Grr, arrgh (© Dietmar Hopfl / sxc.hu)
LATE one evening, a trio of Malaysian citizens at a mamak table in Bangsar, yours truly included, began to worry. It was three days to what people had been calling D-Day, a militant term applied to the civilian aspiration of a new (and presumably Pakatan Rakyat) government.
We discussed known and rumoured details of the projected 16 Sept party hops, speculated on possible scenarios, and then started talking — naturally — about the walking dead. While Anwar’s deadline may have come and gone, it’s probably safe to say that the fear of chaos still shambles in our heads.
The zombie of popular culture today is usually attributed to George A Romero, whose 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead was read as a veiled appraisal of Vietnam-era American society.
Romero’s Living Dead series has since spawned five instalments; his zombies have been appropriated and re-limbed for use in virtually every medium, from comics to social activism. They now menace as a full-blown sub-genre — usually attached to horror or apocalypse fiction — with attendant tributes and parodies.
The scope of the undead threat has expanded, over the years, to include our anxieties over modern-day living: consumerism, pandemic disease, terrorism, government ineptitude — and one another.
Zombi Kampung Pisang. Terrifying (Courtesy of Tayangan Unggul)Mamat Khalid’s horror comedy Zombi Kampung Pisang is the only example of a Malaysian zombie movie, and is perhaps most notable for its lack of blood. Set in a Perak village stuffed with Malay stereotypes, it also includes political speechifying by a zombie leader, mention of government subsidies that never arrive, and self-aware public service messages against vandalism and rempit-ing.
A zombie apocalypse, where the fabric of society tears due to an increased demand for brains, is the ultimate expression of small pressures boiling over once the illusion of civilised harmony is removed.
Swarms of corpses overwhelm civil and military defences, despite their riot gear, guns and armour. The pre-existing mechanisms that authorities keep erect, ostensibly for our own safety, are shown to be what they really are: instruments of social control that keep the populace paranoid and divided, and worsen its plight during actual catastrophe. Emergency laws are no use in an emergency.
The lesson? Don’t depend on our official masters. Everyone is responsible for his or her own survival. Knowing this, the speculation at our mamak table included some practical measures. Inspired by Max Brook’s sterling and scholarly work, The Zombie Survival Guide, we came up with rough pointers for life in a post-16 Sept, post-living world. Here they are, for your perusal:
1. Stay informed!
The more you know, the better for you to assess the situation and come up with a plan of action. Avoid official or mainstream media, since laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and Sedition Act will mean you won’t get what you need to know.
Depend entirely on the internet and SMSes from distant acquaintances for the facts. But be careful: the networks may have buckled under too much traffic, or your favourite blogger may have been arrested.
2. Head to a safe place!
You should always have a destination in mind. This should ideally be somewhere you can barricade easily, but not a location in which you can be easily trapped — if you are to survive for more than a few days, you’ll need to venture out eventually.
Ensure at least a few days’ supply of food and fuel. (That might be difficult, considering the lines at supermarkets and petrol kiosks in these uncertain times.) Is your current residence tenable? Avoid high-rises or places of religious worship. If you can, go to a shopping complex: these places are designed to control the flow of crowds, and can be easily locked up — veritable fortresses. Watching Dawn of the Dead will convince you.
(Courtesy of Tayangan Unggul)3. Band together!
You need a group of friends you can trust. (Friends with SUVs and satellite phones are a priority.) However, in the event that your clique of choice is difficult to reach, approach the most heavily armed group of humans in your vicinity.
Be wary, though. Bands of mixed ethnicity may self-destruct as the distress of survival brings cultural and interracial conflict. Homogenous gangs are worse: they hardly need an excuse to get you. Don’t trust celups or Eurasians; who knows whose side they’re on? Don’t trust police officers; firearms are not long-term weapons, and these people are just evil (check your group for Special Branch personnel). Don’t trust civil servants; they will weigh you down. Don’t trust women; they menstruate. Don’t trust anyone.
4. Have an exit strategy!
A zombie-infested wasteland is no place to raise a family. Stop this patriotism nonsense; if you stick around, you’ll be brain-drained. Get the word out to the international community. Call Australia, New Zealand, or Canada; you likely already have relatives in these countries. (Brush aside the inevitable questions about our political situation.)
If no foreign aid arrives, be prepared to get out on your own. Don’t travel south, since Singaporeans will just pick you off on the causeway as they sip from bottles of Newater. Ideally, you want to cross the South China Sea; the plague of the undead will have missed Sabah and Sarawak, like everything else.
Duck and cover
The points above are, again, rough guidelines. Regretfully, we had no time to put them to the test; on our way home, the car my friends and I were travelling in was ambushed by a gang of illegal street-racing zombies, who were on kapcais and entirely imaginary.
In any case, you should fare better. A single rule of thumb: don’t lose your head. Duck and cover! Your rational mind, the one conditioned and exercised by decades of life in post-1969 Malaysia, will serve you well against the menace of the living dead.
(Courtesy of Tayangan Unggul)