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Zombie Policy

During Question Period in Canada’s House of Commons this week, the opposition questioned the government’s readiness for an international zombie apocalypse. Member of Parliament Pat Martin and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird –– two of Canada’s more outspoken political figures –– put aside their differences to assure Canadians that if the undead rise (as has apparently happened in Montana), our great nation will be prepared.

Well, good on them. I know a few MPs who sit in that House (Peter Braid in particular), and I expect they enjoyed the exchange… though I must question why Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (bottom left in the picture) is laughing. Undead immigration is a serious sovereignty issue.

But with due respect to Minister Baird: this government is not ready for a zombie apocalypse. No government is. And it’s not just zombies; I think the question of how governments might cope with truly devastating pandemics, or other widespread out-of-context disasters, is complex. It’s also fertile ground for storytelling.

Many classic tales have explored post-disaster worlds… but those narratives often skip straight from the ‘patient zero’ scenario (be it a rage-infected monkey, or the whole world losing electricity) to four weeks/months/years/decades later. This doesn’t always happen –– recent offerings like Contagion and Jericho focus on the process in between –– but the collapse is usually only examined if society will be repaired by the end of the story. If the damage is irrevocable, we often join the plot after the fall… when someone wakes up in a hospital bed and has to learn the new rules of survival.

I can certainly understand this; setting stories during the breakdown of a modern, twenty-first century civilization is not easy. With so many people, technologies, and layers of government to coordinate, figuring out a realistic societal response is complicated… and if the plot is oversimplified, the story could become unbelievable.

With zombie-analogues on the loose, for example, why would a modern army lock civilians together in an indefensible parking garage, instead of barricading them in their apartment buildings (which would appear to be far safer, unless the zombie-analogues possessed artillery)?

It gets easier when the protagonist simply wakes up afterward, and pieces everything together.

Now just to be clear: I’m no exception to this trend –– far from it. I skipped the entire settlement of His Majesty’s New World, and when cities were falling in the The Genesis Equation and The Nemesis Equation, they went down with such speed that there was no time to wonder about government policy.

But some writers –– particularly ones with a good grasp on government and social trends –– should be able to tackle these plots with more patience, and sophistication. Done right, the resulting stories would help us better understand how our comfortable world could degrade into a zombie film. My guess: it wouldn’t happen overnight, and we’d spend a lot of time thinking everything would be okay… before the power went out for good.

However, Canadians can rest assured: thanks to this government’s Economic Zombic Action Plan to strengthen the economy undead readiness, we will emerge from the global economic downturn zombie apocalypse faster than any other country in the G8. Golly, do I ever look forward to the ‘ZAP’ television commercials!

[That one’s obviously for you, Canadian political junkies].