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The zombie apocalypse is a metaphor. It’s an allegory for the extremely unstable world we are living in at the moment. You may not realize it but the zombie apocalypse is in full swing. And you and I are in it. We are the zombies.
Our Pre-Apocalyptic era
“The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.” ― Terence McKenna
We are living in very uncertain and turbulent times which partially explains our obsession with zombies and the apocalypse.
We have to deal with perils such as the burgeoning surveillance state, identity theft, and our rights on data privacy being seriously in dispute.
Our technological civilization’s severe dependence on electricity brings potential risks that should not be underestimated.
Did you know that a nationwide power outage could bring down civilization to anarchic chaos in a frightening few days?
Robots are taking over our jobs in a rapid pace, which is not necessarily a bad thing but it’s a radical change causing concern. Agriculture land is seriously degraded, the exhaustion of the world’s resources is near.
Then there’s the eminent global financial crisis that’s hovering over us like the sword of Damocles. The entire global financial system has been pushed to a near collapse.
Bankrupt banks, states, and whole countries may be harbingers of a domino effect. Hyperinflation is looming.
Hard working people have lost their jobs and homes because their investments and savings are wiped out.
While those responsible are getting away with all kinds of legal thievery and even more outrageous, bonuses are still increased, wealth and power are concentrating.
Inequality is widening (the movie Elysium powerfully addresses that particular aspect of our society).
The middle class is disappearing. Capitalism is failing. The corporate realm is creaking. The end of the empire is near.
Education sucks, anxiety and depression are rampant, food is deprived of nutrition and is often downright poisonous, pharmaceutical drugs are pushed like candies on a childrens party, TV, which is of abominable quality, designed to facilitate the lowest common denominator, is used as a decoy to keep the masses docile.
Not to forget abject poverty for billions of our fellow human beings and a total disrespect regarding environmental issues.
Our post-ideologic era is characterized by depression, dysfunction, aggression, and especially apathy.
Tyler Durden said it like this;
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.
Dr. Michael Hudson, government policy advisor speaks of being part of a society that went down the wrong track.
It’s like Lorne Malvo – the villain in the hit serie Fargo said, “It’s already a dog-eat-dog world, friend. I don’t know how much worse zombies could make it.”
Well I do.
Zombies make it worse because they couldn’t care less. Especially considered the fact that…
…we are the zombies..
We have been bitten by the capitalist system. We are the mindless, apathetic beings shuffeling around ravenous for consuming nutrition-ridden food, shallow TV programs, and stuff we don’t need while not giving a fuck.
We have been lied to, messed with, scammed, bedeviled in all kinds of ways and we keep tolerating being taken for fools. We just abide.
Which ponders the question, why are people so gruesomely forgiving?
It’s probably that they just don’t understand what’s being done to them. Partly because they are deluded.
Our late, modern day fool, thought provoking, psychedelic guru Terrence McKenna put it like this:
“Why are people so polite? Why are they so patient? Why are they so forgiving of gangsterism and betrayal? It’s very difficult to understand. The drama of a dying world has been turned into a soap-opera for most people. And they don’t understand that it’s their story.”
The fact that most of us don’t know or just don’t care is frightening. It seems like the masses have been hypnotized, acting like cogs in the wheels of capitalism.
The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care.
There are a few reasons people are so obient. Explanations for why we do not raise hell. Why we haven’t started a revolution yet.
Bread and Games
It’s a common phenomenon. The senators in Ancient Rome constantly distracted the population with new, more spectacular, gladiator fights to conceal the demise of the empire.
This strategy of “Bread and Circuses“, a superficial means of appeasement, a form of distraction by utilizing the mere satisfaction of the immediate of a population are offered as a “palliative.”
“In essence we’ve been lulled into a lethargy, and we’ve accepted it.
Decades ago, John Lennon already sang in Working Class Hero;
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and class less and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
Another reason we are so passive is that we are..
…blinded by consumer object fetisjism
I see it daily on my Facebook feed, people proudly showing off their newly bought miniature outdoor fountain or other crap like it’s some kind of accomplishment.
Or they are bitching about a scratch being made on their car paint and how it ruins the start of their holiday.
Don’t you know by now? The things you own end up owning you.
We are led to believe that physical things define us as a person. We have to buy products to instill a certain image. To complete ourselves.
How could it come this far?
The largest mass manipulation in the history of the world
Dependence on things is nothing new but got a whole lot worse in the 1930’s, when Sigmund Freud’s American nephew, Edward Bernays commercialized Freuds discovery of The Self.
Bernays found out that it was possible to have people behave irrationally if you link products to emotional desires and feelings. By making the emotional connect to products he made us think we need these products to make us feel better.
Working with large corporations and advertising agencies, mass produced goods were linked to people’s unconscious desires which led to the gradual transformation of the populace into mindless consumers.
What’s more is that by satisfying people’s inner selfish desires they were made happy and thus docile. This happiness however is short-lived and soon a new fix was needed.
It was the start of the all-consuming self which is dominating our world today. Braindead happiness machines is what we have been turned into.
“What makes it tricky is that we live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it. By selling us a product, a drug, a distraction. — The War of Art
The essential role of advertising in this mass manipulation
Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus already blamed advertising for unhappiness.
He posed that advertising can be very seductive and can give us the feeling all kinds of things are missing from our lives.
Due to the effects of advertising with its bright lights, lucid dreams, and psychological influencing we are quickly liable to lose our true desires.
Add that up with the mass manipulation of people to buy stuff they didn’t need nor wanted beforehand and you have a powerful form of control. Homo sapiens transformed into a product devouring zombie dominated by crap producing corporations.
Since our attention has become scarce, advertising tactics have gotten more agressive, constanty bombarding us while exploiting our insecurities and anxiety.
“You are ugly, you reek, you don’t have as much sex as you should have, you’re impotent and if you’re not already chances are you will be soon, you don’t have enough friends but we have the solution for you”.
Advertising is sophisticated emotional blackmail on a mass scale.
Bill Hicks also blamed advertising when told the part of his audience working in advertising or marketing to kill themselves.
Since then, our lives revolve about products. Products that give us a new quick fix but never intrinsically cure us of our addiction.
We live, as Bill Hicks put it, on the Third Mall From The Sun. The stand up comedian ‘predicted’ that:
“in the year 2000 all malls in the world are going to be connected. There will be a whole subculture of mall people, who have never seen daylight. Born, bred and raised in the malls”.
We are zombies. Instead of blood and flesh, insatiably hungry for consumption. An entire species unhappy to the bone. Emptiness nibbles. Eats us away. And we don’t know why. So we buy more. And more. But it’s never enough because you can never get enough of what you don’t need.
The zombie metaphor
Zombies, vampires, the undead and other apocalyptic creatures are everywhere in popular media. Movies and TV shows as The Walking Dead, True Blood, I Am Legend, Abraham Lincoln and World War Z, and Exit Humanity refer to our fascination with a dying world as well as our latent existential discontent.
According to philosophers the prevalence of zombies in popular culture can be interpreted as the underclass or enslaved consumers.
The walking dead: the Western public, indoctrinated into deadness only motivated for consumerism.
The zombie, populating pop culture in in ever increasing numbers, portrays modern day man, blinded with piety, nonsense, and greed to the point where its eyes see all but its own damnation and demise. By half-wittedly chasing shiny products and imposed images we are amputating our souls.
Dazed consumers, like batteries for the Matrix, powering the machine that’s called capitalism. Spending huge amounts on psycho-therapy, self-help books, and medicines while being surrounded by their beautiful homes, nice cars, vintage furniture, designer clothes, exclusive jewelry. Not being able to grasp the cause of their unhappiness because the option of taking the red pill does not come to mind.
“We’re all clinically depressed, they got us all manic, we keep swallowing their pills so we don’t fucking panic.” (La Coka Nostra)
In his hilarious, caustic critique on American consumerism stand up philosopher George Carlin described these consumption-addicted zombies as follows:
Where are all the bright, honest, inteligent americans ready to step in and save the Nation and lead the way? We don’t have people like that in this country; everybody’s at the mall, scratching his ass, picking his nose, taking his credit card out of his fanny pack and buying a pair of sneakers with lights in them.
Zombies are worker drones
Nowadays the zombie is mainly perceived as a bloodthirsty monster, its flesh rotting of its bones, its personality vanished, capable of the annihilation of human society.
What’s ironic is that the term zombie, originally originated from African and Haitian culture has always been linked to slavery.
Not only were Haitian and African people kept as slaves during nineteenth century America but zombies, featured widely in Haitian rural folklore, are dead persons physically revived by a sort of witchcraft.
Zombies remain under the control of their creator as their personal slaves, having no will of their own.
Also striking; the more popular capitalism became the more prevalent zombies got in popular media.
We are born and raised to participate in the ratrace. We are living following a script that tells us to dedicate most of our time (read: freedom) on working to consume.
“what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” — Terrence McKenna
Mall scouring zombies
Even more emblematic, in George Romero’s 1978 film Dawn of the Dead, the main characters attempt to escape the zombie apocalypse by finding sanctuary in a shopping mall.
While sheltering there, their consumer nature quickens, scouring the mall for products when one of them observes their own behavior and compares it to that of the encroaching zombies, and remarks, “They’re us.”
We are frequenting web shops, TV shopping channels and malls like it’s our life’s destiny. Images of people pushing and fighting over discounted products, occasionally killing others, trampling them in a struggle to reach those desirable bargains first have become normal.
Does the metaphor start to grow on you?
Just like the cinematic zombies we are obsessed by one thing and one thing only. And sometimes even, we are willing to kill for it.
In The American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film, Robin Wood described the cannibalism of zombies as “the ultimate in possessiveness…the logical end of human relations under capitalism.”
The 1983 study Midnight Movies called Dawn of the Dead “the most literal possible depiction of America devouring itself.”
In Through The Wormhole episode “Is a Zombie Apocalypse Possible” it is posed that we already evolved to be 98% zombie so that the intellectual parts of our brains could be freed up from thinking about the menial tasks that take up most of our time.
During our day to day lives we engage in automatic behavior most of the time. We are engaging in activities that require little conscious thought.
Combine that with the overwhelming sidedness of the media and our extreme focus on material goods and ask yourself, which part of me makes that I’m not actually a zombie?
If there was a zombie apocalypse, I don’t think it would be like “World War Z. ” I think we would be plain old normal human beings, except we’d be a little bit different.
In another flick by George Romero, Land of the Dead, a character says about the zombies, “They’re pretending to be alive.” The protagonist replies, “Isn’t that what we’re doing? Pretending to be alive?”
The apocalyptic scourge of the undead also mirrors cultural death.
Our culture is dead
We do not only have a financial, humanitarian, and privacy crisis at hand. On a more large scale we are dealing with a cultural crisis.
When there’s spoken of endangered cultures we often think of previously undiscovered indigenous tribes. Happy naked people dancing around the fire in the rainforest, brewing guave root beer while chanting age old mantras.
But the thing is, it’s not only their culture that’s been destroyed. All culture is demolished and traded in for mall culture. According to George Carlin, consumption is the only true American value that’s left.
Alan Moore says:
“zombies are the perfect metaphor for culture itself. That it is dead, still shambling around looking for brains, and endlessly repeating the things it did in life. I mean, I’m sure it will only be another few years until the moviegoing public gets to learn the exciting story of how high school student Peter Parker had the transformative accident that changed him into the amazing Spider-Man … again. You know?
It’s the same stories and same ideas reiterated over and over again. And if we do it in 3-D, if we do it in enough spectacular digital photography, then perhaps people won’t notice that we haven’t had a new idea in decades.
Culture is just a shambling zombie that repeats what it did in life; bits of it drop off, and it doesn’t appear to notice. I tend to think that a good, clean head shot is the only way to work this problem out.”
Terrence McKenna says our culture is a shabby lie.
If you work like a dog, you get 260 channels of bad television and a German automobile! What kind of perfection is that?!
Our capitalist culture is not there for you. It’s evolved and tweaked to serve the interests of the few. “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”
Culture as an operating system
Another metaphor for our culture, again by Terrence McKenna is that of an operating system. One of the aspects is that our current operating system, Consumer Capitalism 5.0. runs on stereotypes.
It makes everybody appear alike, while in fact the glory is in everybody’s differences. Everybody wears pretty much the same fashion, has the same flower pots in the windowsill, and goes to the same trendy travel destinations.
McKenna, in Culture is not your friend, poses that culture is a perversion.
“It fetishizes objects, creates consumer mania, it preaches endless forms of false happiness, endless forms of false understanding in the form of squirrelly religions and silly cults. It invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanize themselves by behaving like machines.”
Social, zombie-like behavior
Just take for example a look on social media. In profiles, where people could (in an ideal world) advertise what makes them unique, why they are special, (because everybody is right?) are pretty much all the same.
On Tinder for example, women, almost without exception, state they love wine, shopping, friends, traveling, and more of those generic, meaningless no-brainers.
Admitted, Tinder is all about looks, so who reads those profiles anyway? Guys don’t. But still, everybody seems shallow and similar.
Talking about profile photos, a disturbingly large part resembles the same sheep-like, trend-following behavior. A while ago the trend among men was holding a fish. Now the guys, en masse, portray themselves behind the steering wheel in car.
Maybe it’s the longing for freedom or primal, truly satisfying activities such as hunting / gathering. I don’t know. I do know that creativity, originality, and genuinity are hard to find. It’s like there’s no soul anymore.
“All culture is being sold down the river by the sorts of people who want to turn the entire planet into an international airport arrival concourse”.
The Matrix is real
“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy.” -Morpheus
The mainstream media are the Matrix. Advertising, by unsettling you, anticipating your fears and insecurities, constantly feeds your hunger for more products while watching TV keeps you docile. Preoccupied you keep going and going.
Now, this may sound like a conspiracy theory but it’s not. We should have to become aware that we are literally slaves to consumerism.
The reason this may come off as conspiracy talk is because you are in the Matrix. It’s all you know. It’s all ‘they’ have been feeding you.
You may have read about exotic tribes possessing nothing but goatskins and a pile of maize scoring so much higher on happiness tests then we do in the Western world.
But it just doesn’t sink in. We hear about those things and think, “O yeah well. Could be.” Or whatever goes on in our manipulated minds. Even though we see a glimpse of the Matrix most of us still don’t realize what’s going on.
In fiction, the nightmare of a zombie apocalypse is constantly taking on new forms, but they all have a common theme — the infected don’t even know they are zombies.
In Manufacturing Consent, American philosopher and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky said that a decent society should not treat people as cogs in a machine so that the power elite can maintain control, continue private ownership of public resources, and increase profits — all the while managing media content (while preserving the myth of a free press).
Bill Hicks was “ranting about an elite power that rules the planet under a totalitarian government that uses the media to keep people stupid”.
The mainstream news has replaced religion, as a means to decide what’s important.
We are modern day slaves and most of us don’t even know it. We are obedient workers that have owners, born in a rat race in which we will die.
The slogan, “he who dies with the most toys wins” says it all. We know how to make a living but not a life.
According to George Carlin our real owners are:
The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right.
Which is also why George Carlin said he doesn’t vote.
Debt is perceived as normal but it is not. It is a form of slavery. The Oxford dictionary defines slavery as “a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation”.
We are manipulated into needing a certain lifestyle and we want it instantly so we put ourselves into debt. Debt keeps us going back to work. But the thing is most of us don’t like our jobs. In fact we hate our jobs. And we suck at maintaining a proper work-life balance.
Which results in stress. No wonder we are overworked, we are stressed out. No wonder burnouts are so common. A burnout actually is the result of doing things you don’t like in order to meet the expectations of someone else.
How do we deal with that stress? We eat and shop and go on holiday. So how do we pay for these escapes? With more debt.
While working two or three jobs to get around we have been convinced it’s normal to be in debt. To have to hand in almost all of your free time in order to buy that house (which now turns out to be in a bubble), a better car then the neighbors have, those trendy clothes, the latest electronics, and so on.
By being in debt you are kept in the rat race. A corporate droid. No real choice. No freedom. Like worker bees, working for the corporate queen.
Our lives are totally dominated by work and we think it’s normal. We are fooling ourselves. Who hasn’t thought, I’ll have a life when I’m retired. But you won’t because by then you will be old, tired, sick or dead.
It’s “The American Dream, you gotta be asleep to believe it”.
Commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can get away with. It’s in their nature, it’s in their DNA, it’s what they do, even the good, well-intentioned companies. —Nigel Marsh
How to survive the zombie apocalypse
What will be the fate of humanity that’s currently at the mercy of corrupt governments and corporations?
Contrary to The Walking Dead and other popular shows and movies there is a point of return. Discontent in society is growing. Slowly the cause of our suffering is becoming clear. Hope is gloring at the horizon.
People are beginning to get angry but not nearly enough. –Prof. Herman Daly, former senior World Bank economist.
Awareness is the first step. To display the willingness to quit being a bunch of unenlightened halfwits. To stop taking the blue pill and take the red pill instead. We have to slay our own inner zombie.
We are the freeest people in the history of mankind. Yet at the same time we are one of the most restricted.
“Pause you wretched weaklings and take stock of your miserable existence”. St. Benedict
No seriously, take a pause and think about it. It could change your life.
What does freedom mean to you? Does it mean being able to buy the same couch the neighbors have?
“We are all meaning-seeking, meaning creating creatures and when we experience the loss of meaning, we suffer.” James Hollis.
There are other parts to life than working your ass of to keep up with the Joneses. There’s the intellectual side, there’s the emotional side, there’s the spiritual side.
It’s time for Revolution. Lets raise hell you mindless puppets
“Never has the situation been more fluid. Never have the opportunities for infiltration, insurrection and hell-raising been more present at hand. But we have to seize the opportunity.”
“If we continue as we have, then, you know, we are doomed. And the judgment of some higher power on that will be: ‘they didn’t even struggle’. ‘They went to the box cars with their suitcases and they didn’t even struggle’. This is too nightmarish to contemplate. We’re talking about the fate of the whole planet.
“And it’s not done through organising and it’s not done through vanguard parties and cotrays of intellectual elites. It’s done through just walking away from all of that. Claiming your identity. Claiming your vision, your being, your intuition, and then acting from that without regret. Cleanly, without regret.” —Terrence McKenna
So if we don’t have a Great War yet we should start it. There’s all the reason to. An idealistic, spiritual war that is. Our weapons are words, and opinions, awakened individuals bound by awareness and by the web and social media in particular.
William Blake called for a reopening of “inner spiritual worlds” which have been virutally denied and excluded in a materialist society.
According to Blake among others, the only revolution is an inner revolution.
Find out what you really want and make sure to be able to do that as much as possible. Sail your own ship. Not giving a shit about what is expected of you is essential.
Paulo Coulho said: “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”
I for example, do not necessarily want to own my own house. Even though most of my friends own a house and it’s almost expected to buy a house. It’s a measurement of success and a status symbol but I don’t care about that. I think it’s important to live at a nice place among nice people but I do not necessarily need to own my home. Owning a house is a trap created to fool you into wage- and mortgage slavery. When people ask me about my plans and stance I’m invariably met with appreciation and admiration even.
‘If you have the guts to be yourself, other people’ll pay your price.’ – John Updike
Happiness and Freedom
Epicurus said pleasure is the most important thing in life. And that we are looking in the wrong place to find happiness.
“The first step to living a life of passion and purpose is to remove the barriers that hold you back.”
Even though he lived a sober life, eating mostly bread and vegetables, he once said to a friend, send me a pot of cheese so i can have a feast whenever I want . How about that for appreciating the little things? Happiness is in the small things.
“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking”.
Diogenes put up a wall with inscriptions to constantly remind people of what they do need. In big bright letters he, among other things, advertised: Shopping is not gonna make you happy.
The Greek philosopher advised to counteract the effects of advertising be creating advertisments that say what we do need.
Palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware asked people about their regrets in life on their death beds. The most common regrets were “not having the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” and “working too hard”.
We all need a goal in life. Without it we languish. We’re lost. Every human being has its own specific calling. Especially men need goals since women create from their body (corpus). That’s why men often create corporations of some sorts.
So how to revive your deadened existence? Here are a few things to start with.
The Zombie Slayer’s Guide To Happiness
Here’s what you can do:
- Stop with what you are doing and really think about your life.
- Ask yourself , what does a life well-lived look like? What is success? What do I really want with my life?
- Start collecting experiences instead of things.
- Empower personal experience, empower your imagination, free your mind.
- Be the captain on your own boat.
- Realize that you can’t fill that void in your life with a product. Remember, the promotion of these products may very well have created that void to begin with.
- Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love. (More in Adam Baker’s TED Talk.)
- Build community. For example, build a new economy. Generate your own economy by offering something of value in exchange for bitcoin. Screw the exisiting economy.
- Create art. Create culture.
- Happiness is in other people. Not in things.
- Focus on sex, laughter, and beauty instead of products, money, and status.
- Communicate. Talk, listen, discuss, care.
- Stop buying crap. Realize it wont make you happy.
- Circumvent the foolishness of living in a collective delusion by only buying the bare essentials, buy secondhand, find multifunctional items.
- Be informed. Wonder about the exiting world, the universe we are living in.
- Stop, or reduce, watching passyfing, dumbening TV.
- Be aware of the manipulating nature of advertising.
- Be critical. “In these parlous times, there can never be enough criticism of bankers and tame politicians enjoying what Milton Friedman called Socialism For The Rich.”
Some positive words as a final note
The prevalent image of a zombie apocalypse is not only a grim critique. It’s more hopeful too. It symbolizes the shattering of the pre-existing capitalistic and highly individualized philosophy of the masses.
The zombie apocalypse is the ultimate depiction of the masses rising up to obliterate the status quo.
By mirroring our vulnerability, by introducing us to a new world in which survival by means of communal life and cooperation are the highest goods we are slowly preparing for the rebuilding of our existing world.
Beyond superficial entertainment, the zombie’s task is to guide us in creating a more balanced, more prosperous world in which we take responsibility.
Regarding the Greek term apocalypse, the original definition is ‘to uncover’ or ‘reveal’. That’s what crises do. They reveal character, strength. Or not.