Tag Archives: zombie apocalypse

Accountability and the zombie apocalypse

The hardest thing about speaking out is the fear of reprisal. When there is a significant power imbalance, this is a genuine source of anxiety. For the protestor who takes on the police, the person who goes whistleblowing about dangerous workplaces, the people who take on governments… you stand up to a system that might well give itself the power to stamp on you and pat itself on the back for doing so. Tyrants in the home will operate in much the same way.

This is one of the reasons why international human rights laws are so important, and why the Conservatives wanting to pull out of European agreements troubles me. I like to think that if I end up bleeding to death in the street, someone else will have the power to call my government out over what happened to me. We all need to be answerable to someone. We all need something that can challenge us, and the more power a person or group have, the more counterweight there needs to be.

In my soul I am an anarchist, wanting freedom from stifling legislation and a community that depends on honour and does the right things for the right reasons. Between the ears I am a pragmatist, all too aware that you only need a couple of really evil bastards to corrupt that kind of fluffy ideal. It’s no good saying we are answerable to our own consciences, because not everybody has one of those. It’s not enough to be answerable to the Gods, because frankly their track record on smiting people for acting out is not what it could be.

There is a flip side to accountability – namely that we have to enact it. There’s no point having a system if people will not, or dare not use it. Calling out is a part of the accountability process. Voicing dissent and manifesting protest is essential to make the system we have, work. And yet for the greater part we just shut up and put up. We accept infringements of our rights, we accept environmental degradation and species loss. How much of that is down to fear and how much is about apathy?

I do not want to shuffle slowly towards certain doom. I’ll go down fighting, not randomly falling apart as one more non entity in a zombie apocalypse. Every day though I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of causes that need supporting and wars that need waging. I am horrified by the numbers of vulnerable people continually being pushed to the edge. I am furious about the many abuses of power at all levels and that there are just not enough hours in the day to campaign on all of this. I want to be an army.

And at the same time, fighting a legacy of anxiety, fighting myself every bit as much as I fight those external battles. I have to keep reminding myself that I have rights, and that there are no systems in existence that are actually entitled to crush me for the sheer hell of it. But they do try and crush us all the same, and those day to day battles of survival are grinding lot of people down right now. I hear a lot, especially on facebook, about ‘you can’t get there from here’ philosophy and other people being forced into situations where the only options seem to be variations on a theme of lose. Keeping fighting in face of that is not easy, but fight we must because quite simply the alternative is to sink and go under, accepting being crushed.

I have fought battles I was told were unwinnable. I have fought them and won. They were costly, painful victories, but I do not regret them. When you are faced with living death, a fight that calls for your blood and pain, your tears and terror is a fight you might not even see the point in fighting. I am here to tell you to fight. Stand up, again, and again. Do not allow anyone to tell you that there is no hope and no way because this is usually A LIE and there are ALWAYS alternatives. Fight the impossible wars and believe they can be won. Fight your own despair. Come and tell me your tales from the trenches and I will tell you mine, and maybe we can all keep each other going.

The zombie apocalypse is here already, and you are fighting for your life.

Nameless Dread

One of the things I both love and am frustrated by in Lovecraft’s work is that tendency towards ‘things too terrible to describe’. I know from my own experience that he’s right, in that the nameless dreads are always the scariest ones, but as a reader, I want to know a bit more about how dreadful it is, because I want to be entertained, not driven mad with terror.

The craziest forms of terror have so much to do with uncertainty, for me. Give me a problem, a challenge, a wound, anything, and I will endeavour to deal with it. Give me the possibility that in a week’s time I’m going to be put through something awful, and then I really suffer. In face of the uncertainty, I can imagine all kinds of terrible things, and I have a really good imagination. One really terrible thing that I actually have to go through is often less bad than all the imaginary things I am capable of doing to myself.

Name the dread and it’s not quite so scary.

Humans like to be able to name and quantify things. I think it gives us an illusion of control. Once we know what it’s called, or where it came from, a thing feels a bit more manageable. Having terrible weather events? Well, that’s climate change, isn’t it, so we’re all sorted, know what that means. Only we don’t. Calling the nameless dread in the cellar ‘Bob’ does not do much to reduce the chances that it’s going to open a portal to hell and eat your soul. But ‘Bob’ is labelled and feels like it’s under our control, and not really a nameless dread at all.

We stick little labels on the kinds of human behaviour that destroys and defiles. The labels don’t actually do anything, and only come into play after the event. Yes, it’s all well and good calling someone a psychopath after they’ve been out to play with an axe, but it doesn’t change what they’ve done. I think we’re prone to creating illusions of control and influence in this way, and it doesn’t help.

There are a lot of nameless dreads out there. The unknown, unimaginable things that might be waiting to tear your life apart. You don’t need Lovecraft’s Ancient Ones to drive yourself mad with fear. An hour or two of listening to and thinking about news broadcasting really should be sufficient.

What scares me most about people is how complacent we get. We name our nameless dreads and then we just assume they’re going to play nicely. Climate change. Global warming. Extinction. Deforestation. Pollution. They are bigger than we like to think. Nastier. Less understood, less known than we like to believe. We might be better off imagining that we have indeed unleashed a horde of ravening elder gods upon the world, at least that way we might be frightened into action rather than doing our best impression of a zombie apocalypse.

Of Depression and Druidry

I know a startling number of Druids who suffer from depression. Actually, I also know a just as alarming number of non-Druids with the same problems. It’s increasingly common. In fact, at this rate it’s going to become normal to be emotionally ill. One of the implications is that the nature of depression will need far more understanding. What non-sufferers imagine depression to be all about is painfully wide of the mark. But, if you’re not enduing it, the odds are increasingly that someone close to you, will, or that you will. Understanding how it goes makes it easier to deal with. Both for yourself and other people.

I think many of us assume that depression is a form of melancholy. People who feel sad may describe themselves (often inaccurately) as ‘a bit depressed’. There’s often a sense that what depressed people need to do is pull themselves together, stop being whinging emos, and get on with it. I probably don’t just speak for myself when I say, I find myself wishing it was that easy. Faced with someone who is pale, wilting, claiming they can’t do things, it can be easy to assume you’re seeing a freeloader, someone playing up, being melodramatic, attention seeking. Now, anyone who tells you they are depressed and then starts telling you what you have to do as a consequence of this is, frankly, a bit suspect. Controlling behaviour, regardless of the excuse, is not a thing to support or facilitate. Most of the depression sufferers I know find it very hard to ask for help. Telling people that they have to do things, is hard to imagine. Depression is not something we seek or enjoy, it’s life sapping and a bloody nuisance. Some days I feel like the whole time I’m walking round in lead boots wrestling with an octopus wrapped around me, that no one else can see. Normal things take ridiculous amounts of effort.

Depression is not ‘feeling a bit blue’ or ‘being a bit down’ or ‘needing to pull yourself together’. Depression is a defence mechanism. It’s a way of coping with things that the individual cannot otherwise handle. From the outside it may look like melancholy, from the inside it’s a process of shutting down, climbing into a shell, putting up the walls to keep out whatever it is that the body can no longer endure feeling. Stress, anxiety, and physical pain can all contribute to this process. The person who is weeping over something can often be in a better sort of place than the person who is still and silent because they’ve gone numb. Depression can be all about watching the colours drain out of your world. All the hope, all the reasons to keep going, fade away, and it feels like dying on the inside. Which sometimes results in people thinking that actually dying might not be such a terrible thing.

Why are so many of us falling soul-sick in this way? I think the more interesting question is, why everyone else has not done so yet. We have unprecedented access to the horrors of an entire planet. Every really attention grabbing murder and act of abuse makes it to the media. There’s a daily diet of war crime, tragedy, political idiocy. Every day we see the triumphs of money and power over common sense and decency. We’re driving species to extinction. When did you last see an image of a sick or dying child? Recently, at a guess. When was the last time a news item made you despair for humanity? Probably in the last week, at a guess.

In making a dedication to the land, in relinquishing ignorance and trying to live ethically, Druids take a course that eradicates any real hope of burying the head in the sand, and ignoring what’s out there. And of course we aren’t alone. People of heart and integrity are bound to feel what is constantly presented to them. Of course the violence, cruelty and tragedy are nothing new. It’s just that most of our ancestors only had to deal with what happened directly in their own lives, without simultaneously being burdened with the griefs of the world. One of the big problems with the griefs of the world is that most of the time, individually, there’s nothing we can do. A sense of powerlessness will eat away at your capacity for hope like nothing else. And that, in time, will put you on your knees.

As a Druid I have to stay open and aware. I cannot look away, ignore my responsibilities and pretend that all is well in the world. As some ambling ape-descended biology, I can’t always sustain that and keep moving. I have good days, and bad days. My body has a finite capacity for coping with distress. I try and generate hope. I do not always manage this.

I saw a facebook thing the other day, the gist went like this. The media tells you what to think and what to do. You run round on the treadmill making money for someone else, to buy stuff you don’t need that is killing the planet. Your air, food and water are being poisoned. And still you shuffle along. You are the zombie apocalypse. Wake the hell up.

I think there’s an argument for saying that a lot of depressed people are that way because they are awake. Perhaps if everyone woke up, we wouldn’t have to feel like this anymore. None of us. We could just fix things. And we really could just fix things, if enough of us wanted to and we could agree on how to do it. Let’s not go there. Hold the positive thought.