Saturday, December 4, 2010

NYT Article on How Modern Life is Like a Zombie Infestation

Inspired by the popularity of the TV version of The Walking Dead, writer Chuck Closterman has written the article "My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead" on the New York Times web site. Working from the premise that fictional monsters like vampires, werewolves and zombies are metaphors of their audience's anxieties, he proposes an new interpretation of why modern people are interested in zombies. Popular thinking sees zombies as a metaphor of our fear of infectious outbreaks; Mr. Closterman sees them as similar to how we deal with day to day life. We are constantly bombarded with unwelcome, uninvited and intrusive demands for our time, be it from ever expanding email in boxes, constant Facebook and Twitter updates, ubiquitous paperwork, and other ongoing tasks that seem unending. How to solve such a problem?

That's where the zombie metaphor comes in. Everyone nowadays knows how to eliminate a zombie, by causing a brain injury. The real threat is the unending supply of zombies that you'd face in an outbreak. The solution is easy but the execution is the hard part. The author suggests that in the same way, taking care of modern life's pesky intrusions is the same. It's easy to read one email and deal with it, but what about the other 20, 40 or 400 unread messages that are still waiting for your attention? His solution is to put your nose to the grindstone and keep on keeping on. He ends his article thus:
The zombies you kill today will merely be replaced by the zombies of tomorrow. But you can do this, my friend. It’s disenchanting, but it’s not difficult. Keep your finger on the trigger. Continue the termination. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop deleting. Return your voice mails and nod your agreements. This is the zombies’ world, and we just live in it. But we can live better.

I actually find this a little bleak and not at all reassuring. Are we really living better if we just keep fighting on and on and on? Isn't there a risk of becoming just as mindless and reactionary as the zombies we are trying to destroy? Are we making ourselves into the Yin for their Yang? I, for one, would rather not get caught dancing this zombie two-step. Maybe some day someone will take my emails or social updates or other interactions with them as just another bombardment from modern life and they'll dispatch me like the zombie that they think I am.

We have met the enemy and he is us. - Pogo

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