The Zombie Who Lives In All Of Us Today

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The Zombie Who Lives In All Of Us Today

According to Haitian folk tradition, a zombie is a dead person who is brought back to life by a sorcerer who then uses him for evil purposes. This is all possible because, in his new incarnation, the person does not have any will of his own. He lacks both real consciousness and a moral conscience to prevent him from performing immoral actions that in his pre-death existence he might have hesitated to perform. The zombie is also speechless, which means that he is incapable of communicating with other zombies in order to rise up against the sorcerer that is controlling them. The creation and manipulation of zombies is all a part of a religion and a series of magical practices called voodoo. Something similar is practiced by people of African descent in New Orleans where it is called Hoodoo. In Miami, Cuban immigrants and their descendants have their own version of this religion called Santeria. The notion of the zombie derives from the experience of the African slave in the West Indies. In order to survive, the slave was expected to do as he was told and not to talk back to his master. At the same time, the Voodoo priest could get his revenge on the colonial master, by turning the will-less speechless zombie against him.

So, one might ask what a discussion of zombies has to do with what I usually discuss in this column, namely the effects of modern technology on living environments and human behavior. The answer is, frankly, a lot. The notion of a zombie is a perfect metaphor for talking about the pathological behavior of a mass murderer in today’s world. People who sit in front of screens day after day – whether movies, television, video games, computers, smartphones, or tablets – develop conative anesthesia, the numbing of the will. The will is something that needs exercise to stay strong just like the muscles in our body. It is principally exercised in the world of primary experience, in our external world reality. It receives very little exercise in the modern world of frictionless, mediated experience, in screen reality. People who stay in screen reality hour after hour, day after day, are people who are setting themselves up for sinking into conative anesthesia. There are almost no choices to be made going to the movies except for choosing which movie one wants to see and paying for the ticket. There are almost no choices involved in watching a program on one’s television except for choosing the program and putting it on. The problem with video games is that, although one has to make a lot of choices in order to carry out one’s strategies to win a game, because the game is in the world of screen reality, it does nothing to stimulate one’s willful participation in the external world, the world of immediate primary experience where choices have import for one’s life. If anything, a person becomes so involved in the world of his games, that he completely withdraws from participation in the external world. There are stories of young people who become so intensely involved in their games, that they don’t want to take time off to go to the bathroom. So, instead, they wear diapers.

Computers, smartphones and tablets represent a more complicated situation. Each one of these devices is capable of involving a person in multiple worlds. One can watch movies and television programs on each of them. One can play games on each one of them. One can use each of them like an old-fashioned typewriter, although it would primarily be computers and tablets that would be most appropriate for this usage. And, of course, there is the Internet which allows one to engage in social media and online shopping, read newspapers, magazines and books, and look up information about practically everything. Also, if one is so inclined, one can find sites for social groups, everything from sites built around meeting romantic and sexual partners, a common interest like martial arts, model railroads, pornography, religious groups from mainstream religious observance to cults, and, finally, hate groups. Most of these sites do not lead to significant involvement in the external world. Dating sites, because they allow a person to engage with many prospective partners rather quickly are for many users almost overstimulating, which makes it difficult for the user to make any decisions with import, to make decisions that lead to preserved imprints on the external world, to make a commitment for a long-term partner. If one finds a small flaw with one person, there are always a gazillion more prospective partners to be explored in the future. Pornography, cults and hate groups are sites, that because of their controversial nature are more safely explored initially from within a numbing mediated experience. Many times, involvement remains mediated and to the extent that people participate with other people, they do it within the format of virtual groups.

Anyway, to the extent that people’s lives today are connected to screen reality, a reality that makes their lives excessively frictionless and mediated, to that extent they end up immersed in an experiential vacuum. And all this frictionless mediated experience leads to intolerable levels of numbness. For some people today, they become primed in such a way that certain events, certain happenings in the external world act as triggers to awaken them in a very intense way. Intense tension-pocket events that cause them to respond to the triggers like zombies with intense murderous rage. It is hard to know ahead of time what kind of event or events can act as a trigger. It is also hard to know what person or persons would be most susceptible to this trigger. Perhaps, under the right circumstances, we all could be. Which is why we all have to find ways to diminish the amount of time we spend in screen reality. It is best just to remain a dormant zombie.
© 2023 Laurence Mesirow

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Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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