Movies contain our modern myths. Cultural messages once communicated by griots in Africa and troubadours in Europe now are disseminated via movies. When I was young, movies showed good guys, white men in white hats, and bad guys in black hats, and the good guys, with their values of honor, integrity, fairness and stick-to-it-iveness always won the day. Movies and their messages have matured as our culture has changed to include people of different genders, colors, religions, ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations, and heroes have become more complex, but certain themes have persisted.
Zombie movies have shown similar values, where the non-zombies manage to defeat the ever-increasing and apparently unstoppable zombies. I have never been a fan of zombie movies (or horror films, for that matter). However, current circumstances have revealed to me the importance and prescience of this genre.
Zombies are people who are converted to their unfortunate condition by plague, alien intervention, mysterious viruses or numerous other means of infection; and they gain increased numbers and great strength. As grotesque and evil as they become, the viewers know that they were once human, which may create sympathy for them but always creates fear that the good guys who are fighting them are one bite away from themselves becoming zombies.
I, for one, have feared the day that an uncurable, antibiotic- and antiviral-resistant pathogen might take us all out. I’ve wondered about an invasion from an advanced species which craves earth’s resources. But I never imagined that the zombie-creating virus would originate in a political strategy and then spread via social media and cable news.
Thirty years ago, some Republican operatives (no, not the whole party) came up with a plan for permanent governance. They decided that winning at all costs was the singular goal. One strategy toward this goal was to forbid any Republican, who might normally politely correct a colleague’s misinformed or deceptive statement, from ever contradicting a fellow Republican. The result was that any baseless or provably false claim was silently and thus tacitly assumed to be acceptable to all Republicans. And criticisms from Democrats, therefore, appeared merely partisan. Misinformation, disinformation and lies suddenly became possibilities and debatable opinions. The denial of facts and ultimate delegitimization of objective reality, which I would like to believe were unintended consequences, eventually permeated the entire culture.
Next we have the cable stations and social media. The cable stations, and I refrain from calling them all news stations, by reporting on and legitimizing debates based on fallacies and conspiracy theories, became complicit in their propagation. And the ultimate purveyors of the death of truth are social media, where anybody can take any bizarre notion, dream, paranoid delusion (or actual desire to disrupt the country) and give it substance through a cleverly-constructed website or through strategically delivered tweets. These theories and plots, with no basis in fact, have become real to millions of people. And the higher the quality of the chosen delivery system, the more unsuspecting citizens are influenced by influencers.
So, the zombie apocalypse is upon us.
Now there are many good men and women who are not yet infected and who are trying to contain the zombies. However, what is lacking is an effective strategy to counteract the zombie virus. How can one convince zombies, who are not yet eating human brains and are still unaware of their condition, that they have been compromised and are contagious? How can any of us with confidence identify which information sources are fact-based and reliable? Even if we could, how could we mandate that everyone read or listen only to those sources and maintain our democratic principles?
And how much longer can we deal with the concurrent stressors from the coronavirus and the zombie virus which are currently tearing apart families, friends, the country, and the culture in general? I suppose that we are at the point where we need simply to hunker down, protect ourselves and our own, and pray for, at best, future immunity.
For I cannot see a cure.