ZOMBIE EPIDEMICS AND SECURITY MAXIMIZATION
The College of William and Mary
Confronting a zombie epidemic is challenging, considering the variety of zombies and the many approaches in dealing with them. If one were to inquire how best to confront the living dead from Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later, the answer is found in applying thorough and consistent theoretic approaches different from those found in the film. The international politics of 28 Weeks Later is best described by liberal theory; states are the main actors in an anarchic world in which international organizations, such as NATO, play significant roles. Military institutions and bureaucracies are important governing structures, as they lead the reconstruction of a failed state, the United Kingdom, after the end of a zombie pandemic. The film predicts the failure of these same structures, to the degree that it becomes critical of liberal theory as the best response to a zombie attack, if the same were to be applied in practice, instead of merely describing international politics. The approaches taken by NATO were inefficient; laxities could have been avoided if a more comprehensive method were taken, or if NATO had not intervened in the United Kingdom. These approaches encompass solutions derived of neoconservatism theory and realist theory.
The mistakes aforementioned, present in the liberal paradigm of the world in which the film is set, include allowing Don, a man with no minimal utility and conflict of interest, to have uncontrolled access to the entire military facility, including a restricted zone quarantining a suspected epidemic carrier. Such a problem would not exist in a realist or neoconservatist institution, in which security would be maximized, by constructing mechanisms, such as control points, or dividing power to not concentrate authority in a single individual such as Don.
Another possible solution could have been the lack of a need of a solution, if the problem were to never have existed, by which it is suggested that NATO withhold involvement in the United Kingdom, never attempting to reconstruct the state.
The need to maximize security when facing a zombie epidemic is evident. If the purpose of the mimilitary institution were that of counter-zombie security, then only the highest levels of competency should be expected, instead of falling short in security terms, as is viewed in the film. Humans appear to not learn from zombie crises in the short-run; establishing an institution with the intent to resist zombies, deploying ground soldiers to resist zombies, and containing minimum knowledge of zombie behavior should warrant greater precautions if zombies have the remotest possibility of being expected. The possible persistence of the undead, when attempting to reconstruct the United Kingdom, must be taken into consideration, especially if a zombie outbreak has occurred once, in which the original outbreak was not expected either; the costs for not predicting its possibility are evidently high, as seen in the destruction of an entire state. In the film, Scarlet, was able to predict a possible zombie recurrence, whereas Stone, being the symbolic head of the displayed liberal system, blatantly refused to accept the notion, metaphorically demonstrating the incompetence of liberal theory in managing a crisis. Thus, if zombies can be expected, the security preparations taken in the film are insufficient, as the soldiers available would not be able to resist an outbreak, considering their minimal force.
Another approach to zombie attacks could be derived from constructivist theory. This theory describes the institutions and norms within a world of idealism; identity composes a siunction within human society and international relations. Sentimental ties between humans would create difficulties in undertaking a self-interested approach towards a zombie crisis; many encounters with the undead would likely be with former family or friends. Confronting a person with whom one has shared a sentimental bond, undead or not, is always difficult, and the film provides ample eidence for selfless conduct during a zombie crisis; Doyle and Scarlet act out of self-interest to ensure the safety and survivability of the children, for Don, despite having previously abandoned his wife out of selfishness, later found it difficult to be consist with his selfishness. The zombies of 28 Weeks Later are neither sentient nor strategic, and any approach to them, involving the possibility of cooperation, will likely ensure an undesirable outcome for the cooperator, as it did for so many characters in the film; Doyle loses his life while selflessly protecting other humans, despite having a more beneficial and selfish alternative. In the same regard, Alice knowingly occults the status of her brother Andy as an epidemic carrier, an action that directly leads to spread of the epidemic to transnational borders as well as their own demise; another undesirable outcome. It is hinted that the outcome for individuals might have been different if characters behaved in a self-interested manner. Other constructivist approaches, such as the creation of zombie institutions or the socialization of zombies would be ineffective; zombies non-sentient, irrational, and non-strategic behavior, will not allow zombies to be able to cooperate. Zombies will not be able to choose more beneficial outcomes through cooperation or strategy, and thus will only exist in the short-run, when they are attempting to attain nourishment; in the long run they die off due to starvation, either because humans become inaccessible, due to the stopping power of water, or because there are no humans left, as the zombies have eaten or converted them all.
The outlook on approaching a zombie crisis appears bleak so far. The answer to this problem is found when one applies a thorough approach of realism or neo-conservatism. The realist paradigm, in application, would require that all actors, state or individuals, behave in a self-interested manner and maximize power, in order to ensue survivability in face of a zombie attack. This approach is hinted at being the ideal approach when, at beginning of the film, Don employs self-interested survivability tactics, and, despite the overwhelming odds, survives to later acquire a position with great power, as well as being able to pursue other variable interests, such as being reunited with his children. The actor must take advantage of others’ generosity in order to maximize survivability; in the case of Don, if in escaping had he detained to aid another individual, he would have likely been infected, as was the man who gave Don aid. In abandoning his wife, Don is able to maneuver at a faster pace, not being otherwise burdened. The problem with applying realist theory is that it is not instinctive, and does not describe the behavior of individuals found in 28 Weeks Later. At times, states or individuals may act self-interestedly, however, they tend to revert to roles best described by liberal or constructivist paradigms, and fail in maximizing power. When not being consistent in vying for one’s self-interest, and instead, readopting human sentimental ties, one becomes vulnerable to an otherwise less favorable outcome. This is the case when Don, out of guilt for previously abandoning his wife, reestablishes the sentimental relationship with her, directly leading to his defection to the undead ranks. In the same regard, if the NATO expedition had not occurred, then the situation would not have devolved. If the United States had acted self-interestedly to the degree in which they found costs exceeding the benefits of reconstructing the United Kingdom, then they would have avoided the zombie epidemic, for having not encountered it to begin with. In a realist paradigm, the uncertainty of the existence of zombies would have been a effective trait in defining involvement policy in the United Kingdom; the NATO expedition would have maximized security if involving itself, or, on the other hand, not involved itself at all, if the zombie expectation was predicted to be excessive. For not being entirely self-motivated, reinforcing liberal paradigms, and not maximizing security the situation becomes much worse than could otherwise have been avoided.
Other approaches that could have avoided the disastrous outcome of liberal paradigms would have been the neoconservative approach, which would have resembled the liberal approach, with an emphasis on security, and skepticism of people going to or from the restricted zones. The greater preventive measures and military importance employed by a neoconservative approach would have been in accordance with security maximization in one’s approach against the zombie horde. Realism and neo-conservatism both approach the situation in a thorough manner; the type of approach needed to confront a zombie epidemic, rather than the half-measures taken by constructivists or liberals.