Monday, 20 July 2015

Zombie apocalypse cometh

Although I reserve the right to be a crotchety old woman when my time comes, I have often snorted with indignant disgust when those of the older generation criticise the state of youth in society today.  It seems logical to me that the older generations leave the legacy that the younger ones have to survive within by whatever means available to them.  Complaining that that young people don't share traditional values is really just pointing out that the older ones didn't help shape a society where these values were important enough to continue with.   

Selfishness, stupidity, violence and ignorance are not qualities transmitted through genes.   Nor do they creep in via tap water or the air we breathe.  These are ways that have been taught to children who come into the world innocent and biologically primed to fit into the culture in which they find themselves.  That is the primary survival strategy nature has gifted babies - to observe the subtleties of other people and re-create perfectly what they see, even a sort of exaggerated version of their observations.  If children are off the rails and worse than before, it is only because they are the reflection of what they see. 

Deep down, we know this.  Maybe we can't always admit it, but somewhere it registers that we are the masters of our own destruction.  We know that if things all go pear shaped for the entire human race, we've all had a role to play.   I think modern obsessions with vampires and zombies are a sort of way of dealing with this frightening knowledge.  Film, television shows keep churning out programs with slightly different takes on the un-dead.  

The vampires, are blood thirsty killers, clever and beautiful but dangerous and incapable of real human feeling.  Zombies, on the other hand, are mindless.  Slaves to insatiable hunger which leaves the whole world desolate.  Self destructive as well as dangerous, the uninfected people pitted against them strive to maintain some semblance of humanity, even though they can see it is futile against the tide of un-dead millions.  

What an apt metaphor summarising the current direction of the whole human race.  Things change so quickly, and in a few short years the ways we live, communicate, eat, socialise transform in unpredictable ways that reflect new technologies and modern advances.  These technological developments seem amazing and helpful, but we are increasingly drawn away from actual social interaction with the illusion of technology dependant social interactions.  Increasingly, within the therapy room, my colleagues and I deal with the aftermath of social media and the disconnected ways of being always connected.  Fears over what others are thinking or doing are not just the kindling of our internal ruminations.  We can easily check out if someone has just decided to not respond to our email or text.  We know almost immediately if an ex has moved on.  And bullies are bolder than I remember in my childhood, as they operate from the comfort and security of their computer screen.  And the bullied are no longer safe once they shut the door behind them at home.  Are we all becoming heart-less?  Less humane and more selfish and destructive? 

Our friendships exist in electronic realms.  Our lives contained in a handheld device.  We spend untold hours staring at it, asking it questions, determining our next moves with it, creating ourselves and reaching out to our loved ones, all while not actually touching the world we imagine ourselves to be engaged in.  The little screens offer a seductive diversion and become a habit, to the point of creating a zombie out of each of us.  We don't look as human, as we trudge along, eyes downward cast, drooling over whatever has our attention for that brief moment. It sounds terrible but these mobile devices are not actually evil. And they are such a trap in that we unintentionally end up zombie-fied when our actual intention to be connect to others.

"Phone Wall," the campaign by Ogilvy & Mather China

When I think of things in that way, I feels helpless against the inevitable tide of the increasingly insular, disconnected society we seem doomed to create for our children.   But it also offers a wake up call from time to time.  For instance, when I catch Ethan pretending a banana is a phone which he speaks into very a exasperated and rushed manner.  Or when Thom and I catch ourselves staring blankly at our screens while he makes his dinosaurs and hot wheels run up and down our legs.  It's  a tragic sight and one that I feel sincerely sorry about.  

For better or worse, we are here, at this point in history with all these electronic gizmos.  But I don't want to leave my child the legacy of disconnected relationships and impersonal electronic communication.  I don't want him to miss out on the little human things like reading someone's feelings in their eyes and talking face to face.  I don't want to teach him to bury his face into his phone rather than face what's right in front of him. So that means we will have to be different.  Different than we have been and different than the rest of the zombies.