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December 2012

It may have already started

53Zombies have always been a fascination within pop culture ever since George Romero’s 1968 breakthrough film Night of the Living Dead left audiences terrified with jaws dropping. H.G. Wells and even Mary Shelly, to some degree, touched on the subject of the undead, but it wasn’t until Romero’s film that the true horror of the possibility of a zombie apocalypse came to light.

At the beginning of the last decade, a re-emergence of zombie films hit the theaters. 28 Days Late and Resident Evil were followed by a semi-successful remake of the Romero film Dawn of the Dead in 2004, the spoof Shaun of the Dead the same year, and several more Resident Evil films. Zombies had hit an all-time high in popularity. Then when we thought it had reached its peak, The Walking Dead (based on the graphic novel series) became a huge hit on AMC spilling more graphic guts and gore ever seen on a TV series.

Though it’s uncertain whether a virus such as the one outlined in The Walking Dead series can truly occur, there are many that believe it could be a reality one day. From a medical standpoint, Harvard Health Publications has stated its case why they feel the scenario is unlikely: (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/zombie-apocalypse-only-in-your-dreams-201210315478).

Personally, I think such an event could be happening already, but not in all the ways most might expect.

In the novels and movies, zombies have a unique collection of classic characteristics. I will touch on each one and compare how they can relate to situations in today’s world.

Zombie Characteristics 1 through 3

 

1)      Mobile, but technically dead.

2)      Unresponsive to surroundings.

3)      Don’t recognize outside world.

Mobile, but technically dead

silly_goofy_zombie_cartoon_character_photosculpture-p153190255907981454bfnwk_400Here’s an experiment. Go to any busy street corner or ride public transportation and see how many people exhibit these 3 characteristics. They are mobile, shuffling down the street, unresponsive to their surroundings…dead to the world. Zombies. Ok, maybe not fully, but the initial changes could be occurring. You may even recognize the warning signs within yourself. People seem to be on auto-pilot when walking (and driving) these days.

The Washington Post noted in 2012 that Apple has sold 85 million iPhones since 2007. Now add in the non-Apple products as well and you’ll find that everyone from your 12-year-old little sister to grandma are using gadgets for internet searches, games, music and yes, even for phone calls. While people are hooked on these gizmos, they are tuning out the outside world.

 Unresponsive to surroundings

 Although many will claim they are multi-tasking as they walk, drive, text and tweet, recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is not possible. In an interview on NPR, neuroscientist Earl Miller noted, “Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not.”

Don’t buy it? More of a numbers person? Well, the National Safety Council has reported that there are 1.6 million cell phone related car accidents each year. Twenty thousand caused by texting while driving. “I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident,” said Chance Bothe, a Texas college student. During the text he drove off a cliff. Bothe was lucky…he survived. But many don’t. Forbes reported that 11 teens a day die as a result of texting and driving. There has even been a commercial where a highway patrol officer pulls someone over who is texting and driving. When he returns to the police car, he shakes his head and says, “zombies.” Exactly.

Besides car accidents, there is a plethora of viral videos of zombie-like people walking into walls, falling down stairs etc. as a result of focusing on gadgets rather than paying attention to where they are headed. There was one case a few years ago where a girl from NY, who was texting while walking down the street, fell in to an open man hole. The family sued the city, of course, because why would anyone consider taking responsibility for their own actions?

In a small experiment of my own, I entered an elevator on the top floor and pressed floor “2.” After several trips over a week’s time, I noted that 8 out of 10 people who entered the elevator after me and were concentrating on their gizmos, failed to press their desired floor of “1.” They were rewarded by a trip back up the elevator.

 Don’t recognize the outside world

 Cartoon zombie isolated on white“Go out and play.” How many of us have heard that yelled out by our mothers growing up? Times have changed. With HD TVs, DVRs, interactive video games systems and portable DVD players, why leave home? In addition, the technology of today has also made some parents afraid to let their kids out of their sight. With Amber alerts and sex offender registry sites telling us who is living in our neighborhoods and a full variety of both drama and reality TV shows depicting kids being kidnapped, killed or sexually abused, parents are much more hesitant to let their kids go out and play.

The result? A Colorado-based study, in 2008, showed a decline in outdoor physical activity by 11 percent compared to the previous year. It has also caused an increase in obesity rates among this age group, which we will delve into more later.

 

1)      Mobile, but technically dead.

2)      Unresponsive to surroundings.

3)      Don’t recognize outside world.

Zombie Characteristics 4 through 6

4)      Lack of communication skills

5)      One track mind

6)      Living in a decaying state

Lack of communication skills

 In 2010, USA Today claimed it was “The year we stopped talking to one another.”Technology has taken the place of human interaction.Face to face social skills are diminishing. In the next 10 years, teens may be unable to understand emotions through facial expression and more through LOLs and OMGs. Social Networking, email and texting are the preferred communication methods among today’s college students.

The Daily Athenaeum, the publication at West VirginiaUniversity, noted that social networking has hurt communication skills of college students. In 2010, student’s grades were 20% lower when they had Facebook accessible while they were studying. “Students have become reticent and intimidated in the classroom to speak directly with me. Rather, they feel more comfortable sending me an e-mail from behind a computer screen, which is impersonal and does not contain context at all,” said Dr. Kelley Crowley, a public relations professor at West Virginia University.

A 2012 Penn State study noted a significant decline in language and grammar skills among tweens. The study showed that kids who became use to “text speak” using language such as “gr8” for great and “LOL” for laughing out loud, had trouble adjusting back to proper grammar. A precursor to the simple grunts and groans in zombie speak? Could be!

 One track mind

 An important factor, but how is it defined? Shuffling off to a job everyday to provide for ourselves, and/or family? Is that one-track mindedness? Is it similar to watching a trail of ants or bees to a hive? When we are focused, set on a task, not much can break us away. But on a deeper level, what if we are not using our minds to there fullest at all? Scientists and Spiritualistic individuals alike have noted that we hardly even tread into what it truly means to be conscious. In fact, we may be zombies already, according to Todd C. Moody, an associate professor in philosophy at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, who raised the question in his paper titled “Conversations with Zombies.” The argument being that the only difference between us and zombies is the “conscious state.” So, if this is true and you attached it to Eastern Philosophies such as Zen, which says that human beings, most of the time, are not fully conscious, then that would mean that we are, in fact, zombies.

 In a decaying state

 This section may lean a bit more toward the tradition theories related to the zombie apocalypse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of the U.S. population is obese. If this current trend continues, it is projected that the rate of Type II Diabetes in this country will double in 15 year. That’s about 20 million by 2025. Obesity is the result of more than just over eating. Lethargy and inactive lifestyles are contributor’s as well.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have also seen a massive increase of 245% since 1970. Early stages of Alzheimer’s include impairment of learning and memory, as the disease advances patients fail to recognize loved ones and often develop coordination control.

Now, I’m not saying that obese individuals and those suffering from Alzheimer’s are zombies. I’m simply pointing out the similarities in characteristics as a result of our own life styles.  All the above, including the new technology is a result of a world we created.

Drug choices have changed too. Synthetic cathinones such as “Bath Salts” have been in the news lately as they can cause “zombie-like” reactions from their users. In May 2012, a Miami man was shot and killed by police after he was found eating another man’s face.

There have been similar cases involving similar drugs over the years.

In conclusion:

 Now, I’m sure I can toss out more similarities (such as more pale skin as a result of fear of skin cancer), but I won’t.

Why is it occurring? Maybe we just can’t grasp the realities of our own existence and eventual demise, so we fill up our time with escapism in the form of entertainment, information, food and other mind-altering substances and spend less time in what’s real ‘cause it’s too scary? Who knows?

But, either way, we need to take a good look at where we are headed and maybe, just maybe, we won’t get there!

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