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General Dempsey zombies Humanities

April 2, 2014

This article is from the Wall Street Journal. It was posted yesterday on April Fools day and at first I thought it was a joke, but it appears to be dead serious.

WSJ: “ Gen. Dempsey Finds Military Lessons in Literature and a Zombie Attack” by Julian E. Barnes:

Gen. Dempsey told a gathering of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., last week. “I went to the Joint Chiefs and I said ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do if the zombies attack?’”

zombie general dempsey joint chiefs

Gen. Dempsey said. “Think about being faced with that.”

I wish they wouldn’t

Are World War Z moral’s choices “a tougher choice than today’s military officers face”?

I think not.

Killing real people should be morally tougher than killing zombies. Although, the tough choice referred here seems to be the decision to retreat to save humanity to the West of the Rockies. Is this a rhetoric to retreat because we can’t win?

If General Dempsey is this man of humanities, shouldn’t he be focused on how to communicate with real people rather than conceptualize them as zombies who can’t be reasoned with? Or is the point of this thinking exercise to enforce ideas that some people can’t be reasoned with.

“Remember we have to see our friends, partners and potential adversaries through the lens of who they are before we … try to influence them,” he said. “That is an important lesson.”

But they want to train soldiers to think about zombies because in a sense that must be what it feels like to be on a battlefield. The enemy can’t be negotiated with because they are going to kill. They are so persuaded by their ideas that they are fighting rampage, not stopping to talk nor think. War is hell. The rational thinking is gone, it’s just fight or flight, and the enemy becomes zombies, to kill or be killed, or flee to the mountains.

General Dempsey refers to the philsophy or Kant (moral imperatives and a critique of pure reason) in reference to drone attacks. And he refers to Mark Twain’s dialectics of history rhyming. What rhymes with zombie? Nazi is close, so it mommy and salami. Referring to Shakespeare‘s love poems but not ‘all my kingdom for a drone’?

These are all interesting references to Dead White European Males, but maybe we’d benefit from a reference to “All Quiet on the Western Front”? In real life, is the enemy any more of a zombie than we are? Consider the troubling implication that preparing the military for the zombie apocalypse may emphasize the idea that, in at least some situations, things that look like other people are not to be considered as persons. See also dehumanizing subhumanization.

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