as the enemies strike from within the borders and localities. Secondly, while Ender’s Game portrays a successful coalition that humanity creates to combat the alien invasion, World War Z depicts individual nations’ selfish policies and disjointed international responses. Through this post, I underline the significance of the two traits that set World War Z apart as a work of literature.

Building on the first contention, it is very crucial that the author obscure the line between the battlefield and the homefront; as a matter of fact, the two become almost synonymous and one within the book. This paints an image that what humanity is facing is actually not an external threat, but rather a disease that emerges from the inside. Unlike Ender’s Game, World War Z deals not with a scenario in which humanity must unite against a common external foe; instead, it sets up a scenario in which humanity must rid itself of its own disease. In my opinion, the use of zombies actually further buttresses this claim when we consider the nature of these horrid creatures. The book explains how these undead creatures are deceased human beings who turn into cannibalistic monsters. In other words, these monsters are not as ‘foreign’ and ‘alien’ as we might have initially thought. They originate from human beings; from humanity itself. The fact that legends and folklores across cultural boundaries each have their own version of zombies further conveys the point that the zombies symbolize a common and inherent issue that all cultures are aware of. These zombies are representative of the vices and errors that humanity itself had created, yet refused to deal with in a straightforward manner. Instead, humanity chooses to sweep them under the rug of legends, hoping that they would eventually turn into forgotten myths. This book, however, delivers a story in which said myth becomes reality; the errors that humanity selfishly makes and ignores are finally exploding into a monstrous pandemic.

We are talking about racial injustice that remain unaddressed even within the 21st century, as neighbors turn against each other, ‘vigilantes’ run about shooting protesters, and cops kill civilians. We are talking about political bigotry, in which a certain presidential candidate spreads trepidation of those who are different, encourage hate crimes, and demand the closing of the borders. We are talking about climate change, in which everyday households and the everyman’s lifestyle can very well accumulate as the source for global destructions. We are talking about terrorist groups who are now capable of infiltrating communities beyond the restraints of borders, as they commit crimes against humanity from within the domestic soils. We are talking about indiscriminate air assaults and bombings, inconsiderate of their targets, in which collateral damages include hospital facilities and even weddings. We are talking about countries racing to develop weapon technologies so destructive that they become obsolete, for the aftermath offers nothing but mutual destructions  In every single one of these real-life issues, do we not see disturbing parallels to the world of World War Z? A world in which chaos and violence run rampant in the local neighborhoods, while the countries are driven by fear into closing their borders; a world in which everyone has the potential of becoming a monster, while horrid creatures massacre people in large numbers from within the communities; a world in which monsters and deaths visit indiscriminately, while advanced technology proves to be futile and useless against the ‘new’ enemy.

This is also the reason why an effective international coalition does not exist within World War Z, the way it does within Ender’s Game. Humanity is not rallying under one banner against an external foe; it is struggling to survive against cancer within its very own body. In addition, our current international regime, order, and system are also built upon humanity’s selfishness, which has now turned into zombified marauders. To me, the main question this book raise is not how the international system can resolve this issue, but rather why it fails to do so.  Political infighting, selfish individual interests, and corrupt collusions have become the motifs of many international organizations and the existing world order. Disparities stand gigantically between the Global North and South, while authoritarian regimes receive aids as long as they support a hegemon’s actions. The United Nations loftily assert itself as the body of global governance, only to undermine itself with a self-defeating veto system within the permanent security council. International Criminal Court struggles to bring justice for the global community, yet lacks the signature of the world’s biggest superpowers, including both the US and China. The world is not flat. Consequently, the international system and organizations are used to preserving the status quo in which the world is not flat. This is their idea of a stable global community. In the events that they must operate to ensure fair distribution of security across the globe, to make the world flat, they fail. The system cannot go against a crucial piece of its own foundation: selfishness and ignorance. This is why, within the books, the author depicts how various countries immediately start with the initial blame game. The Palestinians suspect the catastrophe as being a Zionist trick, while the Americans blame the Middle East conflicts for stalling US responses. Selfish policies, such as the closing of borders and apartheid-based system, then become the normative responses. The reason is simple: ignorant selfishness is what the global community and individual nations are used to.

World War Z has brilliantly depicts a nightmare that is so close to reality. This is not your typical zombie-chasing fictional stories. Instead, the true horror of the story lies within its close relevance to our reality. Indeed, there is an ‘undead’ disease lying in waiting for humanity; a disease that we have created ourselves and for ourselves. Said disease knows no geographical boundaries, and stalks behind every culture and nationality. Should we fail to address this corrupting disease that is born out of corrupt human practices, then a ‘zombie’ apocalypse is really not a farfetched concept.

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