Season Four and All-Out War, or, The Walking Dead and Privelege

If you aren’t up to the fifth episode of season four and/or issue #116 of The Walking Dead and you don’t want stuff spoiled, I don’t know, don’t read this, or whatever.

It takes a lot to have a blog. Not only do you have to cobble nonsense about nonsense together once a week or every other week or month or whenever, you also have to live in a world of surplus wherein every spare thought needn’t be spent on the next ounce of nutrition, or the next face of death, be it man, animal or some punk ass disease.

You know, so you can pontificate on what the title of the new Superman movie is going to be.

In much of the modern world surplus is the name of the game. A majority of people have easy and ample access to food, water, shelter and medicine. And without that there is no blogging or Playstation or Blu-ray or Red Bull. But a societal collapse and the loss of these surpluses wouldn’t just be the end of energy drink-fueled gaming sessions or smart phone advancement. As Robert Kirkman argues once a month and 16 Sundays a year, it would mean a near total cleansing of meaningful philosophical thought.

No philosophizing here.

No philosophizing here.

Rick Grimes and company can mull over undead philosophy all they’d like but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because all of their choices are essentially made for them by the very nature of the world they live in.

Sure, you can tell me that back in season one Rick went back into Atlanta to try to save Merle because he’s a good and moral man. But you’d be ignoring the fact that he also (and probably mostly) did so to reacquire his cool hat and the bag of guns he left there because that’s what survival in the apocalypse demands. No matter the action almost everything Rick and the gang have done was already dictated by survival, even if they haven’t figured that out yet themselves.

When Lori got preggers in season two there was some discussion between characters about whether or not it was right to bring a child into such a terrible world. Sitting on our couches watching the discussions unfold it’s easy to join in on one side of the argument or the other. But at the end of the day it didn’t matter what Rick and Lori decided. Sure there were some pills she decided to throw up, but who’s to say those would have actually worked? The fact that they found any pills to begin with was extremely lucky/extremely convenient plot development. Is abortion right? Is abortion wrong? Is there a gray area? Who gives a shit, Rick? It’s the zombie apocalypse.

Nice try, weirdos.

Nice try, weirdos.

Gun control? Second amendment? Well, you’re either going to give your little son a pistol or you’re going to dig him a whole for his little dead body. Rick spent a lot of time in the first episodes of season four trying to decide whether or not giving Carl a gun was the right thing to do and at last gave Carl his gun back. But let’s be honest. The decision wasn’t Rick’s to make. The apocalypse made it for him.

How about the death penalty? How about them apples? Remember Dale’s valiant stand in season two, where he was firmly against murdering the dweeb they captured who hailed from a nomadic tribe of rapists and murderers who actively tried to kill Rick, Herschel and Glen? Boy, Dale sure talked a lot on that one, huh? Appealing to Andrea’s sense of justice as a former lawyer and throwing around words like ethics and morality.

How did that go for him again? Oh, right. He died.

When you have no secure supply of resources, and nothing more than a shoddy representation of safety, you don’t have justice and ethics and morality.

Look, a broke fence.

Look. A broke fence. And a gun.

Only now, in the midst of season four of the television show and All-Out War in the comics, do the survivors find themselves with anything resembling a surplus. A surplus of people. Be it Rick’s decision to take on the helpless losers left over in Woodbury in the show, or his clever political maneuvering in the comics to band together an army, both instances have finally afforded legitimate opportunities, limited though they may be, for discourse and rationale.

In All-Out War Rick is able to make the decision to go to war with Neegan and Lucille, and is furthermore able to strategize and choose exactly how he would like to go about it, only because of the people pledged to his cause. He has a resource, human lives, and with it the ability to debate and consider. Without an army standing behind him Rick could have talked about going to war with Neegan all he’d like, but the choice would never have truly been his to make.

Similarly, the sizeable prison community in the current season of The Walking Dead has allowed Rick and Carol to become the philosophers we all always knew they dreamed of becoming. In the wake of an outbreak Carol makes a morally ambiguous call. And in the wake of Carol’s morally ambiguous call Rick makes another morally ambiguous call.

The very nature of having a surplus of people brought about both character’s quandaries and both Rick and Carol made the calls they did in order to protect that same surplus of people.

I watch The Walking Dead. I read The Walking Dead. I don’t really love The Walking Dead. I’ve got a laundry list of complaints I could rant about, and have. But Robert Kirkman and has multimedia juggernaut have done a phenomenal job showcasing that the collapse of society as we know it means more than a loss of Wi-Fi.

The Walking Dead asserts that decisions, choices, debate, philosophy, morality and the like are all privileges, not inalienable human rights.

So, you know, savor that internal debate over whether to get a Playstation 4 or an Xbox One.

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