On it’s best day, the conglomeration of office buildings where I work looks like a blend of minimum security prison and post-modern community college arranged around a central courtyard. The bosses would probably want me to call it a “campus,” but the best I can usually manage is naming it a “complex.” Campus has too many connotations of good times spent smoking and joking on the lower quad for me to sully that particular happy memory through such an inapt comparison.
Regardless of the naming convention, I was schlepping through the courtyard today in search of lunch (read: Going to Subway and hoping my key card still worked in that building). People have been mostly gone from the complex now since mid-March. I couldn’t help but notice that the lack of people is starting to show – mostly in the form of the number of weeds that are now growing in sidewalk joints, trash cans with their doors hanging open, and the general disarray of the outdoor furniture that’s supposed to make the place a hub of outside-the-office activity.
The space looks, in a word, abandoned. It’s a feeling reinforced by the disembodied Spotify playlist that’s still being piped through to the wide open space now utterly devoid of people.
The whole scene put me in mind of a series that ran on the History Channel back before they decided there was more profitability in Ancient Aliens. Life After People showed short vignettes of what various landmarks might look like in a world where people simply vanished – ending each episode by showing what that particular place could be once nature reclaimed it in total. We don’t appear to be in any immediate threat of reverting to wetland or deciduous forest… but it looks for all the world like the opening few minutes of an episode when humans have been gone for a few weeks or months.
It had a decidedly post-apocalypse feel, as if it really were the end of the world as we know it… and I’m really kind of fine with that.
I’ve taken a couple days to sleep on it and have concluded that the hard truth many Walking Dead fans need to face is that a year or two after civilization has collapsed, it’s guys like Negan who are most likely going to be running the show. Rick and his crew, our main protagonists, are nice enough folks, always thinking that their key to safety and survival is joining up with the next group of survivors, fortifying a prison, negotiating, and hoping for the best. Every time their hopes get dashed when someone proves to be dishonest, there’s a little bit of cannibalism, or their neighbor drives a tank through their front door. Through it all, despite what they say, Rick’s crew seems desperate to want to believe the best about people. It’s constantly their undoing – and precisely why guys like Negan will triumph in the post-apocalypse.
Like any number of tribal chieftains of old, Negan maintains his rule and the stability of his followers through brutally enforced discipline. While this may seem abhorrent to us sitting comfortably in our homes tonight, it’s nothing new for most of human history. In fact, under the circumstances, it’s probably the group of survivors most likely to thrive in the face of the brave new world we’ve met yet in the Walking Dead universe.
Ponder for a moment if you will that Negan’s followers are highly organized and able to defend and expand their territory through better communications and tactics than those employed by Rick’s group. They’re well fed, clothed, and supplied, which indicates a relatively sophisticated economy based on the imperial model of commodity goods flowing towards the “mother country,” and finished goods and protection being furnished to the colonies. Unlike Rick, Negan doesn’t seem to shy away from his role as leader. As a result the command and control structure of his organization is very clear. He’s at the top, but he also indicated in this week’s premier that he has trusted lieutenants who he depends on. He may delight in dispensing rough justice, but his actions shouldn’t be a surprise – after all, he told our friends from Alexandria that bad behavior would be punished and then when they behaved badly he responded exactly as he said he would in order to establish a clear correlation between cause and effect.
I wouldn’t vote for Negan if he were running for president, but as a post-apocalyptic warlord, I think I’d quickly see the value of joining a group like his. This world they’ve created full of walking dead and the even more dangerous living is a violent place. The fact that violent men rise up to establish some kind of order shouldn’t surprise anyone. It was done like that in this world for a lot longer than we’ve been trying to master such societal niceties as peaceful transfers of power.
For the last year or so I have to admit that I’ve been watching the TEOTWAWKI crowd with at least a passing level of interest. As long as they’re of the relatively harmless variety, crazy people can be good fun. The thing that I can’t understand about the current crop of doomsayers is that they’re convinced that the end of the world is foretold by the fact that the Mayan calendar “suddenly” ends on December 21st.
I’m not sure the end of days crowd has really thought their argument through all that well. From my cursory understanding of Mesoamerican culture, the Mayan civilization more or less collapsed around 900 AD. I’m not an expert, but I suspect the fall of your civilization tends to mean you have more problems than updating a calendar that’s still good for another 1112 years. Finding water and feeding yourself spring to mind.
Convincing yourself that the world is ending because the Mayan calendar is about to roll over is pretty much like me sitting here convincing myself that the world is ending on December 31st because I haven’t bothered to buy a new wall calendar. It’s just one of these things I haven’t gotten around to yet, but if the historical record is any indication, I wouldn’t bet against the sun coming up on the December 22nd or January 1st. Still, I fully expect the nut jobs to put on a good show in the next few days.