Step 1: Recognize that you’re in Zombie World.
I had a conversation with some friends, where we discussed recent events like the Arab Awakening and the triple disaster in Japan. I got a seed in my brain about the nature of 21st century life. Later, I tried to sum it up in a tweet:
I was of course referencing the William Gibson quote “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Looked at in a certain way, we already live in a post-apocalyptic world, but many of us are too trapped in bubbles of privilege or zoned out by media pablum to see this with clarity.
In places around the world, normal life and the institutions that support it have already collapsed. And we’re not just talking about Africa or the Middle East. We’re also talking about the Developed North. Within the evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, recovery is probably a generation away. In Detroit, population decline of 25% over the past decade calls for the city to shrink. There are some bold ideas circulated about returning parts of the city to wilderness or farmland. This is post-apocalypse in the heartland of the American industrial age.
In addition to evidence provided by current events, I’ve also taken note of the post-apocalyptic turn in our pop culture. Zombie apocalypse movies and TV shows and Zombie Walks in our cities show our culture’s fascination with post-apocalyptic themes. The interesting thing about zombie stories is that they’re about the struggle of life after the apocalypse. The world as we know it is gone, but life continues. It’s definitively NOT the end.
Welcome to Zombie World
I think we can see evidence of Zombie institutions all around us: Our Zombie Parliament. The Zombie Media. Zombie Politics. Zombie Capitalism. The Zombie Welfare State. Zombie Security. And let’s not forget Zombie Consumerism. We live in Zombie World.
Those from the fundamentalist tradition of apocalyptic Christian belief warn us to “repent, for the end is nigh”, but they are missing the point. The world as we know it is already ended. We’re past the point of no return, and look around: I don’t see any evidence of the Rapture anywhere.
But we’re not beyond redemption. In zombie apocalypse mythology, human redemption is still possible in the midst of destruction and the walking dead.
Once we realize that the world is ended yet life continues, we will adapt, we will rebuild. Belief that the world can be restored as it was or that the end is nigh are beliefs that disable action because our desired goals are impossible and our actions futile. We cannot do what humans have always done and adapt to our changing environment as long as our mental models are out of touch with the realities of that environment.
In contrast, a post-apocalyptic worldview is tremendously liberating and enabling. Rebuilding in the wake of the apocalypse gives us the freedom to question underlying assumptions. In fact, it requires us to do so. We see the world around us not as given and static, but as a vast expanse of raw material and tools available for reuse and reinterpretation. The post-apocalyptic worldview is therefore more radically creative than either an apocalyptic rapture worldview or a restoration of stability worldview.
So, in order for life and civilization to thrive again, does this mean we need to first understand that we’re already beyond the apocalypse? Maybe the revolution we need is first and foremost a revolution of thought, of sense-making and of acceptance of the true nature of 21st century life.
Maybe we should embrace the Zombie Apocalypse as our great hope for the future.
It’s a Remarkk-able life http://posterous.remarkk.com
An edited version of this post appeared in The Mark News. Yes, Mark of Remarkk was published in The Mark.