I am kind of fascinated by the idea that monsters and other supernatural scary stuff are metaphors for real-life scary things. For example, vampires stand for people, situations, or diseases that slowly take away your energy and strength. (Like the last week of classes before final exams, for example, or like financial aid paperwork) Ghost stories are pretty straightforward because they come from people’s fear of death and their uncertainty about what happens after death. The zombie apocalypse legend, obviously, comes from people’s fear that the world will be destroyed by mindless hordes.

It is worth noting that zombies are actually fairly real compared to other imaginary monsters. Basically, a zombie is a person with a non-functioning mind and a functioning body. It almost goes without saying that the body is dead; I’m going to assume that if the mind is completely and permanently absent, the person is dead.  Technically, a person who is sentient and alive but not actually thinking at the moment is acting like a zombie.  I’m not just talking about being absent-minded. There are various diseases and parasite infections that can put a person in a very zombie-like condition. If you don’t believe me, google Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, which is the human version of Mad Cow disease. Or the nodding disease, which is a problem in some parts of Africa. Or rabies.  And while you’re at it, go ahead and google ‘fugu poison and datura stramonium’, because that involves actual zombies and it’s quite weird.

Of course, none of those diseases involve eating people’s brains, but that’s a very important part of the zombie stories. Loss of intelligence and sentience is the main idea here. Mindless hordes are much more creepy and disturbing than hordes of regular people with average intelligence, mainly because regular people with average intelligence are capable of listening to reason. (In theory, anyway)

Even aside from the zombie diseases mentioned above, a collective loss of intelligence is a real concern. I personally have a phobia of stupidity and live in fear that my IQ is dropping, and while that’s kind of a silly fear, it’s true that people can become stupider. That’s less of a problem for individual people than it is for humanity as a whole. It’s pretty undeniable that popular culture is being dumbed down in this generation. If you don’t believe me, compare any current popular novel with something written in the 1800s or early 1900s. Even if the old novel you’re looking at was a particularly bad one, it’s still going to have a richer vocabulary than anything written recently. Or you can watch a children’s TV show while you inevitably feel pity for the poor little kids who watch that stuff on a regular basis. Or you can just go to a public place like a grocery store or a bus station (places I have been recently) where you will quickly discover that people who are lacking in intellectual aptitude are not exactly abnormal. I know that IQ goes up over time and that IQ tests have to be constantly revised to maintain the mean and constant deviation, but IQ isn’t really a perfect indication of actual intelligence, which is much more abstract and difficult to measure.

The zombie apocalypse is real, but it isn’t really an apocalypse and it doesn’t really involve zombies. To defeat it, rather than shooting zombies, we all need to do clever stuff. Any kind of clever stuff will work. I intend to defeat the zombie apocalypse by spending all of my free time this summer reading and writing science fiction and getting really good at certain games. Come to think of it, another good clever thing for someone else to do would be to find cures for the aforementioned zombie diseases. (But if you really want to shoot zombies, I’m sure there are plenty of awesome computer games for that)