If there’s a time when all bets are off, the zombie apocalypse is it: the end of the world, where the dead outnumber the living, and the living envy the dead. The general consensus is that in this apocalypse, hard science and tough people will take the lead—bombs and bullets, that kind of thing.
Problem is, in the meantime, people aren’t really hiring ‘bombs and bullets’ types. They want critical thinking, ethics, communication skills, and the ability to solve tricky problems. And sure, you want a job now, maybe the freedom to move around a bit; but you don’t want to be caught short on the day the dead folk get up.
So when the End of the World, Ltd. starts hiring, here’s why people with Arts degrees will be the getting all the sweet jobs, like Executive Survivor and Not Getting Eaten Coordinator.
What does it all mean? asked no-one ever, while climbing out a window on rope made of bedsheets with a kukri between your teeth and a backpack full of scavenged milk powder in one hand.
Luckily (for everyone) there’s more to philosophy than that. While skills in rhetoric are largely wasted on the shambling dead, they’re powerful tools to organise and inspire the survivors. Logical debate, reasoning, ethics and complex problem solving will be essential during the post-zombie rebuild, too, when level heads and clear thinkers will be in high demand.
And who knows, if you have a philosopher in your survivor group, you might also have lucked out and picked up a badass. Take Socrates, who before he got busy fathering philosophical dialogue was a hoplite—heavily armoured soldier with a big spear, 300-style—in the Peloponnesian War. He’s also credited with ‘Socratic Irony’, a rhetorical device whereby you pretend not to know or understand something, forcing your opponent to explain it—at which point you tear into their explanationwith precision and clarity. The army would call this a prepared ambush; Socrates apparently called it a conversation. This is exactly the kind of thinking you want on your side when trying to outwit mindless hordes.
A polite „Bitte nicht essen meinem Gehirn“ might not help in the middle of a perimeter breach, but don’t rule out linguists during the apocalypse.
77% of Australians only speak English at home, so if this is you, don’t feel too bad: it’s a common problem in countries with English as the official language. It’s easily reversible with a degree in your preferred language, with the advantage of cultural insights that help you understand people from other places.
Because here’s the catch for Zed Day: you may not be at home when it happens. More people are taking short trips of out Australia than ever before (including for study). In fact, the number has been rising since 1990. Statistically, you’ve never been more likely to be out of the country when the zombies do their thing. And the reverse is true as well: the odds of meeting a survivor in Australia qui ne parle pas Anglais is higher than ever.
Once you’ve learned one language formally—any language—you’ll find learning subsequent languages easier. So yes, the kid from Orange with a few years of French under their belt will have a slightly easier time integrating with local survivor forces in north-western China.
The philosopher George Santayana’s famous words will ring true even in the unlikely event of an undead uprising: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Facing the horde, you might have sharp pangs of déjà vu if you’ve ever experienced the post-Christmas sales. But what if it’s more than that: has the world faced anything like the zombie apocalypse before, and what lessons can we learn?
For questions like these we need a historian, someone logical and accurate who can tell you what happened, how and—here’s where it gets interesting—why it happened.
More than just digging up facts, historians give meaning to events, and draw connections between things. And after the rebuild you’ll find they are fierce guardians of what’s fair and true. In the year Zed-plus-five, when Evilcorp tries to relabel the apocalypse something like ‘the post-vivum disruption event’, they’ll have to get through the historians first.
When society collapses, it’s going to take a lot of what we take for granted with it. Part of that is our ability to represent our views and organise our communities to work together.
Charismatic leaders might draw together bands of survivors, but once things settle down, it becomes more complicated. Then you need systems, and philosophies to underpin them.
Whatever the case, it will be in everyone’s best interests to form a stable government as soon as possible, since instability is linked to increased poverty, human rights abuse and violent regime changes (including terrorism).
And there’s no guarantee that the survivors of any apocalypse will be capable (or willing) to rebuild what they had before. The citizens of Newstralia may want to build a direct democracy to replace our current indirect system. Or who knows, maybe they’ll end up a plutocracy ruled by the people with the most baked beans.
Worldwide we’re taking literally millions of photos a minute, so it’s probably a safe bet that the dead rising will be a well-recorded event. Sometimes it’s not just about recording what happened, it’s about capturing what it means visually and what it felt like to be there. This is particularly poignant in a conflict where the villains are also victims—as in zombies—and it will help future historians define Zed Day for generations to come.
This is important work (right now in real life) at the core of many photographers’ work. Famous documentary photographers like James Nachtwey have taken photos that have helped end wars. He pulls no punches talking about the power of photography to capture horror and provoke change:
“If there is something occurring that is so bad that it could be considered a crime against humanity, it has to be transmitted with anguish, with pain, and create an impact in people—upset them, shake them up, wake them out of their everyday routine.”
One skill you’ll learn in any Bachelor of Arts is the ability to figure out that the zombie apocalypse probably isn’t going to happen.
Sociologists could tell you about social media networks sharing information so fast that an uncontrolled and unseen simultaneous global outbreak is very unlikely. In fact, the North American ebola panic of 2014 demonstrated that our ability to share information in a crisis might be too good—or at least better than our ability to remain calm.
And cultural studies and literature grads will very, very quickly point out that zombie stories are fictional, and represent specific cultural fears and desires. The list goes on.
With a bit of digging, you’ll crack open the zombie myth and find some very interesting conversations—although it’s hard to sign up Brad Pitt to star in a reasonable dialogue founded on sound research and thorough analysis.
But that’s Hollywood’s problem. The rest of us will be too busy winning the apocalypse with our BAs.
Every zombie plan should include a UOW Bachelor of Arts, or go double-barrelled and get two degrees at the same time—just sign up before Zed Day.