The Walking Dead: Disputing the ‘every man for himself’ theory

Tara. The Walking Dead - AMC
Tara. The Walking Dead - AMC /
Glenn. The Walking Dead - AMC
Glenn. The Walking Dead – AMC /

When discussing The Walking Dead and defending someone’s actions in the apocalypse, people are quick to say, “it’s every man for himself.” I don’t believe that. Not only do I not believe it from a Dale type “this world is ugly” standpoint, I don’t believe the argument is valid.

I don’t think that using that philosophy gives you any better chances at surviving than if you show some kindness and compassion at times. I’m not talking about making stupid decisions. I’m talking about not being completely out for yourself and never considering the needs of others.

If Glenn didn’t take a little chance on Rick, he wouldn’t be here today. Tyreese, whom people are quick to criticize as weak, saved Judith. If Judith were your baby, wouldn’t you be grateful for that weak, compassionate person?

The Governor, The Walking Dead - AMC
The Governor, The Walking Dead – AMC /

The Governor was a tough, look-out-for-yourself-type person. Defenders of the Governor use that to excuse his actions, citing the apocalypse as the reason for the necessity of his evil. But where did it get him? Perhaps, if you give him the benefit of the doubt, safety of his group was really his motivation. The scarcity mentality and every man for himself got in the way of his goals rather than helping him accomplish them. People might have helped him survive if his philosophy were a little different.

Now, it is the apocalypse, you can’t have a complete abundance mentality, because abundance is obviously not reality. But if you have a glass half full mentality like Glenn, perhaps there is room for some water from other places to come in and fill that glass up.

I think a big theme of season 4 of The Walking Dead was the need for people to work together and allowing people to help you. Every man for himself implies keeping things you need and not helping anyone in need, which sounds very strong and capable, but it forgets something.

Asking for and accepting help from others requires strength as well. Many with the every man for himself attitude have a stubborn streak and a pride that prevents them from asking for help.

Daniel Salazar and Griselda Salazar, Fear The Walking Dead - AMC
Daniel Salazar and Griselda Salazar, Fear The Walking Dead – AMC /

In Fear the Walking Dead they have started to use words like indebted and weak and keeping score. These are things that are interesting to me. Shane was a score keeper though he never used those words. He asked Lori how many times Rick saved her life. He asked Dale what he did to keep the camp safe.

I think when you start naming and enumerating the things people do and assigning quantity and quality to the actions of people, you start to get into trouble. It’s when you don’t look at things that way, that you survive. When you say things like I’ve heard our group say before like, “that’s what we do.” Or when Tyreese said “anything you need.” for Judith.

Rick Grimes. The Walking Dead - AMC
Rick Grimes. The Walking Dead – AMC /

You don’t keep score. Has Rick repaid Glenn yet? Has the group evened things out with Carol for saving them from the train car at Terminus? Who gets credit for the grenade save at the CDC, Carol for keeping it or Rick for having it in his pocket to have in the laundry?

Even Rick who has learned and changed from his experiences and losses still has the helping mentality of the Rick who couldn’t leave Merle Dixon on the roof. We left Rick telling the people of Alexandria that they will survive because he will show them. He abandoned the everyman for himself approach of killing them to make them understand for teaching them instead.

People like us saved a priest, saved a girl who rolled up to the prison with the Governor, saved a crazy lady with a sword.

When people say, “it’s every man for himself in the apocalypse,” I think they mean, you have to get tough, and make tough decisions. You have to start thinking differently. You have to think about survival. You have to do what it takes. You have to do things you never thought you could do or would do. But literally every man for himself? Maybe in the most extreme and dire circumstances and situations and split second moments. But as a philosophy for the entire apocalypse? I don’t buy it.

Next: Season 5:All Named Character Deaths

More from Undead Walking