There was a comment on yesterday's post that made me angry. The person that wrote it seemed to wonder if my mention of the numbers and my hope that that we were seeing a fatality rate of five percent instead of fifty was somehow a coping mechanism. The author seemed upset that I was talking about numbers and asked how I would feel if one of the people in those statistics was someone I love.
They also said that our focus in New Haven is defense and food, which to them represents survival but not sustainability. So let me just clear up a few things right now.
First off, I've spent a lot of time and energy since the zombie plague killed my entire extended family worrying that the handful I was able to convince of the danger and save might be next. When I write about things like this new plague that could affect all of us, do I think of my friends and family being killed by it? Yes, absolutely. I worry about it all the time. I'm terrified that my wife is going to start coughing next to me at night, or that Patrick's nieces will get sick before they've had a chance to discover that first love and the pain of heartbreak. I fear for my loved ones greatly, and for the rest of New Haven almost as much.
So, in short--don't ever think I don't understand the personal consequences of the things going on around here. I've watched loved ones die. I need no reminders. In fact, I don't want anyone to suffer from this, but reality is a mean bitch at times. We face numerous threats on a constant basis. If we didn't have the capacity to shove that fear to the back of our heads and learn to deal with things as they happen, we'd never get anything done. The zombie swarms would have picked our bones clean two years ago.
As for survival and sustainability...well, if you don't think we're building sustainable long-term conditions, you haven't been paying much attention. We've got the basic things we need for survival for an indefinite period--food, water, shelter--and we're planning or actively working on a lot of stuff to improve our lives. I don't know what other folks might mean by sustainability, but as far as resources go we can keep up with population growth here for a long, long time.
Ultimately, though, my hope that this new infection won't kill half our people is just as much about hard fact and numbers as it is about not wanting to lose those who mean so much to us. We would be emotionally devastated to see so many people fall, but the practical side of the equation is clear: missing half our population, we could not sustain New Haven as it is. There are too many things that need doing, too many tasks from guarding against the undead to pulling up radishes that can't be done without each other. We couldn't leave the walls without sentries or guards to plant or harvest food, and without food no one would have the strength to fight. It's a numbers game, yes, and one I don't like playing.
It's about people, too. If I'm going to be brutally honest about it, I could stand to lose my loved ones. That's cold, I know, but I've done it before. I would be emotionally crippled to see Jess or Pat or any of them die, but I know from experience that I could live and continue on. I might not find much joy in life after that but I could do it.
I know this not only because it has already happened, but because even now I live and work more for others than I do for myself. I've got enough knowledge, skills, and practical experience applying both to leave here with a small group if I wanted, strike out into some remote and zombie-free corner of the world and live in peace. It wouldn't be hard to do from a technical standpoint. Emotionally? It's impossible. I love what we've built here, I love the people. I love working to make our lives better, and while that love could never replace the intense personal love I feel for those close to me, it would see me through the worst of the pain. Give me a damn good reason not to give in to despair.
Conversely, I couldn't leave here with that hypothetical small group of people even if they were all close friends for exactly the same reason. I couldn't abandon my home and the folks who've shed so many tears and drops of sweat (and blood) to make it what it is. I love my wife more than any single thing on earth, but I couldn't abandon New Haven. It's a weird symbiosis but one I have no desire to escape. If this disease takes a turn for the worse, it's going to hurt any way you cut it.
So you'll forgive me if I try to push those painful possibilities away with the dry recitation of numbers. They aren't dead yet, may not be, and I can't work efficiently constantly worried that the kids playing down the street are going to be laid up in the clinic and dead within a month. Similarly, I can't maintain a happy relationship with my wife if I burst into tears every time I go to kiss her. Chicks hate that. Yeah, I worry about what may happen down the road. But right now?
Right now the only thing I can do is be thankful she's here, that most people are doing reasonably well, and work with that in mind.