Episode 285: We’re an Autonomous Collective

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: Centralized Control

It seems like characters in zombie stories like the idea of strong, central leadership. Look nor further than The Walking Dead, where the group of survivors – almost instantly – vests an insane amount of power into Rick. This happens fairly early in the story, long before Rick does anything to really prove his abilities, but the group of survivors craves the idea of safety the comes with a strong, confident person in charge.

That’s all well and good while the leader is doing the right thing and keeping the group safe and whole. But what happens when he starts making bad calls? Or let’s the power go to his head? Suddenly the simple solution turns into a nightmare, and the longer it goes on, that harder it is to stop. Eventually, the only way to remove the person on top is through assassination, and that leaves a power vacuum that will likely only be filled after lots of other infighting, backstabbing, and politicking. The group’s progress, whatever it might be, stagnates; all the while the zombies continue to hunt.

About this Episode:

One reason I don’t want the group of survivors in Bricks of the Dead to have a “leader” is that  I think that having a leader tends to shift the focus of the story onto that person. From the start, I envisioned Bricks of the Dead as an ensemble cast, suddenly having a main character just doesn’t appeal to me.

Other News:

Okay everyone, we’re back. I’ve recovered from my surgery, but now I’m suffering through whatever the hell it is my son had. Yay. However, I’m planning to have content all week, especially since next week is Christmas and – aside from a special Christmas comic – I fully intend to be lazy.

Discussion Question: Tyranny of the Majority

While fictional characters in stories might like the idea of a leader making all the decisions, people in real life might be a little different, especially if the de facto leader starts making decisions they don’t quite agree with. Of course, a democracy can be just as dangerous. A good leader will be able to make tough choices, when when a majority is required to come to that same conclusion, can you count on 51% of your group to get behind it?

What sort of decisions would you have a hard time trusting to a group during the zombie apocalypse?

94 thoughts on “Episode 285: We’re an Autonomous Collective”

  1. Being young, of course Stewart naturally wants to jump ahead to the post-election phase of things where all the votes have been tallied! 😀 Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple! Plus, they’ll have to discuss this zombie apocalypse scenario they’re currently in, and get everyone on the same page! 😉

    • Exactly right, BV.

  2. to Dave… we still don’t know all there names… O_O

    • I mean Yo* srry hehehe

      • The only person whose name we don’t know is the cameraman, and we’ll be getting that in a few episodes.

  3. O by the way i think you should add like a female chef to the group.. im just saying, so like they could like be trapped in a house with food or something and then they could all gather around and have dinner. i dont know about you but i think it would make a nice part in the comic!!
    P.S. Srry for all the comments..

    • I think we’re all done with new characters, at least for a little while. Although this does make me think I should do a blog or something about character creation.

  4. why is there no comic???? I am not trying to be rude or anything, but I AM wondering.

    • Are you not seeing a comic? Because there should be one there.

  5. Glad to see you are back Dave.
    On your question… I guess any decision would be hard to trust someone with. Practically anything is a question of life and death during the ZA; bug in, bug out? fight, flee? trust or be suspicious? Choose wisely or be eaten… that’s the deal I’m afraid.

    • Thank you, sir!

    • I agree. Ultimately every adult should make his or her own way. While in a group there should be one “decider”. Anyone that disagrees with his or her decisions should be free to grab his or her own gear and split. No way would I stick around in a group that had Stewie above as its leader. I’d take my guns, groceries, and gear and make my own way.

      That’s the ultimate dynamic of most all zombie apocalypse survivor groups; and this one is no different. They are in a “come as you are” situation. When the Schumer hit the fan the situation caught them completely flat-footed. With the exception of Murphy, they had no gear ready to go, nothing but the clothes on their backs and what they could find along the way. Being in that situation is not conducive to making good decisions.

      As an alternative, I am curious to know how our well-equipped and trained survivalists are making decisions. I would wager that they are more prepared to make decisions regarding their survival.

      • I would wager you are correct; they have also shown better internal structure so far (with more to come).

        • So what kind of decisions will our intrepid and ill-equipped survivors make here? Will they have difficulty dividing their spoils (food, medicine, etc.)?

          For an example of why I hate Utilitarianism, google “lifeboat game”. It cuts me to the quick.

        • I definitely remember the lifeboat game from sociology in either high school or college.

        • I can’t find something on this LIfeboat game, what is it?

        • Bwa, ha, ha!! Oh, the Life Boat. In my group in college I asked, “Who has led meaningful, rewarding lives?” After a show of hands, I asked them, “don’t you think we owe it to the rest to give them a chance to have what we had?” As they were hemming and hawing, I concluded, “You, you and, you, with me! We’re jumping the boat right now!”

          Badda bing, badda boom, we were done in three minutes and started talking about movies. The prof threw an awesome, humiliating fit, “you can’t do that!” I asked the class if there was enough room in the boat for altruism, which led the convo in whole new directions. Of course, Ayn Rand was spinning in her grave.

        • Calucade, back in the 80’s & early 90’s, a variety of disciplines began to address ethical issue of The Greater Good, Ethical Mindfullness, Decision Making in Management, Who or What has Value. How do We Value.

          Kind of a corrective against the Me Generation excesses of the 60’s & early 70’s.

          All across the land there were teachings, lectures, retreats on addressing these issues. A hallmark of this was group experiences, predecessors of today’s Team Building Exercises.

          The Boat Excersise came in a variety of scenarios. But the 2 most common where:

          1. Ship sinks and there is a life boat with X-amount of room, and a larger number than X in need of survival. How do you determine who gets in the boat and who doesn’t.

          2. A variation of this was, they would give you a list of professions and stations in life and you got to determine who was “worthy” to survive and who should be sacrificed for the Greater Good. A grouping could include: Nobel prize winner, infant, an old person, a drug addict, a brain surgeon, an ex-con. Now . . . determine as a group who get’s scuttled.

          Not unlike the scenarios Dave presents us with. 😀

        • ~oops!~ Sorry for misspelling your name, Calicade.

        • “2. A variation of this was, they would give you a list of professions and stations in life and you got to determine who was “worthy” to survive and who should be sacrificed for the Greater Good. A grouping could include: Nobel prize winner, infant, an old person, a drug addict, a brain surgeon, an ex-con. Now . . . determine as a group who get’s scuttled.”

          This is the variation I remember. I believe we discussed it as a bomb shelter, and were given a list of people. There was only room for five, but the list had ten people, or something like that.

        • Ours was a cave is flooding, and we had to decide what order the rescue team would evac the people, knowing that there probably wasn’t time for all of them. In a god-damn degree level engineering course, of all places.

          My vote was to simply refuse to give an answer. In the scenario presented making such decisions was way outside what we’d signed up for, and accepting responsibility for the decision was opening ourselves up to lawsuits.

  6. im wondering if stewarts pants are dark tan, or light tan, ive never really known the difference.

    • They’re light tan.

      • oh, i never really caught onto that, by the way, do you still want those tan peices?

        • That’s okay, AC. I appreciate the offer, but it’s probably not worth the cost of shipping.

        • and this time the postal service isnt going to help?

        • Hah, the post office never helps.

        • damn the post office, what did we ever do to them!?

  7. I suppose the hard one I’d have is if there were suddenly any religious zealot and fanatic for whom they twist everything to religion and only their way and belief is correct. To such a degree they won’t listen to anyone else’s take or find the compromises.

    The other problem is the other 49% who are adamant their way is right and will buck any decisions and refuse to support and go with any final decision of the 51%. If it meant the group splintered, fine, let that 49% go and hopefully with not blood shed.

    • Good thoughts here, Fox. That second point might come up pretty damn in the discussion pretty damn quickly.

  8. What sort of decisions would you have a hard time trusting to a group during the zombie apocalypse?

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. In a democracy a coalition can do whatever they want for the “good of the group”. The group could take a socialist bent and decide it wants to vote itself my food storage, or weapons and ammunition, or medical supplies, radios, batteries, fuel, vehicles, etc. I can see any modern “progressives” glomming onto me thinking that. They’ll soon learn that I don’t run a soup kitchen.

    I would not allow a group to manage my assets, nor to make any decisions regarding the safety of my family. I am the dad. I make the decisions after careful counsel with my wife. I am responsible for their safety; and I cannot abdicate that duty. I won’t make anyone follow me; and anyone that tries to make me follow them in a WCS better be better armed and better trained than I am.

    (The “two wolves and a lamb” quote is misattributed to Benjamin Franklin, but my research tells me that the saying came around in the Nineties, which makes sense considering the rebirth of the militia and survivalist movements about that time).

    • One of the best lines from the Patriot seems appropriate here: “Why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?”

      • What happens when your small group adopts a utilitarian perspective (especially the women) and start throwing around “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” BS.

        Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing that argument coming up in this meeting, but only because I am a sadist like that.

        • That whole “The greatest good…” thing always strikes me as more of a thought exercise than an actual way of doing things.

        • Oh, progressives bring it up whenever they can. I think the argument is the collective versus the individual and the role of society. It’s the whole “it takes a village” bs.

        • This is always the hard part for people to understand really. Though you do need a decent sized group of people to rebuild, everyone has to be an individual. Of course I’m agreeing with you on this, and nice to see some one else using the correct term.

        • “It takes a village” is a huge pet peeve of mine. It just seems like one of those things that gets mindlessly repeated without every really thinking about what it means. It just feels like an excuse to ignore personal responsibility to me.

    • This is a good point about the wolves and lions. If it comes down to “who will be the zombie bait today”, who is going to say, “Oh, okay, you guys all agreed I’m bait today so of COURSE I will do it for the good of the team”? Uh, nobody. Everyone is looking out for either themselves or their family when it comes right down to it.

      • That’s right. Cut through enough bullshit and we’re all selfish at our core. That’s how human being survive.

  9. dave, did you know that they actually sell something like MRE’s at Wal-mart? i got 3 for my survival kit

    • How about submitting a review with pics and/or video, or at least a link to the product?

      • alright, also they sell machete’s at Wal-Mart for $7.00

        • Made in China, right?

          Watch that it doesn’t snap in two and put you in the hospital.

        • I don’t recommend wasting your $7 dollars on that machete there AC, you should probably save up for a good hatchet. It’s worth the money if you get a top quality tool.

        • He’s right, a Gransfors Bruks camp ax and a Swamp Rat or Chris Reeves knife will cost much, much more but will not only save your life and when you’re done you can pass it on to your grandkids (who can pass it to their grandkids).

        • I bought a set of small swords on Amazon for $20.00. I bought them, knowing that the quality would be awful. I just bought them for fun more than anything, even though they look like repurposed lawnmower blades. I might save up and buy a good hatchet or something off of the Internet. With enough searching, you can find some decent tools on the Interent at a reasonable price.

        • Oh man, now I want me a Swamp Rat.

        • Thanks BO, now I know what I’m getting for Christmas.

        • The Swamp Rat Chopweiler is what I carry what I go into the woods. It’s my favorite camp knife.

        • Been looking around the website actually, I’m thinking maybe the Rat 6 knife looks like my style. I’ve been in need of a big knife that isn’t the AK Bayonet I have.

        • Rodent* Not rat..

  10. Good to have u back Dave

    • Thank you!

  11. Interesting that you asked this question Dave, as I started reading the Walking Dead comic and I’m on the part where they hang that one guy. I think most of the time if it’s dealing with people.. The group shouldn’t be involved on the decision making. If it involves only a certain section of the group (care takers, people who maintain the health, food growers, protection, etc) they should take it up with those people, because really they are the ones that will know their own problems. I think a lot of problems that arise when staying stable is going to be communication problems. Not everyone is going to see the same way, and if you try to get them all to see the same way.. Then you will fail, the best way to do anything is to understand boundaries and find the middle ground. It’s a really odd question to answer because, as I said, people need to stick to their profession. Can’t have a security detail butting in and telling a farmer how to do his job.

    • Then again! I honestly don’t know how a government in the post apocalypse world would work. I’ve played Fallout New Vegas multiple times (I know just a game) where I’ve had so many choices of which government should be built. It’s always hard to say which one would work the best in such a harsh world. They are all viable, but not all are moral, and others restrict, or are reliant.

      • Actually, we have multiple historical models of Leadership and Goverments which arise during dire times or extreme resource scarcity.

        1. Most common common model of pre-tech culture is the Athlete King. This is the alpha male warrior who demonstrates prowess and combat agility leading to ongoing success against beast or foe. Early on, when it hits the fan, this is the person many will gravitate towards. “You do what you need to do to survive” is the battle cry.

        2. The rise of The feudal Serf-Lord system emerged in Europe as the Roman Empire collapsed and left it’s citizenship exposed to all manner of attacks. Eventually, they would have their own zeepoc issues by way of the Black Plague pandemic. The feudal lord’s battle cry is, “serve me and I will protect you.”

        3. Many examples exist of the Dissapeared Ones. These are the tribes who say screw this, we,’re outta hear. Common examples are tribes who have survived intact by actively avoiding other groups. Amazon, South Pacific groupings for example. Our battle cry, since they don’t have is, “Hey! Where they go!?”

        Personally, I’m thinking that after the initial culling, we in the west will “naturally” gravitate to a rough ‘n tumble feudal system. Expect multiple coup d’états!

        • One thing I know about people, we don’t live long in a vacuum. Most people are herd animals. They don’t think too long or too hard, and would rather have someone else do the hard thinking for them. Look around the world. When people get into groups bigger than the clan/tribe they pave the way for the dictators you suggest. Whether it’s good or bad is debatable. It just is.

          To that end, my ideal in an EOTW situation would be to fall into the third camp you mentioned. Gather friends and family and get beyond the influence of Lord Humungus. That’s a hard thing, because folks herd together ostensibly for common defense. The further you go, the less of that you have. The group needs a strong defensive position (strong enough to kill all of the Governor’s men when they come to tax your crop) and hidden and far enough away that it’s not easy for them to find you initially.

          As for living in a neo-feudal system, I think we’re moving toward it now. Without waxing too political, look to current legislation like the NDAA, the Patriot Act, news that the government is keeping secret dossiers on citizens no accused of any crime, actions by the TSA and law enforcement agencies, and the shrinking middle class. There are now two classes of people, the elite oligarchs and everyone else. Guess what, unless you’re a billionaire, like a Ted Turner or a Michael Bloomberg, you are part of that “everyone else”.

        • As a person that believes “Survival of the most Adaptable” I can’t help but laugh at the idea of an Athlete King.
          Hard to say where I’d find myself I’ve managed to attract the personality that everyone loves and trusts.

      • The Athlete/Warrior King term was introduced in the 70’s to describe the warrior cultures who believed the strongest, fiercest warriors were the “natural” leaders. Vikings, Maori, Carib groupings moved towards this model.

        Heh! Then there’s the Scorched Earth category best exemplified by Temujin (Ghenjis Khan). Focused Forward Aggression. Temujin and his merry marauding Mongols simply expanded from small nomadic bands to largest geographical empire in history. Amazing strategist who had no qualms about razing whole territories, while absorbing them into the Mongolian Confederation. Battle Cry: “Join and the world is yours; resist and die.”

    • In the aftermath of a WCS, I think that groups will build up along tribal/clan/racial/religious lines. The pro-“diversity” crowd will call me a racist fro mentioning it; but I think I can make a strong case for it. People like familiarity; and when the Crunch hits, folks will go with what they know and trust. Like it or not, we are more apt to trust folks that look like us and think like us. Neighborhoods with a common value or belief may band together, say the congregation of a closely-knit church might stick together.

      I think that for the short-term a group will best survive on a principle of volunteerism. I don’t run my family like a democracy; and I don’t expect a group to run as a democracy. I see that people cooperate better when the ends meet their self interests.

    • Awesome discussion here, everyone! Awesome!

      I think we tend to think of government much too simply. It isn’t a question of dictatorship versus democracy. There are dozens of options. Oligarchies, feudal systems, republics, etc.

  12. BTW…I hope Dave doesn’t mind me dropping a teaser here…

    I am putting together a guest strip that is a bit of an open ended short story. I am not sure when we’re going to run it as I am still building an extensive set for the comic. I will promise you this, it will be at LEAST 12 episodes.

    Its going to be called
    Stargate of the Living Dead
    so that should give you some hints 🙂

    • I can’t wait to see this!

  13. Speaking of tools ‘n weapons, have you all seen The Annihilator? This is one wicked, spot on device. Our Home Depot stores carry them for about $30.


    • That looks a lot like another tool I’ve seen before. I’m blanking on the name, but I believe Stanley makes it.

  14. Go weapons! I have to many to name but to grab and go would all vary on my modes of transportation. Axe handles, ice picks, 15 pound hammer, or Blades of all sizes its fun for the whole family. (i don’t let my kids touch my blades)

    • Who are you, Casey Jones?

      Now that I mention it, I know a reputable itinerant instructor that carries his long guns in a golf bag. He says it’s easier to carry them into hotels and such in a golf or tennis bag than a gun case, because everyone knows what they look like. These cases don’t scream “GUN!” to the sheep.

      • Best ninja turtle, despite not actually being a ninja or a turle.

        Carrying guns in a golf bag sounds a lot like how old CCWers would wear photographers vests. In a few years are we all going to assume golf bags are full of guns?

  15. hey dave, im studying the digestive system and all of that crap, and i looked up online, and saw that a human like me could last a 2 weeks without food, as long as i had water, but thats when you’ve got to sit down, and relax a little, but always have water, when your stomach is gurgling, youre actually just finnishing off what food that you have left over, apocolipse is now in the bag! just have lots of water…

    • What happens when you want to exert yourself? Kind of hard to make that sprint to the car, or carry that forty pound pack without a steady stream of calories.

      I recommend Pro Bars (Harmon’s has them in their health food section). They have a lot of calories compared to other bars. I keep a couple in my LBE.

      • i can live off of my survival kit for at least 15 days, and its all equipped with those outdor MRE things, trail mix, lots of canned food, some home made apricot jelly, SPAM, candy, and i might even take one of my chickens with me, you can live a long time off of eggs, and their free, I’d suggest getting a chicken, it can save you guys money, and you dont even need a rooster, my problems are solved with chickens.

        • How about doing a writeup on what you have in your kit, and posting it with some pictures?

        • This. I’d love to see some people’s survival kits.

      • It’s true, with out calories in your body you pretty much shut down and can’t do any work. This one day I had taken in very few calories, and those disappeared quickly with the work I was doing. I soon found myself sluggishly pulling myself from one task to the other trying to find something easier to do.

        • well you wont need the food if your sitting around safley in your own home right? but still, if you keep 5 hour energy around, maybe that could help, im planning for apocalypse to camp out in the Big 5 for a while, and i dont have to get out of shape, cause theres theres exersize things there, as long as you have some power shot, you should be okay in an emergency, (or if your someone like Altair from assains creed.)

        • Humans need 1200 calories a day to survive, starving yourself because you think that you won’t have to go anywhere isn’t very smart. You can’t go days with out eating then suddenly start eating to get your energy up, your body would refuse it. Try to eat regularly if in any situation that calls for survival. By the way it may say you can survive with out food for 2 weeks, that doesn’t mean its a thing that you can renew on the last day. IF you don’t eat till the last possible day of survival you will die.

      • beer has a lot of calories, but im thinking about making all of those into Molotov’s. so i guess you win.

        • Um, beer won’t burn. The ETOH content is not nearly high enough. Even then, there are more effective flammables then sippin’ liquor. Better to use it as an antiseptic or pain killer.

        • Alcohol has to be above a certain proof in order to burn, and beer is no where near strong enough.

          I never understand the people who plan to use booze as a firebomb. Alcohol has a lot of other uses beyond getting drunk. Why burn it? Sure, in need you do what you have to, but otherwise? What a waste.

        • its actually not a waste, i cant drink in my religon, so why not?

        • You might not be able to drink, but you could certainly use it as an antiseptic, right?

          Of course, if you can’t drink, and you only plan to burn it, you could get a lot more bang for your buck with other stuff. Lighter fluid is pretty damn cheap, for instance.

        • I won’t drink it casually; but push comes to shove, I will use booze as an anesthetic or pain reliever. Bet on that one.

          I also don’t discount using liquor to barter. In a WCS I would try my hand at running a still. I have enough wheat in storage to spare.

        • Nothing better than a 7&7 after a long day of killing zombies.

        • my rule would be “kill at least 10 zombies a day, then come back and go sleep in a hole” not really, but i think that there should be that kill 10 zombies a day thing would work, and if not, then you dont get ramen. or chips.

        • Harsh but fair.

        • Off topic, but one thing you never see in zombie flicks is folks using traps. I mean, they’re no smarter than animals. Why not lure them into pit traps or deadfalls that are easy to set and forget. Why waste all that energy hunting the zombies when you can kill them by the score with some simple yet ingenious traps?

        • Good question. I’m trying to think of a movie where people have done that, but I’m not coming up with anything.

        • Bo, luring and trapping; two of my favorite thoughts.

          1. I keep thinking about all these warehouse stores like Costco, or sport stadia. We all know that these places have limited entrance/exit, and with some forethought could be hermetically sealed. Luring and trapping seems possible.

          2. Luring Away. I keep thinking, if the zees are sound-responsive, having the group runners go to the opposite side of town and set up Sound Lures. Car horns/alarms, sound system, homemade noise makers, etc. Not only draw away the overt crowds, but the pesky alley lurkers.

          Let’s face it, the astronomical numbers of zees vs. survivors creates a hopeless situ of death by attrition. Eventually, systems will have to be crafted to, um, mass transit the herds.

        • i remember one awesome trap from the movie stakeland, but insted, the disease makes you into a vampire, they lured a teddy bear with a raddle on it, into a bear trap, and the vampire went head first! I love gorry movies.

        • Zombieland “El piano bonk”

        • Hmm… Death by attrition. I think it’s a strong possibility. It doesn’t help that in zombie movies the survivors are nearly always the worst kind of stupid, proving the old adage that it’s better to be lucky than smart/. I think that a small group of clever people that can work under pressure can all but solve the problem of a zombie outbreak. Call it Darwin in action, even without repeating firearms and up-armored buses, using, as you wrote Luis, lures and traps on a large scale.

  16. Ha! Lighter fluid as an explosive? GASOLINE!
    Oh, and AC seems to lead a very interesting life. I’ll get that game if it’s LEGO-based.

    • Not as an explosive, just as something to burn. Molotov cocktails aren’t explosives, just a way to distribute burning liquid all over something.

  17. It’s all very well saying that you’re not going to appoint a leader, but in combat you don’t have time to talk everything over. You might be better off choosing someone to lead when in the crunch, but discussing things a bit more when you’re relatively safe like they are now?