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Eccentric orbits

Beware the zombie hordes of Black Friday

Walmart, we are coming for you and your cheap televisions. Elena Gatti, CC BY

The evisceration scene. Connoisseurs of zombie cinema will know that this is near mandatory but, at this point, I’m going to assume that you have no idea what I am talking about. It goes like this.

Imagine an unlikely but plucky band of heroes that have joined together in response to the total collapse of society. Most of humanity is either dead and rotting, or dead and being eaten by the rest of humanity who are the “undead”. Some terrible plague has affected Homo sapiens killing billions who quickly come back to life as, crazed flesh-eating zombies.

Into the maelstrom are thrown a group of very different people: rich selfish business man; feisty independent single mother; cowardly junior lecturer; gruff ex-marine; nerdy (and almost mandatory bespectacled) computer engineer; street wise and cynical youth.

There comes a point in the final act where rich selfish business man realises that his best chances for survival would be to abandon, in fact sacrifice, the others. Perhaps they stumble upon the only working car. He enters to find the keys in the ignition and a tank full of gas.

The department store picked the wrong day to open up late. Thierry Ehrmann, CC BY

At that point a wave of zombies shamble around the corner (like Shaun of the Dead star Simon Pegg I am firmly of the opinion that zombies cannot run). We cut to a tight shot of rich selfish business man. His eyes dart from the dashboard to his companions outside of the car. His hand reaches out but instead of starting the car he locks the door. There is a wave of reactions from the others, each reflecting elements of their personality and history as they begin to realise what is unfolding.

Rich selfish business man starts the engine but before he pulls away he catches a glimpse of something in the rear view mirror. At that point the zombie that had been laying in the back seat leaps forward and sinks his rotting blackened teach into the the rich selfish business man’s neck.

Somehow the rest escape. Deliverance may come via army helicopter, a suddenly noticed manhole or some other plot device. Unfortunately for rich selfish business man the zombie horde rapidly descend on the car, smash the windows and pull him out onto the roadside.

His evisceration then commences. I’ll spare you the details but it gets rather messy. You can either play the game of identifying the different cuts of meat as they are produced from the prosthetic abdomen, or avert your eyes until the screaming, grunting and chewing ceases.

I would like you to bear in mind this scene as you watch the following short video.

Shopping zombies sniff out a good deal.

George Romero is the great zombie movie director and some of his films were clearly intended as satire. A significant fraction of his classic Dawn of the Dead is set within a shopping mall. Inside, the undead mill about in shuffling confused states. No longer able to think or reason there is still some vestigial part of them that recognises this as being a centrally important place in their lives. Dawn of the Dead was first released 36 years ago. Perhaps the only update required would be for rich selfish business man to be reckless selfish banker. Or perhaps Vice Chancellor?

Black Friday is becoming an increasingly international event. Each year produces new shaky phone camera footage inside some mammoth superstore depicting scenes of utter chaos as bargain hunters literally fight each other for the rights to carry off widescreen TVs and other consumer items.

Super-cheap TVs still have a big cost. David Parry/PA

Sometimes, in those quiet moments when I reflect on things and possible futures, I dread that our current generations will be judged as having fundamentally failed. That at a time when we could have achieved so much, we instead descended to this. A horde of crazed shoppers. A plague of consumption that is denuding the Earth of its natural resources and rapidly filling up pollution sinks.

What appears absent in people’s calculation of how long they want to queue in the cold and damp, how much they are willing to physically assault another human being in order to win the privilege of buying a new microwave, is the cost – the real cost – of all this stuff. The forests removed and populations displaced in order to mine the metals and minerals that make up LCDs. The water consumed in the manufacture of the semi conductors inside smart phones. The carbon emitted in the production and shipping of washing machines.

Then again, even if such costs were made completely clear on the label, what net effect would that have on someone willing to trample someone to death who is in the way of tablets and vacuum cleaners available at massive reductions?

Black Friday is an example of the worst of us. It’s the dystopian conclusion of a hyper-consumerist pathology that would strip the Earth of its species, ecosystems and wonder and replace it with a never ending race to have more only to throw it all away and start over.

Some bargain.

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