Posted by : Kai | April 9, 2014
Humanity is one of those things that we ‘mostly’ take for granted. There’s a list of rules and ethical and moral obligations that we include as our ‘humanity’. But when the walls of what we are blur, and when the world ends and it’s every man for him or herself, how do we preserve our humanity?
The short answer is with great difficulty. It’s possible, but the first thing we’ve got to consider is the importance of understanding how much of humanity is societal norm (what we do because right now, we know we’ll be punished for it) and how much of it is due to our basic nature.
The *average* person knows right from wrong. Which is a really good thing, because it’s what makes up the majority of our behaviours. We’re raised to know what’s allowed and what isn’t, but when the apocalypse hits, the standard belief, and one that’s explored time and again, is that we’ll be confronted with situations that don’t allow us to make the ‘right’ choices. Violence, theft and other behaviours that don’t exist, except in extremes, becomes more commonplace. It’s not all doom and gloom though.
We’re taught to fight for what we are to protect. We’re also taught to follow the rules of society, which is why a lot of these dystopic books work so well. Who dictates societal norms when society is completely destroyed? Who decides what is right and what is wrong/ What happens with those with a weaker moral compass are put in charge?
What happens is The Governor from the Walking Dead (or the stored zombies at the Farmhouse before). What happens is doubleplusgood, and all of the perfectly delicious scares and chills that comes from an amazing story that highlights exactly where the human race goes wrong. Good and great apocalypse fiction is made so much more intense by taking our expectations, societal and otherwise, and twisting them. Even our protagonists have to do things that might not be considered ‘normal’ in pre-apocalyptic society, and that makes us consider what they are and why we love them.
Some books paint humanity as exactly that – a thin veneer that some people drop when given the chance. Others wear their humanity like a shield – and I’d like to think that the best protagonists are a mix of the two. Those that can confront the darkness and still remain true to themselves. Back to my favourite book, Fahrenheit 451. The protagonist, Guy Montag, confronts everything he is, while still remaining true to what he is. He was in the beginning, quite spineless, believing what he is told. It’s only when he confronts the shackles of fake humanity that he lives under. It’s only when he embraces the truth of what society has become that he realises that he has to throw it off and remake society, and return to the norms that were once held more sacred.
So…what do you think? Is humanity important? Is it the light at the back of everything we do? Or is it abandoned and a thin veneer?