Culture & Conversation

The posts of Christmas past. No 1


In Do the Shuffle, first published on Dec 21, 2012, LEILA MARSHY contemplated the Mayan apocalypse, zombie hordes in the mall and the very real horrors of Sandy Hook.

If this isn’t the last day on Earth, maybe it should be. Seriously, planet, what have we done for you lately? It’s not like you haven’t warned us: glaciers splitting in half, oceans solidifying with islands of garbage, entire forests reduced to cinders. Oh yeah, and the Mayan calendar. What do you get for it? Nut jobs like the “preppers” who prepare for the end of the world by digging deep, stockpiling their guns, and vowing to shoot at anything that moves. Nice.

Sometimes I think we’re like that zombie woman in the first season of Walking Dead. She’d died along with thousands others in a wave of virus and chaos. Her husband and son hide in their boarded-up house dreading her ritual return. Something deep in her amygdala tells her that this used to be home, this used to be family, this used to be life. But she eventually turns away, even in death unwilling to eat her child.

Maybe little flashes of awareness come over us too. Maybe every once in a while someone wonders why the hell are we selling assault rifles to the guy next door. Why the hell are we poisoning our fields year after year with Round Up. Why the hell are we eating meat from animal concentration camps. Why the hell are we drugging our kids and pathologizing their behaviour.

Questions, questions, questions. It’s Christmas. Let’s go shopping! It’s no coincidence that some of the best zombie scenes through the years have been in malls. Even live ones: the Zombie Shopping Mall experience is already sold out this year. Dedicated to making “even the goriest dreams come true,” the UK company stages elaborate set pieces where you pay to “learn how to groan, shuffle and splatter like the living dead!”

Strange isn’t it. I personally don’t get the attraction. Not when we seem to live constantly in the shadow of the real dead. Twenty children and seven women at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for example, whose families will be experiencing near constant paroxysms of pain over the holidays. Real pain, in case that needs to be underscored. My own capacity for joy has been seriously diminished by this obscene tragedy, and I know I’m not alone in that.

Maybe that’s what we need: real pain. More times of crisis to get us through the night. Emergency moments that strip us down to the bare essentials and remind us that all the gold and glitter in the world won’t fix what ails us. Nature was happy to step in this past year and give it to us. The first nine months of 2012 were the hottest on record, and the Arctic sea ice melted to its lowest over the summer. By fall, Hurricane Sandy was there to mop it all up.

Nature didn’t quite blow off tops of mountains, though we did. The Gazette recently ran an amazing series exposing the sordid details of Canadian mining activities abroad. Now that CIDA development money is tied to our industrial interests – because just when you think we’ve gotten crass, we get even crasser – you can bet that this situation is not going to get any better.

And then there’s the violence. The kind of emergency we don’t need. The kind that rips off whatever dainty mask we’ve been wearing and reveals the monsters among us. We like to think that Canada is immune from the daily slaughter seen south of the border. But we had the Shafias, the Toronto mall shootings, Luka Magnotta, Guy Turcotte. Oh, and a thwarted assassination attempt on Marois by a deranged madman. They’re everywhere.

The thing about zombies is that they are nothing but instincts and vague memories. Just gory nostalgia buckets, really. They wander their neighbourhoods with vague purpose and nefarious intentions; they horde in groups but they don’t really know each other; and they have a knack for turning living things into fast food. Just like you and me, when you think about it.

I don’t know what 2013 holds. Let’s start with December 22 first, and take it from there. I know I’m increasingly finding myself at forks in the road, choosing between zombie existence on the one hand, and difficult exuberant life on the other. Why is it that the latter always seems to be the one less travelled by.

This article was part of a Rover series called Christmas at the End of the World.

Leila Marshy is Executive Editor of Rover.


  • 3 Responses to “The posts of Christmas past. No 1”

    1. Lucille

      The idea that the end of the human race isn't the worse thing that could happen is definitely something worth considering, I think. This is a really timely reflection on our specie's not only self-destructive nature, but also our apparent numbness when faced with devastation. Nice to read something thoughtful on our Last Day On Earth.


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