Will “We” Survive, or Will it Be “Them”: A Utopian or Dystopian Post-Apocalypse?

As humans, for better or worse (and probably worse) we seem to have a tendency to quickly group ourselves into “us” or “them” categories. Recall junior high or high school for your own experiences, or read the news filled with fears of subsidized housing not belonging in particular neighborhoods, or watch instances of genocide on the news. It seems a dangerous and slippery slope from forming your own little inner circle and group where you’re happy and comfortable to suddenly deciding your group (defined by whatever means) is somehow superior to others, and deciding to wipe them out.

I guess I was thinking about this after watching the CBC documentary “Inside Hana’s Suitcase” about the a little girl who died during the Holocaust. The teacher in part behind the display and discovering the story of Hana explained that we have to remember what happened to a child like that not only to continue her legacy, but to remember how easily one group of people can be ostracized and victimized, especially when no one will speak out against them.

from acobox.com

So, skip ahead to the apocalypse. Assuming that a large portion of the population has been wiped out, what happens now? Humans being humans, it’s unlikely that we’ll have eradicated the less desirable aspects of our natures. Thus we yet again arrive at an us vs. them dilemma. The problem is that for the most part, in these “civilized times,” we’re usually restrained from acting too violently or radically on these ideas. Usually it ends with name-calling, bullying, harassment. After all, most of us wouldn’t cross the line to do something illegal, and I think it already takes a certain personality who would want to cross into violence because of a supposed connection and disconnect from groups of people (or at least, I hope so).

But in a post-apocalyptic world, there won’t be police to stop you from breaking the law (not for awhile, at any rate). Humans are left with their own conscience to dictate their actions. And naturally, like other animals, we group together with like-minded individuals. But what happens if Group A encounters another group, Group B? Will Group A – justified or not – feel threatened by Group B and thus decide to just exterminate them? Attack them?

Most movies or film currently out there with a post-apocalyptic vision generally seem to believe that there will be some people who will want to cooperate for the survival of the species, etc, and the other ones (the “them,” perhaps) who only want to rape, pillage, and are out there for personal gain and survival only. Can the weaker links bring down either group? Absolutely. But as a human race, how can we survive by continuing to kill each other off, especially with reduced numbers? (Yes, I know, we seem to have somehow done so despite our history, but still.)

I’d like to take the vision of a utopian society uniting for the greater common good, old gripes forgotten, differences like color of skin or religion no longer significant. And yet, I again come back to the us vs them mentality existing even in times of plenty. Maybe the great utopia can only be created after awhile, after the old complaints and prejudices have literally died out in the bodies of the humans who carried them? Or maybe we’re doomed to a dystopia by our own fickle natures, in which case, maybe humans really would deserve to die out.

Hmm. Kind of gloomy. What do you think? Is it possible for us to overcome us vs them thinking – is it perhaps not innate, but learned? Or are we probably all going to keep throwing rocks at each other until the last rock has been thrown, and the last human fallen?

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One thought on “Will “We” Survive, or Will it Be “Them”: A Utopian or Dystopian Post-Apocalypse?

  1. It’s a question I try to deal with in my dystopia – at the beginning of course it will be mayhem when the billions die from not only lack of order enforcement but also our own inability to feed ourselves – My view is that when the survivors put their head up and look around the ‘good’ will form some form of security against the ‘bad’ and we’ll start all over again with the ‘good’ agonising over the ethics of being ‘bad’ in self defence – we wont change that much!!!

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