“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…”
I’ve never been much of a Star Wars fan – although I am quite enjoying The Mandalorian on the Disney+ channel. But right now when we’re not engaging in working from home, or home schooling, or taking daily exercise, or reading Proust in the original French it seems everybody is binge watching TV on all the various platforms available.
Fuelled by a seemingly unquenchable desire for nostalgia the Star Wars franchise with its theme of the hero underdog overcoming impossible odds to eventually triumph is incredibly popular right now. It’s difficult to remember a time when it hasn’t been popular although it is mostly men who share this obsession in my experience.
This got me thinking about films and particularly disaster movies. They all seem to start with a scientist – again mostly male – having a dire warning ignored and governments putting all their energies into ‘reducing panic’ or ‘minimising risk’. (Sound familiar). For example, this is an extract from an email from Dr Sarah Jarvis, Clinical Director at Patient Access sent on 1 February 2020 (my bold emphasis):
If you’ve seen the news at all in the last fortnight, it’s likely you’ve heard of the Wuhan coronavirus. Deaths and serious illness caused by the virus have been seen across China, and now infections are being found in other countries. Understandably, lots of people are panicking. But the risk to the public in the UK remains low, and governments internationally have put measures in place to limit the spread of the virus. As individuals, it’s always a good idea to minimise your own risk of disease, and the same applies here.
So, it’s probably necessary to mention the zombie apocalypse here. Which as we all know, is when civilization collapses due to swarms of zombies overwhelming social, law-enforcement, and military structures. Typically, only a few individuals or small bands of survivors are left of the living. In some stories, victims of zombies may become zombies themselves if they are bitten by zombies or if a zombie-creating virus infects them; in others, everyone who dies, whatever the cause, becomes one of the undead. In some cases, parasitic organisms can cause zombification by killing their hosts and reanimating their corpses. In the latter scenario zombies also prey on the living and their bite causes an infection that kills.
In either scenario, this causes the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading “zombie plague” swamps law enforcement organizations, the military and health care services, leading to the panicked collapse of civil society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain. Basic services such as piped water supplies and electrical power shut down, mainstream mass media cease broadcasting, and the national government of affected countries collapses or goes into hiding. The survivors usually begin scavenging for food, weapons and other supplies in a world reduced to a mostly pre-industrial hostile wilderness. There is usually a ‘safe zone’ where the non-infected can seek refuge and begin a new era.
People, be scared, be very scared when ‘social distancing’ morphs into ‘safe zoning’. And as far as I can work out every ‘zombie apocalypse’ is preceded by a global pandemic.
It’s not all doom, gloom and frantic sightings of the Four Horsemen though. Last week a 1.2-mile-wide asteroid swept by the Earth adhering to the requisite deep space social distancing. The asteroid is called 52768 (1998 OR2) – who gets to name these things and why can’t they do better? – and it was first spotted in 1998. On April 29, it passed within 3,908,791 miles of Earth, moving at 19,461 miles per hour. That’s still 16 times farther than the distance between Earth and the moon. No mention was made about whether it was wearing a face mask or even had a face to cover. Apparently, you could see this from earth with a telescope. I guess it would have to be a big telescope, and I know I’m a novice at this stargazing stuff, but I still marvel at casual observers being able to locate the space station and differentiate it from stars.
Binge watching isn’t really doing it for me during lockdown – think I’m more of a binge walker than a binge watcher. I more often than not see the BBC’s daily coronavirus update and the other day when Boris made his return to the podiums (should that be podia?) I vaguely wondered whether it would all be helped if his ‘walk on music’ was Darth Vader’s Theme from Star Wars. However, when I’m out strolling the local neighbourhood later, not only will I be trying to work out whether the majestic tree by our nearest post box is an Acer Platanoides (Crimsom King), while being confused about whether an Acer can also be a maple. All the while though, I’ll also be keeping a weather eye out for the zombie hordes.
Stay safe everyone and remember: ‘I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.’
The walking class hero lockdown days playlist: