Bad Guys in the Zombie Apocalypse


walking-dead-dwightIs it better to be in a group of bad guys or one of good guys in the zombie apocalypse? A lot of people just assume bad is more powerful and good is weak, but where is the evidence for that?

A group of bad guys, looking for survival supplies in the apocalypse, can find, create (with things like food) or steal from others to get what they want. They even have the option to kill people they steal from to prevent retribution. Pretty sweet, huh?

But their reputation will precede them. Other groups will hide from them. Stronger groups will fight them. They might even decide to wipe the bad group out, as Rick’s formerly-good group on The Walking Dead planned to do with ‘The Saviors.’

A good group does not have to be a pacifist group. It is morally permissible to fight back against murderers and thieves. They cannot get the survival supplies they need by stealing from other groups without turning toward the dark side, but that route has its disadvantages.

What a good group can do is arrange trades with other groups. No other groups will willingly trade with evil groups like the Saviors, the Wolves or the Claimers. That wouldn’t be safe. But most groups would be glad to trade with a group that acts in a moral way, once they are convinced that the group really does have moral values and isn’t going to enslave or kill their group  members.

A good group also has the ability to take in new members more easily. Rick’s group on TWD has absorbed both individual stragglers and remnants from other groups, and has also merged with the Alexandria group. An evil group can take in new members, as when the Claimers took in Daryl Dixon. But the Claimers didn’t win over Daryl’s heart and mind— he only stayed because they would have killed him otherwise. A wiser evil group would not have touched Daryl. But if an evil group is too suspicious of potential new members, they can’t replace their casualties.

Another big advantage of the good group is that they can, and often will, show compassion to smaller groups and to individuals. Remember in TWD when Rick’s group rescued the faithless Episcopal priest Father Gabriel?

A group that becomes known for showing compassion is a group that is likely to find compassion from others. Imagine a good group providing food to a smaller group that has lost much of its food supply to theft. In addition, the good group teaches the small group better methods of growing, hunting or foraging for food, and helps them have better security. If the good group falls on hard times down the road, or needs help from a medic, gunsmith, electrician or plumber, isn’t it a certainty that the small group will help if they can?

A big disadvantage the evil groups will have is that after a number of good groups have learned to survive, have developed trade networks, and have grown in numbers, the next item on the agenda is eliminating the local evil group. And because of the circumstances of the zombie apocalypse, they won’t have the option of arresting the bad guys and putting them in a jail. The bad guys will be killed in the battle, or captured and executed (formally or informally). If one of the good guys has thoughtfully built a jail cell or two, it will go to more innocent members of a bad guy group, such as children, or women who claim to have been forced to join the evil group.

My conclusion, then, is that being in a bad guy group in the zombie apocalypse is something that has no future in it. Human beings need to be part of a community to survive and thrive, and that community can’t be based on doing evil to others. In time, evil groups will be dealt with.

Questions: how should writers deal with good and evil choices in fiction? Do some writers make evil too attractive or too powerful? How could one make a good guy character strong and powerful without corrupting him?

Story starter: In the zombie apocalypse, there are two groups, one good, one evil. Both need an object possessed by a third group for their continued survival. Third group’s headquarters is an old military bunker— they are a strong group. Show how the two group compete for possession of the desired object. You can make the third group willing to trade the item, but the price will be very hard to come by.

Walking Dead fans: Will we see Daryl Dixon on the ‘In Memoriam’ list next week? If so, who will kill Dwight?

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