Casaubon's Book

Zombie Attack…No, Really!

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(Awesome image of zombie me by Joseph Hewitt of Ataraxia Theatre and the originator of the cool RPG Gearhead Check out my fellow bloggers to see their zombie pix! I wonder if New Society would let me use this as my book jacket photo for the new book?)

As all of you obviously know, July 1 is International Zombie Day – celebrated around the world by the zombifying oneself, posting brain recipes, strategies for fightin’ em off, etc… Well, ok, it is kind of a new, science-blogs-only-holiday so far (credit for the idea goes to Scicurious!), but following the stunning success of international talk like a pirate day, I’m assuming that the major media will pick it up any time now.

And you know here, well, I’m the queen of zombie avoidance strategies (although they don’t seem to have worked well today, do they?). In fact, on my blog, zombies are so ubiquitous that I didn’t actually even have to create a category “zombies” – we already had one.

‘Round these parts “when the zombies come” is code for “when the real problems come, but let’s not make ourselves nuts.” And since we all know that zombies are the one difficult part of our future that we are probably *not* literally facing (more on this in a second), they make a useful metaphor for the real. Not to mention that zombies are awesome.

(I admit, as long as I am free to ramble wildly through zombie-related tangents, that I am painfully jealous of Seth Grahame-Smith for thinking of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” before me. I feel a compelling urge to steal his idea and write a terribly derivative “Canterbury Tales and Zombies” or at least eat his brain in vengeance. I wonder if this is just exactly what T.S. Eliot meant when he said “Immature poets borrow. Mature poets steal.” And does stealing an idea from someone who stole it from Jane Austen make me a mature poet, an immature poet, or a zombie poet? These are the kind of important questions we try to provide you with answers for at Casaubon’s Book (title also stolen from a great novelist, thus proving my genius) – or at least we obscure the fact that we haven’t answered them by nattering on a while. Who is we? Yet another unanswered question by a mature zombie poet.)

Anyway, on the subject of whether you have to prepare for actual zombies, above I suggested you did not. And in a literally “horrible undead things devouring your brain” sense, you can probably skip that. But I do want to raise the semi-serious (it is a real issue, but there’s only so serious one can be when writing the word “zombie” over and over again) issue of a real zombie problem that all of us are going to be facing for a long time to come. Zombie institutions and zombie infrastructure.

If you take the word “zombie” to mean something that is no longer living functionally in any meaningful sense, but has become an agent of destruction, we now have a real problem. Because almost every bit of our infrastructure and the major institutions that serve us are, in many ways, zombie institutions. They depend heavily on fossil fuels that we neither will have in abundant supply, nor can burn if we want a human-habitable planet. They presume growth and increases in wealth, and make all their planning assumptions on the idea that things will get back to a normal of unfettered use of resources and endless growth. These zombies can hurt us.

One of the central challenges of adapting, then, to our new zombified reality, and to thriving within it will be figuring out which institutions can be saved and turned into non-zombie institutions and resources that enable our future, which ones must be destroyed, and which ones can be bypassed and ignored entirely. And since much of this work involves lots of meetings, fundraising and organizational restructuring, I think it is both wise and urgent to conceive this as *exactly like* fighting zombies – you either avoid them, kill them or fix them. Think of it as a video game, and you can sit through the meeting on your local anti-poverty agency’s strategic planning, or your public school’s way of dealing with busing issues in a crisis.

Every major thing we rely on is going to have to be adjusted – how will schools work productively, preparing kids to be useful citizens in a changing world, with changing expectations? How will we put the nails in the coffins, literally, of the private car and begin shifting our tremendous investment in highways into investments in public transport? How will we begin adapting our system to bear the realities of much greater poverty and unemployment. These are jobs all of us have to do in every community, less we be destroyed by the zombie institutions around us.

How many people get to live in a zombie-fighting video game for real? It would, of course, be more fun if the tools of our trade were less good listening, organizing, fundraising and showing up and more uzis and axes, but hey, you can’t have everything. Get out there and fight those zombies! Use those brains while they are uneaten!

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    July 1, 2010

    you either avoid them, kill them or fix them.

    Or, in the case of zombie infrastructure, cannibalise them. Oh, the irony!

  2. #2 Teresa/safira
    July 1, 2010

    Have I told you lately that I love you?

  3. #3 JDA
    July 1, 2010

    Brain recipes you say? Well, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall can help, with a recipe for Magaz curry. To summarise: use 6 fresh lambs’ brains. Clean them, poach for 25 minutes, drain. Soften a chopped onion in oil, add stock and tomatoes for sauce, leave to simmer. Lightly fry some spices (chilli, garlic, ginger), add the brains, then add the tomato sauce. Season with garam masala etc. to taste.
    (He recommends this as a way to shut up macho self-proclaimed curry experts that are bragging about where they had the hottest ever vindaloo or something. Just counter with “Yes, but have you tried brain curry?”)

  4. #4 Tyler
    July 1, 2010

    Guys… Its Canada Day. How can you erase CANADA DAY by celebrating international zombie day? Seriously, this is kind of annoying. You could have picked July 2nd and no one would care. But July 1st? We’re your neighbors, right next to you! You’re supposed to be celebrating our birthday and our awesomeness!

  5. #5 Rob Monkey
    July 1, 2010

    Yeah, okay Tyler, if you wanted us to overshadow the amazing July 2 holiday of the first Wal-Mart opening! Come on, if there’s one thing this blog should be celebrating, it’s the increased expansion of big-box stores that ship cheap Chinese crap all over our country for the low low price of massive pollution! Psh, Canada Day, it should be Wal-Mart Day! Oh yeah, and Lindsay Lohan’s birthday! It looks like the universe had a lot more important things to put on that date than your moose-lovin’ holiday.

    Hopefully goes without saying, but SNARK!

  6. #6 Roy
    July 1, 2010

    Sharon,
    You might sponsor a Zombie Walk (in support of your favorite cause). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie_walk

  7. #7 darwinsdog
    July 1, 2010

    My immediate neighborhood is wooded & relatively secluded, with large lots (my property is five acres) and decent food growing potential (most families have gardens). But up the irrigation ditch less than a mile there are trailer parks so decrepit that it’s hard to believe they’re in the US. And across the highway there are rent subsidized apartment buildings and newer subdivisions with zero food growing potential. Many of the young Hispanics & Native Americans who live there have gang affiliations. Skinhead gangs among the white minority too. The day’s coming when hungry youths will be on the prowl. I won’t call these kids “zombies” but when they get hungry, they’ll certainly be out to raid gardens & steal chickens, at the very least. You should do an essay on home defense/combat firearms, Sharon.

  8. #8 Jennie
    July 1, 2010

    I have my doubts that many gang members will know what to do with garden produce, even if they could identify anything more than tomatoes.

    Could you start a couple of community gardens and make sure each gang gets a plot so they can compete with each other over tomatoes instead of drivebys? Or is that too naive?

  9. #9 darwinsdog
    July 1, 2010

    Hi Jennie. There’s a preparatory high school not far away that provides space & irrigation water for a community garden each year, or at least has done so in the past. Typically, people would prepare their plots & plant them, but by midsummer most all that was growing would be Kochia. Sadly, hoeing in the summer sun has little appeal to most people.

    This is also the reason that most of the farmers around here prefer to grow alfalfa – so that they can farm from the seat of a tractor & not have to get down & hoe or hand harvest anything. They could certainly make more money growing chilis but that would require real work that aging, beef-bellied farmers aren’t up for. Ironically, these same farmers are usually conservatives who scream for a militarized border to keep out hard working Mexicans who actually would be capable of hoeing & hand picking produce under the hot sun.

  10. #10 Brad K.
    July 2, 2010

    @ Jennie,

    There has never been an asset, that couldn’t be corrupted or stolen. Growing food is no different.

    Whether gangs are interested in garden produce or not, once Wal-Mart and Hy-Vee cannot bring in lettuce from California, tomatoes from Mexico, or pears from Australia or wherever, there will be a market for local stuff. Local sources will be exploited. In the absence of social order (i.e., gangs, thieves, unscrupulous landlords and other business models), that exploitation may well turn abusive, violent, or both. Just look how many people were made rich with the practice of “share cropping”, some 50-100 years ago and more – where the landlord got 1/2 the crops and rent, too. My father started farming that way – and 30 years later, under cash rent (heyday of cheap oil), moved up to “border line” poor, from “dirt poor”. The farm life was wholesome – but assuming exploitation is probably the surer bet.

    @ Sharon,

    About “And since much of this work involves lots of meetings, fundraising and organizational restructuring, I think it is both wise and urgent to conceive this as *exactly like* fighting zombies

    I read that finding the IQ of a meeting is a straight forward math “word” problem. Take the average of the IQ of all attendees, and divide by the number of attendees. Apparently, meetings are one form of brain-masking, zombie-like effects of the cheap-energy culture.

    How will schools work? Instead of bringing all those (union!) teachers together to simplify labor union activities and dues collections with consolidated schools – return to the one room school, each located to serve 15-50 children. Make them a couple miles apart, and kids have less than a mile to walk to school.

    I see the future of Wal-Mart to be distributed, as a chain of block-corner stores, just big enough to serve a 4 block radius. The chain will send trucks around to keep a bit of stock on hand, and a selection that works for each neighborhood. Instead of drawing customers from 50 miles away, customers will walk to the store, and Wal-Mart trucks (horse-drawn trolleys or wagons? work-load sized hand carts?) will travel to each block and neighborhood. Lay-away and store catalogs will replace the endless aisles of pallets of variations of stuff.

    Just in time merchandising will be replaced with “two weeks for delivery”. Sort of what the Ace Hardware store used to be, or the old-time “general” store. In-store deli, optional, with or without brain curry.

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