This is how the Native-Americans at Standing Rock, North Dakota, have been fighting back against the spreading zombie apocalypse:
Nov. 19, 2016. Facebook newscaster Myron Dewey sings a prayer song in the early morning darkness and directs it across the Cannonball River where the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) workers—like a host of orcs—furiously rip into the earth beneath stadium floodlights.
Following Dewey’s song, his Digital Smoke Signals video records the distant sounds of vehicles and personnel moving in the dark. “Aho,” Dewey says, “They heard that song, the strong medicine coming their way. I want to encourage everyone to take time to say those blessings… for our relatives here. Send the blessings over the water to the DAPL. Maybe these blessings, these songs that they hear in the morning time will somehow touch their spirit. They’re not listening, but we know their spirit is listening, and it’s lost. It’s disconnected from this earth. So to bring it back we give our prayers.”
The Native peoples say that each of us has an individual spirit that connects us to our shared Earth. Only a person who has become separated from his spirit—“lost his spirit”—could conceive of wounding Mother Earth as the DAPL workers, their black ops security protectors, and their corporate overlords are doing. Dewey says that Native Americans “know that what we do to Mother Earth, we do to ourselves. These guys have lost their connection, their spirit, to the Earth. This is why it’s easy for them to desecrate this land completely, with no thought.”
From April until December 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors and their thousands of Native and non-Native allies continuously sent prayers to the DAPL workers and Morton County Sheriff deputies who attacked them with pepper spray, shot them in the back and face with rubber bullets, wounded them with concussion grenades, and doused them with high pressure fire hoses in sub-freezing temperatures.
In early December President Obama blocked the pipeline from crossing the Missouri River. Right now our Native-American relatives are hunkered down in the frigid North Dakota winter, awaiting—with courage, community, and good spirits—the arrival of the administration of Donald J. Trump.
In the classic 1956 horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, extraterrestrial spores grow emotion-free copies of the humans they come in contact with. The zombie idea of living-dead humans shows up in The Stepford Wives (where women are controlled by a TV remote) and The Mummy (wrapped-up empty bodies come back to life). It’s even in the current effort to engineer artificially intelligent robots that won’t trigger “repugnance” or the “yuck factor” we feel in the presence of an entity that appears to be human but lacks the capability of goodness or compassion.
In the movie Zombie Apocalypse the zombies swarm over the earth, bite and infect the dwindling numbers of humans with the virus erases their humanity and mutates them into zombie foot soldiers in the final war to dominate Earth.
I often wondered about my university students’ fascination with the zombie idea. Did the draw have something to do with a subconscious anxiety that our culture’s addiction electronic instruments like smart phones and Xboxes is turning humans into automatons? My students said yes, but also thought there is more.
Dressed in the black Kevlar and Darth Vader helmets of their riot gear, at Standing Rock the forces of the fossil fuel industry have fused with government law enforcement to become zombie warriors. Beyond physically assaulting the water protectors, they have attempted to traumatize them with constant surveillance, set the grassland on fire around the Native camps, generated fake news stories and scandals about the Indians—all of this as they continued to install an oil pipeline sure to leak and foul the waters and land of reservations downstream. Just 150 miles from the Standing Rock resistance, a pipeline recently poured 130,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek, killing a farmer’s cows. Over 220 major incidents of pipeline breaks have been reported in the U.S. in 2016 alone.
Now Donald Trump arrives with his dark lord cabinet appointments—a surreal collection of climate deniers who have spent their careers promoting favorable treatment for any corporation willing to despoil the public lands, waters and air for a profit. Former Gov. Rick Perry, nominated for Energy Secretary, sits on the board of Energy Transfers, the multinational corporation behind DAPL. Trump himself held a substantial interest in Energy Transfers until recently. Rex Tillerson, nominated for Secretary of State, was with ExxonMobil when the company spent millions promulgating a massive climate denial campaign that has been credited with blocking international climate action for so long that “a great deal of warming became inevitable.” Even though Exxon has officially backed away from its climate denial policy, Tillerson continues to misinform the public about climate science, according to the watchdog group Media Matters. Meanwhile, he has sued to halt any drilling and fracking around his lavish Texas ranch.
These men seem pathologically disconnected from the earth except as their private preserve, outside of which lie expanding “sacrifice zones” for resource extraction—poisoned places where underprivileged humans and other organisms live.
At the head of the gathering army of the dead will be a man who brags about his lack of compassion and is so hollowed out by his punishing narcissism that he must compulsively eat our minds with tweets and outrageous behavior so as to fill his emptiness with our attention. His appetite for selfish self-regard seems immense enough to swallow the planet. It’s the appetite the Native-Americans witnessed as the European invasion crossed the continent. Hoisting the false flag of energy independence, our new zombie-in-chief promises a nationwide effort to extract coal, oil and gas offshore and in every natural environment. More pipelines, more strip mines, more deadly warming, more sacrifice zones.
With Donald Trump a zombie apocalypse arrives, and the Indians at Standing Rock are on the front lines.
The true origin of this zombie pandemic is of course us, we and the darker angels of our American culture. We are the culture that inspired the world with the ideal of human equality and self-governance. But we are also a culture motivated by fear. It is at work everywhere: in workplace competition, in our paranoia about immigrants, terrorists, ‘liberals,’ the ‘alt-right,’ even and perhaps especially in the pop up ads and blaring commercials that compel us to buy products by making us afraid that we’re lacking something, missing out, not part of the ‘winners.’ Our culture extols the supreme value of the self and is spellbound by narcissists and celebrities, justifies greed as good. Our consumerism, our sense of entitlement and exceptionalism have become part and parcel of the American dream, which in its grossest but most popular form is the dream of a better life filled with ever more comforts, conveniences, frivolous distractions, ersatz privilege (extra legroom on the airplane) and mountainous material possessions, most of them headed for the nearest landfill, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or entangled in a sea bird’s stomach.
Like it or not, American culture in its current form destines our spirits to a disconnection from the Earth. Nature has become something we work to own a piece of in the middle class suburbs, or enjoy on our vacations. Many of us, possibly even most of us, feel helpless pangs when we see evidence of the ecological devastation our ravenous culture is wreaking, but even at our most pained we don’t feel wounds inflicted on the Earth as the Indigenous peoples do. During the three presidential debates no question was asked the candidates about environmental issues, and we Americans accepted that as okay. We have become deadened, zombie-fied. Now, as a country, we have chosen to elect a president pledged to perpetrate a conspiracy theory, a grand delusion reality show denying that any environmental crisis even exists. Whisked from their busy human bodies, more spirits will go missing, “lost.” The zombie apocalypse will spread.
If this were a Hollywood movie, the few surviving ‘authentic’ humans would plot to mount a deadly assault on the zombies in order to save themselves and retake the Earth. But violence is a zombie solution, not a human solution. The Sioux know better. They know that we are all relatives, all humans as well as all other beings, and that people who have lost their spirit can call it back.
So at Standing Rock, the Sioux have donated supplies for their adversaries in the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and sent them their songs and prayers in an effort to help their lost spirits return home. As Myron Dewey said, right now, the humans who are acting like zombies may not hear those prayer songs, but we know their lost spirits are listening.