“Be with you in a minute guys.” Duane was intently engaged in something on his laptop as Survival Sam and I stepped into his sparse basement for yet another discussion session.
“I thought I’d check my e-mails before you guys got here,” said Duane, “but I’ve spent several minutes clearing off spam and haven’t gotten to the e-mails I want to see.”
“Yeah,” I said, taking my place in the old brown chair. “I know what you mean. But don’t you have a spam filter?”
“I turned it off because too many things I need to see kept ending up in the junk folder.”
“That’s bad news,” I said. “You know, when I see all those names of people the spam messages come from, I wonder who they are, and why they’d be sending out such junk.”
“Most likely, they don’t even know it’s happening,” Sam said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Zombies,” said Duane.
“That’s right,” Sam said. “It’s quite likely that the computer of the person whose name on each message you see has been appropriated for nefarious purposes without the owner’s knowledge.”
“Can you put that in English, please,” I said.
“ You’re no doubt familiar with spyware and adware,” Sam began. “They fall under the broad category of malware. When some of that gets on a person’s computer, it can virtually put the computer partly into the control of the hacker or spammer, and the computer owner doesn’t even know it. Meanwhile, the spammer sends out thousands of spam messages via the computers which are infected with his particular malware. Such computers are called zombies.”
“I guess I should have pity on those people whose names I see who have sent me spam,” I said.
“No, I wouldn’t,” Duane grimaced and pounded a key rather loudly.
“That’s right,” Sam said. “If everyone kept up to date with antivirus and antispyware programs and turned on firewalls, their computers wouldn’t be accessible to spammers.”
“That requires a certain amount of knowledge and diligence, doesn’t it?” I asked.
“Exactly,” Sam said. “That’s true of all of life, isn’t it, gentlemen?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We’ve each seen news reporters, talk show hosts, and politicians parrot talking points handed to them ahead of time,” Sam said. “For all practical purposes those people are just as much zombies as computers hijacked by spammers.”
“I’d agree with that,” said Duane.
“Similarly, you’ve heard family members or coworkers rattle off words like, ‘We’d better fight the terrorists over there rather than to have them in our streets here.’ Or maybe your favorite aunt prattles about the latest new miracle drug she read about in a magazine. Maybe a friend from church gushes over some clever thing the pastor said. With due respect to your aunt and the rest of them, they’re zombies, too. Their mouths are moving, but there’s no action between the ears.”
“I think I see what you’re getting at,” I said.
“The problem is further compounded,” Sam said, “by the fact that there’s so little truth out there for regular consumption. On the other hand, that doesn’t seem to matter. The average person on the streets spews it all out as if his life depended on it. Nothing is as simple as the platitudes people put forward. That’s true in so many areas of life. Take gardening or farming, for example. Organic is superior to conventional methods. Alternative medicine can be more beneficial than allopathic or conventional medicine. Understanding who carried out 9-11 and why isn’t represented correctly in our mainstream media, but it’s an important subject with many ramifications and consequences that affect us to this day. But don’t just take my word for these things. I’ve said it before in other ways, but our survival hinges upon knowing what kind of world we live in and how we ought to respond to it.”
“What’s the remedy?” I asked.
“We all need to think outside the box, to use the worn out cliché,” Sam said. “Only we need to think outside the box those around us try to put us into. Be informed. Read. Study. Scrutinize. Discover. Be transformed and take action based on those discoveries. Talk about deeper things, which is what the three of us endeavor to do. Don’t seek to be immersed in diversions like sports, where you merely spout off scores and statistics. In other words, the bottom line in all areas of life is, don’t be a zombie.”