Monday, April 11, 2011

Zombies... Everywhere!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as a contributing writer to The Zombie Club website.  My job there, ostensibly, will be as a movie reviewer.  I have been tasked with writing funny and entertaining reviews of current and classic films, primarily in the sci-fi and horror genres, with an obvious emphasis on zombie movies.  Yes, on the surface, the site is a celebration of all things zombie, zombie-related and of interest to people into zombies (and all things zombie-related).  However, there is a deeper, significant mission statement for the staff of The Zombie Club.  More than just providing an homage to zombie culture and the awesome people who embrace it, TZC is also about metaphoric "zombies" as well, and raising awareness in the community about how we can all come together as friends and neighbors and fight the growing zombie apocalypse that's happening all around us.  The "intellectual zombies," people who plod mindlessly through life without thinking critically, challenging convention, questioning authority or looking objectively at the state of the world we're living in today.  People who believe everything they see on tv, let well-paid men in suits do their thinking for them, absorb the opinions of others and regurgitate them as if they were their own thoughts without fully even understanding what it is their espousing.  Whether it be political opinions, social ideology, religious indoctrination, prejudices or simply a negative attitude in general - our country is increasingly being overrun by zombies.  They may not have risen from the dead, they may not stink of rotted flesh and they may in fact look just like the rest of us, but they do want to eat your brains, take your soul and make you one of them.

Now, before all my conservative "fans" get up in arms, this isn't about to turn into a whole diatribe about how everyone who's a conservative is a zombie and everyone who's a liberal isn't, because that type of close-minded generalization is exactly what makes someone a zombie.  To say that "all" members of a certain group are mindless ghouls is just as narrow-minded and ignorant as the behavior I'm condemning.  It can certainly be argued, however, that the zombie population is extremely high among the conservative community, because the virus is being pumped into your environment at unprecedented levels.  Between Fox News, talk radio, the beltway and the general weakness of other media and news outlets in the face of wanting to emulate the success of Rupert Murdoch's right-wing propaganda empire to offer any kind of significant opposing viewpoint, the zombie juice is flowing freely across middle America and into the homes of millions of Americans every day.  I make the distinction of "Fox News conservatism" because it is different from simply being a conservative.  You can be conservative, have conservative views and opinions and find yourself more often in agreement with conservative ideals than liberal ones, and really that's fine.  This is, after all, America, and you are free to believe however you want and hold whatever opinions that make sense to you.  However, when your viewpoint, your opinion and the very arguments you make for them come directly from the mouths of one of the talking heads on Fox News or some conservative talk radio host, when you simply parrot the conservative talking points of the day to the extent that you even contradict your own professed beliefs as you change direction with the shifting political winds that have you defending the president and accusing all who criticize him of being anti-American when Bush was in office to attacking him constantly and saying it's "patriotic" to do so now that Obama is in office, then you are a zombie.  You have ceased thinking for yourself, you have ceased objectively analyzing the information you are given before deciding if you agree with it or not, you just feed on the steady stream of chum that's sloughed down to you and you shamble from place to place muttering things like "Biirrrrth Certificaaaate..." and "Aaaaacoorrrrrrnnnn...." and "Sooooocialisssmmmmm...."  If you cannot independently articulate and defend your political viewpoint without repeating some phrase that Glenn Beck said on his show last night, or parroting a Sean Hannity talking point, or using terms that you don't even understand the definition of then you are a zombie.  If you truly believe something because you have heard the arguments, understood the content, decided that you agreed and related to it in a personal and meaningful way, then you should easily be able to defend your beliefs, because that defense will be coming from your heart and your mind and your clear conscious thought.  You can relate it to things in your own life that you're experiencing, and draw upon those experiences to articulate your points.  You can even use the arguments of the person challenging you, to relate your views to their own views and experiences and show them how what you believe even applies to their situation as well.  When you believe in something because you truly understand it, because you have weighed all the counterpoints, because you have vetted it against your own core beliefs and you find that these opinions reflect what you truly think and feel, then you are not a zombie, even if those beliefs differ wildly from my own.

Likewise, if you think that all conservatives are evil just because it's the "edgy" or "intellectual" opinion to have, you're a zombie.  If you repeat whatever you read on The Huffington Post or heard on Rachel Maddow or The Daily Show, without really understanding what it means or how it relates to your life and what you're going through, then you're a zombie too.  Again, just like I said about conservatives, if you can relate to the opinions expressed on those forums and by other liberal/democratic figures, if you can find commonality with your own life and experiences and agree with them because you've scrutinized those opinions and statements and they passed muster, then you are not a zombie.  Zombies don't think, they just consume.  Zombies don't question, they just do.  The first step to avoiding the zombie curse is to ask "why?"  The second step is to seek the answer to that question.

Only one of these images is from a zombie movie, can you guess which one?

See, you don't have to be an undead, brains-hungry killing machine to be a zombie.  You can be a greed-driven, capitalistic day trader who views human lives as dollars and cents in their investment portfolio.  You can be a conspicuous consumer who camps out in front of midnight madness sales and stomps all over each other for the chance to buy a laptop you don't even need for $100 because the tv told you to.  You can be the ignorant, bigoted "Christian" who preaches God's love and acceptance while at the same time condemning the lifestyles of people you don't agree with and fighting to deny them the same rights you enjoy and would fight to defend.  You can be the struggling, middle-class worker, busting your ass 40+ hours a week and bringing home less and less of your paycheck each month, watching health insurance costs go up, gas prices rise, inflation rise, costs increase and going further and further into credit card debt, who blames your neighbors and other people in the same boat as you for all your troubles, while defending the big businesses and rich executives who are getting richer off of all that extra money you're spending.  You don't have to chant "Braaiiinnnsss!"  You can chant "Drill, baby, drill!"  You can chant "Obama is a Muslim!"  You can chant "Yes we can!"  The minute you turn off your brain and hand the keys over to someone else, you're a zombie.  The minute you stop critically analyzing everything around you, stop challenging authority, stop asking "WHY?"  You become a zombie.  The minute you stop thinking and caring about the people around you, about your community, you become a zombie.  See, zombies don't work together.  They may always travel in large groups, but there's no cooperation.  Each individual zombie is driven by their own personal hunger.  They only seem to be working together because they're all fighting to get to the same scraps of living flesh on the other side of that boarded-up door or window.  They collect in large groups, but they are inherently selfish.  They seek the same rewards, but they have no concept of how helping each other out will make it easier for them all to achieve their common goals.  Zombies don't think, they just do.  Zombies don't feel empathy or compassion, only hunger for more.  Zombies don't act, they react.  You see, we're living in the zombie apocalypse right now.  The questions you have to ask yourself are, am I going to be a zombie?  Am I going to keep shambling along through life, hungering for the "flesh" that is dangled before me like a carrot on a stick?  Am I going to just react to what is done to me, or am I going to act to improve my life?  Am I going to be alone in the crowd of my fellow Americans, fighting my battles by myself, or am I going to reach out a hand of cooperation so that we can all shake off the increasing ranks of mindless ghouls around us?  In every zombie movie there are basic rules of survival - Safety in numbers, avoiding the paths of least resistance, never trusting a place to be safe until you have checked it out thoroughly yourself, looking out for your friends and making sure you have no more than what you need to get by.  Going off alone gets you killed, going where everyone else goes gets you killed, walking blindly into a situation without checking it out first gets you killed and being greedy gets you killed.  You could learn a lot from a zombie movie.

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