“The world has gotten smaller.” The phrase has become clichéd as the atomic age has gaven way to the internet age. Young adults entering the workforce today have never lived in a time when they couldn’t sit in their homes or workplaces and communicate with people who are on the other side of the globe as easily as they could talk to someone from the next town over. Combine this ease of communication with high speed transportation such as jet airplanes and it is easy to see how one’s concept of the world could be far more inclusive than in any time in the past.
This phenomenon has been especially invaluable for small and widely spread groups of people. Online support groups for people with rare illnesses is one of the more common and representative examples of this. Certainly the pagan demographic relies on the net quite a bit to maintain cohesion.
However, of late I have found myself wondering if this “smaller world” stuff is an illusion, and perhaps a dangerous one at that.
The world hasn’t gotten smaller, that is a simple fact. NASA probably would have mentioned it if it had. Our perception of the world and the people on it, has changed enormously in the past one hundred years. Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic solo flight was just eighty years ago. We went from the first solo ocean crossing in an airplane to the first footsteps on another world in forty-two years. This is a pace of change unprecedented in the history of humankind. With the radical changes brought about by engine powered transportation and the advent of instant communication (starting with the telegraph) it is no wonder that we have a world-concept that would have been completely alien only a couple of generations ago.
There have been many authors (and bloggers for that matter) who have addressed the issues surrounding the pace of change on our world. I am going to try to stay away from that worthy subject. Rather, my concerns are more personal and have more to do with how this “smaller world” idea effects what one of my friends affectionately refers to as her “zombie apocalypse plan.”
The “zombie apocalypse plan” (ZAP) for those of you who don’t know, is one’s plan(s) for what to do in the event of some form of society impairing calamity. I have mention in the past in BarkingShaman that our Lady has been pushing us to make plans that allow for the possibility of “civil unrest,” so our ZAP takes that into account. Being spirit workers and magicians also opens up the chance that a situation may arise requiring some form of ZAP of a magical nature that most people may remain oblivious to.
Personally I believe that most likely ZAP situations are will have both mundane and magical/spiritual components. There are many reasons that I and many other spirit workers, non-spirit working magicians or even completely non-spooky people, feel the need to make zombie apocalypse plans (and just to clarify I don’t mean “zombie” in a literal sense). Those reasons could take up an entire BarkingShaman post in themselves, if I thought it would be appropriate to post such things on the internet, which I don’t.
The reason that building zombie apocalypse plans makes me think of the false nature of the “small world” perspective is that the process of putting together ZAPs has made me realize just how physically inaccessible many of the people important to me are. If one chooses to take automotive transportation out of the question for a moment, and unless you drive a diesel car or truck you should, most things become pretty fucking far away.
For instance, the supermarket I go to is just five minutes away from me by car. However, on foot that 1.77mi suddenly seems like a bit much just to grab one thing. My closest friend to me is fifty-five miles away, a two day walk at best. People dear to me in distant places like Australia would be as lost to me as if they were on the moon for all the ease of contact if things fell apart. Anyone who has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail (which I have unfortunately not done) will tell you that the world is just as large as it has always been.
Tashlin as a clan, (as opposed to as my last name, the clan came first lest you think me that full of hubris) has worked hard in the past several years to build relationships with many people, mostly in the pagan demographic. It is sobering for us to realize that if the shit hits the fan, most of us will be on our own. The tendency in the last several years for spirit workers to gather and relocate to specific geographic regions is quite disturbing in this context.
Stepping away from the ZAP situations a bit, it is also concerning to realize how shallow our sense of unity and power as minorities really are. Many communities, including the pagan and GLBT communities use the internet to maintain a focused sense of identity. That unity is where power comes from. I’m not trying to say that without the net, towns would not have pride parades and covens would not meet for Samhain. However, without the national and international coverage of the Veterans Administration’s delays and hand wringing over making the pentacle available for the headstones of troops killed in battle, I don’t think that the pentacle would today be an option for the families of deceased service members. Most of that coverage came through the internet. It doesn’t take a terribly paranoid though progression to see how GLBT or pagan rights could be more easily curtailed through limiting online access to related resources (the same arguments being used to circumvent the Equal Access Amendment in order to ban GSAs in schools could be applied to GLBT websites for instance).
I’d like to say that I don’t think that my “zombie apocalypse” concerns are anything but the ramblings of an overactive imagination. Unfortunately I can’t. For one thing, the Lady and Var have made several unlikely predictions over the past nine years that have come or are coming to fruition. I’ve learned that it is unwise to ignore the desires and instructions of the gods. For another, we live in a world where not only it is illegal for gays to congregate in some countries, but the religious leaders from at least one country that is horrifically oppressive to queers has won over many disaffected people here in the United States. Not to mention that three current candidates for the Oval Office have declared that they don’t believe in evolution (I know that point is a bit out there but it makes my brain hurt so I am mentioning it).
It is one of my dearest hopes that we will never find out first-hand how big the world really is in the way I’ve discussed. Just the same, when building one’s zombie apocalypse plan, it is vital to consider just how far away one’s friends and allies may really be if the planes aren’t flying, the cell towers aren’t routing, and instant messenger is once again as distant a dream as moon rockets once were.