These comments are based on the AMC’s The Walking Dead through the end of Season 6, not the comic book, of which I’ve only read the first compendium. It contains spoilers.
In Season 1, Episode 5 of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, Victor Strand, played by actor Colman Domingo, is one of the first to recognize the future of human society after the zombie apocalypse.
We return to the old rules. And the people who won the last round with their grande lattes and their frequent flyer miles are about to become the buffet.
In Jared Diamond’s book The World Before Yesterday, you can read what the “old rules” were. The 17th century C.E. English philosopher Thomas Hobbes nailed it on the head when he described life without centralized authority as “nasty, brutish and short.”
Alexandria, whose original inhabitants Rick Grimes saw as hopelessly vulnerable to the “ocean of shit” beyond their walls, nevertheless represents the most desirable path to that faction in the Ricktatorship which seeks a future, especially Michonne, Maggie and Glenn. Even Rick sees that life on the run (the nomadic “state of nature”) has no long-term future, especially for children such as his daughter Judith and Maggie’s recently conceived fetus. After successfully (i.e. with <20 human deaths) dealing with the nearby megaheard of walkers in the quarry and The Wolves), Rick et al begin to feel confident that they, together with the old Alexandrians, can defend their walled city and rebuild civilization.
The most immediate problem facing them, however, is a lack of food. People in The Walking Dead and pre-hierarchical societies can’t grow crops because farmers are too exposed to walkers and pillaging humans. They have begun planting crops behind their walls, but, until the harvest, they’ll have to rely on foraging, hunting and pillaging.
Rick and Daryl, on one of their foraging trips, encounter a settlement called The Hilltop. Eventually, Maggie agrees to take The Hilltop’s food in exchange for killing The Hilltop’s masters, the Saviors, whose head is Negan. The Ricktatorship misidentifies the strength of the Saviors, and, after initial “success” killing small groups of Saviors, Rick and the core group of cast members are captured by a massive, well-organized Savior hunting party directed personally by Negan. Negan then imposes his condition of submission: all your tools (i.e. guns & other weapons) are mine. Pay 1/2 of your production (i.e. food and tools) in tribute. And I execute one of you to establish my absolute authority.
We fans of The Walking Dead are likely to view Negan as an evil force, but if we can somehow dis-attach from Richonne, Caaarl, Glaggie, Eugene’s hair, etc, I submit that Negan’s group is a better prospect for human civilization than Rick’s.
Negan’s criminal justice system has severing a digit as a punishment (Michelle, stealing), while Rick’s punishments are execution (Pete Anderson, domestic violence) and exile (Carol, for killing the sick at the prison without the Ricktatorship’s authorization).
When Rick encounters other people, he sees killing them as the safest bet. If he doesn’t feel he can do so without risk of major casualties, i.e. his core group, he hides from them. He doesn’t try to trade or cooperate to increase production. He has no plan for humanity other than Alexandria’s walls, solar panels and unexplained “eco-filtration” system for water.
Negan has been able to recruit a large group of loyal followers, establish communication among a range of patrols and outposts and impose order which allows the humans in his domain to produce more and more food and tools.
Remember, Rick’s people have actually killed more humans than Negan’s have.
So, if you have any desire for humanity to reestablish civilization, you need to join Team Negan.
I should mention here that I’m making assumptions about Negan which might not be true. For example, Michelle is surprised that Maggie has a child, observing that Maggie’s home must be secure and comfortable for her to have enough confidence in the future to become pregnant. There can of course be no long-term future without births and childcare, so I’m assuming Negan has a hive where women are allowed or compelled to become pregnant and deliver children, or at least he plans to.
But even if Negan isn’t planning to restore civilization, by building material prosperity, he will allow a successor to do so.
I’ve never had a chance to play the strategy game Tribes created by legendary science fiction author David Brin, but I imagine you can have a Walking Dead rule modification. Basically, decrease the productivity and increase the risk in all hunting and gathering, and each turn have a risk that your camp is attacked by walkers and/or other humans.
Updated April 14, 2016: I presented my theory to another TWD fan tonight. He told this expression which he claimed he’d heard in grade school, although I’d never heard it before:
Rick thought his group was a hot turd on a silver platter, but they were really a cold bugger on a paper plate.
I searched for this phrase on the internet and found several variants. Oddly enough, the American-Lebanese writer Gibran Kahlil Gibran uses the phrase silver-plated turd as a title of chapter in his book Thoughts and Meditations, but not in the same way as the popular expression my friend used.