How do people survive when times are hard? How do people survive in conditions of grinding poverty? They form communities or, rather, they live on in already-existing communities. Bereft of electronics, reliable supplies of food, without ready access to clean water, people survive through communal structures – families, neighbors, co-religionists – pooling their resources, skills, and luck to support each other.
But surround a man with technology, and he becomes more and more isolated physically from his world. Not only does the technology place distance between him and his fellow men, but the technology also reduces his need to reach out to his fellow men for day-to-day survival. The lack of regular personal contact with family, neighbors, and co-religionists results in a certain kind of loneliness that manifests itself as a homesickness for human interaction.
Enter the zombie apocalypse sort of fiction. The plot is straightforward: it’s the end of the world as we know it, and all that stuff of technology is gone, possibly for good. In this fantasy, humans must band together to defeat whatever forces caused the apocalypse. Right now, zombies are all en vogue, but nuclear warfare and Martian invasions served as fitting backdrops for stories of human family reunions brought about via horrific disasters.
If one notices, however, people living in conditions of grinding poverty don’t really have an interest in zombie apocalypses. Those kinds of events, like hurricanes and earthquakes and dictators propped up by multinational corporations, can be survived, but life would be less harsh without them. People involved in helping others survive also don’t really spend a lot of thought being entertained by wondering about big “what ifs”. They’re getting that human interaction through volunteering to help out friends, neighbors, and co-religionists.
Human poverty can manifest in so many ways. There is physical poverty, sure, but there is also poverty of the spirit and of the soul. Leaving our comfort behind in order to become part of a community to deal with poverty allows us to deal with the very real calamities that exist on a person by person basis, and to experience that human togetherness that technology has removed from our experience.