Even at the time, the agricultural revolution did not seem a good idea. Growing wheat meant working longer hours, a reduced diet, less travelling and tedious repetitive tasks that caused arthritic ailments. But somehow humans were seduced by wheat. It may have been hard to chew but it could be stored to feed others. The human race was more miserable but its numbers grew. Once we had storage and land ownership, the elites arrived. The early entrepreneurs had two great ideas, serfdom and slavery. Despite the modern fashion for competitive TV bake offs, back then making bread was not for the sensitive and the superior. Elites are good at identifying saps. Work and hierarchy has defined our lives and identities ever since.
Vampires do not disrupt work. The logic within the legend is unavoidable but the apocalypse is rarely mentioned. The vampire perverts friends, challenges Christianity and redefines female sexuality. Stoker imagined work as continuing but with working men who would have to cope with women who were out of control, or women who were great in bed but not willing to put the kettle on. Call it old-fashioned stereotyping but the members of the Circle of Light are all defined by their work. Even Mina redeems her gender by demonstrating practical and technical work skills.
Zombies sometimes exist secretively like vampires but it is rare. Zombies are mobile lumps with an appetite. The apocalypse is immediate and a sudden shock. Society collapses and work is no longer possible. It is as if the agricultural revolution had never existed. All that arthritic suffering is reduced to nothing in a cataclysmic moment. Survivors kill zombies but not for food. Zombies are not included in the menu, not even as salted soup. Survivors head for supermarkets. Livestock on farms and wild animals are forgotten. Well, it is an apocalypse.
Work ceases but shopping prevails. Thinking like this would not have been possible if man had not been domesticated by the production of wheat. The drama in a zombie movie consists of two elements, whether the humans will defeat the zombies and can the good guys finish at the peak of the hierarchy. A zombie cannot be defined by work, so it is no surprise that humans usually prevail. The notion that the virtuous, those who have compassion and are capable of romantic love, will head the hierarchy that results from a zombie apocalypse is dubious. No antecedents in history exist. If they had, we would not have had slaves, serfs and economic rent.
But if we ignore the mandatory trip to an abandoned supermarket, the average zombie movie gives a half-decent idea of life as a hunter-gatherer. The crucial difference is that nobody takes home the prey. Zombie hunters develop terrible table manners but they also have time for contemplation. They can discuss with stunners from the opposite sex how they discovered the importance of responsibility and compassion. Just as well because the toughest test is ahead. Supermarket bread soon goes stale.
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If you like zombies and are still not sure if you would survive a zombie apocalypse, look out for Zombie Bites due to be published by Red Rattle Books next month.