Do you see (living) people or just obstacles to reaching your goal?
This will be about the TV series, The Walking Dead, which everybody is watching right now. I am one of the millions of people watching it,
fascinated like everybody else by apocalyptic world visions.
The fascination I have (and I suppose it’s shared across the board) is something called a “morbid fascination”:
You want to see a world in which almost everybody has died, a world in which huge numbers of people have died, and then we have another world and let’s see what happens.
Of course, we don’t identify with the dead people, we want to identify ourselves with the survivors and we want to see what they are going to do, because for the rest we know what they (=the zombies, the walking dead) will do.
We know exactly what the dead are supposed to do:
They just walk around, aimlessly, just trying to grab whatever living animal they can get their hands on and eat it and that’s it.
They just keep on walking around until someone shoots them in the head or they hit themselves on the head or something like that.
Now, can we identify with both these 2 types:
the people who are still recognisably human &
those who are dead?
Do we feel (in some abstract way) that this is what we are right now (i.e., walking dead, shuffling to and fro)?
This question (Who do we identify with?) has been incorporated in a movie before (The Matrix) and then we had to decide whether
we are the “battery people” or
the people who have been “unplugged” and who know Reality.
The similarity stops short, because the people plugged in the matrix lived in a simulation, whereas for the walking dead there is only an aimless wandering about with just ONE basic instinct (can we call it the survival instinct?), and nothing else.
There is nothing recognisable human, or even animal in these things.
Of course, the premise of the series is not scientifically sound and it’s silly (and quite sad) that people think that it could happen to our world and prepare for this (e.g., zombie-proof shelters).
No, it could never happen to our world, but, in a way, it has already happened in our world.
We somehow feel that we have become empty vessels shuffling around…
Millions of people who are watching and are casting themselves as this or that survivor: Of course we want to imagine ourselves as the people who have to make hard choices and find ways to work together and so on. However,
at a deeper level, we may feel that in this world in which we happen to live in, we move around more or less like the walking dead, until some accident happens and that ends it.
I think that is one way we can account for the morbid fascination with this TV series (in particular) and the end-of-the-world genre (in general).
Who would you like to be? Naturally, at the first blush you jump to answer “I want to be one of the survivors”. But do you really want to make all those difficult choices:
some people choose to become cannibals,
some other people have to kill other living people.
Would you like to have this freedom?
If you choose “Yes, I want to be the hero, I want to be the person who has to make some hard choices, I want to be the person who is working in nearly impossible conditions”, then the immediate question is “Towards what goal?” And the only answer is (still) “Towards survival”.
This is when we are called upon to state what is the elementary difference between the walking dead and the living people.
Is it just that
the living people have to fear other living people (as well), whereas
the walking dead don’t have to fear other walking dead?
That’s the scary question.
The living people have to fear the walking dead and the feeling could be reciprocated since the walking dead have to fear (if it were possible for them to have any feelings) living people. You could say that the biggest enemy for the walking dead in this world (depicted in the TV series) is living people:
Living people will shoot you in the head, they’ll pummel your head in, they’ll shoot you with arrows or whatever.
Living people are the biggest danger for the walking dead.
But if you turn the tables and you look at the living people, what is the biggest danger for them? The walking dead are a big danger, of course, but they’re not such a big danger:
You just have to stay away from them, throw a stone and make a noise in a place far from you, or you could seek refuge by climbing a tree…
Anyway, the point is that the walking dead are pretty mindless… we cannot even call them “beings”… mindless machines. Very easy to predict. The main danger they present is in the numbers.
On the other hand, the living humans that we have to fear in this world (in the TV series) are other living people like us.
Of course we want to work together with other living people and the more we can work with other living people, the better our chances of survival. We want to believe that and it makes life more liveable, but
the essential imbalance that
the walking dead don’t have to fear their own, whereas
we (=living people) have to fear our own
makes it a very difficult choice for us living in the normal world, where we’re just viewers, identifying ourselves with this or that character.
It seems that it may feel easier (=it requires less work, less thinking on our part, and less difficult and less tragic choices) to become the walking dead, because in this case our options are very clear:
There are no options, just keep on shuffling around…
By contrast, for the living people there are many decisions to make, and the most momentous and most wrenching decision is
“Do we trust the others or do we fear the others?
Do we work with the others or do we shut ourselves in from the others?”
In this way that we cast ourselves from this world into the world of The Walking Dead, we see that we are very uncomfortable in this world, yet we want to be the heroes, we want to be the survivors who make the hard choices. (I assume)
It’s a very good metaphor, not for how things really are, but for how things may be thought of already. There is no danger of this world becoming zombified in the manner depicted here, there will be no virus which will do that. However, there may be a more subtle virus (let’s call it a meme) which says that
“We may come to a point where we consider everybody else as potential enemies”.
There’s a deep-seated desire that we identify the great majority of these “potential enemies” as the walking dead, for which you have no qualms about putting them down (or simply ignoring). It’s an easy choice in that situation.
Yet, from time to time, when we come upon another human being, like us, and we want to trust them and we want to work together with them, at that point we’re faced with this very difficult decision:
We may often feel engulfed in silence, but usually we live within a lack of silence (the sound of the washing machine, or a cooler, etc.).
We are nearly always interacting with sound waves and, at times, these waves come from others like us in the form of dialogue waves.
In case you haven’t realised this already, I am describing here a dialogue philosophy that attempts to introduce a basic norm of getting us out of the mess in which we find ourselves right now.
The current mess is different from past crises because
the numbers used to not count so much;
whatever the problem, it would have been more local.
Nowadays, a very small group of people seems to decide many things in a manner that is bound to spell disaster for nearly everyone on the planet.
However, this is not a conspiracy.
At the very least, it’s not a conscious conspiracy (We are not that smart, okay?)
Maybe there is some psychological human drive towards destruction, but I don’t believe this.
Perhaps at a given time, a certain society goes through such a self-destructive mood period, but that’s not everybody. We haven’t asked everybody.
This self-destruction-apocalypse mood is probably not shared by many Native Americans tribes (North American and South American “Indians”), despite their horrible experience at the hands of White, Christian people.
Then we got the (Black) slaves, hauled on ships from Africa, which is another depressing story…
Some horrible things have been done in the past, but thank God (=our good conscience) we managed to stop some bad things:
We abolished slavery.
When was slavery abolished in Romania, by the way? Do you know?
Slobozirea (“the emancipation”),right?
Do you know the year, or the century? Was it before the Blacks in America? Think 19th century, the second half.
What was the situation here, in Romania, towards Gypsies (=Roma people)?
We’ve come forward by putting some bad ideas away from our minds, through dialogues, by recognising the Others’ right to (equal) dialogue. We said
“Oh, okay, we’re equal, we can have a dialogue”
The idea that the Others are like animals, or things, different from us, essentially different, has been eliminated. Up to a point.
Remember that we have “self-fulfilling prophecies” which see in the current deplorable status of minorities the fulfilment of certain stereotypes projected unto them by the (White) majority.
See the case of Aboriginal Australians in the court system; Eades is the author you want to Google right now, and read a little bit, especially if you’re Australian.
I noticed that I have people from Australia sometimes checking my blog: Here’s some homework for you, in case you find some free time.
Australia… I have a special relation, a special dialogue with Australia, and New Zealand.
Lots of commonalities, lots of differences.
The biggest difference being that one had a Maori population, whereas the other had Aboriginals (when the Whites arrived). So the interaction style was different:
the Maori fought back much more organised, whereas the Australian Aboriginals didn’t seem to be able to fight back in an organised manner.
What does this tell us about our civilisation? The stronger (race) wins? That’s what everybody believed at that time, they thought it’s an evolutionary principle (eugenics), the stronger killing off the weaker. But then somebody stood up and said:
So you don’t have to kill everybody. It’s better to have a dialogue with Them.
Let’s talk, let’s recognise each other as humans and see what the Others have learned, in this place, on the same planet.
What do you guys think?
What do you guys talk about?
How is your language?
What is important?
What is of value?
What is the Good in your society?
What’s the Good in Aboriginal Australian society? The Dreaming is good; read a little about the Dreaming now. Not the museum caption stuff, but just go into a slightly more profound understanding, in that
the Dreaming consists of songs associated with travelling a certain path, and knowing the songs, the verses for each spot, the names for things.
Think how complex it must have been to sing all these songs, to know all these songs, to pass down generation after generation all these songs.
Each song was about a sacred place in Nature, where we would go as tourists now.
They had songs about the Dreaming, right? But they didn’t have rules for property.
So, what happened? The Queen happened!
(Later: Actually, the King (George the 3rd) around this time: 1770.)
God bless the Queen.
The Queen claimed the land and the rest is History.
Who does the Queen represent? Us, Europeans, at least Western Europeans.
The Eastern Europeans were busy fighting each other or the Turks at this time. We (=Eastern Europeans) had our own thing, we were (usually) fighting with the Turks, the Ottoman Empire.
I don’t see how else we can make a change (towards the Good) other than by engaging in honest dialogue.
Where this is possible, of course.
Where evil exists (e.g., mass shootings), where you have these demented guys immersed so completely in a hallucinated reality, I don’t think you can have a dialogue with them because they would rather kill everybody.
That’s their one dialogue line: Boom, boom, boom.
Until they run out of choices (bullets, energy, victims?), and then they kill themselves.
Basically this is suicidal behaviour.
This happens in Japan as well, although the weapons tend to be knives (as opposed to guns).
These are deeply disturbed people, who just want to become famous for a minute and they take the short path because they have been living for so long in God-knows what psychotic world that they cannot tell what’s Real and what’s Good any more.
These are evil and these must be stopped, and that’s why we need aikido (Ki-Merging Path) as we need to learn how to protect ourselves against evil, which in Japan means crazy people with knives, mostly.
We don’t learn how to deal with crazy people with guns; it’s a question I hope I don’t have to ask myself. For Americans the meme of guns has developed into a huge thing, because all of the scenarios we see playing out right now (on the screen and in reality) are not of normal dialogues:
They’re scenarios of very short dialogues, with a very bad ending for a lot of humanity.
It’s just about survival, about the survivors.
This tells us that fear is the greatest enemy.
“Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration”
We’re talking about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The American fear of crime causes an increase of gun sales (meaning an increase in gun ownership)
which results in more violence (including accidental shootings)
which eventually confirms the original assumption that “We should be afraid”
which triggers another acquisition of more (and bigger) guns.
Fear, fear, fear, which at some point evolves into paranoia and psychosis:
a belief in a reality that is so malefic that all we can see around us are objects of fear.
Well, you can try to live like that, but it will leave scars.
How big scars? Think “scars on the scale of amputations”:
You will lose parts of yourself because you deny yourself dialogue with those parts, with all these other people, all these other humans around you.
We’ve got to resist the fear. We’ve got to act rationally through dialogue (where possible) and act at a national level (where necessary) like Japan has done in terms of gun control.
People don’t have guns in Japan, you know? I read this piece of news the other day, about a teacher confiscating a gun from a student, who somehow got it from his dad. Anyway, the teacher (who confiscated it) was convinced that it was a fake, like a toy, and he accidentally fired it at a chair. Luckily nobody got killed or hurt.
Now, everybody (in the comment section) is going on about the teacher who was so stupid and careless. But my point is:
This is the kind of society you want to live in:
A society where people don’t know much about guns because there aren’t many guns lying around.
The only thing that gets shot is a chair.
How many accidental shootings occurred in America at the same time, on the day this guy shot a chair.
What’s the population difference? 100 plus million in Japan, 300 something million in the US, so divide by 3 if you cannot do it with “how many in 100,000?” as they do in sociology.
You might get a statistically significant difference, which might inform national policy about guns, as we have in Japan.
This is just a proposal of kaizen (Change-into-the-Good 改善) from Japan; I hope you can hear it.
The news for Americans right now is that Bob Dylan’s verses come true “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall”.
Masters of war have now taken control of what’s going on in the US, masters of fear and war.
Let’s remember the other Bob, the Black Bob.
Did Bob Dylan and Bob Marley touch zen? Did they partake of zen? As much as they insisted on dialogue and on pointing out the Bad, yes, they did, of course. But more so in the amazing shape they’ve given their dialogue forms with us; sometimes I wish I had their talent.
Information about the exits: There are no exits [“on this side” if you cannot read Japanese]
There is a strange aspect of modern humans (by which I mean “post WW2 humans”): In democratic societies, in which things have been improved to a point where you’d think
all we have to do now is to continue on this path and gradually make things better
people find themselves paralyzed, stumped as it were, by the sheer weight of an awareness of our mortality not as individuals, but as entire nations.
During the Cold War, this was manifested as the threat of nuclear war. Nowadays, it’s asteroids, or some random epidemic such as Ebola, but the fear is there that
all the work that you might put into making small improvements over a lifetime can come to nothing.
This fear is so pervasive as to make it (semantically) inappropriate to say “it may come to nothing” since we are so sure that it will come to nothing when some entity, some body, some organisation, some microorganism (if we’re talking about a virus), when some physical object in outer space happens to hit us, when the temperatures rise and create extremely severe weather events.
So then, the question becomes “Why bother?”
As long as natural disasters, diseases or wars have tended to be quite small in terms of their impact: 5 people in a town, 10,000 people in a bigger city and so on, when the number of victims stops at that (high number if you live there, but pretty low if you live elsewhere) you can still hope.
However, when the threat is that of complete annihilation, when we’re talking about modern war in a way that is easily imaginable post-Hiroshima, at this point we feel that it is no longer wise to bet on it not happening (hence the incredible appeal enjoyed by end-of-the-world religions/cults/movies/TV series).
So everybody is living from hand to mouth, from today until tomorrow.
In turn, this means that we give up on making the small improvements we could make because we are afraid.
Even now, when the Cold War has ended, we have these small crises which are hyped up as existential crises and their main effect on us is not so much to trigger a certain kind of behaviour (i.e., make us act in a certain manner, such as buying security-related equipment, guns etc.); rather
these very real (albeit inflated) threats serve to block our actions and keep us stuck in the ruts of the path we are currently walking.
This makes any small change-into-Good appear superfluous, out-of-touch with reality, gratuitous in the face of this massive potential for disaster just around the corner.
Here I see a very good explanation for our laziness, our inertia, our inability to change.
It is certainly true that the great majority of people are not doing much. However, this is not because people are by their nature lazy or stupid.
No, this happens because people are paralysed
into keeping to the path they’re currently walking,
into making a circle around the wagons and shooting at anything that seems to threaten the current status.
[Note: By “we” I mean those of us living the good life, the comfortable life. These observations do not apply to those too busy carrying water from the well located 2 km away from the village]
The whole world feels like it may come crushing on our heads at any time, so why buy a helmet?
Why bother with small changes, when it could all end up in a big cloud of smoke?
Some people think that this would result in mass suicide, but that is not what we see because the survival instinct is strong enough in most people to guarantee our ability to continue living and only few would succumb to the anomie feeling, to the feeling of futility of going on with our lives.
Of course, more will succumb in a psychological sense and more will experience depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, self-destructive behaviour and so on.
For many of us the most visible effect is that we’re inhibited from taking action, from attempting small changes in our lives and in the world around us because we’re saving our energy for the big trial ahead which
we don’t believe we are likely to survive, but
we are certain that the small changes-into-Good (which we could otherwise achieve right now) would definitely not survive.
So that’s why we just keep on shuffling through life and through this world.
Of course, there are some brave or lucky souls who can break through: Those who are fortunate enough to be endowed perhaps with the right genes to display fortitude and resist this onslaught of fear. Fear not of actual things, but rather expressed as a vague feeling that things will turn out really bad (e.g., World War 3).
What is really demoralizing is the knowledge that (as long as this situation continues) things actually get worse as the great mass of people is acting as a huge bundle of inertia, resisting any attempt to change (not because of our intrinsic conservative values, but rather) because
we don’t see any meaning which can be projected into the future other than conserving one’s energy for the real test to come.
This has happened for so many years now that we are actually worse off than if we’d had the psychological makeup of incurable optimists (i.e., people who keep on plunging ahead no matter what).
A minority of people have this personality, this set of traits to press ahead in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but the great majority don’t have it and then we end up being where we are:
in the ruts of a path which is digging itself deeper and deeper into the ground with no horizon to speak of
despite our (very real) potential to achieve improvements, small changes-into-Good, which would take years to materialize, which would require the concerted efforts of millions, especially in the initial stages before this movement gathers momentum.