Why is modern western culture so obsessed with zombies?
Not the ones that walk around slowly and moan loudly, but the ones born from a manmade disaster, the ones that are faster and better than us—the ones that spread out and infect the earth’s population of humans.
This obsession is fascinating to me because its roots could relate to our times: (1) a soaring population of nearly seven and a half billion humans and counting, (2) the sixth great extinction event in the earth’s history and (3) a nearly unstoppable, insatiable desire to keep growing on top of something that is finite. All three of these factors drive our modern existence. I
t is almost as if the zombies represent a fear buried deep inside our advancements: it might be getting out of control.
Here are some points that may or may not have anything to do with our fascination with the prospect of a zombie apocalypse:
1. Just one hundred years ago, there were about one and a half billion people on earth. This huge number represented progress. Humans had truly conquered the earth and had roamed through all of its most remote and savage wildernesses. But today, it is a very different story. Walk through New York, Shanghai or London and there are people everywhere. Drive two hours out of these cities and it is still the same case: congestion.
The fact is, in just forty years, some population models predict that there will be more than ten billion humans on the planet. Have we suddenly come to symbolize a disease—the same kind of uncontrollable one that plagues the human race in a zombie apocalypse? Where is the “stop” button? Maybe or maybe not—either way, the billions upon billions of us piling up all over the world might just have something to do with it.
2. Talk to any biologist today and he/she will tell you, “man is responsible for the sixth great extinction event in the 4.5 billion-year history of the earth.” That’s quite an accomplishment, especially if you are a mindless zombie!
I mean, we homo sapiens have only been around for 100,000 years, how could we unleash such destruction in a short amount of time? Whether we care about the planet or not, the line, “man is responsible for one of the great extinction events in the earth’s history” has seeped into our collective consciousness. We are at least subconsciously aware that this ceaseless growth in its current form is unsustainable. We also know that the pollution we cause as a result of our growth might just cause the atmosphere to fail, too. The fact that we might be killing the planet and thus endangering our own future may or may not have something to do with our obsession with the zombie apocalypse.
3. Lastly, the increasing rate of technological growth and the proliferation of these advancements into the pubic arena might play a roll in our fascination with strange forms of us killing us. We all remember learning about the atrocities of WWI and WWII in grade school and high school history classes. WWI represented the emergence of the game-chinging machine gun: a weapon that would indiscriminately mow down charging soldiers and cavalry with deadly precision. WWII was known for the rise of airpower and massive bombing campaigns and then of course, the rise of the nuclear age (oh and by the way, there is a new blockbuster movie coming out in June called World War Z).
We might also remember the Cuban Missile crisis that occurred over a twelve-day period in October 1962, where the world as we knew it almost ended through nuclear MAD—mutually assured destruction. Well, if we could have ended the world in 1962, we’d probably be a lot better at ending it now.
On a subtler technological note, what happens when, let’s say military drones begin to act autonomously?
What happens when we begin to rely on machines that may one day be more intelligent than us?
These sci-fi questions are not very far away from becoming reality. No one knows what the future entails, but the out-of-control advancements of our machines might be something that worries us a little deep down.
This worry bleeds into our fascination with an altered, hungry version of ourselves destroying mankind as well as the planet.
Lastly, how much time do you think people spend on their smart phones, computers, televisions and so forth? Probably a great deal of time. What does this do to our brains? How does this affect our interaction with the world and our genuine presence? No one really knows, but for me at least, I know that technology messes with my connection to the moment.
I often feel as if I am entering a fantasy realm that usually has nothing to do with the life that is here, now. It could be interesting to see if this obsessions with technology might negatively affect the quality of our life and this negativity could be the root cause of a fascination with a human-induced doomsday.
If there is any truth to these points, then what is the cure?
Put the phone down, become a steward/get involved with groups who are actively working to save the environment and then go for a hike and breathe in some fresh air.
Life is a gift; let’s take it down to the basics instead of slobbering over digits and at least reverse the trend of our culture and of our collective minds.
We may like to watch zombie movies and cuddle up with our significant other, but let’s at least try not to act like them here on our precious, finite earth.
Ed: Bryonie Wise
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