RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! The un-thinking have come to eat your brains.
We’re no longer talking about the guy in his wife-beater regurgitating white pride memes to his family at a dinner table, or a group of buddies at the local bar venting about how they have to get us back good old days, or a lone pamphleteer scribbling that FEMA is really a secret UN organization of international communists who want to force everyone to cross-breed in order to eradicate racial discrimination. No, we’re talking the wholesale abandonment of fact, evidence and expertise for the Cult of Gut: “I don’t care what the facts are: I knows it’s true. My gut tells me so,” leading to a time when a celebrity can tweet that the earth is flat and get any response other than derision, when people start dying of measles in the US again (where it was eradicated in 2010), when government employees demand special privileges to refuse issuing marriage licenses and business owners can forbid employees’ access to complete medical insurance simply for worshiping the ancient sky god of illiterate desert nomads, and when a major party’s candidate for president of the United States can vomit naked bigotry, and then point to the number of likes and re-tweets he gets as further proof it’s true, because it affirms what he feels is true—“I just know it.”
While bigotry has been around since there has been an Us and Them, willful ignorance around since Conventional Wisdom gave humans an easy way to avoid the work of thinking or the trouble of changing, and prideful stupidity around since one guy learned that shouting louder than the other guy can win an argument regardless of who is actually right, the Enlightenment gave us the tools to kept these social cancers, more or less, under control. The tools acted both as a shield from these treacherous diseases of thought, and as vaccination against contracting them in the first place.
If and when we use them.
Here in the US, these tools had been showing real promise, especially in the twentieth century—once herd immunity started working—though not perfectly and certainly not everywhere equally. At least in public, those infected with the diseases of mindlessness were not taken seriously and mostly left to wallow in their own medieval imaginations, impotent to spread their infection, with McCarthyism an ominous exception.
But ever since I was old enough to care about such things—roughly when Ronald Regan was first elected—I’ve watched as the infected have crawled out from hiding, even appearing on national TV and in mainstream print, shibboleths dripping from their lips, memes where their minds once were, carrying a contagion that kills humanity’s greatest asset: the ability to think.
Crushing evidence under their many thousands of mindless feet, the infected thoughtless carried pre-form realities with them, ones that did not depend on what could be seen or shown, only on what they believed was true. Contrary facts were dismissed or twisted to fit their private worlds. They brought moral panics to spread their disease, such as the nationwide terror of satanic ritual abuse of children, fears that games of imagination were actually devil worship, and confidence that making the rich richer helps the poor by trickling money down to them: the Voodoo economy of the Invisible Hand of the Market guided by True Belief. It feels right, so it must be right—one has only to believe strongly enough to make it true.
This was the first wave of the true zombie apocalypse, and they fed on mind after mind.
And it’s only gotten worse as the infected have hauled their gut trusting anti-Intellectualism into the mainstream. It now appears regularly on network news, in major newspapers, and in the mouths of political figures—the zombies are taking over.
This should worry the hell out of everyone, and frankly, piss more of us off. Yes, us: we who share Enlightenment values like individual liberty, progress, tolerance, and ending the collusion of church and state, we who value using reason, empiricism, and scientific rigor, and who reject received truth: truth with a capital T, the absolute, unalterable truth, which the Zombie masters have always twisted to fit their needs.
One Candle in the Darkness will test drive ideas to fight off this mass brain death.
Not to cure the infected, as that won’t happen, at least not often enough to be worth spending the time and energy. Why? Because the irrational cannot be reasoned with, and the faithful cannot be swayed by facts contrary to what they already believe: they will accept only evidence that fits their own personal realities.
Our goals must be different: quarantine the brain-dead, inoculate the vulnerable, and rescue the not too far-gone.