My three most memorable hamburgers are: 1) the Kobe Beef Burger that I eat at the Issaquah Brew Pub every spring with my gaming buddies. 2. The burger I ate at Norma’s in Lacey, Washington, was by no means a gourmet burger, but it tasted great and had that 1950’s diner flavour to it. 3. This past summer I ate at a hamburger joint off the highway in Redding, California: Bartel’s Giant Burger. It too was a great burger–it was fast, served in a paper basket, but it was one of my most memorable burgers. All three of these burgers are very good and all three are very different.
Then there’s the approach to the hamburger that McDonald pioneered. No matter where you eat your burger, it will be exactly the same. This approach was obviously extremely popular and many Americans came to accept the idea that difference in hamburgers is a bad thing. Not many are aware that this approach is one of the factors that promulgate a zombie infestation.
Zombies are, in part, the application of the “sameness is good, difference is bad” principle to the human race. Aside from minor differences in dress and degree of decomposition, zombies are the same because the locus of difference has been obliterated. Significant human difference is rooted in brains, minds, consciousness, emotions, hearts, souls or wherever, and the zombie has none of these–in fact, in large part the defining characteristic of the zombie is the absence of this seat of difference.
Hamburgers aren’t the only site of this force of zombification–we see it in the beer industry as well. Since the lifting of prohibition we were forced to drink just one kind of beer, the American Adjunct Lager. It’s fizzy, light bodied, has low bitterness and thin malts. This beer was made for mass production and consumption, not flavour–thank goodness that’s changed–if you want, you can get a wide variety of locally breed craft beers all over North America. So if you want to counter the forces leading to the apocalypse, drink craft beer.
The story of beer suggests that there is some resistance to the homogenization of experience, but we are still all too comfortable with sameness. It used to be that all coffee was the same–cheap, industrial and zombie. In general, our culture is moving away from this crappy coffee, and that’s a good thing, but the forces of sameness are still at work on us. Starbucks is the same whether you are in Seattle or Spain. A lot of people think this is a good thing–it’s called the Starbucks Experience. But it still contributes to zombie culture–it’s just that the zombies are wearing nicer clothes. Of course I don’t want a bad coffee experience, but this is not the same thing has having a different coffee experience.
If we homogenize our experiences there is a greater likelihood that we will avoid a disappointing experience, but we will just as certainly avoided an a surprising one. Zombies are never disappointed, but that doesn’t mean I want to be one.