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  • Dan Albert S. de Padua

Surrounded by Zombies

What do you do when you wake up and find your house surrounded by zombies?

Snarling, snapping, crazed sub-humans, bodies twisted grotesquely beyond any functional logic, waiting for some movement or sound to trigger an attack by a horde that will devour or destroy all that is normal and good, decent or authentic . . .

I was not paid by anyone to plug “The Walking Dead” which airs on TV5 on Thursdays at 7:00 pm. In fact, I paid for my own crispy pata when I had lunch with some TV5 executives recently. Moreover, I don’t like anything with zombies, except maybe for Train to Busan because I didn’t expect a movie in Korean to hold my attention, and, oh, World War Z because for the first time zombies moved horrifically fast in that movie, and of course Zombieland because it was funny and because it featured Emma Stone.

Anyway, I woke up a few days ago, went online, and it hit me: the social media space is not merely teeming with trolls, it has been overrun by zombies. Move one muscle, make a tiny sound—that is, let your frustration show, express an innocent desire for something better, post a photo with a trenchant comment, do anything that catches attention—and zombies will swarm all over you with threats and arguments as grotesque and as ridiculous as they are never-ending. We live in fear of a head snapping in our direction, unthinking eyes focusing on us and some signal going out to other zombies to surge toward us and pile on. We know they will not stop until they have taken us down and feasted on us.

Offline as well, at social gatherings and at the office, we choose our words carefully. We try to avoid certain topics. We watch everyone, hoping to identify in advance who has been infected, who has been converted, who at a moment’s notice will raise newly bloodshot eyes and see us as the next victims. Zombies are everywhere and against all reason their numbers continue to increase. The saddest part of any zombie invasion is watching people we love, respect and admire turn into monsters. People we’ve known most of our lives, people close to us become these things we can’t understand. The war between the necropoliticians and the narcopoliticians has expanded and insinuated itself into every facet of our lives, becoming a struggle to preserve common humanity; and in the face of a relentless onslaught on our values, we are all in danger of losing our moral footing. There are zombies on every side now.

But wait! The world can’t end this way. In the groundbreaking movie Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington, wasn’t there some kind of unlikely ray gun that zapped all the zombies? In the video game Plants vs. Zombies, peashooters could kill zombies, too, provided the zombies weren’t wearing buckets on their heads. Surely there is something we can do.

Ever since I realized that we are surrounded by zombies, I’ve been racking my precious, uneaten brains for a viable course of action. Fighting back seems to be the most satisfying option. Shoot the shit out of the evil dead and stop them in their tracks. Online, match the zombies comment for comment, meme for meme. In person, engage them in debates, slam them and shimmy when you score points. The trouble is, however, they’re zombies! They can’t be killed. They just keep getting back up and coming at us again and again. If somehow you stop one, ten more will take its place.

Retreating to a safe zone seems to be a more realistic alternative. Run from the zombies. Get behind some kind of wall. Announce to the world: My page, my rules. Ignore, block and unfriend anyone who uses zombie language or hints at having a zombie opinion. Go to a place where conflict is limited to basketball games between college teams. But then, how long can these sanctuaries remain protected? And how long can we live in denial?

Besides, fighting and fleeing are the reactions of primitive minds. We believe we are better than the zombies because we can think. We ought to be able to think our way out of this situation. We’ve got to find a serum, an antidote and ultimately a vaccine. It’s going to take a long time, but in the end it’s the only way to win the war against zombies.

We need to fix social media. We need to develop regulatory or technological solutions that will encourage, if not impose, social media responsibility. We need to eliminate fake news. Over and above the internet, we need to fix our justice system. We need people to know that they will always be held accountable for their actions, regardless of who is in power. We do not need new laws that cannot be enforced, and we need enforcement of laws not merely the imposition of will. At the most basic level, we need to overhaul education from pre-school to college and beyond. From the time children learn to speak and write up to the time they learn to comment and argue, they must be taught the importance of law and order and the equal value of human rights. We need this vaccine. It’s the only way to win the war.

In the meantime, I hope you have a happy Halloween.


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