Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Meet the Zombies (Part 2)

In my last blog post I outlined why I think there is a prevalence of the zombie meme in pop culture; namely that there is an increasing anxiety about mindless, brain eaters. In the spirit of full disclosure I have a bias towards this metaphor because I have a fair amount of anxiety about mindless, brain-eaters but I do think it is a rational fear. This all started when I saw a video of a horde of Black Friday shoppers at a Walmart and I mistook it for an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. I posted a tweet comparing the average person to a zombie and was challenged by a reader who did not think my comparison was fair or accurate. After my last blog post she still doesn’t think its fair or accurate to call the average person a zombie, so I feel the need to further my case for the metaphor before I delve into the origins and possible cure for what I think could aptly be called the zombie virus.

The first thing I need to do is define my terms. For the purpose of this metaphor I will define a zombie as a person that lacks awareness of where its appetite, desires, motivations, and feelings come from and therefore acts essentially as an automaton. I will get even more precise here and define a zombie as somebody who is not aware that they lack self-awareness. Contrast this with a living person who is aware that they have unconscious patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings and are therefore able to modify and change themselves. A fully living person can not only empathize with others, by imagining themselves in that persons shoes, they can also imagine what that other persons experience of them might be…they are able to observe themselves. Activating this inner observer is the key to learning (Short, 1998) because it allows us to be in congruence with reality, fully engaged with the external world. The essence of being undead is being cut-off from your self…a zombie is a bag of meat interacting with the external world without an internal driver.

When I say the average person is a zombie I mean that the majority (greater than 50%) of the population are zombies…they are unaware that they are unaware. I went through a great deal of my life like this, never once questioning where my beliefs and assumptions about the world came from, oh I had ready made rationalizations and justifications for my beliefs, but not once did I stop and examine how I came to have these assumptions about the world and the resultant thoughts, feelings and behaviours that followed. So I am not writing this with any sense of inherent superiority to my fellow human apes. It took a radically life altering experience coupled with an incredibly powerful sense that something wasn’t right to help bring into my awareness the fact that I was completely unaware about all the assumptions and beliefs I held.

So there are two ways of looking at my claim that the majority of people are unaware of their own lack of awareness about their desires, motivations, feelings, and assumptions about the world. The skeptic would have to assert the opposite, that the majority of people are aware that they are unaware…I think this is a much more difficult hypothesis to support and as a corollary that a much more intuitively rational default position is that the majority of people are unaware of their lack of awareness. However, I’ll try and support my case.

If the majority of people were NOT zombies you would expect to see the following:
·        Insatiable curiosity about the world
·        Insatiable curiosity about the self
·        Insatiable curiosity about their relationships and other people
·        Recognition of cognitive dissonance as a learning opportunity
·        Insatiable curiosity about other world views
·        A high degree of psychotherapy would be prevalent, self-knowledge would be a top priority
·        Most social conversations would be deeply meaningful and intimate, people would leave conversations feeling empowered and connected
·        Consumerism, debt slavery and addiction would be very low as people would be able to balance and understand their life as it connects to deferred vs immediate gratification
·        Mob scenes would be almost non-existent (Black Fridays, Political Rallies, Huge Sporting Events etc.) because individuals just wouldn’t get a charge out of losing their individuality.

Now let me address these points one by one:
  • I do not see a great deal of curiosity about the world in people I’m surrounded by, most people I see around me consume and regurgitate media.
  • Even fewer people are curious about themselves and their motivations and feelings. If you have ever heard someone say, “She made me mad” you are hearing lack of self-awareness.
  • People I know in long-term relationships do not exhibit much curiosity about why the same patterns continue over and over again.
  • I’ve noticed that most people don’t know what to do with cognitive dissonance. I’ve often experienced telling someone a rational argument or epistemology and you can see that it makes them uncomfortable because they recognize it as true and it conflicts with another belief they have. This is a common occurrence and is actually at the root of learning, but the key is what you do when you experience cognitive dissonance. A zombie addresses it by being dismissive, passive aggressive, judgmental, lashing out with ad hominems, attacking a strawman, evading or a number of other intellectually dishonest means. The living accept uncertainty, remain curious and open to reason and evidence, and ruminate on the matter.
  • I don’t experience a great deal of curiosity or empathy from those around me about the world views of other people. I usually just see regurgitation of media for example when it comes to matters in the middle east. Most people aren’t curious about the experience or view of someone in Gaza, Israel, Iraq, or Afghanistan for example yet they will readily make a judgment or statement of fact.
  • Quest for self-knowledge is a hallmark sign of life. Psychotherapy is a well recognized path to obtaining self-knowledge with the help of someone trained. The number of Americans who have attended psychotherapy is under 4% * and of those I would guess that far less than half attended psychotherapy with the goal of obtaining self-knowledge.
  • Maybe I’m going to the wrong places for social conversation, but most of the time I experience conversations about work, weather, physical activity, politics, the news, gossip or sports. I rarely experience intimate conversations, outside close friends, of deep meaning about the joy, sorrow, and suffering someone is experiencing. Never talked about are adverse childhood experiences or the practice of life affirming virtues for example.
  • Consumerism, debt, and addiction are immediately gratifying but they are unhealthy in the long term. Delayed gratification would be much more prevalent today if the majority of people were alive, rather we have fiat debt based currency that is based in the impulse for immediate gratification.
  • A big part of being a zombie is losing ones individuality and becoming one with the mob. Why does it feel so good to chant, “U-S-A, U-S-A..” or rally for you politician or rockstar? Why doesn’t it feel as good to do it by yourself? Why is group conformity and belonging so important to our sense of self-esteem?

I hope to answer these questions in an upcoming blog about where the zombie virus comes from and how to cure it. I'll also let you know who I think represent vampires in this world and why we see a prevalence of blood sucking, power mongers, exhibiting superficial charm and beauty and who can't see themselves in a mirror (lack self-knowledge)...hazard a guess?

Now to my friend and reader who challenged me; first I want to say thank-you and secondly I want to say that I do not look down on zombies with disdain and I don't think they are hopeless and incapable of rationality and self-awareness, I simply experience anxiety and sometimes fear when I am around them...mostly fear for my children, thirdly I recognize the dearth of references here and will make up for it when I get into how the zombie virus was socially engineered. Let me know what your thoughts are.

Short, R. (1998). Learning in Relationship. Bellevue, Washington: Learning in Action Technologies, Inc.

1 comment:

  1. This post made me think of the 10 human development levels laid out by Loevinger/Cook-Greuter.

    The first three levels are referred to as the Pre-conventional stage and called Symbiotic, Impulsive and Opportunistic.

    The next three levels are referred to as the Conventional stage and called Diplomat, Expert and Achiever. Diplomat is usually entered by the age of 12 although some folks (hard core zombies) remain in the Opportunistic level their entire adult life.

    The next two levels are referred to as the Post Conventional stage and called Individualist and Strategist.

    The final two levels are referred to as the Unitive stage and called Magician and Unitive.

    According to the author the first 3 levels make up about 10% of the adult population. The next three levels make up about 80% of the adult population and the last 4 levels, 10% of the population.

    What may be happening today is because of things like flouride in the water, aspartame, msg, toxic chemicals in the food and water supply, break down of the family unit and other modern day harmful environmental factors , the development of the population at large is being stunted and more and more folks are not developing as well as previous generations would have, thus staying in a zombiefied state.

    Here is the link to the articles. Start with the first article, titled "Making Sense of Who You Are" dated March 5th 2008. http://www.centerpointe.com/blog/page/5/

    I hope you find this interesting.