Society’s Failsafes Are Paper Thin (On the EU, Zombies & Individualism)

Society’s Failsafes Are Paper Thin (On the EU, Zombies & Individualism) March 24, 2020

I am trying to finish the sequel to my first fiction book, Survival of the Fittest: Metamorphosis (UK)*. The book is about a pandemic that rips through the world and so is particularly pertinent to today’s news. The idea for my book was that the pandemic has such quick and fundamental effect that the societies of the world wouldn’t be able to react and cope effectively.

It’s not a classic zombie book because I like to think the whole genre, for me, was a mechanism to shoehorn in philosophy because, in the post-apocalyptic world, society starts again in terms of morality and politics. It is probably the best way to look at the philosophical nuggets that interest me the most. And, yes, that includes God.

The pertinence of the book to this piece is as follows. In SOTF, society breaks down exceptionally quickly and not just because the virus is so…virulent. The difference between my virus and COVID-19 is that people recover from COVID-19, and the most affected, in terms of mortality, are generally the old and retired. And yet, even given that most people are either mild or asymptomatic, and given the relatively low mortality compared to my book, Covid-19 has pretty much decimated the world’s economy and brought a whole host of countries to near-standstill.

In my own scenario, the virus was far more contagious and knocked out far more people (turning them to the undead, indeed).

What I posited is that, if you had a virus that ripped through society and affected people equally in the healthcare, police and armed forces as it did everyone else, then the very glue that holds together becomes unfixed. Back in the London riots in 2011, we saw society implode in London, with fires and looting across different boroughs, and we saw it happening in lightning-quick speed even with all of our services still completely intact.

Imagine if the virus was deadly enough to knock out these services quickly. But then imagine that you were left with countless moral dilemmas as follows: You are in the army (police, navy etc.) and are required to maintain your job and duty to queen and/or country. However, you are unsure if your family and kids are safe, or even alive. Do you stay in your job, or do you desert and run off back home to see if your family is alive, or if local, just return to your family to keep them safe.

This dilemma of pitting duty to society and others, against duty to yourself and your immediate family.

This is why, in the context of coronavirus, something like the EU will be under existential threat. As we are faced with moving down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we become far more in-group. People in a warzone don’t worry about buying organic and fairtrade. The more we are physiologically threatened, the more we look to ourselves and our immediate families. So I expect us to become more nationalist, more populist (it’s partly why Trump and every other such leader will see a bump in polling figures), more insular, more individualistic in answer to the viral threat.

Yes, you will have socially-minded people who start and join local groups to help others, though this fits in with helping those more locally than those in different countries, perhaps. See this as an example of a movement towards individualism – when threatened, we often look after ourselves first:

Take this back to my book. I can fully imagine that in a worse viral outbreak than coronavirus, society could oh so easily fall apart far, far, quicker than you would like to believe.

The line that demarcates order from chaos is only millimetres thick.

As my partner often says: you’re only one car crash away from losing your house.

[*There’s a weird distribution issue with the book through the megalomaniacs at Amazon at the moment, so check out other retailers.]

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