There was a time in the not too distant past that most science fiction and horror films, books and graphic novels were warning us about how terrifying new technology would be in the future. There were films like ‘Robocop’, ‘The Terminator‘ and ‘The Matrix‘ which illustrated a world where technology could be our undoing with machines controlling us and carrying out justice.
It can be argued that these precautionary tales were preparing us for the mechanized death that can be brought on by the use of drones and now it is being revealed that robot cops are going to be a reality in just one to two years.
Six years ago, before drones were part of the contemporary conversation conversation there was an experimental robot used in Perm, Russia known as the R Bot 001. It was a 550 pound enforcer that looked like an upright bullet or rocket getting around on four tires. Its main function is to monitor the streets for crime using its five video cameras. It has a button that citizens can press to contact the police station in times of need, and it even has the ability to deliver simple orders, like telling drunken pedestrians to go home and sober up.
The Perm police haven’t released much more information about the robotic officer, possibly because R Bot 001’s debut was less than stellar. A few hours after hitting the streets, the robot encountered some stormy weather. Unfortunately, the robot’s casing wasn’t waterproof. Water leaked into the robot, shorting out its electrical system. Officers had to retrieve R Bot 001 and bring it back for repairs.
While police robots are not autonomous and most of them do not seem to be anthropomorphic, the thought of a robotic or mechanized police force is a frightening one because of the stories about how machines can malfunction and, left to their own programming, could see humans as the enemy and from there we would have a war between humans and mechanized monsters.
This is something that at one time was just a science fiction nightmare and with time has become a reality as many of the science fiction stories of a robo-pocalypse seem more and more probable.
As we have now realized that the mechanized threat is looming on the horizon, there is now a new type of nightmare that has always been in the back of people’s minds and we have again embraced it as inevitable.
We are now dealing with the grim reality that no matter how smart we are, no matter how much technology we use to fight wars and enforce laws there is one thing that mankind has always fell prey to and that is an infection or virus that renders an entire population diseased and contagious.
This fear has now been marketed as the zombie apocalypse and there seems to be a deep rooted psychological attraction to the possibility almost to the point of obsession. The zombie apocalypse is not limited to the fear of the walking dead. It has now reached far beyond the plodding walking corpses that give a face to the phenomenon.
The whole mental construct has also created the fear of germs, the prepper movement, and the whole idea of an apocalypse and how you would react if you were facing extreme conditions.
The zombie apocalypse seems to resonate with current anxieties and each time we see the reinvention of a menace or invisible enemy that can invade suburbia.
The invisible enemy is the one that is hardest to fight and the idea of an unseen germ or virus that can change human behavior has always been a useful tool to illustrate philosophical differences and even mental conditions that are not or do not fit in with the agreed upon norms of society.
I think one of the most effective zombies like stories has always been “The Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney. While the movie was inspired by the book, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” did not used reanimated corpses to make the point, the obvious story was that of how an alien threat existed that somehow entered the mind of the host and eventually an entire town would have their emotions tranquilized.
The theme of this cautionary, politicized film was open to varying interpretations, including paranoia toward the spread of ideas leaning towards Communism.
However, today we could see it as an allegory about being part of a destructive cult or the fear of losing one’s personality to psychotropic drugs and how we are now using them now as the unseen demon that triggers the mentality of an unstable mass shooter.
There have been so many variations of the story over the years that one can see how we have become paranoid of self-help books; the traits of being “one of them” being part of come secretive groupthink or destructive cult, being too close and intimate to someone who may be mentally ill.
Since September 11th, 2001, we still harbor some paranoia over who may or may not be secretly a terrorist. Movies like ‘Arlington Road‘ play on the idea of the neighbor you don’t really know and wondering about what he is up to and whether or not he is a terrorist or even a person who is about ready to go off murdering his family and turning the gun on himself.
Even in the film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” the story of the zombie like invaders is actually narrated by a psychiatrist giving us the play by play of a world that is not ending but a world where human character is deteriorating to the point of ennui and banality.
The fictional Doctor Miles Bennell believes that at first he is seeing a neurosis brought on by the worries of the world and later realizes that there is more to this than just a mental breakdown of people he sees everywhere:
“In my practice, I’ve seen how people have allowed their humanity to drain away. Only it happened slowly instead of all at once. They didn’t seem to mind…All of us – a little bit – we harden our hearts, grow callous. Only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is to us, how dear.” — Dr. Bennell in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
After his struggle to inform authorities that the threat is real, the eventuality is the call for martial law to investigate what the unknown menace and eventually the disease would take over everyone.
If the story were updated to fit the time we live in now the result would be and probably is the theme for the television series “The Walking Dead.”
Just like in the 1950’s, America seems to be struggling with its soul and core beliefs. We are also struggling with clashes of philosophies between extreme Islam and the ever present threat of World War. The difference now is that the World War is over the same types of ideologies that were pervasive in the1950’s.
Even though Nazism was defeated in the 1940’s there still was the fear that the United States would fall into a despotic maelstrom and that leaders would make decisions that would go against the core ideologies of the constitution and that there would be many others that would make decisions that would change the way we live.
The frustration would be that only a small amount of people would be wide awake and that it would be encouraged to just “fall asleep” and become a zombie following the destructive ideology that is presented.
The frightening thing is that back then the zombie looked like a normal person. A human body that had inside of it an alien infection that could not be detected on the outside.
Now, the zombies seen in ‘The Walking Dead’ are obviously frightening, but what may be missed is that inside each of the characters fighting the zombies are demons that little by little are taking away their humanity.
The best thing these characters can do is appropriate. Then we see the human transformation of apparently nice and stable people into worse monsters than the zombies. This is where we see characters like the Governor and even Rick make decisions where people are placed in real danger and are used as pawns for the survival of the few or the one.
This is the bottom line for the leaders of today and that is the reason why we all fear that a culling is coming and that people will be killed in order to maintain resources. In the big scheme of things, those in charge see to it that people are expendable resources in a crisis and there comes a time where money does not matter and material things do not matter.
This is where the horror begins: it begins when morality is whittled away because of hopelessness and the inability for us to be creative and innovative in a world that appears to have no future and a world that somehow has stopped listening to people who have new ideas and new ways of thinking.
When our head is full of zombie, perhaps there should be a quick glance in the mirror to understand what we are truly capable of, why we think what we do and what experiences we are having that we can share with others.
We all seem to have thoughts and feelings that can be mixed together as ingredients in a paranormal soup. This is probably why most of us can relate to shows like ‘The Walking Dead’.
While ‘The Walking Dead’ deals with a more secular and survivalist view of death and the apocalypse the other promises redemption and resurrection from a savior who not only dies a bloody and significant death but is remembered as a man that conquered it by rising from his tomb and becoming an example of how anyone can conquer hell and the grave.
The entire parable if there is one to be acknowledged is that there is within all of us an evil that lurks within and we have to somehow overcome all of these evils in order to find redemption and safety.
These are core principles that have been with us from time ad infinitum.
We realize that the war we fight is not always against aliens, zombies or “the other“; it is an ongoing war in the mind where we fight for the goodness of who we are, rather than succumbing to becoming a more irreverent, wicked monster.
Look around and ask the pertinent questions about our existence today. Why is there such a growth in gun sales and ammunition sales in the country now? We have now been told that all of the bogeymen are dead and yet we are loading up on ammo and guns.
That tells me that we are afraid of ourselves and of what we are capable of becoming.
I have been told that I think too much about the zombie apocalypse – well, obviously I am not the only one.