We’ve all heard the story by now: the vicious attack by a nude, face-eating cannibal in Florida over Memorial Day weekend. On a ramp of the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, Rudy Eugene spent approximately 18 minutes chewing the face off of a homeless man. Police had to shoot Eugene dead to get him to stop.
From Maryland, another disturbing case was reported. A college student confessed to authorities that he not only killed someone, but that he ate his heart, and some of his brain. Then in New Jersey, a crazed man stabbed himself more than 50 times. Even though the police peppered-sprayed him, he still managed to throw parts of his own intestines at them.
It’s no wonder that wild tales of an upcoming zombie apocalypse have been running rampant on social networks. After all, what sort of person could kill another human being then eat them? Such despicable, gruesome behavior was certainly zombie-like. Especially considering that the perpetrators were reportedly difficult to put down, despite being shot. Superfluous reports of flesh-eating bacteria and other bizarre tales that fit neatly into the niche of zombie lore only added to the frenzy.
Concerns of an approaching zombie apocalypse, while outrageous, created so much buzz that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) felt it was necessary to step forward and clarify that there was no zombie outbreak stirring. The Miami cannibal wasn’t a member of the undead, he was just high on bath salts. Other zombie-esque assailants had histories of mental defect.
However, the CDC’s repudiation hasn’t stopped the public from talking about the potential for some sort of zombie invasion. Some poke fun at it. The Daily Beast posted a Google map of “Signs of the Zombie Apocalypse.” Others are attempting to profit from it, by selling zombie survival kits. Still, some people are genuinely alarmed at the thought.
Why the rush to believe such a, outlandish, fantastical rumor? Zombies are a part of pop culture, yes, but there’s something more going on here.
It’s 2012. Mainstream society seems to have fallen prey to the whole argument that “The End is Near,” proposed by doomsayers and fundamentalists everywhere. Whether it’s been preordained by ancient Mayans, foretold by Nostradamus, written in the stars, or prophesied by the Book of Revelation, people today are more likely to believe that humanity is doomed.
Perhaps humankind suffers from guilt over the condition we find the planet and ourselves in, and rightly so. Climate change is real. There’s hard science proving its progression, and we’ve contributed substantially to it. Every year, as our population explodes, we burn through more nonrenewable resources, and encroach on the territory of plants and animals who have nowhere else to go. We pollute the ocean and hoard toxic waste. We wage bloody wars against one another, while children starve or die of curable diseases, even in this country. Christianity teaches that man is the steward of nature. If that’s true, it’s pretty safe to say we’ve failed miserably, even by their standards.
Maybe Western society has a subconscious desire to be put out of its misery. Since 9/11 it lives under constant threat of terrorist attacks, including the possible weaponization of bacteria, disease, and parasites. Economically, the whole world is in trouble, and there appear to be few viable solutions at its disposal. Many feel as though their lives are spinning out of control. There are no easy answers, and there’s no question, many people today are living in fear. Have we brought disaster upon ourselves? The jury’s still out, but I can tell you one thing with the utmost certainty: if the end is indeed near, it won’t come at the decrepit hands of reanimated flesh-eating zombies.
We’ve got bigger dragons to slay, and it’s time we’ve stopped feeling sorry for ourselves. While they aren’t “flesh-eating” killers, anyone who spends countless hours watching mindless television, who remains disengaged from their surroundings, who purposefully chooses not to use their voice to support causes they believe in, or who simply refuses to think for themselves, is a zombie: a mindless consumer who is blind to atrocities committed against their own people. You see, zombies are essentially dead sheep.
Sleepers, awaken. Don’t be blindsided by fearmongers who distract us with the sensational or grotesque. Instead of worshiping celebrities, pay attention to real issues in Indian country and internationally that affect our lives and the future of our children. Disaster could be on the horizon, but it’ll more likely occur because the masses were asleep at the wheel, while their governments stripped them of their rights, refused to plan for the future by promoting green energy or healthcare programs, or we sat idly by as officials who supposedly represent us allowed Mother Earth to be polluted and raped of her resources by corporate giants, all under our watch.
Take action, prepare, and unite. We are the vision and the dream of our ancestors. Natives, we haven’t survived centuries of attempted genocide just to duck our heads in the sand and bow to mainstream societal norms of oppression. On a genetic level, we are fearless, come hell or high water. We are warriors. Have a little faith in who we are, and that’s anything but a zombie.
Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, speaker, former science professor and tribal attorney. She is a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and LastRealIndians.com.