What is it about human nature that drives us to worry so much about the ridiculous, like, say, an asteroid hitting the earth? And so little about the everyday, like, say, dying of heart disease?
People have been in a panic all week about asteroid 2012 DA14. Though NASA claims there is zero possibility of it hitting the earth, nonetheless people (fueled by – of course – media outlets like Fox News whose headline reads 150-foot asteroid to zoom near Earth this week) continue to speculate that it may freakishly veer off course in some random act of God and displace human existence as we know it. What what? Shouldn’t you be worrying about your cholesterol? Your diabetes? Your awful diet of excessive trans fat, sugar, meat, and processed chemicals that will kill you long before some stupid science fiction version of the end of the world?
But even better, who needs an asteroid to worry about when you have the zombie apocalypse? If you haven’t already heard, some jokesters hacked into a Montana TV station this week and announced the zombie apocalypse had come in what was a brilliant Orson Wells-style broadcast. Hilarious. Except that, like the original War of the Worlds broadcast, dumb dumb dumb people actually took it seriously.
These are just some of the nutters up in Montana, you might be telling yourself. But no, actually, much of the country is prepared for impending doom, including the office where I just starting interning. We have large trash cans of gauche end-of-the-world supplies on every floor. Apparently this is normal these days? I think in our case it’s exacerbated by the fact that our office is just 3 blocks from the White House. But maybe not. What’s in your office emergency kit?
Some of the weirder things in ours:
My favorite though is this: a survival manual outlining how to identify rare diseases and what to do when you encounter them. Yes, I say to myself. Knowing how to diagnose botulism is an extremely important skill for an officer worker to have these days. That way when one of our celebrity spokespersons comes in with his or her face dripping off, I’ll know it was because of the bad Botox injections received from the sketchy homeless person, I mean “plastic surgeon”, near the McPherson Square metro. Right.
Culturally, of course, this is nothing new for us. No different than the loony drills my parents went through as kids, forced to hide under their desks in preparation for a nuclear bomb. Because hiding under your desk always helps with radiation poisoning. Yep. Or the reaction to the War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. In those days they panicked about aliens, then it was nuclear winter, now it’s zombies and asteroids. Big difference.
But again, it leads me to wonder how the same people who are so scared of dying from such outlandish circumstances are the very Americans that kill themselves with pizza and don’t think twice about it. What is it about human nature that lets us ignore the obvious and focus so intensely on the preposterous? Where in the evolution of man did this happen? Is it because once we had to outrun lions and now we sit in front of computers, so now we search for a quick adrenaline spike whenever possible? We don’t need survival manuals in the office, we need nutrition guides and vegetables instead of the freaking cupcakes that keep appearing in our office kitchen. Oi. Evolution, you have done us wrong on this one. So let me set the record straight. Americans, you are indeed going to die young, but it won’t be from zombies eating you to death. It will be from you eating yourself to death. How scary is that? Scarier than an asteroid, if you ask me.