Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The CDC Is Preparing For a Zombie Apocalypse

Urgent!: Get the very latest outbreak of Zombie Attacks

The comedian George Carlin famously quipped "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." It's funny, then it's scary as hell. You look to your left, and you look to your right in traffic and realize at least one of those people, and probably both, has never read Shakespeare, planted a seed, voted, or listened to Bach. And that person is a high school English teacher. Stupid isn't as funny as it used to be because the amount of people who offset the stupid is rapidly dwindling in our societies. 

My favorite part of George Carlin's shows was the audience wildly applauding his rants about stupidity as if he were referring to everyone outside of the theater. He meant you. 

     Even as I research this topic some glaring examples of how we are losing out brainpower leap out at me, the most recent of which being a scholarly article referring to satirical news source The Onion to make a point. I was in this particular instance looking for statistics, not opinions, and certainly not opinions formulated by the type of people who spent their adolescence jerking off in the audio visual room and playing Dungeons and Dragons. 

Smart ass, but not smart enough to find a pussy in a stray cat shelter.

     If you do a search with the term are people getting dumber you'll see a wide array of opinions. But let me throw a twist into this topic. I'm not going to assert that we're becoming dumber, but that we're becoming less human. We're losing the very essence of what makes us human. You'll rarely see me quoting scripture in my writing, but the passage "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" comes immediately to mind. All the libraries of the world can now be contained in a device that fits in one's hand, but who is there to read it anymore?

     Maybe there are people out there who don't think we need our humanity anymore. I don't want to get into conspiracy theory. It just feels like something is being stolen, or slowly beaten out of us by an increasingly soulless culture that trains us to consume and little else. You see it when you're among people. Dead, dull eyes with nothing behind them. Whether this person is a nuclear physicist, a brain surgeon, or a ditch digger is irrelevant, they're barely human, and that's what we're losing. We're being fed food with no nutrition, reading books with no content, the environment is saturated with toxins who's impact on our bodies and minds we are only beginning to comprehend, we stare all day at screens that lull us into a trance some of us never seem to awaken from. Is this just a consequence of the technology available, or something deeper and more menacing? Does it matter? Something is being bled out of us and like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, we're not seeming to notice.

Hint. Hint.

     Last summer I had dinner with two high school teachers. A husband and wife team. They confided in me that they had given up on trying to make their students read classic literature because they refused to do it, instead letting the students choose for themselves what they would read, which was invariably some moronic graphic novel. I have friends who will argue with a straight face that graphic novels are a fine substitute for reading the classic novels of history. I'm sure you also know people will argue this point. Scary, isn't it.

Read a fucking book.

     Here I am six paragraphs deep, and I've buried the lead. A story that sort of challenged my sense that anyone is even smart enough to run this monkey farm anymore in multiple ways. 

Well, apparently what the CDC is doing with our time, instead of eliminating scourges like E Bola, whooping cough, and medieval diseases like Bubonic Plague which are making a comeback, is preparing us for a Zombie Apocalypse. When the CDC issued a warning to Americans that they should be prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse what they were really telling us is that know there is something out there that they are incapable of dealing with.

You're pulling our legs, right? You're the same guy running for Winnebago County Coroner as a gag, so you're probably pulling another fast one on us when you say the CDC, in charge of one of the most solemn tasks in all of society, namely protecting the populace from serious diseases, is using our tax dollars to prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse. Surely modern society hasn't been dragged down to that level of stupid.

What's truly frightening about this campaign can be summed up in a scene from Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen's Captain Willard character comes ashore in a forward position drawing heavy fire and, stumbling upon two grunts, asks "Who's in charge here?", to which they reply "Ain't you?" If high school teachers think graphic novels written at the level of sophistication of a twelve year old boy in arrested development, replete with misogyny, mindless violence, and philosophy doled out with all the complexity of a Loony Tunes cartoon, and if our last and best defense against the plethora of diseases constantly mutating and conspiring to end humanity as we know it is an agency that finds it humorous to resort to the lowest common denominator to try and reach an audience, we're fucked. Somebody has to be the adult. We can't all be The Fonz, because when you look at it, The Fonz was a pretty sad  character. Richie Cunningham had to grow up sooner or later, and part of that process was leaving The Fonz behind. There are far more important things than being trendy. 

Dumbing It Down 

I dumbed it down. 
I fed it McNuggets 
And put it to sleep 
With pop tunes. 
I made it join 
The Republican party. 
I drugged it with 
Cable television, 
I bribed it with 
Guilt-free sex 
And threatened it 
With religion. 
I spent a lifetime 
Beating it 
Into submission and 
The ungrateful bastard 
Still writes this poem. 

     That's a poem from my fourth book of poems, Submerged Structure. Michigan State recently added a course on surviving a Zombie Pandemic. And imagine, even more than half the people are quite dumber than that. Good night, and good luck.

See what all the fuss is about Single Zombie Female
Get a housecall from Dr. Strangedog

One of the overriding themes of the zombie genre, at least the movies that have some sort of theme, is that YOU are the zombie. It is your ignorance, your blind desire to be destructive, consume without any sense of moderation or show any sense of appreciation for culture, history, or the rules that underpin civilization that  make you soulless and less than human. It's analogous to Plato's Myth of the Cave. The zombie genre is about diminished humanity. The forces of ignorance of mass apathy that pile up outside our gates, fester, then return to destroy us. But those revenants aren't some new species. "They are us, that's all." The zombie genre is losing perspective of that. Never forget that YOU are the zombie and you'll never fail to understand the message of the best zombie movies. 

You're not the intrepid hero making a valiant attempt to save the last vestiges of humanity from the mindless, lumbering hordes whose only concern is to rip and destroy and consume. You're in the horde. Consider that and you'll be closer to re-establishing your humanity. 

Another popular subtheme of good zombie movies is ignoring a problem until it comes back to devour you. Simply being too apathetic, too ignorant, or too lazy to realize that the environment or the culture that sustains you is being perverted, polluted, and becoming violently reactive to your very existence. But you can't be bothered to notice because you got the big screen tv and the video games. At the last moment you want to hunker down, prepare for the end, and fight off the zombies, but what's the point, because you've lost already. You're barely human. You're just a receptacle for the same toxic garbage that created the zombies. You are them. 

In the end, the zombie genre is about losing your humanity. Giving it away inch by inch, day by day. Having it stripped from you by food with no nutrition, education with no learning, entertainment with no substance, a society with no conscience, and religion without compassion. When the zombies do finally arrive there's not much brainpower left to consume. The zombies go away in disgust. And the cycle begins again. 

And finally, there's Bub. The most beloved zombie of all time. Why? Because he's becoming more human. Bub likes Beethoven and shows curiosity and loyalty. Maybe more of us should try that sometime.

March 29, 2013 update: The President just signed the Monsanto Protection Act this week. What method will be the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse? Maybe Wormwood, maybe chicken McNuggets. 

August 2, 2014. They've turned the water off in Detroit, everyone in America seems to be prepping and arming for some impending Armageddon, and two Mormon missionaries, stricken with Ebola in Africa, are being transported to Atlanta. Sounds like the beginning of a zombie movie to me. Donald Trump advises that we shouldn't allow the missionaries back into the United States, and who knows more about being a flesh-eating virus than him?

Like the Space Age, the Zombie Apocalypse is now behind us. 



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