The Manic Maniac: Who's The Real Zombie? (Mania.com)
Date: Friday, October 10, 2008
With the opening of Quarantine, we're delivered yet another zombie flick where the symptoms of an unknown virus look, at first, remarkably like a bad cold and, at last, remarkably like a rotting, red-eyed, flesh-eating creature who's strength and desire to feed knows few bounds. We see one or two--or more--of these a year, some are very good (and Q looks like it has potential) and some are very, very (very) bad. But most can be entertaining, either for their gore and suspense or the sheer ridiculousness of their campy excess. Their collective financial success, albeit modest compared to blockbusters and award-winners, validates their perpetuation. And it's evidence that, no matter how derivative the undead may seem, many of us will probably pay dough to witness their bloodthirsty attacks. Why do keeping seeing them?
Maybe it's the neck-gnawing and skin-spitting. Maybe it's the bad cliché (in the more absurd renditions). Or maybe it's the unavoidable parable played out within the films. That is, the destruction of civilized society is a pretty accurate depiction of our own current demise. Only in reality, we're not the victims of a zombified virus. We are the virus.
At least in the most recent era, infectious disease has been the popular method of transformation--28 Days Later, Resident Evil, I Am Legend, et al. This is most immediately linked to our own exponential advancements in science and technology, where a viral outbreak seems more believable than reanimation from an electrical storm. We're constantly tinkering and meddling with nature, manipulating genetics in test tubes and labs, usually for the sake of the greater good, and almost always for the sake of progress. Science, in that regard, is a microcosm of society at large. We go about our daily routines, individually and collectively, to improve upon our lives, even if at a base level improvement simply means comfort.
To do so, the key is becoming efficient. We have cars that speed us through vast highways systems to help us arrive at a location a few minutes faster. With our cell phones, Blackberrys, GPS and computers, we connected to a technological infrastructure so immense, that we're plugged in at all times, a cog making the machine run. We're constantly moving, constantly connecting, constantly doing whatever it takes to make life easy, despite its numerous hardships. As a result, we've become singularly focused. And that's why we're closer to zombies than we are to the innocents they're converting.
Zombies know little save the desire to feed. They flock from dark corners and dank dwellings to feed on the helpless--possibly a friend or family member--devouring them in rabid and vulturine chaos. In trying to survive, their is little to no cognizance of preservation, of ultimate survival. They don't store food. They don't participate in commune. They don't think a second further than the immediate.
It's easy to argue that we do, in fact, think beyond the immediate. Some of us invest money for a retirement that will prevent us from starving when our bodies and minds can't compete in the workplace (or don't want to anymore). Some of us goal-orient our careers to move into the bigger chair, the bigger office, the bigger income bracket. Some of us drive hybrids, but we do so to save money more than oil. Some of us recycle, but we'll toss a bottle in the trash if the recycle bin isn't nearby. Despite our ostensible nature to "think," though, we don't often think outside of ourselves. The idea of a global community turns into convenient internet hyperbole, and it rarely factors in the planet. We're as connected as ever, but our self-interested complexion paints a grim picture, where we're as distant from each other as we've ever been, and it's destroying us.
The financial crisis stemmed from, among other things, but largely by quick and easy home loans to people who couldn't afford them. Lenders loved it because they made a commission. Borrowers loved it because they made a home. Both "planning" toward the future, but neither thinking about the future much at all. Without getting into obvious and divisive war rhetoric, there are more frightening events at play than terrorism that we don't even consider.
On Monday, The Red List--the standard bearer of conservationist inventory--revealed that nearly 36 percent--more than a third--of Earth's mammals probably face distinction, while half are at least declining in population. Those numbers are staggering enough to suggest the onset of the first mass extinction in 65 million years. Only this time around, it's not an asteroid taking out the dinosaurs. Of the innumerable factors wiping out the planet's life force, scientists know that all of them result directly or indirectly from us, people.
Comedian Joe Rogan (of all people) actually said it best. To paraphrase, he explained flying into Los Angeles one afternoon. From the plane window, outside of L.A., you can see the wandering desert and pristine flatlands of Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. Closer to the city, it becomes green with vegetation across rolling hills and mountains, some of them even snow-capped in the spring, just a short drive from the city. And then you begin to see Los Angeles. A cluster of pavement and buildings and growth reveals itself, climbing the hills, consuming the mountains and stretching into the desert around it. Of all the things you could call this vision--progress, innovation, expansion, society or even trying to pass it off as community--from the air it looks like one thing: a virus.
We are the virus, preying on the planet with singular, thirsty focus, ingesting it and converting it like mindless zombies. In the name of self-preservation, we do little in terms of thinking about survival. Maybe we're the ones who need to be in Quarantine.