This week’s Material
-Walking Dead Season 3
With tensions high between leaders in the Walking Dead, it’s hard to ignore the struggling politics surrounding the two battling groups. In the series, the survivors have to deal with the chaos of the new world. What we see most of all is the two groups creating issues for themselves. In order to finally achieve peace after the collapse of society, it will come down to the type of politics and leadership that will be able to sustain itself. As they say, it is survival of the fittest. Regardless of the man power, at some point it is how you have evolved that will result in your ultimate success. The question is now whose politics and leadership has evolved into something worthy of success – Rick, or the Governor?
Abolition of the State
“This is not anarchy, Eve. This is chaos” – V for Vendetta
The survivors of the Walking Dead are far from peace. They are far from a life they want or can settle for. They remain in a place of chaos. At the beginning of the series, we see the world in disarray. The state has disintegrated. There is no more government, no military, and no authority. When the military failed to protect the people, their either became zombies or had to learn to survive on their own.
With no state to answer to, people took what they needed, formed communities, and answered to their own leaders. However, the former world continues to be etched into the groups’ survival methods. The most prominent echo is the election of single leaders. However, as the world changes, ideas and norms must be changed as well.
As Rick in the graphic novel says so himself, the former world does not exist anymore. However, the people of the Walking Dead are sustaining political ideas from the old world. They elect a president, wherein his word is usually final. They are usually answering to some form of leadership. Their decisions are ultimately made for them by the government elect. The people of Woodbury chose the Governor, but they did not choose to go to war with another camp. Although decisions made by Rick are final, he is heavily influenced by the group and their opinions. Their governments are no to far off of our own.
Woodbury Vs. The Prison
With America on the brink of extinction, the remaining survivors must latch on to parties with strength in order to stay alive. However, who can they say is the best leader? Where is the safest place? These are not far from our own political worries when electing leaders. Woodbury and the Prison are echoes of our governments, thrown into chaos, mirroring the structures.
Woodbury acts as a dangerous Autocracy. Woodbury is pleasant and welcoming externally. It is a place that has the look and feel of Main Street USA, where families can live fenced off from the chaotic world. However, there are dark secrets. The government is not morally sound. It is greedy. It manipulates. It traps you into its gates. It kills innocent people and uses the resources for their own. Better yet, they do not inform their citizens of their actions. They echo the claims of conspiracy theories of the U.S. Their leader, the Governor, is stubborn, has a double-edged motive. He controls those around him to take advantage of other survivors. Like Woodbury, he is two-faced.
The prison is an open democracy. In the prison, we see everything as it is. There is no fresh coat of paint. There are no hidden secrets. In the end, everything comes out. Tensions are high but nothing is perfect. There are fights between friends and enemies within the group. They have to delegate food, clear out cells, and live with their situation. It does not pretend to be anything more that it is, just like Rick. We clearly see his follies and vices. While the Governor seems to be trying to be something he isn’t Rick’s story is one we know well. He is just a cop trying to save his family. With an open-book style of leadership, the survivors communicate more – they make decisions among each other, issues are discussed, and although sometimes the final word is Rick’s, the group’s opinion is permeated into his decision. It is similar to a democracy, or at least more so than Woodbury.
While Woodbury is trying to keep up the façade of American life and hospitality while emphasising greed and personal gain, Rick is trying to bring a sense of home and safety. These are ideologies that the West holds up on both ends, as if the survivors of the Walking Dead are struggling to keep up a world that no longer exists. The Walking Dead shows a reliance on the State system, whose powers are no longer fit for the world. We can see this in the issues they face, the power struggles, the psychological pressure of leadership, and in the clear enemy of the most powerful ‘government’. They have yet to adapt to the new world, and this means they will only clash, as we have seen throughout the whole third season. And if these governments cannot be sustained in the new world, they will destroy each other.
This lasting echo of the state system is tested by Michonne. If she is a political metaphor, she is one of state-freedom. Before she met Rick’s group, she was not chaotic, just unruled. She is independent. She tends to walk through hordes of zombies without being hunted. She emphasises self-care, and by helping get the baby supplies to the prison she displays care for strangers. She may be violent, but that is because the world demands it. She has adapted. However, the world of the Walking Dead is not ready for the lack of leadership that Michonne evokes. This can be seen in her reluctance to join a group, in her suspicions of parties. Michonne helps to show us just how malicious the state can be by how quickly Michonne is to reject it. While the politics of the groups still remain, there is no room for Michonne and her type of freedom. The survivors are struggling to hold on to the state system, the safety, the American dream, and the home town feel. They are still stuck in a time machine, while Michonne moved on.
However, when Michonne became mixed up in these politics, something changed. If anything, Michonne helped to push on the war between the two groups. By killing the Governor’s daughter, she evoked the ever powerful motive of revenge. This has been sought out using power of the state in modern times before. However, in pushing the groups together it not only becomes a fight over revenge and safety but a battle over which power is stronger, and which one is more fit for this world. The Governor’s daughter is an echo of the past, like his ideologies. By Michonne destroying her, we see his method of leadership is old, his ideas are old, and it is time to let go. By the group embracing and protecting her, they show their push towards a better leadership style, and acceptance of new people and ideas. The indecision of Rick to protect Michonne shows the hold the state ideologies have, and how hard it is to let go of the past and move towards a new future. If Michonne represents a world without leaders, a different type of state, and a world of peace, then the fact that she is collateral in the war shows that peace will be either be destroyed, or survive.
Where is the Love?
“With so much chaos, someone will do something stupid. And when they do, things will turn nasty” -V for Vendetta
Woodbury and the Prison are not only living in the midst of chaos, but they are creating it. As long as their old political ideologies persist, they can never achieve peace. Not with each other, not within their groups, and not within the world they live in. We see a world not fit for our way of government. They just do not see this. Perhaps this shows us that should we encounter an apocalyptic scenario, even we will not ditch our state-driven ideologies. We can see our own politics reflected in the survivors, a world of governments run by violence, trying to provide security for its citizens.
We see the Prison, who seems to be leaning towards peace, taking the catalyst of war, Michonne into the group. We see the Governor as the enemy, a dangerous, vengeful autocracy. Peace is on the horizon, but the chaos is not over. In order to survive, the old ways of thinking must be abolished. Whichever state, or government, or even person more suited for the new world will survive. Whoever stops listening to the echoes of the past. As tensions grow, and we see the groups reflected to our own governments, one thing seems concrete.
The Governor is about to get kicked out of office.
Next week – The Zombie’s Lament