Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Unit 40 – The Zombie Lifestyle

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds

The passage below has been adapted from The Zen of Zombie, by Scott Kenemore.

Acceptance and acculturation into society involves the relinquishing of certain freedoms. Nothing new here, right? I benefit from my citizenship, but the laws that protect me also restrain me. The police will prevent my enemies from murdering me, but they will also stop me if I want to murder my enemies. The government provides roads for me to drive on, but I have to pay taxes to build those roads. Many people are surprised to find that this acculturation has extended even into their own minds.
Some examples are obvious. As much as I might hate my enemy, I don’t actually contemplate killing him. I think to myself “killing him is not something I can do” because society has closed it off to me as an option. But in truth, I can by all means kill my enemy. Nothing physically prevents me from ringing his doorbell, and smacking him over the head with his heaviest lawn ornament as soon as he opens the door. Yet my acculturated brain tells me that this would result in my arrest, incarceration and possible execution. Because of it, my brain removes it as a “lived” possibility I can actually pursue. While physically I can pursue it, I have removed that button from the keyboard of my mind. Additionally, humans regularly go so far as to give objects power over them.
Traffic lights. Work superiors. Court-appointed substance-abuse counsellors.
All of these things get an automatic response from us because it saves time and because it’s easier than thinking it through. In some cases we dont even think it through the first time – we assume that if we took the time to reason it through that we’d elect to comply. Before long, we’re taking fifteen minutes out of our way instead of just cutting straight across a lawn because we automatically give a KEEP OFF THE GRASS sign power over us.

Giving things power over it is not something a zombie does. Zombies have noticed that no one can tell them what to do, and that the only limit on their actions is usually self-imposed.
True, completely ignoring laws, conventions, and manners does’t make zombies any friends. Yet there is no evidence that it makes them more hated and feared than they already are. To put it simply, a zombie has discovered that it is possible not to concern oneself with whether something is “allowed”, “legal” or “in good taste”. There are many benefits to this. It makes zombies direct and effective, yes. But it also makes their defeat a thing that must be tested each time. A zombie defeat is never self imposed.
It has been noted that a benefit of zombie troops is their ability to fight to the last zombie. While human armies are quick to self-select that as an unacceptable ending to an engagement, zombies are free to say: “You know what? Screw it. I’m still charging. We’re outnumbered and encircled and they’re offering amnesty to all zombies, but I still get to choose what I want to do, and I choose to go down in a blaze of brain-gnashing glory.”


1. The above passage exemplifies the zombie as a model of:

  • A      Valiance
  • B      Freedom
  • C      Effectiveness
  • D      Recklessness


2. Based on the information provided in the passage, which of the following would be an apt example of objects which we hand over power to?

  • A      Doors
  • B      Quiet rooms
  • C      Rotten fruit
  • D      Alarm clocks


3. The passage suggests an enabling difference between zombies and humans. What is it?

  • A      They are fearless
  • B      They are stupid
  • C      They have nothing to lose
  • D      They are invincible
  • Answers:
    Q1:B – freedom
    The first hint is in line 1: Acceptance and acculturation into society involves the relinquishing of certain freedoms.
    Zombies relinquish this acceptance in favor of freedom. They give nothing and nobody power over them
    This unyielding freedom is what makes them effective and apparently ruthless. We may read recklessness from the scenario at the end in which the zombies decide to charge their enemies, even though it is tactically stupid – but this is intended as an example of how they can exercise their freedom. The passage suggests that by giving objects and other people power over us we are causing ourselves unneeded hassle, e.g. spending 15 minutes walking in order to obey Keep Off The Grass signs.

    I have actually changed this question retrospectively. If you did it yesterday, sorry. Do it again.

    What we’re looking for is something that generates an automatic response in our brains, which either inhibits or leads us into taking a specific action.
    Something that we don’t need to obey, but which we obey nonetheless.

    Doors have certain protocols associated with them; open them before you go through, close them afterwards (sometimes). Most of the time, however, we open the doors out of necessity – we can’t just run through them. In the sense that we must open them, they have power over us, but we did not give them this power, it just always was.
    It’s a social faux pas to shout in a quiet room where people are working or studying, but quiet rooms are not necessarily always filled with students – there can be many reasons a room is quiet and it is rare that a quiet room devoid of any context will generate a socially conditioned response from us.
    It’s not a good idea to eat rotten fruit, but we throw it out for reasons other than the fruit having power over us.
    D is the correct answer because we actively obey alarms. They go off, we get out of bed. In setting the alarms we hand over power over us in the future.

    Q3: C
    “Completely ignoring laws, conventions, and manners does’t make zombies any friends. Yet there is no evidence that it makes them more hated and feared than they already are.” – than they already are. Unlike regular humans, these zombies have nothing to lose from disregarding social convention. They may at times be stupid, but this does not enable them. There is no evidence to suggest that they are either fearless or invincible. (several references to killing zombies)

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    June 20, 2012

  • Great site been really helpful. Just wanted to query the answer to Q2. I would argue that the answer should be B, the quiet room. The passage talks about acculturation being the reason our brains deselect certain options because they are socially unacceptable. Quiet rooms have that effect most of the time. Setting an alarm might be handing power to the alarm when you set it but not in the same sense as being complicit with social norms.


    August 1, 2012

  • Thanks for the comment, James!

    I would agree with you that the alarm clock is different to the other examples given in the passage (Traffic lights. Work superiors. Court-appointed substance-abuse counselors.) in that we actively hand over power to them. The examples in the passage, on the other hand, are forced upon us once we accept that we want to be part of this society. The key thing to acknowledge, however, is that, in all of the above examples, there is a very specific action which is expected of us in response to these stimulants.

    If I whisper to you, you are more likely to speak softly in reply, but if you notice that there is no reason for me to be whispering you might just as well shout. Without additional context (such as a funeral or exam room), the whisper or the quiet room demand no specific behavioural response from us.

    For example, you could argue that 90% of people will feel somewhat compelled to uphold any given incidence of silence, but at the same time some people often feel compelled to break the silence when they come home to their one bed apartment because it makes them feel less alone.

    It’s not about compliance with social norms, it’s about automatic, conditioned responses which hold us back and prevent us from living the life we really want. The alarm clock wields this power over us in a very specific way.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    August 1, 2012

  • As someone who frequently turns off my alarm clock and goes back to sleep, I’d say that it exerts little power over me and for that reason wrapping my head around that answer is a bit of an effort!

    Less so than a quiet room anyway.


    September 16, 2012

Leave a comment  




Submit comment