Through a study of history, philosophy, and politics, we have come to recognize an historically derived poisoning of the culture we inhabit, a poisoning with the effect of normalizing and legitimizing social patters involving pervasive and progressive top-down human-on-human parasitism, whole cultural systems distorting reality in support of a perverse political correctness. Since we are aware of that poisoning of culture, we have to admit that we are faced with surviving in something like a real-life version of Zombie-land. (The movie Zombieland (2009) was directed by Ruben Fleischer, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Produced by Gavin Polone, Relativity Media, Pariah, Columbia Pictures, starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin.) Most of the people we deal with every day are completely unconscious of distortions of reality engineered by the culture of parasitism, and play along, however unwillingly, with self-identifications imposed by malevolent social and cultural forces around them, in effect acting through a zombie shell or avatar.
Cultural Distortions: Zombie Reality
It will be no surprise to anyone that religion is a cultural presence that always influences the public discourse, thinking, behaviour, and perceptions of people in communities practicing religion. It is more of a surprise, although exactly parallel, that the ideology by which a ruling faction of a community legitimizes its privileges and immunities also has profound influence on everyone’s thinking and on the security situation of people who communicate anything publicly. For example, journalism claims to be about telling truth to power and about power, but almost always is just telling entertaining stories that support the master story narrated by the business, corporate, and military community. In those stories, the legitimacy of institutions, especially private commercialized activities and military-ready masculinity must always be confirmed and celebrated, as a declaration of faithful (religious) patriotism.
Typical modern distortions of reality, broadly accepted falsehoods, are these:
that corporate, professional, and political hierarchy is meritocracy, in spite of pervasive inequality of opportunity, and in spite of the wide variety of interests, talents, and powers different people develop;
that rankings from competitions justify a progressively concentrated top-down parasitism: “to the victor belong the spoils”;
that the purest masculinity expresses itself as audacious human-on-human parasitism, that boys will thus be boys, and that such grand masculinity is the foundation of the glorious accomplishments of humanity, that the force of masculinity binds human collectives together and so is the foundation of civilization;
that top-down human parasitism is thus legitimate and benevolent, even in extreme forms such as war and exclusively private ownership of capital;
the political correctness of never publicly detailing the influence that owners of capital exert over their property, through the political system, in nominally democratic countries;
that countries have democratic sovereignty because they have elections every four or five years, even though the cost to participate as a candidate is prohibitively high (For a nation to be truly democratic, one requirement would be that assemblies which exercise sovereignty, that draft and proclaim laws, would have to be recruited like juries, by a draft of all citizens except for lawyers, doctors, police and military officers and generally those presently excused from being called for jury duty. Consider: Why aren’t they?);
that corporate capitalism is the best possible economic, social, and political arrangement, and that no better system is possible because this one manifests human nature almost perfectly, and so could be said to be instituted by God;
that the commonly feminine nurturing engagements are less consequential, less valuable, than the commonly masculine competitive and military-style engagements;
that masculinity is appropriately represented by the professional sport industry, and that femininity is appropriately represented by the fashion industry;
that the self-identification or self-definition of a person can be made using cultural tags such as labour-market categories, gender markers, and competitive placements;
that transcendence resides in something other than, and external to, individual intelligences;
that abstractions such as nation-states and economic institutions (markets) have transcendent (semi-divine or divine) personality suitable for emotional attachments typical of fundamentalist religion;
that there is disembodied intelligence, sometimes disembodied super-intelligence (the great spirit).
The Zombie Metaphor
It seems obvious that the whole idea of zombies is a metaphor for the deadening effect of living and working within a set of reality distortions and culturally supported falsehoods including those just listed, the regimented systems of modernity. Culturally acquired ways of expressing those distortions shape the public appearance of each individual into a zombie-like shell. Of course, the striking difference between the world portrayed in the movie Zombieland and our real life situation is that the people around us are all still very much living intelligences who must always be treated ethically and non-violently. In the movie, the people who have become zombies do not have to be treated ethically any more. The surviving humans are relieved of the need to think and act ethically in relation to them. In real life it is exactly the opposite. Dealing with people expressing those cultural distortions of reality, and so inhabiting and acting out zombie shells, is the normal situation requiring ethical thinking and acting.
Justice, Ethics, Morality: Empathy
Postings on this blog frequently emphasize the interiority of individual intelligence, how much of anyone’s experience is strictly interior to his or her constructed orientation, as in, for example, the observation that orientation, the interior of individual intelligence, since it includes creative non-actualities such as a rich past and a mutable future, cannot be part of the strict actuality that is nature. In combination with the fact that interacting with others improves enormously the experience and enjoyment of intelligence, that makes empathy an urgent imperative for effort and attention. The more we are aware of the extent of our monadic interiority, the more important it becomes to make the effort to be empathic with people around us, and the more obvious it becomes that empathy takes special effort.
The ultimate foundation of justice and morality is empathy, awareness of any intelligence’s innate revulsion from insult, injury, contemptuous or inconsiderate treatment, in general the revulsion from being treated in any way which does not honour, respect, and dignify the subjective experience of receiving that treatment. Behaviour that is moral, just, or ethical requires diligence in putting yourself into the subjective orientation of the people you are dealing with and then honouring their experience in the way you act toward them, instead of dishonouring it by ignoring its inclinations, joys, and sufferings. Not every discomfort, inconvenience, or opposition can be or should be avoided, however. After all, most people live inside zombie-shells that suit the oligarchic parasites, but still, violations of their subjectivity must be kept within the limits of dignity, must be acknowledged to them and provided with strong, reasonable justifications. This is much like the Kantian insistence that people always be treated as ends and never only as means to ends.
Preparations for war always include de-humanizing an enemy, often stipulating as a crime any public presentation of empathy for people identified in that way as prey for the agenda of the oligarchic faction. Patriotic citizens are thus conditioned to accept participation in horrendous crimes. War is an illustration of the fact that serious empathy is absent from the predator/ prey worldview and from the ideology of meritocracy. Crime family values promote reliable return on investment to the exclusion of empathy toward people required to sacrifice for that return.
To achieve any serious empathy you have to get past cultural tags. Don’t draw ultimate conclusions from a person’s group memberships, team affiliations, emotional bonds to personified abstractions, trophies, gender, or competitive placements, from clothing or other shell-components. Those tags constitute an individual’s zombie identity. The shell can’t be ignored because people often project and defend it passionately, and it can be brutal and lethal. Be mindful of the force of your own zombie shell, your own accommodation to fictions that enable institutional parasitism. Re-orient through rejecting the distortions, and embracing the realities they mask.
Considering more deeply into another person’s subjective orientation, each is a particularly situated and empowered freedom, a transcendently free intelligence re-making the world by working to construct a satisfying life, but more or less hijacked by ambient culture, distracted from awareness of elemental self-identification. Nobody chooses a zombie identity from a position of profound self-possession. In order to think into another person’s particularly situated and empowered orientation, it is necessary to notice something about the particularity of that situation, without violating privacy. Although “real” zombies are beyond rescue, no person is beyond re-orientation to elemental reality.
When others interact with you they will probably be looking at your cultural identity-tags and miss being aware of your elemental self, as described in posting 57, March 21, 2013, Cartesian First Philosophy and The Elemental Hazmat Suit. The elemental self is usually unidentified and so unnoticed. Since others likely haven’t identified the elemental self very clearly, you will be able to sense it in them possibly better than they can themselves. Do not honour cultural tags, but rather relate to the elemental self in everyone, the freedom. Honour the fragility of anyone’s freedom. Stay away from force and violence, insult and injury. However, clear and urgent self defence is always permissible.
The Equality of Subjective Interiority
Every intelligence is transcendent, and none are more or less transcendent than others. There is nothing in the inherent qualities of interiority to rank one over another, or to give one sovereign or parasitic rights over another. Freedom is freedom, and that is the character of intelligent interiority. There is no justification for one subjective interiority to suck away the freedom of another, to avoid certain kinds of work by preying on the disadvantages and vulnerabilities of others. The strongest and most gratifying expression of intelligence is the enabling of the self-identification of other intelligences. In the interest of a duty to the transcendence of intelligence, it is not enough to obey laws or any other sort of command, but instead, it is necessary to respect the interiority of intelligence, and act respectfully from empathy.
In the movie Zombieland, Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Columbus, works on compiling a list of rules for surviving in Zombieland. Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee, contributes “Enjoy the little things” to that list. By the end of the movie the list should also include “Find a family.” It is obvious from web-based information media that lots of people have come to recognize the cultural distortions of reality that support oligarchic parasitism. It isn’t paranoia because you are not a special target. You are a transcendently free agent with a strategic position and assets, but not a special messenger, no more or less a hero than anyone else. Your political/ spiritual situation isn’t personal, but cultural and profoundly human. Find a family. Enjoy the little things. Act ethically and in a way to help librate people from zombie-shells.
Copyright © 2013 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.