Why Do We Fall?

One of the tracks from the film The Dark Knight Rises composed by Hans Zimmer goes by the title Why Do We Fall? Not only does the title serve as a great prompt for this week’s Monday Mayhem article, but also provides a perfect lead-in to promoting the film. If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises, what are you waiting for? I recommend it without a quibble.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises

Getting back to the question, why do we fall? I’ve watched many zombie movies while asking the same question, always scratching my head wondering why none of the film characters listens to that still small voice in each of them that tells them not to do something they shouldn’t.

Reason #1: Stupidity/Ignorance

A good example is in the film 28 Days Later. The audience wants the zombie apocalypse to happen, yet they cringe whenever they see it happen due to human frailty. The audience repeats the telltale phrases: Leave the monkeys alone. Don’t touch the cages. Don’t open them; you don’t know what you’re doing. In spite of common sense screaming at the characters to do the right thing, and the audience tossing verbal insults at them as well, they ignore the obvious and do the worst.

Reason #2: Accidents/Fear

Another example happens in countless other zombie movies, especially the ones where viruses are the focus and scientists are working in a lab. One of the workers always shatters a vial tainted with an unknown disease, breaks protocol and infects others by not reporting it. The other side of the spectrum happens when all the lab’s fail-safes collapse and releases the pathogen into the atmosphere unintentionally producing another undead abomination.

Reason #3: Malice/Rebellion

The last example is my favorite because it has nothing to do with humanity’s ignorance or accident-prone traits. It is the defeat of the heart.

The Walking Dead is great when it comes to showing this. Throughout the series, we meet leaders of groups who think society would be better off following their direction. Only, their direction is—most often than not—twisted. They serve themselves and judge others as rebels who do not follow their lead. One so-called leader kept trophies of his victims’ heads in glass tanks to view at his leisure.

Conclusion

Why do we fall? Can it be we humans have a proclivity to annihilate each other regardless of our incredible potential? Or is it we’re so daft in not realizing whatever action we take has an equal and opposite reaction? Or is the human heart so cunning as to even fool us into believing what we do, no matter how well-intentioned, will always result in good things?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Why do you think civilizations are prone to failing miserably?

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14 thoughts on “Why Do We Fall?

  1. Thought provoking!
    I think the root of all of our problems of this nature is pride. Whether it’s the notion that The Rules Don’t Apply to Me or even I Don’t Have to Learn the Rules, or Consequences are for Lesser Beings… it often comes down to pride.

    At least, that’s what I think. But I’m a pessimist. 🙂

  2. Fascinating question, Jack. I read this the day you originally published it, so I’ve had a little time to think about it. To be a smart-aleck, I could say, it’s just gravity, Jack! But a lot of good stuff has already been noted ^^^. Several roots, I think, are ignorance and fear. What Colin Drysdale said above is also apt. It seems counterintuitive, I guess, but some societies were, or seem to have been, doomed by their very successes (Cahokia? Maya? Aztec? I’m sure you can add others), which is something I think he rightfully suggests when he mentions the [over]use of limited resources. This, too, plays into the idea (again, expressed well already in these comments) that we as a species are invincible. “Oh, why should I care about climate change/loss of habitat/drought/dwindling supply of dirty fossil fuels/whatever? It’s not affecting me, just ‘those people’ who aren’t me or my kin. I’m unassailable.” [Hey, what happened to “no man/person is an island?!) Religion can also get in the way in these equations of limited resources when people adhere to the idea that God(s) will provide no matter what (as if that means God[s] won’t wipe out the HUMAN population at some point but leave the planet and other species intact). Why do we fall, indeed . . . a multifactorial answer, I guess, Jack. But don’t listen to me. If you haven’t read Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), do that (here’s a short one on this: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4738014). Diamond has a whole book on collapse and his answers seem to be germs and geography.

    • Oh, in replying to myself … which is funny in itself 🙂 . . . I actually meant Anasazi, not Aztec up there in the potential examples of successful cultures that either dwindled or collapsed.

  3. Individually, there seems to be an upper threshold on intelligence, a physiological limit based on a conflicts between male neonate cranium size and female pelvic structure. There doesn’t seem to be a corresponding limit on stupidity. Then there are sociological/ psychological limitations–dysfunctional or alcoholic parents create emotionally wounded children who rarely can live up to their potential.

    On a greater scale, there are cultural limits, such as maritlal customs based on unrealistic theories of human nature, or fact that leadership tends toward sociopathy–the Hitlers, Temuchins, Stalins, and Attilas. You could easily fill a book with theories.

    Some just blame it on “Original Sin,” but that may be a cop-out. Pride, yes, definitely, selfishness, ignorance, insanity, indifference, envy, greed. It’s a complex issue. Limited resources? Doubtful, historically. Malthus wrote in 1798 and hasn’t been right yet. A lot has already been written on the causes of the fall of Rome, so I’ll not go into them.

    • I also think pride is a big thing as well. Pride causes people to lie as it wants to protect us in order to make us seem invincible to threats. Silly, really. But that’s another post!

  4. Selfishness, ignorance, indifference & pride = They’re all factors leading to humanity falling in such stories.
    I recently watched an early episode of the 80’s tv series version of ” War of the Worlds “. Humanity just ASSUMED that the alien invaders were dead, then they stockpiled the alien remains next to radioactive waste which killed the bacteria which kept them in hibernation. Human ignorance at work, at least.

      • The series essentially picked up where the movie left off. It would seem the HEIGHT of hubris to just chuck alien bodies into barrels & store them next to radioactive waste, which would kill off bacteria & viruses keeping them dormant. Just like leaving zombies out in the open, without bashing in the skull, etc.
        & BTW – the aliens could take over human hosts, & the radioactivity in their bodies made their human guises deteriorate to where they looked a lot like Romero – style zombies.
        There is a Youtube channel that carries several whole WotW episodes.

  5. There is always another side to the concept. But we know better and if leaders must have followers. And then there is the hermit on the hill who just wants to be alone and left on the hill.

  6. I think I’d add over-stretching our limited resources as one of the key elements behind why we fall. There’s elements of this in the original Dawn of the Dead. Basically, if we use too much too fast and there are to many of us, the society will collapse, and often the trigger is a disease of some kind or other (spreading like wildfire because there are so many of us). It’s the classic ecological populaion cycle of too many people leads to too muchy disease, and too many predators (i.e. zombies to eat them) and that causes the population to collapse. It may not always be zombies, but the over-use of limited resources is the reason why most societies collapse. Of course, this is often driven by debaunchery within the elite (as Chis pointed out), and can lead to revolution as the have-nots rise up against the haves, and the accidental release of diseases (because of stupidity in the actions of a few) when reseach facitilies are over-run. Or maybe I’m just trying too hard to tie all these reasons together!

  7. Let me throw a top of the head idea into the mix: assumed immortality. For much of our lives we know we’re mortal, so we’re conscious and careful about avoiding dangerous mistakes. But if we start to achieve success, recognition, status, we start to think we’re invincible, that we’ll never die, and we drop our standards, we overlook the details, we think it’ll never happen to us.

    The big civilisations that have come and gone always seem to go through a period of debauchery just before they fall. That lack of standards is symptomatic of a lack of attention to what makes things work, the checks and measures that hold things together. Once that attention has slipped away the end is in sight.

    Chris

    (ps I would love to shamelessly plug my next novel which deals with this very subject, but I won’t!)

  8. Interesting question. Pride definitely factors in. There’s a weird sense of ‘could never happen to me/us’ that plagues our species. Almost like the bad scenarios are fictional and we can’t see them as anything else until they happen. Look at every looming problem in our world that we don’t even try to fix. It’s more about arguing about who’s at fault and trying to find a scapegoat while the issue slides right into the area of ‘too late, suckers’. So definitely pride and short-sightedness.

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