Commentary by Terry Anker
The notion of a zombie apocalypse has become common parlance to indicate the end of the world. Dozens of television series, movies, songs and even band names are dedicated to the dystopian notion that the human race will end not with seven horsemen or a nuclear-enabled eastern dictator but, instead, with a virus gone awry.
Generations of us have come of age in a time when disease and contagion rank among our utmost fears. AIDS, Ebola, flesh eating bacteria and Zika are part of our common lexicon – and the vague anxiety-producers in our lives. Are they going to affect us directly? If we care for ourselves carefully, they probably will not. But, they may change our dating, travel or outdoor habits – for good. We dread that a single, casual social interaction could lead to an irreversible life-changing, or life-ending, instance.
So, we’ve figured out that the world is dangerous. But didn’t we know this when Og first bumped into a saber-toothed tiger and didn’t make it back to the cave? Most humans understand that a bit of caution can lead to an extended lifespan. So, we have come to hide out in the cave. Our social interactions move in bits and bytes through smartphones and social networks. We meet in cyber chat rooms and travel through virtual reality tanning beds. Yet, are there zombies lurking on Facebook? Do the brain-eaters lie in wait behind a silly, cat-themed meme? Can they grab us with a clever or salacious headlines, infect our minds with hate and cause us to do the same to others? If, as some argue, there is a disease affecting our society – one that makes us blind to the perspectives and beliefs of others – is there any hope for inoculation?